Saturday, June 28, 2008

Is It Really Summer?

Hard to believe that we are into the last week of June already! Flowers have come and gone, events have come and gone and I am preparing for the next one. I totally missed the pink Lady slippers up the road. Yesterday I did see two small pair of leaves but no evidence of the flowers or old stalks. Since the road crew redid the road we seem to be missing lots of wonderful plants. At last writing I was getting ready for Fiber Frolic. We had rain on Friday while setting up but Saturday was a relatively nice day. There were lots of people - I think they must have heard the report for Sunday's weather - hot and muggy. That it was - not as bad as a couple of years ago though.
As usual there were friends to see and lots of vendor goods to ponder. The highlight of the Frolic, though, is watching the season's new babies cavort in their pens. This year there were several pair of little goats that really enjoyed playing King Of the Mountain on a bag of shavings. Mom and another sibling didn't pay any attention to these two. Rough and tumble was their game alone.
There were cashmere goats and baby Romney/Baby Doll sheep, alpacas and llamas and bunnies. Fiber everywhere you looked - some on two legs, most on four legs - it was a warm weekend remember.

This year I taught the Color Blending for Spinners w
orkshop again. We all had a drum carder so the blending went quickly and the varied yarns these ladies made were terrific. It was fun to work with them and challenge them to blend colors they might not usually pick to spin.

Back at the booth there was a woman who showed me a pair of socks she had made with yarn she bought from me the year before. She had used rows of beads at the top.

When the Frolic was over some of us stayed around to help clean up after we had our cars all packed up. Once the sweeping was done we had a nice picnic supper on the bleachers before driving home. It was a nice way to cool down after working and before the drive.
It was even warmer at home! Heard they had some pretty high temperatures while we were away.

The weekend after Frolic I went down to North Brookfield, MA for a restorative weekend before the final push to get Pleasant Mountain Fiber Arts ready to go the NEXT weekend. That's what I mean - June? Where has it gone? There were eight of us sharing a cabin on a lake - great food, good companionship - knitting, spinning, even a trip to a nearby knitting shop. The drive down was beautiful - sunny day, blue skies. The rest of the weekend was not as sunny. In fact it was mostly gray with some rain but we all had a great time anyway.

Thursday Dan helped me arrange tables and lights. Friday morning early it was time to open the doors. What can be more frustrating than not being able to get the key to work when you have a lot of excited women coming to take workshops? Well, I am sure they might have wanted their coffee, too, and we couldn't get in to get it made! One of the women ended up having the right touch. Thank God for little favors!

We pinned up items for the Instructors' Exhibit, made the coffee, set out the morning snacks, began directing "traffic" telling people where their classes were located and got down to business.

This is how it looked when one instructor arrived with a car full of felting materials!

Classes got under way and everyone went right to work. Upstairs and down there was a hum of activity and occasional drifts of laughter. In no time at all everyone was very focused on their fiber work. The landscape felters were laying out their base wool, the hookers were planning their designs and picking out colors, the dyers were learning about color and technique, the rug makers were cutting wool strips and threading their needles, the spinning wheels were turning and the shawl pin makers were twisting and hammering wires into fantastic shapes. After a break for lunch some of the students went right back to work on their projects while others switched gears for afternoon classes.

Lorel hooking her coasters.

Jane pot dyeing a skein then hand painting a batt.

This was really fun!

Jan needlefelting a tulip. You can see the picture she used for her inspiration even though it is up side down in the photo.

Here is another landscape right side up!

Rudy helping Karen set up her spinning wheel while Libby manned the desk. She did a terrific job and was a real help all weekend!

This was the beginning of a confetti rug. Rose Ann taught a variety of techniques for rug making, all were very different. For some reason this photo keeps coming up sideways even though it is not that way in the file. Go figure...

It was a colorful day, and then Saturday we began all over again. Some made felted flowers or penny rugs.

Design ideas were translated into wool shapes and pictures ready to be stitched.

We enjoyed having lunch under the new park pavilion by the lake and then went back to spinning, making baskets and jewelry.
Sunday saw us blending colors on the carder, making kumihimo braids, and learning nalbinding.
There were more baskets and felted faces and lots of fun.

When the weekend came to a close everyone was already talking about the classes for Pleasant Mountain Fiber Arts Workshop Weekend 2009. A good time was had by all. How could it not be so? We were all under the spell of Julie's special fairy godmother!

Maybe she will help me get caught up on July soon!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Where Does the Time Go?

