Friday, October 15, 2010

The 1st Annual Fall Fiber Workshop -- A Big Success

Everyone agreed this should become a yearly event, so I'm now referring to last Saturday's workshop as "The 1st Annual. . ."
Palmetto Fiber Arts Guild member Jessica Jones built her own loom. For the frame, she used wood from a discarded cedar chest. The 10-dent reed was painstakingly constructed using bamboo strips.The string heddles color-code each harness (brilliant idea!) and there's even a built in warping board on the side.

It was a pretty fall day. Our meeting room was comfortable. We had more food than we could possibly eat. We had said we hoped for 30 people. We ended up with 31 and one couldn't come (hmmm, how's that for "The Power of Goal Setting". . .)

Because of wide-spread publicity, we now have seven new guild members -- all interested in some or all of the fiber arts we featured -- knitting, weaving, spinning, wool rug making, and felting.

Beryl Tippin was our instructor for the day and she was awesome!. She spent the morning doing just we'd asked, covering the basics of raw fiber -- the different fiber animals, unique qualities of the fleece of different animals and of different breeds of sheep, the best parts of a fleece to use for spinning, and how to evaluate raw fleece we might consider buying. Certainly anyone who attended this morning session can now attend Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair in Asheville later in the month and shop for raw fiber and fleece with more confidence. 

We were amazed when Beryl took a piece of raw fleece --  rolled it between her fingers, sniffed it, held it to her ear while she pulled until the fiber snapped--and announced that about nine months before shearing, this sheep had run a fever and not eaten for several days. That brief illness and time "off her feed" left lingering evidence in the shorn wool.

However, those of us with teenage boys were not all that surprised to learn that it's pretty easy to take a whiff and know when  fleece is from a ram rather than a ewe. There's no mistaking the scent of that testosterone!

Would it surprise you to know that there was a lot of knitting going on while we listened to all this good information?

Here is Beryl's "Sample Board" with over 100 four-inch-squares knitted from a variety of fiber sources --  each one labeled. There's all the sheep breeds plus other fiber animals including alpaca, llama, rabbits, goats, a very soft cat named "Jezebel", several dog breeds, and a rough, scratchy swatch made from horse hair.

Our afternoon was spent needle-felting. This gave everyone a chance to get our hands on fiber and play with color and design.
This was lots of fun!
Most of us weren't sure what we would come up with when we started, but eventually, designs and concepts came together -- some concrete and some more abstract. Lynn struck a nice balance with her bird on a colorful background.

This time we did needle felting, but wet felting is another technique. Here is a "wool painting" Beryl did with that process,. Embellishments added with needle felting also add a third dimension to the piece.
On the sides you can see some of Beryl's knitted toys peeking out. Since she retired, she says she is enjoying knitting for the special young ones in her life. And of course, along with "people" dolls, she has knitted a whole menagerie of farm animals, bugs, snails, vegetables, and flowers.

This workshop showed us what a well-rounded fiber arts guild we really are. Our own members shared their special skills throughout the day and together, we are accomplished in a wide range of fiber arts including weaving, knitting, spinning, felting, plus wool rug making!
Dale Fort is going way beyond braided wool rugs with the standing wool rug technique he was introduced to over the summer at a Maine workshop. He admits he's figuring it out as he goes, but this rug is growing quite handsome. He cuts wool in 3/4/" strips, stacks several strips on top of each other, then starts at one end and rolls tightly, stopping occasionally to stitch the layers together using strong thread and a curved needle. You can see Dale has a good sense of design as his combination of wool discs vary in size, color, and texture. I can't wait to see how this piece evolves!

There was a 4-harness floor loom set up on the screened-in porch, but inside, Cindy also saw a lot of interest in her more portable, easier to warp, rigid heddle loom. When she wasn't fielding questions about the loom, she was demonstrating spinning with a drop spindle -- and there was also a lot of interest in her I-Pad!
Aurora Jones is getting quite good at spinning with the drop spindle.

Beth Parrott is our go-to member for all things knitted -- but her special love and her widest renown is for  knitted socks and sock patterns. She has co-authored two books that would be great Christmas gifts for any knitter you know.  The socks above are samples knitted for the photographs in Beth's books

The Little Box of Socks is literally a box which contains 20 individual cards each with instructions for a sock pattern. You can carry only the card you're working on and leave the rest in the box!. Each instruction card is on a heavy, glossy, card stock, and opens like a greeting card. The instructions are great and so is the photography.
Sock Club: Join the Knitting Adventure is Beth's newest book. It is a paperback and includes 23 sock patterns contributed by sock clubs. These patterns are not widely available outside of clubs so this is a good book to give someone who may already have a book with sock patterns. There is also interesting information about each sock club featured.

Other talents we saw from our members on Saturday included beautiful felted birds made by DeDee Regan and Kelly Fort showed all comers how to operate her spinning wheel. Most people who attended the workshop found others doing fiber arts they were familiar with and also met people doing things new. This variety of interest and skill is one of our guild's strengths. 

Finally, we raffled off two nice items . A knitted, child's hat with a cute felted flower and a year's subscription to any of the Interweave Press publications. We raised $45 that will be sent to the weaving coop in Lesotho that we enjoy an ongoing relationship with.
It was our first attempt at a day-long workshop. We didn't know how it would be received or if it would be a valuable experience for enough people to ever try again. I think we surprised ourselves with our success in terms of attendance and participation. The organization and cost was manageable for our group, and we learned some things that will help next time we plan something similar. So, we should all be thinking of what we'd like to do NEXT!