Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Fleece in Our Hands

All too often, an “anticipated event” fails to live up to any internal or external hype that may have been built around it. Not so with “Fleece in Your Hands”, the three day workshop that I took two weeks ago from Judith Mckenzie McCuin. (for this essay, I’ll refer as JM)

We were greeted with piles of different fleeces – the first day we worked with some primitive fleeces, such as Icelandic and Shetland.

Over the weekend there were lots of little “ah-ha” moments, like finally understanding the difference between “woolen” and worsted (at least I think I understand)

There was a group of about 20 taking the class - from all over the area - our farthest student came over from Spokane and there were a couple of people from Port Townsend. It was a lively bunch with lots of good questions -

Most fun was that my friend Nancy G. in the class - (well, after all, we were at her house) - We did Potluck lunches (I brought my favorite Farmgirl Spicy Pumpkin Muffins the first morning and Cream scones the second morning - It was fun to have them to snack on before spinning.)

My doubts about the Icelandic fleece that we recently took down to Gretchen’s Wool mill were somewhat “quieted” as JM showed us the five different layers of these amazing fleeces – and how they can be separated out from the long, somewhat “wirery” outer coats down to the almost down-like layer that is against the skin. Look how easily she has separated these layers to spin into different types of yarn. I can also see how having all the different layers/lengths blended into carded roving or batts would contribute to the "itchy" feeling that some people get about wool - the different lengths would tend to poke out and cause the scratchys... hmmm

Lots more things to think about now when I buy fiber - like, "What am I going to use it for?" or how was it prepared - combed top? carded roving, batts, etc. I have always kind of let the fiber tell me how it wanted to be spun up - now maybe I can "talk back" and put in my own ideas of how I want to have the yarn look.

Even Nancy's horse was curious about what was going on -

There were many different wheels represented. One of the things that JM does is work with you to realize the potential that your wheel has - using the different drive bands or making use of a lace flyer to make ultra fine yarns.

Now I have new things I want, like a jumbo flyer unit for plying and maybe a McMorran Yarn Balance, and possibly a little Niddy Noddy for making sample skeins. I can see now that I'm going to have to clean off the shelves in the guest room to put my stash and my toys on.

I think one of the more surprising samples that I worked with was the CVM - I was amazed at how "springy" it was almost elastic. I have 8 sample skeins that I spun up - I finally got pictures taken tonight and will put them on here in a couple of days.

There was lots of show and tell - and lots of "tell" JM is a very good story teller and after the many years of experience that she has, she was able to answer most all of our questions.

Here she was showing us some plying techniques. On the last day she passed out little bobbins of mill spun singles so those who had never tried it could try triple ply (mine looked like "REAL" yarn!!) or even 4 or 5 ply.

Did I mention that we had a catered supper on Saturday night - Chicken Piccata, with salad, roasted fall vegies and rice. Very tasty and a fun time to get to know one another.

This is one of the biggest Shetland fleeces that I've ever seen. We didn't work with this one, but a lot of the spinning that we did was with fiber that we prepared ourselves with our hand cards or drum carder or combs.

She showed us a nifty way to get the batts off of a drum carder by wrapping them onto a paper sack.

I didn't have enough courage to try this comb set-up. But it looked like it could do a serious amount of damage if used incorrectly. Sounds like a plot for a good spinner mystery...

Click on this picture to biggify it - check out the crimp in the creamier colored fleece on the far right. I think she said it is from a domestic Corriedale bred with imported Australian semen. JM demonstrated how to wash the locks individually by wrapping single layers in cotton material (like an old sheet) and pouring boiling hot water into the pan. (Ok, so you kind of had to be there - but I think she showed how to do this in a Spin Off article sometime in the past two years)

Lots of time spent "fingering" the different fleeces that she brought - some to share and prepare, some just to look at. I'll definitely shop differently the next time I go to a fiber fair.

It is good to know how to prepare my own fiber, but you know what? It's even better if someone (like Gretchen) has washed it and picked and carded it for me... maybe I'm just a lazy spinner.

One exercise we did with some corriedale roving was to spin as many different widths of yarn that we could. I should have put something along with these samples so you'd have a perspective. The skinniest is about pencil lead skinny.

I have 8 sample skeins that I finally go pictures of tonight, so they'll be on in a few days. I've been reminded that I'm "neglecting" some of the other aspects of my blog and some of my readers are getting a little bored with the spinning stuff... Well, there certainly isn't anything to take pictures of out in the garden right now unless I could figure out how to do wind and weather. Bud I have read some good books lately and as soon as it stops raining (it will stop sometime, won't it?) I'll get out to take some pictures of the sheepies.

There is much made about JM and her classes are, I'm sure, always filled, with a list waiting. It's not so much that she is a fabulous teacher - which she is, but it is that she makes one feel competent with their skills, which in turn, makes you feel really good about yourself - rather than being "The Goddess", I'd say that she brings out "The Goddess"(or God, as gender may be) in each one of us.

Will I take another class from her - You bet, at the drop of a hat! I would hazard a guess that I could even take this particular class over and still learn LOTS - Thanks to our LYS for sponsoring this event. It was fun.


Leigh said...

I've been looking forward to this report. Sounds like you not only had a fantastic time, but learned a lot as well. Great photos. Would have loved to have been there. Your samples look good too.

Kathy said...

Finally! :) I have been awaiting this as well, and it's well worth it! Oh, how I wish I were a fly on the wall during this whole experience.

BTW, what brand of combs are those??? They look better than the ones I have and as I have gotten more into combing, would like to know who makes those.

Great job, T.!

Sharon said...

I am amazed that Judith never seems to tire of sharing her knowledge. I spent a week with her at retreat and so much of what I do and know is from her teaching. She's so real and so practical - and you're right. She's' a great storyteller.

Michelle said...

THIS reader isn't complaining about your spinning/yarn content! Great report, and it only reinforces my desire to take a class from JM sometime.

I need orange said...

What a great class! I would have loved it, too.

I have heard such wonderful things about her, as a teacher. So glad you got to do this!