Friday, June 27, 2008

Good-bye G*d, I'm Going to Black Sheep, Part 2

Friday evening, the Ravelry members at Black Sheep gathered in the camping area for a potluck "meet-up," a new term for what was basically a mixer. About 20 people showed up, lugging chairs, knitting, spinning wheels, spindles, and goodies; not bad for something completely organized via the Internet. I was struck by how much many of us have in common, whether it's kids, work, or our love of fiber. All in all, it seemed a successful event, in spite of the oppressive heat.

The heat broke late Friday night with a patter of rain on the tent. As the first drops fell, I scurried out of the tent and gathered things up to shove under the awning over the central camp area. Throughout the rest of the night, we were treated to small showers of fat drops that sounded like popcorn as they hit the tent. Near dawn, several loud booms of thunder woke the entire camp, but we soon settled back to our respective beds. I learned later than the main part of the storm front was south of us; the dry lightning ignited nearly 1,000 wild fires in Northern California, many of which are still burning a week later.

Saturday was the big wool sale. Wool judging, under Letty Price, had gone on for most of Friday, but I managed to catch the end of the judging for the Breeder's Cup. In this competition, each shepherd/shepherdess has a group of 5 fleeces representative of his/her flock. When the judge pulled out a lock from a bag of Border Leicester, I couldn't help my self. "Oooh, sexy," came out of my mouth and fell into one of those absolute silences. Even the judge looked up. Everybody laughed and agreed, so I didn't feel quite so embarrassed. The sexy Border Leicester, along with a magnificent Border Leicester/Corriedale/Merino cross, secured the Breeder's Cup for Elizabeth Hubbard of Hub Corriedales.

Once the wool show and judging was over, the shoppers were allowed in for "the viewing." For about 30 minutes, everybody has the opportunity to examine the fleeces in the show, decide which (if any) are worth trying to purchase, and make plans to be the first person to the bag of fleece. This year, I was torn between two: a beautiful black Merino that had won the Colored Fine Wools, Greater Than 60s, and the above-mentioned Border Leicester cross. My problem was solved when someone offered to drive a fleece home for me. Next problem: How can I be in two places at the same time? Both fleeces were highly desireable, and across the room from each other. Fortunately, another spinner volunteered to run for the Border Leicester cross while I ran for the Merino. With our plans made, we exited the building and got into line for the big sale.

When the doors opened, it was an orderly, but hurried, scurry into the building. Some woman, caught sitting on the ground talking on her cell phone when the doors opened, nearly got trampled, but otherwise it was orderly. I ran over and grabbed the Merino, the other woman grabbed the Border Leicester, and within a few minutes I was standing in line, waiting to write out a check for both fleeces and receiving congratulations on the fleeces in my possession. The exclamations and congratulations continued across the parking lot and into the campground as we carried my new purchases back to the camp. I pulled a couple locks from each bag and hand-washed them in the ladies' room so I could see what I had gotten: they're beautiful!

Once I finished buying all that fleece, I was pretty much "shopped out," so I spent the rest of the festival enjoying myself--spinning, talking to people, attending the annual potluck and Spinner's Lead, and hanging out. The train trip back to the Bay Area was uneventful, and now I'm facing washing a mountain of laundry and fleece.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Good-bye G*d, I'm Going to Black Sheep, Part I

Like the swallows returning to Capistrano, the school year ends and spinners and other fiber folk gather at the Lane County Fairgrounds in Eugene to celebrate things sheepy and fibery. I don't want to get into a deep anthropo-socio-mumbo-jumbo analysis of the fact that the fiber arts seem to attract many more women than men, nor that the Black Sheep Gathering occurs in close proximity to the summer solstice; I just want to spend several days camping with friends, looking at sheep and goats, and spending money on something I really like: fiber.

