Sunday, March 27, 2011

Finally - a Restful Weekend

Gosh, I just realized I haven't blogged in two weeks. I think that's about the longest I've ever gone without checking in here. It's been a busy time. Especially weekends. Lately my weekends are even busier than my work weeks. Just got back from a 5 day tradeshow that kicked my butt and wore me out. So as this weekend approached, I couldn't wait! Then heard the weather forecast was for a frigid return to winter. Sure enough, as promised, this was a freezing cold and even snowy weekend - and I decided yesterday (Saturday) was a day to just stay home and hibernate. Haven't had an all-PJ's/all the time day in forever. So it was PJs and the fire for me. How cozy. Amazingly so. Played with my fiber most of the day. Successfully set up my rigid heddle loom on my own, then started a scarf and worked all day on it while watching movies and videos and drinking coffee. Very fun! Totally indulged in bumming around and enjoying every minute of it. Cooked. One of my favorite new meals I've been eating on Weight Watcher's lately is sweet potato fries sprayed with "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" and dusted with chili powder - just cut them up, put in a 450 degree oven for 17 minutes and voila, you have a taste treat sensation that Jennifer Hudson recommends, and so do I. I eat it with 1 cup of cottage cheese and if I want sauce, I dunk the fries in honey mustard. Did treadmill and listened to podcasts. Fun! Today, on Sunday, I had breakfast with my Mom and visited my Grammy. Came home exhausted, took a deep deep nap. Did some thrift store shopping with her and landed some WONDERFUL gray corduroys. Perfect. I forgot how, when I was a teenager, I wore cords constantly. Now I'm fully rested and feeling much better. So this was a good reminder of how important balance is in my life and probably for most people. I haven't been giving myself any down time. Duly Noted. Intend to do more vegging when my body calls for it. Sorry for the run-on paragraph. Blogger must need some rest too?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Fiber Fest in Jeff City

Just returned from the best kept fiber learning secret in the Midwest - the Jefferson City Fiber Festival that is held every year in March. This was my second year attending, and it's just the best fiber learning opportunity I can imagine, short of SOAR (Spin Off Autumn Retreat) - but SOAR is too rich for my budget, while the one here in my state is so much more affordable and convenient. Plus, we often get many of the same teachers.

My classes this year were all spinning ones - 1) Setting Yourself Free with Scissors - which was drum carding and spinning by using novelty fibers and leftovers from other projects, and combining them into glorious batts in such as way that it LOOKS like art yarn, but is much more pleasing to my eye - and is much easier to boot. This was the most fun and easy class I took all weekend. It was also my favorite. There's a better chance of me using this immediately in my projects than anything else.

You can see that I loved this so much that I spun the yarn, washed and dried it in my hotel room and then created this little neckscarf that coordinated with a hand-made button that a newly-met friend, Susan, offered me. Isn't it beautiful? She has a real button making talent. I wish she sold them online, but she only does them for fun. I hadn't spun chunky singles in a while and this was really a blast.

2) Spinning Cotton - quite a challenge, but boy I learned a lot. This class helped perfect my ability to spin on a high whirl, treadles fast, move my hands VERY fast and practice long draw, which has usually been impossible for me. We also learned to draft cotton using special cotton cards. I can't believe how much fiber a little bit of cotton spins into. It's a very short staple. It was a pleasure to watch Leslie use a supported spindle, I think called tahkli (pronounced "talk-lee").

3) Spinning Flax - the teacher was a fiber genius and I had a great time. We spun with these high distaffs that reminded me of something I'd see people marching around with in Rennaisance times. Huzzah! It is a really challenging but FUN fiber to spin. The teacher made us realize how much work goes into getting Flax from the plant into shape enough to spin, and it is really labor intensive. Flax eventually becomes linen. It softens up more and more with each wash.

4) Woolen vs. Worsted - how to tell the difference and change your spinning technique to match the type of fiber you are spinning. Very enlightening and in this one, I finally learned how to use hand cards, or believe so anyway. The teacher, Darlene, was very patient and helpful, but a 12 year old fellow spinner named Shannon really helped cement the concept of hand carding and made it "click" in my brain. We practiced worsted vs. woolen prep and we learned that cottons are best done with long draw, while long fibers which I normally prefer are best done with the inchworm beginner method which is still my fallback technique. We got to work with fresh lamb's fleece, washed but not carded, and I finally know a butt from a tip - and how to flick it then card it and spin it without messing up the alignment of the fibers.

Whew! Very fun but exhausting weekend. Not so much as a retreat as a brain squeeze - but it gave me enough ideas and material to practice on for a good long time. I highly recommend this affordable festival to anyone in the Midwest who can attend.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Rigid Heddle Class at Yarn Barn

I took my first ever weaving class over the weekend at Yarn Barn. It was a rigid heddle beginning weaving class. Project was (of course) a woven scarf. I took the class because I've had my Schacht Cricket loom in the closet for over a year now and it's high time to use it.

The teacher, Mary Margaret, is a lot of fun and has a huge enthusiasm for weaving that was infectious.

The other women in my small class were very talented and multi-craftal. So the whole time we are in there in class, I'm thinking everyone's colors look better than mine, their scarves look better, and they are much faster than me also. But that's okay. I'm usually the slow one in the class and that doesn't bother me. I tend to be slow at getting new concepts and skills, but if interests me enough, I eventually improve over time.

So everyone else in the class finished their scarves but me. Most people's scarves were 50 inches, a tad short but no big deal. Well I just took mine home home and finished it up last night. Very confident and proud of my beginning weaving, even though it was far from perfect.

But when I was nearly finished and turned the crank one final time to get the end of the weaving area and to try to put in my waste yarn at the end to finalize the scarf, the apron rod, when fully out of the crank, was flopping and made all my tensioning on the scarf go slack. So I couldn't finish it up properly. My intention had been to do the "twining" (end stitching) and put in the white waste yarn so that when it is washed and blocked, that is removed and creates a nice finished look and even tension.

Maybe it was user error - I can't remember the teacher talking about that apron flopping issue. And I don't remember it being a problem on anyone else's loom, but then I was the only one with a Cricket. It is probably user error.

At any rate, while the beginning of my scarf looks like this - all neat and tidy, the ending looks messy and not tensioned properly.

Plus my scarf was only 36" - hardly scarf size. Not to mention fringe - shesh I can't remember how to make neat fringe at all. She showed us. I've seen first scarves from 6 years olds that look much neater and cuter than mine. Shesh!

So I'd say that my enthusiasm and interest in weaving far exceeds my talent. But I'm always open to get better - it can only go up from here.