Friday, June 19, 2009

Spinny Tour 09 Stop Three: North Carolina

I was beginning to wonder if I would get the chance to finish blogging about my last set of adventures before I set out on the next one when a Higher Power apparently decided I should sit down and rest. As I was packing and sorting, supervising 3 dye pots, doing laundry and redesigning a sock pattern yesterday, I somehow got distracted and tripped. My little toe kind of hurt, and upon examination, turned out to be sprained. It is quite surprising how much one little sore toe can slow you down, but it does give me an excuse to sit and blog...
So here we are, up to the last stop of leg one of the summer of spinning, Greensboro, North Carolina. I was there to teach Level 3 of the Master Spinner Program, and I have three words to describe the week: A. Ma. Zing!
I arrived in Raleigh late Sunday afternoon and was met by coordinator and student Mary Ann, who drove me half-way, then handed me over to Carl for the rest of the drive to Greensboro and handed me into the care of Tina, with whom I would billet for the week. I knew from the minute that I met Mary Ann, Carl and Tina that I was going to have fun with this group, and did I ever! (Shout out to Mary Ann, Clare, Teresa, Mary, Carl, Tina, Tammy, Deb and Maria. Holla!)
I knew I would love it in the South, too the minute I saw...


I will freely admit that I am a total tourist when I go to a new place, and I have never been to the South before. I have, however, read Gone With the Wind and To Kill a Mockingbird, which, of course, means I know all about the region. Okay, maybe not, but I'm always eager to learn!

We held classes in this building...

...the Carriage House at Blandwood. I walked the grounds, but never got into the main house, of the pre-Civil War governor of North Carolina's home. Beautiful and, well, just plain old! Coming from a community that has a rich history dating all the way back to the 1920's, it was astounding to me to wander amongst buildings that had been built on a piece of swampland in 1846. As I said, I'm a total tourist.

Inside the Carriage House, there was much spinning going on. The class was comprised of an amazing group of individuals, who kept me on my toes!

Reece the Wonderdog, on the other hand, was very content to just relax and enjoy the air conditioning. Reece was my doggie-host and attended classes every day, and somewhere out there, someone has a picture of Reece watching me attentively while I teach. (Send me a copy!) Reece is a yarn doggy, working at Gate City Yarns, which is owned by his people Tina.
So we did the dreaded tpi math, we spun cotton, and we...

...sorted skeins for dying. We had wonderful results from the dye exercise (using mordants and modifiers to get 25 colors from 1 dye bath) and I do not have a single picture. Hmph!

While dye pots simmered, punis were made and we attempted to spin cotton on support spindles. I was reminded that this was a skill that I need to brush up on a bit, much to my chagrin. And I discovered that my favorite little Tahkli was bent. But my students persevered and were spinning quite nicely by the end of the week.

We made our own mawatas on Thursday, with well-scoured silk cocoons, which is always fun--though there were a few in the class who were pretty sure that they would not be repeating the experience in the near future. All in all, I think the class went well, and everyone seemed eager to go home and perfect those tpis! Right gang?

Of course, there is always so much more going on than just the classes. In this case, it seems that what was going on! I was pretty determined that I was going to experience Southern cuisine at it's source, and my hosts and students were happy to oblige. I ate a a Cracker Barrel, had biscuits and gravy for breakfast and was introduced to the delights of Chick-Fil-A(mmmmmm...Chiiiiick-Fiiiiil-Aaaaaa....).

I ate my first Moon Pie....

,,,and real North Carolina Barbecue (complete with slaw and hush puppies!) There was great debate over whether this was the best barbecue or not, but let me tell you, it worked for me!

And then there were the deep-fried pickles...not a regional thing, but the specialty of Fincastle's in downtown Greensboro...
..not the prettiest dish I was served, but waaaay tastier than you would think they should be!

