Friday Retreat Sessions

Yup, I’m skipping right over Thursday – aka Market Day You’re not that interested in what I bought, are you? Okay, Jillian, put your hand down and be patient.



This is Judith MacKenzie boiling water. Okay, okay, she’s adding cool water to her vat (before adding freeze dried indigo) to drop the temperature. Apparently, indigo likes the water temp to be between 90 and 140 degrees. Judith says that if you’re dying fabric, you can use the cooler temperatures. For yarn, try to stay as close to 140 as possible. If you go over 140, the indigo becomes inert (won’t stick to what you’re dying). All is not lost, however. If you cool the dye bath off, you can use a product that will reactivate the dye and you can continue.

There’s so much to say about indigo, I’m not sure where to begin. There are lots of books that can help you with indigo dying much better than anything I can come up with here. What’s cool about freeze dried indigo is that the hard work is done. All you have to do is heat up some water and sprinkle a very little bit of the crystals into your pot. There’s no lye involved and it’s fairly safe to work with. All the other rules about indigo stay the same (stir slowly, completely wet whatever you want dyed, add your materials to the side of the pot, etc.) – you still don’t want to introduce oxygen into the bath. Here’s what you get…



The darker skeins are actually brown yarn overdyed. It’s difficult to see the difference in the picture, but I have a skein of it, and it’s beautiful. The greenish colored skein started out as a putrid yellow that was way to bright for anyone’s taste (except maybe Big Bird). I didn’t take a picture of a cream colored Estonian scarf that Judith put in the pot. She planned on dipping it several more times over the next 3 retreat sessions. Nancy and I went back after every retreat to see how much the color had changed. It’s absolutely beautiful. Judith said she would probably dip it at least 10 times – to get a deep, even blue.

I want to draw your attention to the 2 silk scarves in the photo. A couple of women in this retreat tied these up for Judith to toss into the bath. What they did was place dried chick peas on the fabric and then put rubber bands around the chick peas. The chick peas rehydrate in the bath and the rubber bands act as a resist (keeping the dye out) and you get a lovely square-ish pattern. I think both of these are random patterns, but Judith showed a gorgeous scarf she had done with diagonal lines of squares on the ends. In fact, she’s wearing it in the photo of her above. You can’t see the pattern, but you can make out some of the squares.

I wanted to bring some of the freeze dried indigo home, but the only vendor who had it – Morgaine at Carolina Homespun – had her truck stolen before she got to SOAR and the thieves emptied it out. (On a side note, if you see lots of cheap wheels and other fibery things for sale – please let Morgaine know.) Anyway, I had to be content to order it and she’s going to ship as soon as she gets back to her shop.

This brings me to Friday afternoon. I toyed with the idea of taking the workshop on handspindles. When I first learned to spin, I had to use a drop spindle for a while and I hated it. I could never get the hang of the thing. As a spinner, however, I love the look of the things. There are so many different models – light, heavy, different kinds of wood, and shapes of the whorl…all that equipment! I decided against torturing myself and thought, “I’ll just take a retreat session.” This is Andrea Mielke



She is a very patient woman. The class was full of people, like me, who wanted to handspindle, but couldn’t get the hang of it on their own. We made some spindles, but most everyone had at least 1 spindle they had bought (me included). I’m telling you, these little things are addictive! In the 3 hours of the retreat, I spun a cop of yarn on my spindle, Andean plied it, and have a nice little skein for my efforts. Andrea gave us a ton of fiber to play with, a couple of balls of combed top, as much carded fiber as we wanted (in several colors), and even some cotton. It was great fun.



Here’s my Hatchtown spindle and skein of yarn. The little crochet bag (made by Carol Rhoades) came as a result of my bidding in the SOAR silent auction. Every year, Interweave gives scholarships to people to come to SOAR. This is the first year they’ve given full scholarships (Workshop & Retreat sessions) in the past, you could only get a scholarship for one or the other. Anyway, there were tons of items in the auction and I think everyone found something she liked. I was in a bidding war with a woman named Hope for a beautiful melon basket and some roving. Hope won – I tossed in the towel and bid on this gorgeous bag. It holds my spindle and about 8 oz of roving. I’m going to have to find something else to hold the spindle I ordered from the Bosworths that is on it’s way to me right now. (Did you see how I sneaked that in?)

