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


Ahhhh...It's as if I was there, too! Thank you, dear Bess!

By Blogger Jane, at 12:49 PM  

I almost said "ditto" to what Jane said, but then I was there, and I got to be part of the swooning over your Bella Wheela and sharing the hugs and many many laughs, and I think technically I had the last of the Mohitos, though it was a close race Saturday... And now I'm playing with my budget to see when the soonest I can get my new guy home, and wishing it was May 2007 already...


By Blogger Amie, at 1:06 PM  

Oh my. It was long -- your post, I mean. I haven't read it all -- yet. Just dipped in. The part about your new wheel reminded me that mine is still young (certainly use-wise, as I haven't used it much)...and I must remedy that. I'm procrastinating. Nervous. Hmmm...

How loverly, too, to work in a booth -- esp. Spirit Trail. Particularly loverly stuff.

Will return when I have time to revel some more in the details. :-)


By Blogger Margaret, at 1:33 PM  

Who needs pictures with such brilliant words that flow from your computer? I am so glad you had a marvelous time and equally glad you got your dream wheel. (Now... hmm... I would have liked a picture of THAT - with THE QUEEN spinning on it - guess I will just have to be patient).

By Blogger Carolyn, at 9:04 PM  

A wonderful description, Bess -- you paint a lovely picture with your words, and I just re-lived the weekend all over again reading your telling of it. What fun! I'm hooked! Is it next May yet? ;-)

By Blogger Mary, at 10:30 AM  

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Tuesday, May 09, 2006  


This is one LOOOOOOOOOOONG post and there are

NO PHOTOS. and hardly any links.

Just thought I'd prepare you - I'll post photos on Friday.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I am back from the grand event that is Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. I’m exhausted. I am sated. I am now on short rations for just about everything of a discretionary nature in the budget. Best of all - I have 3 days off before I must have feet firmly planted on the ground.

I also have some pictures on the disposable camera and am wondering if I ought to wait till they are developed before I actually post this. I could just put a little message in the blog with “Had a great time. Wish you had been there.” sorts of messages. That may be how I go - since that would give me several days to find the best words to express all that is a weekend at the mother of all fiber festivals. I will just start writing and see about the posting as the morning ... the wee early hours of the morning ... wear on.

So first good news - my ManWithTools, angel that he is, got that car running again by 9:00 and I was packed and on the road by 11:00. Thank the lord for MWTs because they really do make the world move. But also many thank-yous go to M and A, who both offered to come get me and take me to the fair. You are darlings, the both of you.

I’d pulled out the DeLorme’s atlas of Maryland on Friday morning. Last year was the first year I’d ever driven myself. I am an indifferent driver at best and never actively enjoy driving. I like riding, but that particular responsibility involving second guessing thousands of other people moving 2 ton blocks of metal beside, behind and in front of me; people nattering on cell phones; people who think that the best way to get from here to there is in a straight line and woe betide any one/thing in their way; instant gratification people who don’t know that yellow lights mean slow down, not speed up, who think that right lanes are for passing and left lanes are for getting a better view. Hey! I better stop or I’ll quit driving altogether. The point I wanted to make was that I’d forgotten how I got to the fair grounds last year and stupidly also forgot that you start at your destination and work backwards when plotting out an itinerary. Instead, I just put my finger on 301 and moved it north to the fattest road I could see that went west. Wrong. I got there alright - it didn’t even take much longer since those were faster roads - but I felt lost all the time I was driving. Gladly, the drive home was better and gladdest of all was when I was hugging all the booth babes and laughing and, yes, I suspect I may have actually squealed a bit. A tiny discrete squeal, but I am sure it qualified as a real one.

J’s trailer was parked inside the main building when I arrived, with M & S unloading with obvious practiced skill. C, A and E were also present, so that left me as the caboose. The heavy pieces were in place and what was left to do was the slow but careful hanging of each and every skein, the opening of the individual bags of fiber, the eye-catching arranging of color and texture so as to lure in the shoppers. In addition to being glad to lend a hand at that, there was the exciting pleasure - akin to opening Christmas packages - of lifting the lid from each tub and discovering what new and gorgeous thing J had made this time.

I’ve been spinning now since ‘02. The adventures I’ve had with HeyBaby and KittyBoy and my clutch of drop spindles has been oh so rewarding. For a long time, though, I’ve felt the limits of my two wheels, both of which have ratios on the low end. My envy has been aroused when folk with production wheels start talking. I’ve taken advantage of previous MSWs to get to know other wheels and found many a lovely one, but for 3 years I’ve been yearning for a Golding Wheel.

