Have Ewe Any Wool?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Lancaster Spinner's and Weaver's Retreat

Another fabulous weekend! I just love this retreat - it's out in the country at a camp, far from the city's hustle and bustle. Although a bit rustic, you have all the creature comforts. The wooded landscape and the gentle sound of goats at the caretaker's house remind you that you're "far from the maddening crowd". My cabin was the brown one in the background (right photo).

The lodge was cozy - the fireplace added extra warmth at one end and the wood stove did the same to the other end. A giant "God's Eye" and a mobile of cranes adorn the walls. The food, as usual, was fabulous! The weather couldn't have been better! NO SNOW!!! NO ICE!!! (Last year, we were "blessed" with both!)

We spent the weekend indulging in our favorite pastimes - knitting, spinning, weaving, crocheting, rug hooking - whatever! It was fabulous!

Before the crowds arrived...

After the crowds arrived....Everywhere I looked, there were spinning wheels...and more spinning wheels. What a lovely sight!

Friday night's sunset was beautiful. There was a bit of moon in the sky that I managed to capture as well. I just love the contrast of the dark trees against the darkening sky!

There were lots of younger folks at the retreat this year. It's great to see a young generation as enthusiastic about the fiber arts as their parents. I'm not sure if this is strictly a rural enthusiasm or if it's pervasive across this age group. Whichever it is, it was delightful to see. One of the girls was spinning with her wheel that had been adorned for a recent sheep to shawl competition where they took home a prize! Way to go girls!!!

Several folks were drop spindle spinning.

Check out the plied yarn on this spindle!!! That's definitely what I call a "full spindle"!

One of the retreaters created this adorable fish hat. The "button eye" is actually fabric as well...isn't it adorable???

Cindy, the fabulous tapestry weaver, challenged us all to spin milkweed fibers. She brought an entire box of dried milk weed for us to de-seed and attempt to spin. She enticed us with a magazine article about knitting a headband from milkweed yarn.

I accepted the challenge and committed to spinning a single pod of the slick fly-away fiber. I sorted it all out and put the "cleaned" fiber in a plastic bag...ready for spinning.

Whew! What a tough fiber to spin! The staple length is only about 2 inches...and the fiber is so light that the slightest motion renders it airborn. Spinning it was quite tough. I totally failed in my attempts to drop spindle spin it. I did much better with the wheel. However, the yarn I produced was very fragile...even AFTER I plied it! It broke in half when I was testing its strength! The "sad" pieces of my spinning are shown resting on my lap. If I were to attempt to make anything with it, I'd definitely blend it with wool first!

NOTE: This was a fun challenge, but I doubt I'd ever truly make anything with milkweed. It's highly flammable...a quality I prefer to omit from my clothing and accessories!!!

Tina, the organizer of the retreat, had a fabulous time and looks great! She recently took on a very stubborn form of cancer and won! She planned and organized this retreat in spite of all the medical challenges she'd been facing and has only been out of the hospital for just over 2 weeks!!!! If only we all had her drive and stamina! (I hope she got a good rest once she got home! I'm sure she needed it!!!)

Esther, Tina's mom, had a gorgeous hand woven chair that she sat in at the retreat. It was a very comfortable chair...and perfect for knitting. I love the butterfly motif!!! (I have pictures of Esther later in this post...I didn't forget her!!!)

Page hasn't spun for 30 years and decided she was going to tackle it again this past weekend. Check out her progress....the white wool with the colored flecks was her first attempt. Very thick and lumpy-bumpy. It's the perfect "art yarn", but that's NOT what she was going for! She used the Louet for that attempt. I believe that her next attempt, the green, was also done on the Louet...after major re-tensioning and tightening of loose bolts. It was better, but still a bit like "art yarn" - it wasn't what she was looking for. Finally, she tried the Suzy Pro...and voila....success! She definitely wins the award for the "Most Improved Spinner"! Go Page!!!

Charlene spent most of the weekend working on a baby surprise sweater. However, she did pause to show off a gorgeous WIP. It's a Debbie Bliss pattern from the premiere issue. This piece is the back. I just LOVE how the cables flair out at the bottom! I'm definitely adding that to my ever growing list of "want to do" projects!

Janet made these adorable felted "elf" slippers...specifically for this retreat. Somehow, she managed to escape my camera...though I do have one photo of her from a distance!

No retreat would be complete without a picture of my cosmic sister, Cyndy (right) and me (left). There are so many similarities in our features that there just HAS to be a family connection somewhere along the line! Cyndy mastered spinning a few years ago at one of the retreats, and now she's definitely an addict!

