Like The Queen
Whatever happens to strike my fancy, but surely some sort of fiber content.


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Tuesday, May 04, 2004  


I am back. Back on earth, back home, back-to-work back.

But what a weekend. And how to begin reporting. Friday was a travel day, warm and sunny and delicious with the warmth of friends at the end. Monday was travel day with spitting rain and a chill wind because my stupid car window wouldn't roll up. I had the heat on full blast the whole way home and was so relieved to see that BD had a fire going when I got there.

But in between. Ooooo. In between was that magic that is the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival.

In spite of our best efforts to get there early we were actually late. J and I dashed hurriedly into the 4-H building where Judith MacKenzie McCuin was teaching the spinning with beads class. We were late enough to have missed any of her introduction about who she is and where she's from, though I have it on good authority that her classes fill up first at SOAR. We were also so late that just about everybody else had strung her beads on threads so we didn't have to be polite about letting everybody go first - we got to jump right in and start stringing. We were not so late that we missed any of the actual teaching and wow what a teacher. I can see why her classes fill up fast. She is a master at demonstrating the magic of the simple answer and thus earns my deepest respect.

We spun such neat things - feathered yarns, beaded yarns, fluffy boucles - and she taught us the coolest thing to do with that Himalayan silk! I can't wait till .... 2008, when I have paid off VISA, so I can buy some.

A goodly group of KR Forumites met at 12:30 by the main gate. Enough to fill 2 picnic blankets. We were all pretty hungry, but seeing the shoppers with their bulging bags made me a little antsy to get at the spending part of the weekend. While we were lingering over our lunches, (thank you Jen) up walked the Modesitt crew. Annie, Gerry, Hannah and Max - all in Knitting Heretic t-shirts - or son of or spouse of same. They were so cute. I really like Annie's kids - they are bright and not the least shy, but very polite.

I had intended to make a run past the auction, but C had scoped it out and reported that, though there were some beautiful wheels, the only drum carders were pretty old looking. And somehow, though I had vivid pictures of my already existing stash in my mind, the lure of beautiful fibers pulled me more strongly than the lure of equipment. This is, I am sure, because I haven't any place to put a drum carder. So it was off to the main building with my two bags of wool - for I had brought all the unprocessed Falkland Island Polwarth and the washed Corriedale fleece I bought at last year's MSW and dropped it all off at Ohio Valley Natural Fibers. They will turn it into roving for me and ship it back. Under Jen's guidance I chose them because they don't have a minimum weight - neither of my bags weighed 3 lbs.

After that it was pandemonium. I can’t remember what we did next, at least, not in chronological order. As a group we flowed in ones and twos and threes, coming together and drifting apart, till at the end of the day we gathered together at the main gate. I had a fairly good sized gym bag-cum-duffel bag thing with two handles that I could wear like a backpack. $14.00 at Walmart, and much better than any of the real backpacks I saw, which were heavy with frame. This thing held a mountain of fiber and I am slightly chagrined to admit I filled it twice over the weekend.

So - the high points were:

The Golding Spindle booth where Jen and I spun on $5,500 spinning wheels of magnificent beauty and supreme engineering. I had been afraid to try one last year - though I did buy a spindle. I think it was the same this year. These wheels are so beautiful, so stunning and obviously so expensive, I think people are intimidated a bit. But I'm mighty glad I finally spun on one. They are double treadle wheels with brass rings around the drive wheels, just like the spindles. This added weight makes them spin forever, so there is very little treadling needed and even that need only be the lightest effort. You could spin 24/7 on these things and never get tired. The 3 flyer wheel has a series of whorls you can band together, giving you an enormous range of spinning ratios - that is - it's possible to spin sewing thread or small rope on these things as well as anything in-between. They make 3 wheel designs; swans, rams heads, and a floral one that has the look of Elizabethan embroidery. If I had all the spare cash in the world - or if I can save up enough money - I would (will) order the floral carving on a 3-flyer wheel. But Thomas Golding does custom wheels too - so I might even come up with an idea of my own.

