Category Archives: Fiber Festivals / Conventions

I should be…

  • Taking photos of yarn
  • Updating my website
  • Endlessly tweaking my website to make it better
  • Updating my yarns on Rav
  • Updating my projects on Rav
  • Figuring out sales tax for last quarter
  • Sending out a freakin’ newsletter since it’s been…what? Yeah, you probably didn’t know I even have a newsletter. Me neither.
  • What I am doing:

  • About to graft together the hood on my Vivian
  • Watching interviews with Lady Gaga on the internet.
  • Vivian Hood (Medium)

    Hey, don’t judge me on that last one – I blame my fitness teacher Michele for getting “Bad Romance” massively earwormed into my brain yesterday while doing a bazillion squats. Actually, to be totally honest, I think Lady Gaga is pretty damned talented. And I do like her Honeybadger doesn’t give a shit attitude.

    That said – GRUNGE 4EVER!!! I’m going to see the Foo Fighters tomorrow at the Forum in LA and couldn’t be more excited about it. I’ve been listening to their new album and watching videos on YouTube for a few days now. They are so goofy and awesome, I love you, Dave Grohl. LOVE YOU.

    Anywhoo – knitting, what? Well, since the weather started to turn chilly (until a heatwave decided to roll through – supposed to be 96 today, WTF?), I took my Vivian out of hibernation. (Which is being knit out of the blue yarn pictured in the blog header.) I set it aside for a few months since A) It was too darned warm to contemplate serious wool sweater knitting, and B) Once I completed the shoulders, I felt the waist was too high. So I busted it out again, tried it on again, took it to a few of my knitting groups, and got some opinions. All of which were along the lines of: “It looks great, WTF are you talking about?” And now that’s it’s sat for a while, it looks less short to me too. And it feels pretty nice when I have it on. So I decided to stop being such a stupidly picky perfectionist and just finish the damned thing already. I knit the remaining few rows of the hood last night, and now all I have to do is graft it together and install the zipper. Those are 2 huge things – the grafting is in cables & seed stitch, and I’ve never put in a zipper before – but I’m gonna power through them. Maybe even be done by the end of this weekend!

    There was another impetus for me to pick up the sweater again, which was reading Yarnagogo’s book A Life in Stitches. I was recently up in Oregon for OFFF, and hung out for a few days after to visit some friends. One of them told me that I had to go to Powell’s Books, and boy, was she right. It’s giant, a full city block, and it has its own map and information desks sprinkled throughout. I walked in, and was looking up with big wide eyes at the sign with all the subjects and their locations, when a nice voice asked, “Can I help you find something?” I turned around to the woman at the information desk and said, “Um, I don’t know. It’s my first time here. Maybe textiles?” She pulled out a map and gave me the quick overview, pointed out the textiles section (just through sci-fi, perfect!), and I noticed she had a knitting book in front of her. I excitedly asked, “Do you knit?” At which point she actually looked a little embarrassed and said, “Yeah, I knit.” I gave her a smile and said, “Me too, I actually have a business hand-dyeing yarn.” But she still looked a little uncomfortable, which seemed odd and made me uncomfortable, and so I didn’t bust out a business card and instead headed towards sci-fi and the coffee shop.

    Far from being giant and overwhelming with largeness and fluorescent lighting, like you might expect for a giant bookstore that takes up an entire city block, Powell’s is cozy and intimate. There are several floors and rooms, each one having a different subject. So I wandered through the sci-fi room and felt like I was in my own little geeky heaven. I went to the textiles section and found some awesome old books and pamphlets on natural dyeing. The other great thing about Powell’s is that used books are mixed right in with new ones, so all available knowledge on a subject is in ONE place. Brilliant!