I just love all the wheels and happy fiber folks that surrounded me....I just can't get enough of this!!!!

Check out the gorgeous wood on this wheel! I believe it's a Rick Reeves (if I'm remembering correctly). It's quite beautiful. It had such lovely grain that I thought it was a refinished antique wheel!

Donna wove an absolutely gorgeous hound's tooth scarf this weekend.

She finished it just in time for Saturday evening's "show and tell"!

Pam had knitted up a gorgeous shawl from a Vivien Hoxbro kit - it's just gorgeous! The only down side was all of the ends that she had to weave in! Ugh! That's something that we almost universally hate to do. She made the task a bit less odious by working in the ends while she chatted with all of us. It went much quicker and was much less tiring than sitting alone at home working the ends in! (Esther is wearing the fabulous sweater she won as a door prize (left) ....and is helping hold up the Pam's shawl to show the progress on all the "weaving-in" of the ends (right).)

The completed shawl was beautiful! It draped wonderfully - what a fabulous project!!!

I too managed to complete some projects during the retreat - all spinning related. I finished spinning as well as plying the lovely pink/white/purple merino that I purchased from the Appalachian Sock Company at a retreat last August. There was only 76 grams of roving and I had only spun about 1/8 of the wool prior to the retreat. I somehow didn't manage to get my roving evenly split, so I ended up with approximately 270 yds. of two-ply yarn and 59 1/2 yds of single ply.

I also spun up the 2 oz. of deep purple Wensleydale that I won in the St. Distaff's Day competitions. The colorway is "Black Plum" - a VERY deep and rich purple. The wool was from "SweetGeorgia." I'm not sure I like Wensleydale....it's not particularly soft, and it's a bit "hairy looking" after it's spun up. Definitely not great for "next to the skin", but it would make some awesome outerwear or a wonderful bag.

Rhonda finished two rugs prior to the retreat - they're just gorgeous! The one with the bunny rabbits was barely started last January. (See photos in the January 2011 posts). Isn't it gorgeous? And check out the "quilted look" of the second rug. I believe she brought that to a quilting retreat for show and tell as well (or perhaps she plans to???).

Marty brought her loom - isn't it cute? She purchased it years ago from the Ephrata Cloister in Ephrata, PA. The Cloisters are one of the oldest religious communities in the US. It was established in 1932 by a group of German settlers. Her tape loom is a reproduction of an old loom that had been used to make tape at the cloisters.

The loom has tabs at the back to secure it in place when using it on a table. The loom is fixed and the front acts as a rigid heddle - there are slats and holes used to control the warp threads.

Everyone used to make and use "tape". It was cheaper than ribbon and was used for everything from tying things down, hanging hand towels, holding up clothing, or as embellishments. There are several interesting traditional German patterns for these tapes. It was fascinating to watch her weave with this loom.

You pull up for one set of warp threads, and push your weaving down for the other warp threads. (I'm not explaining this well...the video should help!)

The sunset Saturday night was beautiful. I missed the sky full of vibrant oranges and pinks, but I managed to capture the more subtle colors just as the sun had slipped below the horizon.

The final "burst of energy" from the setting sun rendered the top of the sky a deep blue...and the horizon bright orange...as if it were on fire. I call these views, "Heaven and Hell" as the blue sky reminds me of heaven, and the fiery horizon reminds me of hell. What a glorious display!

Saturday late night brought out the "silliness" in the younger spinsters. They were determined to build a human table. Their first attempt wasn't overly successful. All 4 chairs were pulled out at once. They quickly toppled to the floor in a giggling heap.

Without blinking an eye, they dusted themselves off, reset up the chairs and came up with a new plan. They determined that they needed to be closer together for balance...and that the chairs should be removed one-at-a-time. Success! They held this pose for OVER 75 seconds! it was amazing!!!! (My video below only captures the first few seconds of their amazing feat....but it should make you feel like you were there!!!)

Kathy had an interesting new wheel...the "Holiday Wheel". It's a tiny, very cute little wheel. The only "downside" is that you have to remove everything and reset all your tension whenever you change the bobbin, which is a bit of a hassle. I tried using it...right after she changed bobbins, but I just couldn't get the tension right, so it wouldn't draw in. Of course, it was the end of the retreat, and we were all packing up, so I couldn't spend any time "re-engineering" my approach - LOL!!! Most of the weekend, she spun on her trusty Lendrum.

Sunday, it was all over - sigh. My parting sights were that of an Amish bugging heading toward me...and another heading away. There's just something comforting about seeing a glimpse of a simpler life...