Saturday, June 30, 2012

My Ravatar for the Tour de Fleece.
Based on a poster by Chungkong.
Spin Journal #15:
It's Tour de Fleece Time!

     It's July (almost) and everywhere people are pulling out fiber, discussing twists per inch, and posting pictures of spindles, wheels, and yarn. That's right--it's Tour de Fleece (TdF) time again, when 5,400+ spinners on Ravelry challenge themselves to create as much yarn as they possibly can during the three weeks of the Tour de France.
     This year, I'm the Director Sportif (fancy French for "Team Captain") of Team TARDIS--spinners who also are fans of the children's TV show, Doctor Who. Being the Director doesn't involve very much work. I simply started a thread for Team TARDIS and encouraged people to sign up. Now that the TdF has started, I'll encourage them in their fibery pursuits. I also, quite accidentally, got a prize donated to the team: a 4-oz. "braid" of BFL/silk top, dyed in shades of TARDIS blue. I was going to purchase the braid as a prize from Redfish Dyeworks while I was at CNCH, but they very generously donated the braid. I returned the favor by spending the money on some gorgeous handpainted Merino/silk top, so I think everybody won.
     For my own spinning, it's quite a tidy list:
  • 50g llanwenog top
  • 114g handpainted Merino/silk top*
  • 114g handpainted Polwarth/silk top
  • 196g "Mystery Batt"
  • 220g "dyed in the wool" orange Romney top
  • 228g handpainted BFL top*
  • 500+g black Romney top
  • 518g black Jacob batts
  • 529g "Falklands" (very white Corriedale) top
My "consolation" prize: Merino/silk!
The total right now is 2,469g or about 5 1/2 pounds of fiber that will be turned into yarn before the guys riding in the Tour de France cross the finish line in Paris on July 22. The TdF is an opportunity to get some fibers spun that have been lingering: only the fibers with asterisks were purposely purchased for the TdF. The rest is from my extensive (and constantly growing) stash.
     I'm off to spend quality time with my wheel(s). I'll post updates (with pictures) during the Tour.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

