Monday, May 28, 2012

The wonder of tools

It always amazes me what you can do, or how much you can get done when you have the right tools. I have owned my wool combs for at least seven years now and I have finally purchased a wool comb clamp.

What on earth is a wool comb clamp? It is a simple tool that holds your wool comb in place so you can pull the fibre off the comb using two hands, and not one. It's a luxury item if you comb fibre once a year.  It's a necessity if combed fibre is an essential aspect of your workshop materials -- and you are doing it weekly.


This is a specially made clamp for my wonderful, hard wearing Forsyth mini wool combs.

In addition to the clamp, I have also added the diz to my repertoire of necessary tools.

In the past I have dissed the diz, thinking it a finicky and unnecessary tool for pulling wool off the end of a comb. But with my hands freed by the wool comb clamp, I suddenly saw the benefit of having a tool that helped to determine the amount of fibre that came off with each tug. And really, why not?

A diz is neither a high-tech or expensive tool. In fact, in my case it's a large button.

I use that dental floss looped stuff to help feed the sliver of wool through one of the four holes. And man oh man, it makes life so much easier.

What was I thinking? Some kind of Puritan I-don't-need-fancy-tools, I-can-do-it-the-primitive-way approach.

Well bollocks to that.  It's nearly magic. I was able to comb up three times the amount I usually do in a sitting, and I wasn't tired and sore.  When you have the right tools you can get the job done efficiently and effectively.  In so doing you can also minimize wear and tear on your body.  What's not to like about that?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

More photos from workshop in Tlell

This truly is a beautiful part of the world. I took this photo on Saturday morning at about 7am.  The skies were grey, there was a strong wind, and rough seas.  Something about standing on a shoreline with waves crashing in, soothes my soul.  Maybe it's all the negative ions in the air.

This lovely gal is Elizabeth's horse, I can't remember her name.  She's an absolute flirt. Will run right up to the fence line to say hi, and just as you're getting ready to take a photo, she coyly turns around.  I was ready for her this time, and got this shot of her on my way back to the guesthouse.

These are newly dyed silk caps drying on my back porch.  I did this low-tech space dying and steamed them in roll-ups.  Silk loves dye so you don't need too much effort to get a lovely result like above.  Each cap has several layers that get peeled apart and stretched out before spinning.  The multiple colours adds to the spinning pleasure.

Here is my present fleet of spindles.  Most of the ones along the top row are mine, the bottom row and a few on top are the unsold ones.  They will all sell before the summer is out; I am sure of that.  If you want to buy one, just let me know.

Indian Wedding Socks: Complete

Here they are -- and I never struggled with SSS (second-sock syndrome).  They were fun and easy to knit.  I like the way the yarn striped throughout.  I couldn't have planned it better if I had wanted to.

The yarn is from the July 2011 Fibre Club -- called Indian Wedding.  I not longer have the tag which describes the fibre content, but it's merino, silk and bamboo -- I think.  It's amazingly soft, strong and has a terrific sheen.  I blogged about them in earlier posts.  That's was when I had finished spinning the yarn.  And here's the post where I started the socks themselves.  Here's the first one in progress:

And here they are finished:

I like everything about these socks.  The only thing I'd do differently is I'd make them a bit longer.  I had a enough yarn left over, that I could have added another 1 inch on the cuff.  That's why I am learning how to make socks from the toe-up -- so I can be a better judge of how much yarn is left.

They certainly aren't identical, but they definitely are a matching pair.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Spinning Workshop in Tlell, on Haida Gwaii

Last Friday I took a whirlwind trip to Haida Gwaii to do a 2-day spinning workshop.  It was heavenly.

On Friday, loaded down with three suitcases and a huge purse, I flew from Vancouver to Sandspit -- a mere 1 hour 39 minute flight.  Beng, the organizer of the arts event met me at the airport along with her lovely daughter.  We drove to the ferry, crossed over and then drove to Tlell.  I stayed at the Toad Farm Guesthouse.  A newly renovated home -- and I had it all to myself!

All my meals were prepared by my host and hostess and served in the main house.  After I got unpacked and set up for the workshops the next day, I grabbed my bottle of chilling white wine and headed over to meet everyone.  Dinner was divine -- roast chicken, potatoes, gravy, salad.  I don't tend to eat much before I fly, so by this time, I was ravenous. Well fed, and full of wine and good stories, I headed back to the guesthouse relatively early as I still had things to set up for the next day.  Despite my excitement about the upcoming workshops, I slept like the dead.  Must be the air over there.

