Saturday, August 16, 2008

Michigan Fiber Festival

There isn't much that goes on in a lifetime, all things considered, but the Michigan Fiber Festival is the highlight of the culmination of a year's worth of work for sheepers, spinners and fiber artisans alike.

I go to this production every year now as a matter of course since starting to spin, and there hasn't been a year yet that I've been disappointed.

I never know what's going to come home with me. Last year, it was a Harrisville Floor Loom. The year before, several pounds of teal colored Merino/Tencel Top (for a sweater that my husband felted...OH GOD WAS I UPSET). Another year, a sheep to sock bag of dyed wool which is spun and waiting for my needles to knit it into socks--unfortunately, I think that the wool is too bulky in places, because I am not the best of spinners, but it will make for some wonderful felted boots perhaps! We'll see what the future brings.

This year, as I've mentioned in previous posts, there are a few items that I plan to buy--and I have to turn in my Romney sheep wool for processing. The problem is that I'm going to break the plastic this year again, and I'd love to stay away from THAT thing (the plastic) if I could, but I'm between pay periods, and that means less money in my checkbook than my desires will allow.

None of you have that problem, do you?

Anyway, I determined that I would come home with some pictures--I hope that I don't fall in love with an angora bunn--or come home with an angora goat--or, god help me, a smaller breed of sheep.

This year my friend Peg is going to ride with me, which will make the trip that much more pleasant--so I suppose coming home with another pet is out of the question--although I don't believe she'd mind much sitting with a bunn on her lap. Peg has recently lost her best friend, Bill Davis, whom we believe succumbed to his heart condition while he slept this week. He was in his 70's. So, she didn't have anyone to ride with, so she and I are going together.

Bill was also a good friend of mine, being in the spin group I go to every other Monday night, and between him and Peg, there were nearly 150 years of experience in the fiber world--having done everything from bobbin lace to really intricate knitting. The loss in the fiber world is too great to bear. I'm sure that Peg will miss him greatly.

So I expect before I post this, I will gather some pictures, and describe them to you. There is a great deal goes on at the festival, and all of it is wonderful, so I can't bear the waiting for the time to come to climb into my car and go--oh, I didn't tell you? In my excitement, I woke at 4am. It's now 5am. I want to knit some on my socks, and then I'll go get gas, breakfast and pop (hopefully in that order, because the other way could be construed and result in an altogether different experience.

So here I go, starting my day with a relaxing knit. I believe that I will finish the socks today, but if not today, then tomorrow. I will be taking my knitting and spinning with me to the festival, and I'll have Peg get a picture of me in front of my wheel, so that you can see me "at play".

Having said all that, I woke early--before the alarm--because I was excited to get going and excited about the day ahead. So, since I couldn't start out on the road, I worked on my socks, and I got to the toe decreases. I know now that I will finish them well ahead of schedule, and I also know that I didn't need that extra skein in the same colorway.

I packed the car with the gear, my fleeces and my wheel, the socks and my needles, and got myself on the road.

I stopped for a quick "breakfast" at McDonald's - the "Breakfast of Champions", okay, maybe not so much...Sausage, Egg and Cheese on a Bagel. Then off to the gas station.

I filled the tank, and went inside for a bottle of soda, but they didn't have my "brand", so I scouted out the rest of the "store". I found a little "nook" in the back that had all sorts of doo-dads and bric-a-brack--nick knacks, if you will. They had polished stones, and I bought a bag of them for a few bucks. Then, on the road again.

Now that I know that I am on the toes of my socks, and decreasing, I know that I will not need the second skein of the colorway that I bought in order not to run out. So I decided to go back to Meijer's and trade it for another colorway of the same yarn. I got some in purple self-striping, and a beverage for the day, and back to the car again, because by now, it's almost 8.

I drove to Peg's house, not entirely sure EXACTLY where she lives--although I have been to her house a few times, it's in an area where the homes are "clustered" and they all pretty much look the same. I ended up getting a little bit lost, but found my way back to the starting point, and started back the other direction, and actually found my way, but then I couldn't be sure which house was hers!

As luck would have it, she glanced out the window about the same time I was trying to decide which one of the 6 condos on that street was hers--and she popped out the door, ready to go!