I had the opportunity to explore Greensboro a bit. Downtown Greensboro has an event they call First Fridays, where merchants stay open late and provide entertainment and so forth to draw people to the area. Gate City Yarns and my hostess Tina participate in the event, so I went along. I wandered up and down Elm Street, taking in art galleries and antique shops, along with funky little shops selling locally-made crafts. I also sat in the yarn shop, spinning a bit of a yarn on the floor model Ladybug. There were a few curious visitors who tried spinning, too, which was great fun! In the end, there were 30 yards of this yarn...

...Ashford Merino top in Tangerine and Bean Sprout and some dyed BFL locks. It was such a relief to spin a novelty yarn after all that tpi talk!

Saturday was a bumming around and shopping day, then I got to attend the block party in Tina's neighborhood. Her husband, Larry, was one of the organizers, and they had a rather ginormous turn-out. I got to sample a local beer and had another amazing meal. And then the week caught up with me. Early to bed and a deep sleep before Sunday's adventure.

Sunday, I began my trip back to Raleigh via Chapel Hill. I met up with two members of the class, Teresa and Mary Ann for a spin-in at Yarns ETC, where we shared the space with a lively bunch of needlepointers. Teresa and Mary Ann worked on acheiving tpi...

while I got to play with some of Mary Ann's fabulous painted BFL top...

making a gorgeous yarn with a few overplied spots. I blame Teresa and her questions about tpi. Apparently I cannot think and spin at the same time. I had to bring some more top home, along with a wee skein of sock yarn. Yummy colors and loverly fibres, the perfect combination!
After yet another fine meal, Mary Ann took me to her home at Three Waters Farm and gave me the Grand Tour. There were beautiful Blue-Faced and Badger-Faced Leicester babies, a herd of crazy poodles...
...and Potter the goat. Three Waters Farm is a busy place, with a soap factory, a dye studio, and a bakery on the premises, all operated by Mary Ann and her family. And in the evenings, the fireflies dance in the fields and among the branches of the tree outside of the bedroom I slept in that night. All in all, a magical place.
And the next morning, before Teresa drove me into Raleigh to fly home...

...breakfast came with a beautiful view of a misty morning across the fields.
I was eager to get home, but sad to be leaving North Carolina and the amazing people I had met there. There were flight delays and mayhem at Canada Customs in Toronto that added to the wish that I had stayed, but in the end, I got back to Edmonton, then home.
Being home has been wild--unpacking and re-packing in preparation for Fibre Week. Getting the garden tidied up and finishing the planting. Puppeteers came and went. Junior high concerts, exams, and farewells. The usual go, go, go.
Now that I am sort of being forced to sit still, maybe I should attend to those UFOs languishing in my knitting basket. Especially with all the goodies I just brought home calling my name! I guess I can't complain--how often does life offer you an excuse to sit still and get your knitting caught up?

Monday, June 15, 2009

But I Digress...

...which is something I rarely do. Broad wink.

I know, I know. Suddenly there is a veritable avalanche of blog updates, but this one is kind of timely.
WARNING: Some opinions expressed in this post may not align with your personal philisophy.
It is Pride Week in Edmonton through til June 21. There are events planned all over the city, including Pride Awards, a film festival and a Seniors' Strawberry Tea. And, of course, what Pride Week would be complete without a parade?
Especially a parade led by a giant puppet? The theme of this year's parade was "The Age of Aqueerius" and the puppet, designed by Brendan Boyd and built by members of the Odd-Lot Theatre Company reflected the acquatic nature of the Zodiac sign...

...complete with little fishies!

Whoops! There they are again!

The parade marched through the streets of Edmonton, and while it may not rival the spectacle or Toronto's Pride Parade, it was marvelous to see the rather conservative population of Alberta's capital come out (so to speak) and support their gay/lesbian/bi/TG brothers and sisters. As you can see from the photos, there were a few folks there.

