Thursday, November 02, 2006

Rhinebeck and SOAR

I went to help in the Spirit Trail Fiberworks booth at the NYS Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, NY the third weekend in November. It was amazing - crowded doesn't even begin to describe the number of people attending this year. We had so many people in the booth and buying on Saturday the line to pay went down the aisle, and folks couldn't get in to look at the fibers and yarns. It was the same way at many other "destination" booths. I was tied to the booth both days, so didn't get a chance to do any shopping or picture-taking. Maybe next year.

SOAR-I had been looking forward to it ever since I sent my registration in, what was it, March or so? It seems silly to say that, but it's tru, partly because I thought then that by late October my life would be all settled down (ha!) and partly because SOAR is really a wonderful week - surrounded by spinners, learning new things, renewing one's energies, staying in a nice place where the food is good and not prepared by onesself, meeting greatly admired experts and finding new inspiration, and more. Now I'm here, and it's everything I was looking forward to. Here's an interim report, halfway through the week.

I drove down, a 10.5 hour drive from northern Oregon. (Not all in one day) This time of year can be messy driving, and Adam loaded up the car with emergency equipment, but the weather was beautiful. I passed by Mt. Shasta in northern California, which still has some snow from last winter.

Tahoe City is on the extreme western edge of California, and the lodge that is hosting SOAR is on the western side of Lake Tahoe. Very wooded - people have seen bears this week!

My 3-day workshop was with Stephanie Gaustad and was on Cellulosics - Cotton, Linen, Hemp, and Ramie. My head and hands are now stuffed with information, and my spinning of these fibers is now much better, and more consistent.

In addition to spinning, we learned a lot about the preparation of the various fibers, what works, what doesn't, and tips on weaving and dyeing with them. (I still don't plan on becomeing a weaver)

Here Stephanie is demonstrating on a reproduction Japanese cotton gin.

Hackling flax and ramie was an interesting experience. I'm much
more inclined to buy prepared fiber, but it's always good to know how to do it. Also, Stephanie warned that line flax (the good stuff) will need to be re-hackled if it is stored and becomes compacted, so there might be a need for a hackle in my future.

We also learned to dress a distaff for spinning the bast fibers (flax, hemp, and ramie. Distaves can also be used for wool and silk, so there are ways to dress with rolags as well as long line fibers. In the pictures below, Phreadde is wearing a dust mask, as the bast fibers often carry a lot of mold spores acquired in the retting process.

I hope that I get used to spinning off a distaff - 2 of my wheels have them, and it would be a great way to keep the fibers up off the floor while spinning. (and tying with ribbons is not optional - in most cultures it was important that the distaves be pretty - maybe to attract the best batchelor?)

It's traditional at SOAR to have a show-and-tell on Wednesday evening of what was done in each of the workshops. Here is our table, complete with a large upright charkha and dressed distaves, as well as many sample skeins-

I promised my classmates that I would do an entire posting on ramie, the most neglected cellulose fiber that we worked with, and a favorite of the group. So that will probably be my next update - to be followed by a review of the Harlot's speech tonight, and more the next few days.