Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Impressionist Towels

I think COVID-19 has impacted my blogging. I often think about posts but never follow through on writing them. Coronabrain strikes in all facets of life, I guess.

Somehow I have managed not to mention this project on Insta OR the blog, and now it's done. I warped the Flip for this trio of towels back on April 19, and finished them on May 23. Over a month, and nary a word! Weird.

You really have to be up close to appreciate these towels. These are the yarns I used:

The warp is all blue, and the weft is mostly the marled yarn - except for the blue stripes on the ends of each towel. The marled yarn is an interesting find I picked up at MDSW in 2018. It's a 2-ply, slubby yarn. One ply is white, and the other transitions among red, green, yellow, and blue. On the cone, these colors are bright, primary colors. But when they are woven against the light blue, they are toned down and seem more pastel.

This was an easy, soothing project worked entirely in plain weave. As I worked, the fabric reminded me of Monet's water lily paintings... watery and colorful at the same time. Thus, I have dubbed these the Impressionist Towels.

The label on the marled yarn was pretty vague.

I figured it to be about the same as 8/2 cotton. The blue yarn is also 8/2 cotton, and I doubled it in the warp at 10 epi. I used a single strand in the weft for extra drape. To my surprise, the marl was finer than the 8/2 cotton (perhaps because the blue cotton had a much tighter twist?). It took a lot of picks to weave each inch!

I made three towels out of one warp, and they have to be separated. I could weave a section with waste yarn... but I prefer to just throw in a spacer and keep going. I made something that is wide enough to work on the Flip when it's warped with towels. This is just some pieces of a soda box edged with duct tape. I pull it out once I'm about an inch beyond it.
You can see the Sprite logo if you look closely! I can use this again and again - it's a definite improvement over trying to use a spare stick shuttle to serve the same purpose.

I have one other important improvement to report: this yoga ball chair works GREAT at the loom:

I ordered this chair to try to improve my Work From Home space. It did not work there (still too low for the non-adjustable surface on which my keyboard rests), but it is wonderful for weaving. There's a lot of leaning in during a weaving session - right and left to pass the shuttle through the shed, and front and back to advance the warp and beat the weft. When I sit on a wooden dining chair, my back starts hurting after a period. That never happens with the yoga ball.

[For those who are curious - I got the "Custom Fit Balance Ball Chair" from Gaiam. I chose it because it had adjustable legs. I have them set to the highest position and I use a foot rest at my work space. I don't like this design, however. First of all, it's really unattractive compared to the "Classic Balance Ball Chair." But worse, the way the legs splay out mean that the castors are unintentionally locked all the time by normal foot movements. Then the lower-quality castors gouged scrapes in my vinyl floor while locked! This hasn't happened in the living room, fortunately, and I've covered the wheels with socks to prevent it. It results in a very unclassy look... but the ball is still comfortable to sit on. I've since discovered that you can buy chair leg extenders for the classic chair, and I wish I'd gone that route instead... but too late now. I also wish you could buy the chair base without the ball, as I already had at least one ball at home (maybe two?) and didn't need another one.]

I'm also happy with my little rolling caddy (the white thing) that I got on sale at Michael's a few months ago. It holds all my weaving things and can be moved to exactly the right position while I'm working, but tucked away when I'm not. It takes up a small footprint in the living room. I put a Command hook on the side of the top caddy to hold my scissors - now they're always easy to find.

And may I also recommend the teenager clothesline when it's time to take photos? It is super adjustable and can be created at any point in the yard where the light is good and the background is fine!

Overall, I'm happy with these towels, and that I used up some stash yarn. I've decided that while I'm still learning about towel functionality, I'll keep one from every batch and put it into kitchen rotation. For scientific testing, you know. I've already given one to a friend, and I have one left in reserve. Their final measurements are about 25.5 x 18", which is pretty close to my 25 x 17.5" target. Success!

Sunday, May 3, 2020

MDSW '20 - the missing year

Friends, I've been grieving the cancellation of the 2020 Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival. I often joke to people that the first full weekend in May is a "high holy day" at our house, but it's no joke. I'm feeling its absence in a big way.

To work through those feelings, I thought I'd take a walk down memory lane. The first year I attended MDSW was 2001. Our friends Pam & Dave previously lived in Ellicott City, MD, knew about MDSW, and told us we should go. Sheep? Wool? What for? None of us were knitters or fiber people of any kind. But our friends promised it would be a good time, and sweetened the deal by planning to stop in Frederick for Indian food on the way home. So we went.

Ohhhh.... I have no pictures of this year, except in my mind. A new universe opened to me that day. At one point I was standing in the Yarn Barn booth with a book in one hand (how to teach kids to knit) and needles in the other hand (bewildered by the array of options and sizes). Sharon pulled me out and said "what are you doing? you're not going to learn to knit!"

Well. That was wrong. Before the year was over, I enrolled in a Beginner Knitting class at The Mannings (RIP) and was off to the races.

We returned in 2002. Boy 1 was born later that month, so I was hugely pregnant at the beginning of May. I wore my big overalls because they were the only clothes I could stand at that point. I bought yarn at Tess' Designer Yarns to make a baby sweater. I don't have (digital, at least) pictures of the festival, but here is the yarn and the sweater. I bought WAY too much yarn and eventually made an astonishing 6 projects from it. The full story is here!