This makes me happy. I have watched the hurt inflicted by ignorance and closed-mindedness upon people who have no choice but to live their lives the way they were meant to live. I have seen families torn apart because a child's sexual orientation flies in the face of the religious beliefs or the expectations of the parents. I have watched young boys taunted with chants of "gay" for not playing hockey, girls called "dykes" because they would rather read a book than make out with the popular boys. I watch in horror as another "pro-family"group denies loving couples the privilege of cementing their relationships with vows and a public celebration of their love. Gay couples are families, too.

I know homosexuality is a hot-button topic, and each person is entitled to his or her own thoughts on the subject. But please remember that just because someone lives a life different from the one you understand, it does not make one of you right and the other wrong. Open dialogue, a meeting in the middle, will go a long way toward making this world a better place for gay and straight

Not everyone involved in the puppet project was gay/lesbian/bi/transgendered, but everyone believes in equality and pride...

...and that fills me with pride.

Way to go Odd-Lot!

(BTW, these photos were hijacked from Jackie Healy's Facebook. Thanks, Jackie!)

We now return you to your regularly scheduled fibre blog.

Spinny Tour 09 Stop 2: ANWG

Life is blasting along at it's usual breakneck speed. I am less than 2 weeks away from leaving for Fibre Week, the garden is only half-planted, and have several family events coming up this week, including a visit from The Odd-Lot bunch and Miss Julia's junior high farewell. All this and more, and I haven't even finished chronicling the last round of adventures!

So I drag myself away from the oh, so delightful housecleaning and sit myself down at the computer with a cup of coffee to update the old blog. The sacrifices one must make!

I left off between the Handweavers, Spinners and Dyers of Alberta and the Association of Northwest Weavers Guilds conferences. I thoroughly enjoyed the three days of bumming around Edmonton and woke up on Thursday, May 28 rested and ready to rock. Good thing, too, because I would need the energy to keep up the breakneck pace of the weekend!

I got to the Edmonton International Airport with plenty of time to spare, checked my bags, finding that my Great Big Suitcase o' Supplies was a tad overweight. No problem, just pay the fee. Went through customs without any hitches, on to security. Where they pulled me and my carry-on aside and went through everything. My laptop was "sniffed" for explosives, my purse was gone through, then on to my knitting bag. Each item, including an astonishing number of sock needles (I have no idea why I felt it necessary to travel with five-yes five- sets of dpns. I guess I needed to be prepared in case of a sock apocalypse. Insert shrug here.) In the end, it turned out they were searching for a corkscrew that had worked itself behind the lining in my knitting bag and was lurking there, unbeknownst to me but clearly visible to the x-ray machine.
Said corkscrew was confiscated and I slunk away, grateful that I had not been accused of trying to carry a concealed weapon onto the aircraft.

After fortifying myself with a tasty soy latte, I boarded the plane. There is no direct route from Edmonton to Spokane, so there was a quick layover in Seattle, then on to Spokane. Grabbed my baggage and hopped into a cab to take me to Gonzaga University.

Gonzaga is a lovely old university, founded by Jesuits, in the heart of Spokane. The campus is stunning, and relatively huge, especially for a woman dragging an overweight Great Big Suitcase o' Supplies! And it was 94 degrees (Fahrenheit, of course!). I was a little warm and weary by the time I got myself settled. But I did take the time to snap a few pics of St. Aloysius Church...

...the iconic landmark at the heart of the campus.
I ate supper and dashed over to the vendors' mall and the guild booth displays, both of which were a little overwhelming at that point in my day. There were many great guild displays...

...from the Greater Vancouver Weavers and Spinners Guild...
...the San Juan County Textile Guild...

...and the Gabriola Weavers and Spinners. (As usual, my photos do not do the displays justice, but I have discovered that at some point my exposure setting was set to -2 (!) and I have since rectified the issue. I just wish I had been clever enough to do so before I went to this exhibit!)

I had 3 half-day workshops scheduled during the conference: Fistful of Colors, Just the Flax, and Plying for Spindlers. I have to admit that they went by in a blur--half days are such a rush! Friday flew by, and by the time I had dropped off the Sonata with her ride (Hi, Deb!), eaten supper and watched the fashion show, I was wiped out.

