WI Sheep & Wool 2015 Recap

Well, despite the extra large cup of syrup my daughter ingested on her pancakes right before Wisconsin Sheep & Wool yesterday, the subsequent sugar high that ensued, and the fact that both kids had handled taking my mom to the Quilt Expo in Madison the day before & were pretty much hitting their patience limit, we all had an incredibly wonderful time. Of course we did. Of course.

First of all, what an amazing treat it was to meet a few people I’ve only ever ‘talked’ with in emails or Ravelry forums or via Instagram. I swear every year that part of the Sheep & Wool festival gets better and better. It was also great to see a few familiar faces, even if I couldn’t always remember how I knew them — whoops & sorry! I’m the kind of person who will recognize faces pretty quickly, but names are often another story. If you were in that boat please know that’s just how my crazy brain works. In any case, to put it plainly I go to the WI Sheep & Wool Festival and I always feel right at home. What an absolute treat and what great fun!

You probably want to see what I picked up though, don’t you? Okey, okey. I’ll share because I’m really excited, too!

First, it’s worth saying that my mom and I have been going to this festival together for a few years and we kind of have a system. Along with highlighting ‘must-see’ stores, we walk through both the East & West Country Stores entirely before purchasing anything. We take notes on things we might want to purchase including what the item is and where it’s located. Then we take a break, figure out what we want to take home with us, and make a final sweep to the shops where we want to buy. It’s a system we’ve been honing for 3 or 4 years now and this is the first year it ever felt like we really had it down. It made the whole experience much less crazed than I’m used to feeling which was fantastic and made the whole day way more fun for me.

In any case, on to the fun stuff, right?!

One of my first stops was Bijou Basin Ranch where I met Lindy from Balwen Woodworks. I thought she was awesome over email and she’s even awesome-er in person. And she helped me find the perfect buttons for the sweater I’m working on for my son.

balwenThey’re made from vintage tool handles and the edges have little flecks of blues and a little red, too. They couldn’t be a better match for this project. I was so excited about these I totally broke protocol and bought them on the spot. Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do!

After we toured the rest of the country store pavillions — which took us a couple hours — we headed over toward the dog trials so the kids could have a snack and watch the working dogs do their thing while my mom and I could figure out what stops our final sweep required. Along the way, we were walking past some working dog owners and met one of their dogs who was a little skittish. Because we’re us and we’re lucky like that, these kind folks said, “Hey, we have some puppies back over in their pens — do you want to play with them? We’re working on socializing them.”

Do we want to play with puppies?

Um… YES!

So we made new friends.

IMG_0662Meg and Hawk were very, very playful.

IMG_0663And very friendly.

IMG_0665And this little lady could not have been any sweeter. I would scratch her chin and if I moved my hand, she’d scoot up to it so I wouldn’t stop. She was kind of tired and I was kind of in love with her. I didn’t catch the name of the folks who owned these pups, but I just want to say that the owners of Meg & Hawk really made our day with their generosity.

Having played with puppies, had a snack, and checked out lists, we headed back to business.

We made our way to the Wheeler Clay Studio booth where I proceeded to fall in love with one of each item. Eventually I narrowed it down to this beautiful mug.

alison wheelerI thought it was gorgeous immediately, but when I heard it was microwave and dishwasher safe I was 100% sold. As soon as I took this photo, I gave it a quick wash and I’m drinking my tea out of it right now. I just couldn’t wait! I can tell this booth will be one I revisit for many years to come.

We spent a good deal of time chatting with Natalie in the Cloudlover booth where I spent far too much time trying to decide on which of her new Halloween colors to take home.

cloudloverIn the end, I picked Cauldron (on the left) and Smolder (on the right). They are kind of really close in their colors, obviously, but I was really feeling the grey/orange/purple thing and I don’t have anything like these at home so I went with it.

From here, we finally made it to Bumblebee Acres. I meant to visit this booth last year and somehow missed it. I’m so happy I didn’t miss them this year!

bbacresAt the last moment I found these two batts in the Avalon colorway. This photo doesn’t do justice to their sky blue/purple/grey/magenta majesty but trust me when I say these will make some incredibly beautiful yarn someday.

And finally, we stopped at The Woolgatherers booth where we got to meet Scott Snyder of Snyder Spindles. He could not have been nicer or more patient as he showed my mom how a Turkish spindle works. She’s never spun before and he did a great job of demonstrating even with all the distractions of the festival and my kids starting to meltdown. As she was picking her spindle (her first – yay mom!), she asked what a certain design was — it was a sperm whale. In my slightly overcooked brain after a day of wrangling children and being bombarded with looking at awesome things, I thought this Moby Dick of spindles was the bee’s knees and I brought it home.

moby dickI believe he said it is redheart and it’s purple hues will deepen as time goes by. I really do love it and it’ll go so well with the narwhal spindle I already have.