That sweater also taught me not to make crew neck sweaters for babies, by the way. Their heads are freakishly huge.

2003 - Boy 1's first festival! He is nearly a year old here and Pam and Dave joined us for this outing (a real treat since they had moved to Cleveland in the interim). Babies in overalls with sheep babies!

On to 2004 (year 4). That baby is a toddler now and he was ready to roll. I didn't find any pictures of me, which is just as well because I was pregnant again and I was definitely not one of those stylish and photogenic pregnant women. I went with knitting friends Cinda and Kristina. Anything with animals was of interest to Boy 1, including watching the sheepdog demonstration from a great seat:

2005 (year 5). Boy 2 has joined us so this was his first festival year. We went with a group of Gettysburg friends, and also Steven (was Jeff there? not in my photos). This would have been Steven's first time at the festival. We were thrilled that they visited from Texas during this weekend. Also, in the third picture you can see the Yarn Harlot in the background. I was too shy to go talk to her, but Steven posed with the baby so I could get her picture.

2006 (year 6). Kids are definitely still coming with us to the festival. There is ice cream.

2007 (year 7). Kristina and Katie visited from Boston. This is the first photographic evidence I have of kettle corn being eaten. I don't have many pictures, though, because chasing these kids requires a lot of attention! The only time they slowed down was while eating, or watching this women spin yarn straight off her rabbit. Also, who wants to pet the bunny? Everyone! And who wants to clog? Better keep your binoculars handy!

2008 (year 8). This is the year when we started festival splinter groups. Sharon generously looked after the kids at home on Saturday so the knitters had a bit of separate shopping time. I love this picture of Kris - if memory serves, this photo documents her very first MDSW purchase! We met Clara Parkes on Saturday and she signed our books. On Sunday, we went back with all the kids. The double-seater wagon was key to the day's success.

2009 (year 9). I'm pretty sure this was the first year I took a class at MDSW - it was a Beyond Beginning Spinning class with Diane Kelly. Ever wonder what a spinning class looks like? Then I went back on the weekend with Kris and Kristina again. A highlight was hearing a lecture by Judith MacKenzie McCuin called "The Golden Fleece." Big celebrity moment! I don't have any pictures of kids, so maybe they didn't go that year?

2010 (year 10). The kids definitely went this year, because Boy 2 fell in love with this super soft yarn from Jamie Harmon. He swore he would wear a sweater made from it. (He did not. Years later, I ripped out the sweater so I could re-purpose the yarn. I still haven't remade it into anything.) Ice cream is still important enough to photograph. I bought lots of spinning fiber that year.

2011 (year 11). We ran into Clara Parkes first thing in the morning - what a surprise! I also got some shots of us collapsed on "the grassy knoll" (as we call it) after the first round of shopping. This may have been when the kids stopped coming. It also may have been when Alison started coming down from NYC for this particular weekend?

2012 (year 12). The festival crew has morphed and now solidly includes the Gettysburg knitters. We found Clara Parkes again. I bought enough dyed Corriedale top to spin for a sweater. I took a spinning class with Maggie Casey on Sunday. This was also the year I won a drawing for 3 skeins of Miss Babs yarn - I used it to make a Color Affection shawl and it's amazing.

2013 (year 13). We found Clara again (this was a game for quite a few years running). I also met Sasha Torres (Sheepspot) and Deb Robson (The Fleece and Fiber Source Book) for the first time - my spinning world was beginning to expand. I ended up buying this blue yarn from Bartlett for a sweater. Many of us had a big Babs year - I got this lovely set for an Albers Cowl I wear constantly, and Jess wore some great Babs that day.

2014 (year 14). This is the first year Caitlin came! We found even more friends on the grassy knoll, including Dave - I believe he was living in DC at that time. Caitlin and I got excited about the breed barn.

2015 (year 15). The kids return (for the last time), and so do Steven and Jeff (probably not the last time). As I recall, Boy 2 thought the "no thanks" sign was hilarious. Also, Caitlin and I actually meet and talk to Sasha on the grassy knoll. She has bags of fleeces piled behind her for Sheepspot's Breed School. Steven bought (wait for it)...gray yarn.

2016 (year 16). I took a spinning class with Judith this year - what a treat. I had a Clara sighting, but she was busy in a booth so I just Kinneared her. Sasha gave me a quick lesson about how to buy a fleece, and we ran into Maggie Casey. My knitting-curious friend Zakiya showed up near the end of the day, and ended up getting a couple of wonderful skeins.

2017 (year 17). I ran into GC alum Anne, who now is a librarian in Ohio; there are so many "small world" moments like this at MDSW. I went to a Franklin Habit lecture. I bought a gorgeous, warm blanket woven in Canada from Maryland wool. It's on my bed right now!

2018 (year 18). This is the year I finally bought a fleece, and here's the woman who helped me. Dave and I went in together on two fleeces, so we each went home with two half-fleeces.

2019 (year 19). I took two rigid heddle weaving classes with Liz Gipson (both excellent). Then I bought a 25" Flip loom - from the Yarn Barn, to bring us full circle! Also, Miss Babs helped me pick the perfect skein of yarn (which was later eaten by carpet beetles, but let's not focus on that now).

That brings us to 2020, where I am sitting at home trying to get over not being at my all-time favorite festival. I suppose it will be all the sweeter next year. I'm grateful for all the wonderful memories, and I look forward to making more!