Usually when I develop a lust for something I know it and begin the purchase planning process. This, though, is truly an extravagance - this idea of owning a Golding Wheel. It's something I'm going to have to try on, wear, walk around with it, and ponder. But it's not absolutely out of the question for me. Just something I'll hold a while.

My advice, though, is to sit down and try one. It is a spinning experience you will never forget.

It was extremely crowded on Saturday and about 3:30 you could hardly walk through the mass of hot people. I grew a little weary and overwhelmed and was glad to make my way to the skein and garment competition display. I am ever amazed at the perfection of other people's spinning. I don't know how they do it. I think I spin a nice yarn, several nice ones, actually, but my goodness, these skeins are - well - perfect. That's the only word I can think of. My friend Caroline won a Blue with her hand spun socks! So beautiful and so much fun to actually know one of the winners.

This was the year of Mohair and Silk. I saw more booths with blended fibers than plain. The booths that got my $ on Saturday were:

Haltwistle Fibers - a 1 lb bump of Blue Faced Leicester - the softest of the bunch in a soft heathery grayish brown.

Misty Mountain Farm - 11 oz of fin in chocolate brown and 5 oz butterscotch. I've already begun spinning this and can't believe the joy it is to handle.

Simpler Thyme - herbal Moth Beware - full of pennyroyal

Timebertops Spinning Wheels - a lovely orifice hook in case - since I lost HeyBaby’s and never thought to go to an Ashford dealer and buying one that fits her.

Thistledown Gallery about 5 oz of angora fur - the same place I bought from last year. I really like both the quality and the friendliness of that booth. It's quite small and to the right of the main entrance, while almost everybody else is to the left - so it's easy to miss - but I really really really like this booth.

And I am guessing Persimmon Tree Farm, where I picked up the most delicious mohair blend in a colorway that looks like you're staring into a bonfire, though it's called Indian Corn.

Saturday night was spent pawing through the loot and laughing with Jen, who has taste so similar to mine that 90% of the time we end up buying the same stuff - even when we're shopping separately! And of course, sampling everything.

Sunday was very gray and spitting rain before we got to the fairgrounds, but it was quite warm. Bad weather had been predicted but it never really came - the day was warm, but not so stifling as Saturday, and nothing nasty really showed up till we were on Highway 70 headed for VA again. But the crowds were much lighter. I understand that so much purchasing went on Saturday that some vendors were selling out, so perhaps they were glad for the lighter crowds on Sunday. I know I was.

The extreme highlight of Sunday was meeting Rose’s N2Rockwells, from the KR Forums, and his darling son, D. Truth is, I fell in love with him when I saw the look on his face in all the wedding photos A showed me back in March. This is a really really reeeally good man and since I have a particular fondness for good men - for the fact of them, for their existence - I especially like it when I meet a new one.

N2R had already sampled that heart attack on a stick, the Deep Fat Fried Hostess Twinkee and confirmed the husbandly comment I overheard last year; “They’re really good”. I wondered if it were a gender thing - but I also wanted to try one. So, with 5 other people to share the sin, we trooped off to the stall and plunked down our pennies.

Gotta agree. They really are good. They taste much more like a hot cream filled doughnut - of the gooey Krispy Kreme variety. There is a photo of the bunch of us, but not on my camera. I look forward to getting a copy of that moment - the powdered sugar dusted faces, the pink tongues - yep yep I'd like a visual on that.

I also made sure I got in at least a peek of the sheep dogs trials. Those precious animals, so happy to be given work to do. And several of us made a tour through the sheep pens, petting and fondling the flirts - especially a black ram from Morehouse Merino. What a cutie.