The fashion show was highly entertaining, featuring a Sweet Adeline quartet called Pepper, who also served as models. There were many fabulous handwoven garments, along with some stunning surface design work and a few felted pieces, but my favorite was this one...

...which I cannot even properly credit until I rifle through my stuff and find the program. The piece was an airy, diaphanous tunic, woven entirely from sausage casings (aka, the lining of a pig's intestines). The beauty of the piece and the irony of it's materials just struck a cord with me.
ETA: To give proper credit, as promised, the piece in the photo is "Visceral Vest" by Marcy Johnson. Louisa has already mentioned this in the comments, but I thought this should be here, too. Thanks, Louisa!
Saturday came far too early. I had a small group for my Plying for Spindlers workshop, which was wonderful. (However, somewhere in the clean-up the day before, my handouts went missing and a big bag of fibre, too. Hope they show up some day.) I had a fun morning, grabbed what passed for a lunch and made a mad dash to the vendors, where I bought some amazing 4-ply merino/silk yarn from RedFish DyeWorks, which will become a pair of Fair Isle socks some day. I also got a great big bag of really awesome Polworth roving in the Parrot colorway from Rovings, and a wee Turkish spindle and some Guanaco (just a wee bit, that stuff is pricey!) from Herndon Creek Farm. I stuffed all this booty in with the bump of baby alpaca that I had purchased on Thursday evening from Rocky Lake Farm into my carry-on and dashed to the airport.
By the time I got to the airport, I was hot and frazzled. Now, I freely admit that it doesn't take much to frazzle me, but I must have been a sight, muttering to myself and huffing around. I went into the ladies' room for a splash of cold water, and I shudder to think what an image I must have presented! A sweet young lady named Liz even offered to buy me a cup of coffee to settle my nerves. I declined her generosity, but we got chatting--turns out she is an artist with an interest in textiles. Talking string and cloth with her was just what I needed to ground me and get me back on track. That and another soy latte. Thanks, Liz!
And I was off toward North Carolina! I had broken the flight into two days, since there is no such thing as a direct flight from Spokane to....well, anywhere! And the layover was in Las Vegas... how appropriate that we had Elvis as a flight attendant! Okay, so he's an Elvis impersonator who also works as a flight attendant, but he was a lot of fun. He entertained us with renditions of "In the Ghetto" and, of course, "Viva Las Vegas", making this flight officially the Best Airplane Ride EVER!
So I got to Vegas on a Saturday night, and what did I do? I had a hot bath and a nap. Yep, I'm old.
Okay, I did get up and go out for some supper and a stroll along The Strip...

...and even took a picture to prove it. I look like I was having a lot of fun, don't I? But I was back at the hotel and in bed by 11.

I was up and at the airport at 8 a.m. on Sunday for the next leg of my travels... North Carolina here I come!


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Spinny Tour 09 Stop One: HWSDA

Hey Y'all! I'm back! Just shy of three weeks on the road, I had 1500 km of driving, 4 flights, 7 different beds, and 60 0r so meals. And a whole lotta fun!

So much has happened over the last 3 weeks that it is all becoming a blur, so I'm going to try and blog as much of it as I can before the details disappear as I move on to the next thing...

Stop One on the Great Spinny Tour of Aught-Nine was the Handweavers, Spinners and Dyers of Alberta conference at Olds College in Olds, Alberta. Going to any event at Olds is like going home--it is the old Alma Mater after all--so I was really looking forward to this conference. I have been in and out of the HWSDA for around 10 years now, and there are a lot of great friends, acquaintances and connections that I look forward to seeing there as well.

I set off on a sunny Thursday morning, May 21, with a car loaded with 2 spinning wheels, fibre, equipment, and clothes for 3 weeks. The drive was pleasant, with the sun shining and the road clear. For the first hour and a half. Then...