Yeah, well, sure. Who hasn’t, right? But I have not just been longing. I’ve been saving $ for it and selling things to more deserving owners to earn more $. I’ve also doing the familial preparation needed to bring such a luxury into such a functional house - things like explaining my heart, and not saying the word Boat ... twice. At last, the time came. This was the year to take the plunge. Tom Golding and I have been in negotiation for several months, discussing woods and ratios and high speed flyers. On Friday, at 4 o’clock, I met with him and his wife and picked up my - gulp - brand new walnut Floral Splendor triple flyer wheel. I am unable to describe the welter of emotions that ran through me, that are still running through me, as I contemplated owning the Rolls Royce spinning wheel of my fantasy life. I’m not quite yet sure that my real life is capable of having something so special in it - but I am sure that in time I will become causal about it and sit with ease and familiarity as my fingers gush with high speed production.

Great care was used in stowing my new baby in the car - which is a compact car, but Japanese, so, cleverly engineered to have lots of space in a little shell. Then it was back to the Spirit Trail booth to help with the last of the hanging/opening/setting-up. The 7 of us caravaned back to Ellicot City in 4 cars and checked into our motel, a chain hostelry on a commercial strip. Not quite as pretty as the big square place we’ve occupied in Frederick on previous MSW weekends, but a good $20 a night cheaper and much closer to the fairgrounds. There were many more dining options too, in this Baltimore suburb, all of them with tables for 7 and no wait. Last year we had been unable to find any restaurant priced within fiber shoppers budgets that would feed us at one table, nor give us a reservation. Eventually it was strung out, starving babes with cold pizza and unopened beer at 11:30 p.m. This time around we had a native guide in A, who took us to a Thai restaurant where we were rowdy, giggly, ravenous, and completely satisfied with delicious food. This was E’s first trip to MSW and her first introduction to the goofy booth babes of Spirit Trail. Fortunately, she turned out (as we’d suspected she would) to be one of us - another goofball who laughed at all the idiocy 6 good friends are capable of producing on an MSW eve.

Saturday morning we rolled out to the fairgrounds in shifts. In a tiny booth space, there isn’t room for all 6 booth babes, so we worked in relays, which gave everyone time to stroll, shop, look, and take chill-out breaks. Fair booth work is exciting, it’s fun, it’s hectic, it’s rewarding, but don’t you doubt it - it’s also exhausting. This year’s fair had a different feel to it from last year. I suppose it does so every year, as I attend each with different personal agendas and different budgets. My first year was such a timid foray, such a “just looking” sort of year. There was one year when my shopping behavior closely resembled the table manners of a shark at a shipwreck. Last year, my first year working in the Spirit Trial booth, I got to see more familiar and friendly faces, because I stayed put and they came to me. But they came in huge waves, bulging into a crush then subsiding to a trickle. This year the shoppers came in steady streams, seldom making the booth so crowded something got knocked over, but never giving you a chance to sit and take a breath. At least, this was so on Saturday. Sunday shoppers are a different crowd - gentler, less wired, often repeat customers who looked on Saturday, slept on their choices, and selected on Sunday.

The weather was splendid - warm and sunny on Saturday, cooler and sunny on Sunday morning, fading to overcast by closing time. Never did it get so hot we yearned for the Maryland Cotton and Silk Festival - although there was plenty of both to purchase. Nor did it rain, as the weather dot com guys had promised for days preceding, so we need not wish for the Maryland Rubber and Nylon festival. This was fair weather that allowed for carefree browsing and dining on the lawn.

I was glad to see the deep fat fried twinkie booth was back and this year I had, though never took, the opportunity for deep fat fried Oreos. Since I think the only store bought cookie worth buying is an Oreo, they were a strong temptation, but C ambled by and murmured Funnel Cake and who am I to resist such a lure? Besides, even here the lines were only long-ish, never futile. A steady stream of purchasers, but nothing in the nature of a traffic jam.

I made sure to stop by the competition building. In fact, I went through it three times. The first time I went alone, swiftly taking in the things that excited me the most. At the front door was the table displaying the grand poobah prize winner, a stunning piece of spinning, dyeing and knitting - a shawl made of hexagons, all of which were knit of spindle spun lace weight dyed in floating colors of a purple theme. The miles of such perfect spinning was staggering. The eveness, the quality of the dyeing, all of it was enough to make a fiber gal’s mouth water. It was covered with Best Of ribbons and it deserved every one. There's a photo here, in this collection of fair mementos.

