Always something unexpected from our workshop DVDs
Sage and thoughtful advice from experience
Earlier this summer, Judith MacKenzie came to Colorado to film a DVD about how to choose a fleece for spinning called Three Bags Full—it'll be available at the beginning of October.
I was reviewing the DVD in the final stages of production on my TV at home while spinning—taking advantage of a sleeping toddler. My seven-year-old daughter, Hannah, was at loose ends. She was horrified to learn that we were going to watch a spinning DVD, "Mom, this is booorrring!" until it started and then she was mesmerized. Soon she was asking me questions. "What's a lock? Can you spin that wool? Can you dye it?" It wasn't long before she was asking me to pull out the rigid-heddle loom with a weaving project we had warped earlier in the summer. She and I sat side by side watching Judith, the sheep, and the piles of fleeces as they were magically transformed to batts, top, and eventually yarn—each of us completely blissful, working on our projects while listening to Judith's soothing and encouraging voice.
A four-hour extravaganza of festival, fiber, processing, and spinning—the DVD is so chock-full of tips that it is bursting at the seams. One of the tips that I put into use right away was about how to store a fleece. It is so simple and easy, it is just mind-blowing, and I can't wait to share it with you. Judith suggests storing all fleeces in round plastic tubs with airtight lids—the kind that you find at industrial-size kitchens filled with potatoes or onions. She stomps the fleece down into the bucket, pushing out all the air. She says that by storing the fleece this way, you can prevent infestations of bugs and rodents, plus prevent the grease on the wool from oxidizing and becoming stale. When you open the bucket to work on it in two weeks, two months, or ten years, it'll be as fresh as it was the day you put it in the bucket. She recommends keeping a lock of wool out of the tub to tape to the outside so that when you're looking for your fleece, you know exactly what is in the tub.
Sarah "labeling" buckets of wool.
I related this tip to my friend Bekah who teaches the fiber-arts program at the local school where I volunteer—she had huge plastic bags of fleeces and cardboard boxes of fiber in the classroom from generous donations as well as the alpacas on the farm on the campus. She found a source on Craig's list that sold these food-grade tubs, recycled from an industrial kitchen, and bought twenty of them. While my husband was installing a countertop in the art classroom, my younger daughter Sarah and I were stuffing alpaca fleeces into tubs—it is amazing how much you can fit inside one. We were able to store nearly three huge plastic bags of fleeces in one small tub. Sarah loved writing labels on the tubs (in her own pre-literate way), and it was satisfying to stack the tubs knowing that the fleeces would be stored safely until the students were ready to spin them.
I love watching our workshop DVDs that are filled with the sage and thoughtful advice of spinners who have learned through their own experiences or who are passing along tips that they learned as students. I learn so much every time I watch them, and there are always ideas like this one that make my fiber life that much more enjoyable. And right now, as part of our Fall Sale, many of our DVDs are on sale. Might be time to stock up—you never know what life-changing tricks you might learn.