Saturday, August 11, 2012

A most educational week

I came home yesterday after the most amazing week away. It was exhausting, mind-blowing and productive. While I can't repeat it too often, it would be wonderful to do it again some time.

I went to 5 days of spinning classes with Maggie Casey. Maggie is co-owner of Shuttles, Spindles and Skeins in Boulder CO. But to the spinning world, she is a guru. But I should start at the beginning, a very good place to start.

Last Sunday, I packed up my car and headed out to Harrisville NH. I had never been there before so it was quite the adventure. I was the first to arrive at the historic Cheshire Mills Boarding House, where a number of us were staying.

Harrisville is a lovely place. It is on the National Registry of Historic places. Being a mill town, of course there was water.

 This view looks the other way from the same place. The small building straight ahead is where we spent our time. This is the location of the Harrisville Designs Knitting and Weaving Center, where our class was.

The boarding house was spartan, but clean and relatively comfortable. This is a view of the living room where people spent their evenings. I tended to stay in the studio and spin all evening.
 A view from the dining room looking into the living room.
 We had a fully furnished kitchen. It was a bit dark but quite sufficient.
 Note the dormers. I didn't. Or at least I did, but I didn't internalize their locations enough to avoid hitting my head on them frequently. The most common ones that contacted my head were the one over the trash can in the kitchen. The microwave was also under the same dormer so it had quite a few opportunities to whack me over the head.

 We had to carry our stuff up 2 flights of stairs. This is looking down from the living room window. I wish I had known that. I would have packed two smaller bags rather than one large one. Live and learn. It was good exercise though.

This was my bedroom. Note the dormer over the fan. That was the one that made the second most contact with my head. I started out with a room to myself but ended up sharing it. The boarding house was very hot when we arrived but it cooled off with the large number of fans scattered around the place. However, later in the week, when it was very humid. the air-conditioning units were just not enough to do much.
This was my bed. We brought our own linens. I also brought my own pillows as I wanted to make sure I was comfy. It didn't help. I didn't sleep well all week. But it was worth it.

 Our class room had a whole wall of Harrisville Shetland fiber on cones. This was for weaving classes, not us, but I couldn't resist taking a picture of the wall. Each color is labeled.
 This is a view of the classroom standing by the wall of cones and looking the other way. You can see Maggie in the front in a blue shirt. My spot is the empty chair to the right of the photo. You can see my Tina in front of the chair.

We started off spending a couple of days with this Lincoln-Corriedale fleece. We grew to know and love it as we learned about its characteristics and processed it. Maggie started off by explaining how she washes fleece in her bathtub using Dawn, hot water and a few laundry baskets.
 The locks were from a spinner's flock and had very little vegetable matter, although it was amazing how much we found as we worked on the wool.

 A close-up of the locks showing the crimp and length. Note the sun-burned tips. They ended up blending with the rest of the fiber to add depth to the color.
Each of us grabbed a section of locks and teased them. Here is a section I worked on.
 After teasing, it became a cloud of fiber. Our chairs were covered in bits of vegetable matter.

After teasing, we carded the fiber and made rolags. This was a new experience for me. I had never carded wool before, let alone made rolags. As the day wore on, the carding and the rolags got better and better.
 At first there is one.
 And then there are more. You can see how varied the colors of the fleece were. Maggie is the Queen of woolen spinning, especially the long draw method of drafting. So I was excited that we were going to spin woolen right away. We practiced the drafting and made a ply-back sample. Here is mine.
 We repeated the process (except for the ply-back sample) over and over again. Here is a bobbin with singles. Maggie wanted us to spin 2 bobbins on day 1 so we could ply it on the second day. Or maybe it took us 2 days to spin the singles. I can't remember. It is all a blur. In any case, I spun 2 bobbins of the singles.
 I plied the two singles to make a skein. This is not yet finished to set the twist. I have to reskein it as I made a mistake in skeining and I would rather fix it now than later.
 I spun another bobbin that I have not plied yet. So I will definitely get another skein of this fiber. Later in the week, we learned how to use a drum carder. I took more of the fleece and made a batt with it. I brought the batt back as I didn't have time to spin it in class. The batt will become the second single for the second skein. 
There should be enough for me to make a hat and mitts out of the yarn. It isn't next-to-skin-soft but it isn't harsh either. 

So there it is. My first carded and spun yarn!

In the next few posts, I will describe more of the class and also our tour of the Harrisville Designs spinning mill. Stay tuned....

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