Ahhh! The smell of wool drying in the bathroom! Our third retreat has come and gone, and as always, has left me exhausted but filled with inspriation. Hence, the bathroom full of wet yarn. There are always a million little samples to finish before I forget what they are. Thankfully, I am much more organized this year! I put together a binder with cards where I can attach and label each yarn sample that we spun. And everything that needs to be finished is in baggies labeled with the fiber name. This year's topic was "Blends". What to blend with what, and how to do it to get the final product that you want. So there are lots of little bits of wool, cotton, flax, silk, etc. There were also fun break out groups in the afternoons, which provided other fiber diversions.
My vacation began early by picking up Sam at the airport so that she could ride up with me. Unfortunately, Roddie was going to have to leave on Saturday before retreat ended to go to her nephew's wedding, so we had to take two cars this year. It was very strange not riding together! It's not very often that we don't travel together. So we caravanned to San Antonio for our annual lunch at Mi Tierra where we met up with Jo and Maxine. Just can't to go Mo Ranch without first stopping for Mexican food and margaritas! And we made a little time for shopping at El Mercado where I picked up a good deal on two cute tie-dyed dresses and a fuffy red ribboned top. Since the weather turned out to be a little warmer than expected, they came in handy. Now it was time to high tail it to the ranch to be sure we got our usual seats in the fireplace corner. I would have hated to have to embarrass myself by asking someone to move. It is the perfect roomy spot for me with all my junk!
It was wonderful to see Judith again. She is truly a treasure trove of information on everything fibery! And she brought us fiber again! A beautiful hand dyed 86% Polworth / 15% Silk roving. When it was my turn, I chose an interesting orange and purple. Not quite sure what I'm going to do with it yet, but am looking forward to spinning it. The challenge is to come up with a finished product by next year's retreat.
So many of the old crew was back again, along with some new faces. It never ceases to amaze me how we can have such a large group of women get along so well for an entire week. Don't get me wrong, there are occasional tense moments, but Mo Ranch and the Guest House are large enough that you can always get some space when you need it. And I've made some wonderful friends that I hope will be around for a long time. In fact, a bunch of us will be meeting up at the Black Sheep Gathering in Eugene, Oregon in June. Mom and I are going out to Washington to visit my sister for her birthday and it just so happens that BSG is the following weekend.
Mornings began with Katie leading a yoga class. She'd do her morning meditations by the river, then guide us through some great stretches. Definitely helped counteract all the sitting we do!
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Our first spinning day was on cotton and cotton blends. Definitely a challenge! And not my favorite thing to spin on my wheel. Much more fun on the charkha! Judith gave us some of her brown seeds, which will be going in my little back yard garden as soon as they're ready. In the evening, we had a little lesson on spinning using a supported spindle. A bunch of us had made a group purchase from Malcolm Fielding of Tasmania, Australia earlier in the year and they arrived just in time for retreat. I am definitely much better at using the top whorl spindle, but my spinning on the dervish is getting better. Click on Malcolm's name for a link to his Etsy shop. He is a brilliant woodworker and creates some of the best balanced spindles ever. I love mine! He also has a group on Ravelry if you want to see more photos.
After getting severe cramps in my adductors for doing the "park and draft" method of spindling, Roddie and I bought this handy tool from Carolina Homespun to use as a support bowl with the dervishes.
One of my favorite fibers from this year was flax, which surprised me. I took a flax spinning class at WC Mercantile a while back and didn't enjoy it at all. Could be that this lovely lilac top was just an easier to spin preparation. But it sure takes a lot of spit! I'll probably just go with a wet sponge to finish it all. Judith gifted me with the leftovers from class, so I'll be making something beautiful out of it.
But my very favorite blend that we tried was from Taylored Fibers. It was a blend of alpaca and cotton with silk noil. Nothing special to look at, but spun up into a very interesting yarn. The little sample below was dyed in the lichen pot on dye day. Roddie and I are going to go in together and order more to play with.
While trying to decide what to pack for this trip, Sam suggested that I bring along my BFL lamb fleeces that needed to be combed. I bought these early on in my spinning career and the ends are a bit felted together so you have to separate it out lock by lock in order to comb it in preparation for spinning. Quite a chore! So I tossed it in as cushioning for the Ott lights, and lo and behold, Jude was looking for something to comb with her beautiful new mini combs! Yea! It's not all done, but she made a big dent in it so I can start spinning it. And yes I did reward her with locks from the fleece! Both parties came away happy.
Roddie finally jumped down the weaving rabbit hole! She brought her brand new Cricket, which we warped at retreat. And after receiving too many opinions on tension, selveges, etc., she tuned all of us out except Judith and was weaving away in no time!
As always, one of the highlights of the week is dye day on Friday and Saturday! This year we had an indigo vat, a lichen pot, one cochineal, and two with Mother MacKenzie Dyes. I had decided earlier this year that instead of doing the usual skeins of yarn, that this year I'd bring silk scarves to dye. So I brought four, all gathered up and tied, and ready for the dye pot. And we got an extra one in our goodie bag, which made five! I did break down and buy two additional skeins of yarn, and we all got a skein of bison from Judith. So I had quite a stash to play with. The bison went into the indigo pot which was really strong this year. It came a out a beautiful blue/black which is almost impossible to photograph, so you'll just have to take my word on how lucious it is. My mini skein of alpaca/cotton/silk went into the lichen pot along with one scarf. Two scarves and a skein of yarn went into the cochineal. The yarn came out a really deep pink. The scarves were very pale, so I put one back in to cook some more. That and another tightly wound scarf went into the Mother MacKenzie red. When I opened it up, there was a LOT of white! This one now got tossed into the purple dye. It now looks like something to wear to Red Hatters! The second that had been in the cochineal had a lot more patterning, so I left it alone. But my favorite scarf was the one that went into the indigo pot. I had tied pony beads on one end and pleated the other, which made for a very interesting design.! My last skein of yarn went into the acid dye pot, and after a few color additions, came out a beautiful blue-green.
Judith crushing dried cochineal bugs for the dye pot.
That's my dark blue bison and green skein on the right tree limb.>
On the last night we hung all the silk scarves along the upstairs railing. Absolutely beautiful!
Too soon it was time to say goodbye until next year! A huge thank you to Karen and her crew for taking on the task of organizing such a great event and saying, "How hard can it be?" See you all in 2014!
If you're interested in more photos, check out my Flickr set Hill Country Spinning Retreat 2013.