Sunday, February 19, 2012

Postcards from Camp Pluckyfluff (The Final Chapter :'-()

Sunday, February 19

Lexi demonstrating the Navajo ply
Kelly's Coil Boil up close and personal!
Today was the last day of Camp Pluckyfluff.  We were excited to learn new things, but sad that it was ending.  As we were settling in, one spinner told us that she found herself actually treadling in her sleep while other spinners talked about their calves being sore from all of the spinning the day before- not a bad malady to have!  We started the morning with a demonstration on Navajo plying, which is the final step in creating a Coil Boil.  Then it was time to get to work!
Kayleigh's coil- now boiling!

The pansy that Kayleigh made, Lexi demonstrated with, and Kelly used...
After finishing our Coil Boils, we had a demonstration on putting add-ins in our yarn.  Kayleigh has been furiously felting for the past week and created a multitude of adorable felted trinkets (56 hearts, balls, hiking boots, a wine glass, butterflies, flowers, food, etc.).  Lexi actually took the felted add-ins that I didn't use and is going to spin them into one of her yarns (how cool is that?!).  Other add-ins that we and others brought were scraps from wedding dresses, feathers, pet fur, beads, sequins, buttons, jewelry, shark teeth, and even sweetgrass.  We practiced with this until lunch.
53 of the felted add-ins that Kayleigh made
Our class portrait
Kayleigh and Kelly

Next it was time to choose our fiber and begin making our self-portrait yarn.  This was an open-ended assignment.  We were to choose fiber that represents us in some way (favorite colors, mood, fibers, fiber from animals we own, or all of the above).  Most of us also included add-ins.  The core of the yarn was elastic thread, which creates a springy yarn that bunches up when removed from the niddy-noddy.  Depending on whether it is tied in 2 or 4 spots before removing it, it becomes either a heart or a brain shape!  The yarns were as individual and interesting as the spinners themselves.  At the end of this exercise we all shared the stories behind our yarns and took a class portrait (of the self portraits).  The stories were fascinating to listen to, some deep and some funny, but all were meaningful.  
Some people hold their hearts in their hands...

... while others wear their hearts on their heads.
The final demonstration of the camp was Esther showing us how to tailspin using locks.  This yarn turns out wild and beautiful.  We learned about both regular and extreme tailspinning.  The length of the lock determines which type of tailspinning you should do and the yarn created can be used as an awesome border along the top of boots, socks, purses, etc. or around the neck as a fashion statement!
Esther gets her tail spun on!

Then it was time to say goodbye. (Insert heavy sigh here.)  We learned of a spinning gathering in Sarasota, Florida this April from a woman who owns a knit shop and is trying to build an art yarn community.  This sounds like something Charleston could use... are you in?   We left the shop having made many new friends and promising to find each other on facebook.

Kelly and Kayleigh 
Tailspinning after homemade wine!

Postcards from Camp Pluckyfluff (Part 2)

Saturday, February 18

The sharing table.  Sharing is good karma!
This morning, we arrived at Downtown Knits with wheels and fiber in hand.  Lexi was being secretive about what we would be doing, so we eagerly awaited our instructions.  First, we did a practice yarn where we tried a few different techniques for plying with thread: basic thread plying, granny stacks, beehives, and twists (kind of like eyelash yarn).

Kayleigh's practice yarn
After everyone finished playing with their practice yarns, Lexi told us to cut some fabric into a blindfold- yes, a blindfold.  She then instructed us to choose some lofty fiber and fluff or card it together.  She told us to stick with fiber that is easy to spin with a small amount of fun stuff for texture.  After we set up our wheels, Lexi told us to put on our blindfolds and refrain from talking for 20 minutes while we spun the fiber we had chosen.  This spinning meditation was meant to teach our hands to know what to do and to train us to feel what the fibers want to become rather than overpowering the fiber and forcing it to do something that is unnatural for it.  While not everyone was happy with the results, we were all amazed that we could actually make yarn while blindfolded!

