When Spinners Unite, Great Ideas are Born
Last weekend, handspinners gathered from all corners of the Northwest for our annual regional spinning conference. In 20+ years of spinning, I’ve seldom missed this annual gathering. I look forward to seeing my far-flung fiber friends, catching up on their families and new fiber adventures. I also look forward to classes, and brainstorming sessions where we dream up new ways to use fiber and color and needles and shuttles. Here are just a few of the new ideas I learned this year:
1. Dye yarn in a turkey roaster. I took a dye class from my friend Liz Moncrief, and it was a blast! We did vat dyeing, immersion dyeing, several variations on space-dyeing, dyeing sock blanks, and a cool new trick with a turkey roaster. You lay in skeins of yarn the long way in a shallow layer of water, squirt stripes of dye stock solutions, press gently to make the colors blend at the edges of the stripes, then cook. Voila! Beautiful space-dyed skeins, enough for a whole project. The only downside is that now I’m jonesing for a turkey roaster. (For an informative and entertaining take on dyeing, check out Dyeing in the Kitchen, with Deb Menz.)
2. Make your felting epic. Our conference had a super-hero theme this year, with fiber heroes and our fiber nemeses (such as dog hair). The gallery featured a number of epic needle felt projects by local felter Sheila McCoy, including a Sean the Sheep doing battle with a dragon (à la St. George) and an almost full-sized felted alpaca superhero with three spinning mice on his back. (And this unusual alpaca was growing Cotswold wool. Talk about amazing!) It inspired me to get out my copy of Needle Felting Animals and burn through some fleece this summer making magical creatures.
3. If you’re dreaming of starting a fiber business: Whether you’re selling dyed fiber on Etsy, raising animals, or doing custom garments, you’re asking your customer to pay a premium for hand-produced work. It’s important to have the personal touch that makes your product is unique. For example, Leeanna Jorgenson of Pronkin’ Pastures Alpaca Ranch puts the name of the animal on her skeins of yarn, and she says people will sometimes buy fleeces from her just because the animal has the name of someone they know. (If you ‘re thinking of starting a fiber business or want to improve the one you have, check out Deb Essen’s online course, starting June 16.)
I hope that your summer or fall plans this year include at least one get-together with your local fiber community. The friendships and inspiration are priceless. If you go, don’t forget to thank the true heroes: the dedicated volunteers who make these experiences possible for the rest of us, and the vendors who load their cars and trucks and travel countless miles to bring us the best of fiber, tools, and more. These are labors of love, so give that love right back.