    Anyway, I was wandering around with a 10-mile stare (have you ever seen people at the Stitches West Marketplace for the first time? Kind of like that!), just reveling in the fact that I was in a giant repository of human knowledge on just about every subject imaginable. And then, as I was scanning through the spinning books, I saw Abby’s Respect the Spindle. And I thought “Man, how cool is that. Someone I know has added to this great repository, has made a meaningful contribution to the sum total of human knowledge, and other people can come here and read and learn from her.” It almost made me want to buy the book again. And then I saw the latest issue of Spin-Off and thought about Jacey and her new book coming out. And then I thought “Hey! I haven’t read Rachael’s latest book!” Yes! Something I can buy from a person that I know! But wait – would that be in autobiographies or knitting or ??? So I went to the nearest info desk and the clerk looked it up for me. “I like the title,” he said. Yeah, me too. He directed me back to knitting, scan, scan, scan, scan – there! And I picked up a shiny new book, written by someone I’ve actually met and hung out with, and took it to the checkout counter with a silly grin on my face.

    It’s hard to articulate why that was such a neat experience. First, there was Powell’s. Instead of being some giant warehouse where everything looked the same, I instantly felt at home and like this huge place was my bookstore. Then I had the personal connection of knowing a few authors, which made purchasing something truly enjoyable. I was happy to be giving my money to a cool place, and know that a person I cared about was going to benefit from my small action. And at the same time, it was like a big FU in the face of giant chains and corporate branding and the growing homogeneity of our culture. My experience was actually personally relevant, suck on that Borders and Barnes & Noble! And there was also a smaller, and perhaps futile FU to the concept that books are obsolete. I’m a big technology whore, and I love that Kindles and iPads and tablet computers exist, but there’s nothing like browsing through an actual store and holding a physical book in your hands. Smelling the (probably toxic) page fumes. It’s just magical.

    Ahem. Where the hell was I? Inspired to knit sweaters, right! Well, in Rachel’s book, she talks about what was happening in her life at the time she was knitting certain things, and how those are intertwined. What I got out of all this was Damn, that girl has knit a lot of sweaters. Sweater knitting apparently is not a big deal for her. And then this giant lightbulb went off and I thought, “Shit, sweater knitting doesn’t have to be a big deal for me either. I’m the one who makes it a big deal just by thinking it’s a big deal, and you know what? I can control my own damned thoughts!!!

    So you heard it here first, folks. Sweater knitting – no big deal. I have a crapton of yarn, I know how to freakin’ knit, all I have to do is do it. So I’ve actually been using Ravelry to – gasp! – look up patterns lately, instead of drama. :) After all, Winter Is Coming.

    The Dye Garden

    I’m so excited – I have seedlings! They’re so fragile and green, I check on them every morning over a cup of coffee. Warmer days are finally here, and these 3 madder starter plants I got from Horizon Herbs are really taking off.

    Madder seedlings (Large)

    And I have a few that I started from seed just breaking though the ground!

    Madder Seedling 2 (Large)

    I’m a long way from growing enough of my own dyes to actually make an impact on my dyeing, but it’s fun and really rewarding to grow a few plants. I’m learning a lot and who knows? Maybe someday if I have access to enough land, I could have a dyeplant operation and grow enough to supply multiple dyers. It is incredibly difficult to get natural dyes, and they are very expensive. How cool would it be to having a dyefarm operating in the US where you could buy madder, weld, indigo, and a host of other plants….

    Ok, back to the current reality. Check out my weld from last year! I seriously did not water this at all over the winter, ignored it for months as it was overtaken by marigold and coreopsis, and look at it now:

    Weld2 (Large)

    I cannot wait to harvest the stalks later this year! I also planted some indigo, which I think is coming up….but since I’ve never grown indigo before, I’m not entirely sure what’s a weed, what’s a volunteer, and what’s an indigo seedling. :)

    My marigold seedlings are doing well, these are African marigolds. I have French in another planter.

    Marigold Seedlings (Large)

    And I have a few Hopi Sunflowers poking up! I love how some sunflowers are still wiggling out of their seed shells when they break the surface:

    Hopi Sunflower Seedling (Large)

    Apparently these make a purpley-black dye. The seeds are striking different from “normal” sunflower seeds – they’re solid black. The flower heads are big and yellow as usual, though. I have some seeds from last year that I need to test out soon! And since most of my big mundane chores are finally wrapping up (taxes and a massive post-Stitches update of the website), I think I’ll finally be getting back to pots!