But there were other fine entries, notably some excellent garment sewing by 9 year old girls and some silk felting that was both colorful and alluring. Of all the pieces in the show, the felted silk chiffon scarf in shades of green, pinned with a lovely enameled brooch was the one I’d have snuck out of the building if I’d been able to distract the very pleasant but eagle eyed woman in charge. Needless to say there is silk felting information coming to a library near me in the very near future.

Saturday night we were considerably calmer at the restaurant, which turned out to be the same one we’d graced on Friday. C shooed us on our way to dine without her calming influence. She had no appetite and was exhausted enough that not even the promise of the last of the Mohitas tempted her. She was for bed. The rest of us had much smaller appetites as well, for we’d been sampling the fair food throughout the day. I don’t believe any of us had desert, even though they offered deep fat fried cheesecake.

Lawsee! Is there anything that hasn’t been deep fat fried in Maryland?

Sunday morning I took my own car in since I would be leaving for home straight from the fair. That’s the way it is on Sunday. We all try to arrive at the same day and time, but departures are always dependent on airlines and car rentals or even how soon darkness falls. E had a class and went in with the early birds while A and C and I had way too much coffee and even more too much breakfast.

The first hour or so at MSW on Sundays is often quiet and I took the opportunity to do what shopping I could do. For, another reason the fair felt so different for me this year was that I was not supposed to be buying any yarn, fiber or fleece. Remember that vow of mine from January 13? Yeah. Well, that being the case, I stayed away from booths that offered too much temptation. No stroking angora fluff dyed in shades of autumn sunset. No plunging fingers into puffs of merino/tencel blends in olive green. Not even a peek at tall bags of swirling color or fat round balls of natural colored Bluefaced Leicester. And when I did succumb, I had strong women with commanding voices to say “NO” and “Down Girl!” When the urge grew too strong, I’d go back to the Spirit Trial booth and drop spin little sample skeins for the new fibers J had. But you may applaud now, for I am pleased to tell you that I bought No Fleece, Fiber Nor Yarn at the 2006 MSW.

So - what was there for me to do when I couldn’t buy any fiber? Ahh. This year I was looking for accessories, tools and books - and even in those cases, I wasn’t looking too hard. I had, on my list, only two things I intended to be sure about. The first was a new drive band for KittyBoy, my little California castle wheel. He has languished for almost a year because the drive band on it is so terrible - made of kitchen cotton with a nasty big knot in it. Stony Mountain Fibers had what I wanted along with a felting DVD I picked up for the library.

The other thing that I was determined to see were the glass buttons by Sheila and Michael Ernst. She’d posted on the KRForums that The Fold would be selling them and I did not want to miss them. Happily I didn’t do my shopping till Sunday morning, because The Fold was also the place to get Socks that Rock yarn and I heard the place was mobbed on Saturday - and sold out too. Fortunately, on Sunday a.m. it was easy to visit favorite booths, pleasant to linger in the relatively thin crowd, and those buttons.

Oh. My.

Those Buttons.

They look like tiny glass paperweights with layered flower petals nestled on colored beds. I wanted to be a tiny fairy and live down inside one of those buttons. They have some heft to them. They’re glass. But I could see one on the shoulder of an asymmetrical knitted shawl or sweater, knit specifically for the button, with a nice garter stitch patch where the button hole went. And if you are a seamstress - well - there’s no end to the places such a button could be shown off with éclat and glamour. For that matter, you could slide it onto a pin and wear it as jewelry. They are stunning pieces and I can’t wait to explore my stash for just the right yarn to show it off.

I picked a green flower on a red bed that looked a little like this

Woodchuck Products had lovely wooden accessories for fiber people and though I wasn’t in the market for anything, there was the prettiest little spindle sitting alone in a beautifully turned wooden cup. It’s named Laurel. It sat in my palm and spun. And spun. And spun and spun and spun. And then it sat in my pocket while my money sat in it’s maker’s cash box.

I picked up some more glass buttons at Button Pie. These were much more rustic, and quite beautiful; little green glass triangles; a large brown square with some flecks of bright yellow and red.

I also purchased books -The Knitting Answer Book by Margaret Radcliff and the Alden Amos Big Book of Handspinning. I’d met MR at the Sedalia festival but was too zonked out to actually spend any $. Besides, when I teach or tell stories at a fair I don’t like to buy things there. It’s just a little quirk I have about work and play and besides, I spend $ enough already. But I’d regretted not getting the book because I found MR such a delight to talk to and be around.

