Friday, November 15, 2013

My First Trip to SAFF, part 2: Before it's yarn, it's fiber...

...and before it's fiber, it's sheep! 

Or maybe it's alpaca, as shown here enduring a friendly pat from one of my pals--the brave pal, who pet an alpaca.

SAFF (Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair) is less about knitting and more about becoming a better yarn consumer.  It also helps you become a better consumer overall.  I realize I was only there one day, but it made a big impression on me.

Having had a couple of weeks to develop some hindsight about my trip, I look back now and realize that one of my biggest takeaways is a finer appreciation for all that it takes to make a simple skein of yarn.  It helped immeasurably that one of my activities that weekend was a class on using the Turkish spindle.  Whereas before I never looked twice at roving or bats of un-spun wool, this time I paid attention.  I was charged with the task of not only buying a Turkish spindle for class, but also in finding roving--but not just any kind.  I needed BFL, which for the "Un-Spun" among us sounds like it abbreviates something nefarious.  BFL is Bluefaced Leicester, named after the sheep breed from which it is sheared, and it is an excellent fiber to use as a beginner due to its long staple. Or so I was told.  Being as I am still a rank beginner, I wouldn't know any different!

I found some seriously gorgeous BFL at Gale's booth.  She had some stunning colorways in her hand-dyed roving!  I ended up with these that looked like sheep :)
My gorgeous BFL!

Ready to get this party started!
I mentioned in an earlier post about the amazing spindles made by Subterranean Woodworks.  Mine is lovely, isn't it?  It did NOT come with a guarantee that I would be a natural at spinning, however.  (If you're listening, guys, you might want to think of adding that bit of magic to your product line.  It's too late for me, but others will benefit in the future. Just promise you'll think about it.)

They tell me that "thick and thin" yarn is premium stuff that costs way more at yarn shops.   Y'all, spinning "thick and thin" is SO easy!  It's getting it to be uniform and just one (or even just TWO!) yarn weights at once that is incredibly least for me.  As you can see, most of our class--made up of members of the Flowertown Knitting Guild, a super-talented bunch-- seemed to have gotten the hang of it (or the spin of it, as the case may be!) after several hours.

The bottom line is this: If you think that everything starts with the finished product you see on a store shelf, then a trip to SAFF next year will do you a world of good.  You'll meet small farmers (well, they weren't all short, but most of them had small farms...hahaha) and business owners that operate on a scale that won't put them on the top 100 sellers on Amazon.  You'll see craftsmen and weavers and spinners and yes, even knitters.  Look past all the smiling faces and beautiful fiber and you'll see heart and passion and a love for the job that you won't find just anywhere.  This, I believe, will make you (and me) a better consumer.  I think that purchasing decisions are made a little differently when one considers the life, the passion and the talents, behind the item.

(For part 1 of this post, go HERE)

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Planning ahead. It's better that way.

Coming up in 2014 (yes, it really is just around the corner!), two dates for you to mark on your calendar:

January 25, 2014
Indigo Dyeing Workshop
Registration is now live for this class, to be held again at the Charleston Museum, and since it fills up quickly, I suggest registering sooner, rather than later. Why? Because I can't wait to see what fabulous things YOU can do with Indigo!

February 7-9, 2014
Vintage Winter Shawl Class
This is a repeat of last year's sold out class at the SC Knitting Guild's Knit Inn.  Registration for this will be open by the first part of December (which is now a month away--yikes!).  This year, they will not be taking any walk-in registrations, and all the classes (and hotel rooms) are first-come, first-served.  I don't yet know what date my class will be, but you should plan to come for the whole thing anyway because it's loads of fun!

photo by Sean Money, The Charleston Museum

Friday, November 01, 2013

My first trip to Saff! (part 1)

Last weekend I finally made it to Saff!  The Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair has been going on for 20 years, and I've tried to go in years past, honest.  This year: success!

So much to see! So many people!
Wendy and Me
The fun thing about fiber/knitting events is getting to see folks I don't see all the time. Wendy and I got to touch base for a bit and swap Indigo dye stories and plans for world domination via knitwear.  We get closer to our goal all the time...

Me and Pat. Not pictured: her tutu!

Pat slowed down long enough for a blurry pic with me.  I've decided that I will start a blog one day and it will be filled with pics of me and Pat, running into each other at fiber fairs. I think that's a good plan, because Pat makes me (and everyone else, for that matter) smile, and we should all smile more, right?

Buying our first Turkish spindles. The guy on the right MADE them!

My goal at Saff was to find a really good Turkish drop spindle. No, make that, a GREAT one.  Turns out that Knitty and Color is a wonderful source of top-notch Turkish drop spindles--well-made, beautiful, and reasonably priced. I can't recommend them highly enough!

Gale, of Gale's Art, who fit right in with our crazy bunch.
For roving, I went over to Gale's Art and, despite her enormous quantities of amazing hand-dyed roving in a million beautiful colors, I bought natural, sheep-colored roving.  I loved it and that was all that mattered.

Me, Gail, and her Vintage Winter Shawl
Last February I taught a class at the SC Knitting Guild's Knit Inn and afterward, the lovely Gail contacted me with a finished pic of her class project.  As I was walking through the barn at Saff, I saw that project and knew I had seen it before.  Sure enough, it was Gail herself, and the shawl was even more gorgeous in person!

Overall it was a great trip--cold, exhausting, exhilarating and fun!  Do I want to go back again next year? Absolutely! Will I dress a little more warmly if the forecast high is less than 50 degrees? You'd better believe it!

 (Want to hear more about my adventures with spindle and roving? Stay tuned for part 2 of my Saff trip, where I brag on my Flowertown Knitting Guild pals and attempt to spin yarn from Blue-Faced Leicester, which is not as easy as it sounds...!)