...I drove into what looked from the distance like a cloud of smoke from land clearing. Nope. Full-blown blizzard with white-out conditions and everything. Fortunately, the roads were just wet and slushy, and while it was careful driving, it was not too tricky. This lasted for about 75 km (45 minutes or so) and then it was...gone. Just gone, as if there had never been a cloud in the sky, let alone a blizzard.

A short visit and a sleep at my Mom's, and I was off to Olds the next day. As soon as I walked in, I felt surrounded by old friends. So many people to stop and chat with! I had a hard time spending my money in the vendors' mall between visits, but I managed to drop a bit of change.

The opening night consisted of dinner, the AGM, the Juried Show opening and and a wine and cheese. I scurried from one event to another.
The Juried Show and the Instructors' Exhibit were in a cozy little space that got rather warm with all those admiring weavers and spinners in there, but there was lots to look at and inspiration to be had.

The Fire Shawl had its moment in the spotlight. As I was waiting to take this picture, I eavesdropped on a conversation between two women I didn't know. It went something like this:

"How did she get that look?"

"I think it's knitted."

"Knitted? Why is there knitting here?"

"Because it's handspun yarn."

"Oh. Who did it?"

"Oooh. Michelle Boyd." This speaker then read the label to her friend.

"Who's Michelle Boyd?"

"I believe she's a quite well-known spinner."

"Hmm, well she must be. Nobody I know can spin this fine and straight. "

And they say eavesdroppers hear no good of themselves.

With my ego sufficiently stroked, I wandered off to the wine and cheese reception to sip a glass or two.

Our bartender was the lovely and talented Carol, who is one of my favorite people at Olds College (besides you, Otto!). She works in the cafeteria in the Land Sciences Building during fibre week and is always cheerful and helpful. Carol can brighten any day with a smile and a fresh pot of coffee!

I was in teacher mode, so I did not overdo it at the wine and cheese. I went to my condo, chatted with my roommates and off to bed.

Saturday morning was bright and sunny, so off I went to my classroom. It turned out that I had the same 4 students morning and afternoon, plus one more in that afternoon workshop. I love small groups, and I much prefer full-day sessions over half-day, so this worked out wonderfully.

In the morning, we did Wild Cards, which is a blending workshop. With the small group, we had a great opportunity to play around with different ideas, but they were most taken with blending on the hackles. There were some truly wondrous samples made that morning.

I took a picture, but, apparently, I flunked Flash Settings 101. Those 4 silhouettes are all spinning away at their colored blends, though.

The afternoon session was Super-Size Me, a workshop about making bulky yarns. We were joined by Ruth, who fit right in with the rest of the group, and we all had a swell time spinning fat yarns.

Saturday evening there was a banquet and a talk by Chad Alice Hagen, felt-maker extraordinaire. She spoke about her work and about the nature of being an artist--most inspiring! I do not make "Art" by the gallery definition, but her talk reminded me that the creative process is art in and of itself--and reassured me that chaos was part of the creative process.

Sunday morning I wrapped up the conference with a mad shopping frenzy and the popular lunch/open fashion show. These are some of Chad Alice Hagen's students modelling their Birch Bark Felt Scarves. Clearly, they had had a blast making them!

There were only about 60 registrants at the conference, which was quite an unusual experience. My overall impression of the conference was that it was small and friendly, truly intimate. I know that the lower registration was a concern for the organizers, but it made for a wonderful weekend for those of who were there. I hope that some of the factors that impacted registration this year resolve themselves, because this conference is always such a wonderful gathering of Alberta fibre folk. The more, the merrier! Keep and eye on the HWSDA website for details on their 2010 conference in Edmonton--well worth joining the guild for!

Somewhere over the weekend, I had decided to send my Kromski on to Spokane with Deb Turner, who was headed that way herself. So I kissed my sweet wheel goodbye, loaded up the rest of my gear and headed back to St. Albert to hang out with my Mom and Brendan. Three days of R&R, which, little did I know, I would really, really need in the days to come...