Thursday, June 25, 2009

Weave Journal #1: Worms

We need a new runner on the stairs. The current runner is one of those "buy it by the foot" nylon pseudo-Chinese carpeting that used to be sold at home improvement centers, and was in place when we bought the house in early 1994. I think the runner may date from when the house was remodeled, in 1981. It's "woven" in shades of mauve and tan, and after 15-28 years of service, it's looking pretty shabby.

I am perfectly capable of weaving a rug. I've done it before, I have the equipment--a good loom with a heavy beater--and I have the time this summer to complete the project. This is a perfect opportunity to weave a rug with Pendleton "worms."

Pendleton Woolen Mill makes some of the nicest wool fabrics and blankets around. I have one of their "Glacier National Park" (aka "candy stripe") blankets, and it's the blanket that I sleep under whenever I go camping. The process for making these blankets is pretty straightforward, and they're finished with a neat serged binding. As part of this binding process, 1/4" to 1/2" of each side of the blanket is trimmed off, making these long strips known as "worms." Pendleton figured out pretty quickly that people were buying the trimmings for weaving rag rugs, so they box them up and sell them, 50 cents a pound plus shipping to wherever you are. I called them on Tuesday morning and ordered a 25-pound box of worms. Our friendly UPS man lugged a huge box up the stairs and dropped it on our porch this afternoon. I had my worms.

Getting the worms was just the first step. Pendleton doesn't make just blankets; they make a variety of different types and weights of woolen fabrics. An order of worms contains everything from the trimmings pile, so the worms have to be separated by weight and color. Fortunately, it's not difficult, as the worms are not thoroughly mixed together, but it is time-consuming to empty a 25-pound box and bag up the separated contents. My box was about 1/3 trimmings from the lightweight blanket fabrics in cream, taupe, and chocolate brown, about 1/3 trimmings from the unfulled wool/cotton blankets, and about 1/3 trimmings from their legendary National Park blankets. I sorted everything, and it appears I may have enough of the heavy trimmings for at least one of the stair runners (there are two--above the landing and below the landing). The cream, taupe, and brown worms will go into various dyepots and will become another rug.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

...Three Bags Full

The big reason to travel to Eugene every June for the Black Sheep Gathering is to partake of the great Wool Show and Sale. This year, I missed the judging, as I was either in class (Friday) or frantically shopping in between classes (Saturday morning). This year's judging was done by Mark Eidman, and from what his clerk staff has reported, it was tough--this year's fleeces were exceptionally fine.

People were also in a mood to buy. Every year, there is a room off the main Wool Show space for Class 00--For Sale Only fleeces. It can be a good place to pick up a decent fleece for a bargain price, as these fleeces are not part of the regular Wool Show and aren't judged. I trotted across the parking lot on Friday afternoon to check on what was in the Sale Room. I expected to find a good number (50 or so) fleeces; I found a lot of nearly empty tables and half a dozen marginal fleeces. When I asked the exhausted-looking women "manning" the Sale Room, they told me it had been like a scene from the Oklahoma land rush: 100+ fleeces sold in less than 6 hours.

I knew I had one fleece--the incomparable BLX, waiting patiently for me to pick it up. Thank heavens I had been able to secure it before the show! I met up with Liz Hubbard of Hub Corriedales and picked up my lovely baby. This year's fleece rivals last year in length and crimp; only the weight is less (6 pounds instead of 10+ pounds). I lugged the box back to camp and locked it in the car--nobody was going to get my precious!

However, one fleece was not going to be enough. I really wanted a charcoal gray fine wool fleece, and since the Sale Room was empty, I was going to have to pin my hopes on the Wool Sale itself. When the viewing time came on Saturday afternoon, I started looking for good charcoal gray fleeces. I found one, started to examine it, when someone said, "You seem to have picked up an entourage." Sure enough, people were starting to follow me around to see which fleeces I was selecting. I actually had to bare my teeth and snarl, "This isn't a field trip--go away!" I wandered away, and once I knew I was alone again, I "casually" found exactly what I was looking for--a glorious dark charcoal merino fleece from Nebo-Rock Ranch, with a blue ribbon on top of the fleece in the bag. Once outside waiting for the sale to begin, I explained to my "runner" that she needed to quickly walk over to that fleece while I walked over to my second choice; if I saw that she had gotten it, I would come over to her to claim that fleece. Our plan worked like clockwork, and within a few minutes of the start of the sale, I had my fleece.

Sometime the right fleece for a project simply pops up. I was satisfied with both my fleeces, and was starting to think about what I could do with them, and with the other fleeces I'm still working my way through. I have a particularly nice black Romney from Ace in the Hole Ranch that I bought at Lambtown in 2007; it's washed, and I've been slowly combing and spinning it. Early Sunday morning (at 4:15 a.m. to be exact), I had an epiphany and knew what I needed to do with that fleece--weave a ruanna. However, I needed a small, good, white Romney fleece to dye for warp. Sunday morning I trotted back over to the Wool Sale (and got caught in a rain shower), thinking that if I found a small, good, white Romney for a good price, I'd have my warp. Romney sheep are not small animals and they do not produce small fleeces--8-10 pounds is more normal for them. However, I found a lovely bright-white Romney fleece that hadn't placed because it was "too small" (3.87 pounds). Perfect! It was less than $35. Even better! I had my small, good, white Romney at a good price.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Good-bye God, I'm Going to Black Sheep (Again)

June rolls around and two things happen: school finishes for the year, and the entire fiber-related community (that matters) makes the pilgrimage to Eugene to spend three days ogling fleece, rovings, tops, yarns, dyes, and loads of spinning equipment. It's time for the annual Black Sheep Gathering!

This year, I drove. Normally, I take the train. It's simple: get on the train in Martinez at 11:00 on Wednesday night, wake up near Mount Shasta on Thursday morning, have breakfast and lunch on the train, attempt to take over the lounge car with spinners and knitters, and generally have a good time before arriving in Eugene around 1:00 in the afternoon. Then, it's just drag the gear out to the fairgrounds and get camp set up. However, I really wanted to try making the drive, both because I can take a bunch of extra stuff, and because this year both Betsy and Jane were going to go along with me. If three go, the costs of driving up there, getting a hotel room, and eating out should still be cheaper than traveling by train, right?

I will not miss Black Sheep, barring something truly serious (e.g., major hospitalization), so when Betsy called on Tuesday around lunchtime to say she finally heard from the company she's been trying to get an interview with and she couldn't go, I started to shift gears to take my own car and just Jane and I going up there. No problem, I can handle this, I just need to finish cleaning the disgustingly dirty house so it's fairly reasonable when Jane gets here to spend the night before leaving.

At 6:30 p.m., the 100-year-old plumbing in the upstairs bathroom finally gasped its last and sprung a leak. Fortunately, it's a leak in the drain portion, so I didn't have water squirting everywhere, but I had water pouring onto the floor every time I turned on the shower...and it was past the time I could call the plumber. I am still going to Black Sheep--plumbing or no plumbing. I called Jane and let her know the plumbing situation ("Shower at home--the dodgy bathroom plumbing has gone sideways and we're not sticking around waiting for a plumber tomorrow."), grab some towels and the world's fastest shower (<60 style="font-weight: bold;">Rain Sounds Like Popcorn on a Nylon Tent