You may notice that there’s no yarn here. No, I didn’t miss anything. I actually didn’t buy any! I did find sweater yarn at Green Mountain Spinnery to fit a pattern I really want to knit up, but since I’m not sure when I’ll get to it I thought I’d wait and order it a little later. I also meant to go back for a skein of Xanadu from Bijou Basin Ranch, but I remembered that as I got into the car to leave. That was my one little misfire for the day so it looks like I’ll be ordering that a little later as well.

Many thanks to all the folks in booths who chatted with my super-talkative kiddos while I shopped — everyone was so patient. In a world where it often feels like the unpleasant outweighs the pleasant, I have to say I got home today feeling very fortunate to have been surrounded with that much kindness. Kindness and beauty and inspiration and fiber and puppies and family and friends — what a great way to spend a day.

Summer Is In Full Swing

As a child, summer meant tramping about my parents’ homestead in and out of the woods. Swinging on the jungle gym. Shooting basketball out front. Laying in the grass & watching clouds. Picking peas from the garden and eating them on the rock overlooking the little waterfall created by the artesian well run-off. Of course, it wasn’t all play. I spent many afternoons whining incessantly about picking potato bugs off the plants in the garden and running in terror from all flying insects that surprised me (thanks solely to a bee that opted to cling to the very line-dried towel that I chose to sit upon after running through the sprinkler — clearly the experience didn’t end well for either of us). Even as a teenager and college student when I was working, while summer always meant long hours those evenings were always so peaceful at the beach for a swim or on the back porch reading. Summer moved at my pace, or at least that’s how I remember it.

Now years later with kids of my own, summer seems to move so quickly. My youngest is raring to start her homeschooling not just immediately, but yesterday.

20140628-151148-54708245.jpgShe even found a new spot to study.

We are also preparing for upcoming vacations. The kiddos attended an art camp this past week & have been popping over for activities that come up in our local library’s summer program. And of course, there are traditions to uphold. One such wonderful seasonal traditional for the kids and I — like many of you, I’m sure — is to go strawberry picking. We have a farm not far from our house that is quite large and in addition to the novelty of picking berries, you get a lift to the field on a four-wheeler outfitted to haul 4-5 people at a clip with their strawberries. Usually the kids prefer the ride to the berry picking, but this year my daughter was a berry-picking machine. The result? 20140628-151141-54701572.jpgAbout 10pints of freezer jam, 5 or 6quart bags of frozen berries, and still about 6cups left for strawberry shortcake. While the shortcake I made from scratch with my favorite recipe was quite delicious, I have to say my outcome of choice was the jam.

20140628-160512-57912771.jpgI don’t know that I’ve ever made jam on my own, but this turned out incredible. I have half a mind to go back for another flat of berries to stock up.

Somewhere in the midst of all the hustle & bustle, I try to give the kids ample time to just play and imagine and create in their own backyard like I did as a girl. And during that time, I get snippets of time for myself. To knit & spin & read a little. I actually really picked up knitting in earnest during the summer when the kids were babies — it was easier to glance up from my knitting than from my reading when watching them. And so the past week, I’ve been working on my socks, of course.

20140628-151143-54703017.jpgI finished up 15.1 for the year & cast-on and got knitting on 15.2. I simply love the yarn — Cloudlover Yarn & Fiber 75/25 sock yarn in Winter Rose. I also have a finished spinning project with some Cloudlover fiber that I haven’t quite gotten around to photographing yet. Hopefully I will get there early next week as I also start to organize fiber for the Tour de Fleece for which I finally signed up for with both Team Cloudlover & Team Dyeabolical. I also changed my Ravatar to this…spinning sarahIt’s a painting my daughter did for me during the last TdF. Needless to say, it is perfect for this event.

I also whipped up a little something in some beautiful Bijou Basin Ranch Himalayan Trail.

20140628-151138-54698783.jpgI will share the finished project and my impression of the yarn (ahem, a-mah-zing!) shortly. Suffice to say I wanted to waste as little as possible and chose a pattern to do just that. This little ball is all that is left! Mission accomplished!

I was even lucky enough to get a new toy in the mail…

20140628-151144-54704548.jpgA Schacht Zoom Loom from The Woolery. I haven’t done any weaving since I was a child, so this is perfect for me and I’ve been having fun playing with it and learning the basics. My son is anxious for me to master it so that I can teach him — it seems his fiber arts interests are reaching beyond his knitting! In any case, with the arrival of my Zoom Loom I decided to clean up all my sock knitting scraps so I have ample selection for practice swatches…

20140628-151139-54699944.jpgIt meant some quality time with my winder, but that worked just fine to fill one unusually quiet morning.

Yes, summer is truly in full swing and it is keeping me quite busy on all fronts. Thankfully, this guy gets his workout from the kids, too.

20140628-151150-54710642.jpgWhat can I say? Some night, I really know how he feels!