Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Spinning and Felting and Rhinebeck, oh my!

So, I finally made it to the Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival, and boy did I think I'd died and gone to fiber heaven! The fairgrounds were packed with fiber folk; as an added bonus, a gem and mineral fair was also being held, but the beader in me lost out to the knitter and I spent all my time getting lost among the fleece.

My first stop -- an alpaca booth with gorgeous shawls, ponchos and other items all made of soft, soft alpaca -- netted me a bag of treasures and rock-bottom prices: five old Spin-Offs at -- get this -- a quarter apiece; the Lee Raven Handspinning book; the Felted Knits book; and my best bang for the buck: a brand-new umbrella swift for all of five bucks! I passed on the Ashford hand cards and now regret it; at $30 they weren't the absolute steal that the swift was, but they were full-sized cards, brand-new and definitely cheaper than any other place I've seen them. Oh, well.

I also took home a pound of undyed superwash merino; at $15 for the pound I think I did pretty well. My second Rhinebeck regret is not having bought more of it when I had the chance; I went back later in the day and it was sold out. At least I got a business card and can order more by mail if I want.

But the BIG excitement was...(drumroll, please!) I bought a spinning wheel! That's right, I went for it. I pigenholed every spinner I saw and asked what wheels they used, why they liked (or disliked) them, what they would recommend, etc. I then found a wonderful booth where I could test out a variety of wheels...Louet, Majacraft, and Ashford, among others. I finally decided on a Louet S17 with three bobbins, already assembled but unfinished, plus an unfinished Ashford spinning chair. Susan, the owner, was wonderful about helping me decide and letting me test everything for as long as I wanted. I resisted the temptation to add a loom to my purchases at her booth, but I don't know how long I'll be able to keep from adding weaving to my growing list of fiber addictions.

So far I've been very patient about not spinning too much on my Louet before it's finished. DH has put two coats of oil on it so far (after I spun about half a bobbin of beautiful orange Corriedale top...I just couldn't resist giving my wheel a whirl!), and one more coat should be enough to finish it off nicely. My mind is already racing towards what I'll make with my handspun....

And speaking of making stuff with my very own handspun, I took the plunge and made a felted handbag! I had about 50 yards of a super-bulky, olive green and yellow two-ply Corriedale that I wasn't sure what to do with. Paging through Felted Knits yesterday, I saw that the Small Felted Bag would take just about that much yarn, so I pulled out my number 13s and got to work. It took maybe an hour to knit up the entire purse -- a very basic 30-stitch tube sewn together along the cast-on edge. I even braided the remaining yarn and attached it as the purse's handle (MUCH easier than knitting I-cord and it felts to nearly the same look). Today I tossed it into the wash with a few pairs of jeans and three washes later I do believe it's well and truly felted.

Well, I HOPE it's well and truly felted. After wash #2 it was about 2/3 of the way there, so I put it back for one more cycle; let's hope that when it comes out it's a nicely felted shoulder bag and not an unrecognizable blob of wool! If this all works out, I might even add a nice little beaded fringe along the bottom....

Photos of all to follow!

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