Sheep, Spinning Wheels and Friendswhat could be better?

Color galore at the Black Sheep Gathering

When the plane set down outside of Eugene, Oregon, on Friday night, I knew I was in for a treat. Verdant rolling hills were illuminated and painted golden by the setting sun peeking out from dark clouds. The soft shades of emerald, olive, and sage green were contrasted by the dark purple shadows. I drank in the hues and committed them to memory to use in my yarn making.

The next morning, the town was serene—all the hustle and bustle of a university town had left with the students on summer break. Winding streets led to the fairgrounds, the site of the Black Sheep Gathering. The cloud cover made the brilliant color all around in the trees and flowers even more vibrant; the cool, misty day meant I could don woolies normally tucked away during the summer.

These colors swirled around in my head, becoming dreams of fuzzy yarn knitted up into cardigans and hats, scarves and socks—and the vendor's market rose to the occasion and provided the handpainted fiber, carded batts, and colorful clouds in just the hues I was imagining. The bleating sheep brought me out of my reverie—their fleeces shimmering with lanolin, their locks crimpy and inviting.

The market had filled with people, people like me. I stood in line spinning, listening to conversations about colors of yarn, how many skeins were needed for a shawl, and how many coats were on a Shetland sheep. I discussed the weight of spindles best for spinning a laceweight yarn and marveled over the ultraclean fleeces in the wool show—were the sheep vacuumed clean or raised on linoleum floors? I plied and watched knitting buddies hold skeins up to each other's cheeks to see what colors enhanced their complexions best. I found friends I hadn't seen in years—each of us surprised to find each other in the aisles. I tried wheels I hadn't had a chance to spin on before. I convinced myself that the huge bag of colorful carded fiber I had to buy would squish down to the size of a pair of socks and easily fit into my luggage.

I marveled at the handspun, knitted, woven, crocheted, and felted garments in the fiber arts shows—recognizing many names from the pages of Spin-Off and making note of names I hadn't seen before, hoping to see more of their work.

I peeked in classrooms and watched as Judith MacKenzie advised spinners on how to adjust their wheels to spin a very fine laceweight yarn—the floor strewn with fleeces from primitive breeds such as Icelandic, Shetland, and Clun Forest.

And then it was over and it was time to hop back on a plane and return home. But I have my pile of goodies to spin through the summer—filled with memories of my trip.



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