In the days before I learned to spin I’d borrowed AA’s book via inter-library loan. It’s a tough book to look at if you don’t have a clue about spinning. It’s very full, very detailed, very technical. I’ve always been glad it was out there in the fiber library. It made me feel that if I ever really got totally stumped on a spinning issue I could always look it up in the Big Book. But with a new and more versatile wheel, I think it’s time for me to move the safety net up a little closer. I’m ready to do some fine spinning. Maybe not superior spinning yet, but fine or even grand spinning. I’m ready, now, to join the Spinning Olympics and challenge myself to meet a higher standard with my spinning.

Missing from the shopping experience this year was The Woolery - where I bought my first spinning videos. I’d thought to look for more of those this year but all I saw was familiar videos transferred onto DVD. This is nice. There may be some new information in the DVD format. But I wasn’t tempted to buy them. I still have a VCR player and I shan’t upgrade till I have to. As for The Woolery - I haven’t a clue why they weren’t here. Nor were the folk who sell Babe wheels - unless that was The Woolery folk.

Added to the entire fair experience this year were


Finally they wised up to this long unanswered need. In years past, unless you happened to know where the secret hidden P-A-P was, you were in for an uncomfortable wait. This year, only if you insisted upon using a flush toilet would you have to wait in line. At the huge banks of green outhouses I never had to wait behind more than one person. Also dotted around were those little green plastic sinks with foot pumps. The chance to wipe away the sweat, sugar, grease and dirt was a real treat.

We all ought to write the fair folk letters of thanks.

Another thing fun to watch at this year’s fair - since I dared not touch much in the way of bunny fur, llama hair, or sheepy softness - was the people. I watched a family melt down in mesmerizing fascination. I was not alone, for a good dozen kids lurked behind trash cans and light poles, horrified, but glad it wasn’t their mom shrieking at their grandma about their behavior in that embarrassing way. There were a couple of useless men attached to the party but I had to make myself stop gawking at the women and walk on. No blows, fortunately, but quite a spectacle.

In stark contrast was a set of grandparents, a dad and pregnant mom, and 2 under-5’s in a double stroller. Such bold little girls, ready to explore, to look, to touch when allowed, to refrain when told “no”. The exact opposite on the family spectrum, I’d say.

Usually I don’t have time to stop and listen to the musicians or watch any demonstrations. I’m either buying or selling and there is so much fiber to see and touch. I always knew there was other interesting stuff going on at the fair. I’ve even made time to take a class or watch some animal husbandry. But I’ve never had the chance to sit and listen to the music or watch the dancing. One fellow, a fiddler who called square dance steps had brought tubs of fun instruments for folk to play in his band. I forget the exact name of his band but Sunshine was in the name. The band was truly a pick-up band. He was the lone tune maker. Everyone else was little children with washboards and washtub bass and spoons, drums or tambourines. It was one of the cutest acts I’ve ever seen. He had the rest of the audience, young and old, dancing to his calls and you can bet those camcorders and digital cameras were humming away.

There was a lot of wheel lust among us, even if none was quite so extravagant as my purchase. S fell victim to a Great Wheel. A was caught in the drive band of a Norm Hall. J picked up her long awaited Wee Robin. E realized that her back ache might be caused by twisting her body as she accommodated herself to a double treadle wheel and maybe she ought to have a single treadle. I can’t wait to hear what she decided, but at closing time, the Ashford Traveler was in first place.

But eventually even MSW comes to a close. I didn’t want to be crossing the Potomac in the dark - it’s got one of those high humped bridges over it and I suffer from a bridge phobia. I drive on them but I always get a stomach ache when I do. So, though I hated to tear myself away from the booth babes I knew there were plenty of willing hands to help knock down the booth. The drive home was uneventful. Traffic was heavier than it had been last year, but it was evening, not mid-afternoon on a Sunday. Something to think about for next year. Maybe I’ll stay over an extra night next year. I shan’t have a new baby sleeping in the back seat of my car.

It began to sprinkle a bit at Waldorf and it was raining full out by LaPlata. The worst visibility was driving across the Northern Neck, which, fortunately, was only about 18 miles. By the time I turned left onto 17 the rain had eased up a bit so the last half hour was the most pleasant - the kind of driving I like best - empty but familiar roads.

Gigantic hugs and wagging tails greeted me. I was so tired that other than bringing in my Golding I didn’t even unpack the car till Monday. (obviously I’m finishing this up on Tuesday) I spent half of yesterday exploring my new wheel and the other half napping.

And so it goes. MSW2006 is over. There won’t be another till next year. It will be some time before the bank book recovers but I can spend that time using up my stash. And dreaming. About MSW2007.

posted by Bess | 8:20 AM