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.

A Forest, A Lake, A Spindle

We headed out of town on Tuesday as Mr Knitting Sarah had some meetings located conveniently close to where my parents live. It’s always nice to save a little on hotel costs and I think he likes coming home to family instead of an empty hotel room on long days of meetings like that. I had decided to leave my wheel at home and just take my Turkish spindle so it was a mad dash to wrap up the super bright singles I was spinning up on my wheel, but I managed to get them done so they could rest while we were away.

IMG_0073

They are going to make one bright/intense/vibrant skein of yarn one day soon!

On the way up, we stopped at a neat little campground/park just a short distance from where I grew up. Hard to believe I’d never visited before as it’s such a pretty little spot.

IMG_0079Complete with a little river and falls in which you can play.

I’m not sure who was happier, my girl…

IMG_0083or my Moose…

IMG_0104I lingered a bit in the woods hoping to see a snake, but was treated instead to a small flock of Cedar Waxwings. I love that flash of yellow on their tails and their distinct whistle-like call. It’s always amazing how restorative a walk through nature can be, calming the soul and quieting all the ‘noise’ that exists in the world.

My dad’s birthday just happens to be Saturday so we were able to celebrate with him, too, which was nice. I upheld the tradition of mowing the lawn for my parents which I like to do — it’s nice to give back and lighten their load when I can. My son and I were also spoiled with two days fishing with my dad on his boat. On day 1 we caught just a couple fish — we got a later start and it got hot in the sun pretty fast and not a whole lot was biting. The second day was beautiful though. We got an early start and enjoyed cooler temps, a light breeze, and a pretty little lake all to ourselves.

IMG_0116We had the pleasure of hearing loads of Sandhill Cranes greet the morning in the distance, watching what I think were a pair of Caspian terns fishing — so impressive!, and a close fly-by by a very beautiful Kingfisher.

Of course there were also fish. I’ve mentioned here before that our son is really inspired by Jeremy Wade & his show River Monsters. We like to tease that we would be the perfect hosts for a show the complete opposite of Jeremy Wade’s River Monsters. We refer to our little fishing trips as episodes of River Midgets and joke — often in horrible British accents — about how we “try” to catch the smallest fish possible.

IMG_0114While it’s true that we’ve caught some decent sized bass from time to time, the Pumpkinseed in this photo is pretty average for us if not a little big. You can’t tell from the photo, but these guys are actually really beautiful with this crazy light teal coloring on them. My son doesn’t care as long as he’s catching something and my dad & I are pretty happy as long as the boy is happy. It’s fun to catch, but mostly we’re happy to be together, on the boat, and with a hook in the water. Catching fish is just a bonus.

In the moments I wasn’t fishing or mowing or visiting, I finished up the mohair singles on my Turkish spindle.

IMG_0100-0I knew I wanted to go with a simple 2-ply for these 2oz, but I wasn’t sure how exactly to actually do the plying. I read a few horror stories online about the ‘turtle’ (the little ball of yarn you make when you use a Turkish spindle) turning into a giant disastrous knot when you try to ply from the inside & outside of it, so I had planned to wind it into a enter-pull ball. But… at the last minute I decided to just give it a try.

IMG_0121And it’s working fine! There have been a few snarls and less than perfect moments, but all in all it’s not too bad and definitely not a horror story. My plying may leave a little something to be desired, but for my first time I think it’s going pretty darn well.

Only a couple days remain in the Tour de Fleece, so I think I’ll be squeezing in one last quick spin before plying my brights and then it’ll be a quick dash to finish up my July shorties for the Summer Sock KAL. What a good mix of taking things slowly and getting things done July has been — here’s hoping August brings more of the same!

TdF: Week 1 Recap

The first week of the Tour de Fleece has absolutely flown by. Way back the on the 4th I actually started the Tour at home and then traveled up to my parents’ house for a couple days of fireworks & fishing. Of course, I brought my wheel and more fiber than I had any hope of spinning. I don’t often travel with my wheel, but when I do I tend to fuss about it more than I would a newborn baby. Is it getting jostled too much? Is it packed well enough that it can’t slide around? Is that hinge stressed? One day I will just suck it up and purchase the nice carrying case from The Woolery, but I don’t because it always seems like a lot to spend unless I traveled with it more. The irony being, of course, that I would travel more with it if I had the case, but whatever — I’ll just be a nervous nelly for the foreseeable future and that’s that.

In any case, I spun a lot this week. I am the first to admit that I make a lot of time for spinning during the TdF and I’m thankful that my family takes it in stride. I don’t ask for much time away or time to myself, so I appreciate that during these weeks they let me spin my little heart out. So, would you like to see what I’ve been spinning? I just took the beauty shots of my finished skeins, so here we go!

