Judging Fleeces – A dream come true

I’ve been judging fleeces on my own, for friends, and in classes for years! I know what I’m looking for, I understand the categories and I certainly know what makes a good fleece.

This year I was asked to judge the Fleece Competition at the Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair in Asheville, NC. I immediately said yes! Judging fleeces for a fleece competition is something that I have been wanting to do and just hadn’t gotten around to applying for. I was super excited for about 15 minutes. And then all of my self confidence and everything I knew about fleeces seemed to be questionable. And I had about 5 months to question  myself and worry.

At SAFF the fleece judging is a bit different than how they do it at Rhinebeck. At the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival the judges go in and judge the fleeces with no audience. At SAFF there is an audience and they are welcome to ask questions of the judge during the judging. That’s my favorite kind. I’ve been there at the Fleece judging at the Michigan Fiber Festival and I have learned so much watching those judges and asking questions.

But here’s what happened. I went to North Carolina. I walked into the place of judging. There were a lot of people in the chairs. My face was a little flushed, my hands shook a little and then they started spreading fleeces out in front of me and when I put my hands in the wool I began to talk and after a few minutes I wasn’t nervous anymore and I got to touch some fantastic fleece. (thanks to Jackie Ottino Graf for the photo.)

Check out my Madonna headset too!

The whole thing took about four hours. I judged 36 fleeces, if I’m remembering correctly, in four categories (more than that if you count the separation of white and colored fleeces into different groups). saff-grand-champion

Yuo know how ther ar things you want to do but they are scary but then you bravely do it and then you want to do it more? Well, that’s how I feel about the whole fleece judging experience. I want to do it every week. Anyone need a fleece judge? I can just come to your house…

 

Anyway, here is a picture of me and Joanne Maki (left) from Georgia Rustic Wool with her Grand Champion Gulf Coast Native. She was super excited and I was super excited to see that fleece. Not for sale though. boo hoo.

Rhinebeck Sweater?

I’m leaving for New York in less than a week. It’s the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival. I’m excited to see the festival. I haven’t been able to see the festival on my own terms for years and I’ve written myself a little schedule. I did leave some open spaces in case somebody wants to meet up with me for a snack or something.

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Anyway, I’ve been thinking for many months that my favorite sweaters are looking a little ratty. My two favorites have been repaired several times. The one called Hiro has ripped at the neck a coouple of times and I just do a bit of a crocheted edge and put her back together. The one that I made from a Jacob fleece has gotten several holes and so I have started embroidering flowers over the holes; a sort of visible mending.20161006_080641_001

Those repairs are working but for crying out loud I need a new sweater. Yes I have other sweaters…but another one of my favorites, Tappan Zee, also has a hole that I have yet to repair. Hiro is about 3 years old, the Jacob is probably 4 years old and Tappan Zee is maybe 5 or 6 years old. Even without the holes and things I would still need a new sweater. And it’s not like I haven;t been spinning! Lots! But that’s all for weaving the next skirt.

So, anyway, I was digging around in my stash and I came across a cotton project bg from Cooperative Press. When I looked inside there was a handspun sweater that was well under way! I totally forgot about it. I immediatley remembered why I had put it aside. I was looking for a sweater with certain attributes a couple of years ago and my friend, Amy King, offered to design a sweater just for me. And she did! And so I started knitting but then I was a bit confused about an instruction on the left front…and I stopped.

20161006_081022I called Amy! She found her electronic copy! She answered my question. Now I’m moving forward. The body of the sweater is finished and I’m working on the first sleeve. But I have another issue. The yarn is made from BFL/Silk that was specially dyed for me – also by Amy King (Spunky Eclectic) I have no more to spin and I think the sleeves are going to be tight and I still have edgings to do…

After all of that explanation, here’s the question, if I knit faster, will it make the yarn go further?

Twist – A Fiber Festival with a Little je ne sais quoi

Guest blogger Sarah Jean Harrison returns to take us on a trip to the Twist Fiber Festival in Canada! This event is Quebec’s only fiber (fibre, if we’re being precise!) festival, and the only bilingual fibre festival in the whole country.


Are you planning on visiting Rhinebeck’s New York State Sheep and Wool Festival this year? Or perhaps you made the trip to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival in the spring? Did you spin your heart out at Ply Away?