Of course, with a mountain of fiber already one might have thought I wasn't in a shopping mood - but one would be quite wrong. The booths that were able to lure $ from my pocketbook on Sunday were:

Stone Mountain Farm - delicately dyed mohair top in scrumptious colors. The warm peachy pink that looks so good on me and is at last back in vogue, hopped right into my bag. At $14 for 8 ounces I will surprise the world with a fine spun yarn - a boucle maybe, or a lace weight knit on big needles.

Susan's Fiber Shop - where I picked up, again for $14, 850 yards of lace weight cashmere/merino from Japan. This place also had delicious spindles by a new spindle maker whose first name is Adam. I can't remember his last name, but M bought one and I'll ask her. I really would have liked one of them but was being a lot more careful with the $. The clerk there, not Susan, was awash in purple - purple dyed hair, purple clothes and purple nail polish.

Firesong Fibers - - who sold me a beautifully dyed ball of Blue Faced Leicester - hand painted in magic colors.

The Good Shepherd - a bag of silk waste to be carded into other fibers to make magical slubbed yarns

Little Barn Ltd. - 4 bags of sparkly stuff - gold, green, red and clear - I actually forget what this stuff is called, but it’s mylar or glitter or whatever. It is for carding or spinning into other fibers to make glittery yarns. I am, after all, 50% magpie.

Liberty Ridge - These folk sold me my first fibers 2 years ago when I first took up spinning. They had huge bats of carded colors of mohair/wool blends. I'm trying to break out of my earth tones rut and here was the place to do so. Piles and Heaps and Mounds of color spilled out of this booth. I'll admit, I still tend towards the warmer versions of colors, but I filled a bag with about 6 different mixes of colors - turquoise, purple, greens with pink in them, peaches. All these small bits are intended for experiments, samples, hats, and trims. And the folk at Liberty Ridge say if you send them a little sample of what you bought, they can make more. They keep recipes of their offerings and, while you'll get a different dye lot, at least you'll get the same basic colorway.

Each year I've been to MSW I've looked at, and lusted over, the yarns from Brooks Farm Fibers. They are gorgeous things. Luxury blends put up in big 500 yard hanks. Fairly priced, at $30 a skein, for hand dyed yarns they're really a bargain. And such colors. But I've never bought their yarns. Part of the problem is that I already have a mountain of yarn at home. Good yarns are easier to get than unusual fibers, so when I'm at the festival I'm more inclined to buy fiber than yarn. Then, this booth is also to the right of the fair entrance - where you might go at the end of the show, when you're broke. This time I made sure I got some of their beautiful yarn called Harmony a mohair/wool/silk blend, two skeins, one a solid and one a coordinating multi. I am really pleased with myself about this. The colors are very feminine and I intend to do a lacy cardigan type of thing with it.

I picked up some little fur covered kittens for my goddaughters and a border collie card for another friend and that about depleted the funds.

We had to linger till 5 o'clock to pick up my Alice Starmore hat, which got only a very small comment: "interesting use of fairisle" on the comment sheet. Too bad. I'd have liked more feedback. Interestingly, that hat stood out like a sore thumb, colorwise. When I scanned the whole room, full not just of entries, but of people also in clothing, my eyes immediately zinged onto that hat. And though I like the colors, and so would most people, when seeing it alone, it really clashed with all the other colors there. Now, I have some thoughts about English colors. I've bought wool fabric from England before and found that the colors didn't go with anything else I could buy in the U.S. Even though most of our yarns are manufactured in Europe, I believe the colors they send over here are "American" colors. Alice Starmore yarns are not sold through any distributor and she mostly pleases herself with the colors she chooses. She goes to great length, too, about her color choices, on her web page. Like Noro's colors, they are different. And in this case, they really clashed. It was an interesting phenomenon.

In the tired light of the end of day we rather trudged back to the car and headed home. Rain - real mean rain, held off till we were within a few miles of home. A kind indulgence from the weather gods. Everybody hauled her treasures inside and, reluctant to bid such an experience goodnight, we sat up till our heads bobbed and eyes drooped.

Good bye Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. Good bye till next year.

posted by Bess | 11:44 AM