    I’m planning to vend at more fiber festivals this year, yay! Here’s a current list of events:

    June 4th – Spinning at the Winery – Retzlaff Winery, Livermore, CA. I had a really cool conversation with Will Taylor a few days ago about the event. I hadn’t realized how strongly focused it is on local and American-made yarn, they specifically do not want to see any yarn made in China, Australia, or abroad. So I’m leaving the Global Yarn at home (yes, that does mean no superwash sock, though in other news, a superwash facility is finally coming online in the US), and bringing lots of fiber, Small Farm Yarn, and American Yarn! I’m hoping to get all of my natural-colored alpaca from the Central Coast swatched and labeled by then.

    July 10th – Oakland Fiber Festival – Splash Pad Park, Oakland, CA. This will be a day of fun at the park with a bunch of vendors! There’s a Rav group here . It’s always fun to head to the big city, and exciting to have a fiber event that’s reasonably close to home. I’ll have my whole line-up of yarn there!

    October 1st – CogKnitive Fiber Retreat – Tehachapi, CA. This was my first vending event last year, and I’m looking forward to celebrating an Alpenglow Anniversary with Dr. Gemma, Nathan, the Knitmore Girls, and the CogKnitive crew!

    That’s all for now, though I have an application out to OFFF, so cross your fingers for me on that one! I’m also hoping to vend at the Southern California Handweavers Guild show in Torrance in November. And even though I won’t be there, some of my yarn will be at Sock Summit with the fabulous Didi of Little Red Bicycle!

    I’m a little bummed that I didn’t get into Black Sheep as a vendor – 15th on the waiting list – but hopefully next year. And I’ll be going as a participant this year since I’ve never been! So it’ll be pretty darned fun anyway – road trip with friends, camping, partying with ColorBomber Velma at her Pie & Beer shindig, trying to not buy Any.More.Fiber(!!!)….good times for sure!

    Dyeing to get to Stitches!

    Sorry, bad pun, I know. I couldn’t help it – I’m so excited because some of my best yarn yet just came out of the dyepots. There’s a magical quality to dyeing – certainly I have a good idea of what color the yarn is while I’m dyeing, but it’s not until it’s almost dry that the final shade and nuance is revealed. Sometimes it takes on an entirely new life when I pull it out of the washing machine, and today was one of those “Holy SHIT!” days when I surprised even myself.

    This is my best, most interesting batch yet:
    SMerF Moss (Medium)

    This is one of my brightest colors, the neon quality was unexpected but completely welcome:
    Lofty Corrie Fingering green (Medium)

    More bright red, perhaps my favorite color to dye:
    Corrie Sport Ephemar (Medium)

    A great cotton/wool blend that takes the dye in a heathered kind of way. Very interesting to the eye.
    Bollistic Tweed green (Medium)

    Now that I’m pretty much done dyeing (there’s some slight tweaking going on the background, but not much), I’ve actually relaxed and destressed a bit. We have our booth figured out, got the fixtures and furniture, all that’s left is reskeining, labeling, and making signs. Which are all big tasks, but more chill than living my life in 30 minute increments, keeping track of 6 dyepots, loads of yarn in the wash, and boiling dyestuffs.

    I just can’t wait to put everything out there, meet new people, and talk about yarn. It’s the best part of the whole business. Plus the party line-up for Stitches is going to be pretty awesome. Ravelry Happy Hour on Thursday night and LSG Hoariversary on Saturday. Woo!

    Ta-Na-Na-Ah, Ta-Na-Na-Ah, Stitches, Stitches, He-e-llo

    Lambie says: Stitches is in just a month! Get on it, yo!

    Lamb Talking 2 (Medium)

    I just got back from TNNA, so I’m full of energy and inspiration! It was great to visit with a few of my yarn suppliers, put more faces to names, and see good friends. I also spoke with several smaller US mills and hope to have a new American yarn base or two in the late spring. Good stuff!