Since I’m co-captaining Team Cloudlover this year, I thought it only fitting that I start with a braid of Cloudlover fiber.

ariadne This is 100% Targhee in the Ariadne colorway.

ariadne detIt’s about 140yards of worsted/aran singles which I felted lightly when I washed and set it. One of my goals was to spin more singles this TdF and I have to say that I’m already definitely gaining confidence in that realm. I still spin them painfully slow, but I like how they’re turning out so I’ll be patient on the speed front there.

Next, I started a braid of Malabrigo Nube, but had to press pause for the travels up to my parents’ house — it was a plying head vs regular head situation because I didn’t want to travel with both. So I started in on a braid of Cloudlover Apple Picking in Rambouillet.

apple picking detI did a standard 2-ply and it turned out really, just lovely.

apple pickingI used an Andean plying bracelet to use every last bit of the singles and wound up with about 335yards of a heavy fingering or sport weight yarn.

Next, I wanted something nice and quick, so I grabbed a braid of merino from Spun Right Round in the Rock Lobster colorway.

rock lobsterAnd I spun it into about 72yards of a chunky standard 2-ply that is the bright, squishy, soft skein I’ve come to love making with Spun Right Round merino.

All the while, of course, I’ve been spinning bits and bobs with my spindles.

spindlesI have so much to learn, but the spindle is definitely growing on me. I do finally have the hang of my my very basic Schacht — after only 3 or 4 years — lol! And I really love my new Turkish Spindle from Snyder Spindles, as well.

Taking s bit of s break this morning to play with this new tool that arrived yesterday. #snyderspindles #narwhal #narhwalspindle #handspinning #spinnersofinstagram #spinstagram #TDF2015

┬áIt feels very well balanced and I just love the narwhal motif. I must say, I can sense a slippery slope with spindles. I find myself really interested in trying a Turtle Made spindle, too. They are very popular in my TdF team and have very good word of mouth. I think the reason I’m most intrigued is they are made with a 3D printer. Normally I am one to stick with non-plastics, but I’m really interested in seeing how they feel in comparison to wood. Plus, you can pick from a wide variety of colors which is great fun.
That is for another day, though, as I had to spend a bit for some oil for my wheel. I have done shockingly little as far as maintenance goes with my wheel, but it’s been squeaking a bit lately so I called the folks at The Woolery for advice on routine maintenance. They were incredibly nice and helpful in describing exactly what I needed to do and the oil they recommended using. While I was at it, I ordered some new drive bands, too. I’ve been using the same ones since I purchased my wheel and I think it’s about time to change them out. Yes, a new spindle is going to have to wait, but it’ll be worth it to have my wheel back in top-notch shape.
Back to the yarn though, right?
queensteaI got about 250yards of roughly sport weight yarn.
queenstea detI highly recommend the fawn shetland base for this colorway. I think it lends itself very nicely to the blacks and browns that make up Queen’s Tea. I don’t do a ton with Earth tones usually, but this skein has made it clear that I definitely need to incorporate more of these browns and blacks and greys into my spinning.
And last but not least, that Malabrigo Nube in the Archangel colorway. Credit where credit is due, I completely copy-catted Lolly of lollyknits here. I was so captivated by her handspun Hitchhiker (which you can see and read all about here) that I decided to try my hand at spinning up a lightweight single. Even though I’m so not great with the lightweight singles, she had done such a lovely job that I just had to try.
archangel not detI am really, really, really happy with the results — about 490yards of heavy fingering weight yarn. In the past I’d really had a rough time with some Malabrigo Nube I purchased when it first came out. I was gifted another braid and kind of avoided it for a while because of the first encounter. After some research and discussion in a couple forums, though, I learned that the first batches of Nube wound up getting really compressed and many spinners had a rough time with them, so I was not alone. Clearly I’m very spoiled with the dyers that I use because this braid still required more pre-drafting than I’m used to, but it was much easier than my first foray in spinning this fiber and I’m very happy about that. I would definitely spin with Malabrigo Nube again after this experience — music to my ears because as we all know Malabrigo does amazing things with color.
archangelAnyhoo, as with my heavier singles yarn, I lightly felted this skein when I set it and the resulting yarn is really beautiful. I am so very pleased. Mine will most likely not be a Hitchhiker like Lolly’s, but I’m so grateful to her for the inspiration. Honestly, I didn’t know I could spin a lightweight singles yarn. It goes to show, you really never know unless you try!
I’m already back at filling my bobbins — I can’t wait to see what inspirations and lessons await in week 2 of the Tour de Fleece!