We drove along, just a beautiful road trip really-and talked about everything from soup to nuts--about life, family, the men we know and knew, and we talked about Bill and some of his quirkiness--we talked about knitting machines, spinning wheels, the deer at the side of the road that stood so still that at first I thought it was a decoy--pointed out sheep farms and turkeys. It was just the most splendid ride!

When we arrived, the first thing I needed to do (as always) was to drop off my fleeces. The fellow at the processor's took one look at my bag of Princess fleece (I mean, I was really having a problem lugging that puppy around!), and he said "IS THAT ONE FLEECE?"

What a question. Of course, it's just one fleece in THIS bag, and it's one fleece in THIS (groan, grunt as I lug it another step) bag.

We found out a few minutes later why I was having such a time getting this bag around.

It was almost 20 pounds. Yes, one fleece. The staple was over 6". PeeWee's fleece was an additional 13 pounds. In two sheep, I had 33 pounds of fleece SKIRTED. That's an amazing amount of fleece. And so clean, really--he was pretty astounded.

I finalized my business there. My friend took off with another friend there, and I headed for the ladies and for the fleece competition.

They were judging a black Icelandic fleece, and I got bored, so I started into the vendor building.

Wheels. Warps. Yarn, Fiber of every sort and dyed every color. Fleeces, roving, top and batts--hand spun yarn and commercial yarn. Books and needles, dye and all the other paraphernalia that goes with a fleece artisan.

My shopping list was fairly short, but I still walked out with a ton of loot!

I went after a boat shuttle and a weaving book.

I came out of the last building with:

A boat shuttle
Bobbins for the boat shuttle
2 books on weaving

2 skeins of hand-dyed sock yarn

and for all intents and purposes, I feel like I went overboard, but I was pleased that I was able to keep my excitement to a dull roar and really got things that I would be using. In fact, I'm going to warp up my loom and have my husband learn how. It might be the only way to get him interested in fiber!!

After the shopping spree, we had lunch at Linda's trailer, and I drew out my knitting on the needles and started decreasing the toes. I have a new method to decreasing toes...and I'm going to share it with you here.

For a 60 stitch sock...

1. Knit 10, pm, k10, pm, k10 (repeat 3 times turning the magic loop to work the underside of the toes)

2. K to 2 sts from 1st marker, ssk, sl marker, k10, sl marker, k2tog, k 8, repeat for the other sock and underside of the toes.

Repeat row 1 & 2 until you have 2 sts left on each side of the 10 center sts, then work as follows:

SSK, drop marker, k10, drop marker, K2tog. Knit the other sock and the other side the same. You'll have 12 stitches front and back for both socks. Now work as follows:

Sl, k1, psso, k8, and here's the different part--k1 return the st to the left needle, and pass the LAST st on the left needle over the next to the last st that you just knit and slipped back to the left needle.


This DESTROYS any ears!!

Kitchener. You're done. See how nice these toes turned out, and they are my finished socks!

Along the way during the rest of the day, our group found another spinner who made boucle of such character, that we just went ga-ga over it. Of course, all her yarn took first place, and her cashmere lace weight got Judge's favorite. It was beautiful stuff. She showed us a technique she called "air spun" and we exchanged cards and headed back to the trailer to try out the new technique we'd been shown. We're going to try to get her to come to our group and share, then perhaps to Wool Gatherer's. She was that impressive!

We were so excited about it and the day that we were a little sad when the time came to leave--but leave we did--hunger sort of mitigated it, and we stopped in Hastings at Applebees and had chicken quesadillas for dinner. This is my favorite Applebee's meal, and really it's an appetizer, but it was a meal--and we had spinach and artichoke dip on the side. A good meal, good company, and lots of chatter about lots of different subjects. We paid out bill and headed out again on the road, arriving at Peg's place around 8:30pm, and I arrived home at 9pm.

One full day.

Now I promised pictures--I know, I know. But when I got there, I forgot. So you'll have to live with pictures of my purchases and my socks that were finished. I'm gearing up to take them now (only two days later), and I can't believe my "haul".

And another pair of the socks above, this time in the new colorway of Bernat Jacquard's from Meijer's.

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