Results of the Workshops

Okay, yesterday you saw some of my samples from Spinning Wool 201. On Wednesday evening, after dinner, we got to travel around to other people’s workshops to see their results. My friend Nancy took the workshop on spinning with colored rovings with Lynne Vogel. Here are some shots of what they did.

Each person had to spin yarn and make a finished product with it. Nancy made the small bag at the top of the screen. You can also see her “energized singles,” look for the point protectors and the bobbin in front of her little bag. You can also see the “beer cozy” that one womn made.

Apparently, when the class was making up their display, the bags looked a little funny lying flat on the table, so they were discussing things to put inside the bags to make them dimensional. When the class suggested that one woman’s bag looked like a toilet paper cozy, she took them up on it. Here is the toilet paper cozy in all it’s glory!

Lynne taught a variety of ways in which you can use rovings with dozens of colors in them without making muddy yarn. This intrigued me because I’ve seen gorgeous rovings that just end up making terrible yarn. I stepped into this workshop a couple of times and the class seemed to be having a good time – and it was a huge class!

These are from the needle felting workshop (forgive me, but I don’t know who taught the class):



Isn’t she the most gorgeous thing?! I asked the woman who was doing her if she was going to have a tattoo of sailor on her arm. No deal.

These 2 are absolutely my favorite. You can’t see much detail, but the piece made me thing of Rodin’s The Kiss. Nancy and I walked around on Tuesday night and saw most of the dolls complete – they did these in 2 days! One the third day, they made 2-dimensional pictures. It looked like a really cool class.

Nancy Schroyer taught a class on fair isle techniques. Here are some samples from that class:





They all used the same pattern for their swatches. It’s amazing how different each piece can look when all you change are the colors. There was a bit of homework for this class as they all had to finish a sizeable sample. They cut steeks and put in button holes – all in 3 days. It’s amazing what you can get done when all you have to focus on is fiber!

Okay, back to work for me. Tomorrow: Friday retreat sessions.

Spinning Wool 201

That was the title of my workshop at SOAR. (For those of you unfamiliar with SOAR, it’s an acronym for Spin-Off Autumn Retreat. Spin-Off is a magazine published by Interweave Press.) So anyway, see that it says wool in the title? I didn’t read the course description correctly and thought that Spinning 201 would give me an introduction to fibers other than wool (like silk, cashmere, alpaca, etc). This led to a little disappointment on my part when the workshop began. However, about 5 minutes into it – I knew it was the exact workshop for me.

I took a spinning/natural dying class many years ago that taught me the basics of spinning and gave me a chance to spin on a lot of different wheels with a lot of different fibers. The problem is, I didn’t appreciate all the differences because I was just trying to make a decent yarn that held together for more than 5 seconds.

This man:

is Rudy Amann. He taught me more in a couple of days than I have managed to figure out in all the years I’ve been spinning. If you ever get a chance to take a class with him – do it. He is kind and patient and encouraged us to ask questions and make recommendations to make the workshop better.

I have an entire ziploc bag full of samples that I spun in the 3 days. I didn’t take pictures of all of them (how boring), but I will include a few.



The 2 brown skeins on are Polworth, very bottom is spun worsted style and the second one from the bottom is spun woolen style. The 2 white skeins are merino, again, bottom one is spun worsted and top is spun woolen. Here’s the difference, when you spin worsted, you’re trying to get a nice, smooth yarn. You do this by keeping the twist out of the drafting triangle and smoothing any errant fibers down as you pull from the fiber source and allow the twist to come into the yarn. With woolen yarn, you’re trying to trap air between the fibers resulting in a soft, lofty, springy yarn. Here, you let the twist advance into the drafting triangle – no smoothing. You can tell the difference best with the Polworth samples. The top one looks a little fuzzier.



These 2 skeins were both spun worsted style. The difference is that I spun the bottom one on day one of the workshop and the top one was spun on day 2. The differences don’t show up very well in the photo, but believe me, you can see it when you hold the skeins. This is what I mean about learning from Rudy – I improved about 50% in just 1 day!

I’ve already been trying out some of the techniques he taught. I’m planning my first spin to knit project on the Sasha Kagan sweater featured in the latest Interweave Knits. I’ll talk more about it later in the week, but I’m working on sample skeins right now in the evenings and I’m pretty pleased with what I’m doing. THANKS Rudy!!

