Saturday, June 28, 2014

Leicester Longwool
Black Sheep, Black Sheep, Have You Any Wool?

     I'm baaaaaaaack! The studio has been busy for the past couple of months, so I've neglected to write any blog posts. However, I'm back--in more ways than one--with a house full of fleece and fiber.
     Last weekend was the 40th Black Sheep Gathering. I haven't missed a Gathering since 2007, and the annual trip, which once marked the start of my summer vacation, is still one of my favorite "vacations" to visit my fiber family, learn new things, and shop for equipment and fibers. Some things have changed over the years. For example, I rarely take classes any more, primarily because there aren't that many spinning-related classes that cover things I'm interested in, but haven't learned yet. I also don't take the train: driving has become cheaper, especially if I can find someone to ride along and share the cost of the gasoline. On the other hand, a lot of it is still the same: the location; many of the vendors; the fabulous wool show and sale; and the rain.
     This year, my travel companion was one of my fellow guild members, Robin. She lives in San Francisco, so she (and her camping gear) came up to Vallejo via the ferry on Tuesday night, and we got a fairly early (8:30 a.m.) start on Wednesday morning. The drive from the Bay Area to Eugene is long (500 miles) and mostly boring, so I was glad of the company. We stopped for lunch in Redding, and made it into Eugene about 7:00 p.m. Something nice about Eugene: as a busy college town, it has a lot of pretty nice, not very expensive motels. We checked in, walked down to Falling Sky Brewery for dinner, and generally unwound after the long drive.
     Thursday morning found us at the Eugene Textile Center. I was curious about an Oxaback loom they were selling (unfortunately, it wasn't on display for me to take a look), which was our original reason for trotting over there before setting up camp at the fairgrounds, but Robin had a good time looking at all the different types of looms, and I found a super-deal on 8-inch long pirns for my end-feed shuttle.
A "new style" Corriedale
fleece from Ramifications.
      After our visit, we went to the fairgrounds and started setting up our camp. The camp seemed a little empty this year: a lot of the "regulars" didn't make it to the Gathering this year, and people were slow in arriving to set up their own camps. Finally, there were enough other people setting up that we felt comfortable leaving the camp for a bit and did the market and ice run (Note to BSG campers: Albertsons is stocking 10-pound blocks of ice now.) so that we had food, water, and a way to keep everything cool. We walked down to Hot Mama's Wings for dinner, and I introduced Robin to the delights of deep-fried pickle chips before a companionable evening of talk and spinning.
     We turned in fairly late, and I was a little irritated when I was awakened by our nearest neighbors talking excitedly and moving around at 3:00 a.m. "What the...? It's the middle of the night!" I thought, then I heard It: the tap, tap, tapety-tap of rain, starting to fall on my tent, my canopy, and my favorite spinning chair. I scrambled out of the tent, moved my chair inside to stay dry, then went back to bed, to listen to the rain falling on the rain fly and congratulate myself on buying a new tent. I woke up much later to a drizzly morning, but the sun came out by lunchtime and it was a lovely day. In the eight times I've been to Black Sheep, it has rained eight times--I've decided that it will rain at some point during the weekend, and I should simply "deal with it."
A "classic" Corriedale fleece
from Hub Corriedales.
     I didn't take any classes this year, so Friday morning I hot-footed it over to the "Wool Barn" to check out the Non-Show Fleece Sale. I was looking for something specific this year--Corriedale--and within minutes found two beauties: a nice little 5-pound fleece from Ramifications, and a gorgeous 7.33-pound fleece from Hub Corriedales. The guild needs a Corriedale for a project later this year, and either of these are lovely fleeces for that purpose. Personally, I like the Hub Corrie better, but I told my fellow guildmembers who entrusted me to buy a fleece that they could have first choice, so I will end up with the "other one." No matter which one I end up with, it's going out to be processed into pin-draft. I've found it's ultimately cheaper, time-wise, for me to send fleeces out to be processed, and I'm better about getting spinning up the processed fiber than I am about processing the fiber.
     I did all this fleece shopping--along with picking up a couple of this year's "Mystery Batts" from Fantasy Fibers--because I was scheduled to help out with the Wool Sale on Saturday afternoon. I've helped a little with the Wool Sale in the past--mostly set-up--but this year was the first year I was truly working. It turned out to be a lot of fun! Jeri and Eliza, the two sale coordinators, had everything very well organized, and in spite of the sale starting late, we sold about 300 fleeces in just a couple hours. I went back on Sunday morning to help with the administrative paperwork, and ended up coming away with a third fleece: a nice little Leicester Longwool that is destined to be washed and dyed in the lock, then combed to make a fine, smooth, worsted yarn.
     One of the advantages of driving is that I can bring a lot of fleeces back with me. This year, it was four: three of my own, and a nice Romney fleece for a friend. The downside of driving is that I lose a couple days in the studio (Wednesday and Monday). However, as this is my June "vacation," I try to look at the drive as part of the experience. All in all, it was a pretty good one this year, and I'm already starting to plan for 2015.