Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Return Of The Native

That’s Lone Duck Lake looking up to Mt. Frosty in Manning Park. Yes, it was almost as cold as you feel looking at it. I’m back, not tanned, but happy and relaxed. Only a few mosquito bites but most of the bumps on my body are goose bumps from the cold! The weather was pretty rainy when we left but we came back to a thunder & lightning storm and unseasonably chilly temps. It was only 13 C. in my bedroom this morning! That’s winter temps not summer. Ugh. No wonder my broccoli in the garden is turning purple and hasn’t grown much since we left over two weeks ago. I’d be turning purple too. Instead I’m wearing several layers of warm clothing because the furnace in my house is turned off. The thermometer says it’s a whopping 16 C. on the main floor. Luckily it’s somewhat warmer up here under the roof. The sun was supposed to stay out and warm us up but it’s not doing a very good job. It is however much warmer outside than in.

We did have a lovely holiday in spite of the somewhat changeable weather. We experienced everything from rain to sun, including sun and rain at the same time, snow, sleet, and thunder & lightning storms. We saw lots of gorgeous scenery, animals (including bear, moose, whole herds of deer and several different varieties of ground squirrels), birds (osprey, white pelicans, magpies, tanagers, woodpeckers, nuthatches, hummingbirds and flycatchers), many different butterflies and lovely wildflowers. We traveled up the Coquihalla Highway through Kamloops, east through Revelstoke and Golden, north a bit on the Icefields Parkway in Banff, then east again to Red Deer. The ANWG/HWSDA conference was at Red Deer College and I spent 3 and a half days there. (More on this later.) After the conference ended we went east some more to Drumheller and the Royal Tyrell Museum, then south-west through cow country skirting the edge of Calgary and all the way south to Waterton Lakes National Park. After that we headed west through the Crowsnest Pass and Highway 3 to Hope and then home. Apart from the time in Red Deer and 2 nights in Waterton, we moved to a different provincial campground every day. 16 days in a tiny VW van, comfy and well laid out as it might be, wears a bit thin by the end. We were happy to get home to hot running water and our own bathroom. We were not happy to get home to cleaning up after our messy old cats and the neglected garden work.

I enjoyed the conference more than I thought I might. It was nice to hang out with some of my fellow guild members, see some old fibery friends, and to make some new acquaintances. The food was passable and at least there was some lower-carb choices for me even though the coffee-break snacks were pure carby goodness and I couldn’t eat the fruit salads either due to my melon allergy. At least I was able to keep up my tea consumption and thereby avoided a migraine. I wisely brought my own big insulated mug and thereby also avoided using dinky disposable paper cups. I did have two complaints, neither of which may have been the conference organizers’ fault: lack of signage and directions to the various displays which were spread all over the huge main building of the college (it was like a “Where’s Waldo” game to locate them) and the echo-y speaker system in the gym where the meals and keynote speeches, awards, fashion show etc. were held. It wasn’t just my bad hearing (though I wore my hearing aids all the time and went through batteries like breath mints) but others were having trouble understanding some of the speakers too. I was grateful that at least the keynote speakers Anita Luvera Mayer and James Koehler were very careful to annunciate clearly and slowly enough for the echo to minimize. I was glad because they were interesting to listen to. For a very much shortened version of Anita’s favourite topic see this PDF from Handwoven magazine. Syne Mitchell also talks with her on her podcast available here. She is always very personal but with lots of great inspirational quotes. James showed slides of his work while he spoke of his long love-affair with weaving and his development as a tapestry artist and then showed a 1994 video of himself at work set to rather Fantasia-esque music. It was neat to watch how elegantly he laid in the yarns and bubbled the wefts for each pick. A weaver’s dance.

