Wow Weekend!

This past weekend I had the privilege of attending my first fiber retreat, and what a treat it was! It was awesome to be in this small group of people and see so incredibly much talent in one spot, creating some really special projects, displaying at least 7 different skills. I lost track of how many times I had my mouth gaping in amazement in the four days of the retreat.

I signed up for the event last January, thinking it would be the high point of my spring. It would be the perfect way to complete two of the goals on my annual list, so would be well worth the price of admission. Not only have I achieved my two goals, but I went well beyond! Even though it’s now just one part of an incredibly busy spring, I’m more than glad I went.

Target goal number one was to make one pair of socks on my circular sock machine (CSM) this year. With Jenny Deters’ patient assistance, I had my first pair done by the end of the first evening, then I started a second pair solo. By the end of the weekend, with help, advice, and some generous loaning of various tools from Jenny, Kim, David, Lori, and Myra, I made THREE pairs of socks! I couldn’t have done it without them, and I’m going to be grateful for a very long time for all the help they provided! First pair was plain with hemmed top. I used “my ugliest ball of yarn,” which I’d broken out for practicing tubes last year. I figured that since it had been through the machine about 5 times, it was about time to give it a rest. Of course, that means that although my heart is connected to my first pair of CSM socks, and although they are error free (I believe), I also think they are ugly! 😉 But I love them anyway! I’m sorely tempted to frame them instead of wear them. 😉

Next I did a pair of hemmed tops solo, working from the notes I took as Jenny coached me through my numerous practice heels. She did tell me how to do a picot top edge, then had to teach me how to frog, which, it turns out, was a very valuable lesson. Bad thing about these socks is that I used my favorite yarn, and they turned out too small for me. I could cry! I did make it through the project without having to ask for help beyond my notes, though, so that makes them a triumph. 🙂

For the last pair I did, I sort of bucked the advice of the experts and insisted on getting my ribber going. It was tough sledding for most of Saturday until Dave discovered an alignment pin that wasn’t properly situated. After that, it just took a few tweaks and I was ribbing confidently! I’m VERY glad I persevered, as I want to make some cotton blend socks, and I know for certain that I’ll need that ribbing to fit my leg correctly. Note that I used my ugliest remaining ball of yarn, and again they fit…

I guess my next goal is going to be to make socks that fit and I like both! 😉 By the way, details about the socks are available on my Ravelry project page.

My second goal for the weekend was to learn how to spin on a spinning wheel. Now technically, based on some very good advice from a fellow Raveler, I was spinning before the retreat, and my first skein of yarn was entirely solo – and definitely not bad for a newbie. Well… at least it exceeded my expectations… Using part of a Louet Northern Lights undyed wool top, I did this – about 164 yards of approximately DK weight yarn:

Then, still at home, I spun the singles for this next skein out of the same top, but didn’t ply it until the retreat, as it was pretty fine and very squirrely, though much more even. I don’t feel like I plied this one as well, but I’m not sure that, if having washed it and all, it would work to go back and try to make it tighter. I do have just a few yards short of 400, and it is 4 ounces of fingering weight yarn, so there’s quite a bit of work here – and enough yarn to make something real!

On Saturday night after battling my ribber all day long, I decided it was time to spin. I don’t know why, but I pulled out a batt that I honestly did not like. I thought it looked like a wad of hair out of my hairbrush. Several people had encouraged me to try spinning it anyway, promising I’d like the finished product. Whereas I can’t believe it will be my all-time favorite yarn, I have to admit that by the time I was finished with it, I had project ideas floating around in my brain. What I’m most proud of on this skein is that I finally managed to spin fairly fat, and I also was able to do a reasonable job of relaxing my craving for perfection, keep the silk noils actually IN the yarn, and produce a creditable novelty yarn. :o) This batt came to me as a freebie with the lazy kate i bought from CJ Koho on Etsy, and it consisted of nylon glitz, mohair, Border Leicester, and the silk. It’s nice and squishy, and weighs in as a bulky yarn.

A smaller goal I have had for several years was to have someone show me in person how to use my hand cards. Jenny stepped in again, giving me a short, but definitely sufficient lesson on Sunday morning, and I produced two rolags – enough to feel I have a firm grasp on the basics. This may well help me toward my goal of fleece to finished project for this year, and if it doesn’t, Maria’s demo and tips on how to use a drum carder will! I found that I love this stage of spinning – moving the clean fiber into an organized form, ready to spin. But then, I’m beginning to think that every stage has its own little bit of magic! This was just the only thing I’d not done at all, so it was especially fascinating to me. I’ve had a tough time since I’ve been home, as I’ve really been wanting to card wool instead of working on catching up my to do list and knitting for my upcoming trip.

In addition to all the things I went hoping to accomplish, there was a last minute bonus. Jenny offered to teach a class on felting hats – and that’s wet felting, not needle felting or fulling. (If you are beginning to think she is extremely versatile and talented, you are right!) Since I’d never tried this art before and had no idea where to even start, I jumped at the opportunity. 🙂 We started with a stack of alpaca batts, and we ended up with real hats, just needing trim! Me being me, I didn’t do just a plain hat. I decided I wanted to add some color to mine, as plain, dark gray just isn’t good on me. A couple minutes of thought reminded me that I’d picked up some green angora from the sale table and brought some white BFL fleece with me in my spinning tub. Adding some pink wool locks Jenny brought for the class provided me with just what I needed to dress up my batts.

Lots of soap, water, and elbow grease – enough that my pedometer registered over 2000 aerobic steps on Friday afternoon without me moving more than a foot in any direction – produced hats. Felting isn’t for wimps, but what a cool payback for all that work!

This one is mine – dry and ready to trim. Even though I saw it with my own eyes, I still find it hard to believe that I turned a pile of alpaca fiber into this! More fiber magic!

I have some ideas about how I want to trim it, but I will need more time than I have available right now, and since I don’t think I’ll have a good excuse to wear an alpaca hat in the next few months, it can wait. 😉 One thing I’m definitely going to do is to tighten up the edge of the brim and a few other spots that didn’t felt solid, using a felting needle. For some reason, we all seemed to have problems with the layers not bonding well. I have a neat idea for a band. This is definitely a “stay tuned” sort of project!

So you can see that I definitely had a productive and fiber intense weekend. 🙂 If I did nothing else the entire month, I’d have plenty to satisfy me just in this four days, I think. However, I believe I can pretty much guarantee you that isn’t going to happen!

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