Have Ewe Any Wool?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Fantastic Fiber Retreat - Part III

Bird-in-Hand and other towns in Lancaster County have a number of Amish and Mennonite farms making it a very picturesque and quaint venue (double click on the photos for a closer view). There's just something about the simple lives they lead that relaxes you just by being here. Perhaps that's why my hobbies all tend to be rather "low tech" and relaxing.

Our next stop on Saturday morning was the Mount Hope Wine Gallery. They had some very interesting wines on display...including a chocolate one. The Gallery offered a large number of wines in their wine tasting, however, I found that most were rather sweet. I tried a couple of the drier reds - "The Knight's Reward" and a merlot. I didn't find either one to be exceptional. I think they're focused on the sweeter wines as the crackers for cleansing your palette between tastes were rather sweet as well and reminded me of "animal crackers". If you're a lover of sweet wines, this was definitely the place to try out a number of them.

Finally, it was back to Bird-in-Hand, PA to Labadie Looms (2572 Old Philadelphia Pike Bird-in-Hand, PA) - a yarn, rug hooking, dyeing, weaving, and spinning shop. It was quite cute and jam packed full of everything fiber related! There were a couple of looms setup in the shop and a number of spinning wheels in the front room window. I loved the silhouette the spinning wheels made!

Evidently, Labadie is a family name....thus the name of the shop. Additionally, I believe someone said that the name actually means "Weaver"....how cool is that? Very few people get to name their shop after a family name AND have the underlying meaning match the focus of the shop! My significant purchase here was a pattern for a rug hooked sheep - I'm guessing that the breed represented is a Leicester Longwool or a Lincoln.

The remainder of Saturday afternoon and evening was again spent spinning and knitting. Here, you can see the fabulous Great Wheel that Sue and Sarah just acquired. It's their first time using it! It was so cool to watch. This prompted a big discussion on spinning cotton. Evidently, at the "American Textile History Museum" in Lowell, MA, you can try your hand at spinning cotton directly from the cotton seed! Audrey has tried it and said it was definitely a lot of fun.

There were some machine sock knitters at the retreat as well. The operation of the sock machine is quite interesting...and in my opinion, a bit challenging. I had mistakenly believed that you could only do tube socks on these machines. However, I found out that you can do short row heels on them and then for the toes, you kitchener them shut. Stephanie, on the left, has been buying and restoring these machines for quite a few years and had one for sale at the retreat. She can make a pair of socks easily in an evening The machines are quite costly, so I wasn't even tempted.

I finally tried spinning some angora. Ellen(left) (a wonderful spinner and rabbit farmer) tutored me on the finer aspects of spinning angora. First, I tried spinning on my drop spindle. I was quite pleased with the the few yards that I'd spun, so I moved on the the spinning wheel. I think I did pretty well, though I had a hard time keeping the fibers even. As a result, I seem to have rather "lumpy" singles. Hopefully the lumps and bumps will be less noticeable after plying.

I had flick carded the angora since the dyeing process caused the fibers to stick together quite a bit. I also tried "floofing" the fibers as well. ("Floofing" seems to be a common description in how to prepare the angora for spinning.) In both cases, my singles were still a bit lumpy. I think it will take me a while to properly spin angora. It's definitely going to take quite a bit of practice!

After breakfast on Sunday, we all continued to knit, spin, and weave throughout the morning. I spun the hand dyed roving that I started spinning last year at the retreat. I almost got it all finished. Hopefully I'll finish spinning it later this week. Then I'll try my hand at Navajo plying - a skill I learned last year but haven't tried since.

During the retreat, I also made some progress on my "Cherry Kissed Justin" - the mohair I'd purchased from Colleen last fall. I finished the second bobbin and plied one skein so far. My spinning was definitely not consistent. This was the first time I've tried spinning pure mohair, so it's been somewhat of a learning experience. I think I'm going to try "floofing" the mohair a bit before spinning to see if I can be more consistent. However, that will be on my next batch - I'll need to finish spinning Justin the same way so as the first skein so I'll have a consistent yarn.

I did buy some additional fibers during the course of the weekend. Ellen had some fabulous Icelandic with shades of grey throughout. I believe this will be PERFECT for the rug hooked sheep! Pam had some very pretty alpaca as well - the white is "Audrey" and the nearly black is "Benson Touch of Violet".

The only knitting I worked in was doing a few rows each morning on my socks while I waited for us all to gather for breakfast. I was too busy spinning and fondling fibers to knit!

On the ride home, I passed by several frozen ponds and lakes. On one, I saw someone sitting on a milk crate with a hole cut in the ice doing some ice fishing. That's something I've never seen in real life. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to capture a picture of the fisherman, but I did get a shot of the lake. Whew....the ice on the lake definitely didn't quite look solid enough - I sure hope he/she made it off the ice OK!


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