    So have I mentioned that I’ll be vending at Stitches West this year? It’s my first time, it’s both exciting and terrifying. Myself and Ranch of the Oaks are splitting a booth – 1048, be sure to drop by! Mette will have lots of natural colors of her own alpaca yarn, plus Icelandic wool, plus llama yarn, plus blends of everything. I’ll be bringing lots and lots of naturally-dyed yarn, about 1/3rd of it will be Corriedale from the Ranch and Central Coast alpaca. And we’ll both have lots of fiber for spinning! And have I mentioned the 15 micron merino that I brought back from Australia? Mmmmmmm…. And! If that wasn’t enough…I’ll also have some Little Red Bicycle yarns! Yay! Hopefully her laceweight order will come in and I’ll have some beautiful hand-dyed skinny stuff, but I’m certain to have sock yarn at the very least. Woot!

    There are going to be several natural dyers at Stitches this year – I definitely encourage everyone to check us all out, as we all have different twists on colors and fibers. As far as I know, the following will be there: A Verb for Keeping Warm, Tactile, Pico Accuardi Dyeworks, and Carolina Homespun usually carries Nature’s Palette yarn.

    What else is noteworthy? Two of my yarn suppliers will be there – Green Mountain Spinnery and NordicMart. Green Mountain Spinnery is located in Vermont, they make wonderful yarns out of American wool and US-made Tencel. Several of my American Yarns are theirs. And a few of my Global Yarns are from Garnstudio – NordicMart is based here in San Luis Obispo and carries their complete line. Ball and Skein and More in Cambria will also be at Stitches for the first time, and they’ll be highlighting O-Wool yarn, which I also use for dyeing. Michelle Miller of Fickleknitter Design will also have a booth – she creates great patterns, many of which are small yardage and perfect for hand-dyed yarns. I’ll also be a selling a few kits of: one of her patterns, yarn to go with it, and a handmade project bag!

    I think that covers my shout-outs for now. Stitches can be pretty overwhelming, so it’s sometimes handy to have recommendations, especially for us new companies that no one has ever heard of. Oh, I have one more shout-out for very interesting stuff – don’t miss John Marshall’s booth. Last year he had very interesting gold yarn (yes, real gold over silk), he sells really cool fabrics, and also very good and user-friendly instant indigo (though I don’t know if he’ll be bringing that to Stitches).

    And don’t forget my booth, okay? :) 1048!

    Cogknitive Fiber Retreat 2010

    It’s hard to describe how exciting it was to peddle my wares in person for the first time! There was definitely a lot of madness in the couple of weeks leading up to it. I pretty much went straight from finishing the website, to at long-last unpacking and organizing the workshop, to Boonville for the CA Wool and Fiber Festival, to dyeing up a storm! Unfortunately, the worst heat wave I’ve ever seen in SLO decided to hit right when the major dyeing needed to happen. Hello, Murphy! My mom also came up to visit and help, so she was sweating it out as well. We had 110 degree highs for 4 days in a row, and pretty much no one in town has air conditioning. By mid-day the house was a sauna and outside was a furnace, so we started taking “siestas.” We went out for lunch to a place with air conditioning, ordered anything on the menu that was blissfully served cold, then did all the small errands that took us to air conditioned places. Like Staples. And then we stared at the beautiful display of colored pens for a while. And then looked at all the nice paper. And then had a nice conversation with the checker. And then went to Michael’s because, you know, they have different pens. And air conditioning.

    Anyway, we both managed to survive the heat, and Mom went back to SoCal for the couple of days right before the retreat, while I got busy reskeining and labeling. Of course, first time around with a batch this big, everything takes twice as long as I think it will, mostly because I’m developing my systems. So reskeining took a full day when I thought it would take half of one, leaving Friday morning to do all the labels, because I had to leave for Tehachapi on Friday afternoon. It started off not so bad – I had templates for several labels already, so I had a good start. My printer decided it likes to jam on card stock, so that was a bit of a pain. My names for things and text gets a little loopy as time goes on and the pressure to finish increases. But I’m two labels away from done! I can see the finish line!

    And then I see it. The huge glaring stupid mistake. You see, I already had a label made for the superwash sock yarn, which I took as the template for every other label I created. I had made labels using that text for about 12 different types of yarn, each with 2 or 3 colors. I had been really careful about making sure I updated fiber content, gauge, needle size, country of manufacture for each one. What I missed was care instructions, and every single label said machine wash. And none of it, except that first batch of superwash sock yarn, was machine washable.

