A View from Sierra County

Small town life and politics, lots of knitting, and travels with and without my five burros

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Location: In the Sierra Nevadas, United States

I blog about rural living and social issues, and the creativity that comes from knitting, as well as post random pictures of the Sierras and my burros. "In order to be an artist, one must be deeply rooted in the society" - Simone de Beauvoir


Friday, June 23, 2006

What I Learned At Estes

First, I want to thank everyone for the love and support to us in losing Louise... we are all doing fair, and it really helps to know you care (didn't really intend to make that rhyme). Poor Rita, who had been with Louise for 12 years, is waking us up braying at night, and as Glenn said this morning "You know what she's doing, don't you? She's trying to find Louise" ... brings me to tears.

My first Estes post covered the road trip and the people - today's addresses the purchases and the great stuff I learned along the way to making them. One of the best things about being a passionate knitter is that I never get bored... there is always something new to learn.

Take socks ... now, I made my first pair of socks ("hunting socks" the pattern said, in knitting worsted) for a boyfriend back in the mid 1970s, when the patterns were very boring and standardized, kind of like the school curriculum currently being foisted on our youth from the "No Child Left Behind" act. They were burly and not particularly hard, and a decade or so later, I made batches of similar ones for my second (and best) husband, some of my children, and even more interesting ones for myself, although this was still a dozen years before self-patterning sock yarns.

I gave it up for a long stretch, as using tiny DPs was hard on hands that also used the computer steadily all day. Still, I figured I know from socks, right? Wrong! My regular readers will recall that just before my travels, I accepted the will of the people who voted for socks as the best travel/vacation project, and went searching for Trekking yarn. Not one to be daunted by its unavailability, I went off the deep end into knitting with two circulars, and started a sock for DH and one for myself, both from yarns in the stash. I also bought pairs of Addi Turbos in four sizes, eventually.....first I had to learn the hard lesson about altering my knitting to suit socks. I am a firm believer about "getting gauge", but had lots of trouble with this, and the Sockotta sock I worked on during the plane trip to SLC and the drive to Estes Park has the right gauge, but the fabric really isn't dense enough for the wear that socks get. It may well be destined to end up in the frog pond.

Driving across the brown of Wyoming, I bravely cast on my new Trekking yarn, dropping down the routine one size, and mulling over the info I had read the day before in Knitting Rules about gauge and its inherent problems. The first effort brought astute comments from Margene "That's not dense enough for socks". I knew she was right before I even pulled out the measuring tape. I dropped down another size and started over; Wyoming takes a long time to cross. When that attempt proved in an hour or so to have the same stitches per inch, I was ready to throw the knitting out the window and let it fly along behind us as a banner, we were going to a wool festival after all.

Lucky for me, I had three other sock knitters in the car problem-solving with me. "Haven't you made socks before?"
"Yes, but I used DPs"
"You'll just have to think about tightening up your knitting".

All this input came up with some enlightment: I knit looser using Continental and began again using the throw style, immediately seeing improvement. My Trekking socks were going to go a lot slower, but at least the fabric was finally looking and measuring up right! About the same time, I learned that Margene is an excellent driver.

My trekking sock on a boulder at Silver Lake.

The first night at Estes, my fellow condo-dwellers and I learned that Stephanie had acquired a most wonderful fleece, with lots of crimp and very long staples. I remembered that at one time I knew a lot about fleece and sheep, and even consented to sit down at her wheel and give spinning a try. Even though I have owned three spinning wheels at various times, and have an Ashford traditional wheel upstairs in my workroom (I admit this now, knowing that the secret's already out with that condo crowd and there is no use trying to hide it any longer), I do not know from spinning. I produced quite a bit of mediocre and uneven yarn back in the day, and used it in natural dyeing experiments, thereby avoiding expensive disasters, but never mastered spinning. Even with Carole's tutoring, I didn't do much better last Friday night, although I could easily blame it on how tired I was. Margene, on the other hand, was not similarly affected and produced a pretty respectable yarn on the first try!

Now, I had a shopping list with me, and getting a spindle was on that list... I have been intending to try, try again. What better source of information than Carole? She claims that she doesn't know that much about spindle spinning, preferring one of her three wheels (yes, she owns hers all at the same time, rather than consecutively). She did give me some shopping tips, though, before we headed to bed with visions of sugarplums of wool dancing in our heads.

We arrived at the vendor building bright and early Saturday morning, only to be told to wait, we couldn't enter yet, only the vendors. "Hey, it's after 9 already!"

When the doors *finally* opened, we rushed to keep up with Margene's long legs as she headed for Grayce's Plain and Fancy yarns... the colors are simply fantastic and I sure hope she takes Kristi up on the offer to make her a website, so that it is easier to get these yarns. I was looking for laceweight, but didn't like the very few colors in one small basket that she had left, so opted for this sportweight for hiking socks:

Plain and Fancy on the right, and Misti Alpaca on the left, a skein that Mim "helped" me buy when she took me to meet her former LYS owners from Smithfield, UT. It is destined to become a gift Mountain Stream scarf. Posted by Picasa

I wandered through Galina's Skaska booth, eyeing the fantastic fibers and the very fine yarns, but this year, nothing struck my fancy. I have her Gossamer Webs book that I got at a fiber fest last year and am constantly in awe of the fabulous Orenberg shawls she makes, so it is always inspiring.