On another note, here’s my favorite classmate:

This is Tracy, the Diet Pepsi Queen. She saved me from having to spend $1.50 on inferior product (Diet Coke) by schlepping out to a grocery store to buy Diet Pepsi – and then she shared with me. Tracy’s a lurker here – tell her how much fun it is to leave comments!

Here are all my other favorite classmates:

Don’t we look like we’re having fun? Seriously though, it was a terrific class. When Rudy had extra fiber bags, everyone wanted the Polworth (spins like a dream). He only had 5-6 bags left (for a class of 14). Several people said, “Oh, that’s okay, let someone else have those, I’ll take something else.” We made Rudy divy up the bags and we were all happy with the extras we received. I was stunned – no one got cranky or hostile – what a cool group!

Oh…my…gawd!!!

(Remember Janice from Friends?)

SOAR was fabulous. I can’t even describe how fabulous it was. There’s something about a week with like-minded people that just changes your attitude. Huge kudos go out to the Interweave Press staff – Nancy Disney, Vicki Yost, Amy Clarke, Liz Gipson, and Carol (I don’t remember her last name, but she’s Linda Ligon’s assistant), these women worked tirelessly to make sure everyone had a good time. Also, the staff at Shanty Creek was amazing. We had good food, good meeting rooms, and clean guest rooms to go back to each night.

Jillian’s last e-mail to me on October 24 said “BUY EVERYTHING.” Well, I didn’t buy everything, but I did give it the old college try. Here’s a short list:

spinning chair from Winsome Timbers

a dark brown Polworth fleece and a hoget combed top in the Lakeshore colorway from Rovings

assorted colors of Bullen’s Woolens from Deb Menz (for a project I’ll explain later)

4 different colors of silk (in 25 gm bags) from Treenway Silks

a Katie-a-Go-Go from Susan’s Fiber Shop

Isn’t it cool? Mine’s made from Ambrosia Maple and has a cool pattern in it. I opened every Kate she had to get the prettiest one.

freeze dried indigo from Carolina Homespun

an orange roving from Bonkers

some cinammon alpaca from a place in Ohio (can’t remember the name)

and a few other fibers (I’ll have photos later in the week)

I went with the intention of buying this: That’s a Fiona wheel from Winsome Timbers. I sat, I spun, I thought. It occurred to me that I have a very heavy wheel (Schact) and it’s a little difficult to transport back and forth from classes. I thought some more and came to the conclusion that I needed a portable wheel. I tried this one: It’s a Majacraft Gem and has a triangle for an orifice. I didn’t like it. It “thrummed” when I spun on it. I don’t know if that makes sense or not, but it made this noise and vibration that was really irritating to me. I did see some with the regular orifice, but apparently Majacraft doesn’t make it like that anymore.

Then I tried this one: It’s a Canadian made Lendrum and spins like a dream. I thought I’d found my portable wheel. It folds over and fits in a bag you can wear on your back (of course the bag is extra). I told Gordon Lendrum that I’d think about it and figured I’d be back later to exchange money and wheel.

Then I turned a corner and saw this: (Okay, I didn’t really see that one – I saw a double treadle one, but I prefer single treadle.) Jonathan Bosworth sort of beckoned me over and said, “Have a seat and try it out.” I fell in love – with the wheel, not him (although he’s a very nice man). My friend Nancy had a seat and spun for a while. We both said, “It’s nice,” and walked on. Truth is, it spins like heaven. It was set up for Scotch tension (I prefer double drive), but I had no trouble adjusting it so the take up was perfect for me. The fiber slipped through my fingers and made a perfect, even yarn. Nancy stopped at a booth just a ways down and I kept looking back at that Journey Wheel. I sneaked back to the booth and sat down again. While I was in spinning heaven, Jonathan came back and said, “Ah, you’re back.” He gave me a demonstration on how to change the bobbin (way easy) and how to close it up. The thing folds up to about the size of carry-on luggage; and it weighs only 15 pounds. Have you figured it out yet? I put down a deposit on the Journey Wheel. I can take delivery in November or February (which ever I prefer). I believe I’ll be taking deliver in November – I don’t know if I can wait until February.

Okay, I took lots of pictures, but left the disks at home this morning. I’ll give you all a full report on the classes and the people as the week goes on. I’ve given you lots of stuff to look at today – imagine seeing all this (and lots more) in person – it’s overwhelming! Look around and have a good time.