    So there I was, exhausted from working my ass off, brains melted from the heat wave, about to leave in an hour for my first show, and all my labels have an incredibly stupid mistake on them. I seriously considered crawling into a hole and dying at that point. I know, most people would have just crossed it out, or printed out a sticker that said “hand” to cover “machine.” But what if the sticker fell off? It’s small text, it would look like crap, it would be broadcasting to the world that I’m an idiot (hey, it’s different when I blog about it and call myself an idiot)… I reprinted them all. On a printer that was jamming on card stock 1 out of every 3 sheets.

    I managed to crank it out and leave only a few hours behind schedule. But I still needed to name a few colorways and actually put the labels on the skeins. Mom had called earlier to see how it was going, and I told her the story of the labels. She expressed her condolences and quickly got off the phone, sensing that there was really nothing she could do. But in fact, she told my sad story and marshaled an army of volunteer label-put’er-on’ers in Tehachapi. We all sat in the common room (what would the next day be the marketplace), I drank a much-needed beer, and cut labels while others taped them on and stuck the price stickers to them. It was really great to meet such a friendly and helpful group of fiber folks, and I finally started to relax a little.

    The next day was really the jewel. It was really cool to have all my yarn and fiber on display, to be able to show the results of all the hard work I’ve been doing. And it’s great to chat with knitters about yarn, I just love it! What was also great is that Tom and Mette of Ranch of the Oaks were selling their own alpaca yarn right next to me, and whenever I was talking to someone about the Small Farm Yarn line, I could say “I buy the fleeces directly from farmers and those people right over there make it into yarn for me.” Super-cool. Here are a few pix of my booth!

    Cogknitive2010_0013_adj (Large)
    What is she doing with that spindle? Plying? Crazy!

    Cogknitive2010_0031_adj (Large)
    The other side of the yarn display!

    Cogknitive2010_0035_adj (Large)
    The fiber!

    It was nice that this first outing was short and pretty chill – seriously, I had enough going on and was stressed out enough as it was that it was really nice to have a relaxed group of shoppers, other cool and friendly vendors, and very awesome organizers. I met a lot of fun knitters, and it was great to finally meet Laurs of BeeMiceElf, and get a chance to chat a little with Elf of Redfish Dyeworks (whose work I’ve been admiring for a few years now), get some soap from Dawn of Wolfe Farms, plus meet StashyMama in person, and Nicole of Freckleface Fibers, and meet new people like Michelle of Fickleknitter patterns and Laura of Slipped Stitch Studios. It was also really nice to meet Nathan, chat a little with Dr. Gemma, and I also finally got the chance to say more than “Hello/Goodbye!” to the Knitmore Girls. Very fun and definitely inspiring, the whole thing!

    I have a lot of display ideas for Stitches, just got a sweet credit-card swiper that plugs into my iPhone (it’s hip to be Square), and am checking the boxes, one by one. I can’t wait!

    What is UP?!

    Geez, anti-chatty, much?

    Well, you can tell when I came back to California. In rural Australia, there’s pretty much nothing to do other than knit, watch very bad TV, and write blog posts about the few things you do that are actually interesting. It was nice to have some time to chill with the knitting needles, but near the end I got kind of antsy, like I was just spinning my wheels on the whole business thing. So when I got back to California, I hit the ground running. Here’s the quick synopsis of my life since early May:

    1. Arrive in SLO. Awesome surprise greeting party of all my favorite peeps. Tail-gater in the airport parking lot, complete with sammich, beer, and fondling sub-15-micron merino fleece.
    2. One hour later, take off for Phoenix, spend time with family, and help spread my grandmother’s ashes. Go through tons of pictures with Dad, and realize that the act of going through physical pictures is probably going to be obsolete by the time I die.
    3. Two days later, back in SLO. Say hi to kitties that I’ve missed very much.
    4. Felicia’s sweet wedding – she wore red cowboy boots under her dress and had the wedding & reception at a wine bar. Dinner was biscuits and gravy. Totally perfect. Oh, and the groom is pretty cool too. :)
    5. Spinning at the Winery in Livermore. Nice event, met nice people, lots of spinners, chatted with the cool vending folks (Shari and Morgaine mostly, but met the nice people behind Shaggy Bear Farms and got to talk to another natural dyer!) Also tasted the wine – Retzlaff Winery has some pretty nice wines.
    6. Shearing at the Pronsolino Ranch! Year two, I learned quite a lot from Year 1 and had a better setup. An actual shearing table this time (instead of a sheet of plastic on the dirt), I talking my friend Marya into helping, and I picked much better fleece. It’s still a ton of work – you go through about 100 fleeces in rapid succession in an afternoon.
    7. Dan gets back from Australia, yay!
    8. Dan’s sister’s wedding – back up to Northern Cal for a bigger event this time. Yes, I wore the same dress that I wore to Felicia’s wedding a few weeks before. It has also made an appearance the wedding of another 2 friends, and I think those are all the separate friend circles that I have, so I think the dress will now be semi-retired.
    8. I actually begin honest work on my website.
    9. Then we find an awesome house for rent about a mile away – it has a 1-car garage plus storage space plus workshop plus backyard. It’s in a nice little neighborhood instead of a fishbowl bordered by obnoxious students and obnoxious adults with screaming kids. So we decide to move.
    9.5. We add 2 big planter boxes to the 2 big planter boxes that are already at the new house. We plant stuff. This is cool, I’ve never had a garden before. Dan’s convinced I’m going to kill everything, so he sets up a fully automatic irrigation system. We buy organic seeds, plus some grown-in-an-organic-manner plants from a local nursery called Growing Grounds, which works with people suffering from mental health issues. I could not possibly feel more awesome about the garden!
    10. We pack stuff.
    11. I get rid of stuff.
    12. We move stuff.
    13. We unpack stuff.
    14. We fix stuff.
    15. Move, move, move, moving, moving.
    15.5. My cat Bandit goes missing. :( Tears, inability to sleep, worry, and feeling like a failure.
    16. More unpacking.
    17. Buying storage stuff.
    18. Assembling storage stuff.
    18.5 More fixing stuff.
    19. Figure out where the hell to store stuff.
    20. Getting rid of more stuff.
    21. Isn’t moving fun?
    22. Deep fried food, chocolate-covered bacon, ice cream, and overpriced beer at the county fair.
    23. and AEROSMITH!!! Totally rocked, this time we saw them from stage right (two years ago we were stage left).
    24. Deep fried food, chocolate-covered bacon, ice cream, and overpriced beer at the county fair…..again!
    25. and WEEZER! Holy crap, like 8th row! Awesome concert, and as all concerts do, makes me want to be a rock star when I grow up. This experience was brought to you by the letters J-A-S-O-N, otherwise known as Felicia’s husband who bought her an awesome birthday present to share with friends. :)
    26. Frantic packing from 11pm after the Weezer concert until 2am. Packed for being gone for 2 weeks, 3 separate trips.
    27. #1 trip – backpacking in Goddard Canyon! 44 miles in 72 hours. A personal record, but the last day kind of sucked ass. Wore the 5-fingers KSO Treks and totally loved them. Best trail shoes ever, even though they blew out a hole in between the big toe and index toe.
    28. #2 trip – camping and climbing in Tuolumne! Totally awesome, the entire freaking LA crew was there due to two of my friends doing a once-in-a-lifetime climb. Jan and Andrew did the Bachar-Yerian. For those of you that don’t climb….well, I really don’t know how to equate it to anything. It’s pretty much the boldest and most impressive thing you can do, requires physical ability and mental focus that is super-human. And Andrew led it with a veritable circus of 20 of us below watching. Insane and brilliant. Dan and I stuck to easy-peasy stuff, I felt killer on knobs and Dan felt good to be out climbing after 2 years and 2 more shoulder surgeries. Yay!
    29. I get news that my cat was found, but was dying. I have to make the call to put her down while I’m away. Tears, inability to sleep, and feeling like a complete and utter failure.
    30. #3 trip – Golden Gate Fiber Institute! My brain has to degauss from going straight from climbers to fiber freaks, but the potty-mouthedness, insanity, and intensity carries straight on through. So does the sleeping bag, as it’s at the YMCA camp on the Marin Headlands. Also a strange mix of past and present – fiber arts at a place that was once used for missile defense. It was the most killer week I’ve ever spent with fellow fiber freaks, learned new and cool spinning tricks & skillz, and made some awesome, awesome new friends that I’m totally stoked to keep in touch with and see again at other fibery events.
    30. Home again! To an overflowing washing machine and screwed-up dryer. Yep, home sweet home. :)
    31. Immense spoiling of remaining kitty. Immense gratitude to my friend Eileen who was with my other kitty in her last moments. I enjoyed making her an over-the-top yarn care package – you just can’t put a price on what she did and it was the least I could do to show my appreciation.
    32. Immense freaking out when I saw “a thing” on remaining kitty’s neck a few days later. Turns out it was just an abscess and the vet drained it and she’s just fine. Well, occasionally trailing blood and pus around the house, but just fine.
    33. Work on my website finally continues in earnest. I made a commitment that I’d be up on September 1st, and that’s what’s going to happen. So I don’t update my blog again for a little bit…..well, I’ll be at the computer working on the real site. :)

