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.

Tour de Fleece 2015: Week 3 & Wrap-Up

This has been a big week in Chez Knitting Sarah and I have so much to share from outdoor adventures to knitting to spinning. I think the best place to start is the very beginning, with the end of the Tour de Fleece so that’s what I’ll tell you about today. I’m always a little sad and a little relieved to see the Tour end. I really love spending this time every year focused on my spinning, but since I do tend to push myself, by the end my body and mind are ready to shift back to more balanced days.

For me, like any good event, the third and final week of the Tour was filled with highs and lows. I’ll start with a huge high.

kai ranchThis little 124yd skein of 100% kid mohair from Kai Ranch may not look like anything to really get into a lather about aside from being a collection of really gorgeous blues, but this is my very first skein made completely with a spindle. I spun and plied it using my Snyder Spindles Turkish spindle.

kai ranch detDespite some reservations about plying from the inside & outside of the ‘turtle’, I really thought it was highly do-able — not as smooth as my tensioned lazy kate with my wheel, but really it wasn’t bad at all. I would definitely go this route again without hesitation. The only thing I might consider is getting a slightly heavier spindle for plying. My 1.3oz Turkish was a little light for the job and the very end was a little laborious. It got the job done, though, and the yarn turned out very lovely. My main hope was that I could develop some spindle skills so that my spinning would become a bit more mobile. I feel pretty confidant that I’ve got a strong start on that goal, not to mention a pretty little skein of beautiful blue mohair yarn.

Next up, I realized at the last minute that one of my goals was to spin at least 3 stand-alone singles and I had only spun 2, so on Saturday I whipped up a quick aran single in Spun Right Round Merino.

SRR Merino singleThis is a colorway called Color Play #83. I maybe got a little bit overzealous with the twist, but it’ll knit up just fine.

SRR Merisno single detAt about 164yds, I think this will make a fun, quick hat. I just love Spun Right Round’s palettes — they are always so bright and fun and just a total joy to spin. I have a couple knitting projects coming up with yarn from this shop, too, so I’m looking forward to lots of fun brights in my future.

And now, let’s talk about my low point of the TdF 2015.

I shared some photos on Instagram of spinning my Frabjous Fibers 3 Feet of Sheep Rainbow Merino…

IMG_0073After changing my mind multiple times on how to spin this fiber, I decided to spin one long single (connecting the singles on these two bobbins, of course), wind the singles into a center-pull ball, and ply them into a 2ply. I was thinking fun-giant-bright skein. I saved the plying for the final day of the Tour, letting the singles rest for a couple days in between, and planned to ply them in the morning and then my final skein in the afternoon. Well, the winding took some time and wasn’t what I’d call smooth. And then I started plying and it was going all right until this happened…

(please note, this photo actually makes the issue look much smaller than it was)

I’ve learned that an episode of ‘yarn barf’ is bad when you are knitting, but it is a COMPLETE DISASTER when spinning. Not only do you have knots and messes, but the yarn is energized singles, so it is especially challenging to straighten out. Now I’m an extreme knot un-doer if ever there was one and I have what can only be described as superhuman patience for the task, but this was a total nightmare. The plying job that should have taken a few hours took me the entire day. The down side, of course, being that I didn’t get to plying my final skein until the following morning. The bright sides (yes, I’m counting 2 bright sides) being that 1) when all was said and done I only had to cut out about 5 or 6yards of unrecoverable yarn, and 2) this:

3ft sheep535yards of perfect fun/bright DK-ish weight yarn.

3ft sheep detThankfully, it’s not one of those skeins that I can’t see past the struggles to appreciate the beauty. This is one of those skeins that makes me feel like the time I put into making it work was all worth it.

 And last, but certainly not least, my yellow skein for the finish.

CL Elysium SW BFL wholeWhile it’s true that the plying of this skein took place the morning after the TdF was completed, in my mind I’m still counting it as part of the 2015 Tour de Fleece. The singles were spun during the TdF proper and — I don’t know — it just felt like my victory lap after the previous day’s plying debacle.

CL Elysium SW BFLThis skein was spun from Cloudlover SW BFL in the Elysium colorway and I managed about 290yds of a sport weight yarn. It has epic drape and just a truly beautiful, rich yellow/gold hue. I can’t wait to hunt up the perfect quick little pattern for this skein. I am pretty happy to have spun a number of skeins with BFL this Tour because it reminds me what a fantastic fiber it is to spin. This SW BFL from Cloudlover is definitely as fine as they come, too.

So, that is how my Tour de Fleece 2015 ended. I managed to achieve my goals — my girl got a little spindling in, I spindled a bit daily (and even finished that skein!), and I managed 3 stand-alone singles. I never really pay attention to big picture yardage or number of skeins while I’m spinning because my focus remains wholly on making each skein the best I can, but because I’m a nerd I did some tallying this morning.

For the 2015 Tour de Fleece I spun:

– 54oz of fiber –

– roughly 6395 yards of singles –

 – 3263 yards of finished yarn –

 – which take the form of 13 new skeins of handspun –

allskeins23I’m pretty happy with that.

Many thanks to Cloudlover for hosting the team and my insanely talented teammates!

So long TdF 2015, here’s to TdF 2016!


My daughter woke up this morning and went on to explain that during the Tour de Fleece I really should start waking up a couple hours earlier than normal so that I can get in extra spinning time. She was very matter-of-fact about it, as if I hadn’t thought of that and I really needed some provocation and coaching. Of course, she knows as well as anyone in my family that I’m not exactly a morning person. I’m also not a night owl. In fact, it’s not uncommon to find me rather ornery upon waking and just being falling asleep. My husband is fond of saying, “You’re more of a middle-of-the-day kind of person, especially if you get a nap.” All joking aside, I do function in better spirits on a solid night’s sleep and although the idea of waking early to start the Tour de Fleece did cross my mind, I awoke at the respectable yet not crazy hour of 6am and got straight to it (after 10minutes of Moose snuggles).

As I said yesterday, I started with some Cloudlover Targhee in the Ariadne colorway.

IMG_9871I finished in a couple hours and I’m happy to say that so far it was the easiest time I’ve had spinning a single

With one project resting, but complete and feeling a wee bit empowered by how the Cloudlover single turned out, I opted to go straight into another single…

IMG_9874With a braid of Malabrigo Nube in the Archangel colorway. Totally inspired by Lolly of the lollyknits blog, I am attempting to do a lightweight single. I’ve never done a single lighter than worsted weight, so this is a bit of a leap of faith for me. I figure if it doesn’t work out, I can probably always ply it.

Unfortunately I’m starting this Tour off with already very dry hands. I’ve no shortage of lotion bars, thank goodness, and yesterday in the mail I got a brand new one for review…

IMG_9869I’ll be taking this lavender & rosemary Love + Leche bar through its paces. I’ll report back with my thought in a week or so.

Well, that’s the start of my Tour de Fleece — back to the wheel before some family holiday celebrations later this evening!