The rug hooking workshop at Twist gets underway. Credit: Sébastien Lavallée

The rug hooking workshop at Twist gets underway.
Credit: Sébastien Lavallée

If you’ve been to a fiber festival, you can imagine the intense of amount of work that goes into delivering a successful event. From organization to location, from logistics to communications, from vendors to visitors, all of these pieces must be pulled together into one, cohesive whole. And ideally that cohesive whole comes with a particular je ne sais quoi, a little extra something that gives a festival its personality.

How does a festival acquire a personality? The answer, I have discovered, often comes from a festival’s creator.

Twist – Quebec’s Only Fibre Festival

This August I visited Twist Festival de la Fibre/Fibre Festival, Canada’s only bilingual fiber festival, in St-André-Avellin, Québec.  Launched in 2011 by Amélie Blanchard, a hand-spinner and farmer raising cashmere goats on a small farm outside of St-André-Avellin, Twist is quickly gaining a dedicated following of fiber artists, vendors and attendees.

Amélie Blanchard the other woman is Fiber Artist, Heather Gwah Lightbody Credit: Sarah Jean Harrison

Amélie Blanchard with Fiber Artist, Heather Gwah Lightbody Credit: Sarah Jean Harrison

After a couple of years on her farm, Amélie looked around Québec and discovered precisely zero fiber events available within her province. While festivals were growing in popularity in Ontario and certainly in the USA, there was nothing available in Québec.

Amélie, like so many entrepreneurial fiber artists today, was unwilling to simply bemoan this hole in her local fiber universe – she had to do something. Her answer was Twist, a festival reflecting today’s modern taste in fiber and feeding the growing desire in Québec (and the world) for access to local fiber and the pursuit of textile and fiber education.

Starting a fiber festival, as Amélie discovered, was not as simple as it sounded. Launching the first Twist took a year and a half of research, planning and organization. At first, says Amélie, local business owners and potential sponsors were skeptical. “They looked at me like ‘who is this crazy yarn woman with this crazy idea?’”, she recalls. But her persistence and her solid research were undeniable.

: Many of Twist’s workshops and seminars are provided in French and English. Credit: Sébastien Lavallée

: Many of Twist’s workshops and seminars are provided in French and English.
Credit: Sébastien Lavallée

Eventually, the Twist team took shape, bringing Amélie’s friends and neighbors on board and drawing upon local businesses and resources to fill the multitude of roles and tasks needed to get the festival off the ground. Volunteer committees were struck, sponsorships were secured and quality vendors were chosen. In August of 2011 the inaugural Twist opened its doors with a foot-fall of 4,000 people over the weekend.

A Bilingual Festival

Amélie, who was born in Ontario to a French-speaking family, is a francophone with one foot in the English-speaking world. While some might see the challenges of holding a festival in two languages as a problem, Amélie has deftly turned this challenge into the festival’s defining characteristic.

Her vision for Twist was a festival that pulled French and English speakers together over their shared passion for fiber. All written materials, from programs to signage, are provided in both languages. Classes and workshops are often offered in a bilingual format, either with a bilingual instructor or via English and French sessions.

Two knitters working on the fly at Twist. Credit: Sarah Jean Harrison

Two knitters working on the fly at Twist.
Credit: Sarah Jean Harrison

Although St-André -Avellin is a francophone community, being only an hour north-west of Ottawa near the Ontario-Quebec boarder means that both languages are regularly heard in the streets and cafes. As an English-speaker with rudimentary French capabilities, I was welcomed warmly by the community and found the language barrier to be easily navigated. In fact, I left the festival with new francophone fiber friends, a handful of new French fiber-related vocabulary, and the feeling of being excited and inspired to learn more.

That je ne sais quoi

Wander around the booths and workshops and it quickly becomes clear that Amélie’s bilingual perspective is what gives Twist its je ne sais quoi. Her enthusiasm for bringing people from French and English backgrounds together over a mutual love for fiber makes for a lively and fun atmosphere that attracted 20,000 people this year.