    See you soon!

    California Wool and Fiber Festival 2009

    I drove up to the Boonvilleish area on Thursday night and spent the night with Grandma and Grandpa. I proudly presented Grandpa with the hat I made – yarn I handspun from his own sheep’s wool, knitted into a hat, and dyed with coffee grounds. The response was: “A hat. For when it gets cold.” Now, you have to understand that Grandpa is an incredibly stolid, stoic, undemonstrative, ornery Italian. This is pretty much what I expected. And when I told Dan about it, he laughed and said, “Yep! That’s ‘Grandpa’ for ‘Thank you very much, I really appreciate it.'” Lol! But I am glad that I made a very simple K2P2 hat. :) And of course, I did not get a picture.

    I drove down to Boonville on Friday morning, parked near Erica’s coffee shop, and hung out for a bit. Her friend Bob also stopped by, poor guy had to hear 2 jittery chicks yap about fleece, fleece, and more fleece. We headed to the fair, and got there right around 10AM when the fleece judging started. I was immediately enthralled. We parked our butts in a chair, I took out some knitting, and proceeded to absorb all I could about fleece during the next 6 hours.

    The judge, Mark Eidman, was phenomenal. He would look at all the fleeces lined up in front of him for the particular category being judged. He wouldn’t talk at this time, but he’d go through each one, picking tufts of wool from a few different parts of each fleece, looking at it in the light, scrunching the fleeces, jiggling them, measuring them against the length of his thumb. Then he’d make his decisions, rearrange them in order (1st to last), and start talking about each one. He’d tell you why the 1st place one got first. He’d talk about the fineness of the fleece, the structure of it, the lock formation, the staple length, the weight, the luster of the wool. Then he’d go onto the next fleece and compare it with the first. Tell you what parts were good, what were lacking. This was probably a non-knitting Muggle’s nightmare, but it was simply dreamy to me. Then, after all the categories in a division were judged, all the first place winners were lined up. He’d go through them all a second time, and pick a champion and reserve champion (1st and 2nd in the division). After he made up his mind, but before he told us the results, he let us come up and squoosh the fleeces ourselves, and form our own opinions. We’d pick our favorites, sit back down, then he’d announce the winners and tell us why he chose them.

    Mark Eidman, judging:
    Mark Eidman, judging

    The divisions were Juniors, Purebreds, Market, Handspinners, and Mohair. Juniors were 4H kids, Purebreds were fleeces categorized and judged by breed (only purebred sheep allowed), Market was categorized and judged by fiber fineness (crossbreeds and purebreds allowed), Handspinning was categorized same as Market, but with emphasis on the end use being handspinning, and Mohair was – duh, angora goat mohair. The Handspinning vs. Market was interesting – in handspinning fleeces things like VM were taken into higher account, and in Market things like overall size/weight of fleece had greater importance. Fleece pr0n:

    During all of this, there was a few people wearing “Merry Meadows Farm” t-shirts sitting in front of me. Every time I’d gasp over a particularly white, vm-free, beautiful fleece (of which there were several), they’d smile. Then when one won a prize, they’d beam. They really had the most fabulous fleeces there, and won many ribbons in many categories. One of them is now mine. :)

    The gals of Merry Meadows Farm with their Best of Show fleece:
    Merry Meadows Best of Show Fleece

    The interesting thing about the fleeces, is that they go on sale immediately after the judging is over. So if you’re interested in buying a wonderful fleece, that’s when you need to be there. The top few categories of handspinning fleeces were gone within minutes. The other interesting thing is that they’re all priced before they’re judged. You can get some good deals, but the people who are raising their sheep for the primary purpose of fiber are going to charge top-dollar for their fleeces, and with good reason. They’re so beautiful it makes you cry.

    In the morning, I ran into Karen and Christina, two friends from SLO. They did a good job enabling me to buy a very nice kid mohair fleece, which I’m hoping to turn into yarn similar to Brookes Farm Primero. I took pix of the silliest fiber thing I’ve ever seen – an angora rabbit shearing demonstration.

    Phase 1, blow rabbit:

    Phase 2, cut hair:

    Phase 3, spin hair, like the guy on the right is doing:

    Then there were sheep shearing demonstrations. Since I didn’t take pix at shearing day at the Ranch, I thought I’d take pix of the demo. The sheep are Navajo Churros, and the last pic, for those of you that didn’t believe me, is of the sheep-shearing-shoes.

    I spent a good part of the afternoon walking around the rest of the fair with Grandma. She worked in the garden/flower building and then we tasted the gold-medal wine winners. It’s fun going wine-tasting with Grandma because she worked in the tasting room at Greenwood Ridge for many years and knows many people. :)

    The last day! Grandma and I managed to convince Grandpa to leave the Ranch and come to the sheep dog trials. It’s a very serious affair, where the contestants line up at the beginning, and everyone stands while the bagpipes are played.

    It’s with a very heavy heart that I write this section. Grandpa’s brother Guido is dying of cancer. He’s been an instrumental force behind the fair for something like 50 years, and has always announced at the sheepdog trials. He’s been bed-ridden for the past 10 days, and even though he really wanted to make it to the trials at the fair, none of us expected him to be able to be there. But Italian orneriness is not to be underestimated, and his voice boomed across the stadium, announcing the beginning of the trials and introducing the contestants. He’s on the far right of this pic (zoomed in all I could, the stands are across the field).

    When the handlers and dogs were leaving the field, he said, “I’d like to say that all things must come to an end.” Halfway through the sentence he was overcome with emotion and his voice broke. “This will be my last sheepdog trial.” You could tell that he just wasn’t ready for it to be his last. I’m crying right now writing this, and I cried all during the 2-hour drive to Colusa later that day. He’s 83, his mind is still sharp as a tack, and it’s just not fair. He left the announcer’s booth while the crowd gave him a standing ovation, and waved his white cowboy hat goodbye.

    The sheepdog trials went on, announced by a woman who was also crying. The course has a pen the sheep have to go around, then they have to go through the middle of 2 sets of gates, then through a chute, then into the pen. It was fun to watch, there was really a huge difference between all the dogs. Here are pix of the gates and the chute.

    I ate lunch with Grandma and Grandpa, then hung around for the spinning contest. First there was a warm-up. For which they blindfolded us. I thought about Marsha telling us about the blind spinning contest she had taken part in, and was starting to think I should have gotten a Majacraft. :) But it was just for the warm-up, so it was OK. Very interesting spinning blindfolded, I was more consistent than I thought I would be. The next part was the Quality contest – you had a half hour to spin the best quality yarn you could. You were allowed to ply, and I really wished I had learned Navajo plying, but since I didn’t, I didn’t ply. Then there was a yardage contest – just spin as fast as you can for 15 minutes. That’s actually exhausting! :) Since I’ve only been spinning for 2 months, I entered in the beginning category, and am pleased to tell you that I am now also an award-winning spinner. :) Although I’m not sure anyone else was in my category…..

    Then I headed off to Colusa and brought Dan home.

    The End!

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