I was up early the next morning and took a walk to the shoreline to see the waves crashing in.  There was weather coming in so the water was rough and the waves huge.  It was also the only place where I could get cell reception.  I didn't much mind that overall, it's nice to take a break from the blackberry.  But I did want to check in with hubby and see how things were at home.

Folks started arriving at 9am and we learned about spindles and spinning until they couldn't take it anymore, around 4pm. Of the thirteen participants, about eight were beginning spinners.  Five of them were absolute beginners.  By the end of the day, everyone could spin a continuous thread and was able to make a 2-ply yarn.  That's a lot of learning.

Here's what people saw as soon as they came in the door:

The spindles are Henry's Dervish by Houndesign.  The fibre along the window sill is strips of drum carded batts.  There was lots of other fibres used in this workshop and the one the next day, but they are all on the sideboard, out of scope of this photo.  C'est domage.

In the evening of the first day, we hosted a Spin-In for anyone and everyone.  One of the participants is a Haida weaver and she showed me how they make warp yarns by thigh spinning.  Mostly folks hung out, spun a bit, talked about fibre and such.  I got things ready for the next day.

The workshop the next day had nine participants.  They were more advanced spinners, or people who had taken the workshop the day before.  Again, we did an overview of spinning and plying techniques, but on this day in addition to the wide variety of wool fibres, we also played with mohair, silk and alpaca.  We made blends:  wool/mohair; wool/silk; alpaca/silk and so forth.  It was a good exercise in blending fibres and also seeing how the addition of another fibre impacts the yarn.

After that we learned about cabled yarns and each person made a 4-ply cabled yarn using 4 different fibres or colours.

By this time everyone was tired and nearly spun out.  But we had one more activity:  I brought silk caps for us to play with. For those who have never spun with silk caps, it is a crazy fun thing to do as you open it up, peel apart one of the layers, stretch it out and then get down to spinning some amazingly strong and fine thread.

Here's my piece -- this is a lace weight spindle made from Cocobolo.  The spindle is a gem and the thread is a terrific colour.  I am going to try spinning it a bit thicker and then using it to ply with a wool single or some other fibre.  Mix it up a bit. Have some fun.

That was an action packed, fibre filled two days.  The next day we went to Port Clements and took a wee walk along the Golden Spruce Trail to see where the mighty tree once stood.  Then a dash to the ferry and I was on my way home again.

The best part of the trip was without a doubt the wonderful people.  I made new friends and saw old acquaintances from my workshop two years earlier. It was a lot of work to organize, but I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Just have to figure out what to do next. . . .

A special thanks to Beng for organizing the event; Keith and Elizabeth at Toad Farm for their warmth and hospitality; David and Cheri for providing me with high quality spindles for the workshops; Felicia at Sweet Georgia Yarns for the specially dyed Falklands wool and other fibre braids; Humming Bee Farm for the corriedale and yearling mohair; Kim from Claddagh Fibre Arts for the alpaca, silk and terrific idea to dye and use silk caps; and all the spinners who came and added to the day. I hope to see you soon.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Spinning in Haida Gwaii

I've been pretty quiet this last while, using every spare moment I have to get materials organized and myself prepared.  For what you ask?  On Friday, I'm flying up to Haida Gwaii to teach a two-day spinning workshop in Tlell. 

I was there in April 2010 teaching a writing workshop, and because I had extra time, we decided to add a drop spinning workshop to my trip.  It was a hit and I've been striving to find a way back ever since. 

Saturday from 9am - 5pm, I'll be teaching a Beginning Spinning workshop -- using the drop or suspended spindle.  In the evening, we are hosting a Spin-In for all the workshop participants and other fibre enthusiasts who may want to join in.  On Sunday, I'll be teaching an Advanced Spinning workshop -- doing more advanced techniques and playing around with more fibres, making blends and such.

Yesterday I picked up the Houndesign spindles, specially made for these workshops.  I'm packing 35 Henry's Dervish and 15 Lace weight spindles.  They are so beautiful I scarcely want to part with them.  I'm also in the final stages of organizing all the materials -- four different kinds of wool; mohair; alpaca; llama; tussah silk; silk caps; merino/cashmere blends; soya silk and casein (a silky fibre made from the proteins in milk!)

The challenge is to try to pack it all into 2 checked bags and one carry on.  The spindles themselves take an entire box.  All this fibre has to go into my large suitcase and medium carry on.  Thankfully fibre packs down pretty well.

I need to start now just so I can be sure that I'm not forgetting something critical for the workshops. I'll keep you posted on my packing progress -- now back to more fibre preparation.