This year's loot
I Survived Typhoon Eugene:
Black Sheep 2012

     Once again I and about 7,000 other fiber folk made the pilgrimage to the Lane County Fairgrounds in Eugene Oregon for the Black Sheep Gathering (BSG). I've written about previous trips up to Black Sheep here and here (and, and here), so I won't bore people with the history of Black Sheep, or how wonderful the classes are, or how great the shopping is. It simply is what it is, and it is Black Sheep.
     I didn't sign up to take any classes this year: after last year's camelid-spinning caravan with Paula Shull, I was ready to focus on three days of shopping, spinning, and "power lounging." I packed my camping gear (including a brand-new canopy small enough to send as checked luggage on the train), oiled up my Louet Victoria, and went to catch the Coast Starlight on Wednesday evening with several other people from Spindles & Flyers. I probably should have been concerned when we (the Spousal Unit and I) got half-way to the Amtrak station and I realized I had left my retainer at home. I can shrug off forgetting a lot of things, but my retainer isn't one of them--I spent 17 months and several thousand dollars straightening my teeth and sorting out my bite, and I'm not going to undo all that hard work by not wearing my retainer for nearly a week. We went back to the house and I got my retainer, but we lost the time we were going to spend having a nice dinner together before I had to be at the train station. Instead, dinner was a cold, not very good sandwich from Trader Joe's. I walked into the Amtrak station and suddenly remembered the other things I had forgotten to pack: the fiber I had promised as a prize for Black Sheep Bingo and, more importantly, the fiber I had promised to a friend's daughter so she could finish a felted piece for the Fiber Arts Competition at Black Sheep. Idiot!!! The young woman I had promised the fiber to was extremely gracious and kept working on her other entry; ultimately, she took a blue ribbon for her efforts.
     We settled in on the train and the ride up was uneventful--we even arrived in Eugene ten minutes early. We were met at the train station by another Guild member who had driven up from the Bay Area (along with a local cab), so we piled all our luggage, camping gear, and spinning wheels into the vehicles, and drove over to the park behind the fairgrounds where we normally camp. I thought it was a bit odd that there was only one tent and canopy set up--last year, there had been nearly a dozen set up when we arrived--but we organized our camp, set up canopies and tents, and generally got all the camp housekeeping sorted. As we worked, it grew hotter and more humid with each passing hour, until it was nearly 80 degrees with about 95% humidity. Ugh--I wasn't dressed for humid weather. We sought refuge--and dinner--in a local pub (Hot Mama's Wings), and by the time we walked back to our camp, the temperature had dropped to a more reasonable 70 degrees. The sky had clouded up, and we knew we were in for some rain, but we were prepared, we thought.
     Friday morning dawned with threatening skies but only a few sprinkles. After a leisurely breakfast, I trotted over the vendors' halls to look at blending boards, then spent some time at the KCL Woods booth picking out a beautiful little support bowl for my supported spindles and taklis and a lovely modular Tibetan spindle. I had just enough time to carry my purchases back to camp and stow them in the tent before walking over to the Wool Show building to check out the "Back Room Beauties": fleeces that were for sale, but weren't being judged. I found two nice fleeces, both Romney/Coopworth crosses from Anna Harvey's handspinning flock, paid for both, and began lugging 17 pounds of raw fleece across the parking lot and out to the camp. Half-way there, it began to sprinkle in earnest, and I had just enough time to put the fleeces in the tent and grab my rain poncho before the skies opened up. It rained the rest of the afternoon and into the evening. I coped: I had my rain poncho, so it was easy to carry my wheel in its bag over to the indoor spinning circle, and I spent the rest of the afternoon there, taking periodic breaks for shopping forays and filling a bobbin with a mysterious blend of fibers I had gotten from Fantasy Fibers. It was too wet for almost everybody to walk to dinner, so we piled into several cars and went to Cornucopia for dinner. Dinner made up for a wet afternoon: excellent food, an incredible selection of local microbrews, and a relaxed atmosphere had all of us feeling a lot more human. If you're ever in Oregon, I recommend GoodLife's Sweet as Pacific Ale and 2 Towns Pearadise Semi-Dry Cider: both are nearly worth moving to the wet of Oregon to enjoy.
     In spite of a lovely dinner, it kept raining. It rained through our "Dessert and Brews" party. It rained through the night. At times, the wind blew. It rained so much my nylon camping tent--which has never leaked--began leaking at the seams. When we woke up on Saturday morning, it was still raining. The sun tried to come out. It kept raining. I tidied up the camp a bit, did some shopping (a lovely ebony square drop spindle from Spindlewood and more fiber), got more spinning done and, between raindrops, wandered over to the Wool Sale building in time to help set up the show fleeces for the pre-sale Viewing. It was a lovely way to see the fleeces (they were gorgeous this year) and decide that I really didn't need yet another fleece. Back to the spinning circle, got more spinning done, met a bunch more people, did a bit more shopping, and it was time for dinner. We all decided we wanted to dry out and warm up, so we went back to Cornucopia for another round of their delicious dishes and great beers, then back to camp to spend the evening under a canopy, chatting, knitting, and spinning on drop spindles.
     The rain finally stopped falling, mostly, around 6:00 a.m. on Sunday, and when the sun finally broke through the clouds, it was met with cheers and applause. The rain held off most of the day, giving everyone time to dry out tents, canopies, and tarps, and to pack everything for the train trip back to the Bay Area. After a last walk through the vendors' halls, our happy little band made its way back to the Eugene Amtrak station in plenty of time to board the Coast Starlight for Emeryville. Then we sat. And sat. And sat while (I found out later) the conductor called the Eugene police to remove several very drunk and belligerent passengers from the Observation car. Fortunately, all that sitting didn't disrupt our dinner reservations (made by our Car Attendant before we even got on the train), nor did it interfere with our gathering in the Observation car later to chat, knit, and spin, but the engineers were never able to quite make up the lost time and we arrived back in Emeryville nearly an hour later than our scheduled time.
     All in all, it was a good festival in spite of the rain. I did my share to support the vendors, and brought home so much stuff I had to stop at REI on Saturday evening to get another duffel bag for my purchases (note to self for 2013: bring empty duffel bag). I came home with:

  • 2 fleeces
  • 1 3/4 pounds assorted handpainted tops
  • 3.5 oz. pygora in assorted colors
  • 1 oz. firestar in assorted colors
  • 2 spindles (1 with 4 shafts)
  • 1 tension box for sectional warping
  • 1 Clemes & Clemes blending board
  • 1 T-shirt for this year's festival
  • 1 hat for the Spousal Unit
Postscript: I found out when I got home yesterday that much of the Oregon coast and Willamette Valley has been the victim of a stationary low pressure system since early Friday morning. It's been raining off and on (mostly "on") since Friday morning. Tomorrow (Wednesday) is forecast to be sunny and dry--for the first time since last Thursday.