Where else can you see folks acting out the word “soft” or clapping their hands with excitement when they discover they are both speaking about the same type of mouton?  Because ultimately, when it comes to fiber, we’re all speaking the same language.


sarahjeanbiophotosm

 

Raised on a farm and living in the big city, Sarah Jean Harrison is a digital artisan who specializes in translating rural realities for urban audiences. Through storytelling, photography and web design, Sarah Jean supports farmers and makers in sharing their unique story with an online audience. Sarah Jean loves to connect and can be found on Instagram and Twitter at @peaceflaghouse and at www.peaceflaghouse.com.

We are the ones: PLY Away

We are the ones carrying around a wad of fiber that we happily suspend by a piece of colorful string, the ones referring to a 15-lb contraption that doesn’t have a handle or a bag as “portable”, the ones that think it just makes sense to have that many raw fleeces, the ones that don’t give a rodent’s bum how cheap yarn is at Target. We are spinners and for the past few years we’ve been without a retreat of our own.  I loved SOAR and sorely miss it so can you guess what’s coming next?  Yep, the rumors are true! The world is no longer going to be devoid of an all-spinning retreat! For at least 4 days, we’ll be the ones surrounded by other ones just like us.

PLY Magazine is holding its first annual PLY Away retreat April 21, 22, 23, and 24, 2016 in Kansas City, MO at Crown Center’s Westin. I’m giddy with excitement, only sitting out of typing necessity. I want to dance and scream and spin and yell. Seriously, I’m that excited. As excited as I was when the original kickstarter hit it’s goal! I told the cashier at Natural Grocers about PLY Away yesterday. She seemed only moderately impressed. Anyway, the location is perfect. It’s right in the middle of so much stuff but when you’re inside the center, it’ll feel like it’s just us. Just us and all the fiber and fiber tools a spinner could dream of.

Thanks to our wonderful and generous VERY BIG SPONSORS — Lendrum, Kromski, Louet, The Woolery, and Hansen Crafts — for helping bring these spinning stars together while keeping the costs out of the clouds. For those of you that are wondering about the cost, half-day classes are $85, 1-day classes are $145, and 2-day classes are $260. That means that 4 full days of classes will run a spinner $600 (this also includes a free ticket to the banquet/talk of Friday night), 3 full days will be $485, and weekend full will be $340. The special room rate we’re getting is $140/night for up to 4 people. I know it’s not pennies, but we did our very best to keep it to as reasonable as possible. Registration will open November 11th but classes and schedules will go up in August.

It’s an a la carte retreat which means that you pick and choose the classes you want, building your prefect 1, 2, 3, or 4 day retreat. There are four 2-day retreats that span Thursday and Friday, each one with one of these amazing teachers: Deb Robson, Beth Smith, Coleen Nimetz, or Stephenie Gaustad. These 2-day classes are what spinning dreams are made of. Soon I’ll tell you about each one. But if you’ve got something else to do on Thursday and you’d rather stroll in with your bad self on Friday, you can take a 1-day class from the likes of Amy King, Patsy Zawistoski, Jillian Moreno, Michelle Boyd, or Esther Rodgers. Is it wrong that I scheduled classes that I desperately want to take? I want each one of these and don’t know how I’ll manage it. When the weekend rolls you’ve got a choice between all the above teachers plus Amy Tyler, Abby Franquemont, and Christina Pappas. That’s 12 teachers, each teaching two days worth of half-day classes that will blow your mind! I don’t envy you the choices you’ll have to make.

What would a spinning retreat be without a marketplace? We’re going to have one for sure! It won’t be huge and it won’t be tiny. We’re hoping it’s just right. There will also be an open-to-all spin in and both the spin in and the marketplace are free to anyone that wants to join in! If you’d like to be a vendor, check this page out!

Finally, there’s a Friday night banquet and talk.

I am so excited about it. I have such big plans. I want it to be the best retreat, not only for spinners but also for teachers and vendors! I’ll share more of the cool details as the weeks pass. Like the scholarship fund. And how you can win a PLY Away retreat on me (including airfare, classes, and hotel). And how you can be one of 10 people that gets to register early. And how there’s going to be a giant marketplace gift certificate for one lucky attendee. And about each class. And and and and…

For now, check out the website! ! If you’d like to join our illustrious ranks of sponsors, go here!

ps.  if everything goes well, PLY Away 2017 will be bigger and longer!