I went to Black Sheep last year (see the posts dates 6/28 - 7/1), and at that time wrote a pretty thorough description of what the festival was like. This year was, on the surface, very similar: everybody that was camping stayed in Jefferson Park behind the fairgrounds; there were a slew of terrific classes (all of which I mightily resisted); the shopping was incredible, in spite of several long-time vendors not being in attendance; the Shetland lambs were once again voted "most likely to be smuggled home"; and the wool show and sale was irresistible.

Our little group on the train was larger by one this year, and Amtrak made a real effort to be punctual, pulling out of the Martinez train station right on time. This trip up I discovered that, in spite of my very best intentions to keep doing everything I could do when I was 20, Mother Time is starting to catch up with me physically--I can't curl up and sleep in a coach seat. I'd doze for a while, then my shoulder would start to bother me, I'd try to move around and get comfortable again, doze a while longer, and the whole process would start again. I finally gave up around sunrise, grabbed my knitting, and went up to the Lounge car to watch the sun rise over the Sacramento River and Mount Shasta. Beautiful! Eventually, I was joined by everybody else, and we had a grand time, taking over one end of the Lounge car. We found that some of the seats swivel, and Laura pulled out her Ashford Joy and worked on spinning up the fleece she got at last year's Black Sheep, while the rest of us spun, knitted, or crocheted.

Big surprise when we--and our mountain of luggage--piled off the train in Eugene. It was hot! Wait, this isn't what was forecast!?! We discovered that Eugene was in the grip of an unusually hot, unusually humid stretch of weather, and none of us had really prepared for hot weather. I brought plenty of jeans and long-sleeved Ts, but no capris or short-sleeved Ts. No matter--we can cope. We found a couple of taxis to get us--and our mountain of luggage--to the fairgrounds, got camp set up, then several of us braved the bus system and made our way to the market to buy provisions for the weekend. OK, so there was a slight detour to Ben & Jerry's for ice cream--we really needed it. We also opted for a taxi back to the fairgrounds, as we had exchanged our mountain of luggage for a hill of shopping bags full of good things to eat.

Friday dawned hot and humid. Very humid. I did the best I could, and made a beeline for the Black Sheep information and T-shirt booth, and picked up a couple short-sleeved Ts to get me through the weekend. After changing into one, I started fulfilling my main purpose in going to Black Sheep: shopping. A new WooLee Winder and some additional bobbins solved the last little problems with my Sonata, a nice chunk of targhee roving gave me something to spin, and I managed to "pick up" some other nice little doo-dads and bits of fiber: two sets of stainless steel DPNs; a protective cap for my favorite Spindlewood spindle; 2 oz. of passionately purple pygora; a bump of royal blue merino; and, of course, sock yarn from Blue Moon Fiber Arts. By lunch time, I had made all my "necessary" purchases, and settled into the Spinners Circle with my Sonata to enjoy the the comraderie, keep an eye on the Sheep to Shawl competition, and get some of that targhee spun up.

While all this was going on, a wide-spread but low-key game of Bingo was going on. Organized by two women on the Black Sheep Gathering group on Ravelry, Black Sheep Bingo was a variation of that old "icebreaker" game of bingo, where you have to find people that fit the descriptions in your bingo card squares. This time, the Bingo squares had the names and Ravelry IDs of the "squares," and "players" were to go around and find those people, who were wearing badges that identified them as squares. A lot of us were both squares and players, and it seemed that the most common greeting that weekend was, "I think you're on my Bingo card." The Spinners Circle became Bingo Central, and hanging out there guaranteed that you met a lot of people. While I didn't find everybody on my card, and didn't win anything in the raffle (not surprising--I don't have that kind of luck), the "game" itself was a tremendous load of fun. It also did something that frequently doesn't happen at fiber festivals: people got out and met new people with a common interest face-to-face. Too often, we travel to multi-day fiber festivals in others in our circle of friends, or with our guilds, and we socialize exclusively with those people. Black Sheep Bingo made people meet one another, and many new friendships were formed.

Tomorrow: a Ravelry meet-up and the Wool Sale!