Lexi and Esther were impressed by our impeccable posture!
This was a relaxing experience.  We were able to be in the moment while spinning instead of trying to plan ahead and grab certain colors at certain times.  We just dealt with issues as they came.  The various wheels in the room making their own sounds an rhythms created peaceful music during this Zen activity.  Every spinner should try this at least once.

Our "blind" yarns!
Spinning blindfolded is a Zen experience.
After lunch, we were shown a yarn that Lexi calls a Coil Boil (as seen in her new book).  This yarn is created in three steps, two of which we had time to do today.  Step one is to fill a bobbin with corespun yarn.  The bigger the bobbin, the better since the end result is one-sixth the length of the original corespun yarn. The next step is to coil that yarn around another thread core.  This creates a yarn that looks somewhat like a thin rope.  We'll see what the third step is tomorrow!

Wish you were here!
Our coils, not boiling yet...
Kelly and Kayleigh

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Postcards from Camp Pluckyfluff (Part 1)

Friday, February 17

Greetings from Apex, North Carolina!  We are here for a weekend of non-traditional spinning with Lexi Boeger, author of Handspun Revolution and Intertwined.  She recently published a new book called Hand Spun.  When we arrived, we dropped in at the yarn shop for a book-signing party that was being held to celebrate the beginning of Camp Pluckyfluff.
Lexi's new book- a must read!

If you have never been to historic Apex, it is an adorable little town near Raleigh.  The next time you're in the area, be sure to stop by Downtown Knits on North Salem Street.  This wonderful yarn shop is gracious enough to host our group of 17 spinners this weekend.  Our friend Esther Rodgers of Jazzturtle Creations sponsored this event.

She was so impressed with the length of my name, it needed an exclamation mark!
Mom was so proud.
We can't wait to see what tomorrow brings!

Kelly and Kayleigh

Friday, February 3, 2012

An Inspired Felter

At our January meeting, Carolyn Thiedke not only shared with us the lovely felted wall hanging she made for the 2011 Creche Festival at Mepkin Abbey, but she also followed the thread of her inspiration back through layers of remembered images and a progression of experiences with a range of felting techniques.
Carolyn's piece is 32" x 36" and depicts Mary and Joseph in silhouette, outlined in light from the full moon. The bare tree and the night gives the image a sense of stealth and night-time silence.

Several pieces were wet-felted to make the deep blue background.  The tree is a mix of fiber, thread and fabric, felted with a machine as well as a needle felting tool. Mary and Joseph and their shadows were needle-felted as were the white cloud wisps and the moonlight that outlines the figures.

Detail of Mary and Joseph
 Carolyn tried to trace back exactly how the idea came to her to create this particular image. The shadow cast on the street by tree limbs in the street light she sees on a regular early-morning bike ride was part of it. Pictures in favorite art and quilting books were also an influence though not necessarily a direct reference.

After the wall hanging was completed, Carolyn found a picture with very similar themes in a book she has looked at now and again over many years. Those ideas must have taken up residence in the back of her mind because they were expressed again in this piece albeit with Carolyn's own interpretation.

 An accomplished quilter and lifelong knitter, Carolyn said she felt like only a "dabbler" in felting but has enjoyed a progression of felting projects over the last few years.

First, intrigued by a "how-to" article in Martha Stewart Living magazine she bought a wool sweater at a thrift store and made a jazzy stuffed pig with a corkscrew tail.

Stuffed pig made from a felted sweater
 Then she knitted this pair of slippers and felted them in the washing machine.
She had fun with some quick needle-felted animals and she began to look more closely at books on felting. Carolyn said she is a bit surprised that she chose to felt the piece for the creche festival, but based on her sketches, it "just seemed right."
Detail of tree limbs and moon.
We had 25 people at this first meeting of 2012. Our year is off to a great start! Thanks to Carolyn for sharing her work and her process with us. It is fascinating to think of the crooked path our sources of inspiration travel to find their expression in our design, image, and color choices.