When I was registering for the conference, I had to choose either 3 half-day or 1 whole-day and 1 half-day workshop/seminars. That was a tough choice because either I wasn’t really interested in the subject or all of the ones I wanted were at the same time. In the end I chose a lace-knitting full day and a spinning lecture half-day but the lace ended up being cancelled. By that time I didn’t have much to choose from but luckily it resulted in what ended up being a very interesting workshop. Linda Shelhamer from Billings, Montana, showed a class of over a dozen people of various spinning experience her short-cut method to spinning for self-striping yarns. Instead of a scale to measure out differing sized lots of dyed sliver, she uses the “baggy method”. You cram different sized paper envelopes and plastic baggies with fibre and then arrange them in a numbered order and pop each one into a labeled file folder pocket. Spin them up in order and ply and then all you have to do is knit and the pattern emerges automatically. Of course it’s not quite that simple! But pretty brainless. She even included charts so that all we had to do was to pick our main colour and then the chart specified the other colours and which pre-labeled and numbered envelopes to put them in. Linda had worked out 3 different applications: a chained (Navajo) 3-ply in faux-fairisle for socks, a 2-ply which included one ply of the striping yarn and one of a coordinating but dull variegated also for socks or mitts and lastly, a natural-coloured 3-ply with one ply striping, one moorit merino and the last a camel down and silk texture for a hat. The last option came already bagged for us and when we ran out of time during class, had to be spun for “homework”. Here’s some of the class’s samples which we wound on cards for show & tell:

Note some of the yummy coloured wools we got to use! I made errors in each of the samples (duh!) but it was a fun exercise which I finished up later in the camping trip. I knit two wristwarmers, neither of which match in any way but can be worn together, out of the second option which I like best. Linda gave us some of her dyed fibres to take home which is what I used for the second wristwarmer.

The second seminar I took was with Michelle Boyd from Ft. McMurray, Alberta. In contrast to her formal Master Spinner studies, she has become fascinated with spinning novelty yarns using waste and recycled materials. She showed us a Power Point slide show of her yarns and also passed them around for us to feel. Since I have an abundance of bits of fibres and lots of thrums and reclaimed yarns around here, I thought this would be a good way to use some of them up. I especially liked Michelle’s emphasis on creating “usable” yarns as opposed to “art” yarns. She had examples of projects she’s made using some of her novelty yarns to show us. This wasn’t a hands-on seminar so I just took notes instead.

Yes, both of these were spinning related. Though the results of either could be used for weaving or crochet or what-have-you, but most likely for knitting. I actually got to spin quite a lot on Tori, who came with us on the trip. Almost every day in fact. I was trying to spin up some of my moorit merino but it took most of the time we were away just to fill up a single bobbin of fine singles. I plan to knit a shawl with it eventually.

Which brings me to my shopping. Have I mentioned the shopping? There was a small gym full of vendors. Not as many as usual at these things but then it was in the middle of Alberta. None of the US vendors managed to come (too much trouble crossing that darn border?) but there was still lots to choose from. And there is no provincial sales tax in AB. Lovely yarns, fabulous fibres, looms and wheels, needles and stitch markers — you name it. I managed to find pretty much everything I was looking for (superfine merino weaving yarn, bamboo yarn and spinning fibre, bison fibre) and some things I wasn’t looking for (2 more sizes of Addi Lace circulars, suri alpaca laceweight yarn) but I didn’t find any books which is really unusual. Either I had it or I didn’t want it. Weird. Usually I bring home more books than anything else.

Since this is getting rather long and I’ve got other things to do, I’ll carry on later with more about the places we went and the things we saw. I’ll leave you with me comfortably spinning with Tori in our little home-away-from-home:

PS. The post's title is actually a book in case you're not up on your Thomas Hardy. I went through a whole Hardy phase in my teenaged years. They do benefit from a re-reading with a more mature viewpoint.


Anonymous said...

Welcome back. We were away for a week of changeable weather ourselves, we were on a sailboat. It is good that we both take a supply hamper for our crafts.

Anonymous said...

Nice to have you back... you were missed :)

It's been cold and rainy up this way too. We have been promised sun today and it looks like they told the truth.

Off to spin myself...
Hugs....Susan in PR