 

 

 

 

 

Plan b-ing Rhinebeck

It was both my and PLY’s first time to Rhinebeck this past week.  Rhinebeck.  The very word is enough to make me get a little flushed, sitting here in my sweatpants with my bowl of roasted pumpkin seeds and hot tea next to me.  A post-festival stupor, one might say.  I, the teacher part of me (as opposed to the magazine-y part of me) taught 3 days of classes and then the magazine-y part of me was supposed to go around and promote the magazine.  The magazine-y part of me was a bit shy, but the fiber-loving part of me had a great time touching, buying, and eating.

Here’s a few photos, I didn’t take many (soon you’ll see what I held in my outstretched hands instead of a camera). The first are my fiber friends.  The ones I only get to see at festivals like this.  They’re also my every-night dinner companions and the ones that made me laugh and laugh.  Man alive those spinners are funny.  the second is one of my all day classes, I liked them all and the spinning was great.  They were pretty funny too.  The third is my new dream wheel.  Seriously, I want one.  WANT ONE!  If you’re looking for that perfect 40th birthday present for me, you found it!  Finally, the last one was on Sunday night, we were all a bit tired and bleary eyed.  Still funny though!

Okay, back to the Rhinebeck plan.  Here was the well-thought-out plan, and in case you don’t think so, it was a plan. I promise.  I planned.  I planned so far ahead I even had PLY post cards made.  They are pretty.  Also informative.  So the plan went like this.  On Sunday, I’d walk around with my stack of postcards and I’d go to all the booths that carried fiber — as opposed to ones that only carried yarn, see, because I know my audience.  I’d walk in, proud and confident, and I’d say “Hi there!  My name is Jacey Boggs Faulkner and I see that you have spinning supplies but your booth is sorely lacking in PLY Magazine department, can I leave this postcard with you and you can look at it at your leisure and see if you might want to carry our magazine or perhaps even advertise in it?  We have very reasonable rates and the spinning community has been very positive about the magazine.”

In my version of the plan, He/she embraces me right there, I blush brightly as the booth owner gushes that she/he was hoping I’d stop by.

That didn’t exactly happen.  Mostly I walked around with my stack of postcards held straight-armed in front of me, like I had a purpose, was on my way somewhere, and hoped that somebody would notice them and ask for one, or mentally tick it away and google it later.

I felt shy.  I’m also not so good at selling things.  I like things to sell themselves.  Until this month, we haven’t really advertised the magazine and we’ve mostly let advertisers and wholesalers come to us when they’re ready.

In the end I had to plan b it.  I put my stack of PLY postcards in the bathroom.  I fanned them out right on top of the trashcan next to the hand sanitizer and I think it really really looked nice.

I’ve got even bigger plans for MDSW!

My Rhinebeck

I want to tell you a secret. It’s not a scary secret but I haven’t said it much to anyone, so I’m telling YOU. It’s this: I’m jealous of all of the people who got to go to Rhinebeck AKA The New York State Sheep and Wool Festival.

I know what you are thinking. You are sure I was there. You saw me in photos or you saw my name on the workshop instructors list or you heard me talking about getting ready to go.

I was technically there. It’s true. But here’s the sad part of my story. I didn’t even see one sheep. Not one! I don’t even have very many photos because they all would have looked very similar to this one:

Rhinebeck2014

 

I also saw the inside of the bathroom but that doesn’t make a very interesting picture at all.

Here is the plus side. I got to meet a lot of amazing people who were my students. New ones this year and some who had been in my classes before. Also, I spent very little money. (We aren’t counting the fleeces I bought because most of those are for more class materials.) Also, I had dinner with Jacey and Abby and Esther A LOT! And I got to meet Jackie Graf who is a most awesome dyer and Tove Skolseg who also loves to buy wool and is from Norway.

Spinning friends!

Spinning friends!

So, no, I have no sheep photos, nope, not even one lovely leaf color picture. Didn’t even make it up the hill to see what was for sale. but I made some new friends, taught some lovely people what I know about spinning and wool preparation and signed a lot of books!

So back to the beginning. I’m jealous of some people’s Rhinebeck experiences but I don’t think I would trade mine.

Here is my favorite photo of the weekend though. It’s Lauren. And if you ever see her, tell her I said hi.

Lauren