Monday, 30 April 2012

Wonderwool 2012

After a long period of toing and froing I finally got to Wonderwool for the first time. Last year I visited my first event of this kind, Fibre Fest, and I enjoyed it so much that I desperately wanted to go to Wonderwool. Since it was in Wales I knew getting there would be difficult, particularly without a car and no money for overnight accommodation. Several times it seemed like I would be able to go, and then something would get in the way and I’d be convinced I’d have to miss out this time.

Luckily, my friend Verena, who is not at all a fibre fanatic, offered to accompany me to any craft shows I might fancy going to – provided her crazy hours at work don’t get in the way. After a long while of uncertainty, she did find someone to take her shift on the Saturday in question and at 8 AM we were on the road to Builth Wells!

It was certainly not the kind of weather we had hoped for that day, but we managed to get to our destination without any trouble. The landscape was stunning and much of it reminded me of places I had seen in New Zealand many years ago. I did my best to take pictures from the car, but that was pretty much impossible.

Having arrived at the Royal Welsh Show Grounds, we trudged up to the show, grabbed an information booklet and headed to the Ravelry Interactive Area in search of a name badge. Sadly they were all gone even though we arrived pretty soon after opening. Ah well, it didn’t really matter. From that moment on the shopping could begin!

I knew exactly where I wanted to go and I quickly led the way to Mandacrafts to check out the lovely space-dyed tops. 

I had decided in advance that I was not going to buy any yarns, only spinning fibre. At some point I had also decided not to buy any spindles since I already have three and a brand new spinning wheel that I use most often. But I can be fickle… and so I bought three large bags of fibre and an African supported spindle, the kind with a clay bead as a whorl.

That done, the only place I definitely wanted to go to was Oliver Twists because I had somehow been distracted from buying the pretty yellow silk brick the year before. I did see it too – but it belonged to someone else already. Sadly, there was no more yellow left as far as I could see, so I chose an undyed silk brick instead. I have absolutely no idea if I am capable of spinning silk in the first place, but there we go.

Then it was time to relax. We strolled from stall to stall, having a look and feel of anything that looked interesting/pretty/smooshy/covetable, sheep included. 
At an insanely busy stall I happened to notice a small bowl of little themed badges that I just couldn’t resist. It took me ages to look through them all and in the end I got there three small ones:

Dodging the purchase of a nice denim spinning apron that I do wish I had bought in the end, we got to DT Craft & Design where I found the camel fibre I had been looking for. It was my aim to buy some spinning fluff I hadn’t yet tried and camel had been at the top of my list since Fibre Fest.

Also, I finally bought some proper acid dyes so I won’t have to make do with ordinary fabric dye. I am hoping the syringe will help me be a bit more accurate when it comes to applying colour.

Nearing the end of our exploratory round, I returned to a small stall that offered a range of unusual fibres I couldn’t resist any longer. Leaving the yak down for another day, I got 50g each of banana, soybean, milk protein and seacell fibre. I have no idea what I will do with any of it once it is spun up! At this point I am considering even just knitting up lacy sample squares and framing them.

Carrying my purchases in huge bags, we then returned near the entrance where I bought one last item from Freyalin’s Hand-dyed Fibres, some Shetland and silk tops whose colour looked so different from anything else I have that I just had to go for it. I had noticed that I was getting stuck in my usual colour schemes, so this was a nice change.

It was 2 o’clock and we were already done! It was freezing cold despite the show being indoors and the queues for coffee were insanely long. We resorted to having our picnic in the stage area which, had it been warmer, would have been even more enjoyable. In the end it was the cold that made us leave much sooner than I had anticipated, and we headed out in search of a cosy tea room where we could warm up again.

We found it in what I believe is a town called Wye where the pink blooming tree beckoned us from the side of the road despite the low temperatures. It was a good thing too! The tea rooms were nice and warm, the owners friendly and interested in what brought us here. They guessed we’d been to Wonderwool and we bumped into other people who had been there too.

After a huge slice of warm chocolate fudge cake for Verena and traditional cream tea for me and at least an hour of good conversation we go back on the road again.

Back home I was still excited about the day and not tired at all. I spent some time sorting and petting my stash, though the pictures had to wait till the morning. All in all, I enjoyed Wonderwool, but it wasn’t quite as good as Fibre Fest last year. Also, I wasn’t quite as excited about it as last year. I think that mainly the weather is to blame for that. I would love to return next year, and can I just say how I love that Wonderwool seems to always be the weekend of/after my birthday? In two years’ time I can go on my actual birthday! I will try to be there.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Berry Berry Nice

Mandacraft has certainly got my favourite spinning fibre in stunning colours. A little while ago I finished another 100g of Amanda's wonderful fluff, resulting in this gorgeous, glowing hank.

It feels amazingly soft because of the merino and silk in it, and I wished I had bought more of this colour to make a larger shawl from the yarn. (Luckily, I kept this in mind during my visit to Wonderwool today - more on that later.) 

Originally, I started this yarn on one of my spindles (also from Mandacraft), but since I am so much faster with a wheel, I changed to that instead. This resulted in a change of thickness in the yarn, unfortunately. It also did not help that I had left a long gap between spinning on the two, but the yarn should be fine when knitted up.

I am not sure what I will use this yarn for, but I am sure Ravelry holds the answer.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Navajo-plying: Mastered

Something I wanted to be able to do ever since I started plying my handspun yarn is to Navajo ply (n-ply, also known as chain plying). While I was only using dropspindles, this seemed far too much of a hassle and I didn't bother trying it. With my wheel, however, I finally had the chance to give it a go - and what a disaster! My first attempts just didn't get anywhere at all and I was about ready to give it up and resign myself to forever plying separate singles together.

 But then Purzel came to the rescue! This lady from Ravelry sent me a box full of fibre samples (and yummy edibles) so that I could practice some more. Thanks to her, I have now mastered the art of n-plying! This skein consists of about 100 g of Micron Falkland tops from Mandacrafts and it was fantastic to spin. It still needs to be washed, weighed and measure, but apart from that it's done! I love that I was able to ply it in a way that would retain the colour changes in the yarn and I can't wait to knit it up. It seems to be fingering weight, but I need to check that. If this yarn were superwashed, I would so knit them into socks right now.

 I honestly did not think it would work and was reluctant to n-ply this yarn. Obviously, it worked out fine and was worth the risk. My very first successful attempt was okay, but the fibre had been really coarse with such short staple length that I was forced to spin a much thicker yarn. Therefore I assumed n-plying only worked because the singles weren't as thin as the ones I normally ply with. Luckily, it all worked out fine in the end. I still wonder what fibre the coarse one really was. Purzel couldn't tell me so I will ned to have a browse through one of my books to see if I can find out.

But I am in love with the latest result, I must say, even though my shoulder and core muscles were killing me by the end from just sitting at the wheel for hours. If I continue to spin at this rate, I will run out of fibre very soon. What will I do for the rest of the year? I've already used up all of mine with the exception of some undyed fibre still waiting for colour, and Purzel's remaining samples. 

Wonderwool can't come soon enough!