Who is your spinning fairy godmother?

Margaret Stove and her Bush Bouquet Shawl that she was commissioned to design, spin, and knit for the birth of Prince William.

Margaret's first shawl fine enough to pass through a wedding ring. It was spun from a Merino fleece.

A knitted lace sample from Margaret's SOAR 2010 workshop.

Speed-knit lace nupps

If you've been reading our e-newsletters recently, you'll notice that Spin-Off Autumn Retreat (SOAR) is on my mind. It is because SOAR is where the pages of the magazine come to life for me—no longer static, they are living, breathing spinning and knitting in front of me. People that I talk to every day via e-mail, in Internet forums, occasionally through snail mail, and on the phone are right in front of me. Like Cornelia Funke's young heroine, Meggie, in the Inkworld trilogy of children's books, I've been read into my favorite books. 

At SOAR, I popped into Margaret Stove's class to take photos and saw students spinning fine-wool yarns for knitting lace. These yarns should really be called threads. I heard that they examined their yarns using a microscope to determine the direction of twist. The students proudly showed me the results of three days in class—fine yarns nestled in their hands like a hummingbirds' nest. These yarns are worthy of the lace shawls that Margaret designs and knits—delicate and fine enough to pass through a wedding ring, but warm and elastic at the same time.

I got to hold a few of these shawls (lucky me!); they are the stuff of fairy tales—sometimes holding and seeing them is not enough to believe that they are actually there in your hands. And Margaret is like a fairy godmother—gently guiding us on our way to spinning these fine yarns with her lovely New Zealand accent and useful tips for how to get a lock of Merino wool clean in just the right way (lock by lock and on a bar of soap).

Speaking of handy tips, I was just watching Nancy Bush's new DVD Knitted Lace of Estonia (at double speed because my baby was napping and I wanted to get through as much as I could before she woke up). And even though her workshop is solely about knitting and doesn't include spinning instructions, there were some great tips that caught my spinner's ear, such as Estonian knitters oil their handmade wood knitting needles with locks of wool and knit with fine laceweight wool singles to make shawls that can be pulled through a wedding ring. I wonder if I can spin and knit something that fine? At the very least, it was very entertaining to watch Nancy speed-knit nupps.

What am I doing here in front of my computer daydreaming about spinning and knitting fairy godmothers? I need to stop writing and spin up some yarn so I can cast-on for a lace shawlette. It's just what my neck needs to keep the chill November air at bay.

Happy spinning,

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