Start by saying that I love teaching people about the different types of wools, both for people who spin and for people who start their fiber pursuits with yarn.
Within the past six months I've gotten requests both to record the DVD set about spinning rare-breed wools that Interweave recently released and to teach some classes for spinners about rare wools, at the Conference of Northern California Handweavers (CNCH) in May and at the Spin-Off Autumn Retreat (SOAR) in October. These will be survey classes, in which we'll all get our hands on a variety of different types of rare wools.
By definition, these wools are rare. For an individual person looking for wool to spin, finding these fibers is do-able. Yes, you can locate them! Especially if you don't have a deadline. But finding enough to supply a group of people (who are convening at a particular time) is a whole different quest.
Presenting these classes would not be even remotely possible without the help of Beth Smith, at The Spinning Loft, and Jennifer Heverly, at Spirit Trail Fiberworks. They're helping me gather fibers. Because, indeed, we need to obtain (and wash, and package) enough fiber of enough different breeds to supply all the participants in the workshops.
Overall (this is scary), in order to teach the CNCH workshop in May, plus SOAR's three-day and one-day workshops as well as four retreat sessions, we need to come up with 996 spinnable portions of wool representing at least 15 rare breeds of sheep.
There are no typos in that summary.
The workshops and classes have varying numbers of participants, and will include different numbers of types of wool, depending on how much time we have available for our explorations. I want the wool ready to go and easy to divide fairly, so we spend as little time as possible distributing materials and as much time as possible playing with them. Thus the massive prep work.
- CNCH: Maximum 15 participants x minimum 12 breeds (during 12 class hours) = 180 packets.
- SOAR three-day workshop: Maximum 16 participants x minimum 15 breeds (during 18 class hours) = 240 packets.
- SOAR one-day workshop: Maximum 18 participants x minimum 8 breeds (during 5.5 class hours) = 144 packets.
- SOAR retreat sessions: Maximum 18 participants x minimum 6 breeds (smaller quantities per breed than in workshops) x 4 sessions (of 3 class hours each) = 432 portions.
- That does add up to 996 portions of wool. I've recalculated three times because I had a hard time believing it.
What we'll accomplish during each class will be modified to fit the time available. Of course, I also want to make sure that we have diverse types of fibers, so each survey really is a survey and people come away with a broad enough perspective to feel comfortable when they encounter the breeds we haven't covered, as well as those we have.
We started this whole process on December 22, as soon as the need became apparent. We do have a few extra months to obtain and prepare the SOAR supplies. For CNCH, we need to jump-start the season. As shearing begins, we are collecting fleeces (that we've already put in requests for) as they come off the sheep.
Above: Samples of North Ronaldsay wool.
It's pretty exciting.
It also requires some detailed spreadsheet work, and a lot of e-mails back and forth. As of a few minutes ago, we've almost got the CNCH requirements covered. We need to fill in one more breed. We have lots of possibilities, but no wool-in-hand (or even in transit yet).
The gist? Although I'm likely to be teaching workshops now and then (and here and there) on breed-specific wools, and I will always include rare breeds in a class line-up, I'm not at all sure how often we're going to be able to pull off events that include only rare-breed wools.
Huge thanks to Beth and Jennifer for making these focused workshops possible.
While I'll give an overview of the world of wool at the start of each workshop or class, I'll give provide more detail on the breeds we'll actually be experiencing firsthand. Before I can get ready to do that, I need to know what they are! Now that we're (pretty) certain what eleven of the twelve CNCH breeds will be, I can start preparing my slides.
Happy spring! (Happy shearing season!)
Possible (probable) blog tour
It looks like we're going to be doing a blog tour for the release of The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook. The publisher, Storey, will be coordinating it, and it will probably start June 1. If you have a blog or podcast and would like to participate, let me know and I'll pass your information along to the folks who will be managing the schedule.
What I'm spinning