Always wanting to learn more about knitting and try new things, I had to pore over unfamiliar books and patterns on my wanderings up and down the aisles. My best find of the shopping trip was snagging a copy of Spinoff from Spring 2004, the one with the Lily of the Valley pattern in it; of course this meant I had to locate something wonderful to make a shawl with, which led me to Textiles A Mano. These yarns were totally awesome, and I had a very hard time making a selection. I chose a seafoam green cotton/rayon for the shawl and also picked up a big skein of beautiful desert colors for my Monday night knitting hostess, Linda - these are some of her favorite colors:

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Periodically, I would come across one of my fellow condo-ites, and we had to exchange quick stories of our finds. One of those shoppers was Laurie, the wearer of a most fabulous Wool Peddler's Shawl the night before. I also learned by the end of the day that she was definitely the best bargain finder of our group. When we met up mid-morning, she had discovered some beautiful and soft Cormo wool, available from Elsa Sheep and Wool Company, and only in natural colors. Now I knew what I wanted to make my Peddler's shawl from, and headed over to buy these:

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I also came across an expert circular sock knitting machiner, Cathy from Indiana, who gave me a crash refresher course in making short row heels and toes on the machine, plus lots of encouragement, bless her heart.

We interrupted our shopping to head for the Knitbloggers' Meet-up at 11 AM and I learned that there were more knitbloggers than names I was capable of learning at once! We splintered off into various configurations to find some lunch, and I ate on the deck of a small cafe with Bonnie, Jessamyn, and Karen. Karen is a terrific spindle-yarn spinner and became my guide and mentor in choosing a high whorl spindle after lunch. First, we stopped off at the Interweave Press booth, where Amanda demonstrated how to spin, using drop spindles made with CDs (let me know if you want to try this at home and I will forward Foothill Fiber Guild's instructions, which they pass out at fairs and other public events).

Then, we headed to the Bountiful booth where Karen explained what benefits the various whorl weights had and how they affected the type of yarn it would be possible to spin. She counseled that a heavier whorl producing thicker yarn would be the best for a beginner. One of the Bountiful employees helped me trial a particularly appealing Greensleeves spindle called "Katherine's Cup", made from Honduras Red Heart on Bois de Rose (doesn't it sound tres chic?), and I had learned from Amanda and Karen how to watch to make sure that the spindle tracked smoothly, and didn't wobble. I even managed to spin a respectable thread under the watchful eyes of my tutors, something I haven't done as well since. I signed on for one spindle and free bag of bright turquoise roving. The salesperson advised that I practice five minutes or more every single day, so that my hands would remember how to do this... I am still pretty uneven:

All I can say about this photo is that my spindle looks like its trying to roll away.... sorry for the dizzying effect. Posted by Picasa

Karen uses the spindle so elegantly. Posted by Picasa

I also learned that knitbloggers are the most generous, funny, warm, entertaining people I have ever spent time with, and that most of us felt like we knew each other immediately, even if we had never encountered each others' blogs yet.

As an example, here Amanda gives Taelixev (Dragon Knits) pointers about spinning. Posted by Picasa
We have this common bond of knitting, for one thing, and are more outgoing and willing to "put ourselves out there" for another. Carole suggested during one group conversation that bloggers are natural leaders, being willing to communicate even when unsure who's listening. So many times in the past few years I have seen someone in Blogland come up with a great idea and immediately build a team to help make that idea come to life, whether for a knitalong, a charity project or an experiment such as Dye-O-Rama. I felt so blessed and so proud to be a part of that world.


Blogger Sarah said...

YOu got all kinds of fibery goodness and met all those knit bloggers!!!

11:11 AM  
Blogger margene said...

Your end notes are so insightful. It was a wonderful weekend full of fiber and we built such fabulous, long time friendships, too.

11:14 AM  
Anonymous Kristi aka Fiber Fool said...

A very beautiful and insightful post! Your purchases were great too! :-)

1:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was great meeting you!

1:13 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

That Greensleeve spindle is gorgeous. Spinning is fun! I've not gotten farther than a spindle, however.

2:12 PM  
Blogger Jenifer said...

That's a great lot that you came away with! I'm regretting not having bought any plain and fancy ... at the time, I was sort of thinking it was similar to the laceweight from handpaintedyarn.com, but now I should have bought some ... next year! It was nice seeing you there!

8:49 AM  
Blogger lorinda said...

How did you keep all that wonderful day so organized in your brain to share with us? I'm impressed! Your trekking sock looks good. Glad you found your stride with it (pun intended). What a fun time with all those amazing knitting folk!

So sorry about Louise. It's hard to lose a beloved animal.

6:59 PM  
Blogger Stacie said...

Wow, looks like such a great time! nice yarn too. I need to try socks again...

8:15 PM  
Blogger Crazy About Sox said...

What prety yarn... Don't worrie about time for my UFO contest, i'm realizing that it takes alot to dig them out. I haven't even flashed mine yet :). Can't wait to see the 33 year old quilt.

10:43 AM  
Blogger Sandysknitting said...

What a great weekend recap of a wonderful time! Wish I were there!
Thanks for joining in on the Saturday sky! I look forward to seeing your sky!

1:18 PM  
Blogger green-eyed grrl said...

I'm so glad you got the Dragon Knits info--I missed that entirely.

5:43 PM  
Blogger green-eyed grrl said...

Oh--and that will make a LOVELY Wool Peddler shawl. I'm still pondering what to do with mine.

5:45 PM  
Blogger taelixev said...

oh looky! its me! amanda had super suggestions and watching karen helped me a lot with spinning.

12:38 PM  

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