You might say we have been in a spin around here. So many things to do, places to be and events to prepare for! These are just a few of the batts I have been dyeing. They went to the Fiber Frolic last weekend. There are boxes and baskets of yarns stacked up and waiting to jump into the dyepot.
Today it is just a bit too warm to even think of dyeing or turning on the stove! Only 96* and very, very humid. I was just out bringing in the laundry and thunder was rumbling over behind the mountain. We may be in for a drenching. Tomorrow is supposed to be 20* cooler - we can hope - and maybe bring out the dyepots. It is time to get busy - there is a whole summer full of events and lots of stock to replenish. It would be nice if I could squeeze in some time to try some new things and maybe even get in some knitting for myself.
After the New Hampshire Sheep & Wool weekend we had a real dry spell here in Maine and within one week of the tadpoles hatching the ditches were all dried up. I can't tell you how sad that made me - every year we watch the growth of those little froglets. Check them in the morning when we open the front door, check them again when the mail comes at noon, check them before we close the barn door for the night. They are gone for this year. I miss them and so will be looking for them even more eagerly next spring when we first hear the peepers.
One thing we didn't miss this spring was seeing the yellow lady slippers! This pair is hidden just off the road at the end of the mountain. Three years ago there were four flowers but the next year a hungry deer bit the heads off two of the flower stalks and they have never come back. I was surprised to see very close to the lady slippers some wild strawberry plants already in bloom. Not far away, too, was a clump of daisies all in bud!

These were not the only flowers making an appearance! The lilacs were out in their full glorious color and what a scent - the air was full of lilac scent - you knew it was 'that time of year'! Hiding next to the foundation out front by the steps was a tiny reminder of last spring - a single little viola provided a reason to smile when we discovered it sporting two lovely blue violet flowers!

It was so nice to take a little time to smell the flowers and to poke under leaves and around walls looking for other plants that I knew would be coming along. The baptisia is growing tall, the lemon yellow daylilies are beginning to bloom, and the lily of the valley is in flower! Soon we'll be looking for the red bee balm. Driving down the road the phlox at the neighbors is nodding its white and purple-headed stalks. You've got to love it!

In May I taught a couple of dye classes and enjoyed doing that, as always. Seeing the colors students produce never fails to make me feel really good. None of the dyes gets wasted either. I take home all the leftovers and use them to mix and match colors for my own dye projects. It is good timing when I teach classes just before getting ready for a big show. One of the skeins of sock yarn was just so unusual that I couldn't part with it. One of these days I'll make myself a pair of new socks with that yarn.

These skeins are just some of the lace weight yarn I packed to take to Fiber Frolic. Each one uses at least five different dyes to make its blended color. You might gather that I kind of like "playing" with color! Certainly not an overstatement of fact!

One of my new products is paired batts for spinning self-striping sock yarns. I made some for friends for birthday presents so I could see how they spun up. I really enjoyed creating these and will weigh out more roving tomorrow to make some more. They sold well on their first showing. Here's one I may spin up myself!
I love the way the colors blend but still retain so much of their personality. This morning when I was putting things away in the wool room I discovered a skein of lace weight yarn I thought was long buried and was surprised to notice it was very similar to these batts. Guess Tthat is why I especially liked this one. Problem with doing this dyeing is that so many excite me and I know I can't keep them all. Thank goodness I have a digital camera and can take lots of photographs - kind of instant gratification. One of the most rewarding aspects of dyeing yarns and doing shows is when someone rushes to my booth to show me the socks or the scarf or the shawl she made with my yarn. It doesn't get any better than that!

I think the great storms have passed us by but there are more coming through tonight according to the weatherman. A couple of weeks ago we had some big wind and heavy rain that took the apple blossoms. They are only a memory now but I did get a few pictures so I will close for today with one of them so you can see how lovely they were.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Catching up

This little guy has a real smile of contentment. When we visited him on Saturday at the NH S&W he was bouncing off the sides of his pen and bleating loudly. Turns out he missed his mates. Sunday all three black lambs were there together and quiet reigned in the pen. His older neighbor with her jaunty red coat was there, too, keeping an eye on things.

Sunday was the day of the Sheep to Shawl contest. I didn't get down to the museum until after 11 AM so just caught the tail end of things. The kids were all decked out like farm animals and seemed pretty pleased with their accomplishment.

The Gogh Gogh's in their pajamas and nightcaps were almost finished with their shawl. They spun a soft gray yarn for the weft and had handpainted the warp. It was quite stunning! The brightly colored knotted fringe really set it off nicely.

