Sunday, March 2, 2008

Spinning Wheel and Stitches West

As I mentioned in the first post, I recently acquired a spinning wheel. She is a Schacht Ladybug whom I have named Birdie (as in ladybird, the British term for the insects we call ladybugs). This has been a goal of mine since I learned how to turn wool fiber into yarn, although I couldn't afford one on a poor-college-student budget. Spinning wheels are often sought after as antiques and, as handcrafted furniture, hold their value very well. So even a secondhand wheel was not really within reach, although my searches exposed me to many fancy hubcaps and hamster cages for sale on ebay and craigslist. I started doing some quasi-serious internet research on spinning wheels after I got a real job, and the best advice I found was to try as many wheels as possible before you buy. The best place for me to try a bunch of wheels in a short amount of time was definitely the Market at Stitches West.

Before I describe my experience at the Market, I would like to point out how the word is capitalized, as though it were a Very Important Place in a Novel by Miss Austen or Mrs. Radcliffe. Ok, sorry about that. It's just that I recently finished rereading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and Jane Austen is everywhere this year. It's out of my system now, I promise. Anyway, for those of you who are not knit-obsessed, Stitches West is huge knitting & crochet convention put on by the publishers of Knitter's magazine. You can take classes, see demonstrations, and purchase a lot of yarn.

I went to the Market last year, with two friends. We went on Sunday afternoon, and it was actually pretty low-key. I now realize it only seemed low-key because we went at a time when most of the attendees were probably high as kites on wool fumes and rolling in all the yarn and fiber purchases back in their hotel rooms. Not that I find anything wrong with this state of being, you understand. It is a situation I was determined to find myself in this year. This year I went by myself on Thursday evening and half of Friday, and with a friend on Sunday afternoon.

Now because I'm a bit analytically minded, I've composed a handy chart:

DayGeneral MoodCrowd QuoteParking SituationDamage to Credit Card
ThursdayAnticipation!Did you see the line at Blue Moon?Easy as PieModerate
FridayUgh, CrowdsExcuse me, pardon me!InsanityHigh, but budgeted
SundayMellowI want to say hi again!FairMinimal

Here is most of my haul for the weekend. Clicking on the picture will take you to my Flickr page for this photo. What do we have in here? Starting on the bottom left, I have three books: Selbuvotter: Biography of a Knitting Tradition, The Knitter's Book of Yarn, and Teach Yourself Visually: Handspinning. On top of the books is a little free sample of Kookaburra Wool Wash. Next is a 2 oz. batt of spinning fiber in creamy pinks and yellows (Blue Faced Leicester wool blended with Tencel). Above that is a tote bag from Tactile Fiber & A Verb for Keeping Warm. Continuing to the right hand side, we have two 3 oz. bags of chocolate-colored Polwarth wool locks, also from A Verb for Keeping Warm, then about 4 oz. of South African Fine wool roving dyed in the Bitter Orange colorway by Pigeonroof Studios. Finally, the extra bobbin from my Schacht Ladybug spinning wheel. This year, my trip to the Market at Stitches was focused on spinning, rather than knitting. Spinning and tote bags.

A word about tote bags. My day job is as an educator, and in our line of work, you can never have too many good tote bags. They are indispensable for lugging around office supplies, lab equipment, and the massive amounts of papers one is perpetually in the process of grading. When the gals at Tactile told me the tote bags were free with a $50 purchase, the only question in my mind was whether I would get one or two. Since I bought my wheel from those fine ladies, I ended up getting two. I also got a tote bag from the Ravelry booth (it's not in the picture because it is already in service keeping dust off my yarn stash), bringing the tote grand total for the weekend to three.

So what have I been working on, besides taking tons and tons of photos? This weekend I spun up two bobbins of this:
The singles were spun on the higher ratio of the regular speed whorl, using a poor attempt at long draw. I was exceedingly good and patient, and let the singles rest on the bobbin overnight before plying. I've never spun BFL before, and now I understand why everyone recommends it for beginning spinners. The stuff practically drafted itself! The yarn is surprisingly smooth and shiny, although not squishy-soft. I'm not sure what I'll knit with it yet, but I'm thinking something that would look good striped.

Black Blue-Faced Leicester
Dyed with Indigo
from A Verb for Keeping Warm

2-ply sport-DK weight
About 175 yards

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