Later in the afternoon I ran into Paula Roberts in the Home Ec building. She was wearing a 'coat of many colors' made by a friend. As you can see some of the squares were larger and some were quite small. Lots of color!

I had the opportunity to talk with a lot of people while I was working on my 'crayon sheep' tapestry in the guild building. Some wanted to know if I would have it done by the end of the day. Tapestry weaving is like painting with wool. You make a plan and then make decisions about what colors to use and where to put them as you go along.

Sunday I was working on the shaded side of the sheep's mouth working mostly with blues. By combining a lighter blue and a darker blue I was able to create a third color that was in between the two. This is called 'optical blending' and it really gives a weaver more choices for creating modeling affects.

Another technique used to blend colors is called 'hatching' and you can see that in the lower left side where the yellow area changes to yellow/green and then to green. I used the same technique on the lower right side but you don't see the hatching as much because the colors are very similar.

Hopefully I will complete this tapestry some time this summer. All the sheep tapestries I have woven before had natural colored sheep so it will be interesting to see this weaving as it develops.

Another thing that happened last weekend was that all the tadpoles hatched! This noon it was warm and they were swimming all around but when I went out this afternoon we had clouds and lots of wind. It wasn't really warm any more so they were hanging out at the edge of the gully. The black spots are all tadpoles.

I zoomed in with the camera to catch this one in case some of you have never seen a tadpole up close. He'll grow a lot bigger in the next few weeks and then we'll be looking to see if his hind legs are beginning to grow. It does take a while for him to become a frog!

In the meantime I have been doing more work on the pond yacht. The sails are on, the varnishing is complete, the base is done and it just needs a few more details to be all done. Yesterday I carved a tiller and made the rudder this afternoon. There was enough wind today for a great sail!

Friday, May 16, 2008

What A Weekend!

This dahlia about sums up what it was like last weekend at the New Hampshire Sheep & Wool Festival! We had absolutely gorgeous weather both days! It was a chance to visit lots of animals, fiber and friends.

It was a beautiful drive down and back with all the colors of spring still in the landscape, too many to count. The mountain behind our house has a rusty cast to it with all the maple trees coming into flower and leaf. People usually think of mountains being covered with pine trees, especially in Maine but there really are a lot of other kinds of trees with leaves instead of needles.

Of course the sheep are the big attraction and there were lots of them, all shapes and sizes and colors. These ladies were no doubt discussing the accommodations, or maybe they were talking about all the sweaters and shawls they saw as people walked by them.

Hey, ladies - did you see the one carrying four bags of fleece? What do you think she'll make with all that wool?

Oh, my - this is such a big place and there are so many people! I think I'll just snuggle down in this hay and be quiet as can be. I'm new to all this. I think I'll just watch everything for a while and then maybe take a nap.

What's all the excitement out there? Why are they dressed up?

Every building had its share of old friends and new fiber finds, books, tools and interesting things to see. Then there were the tents and pens, more friends, and food.

How about all those alpacas? They came in lots of colors! And shapes!

This little one seemed a bit top heavy but didn't seem to mind.

I didn't really bring much home but I did find a pretty fiber blend at Friends' Folly to ply with some singles I spun from a BFL cross color blend I bought at Rhinebeck last October. If you look at the singles you might say the three balls lean toward blue/green but there are so many other colors in the blend when you look closely. There is a lot of violet and gold and bittersweet orange. The new blend is softer - has a blue/green base but also has a lot of the same violet and a soft gold. I just began spinning it last night and wrapped the first sample of plied yarn around one of the balls for comparison and to see how the combination would look. I think the blends compliment each other. The Pogo blend softens the colors of the BFL blend and the final yarn is going to have lots of depth.

You can see that each of the three balls of singles spun up showing lots of color variation. In the background is the new fiber for the second ply. It is much softer in general but has lots of colors showing. On the bobbin the effect is a soft gray blue/green - very pretty. It reminds me of seeing islands in the fog.

All too soon it was time to head for home. We gathered together at the round planter and while some sat and talked some checked out the bins at a nearby tent to see if there was something else we might have missed.

Carol, Rikki, Linda and Sue were just a few of fiber friends that day. It was fun to bump into each other here and there throughout the day and compare purchases at the end of the day.

I got home at 6:45 and grabbed a quick bite of supper before heading out the door to Stone Mountain Arts Center where Dan and I went to the Alasdair Fraser/Natalie Haas concert. It was a full day, but it was a great day!

Sunday I was up and on the road early to be back at the fairgrounds to demonstrate tapestry weaving at the guild building - but that is another story!