This year’s classes and workshops–all on rare-breed wools

With major help from Beth Smith at The Spinning Loft and Jennifer Heverly at Spirit Trail Fiberworks, supply-gathering for the workshops and classes I’ll be teaching this year is proceeding as it needs to. I’ll be at the Conference of Northern California Handweavers (CNCH, May, California) and the Spin-Off Autumn Retreat (SOAR, October, New Hampshire).

As of today, we have all the fibers for the May workshop! Now moving forward to prep for SOAR. . . .

I keep talking about this as if it’s a big deal. It is. ALL of this year’s workshops are focused on rare-breed wools (see that word rare in there?). Some are easier to get our hands on than others, but none of them is a run-of-the-mill [sic] fiber. For CNCH, we are making up 192 packets of fiber. For SOAR, we need 845 samples. I try to think about one breed and one workshop at a time. And that there will only be between 15 and 18 students in each class (otherwise we’d have even more packets).

Here’s the line-up of 2011 classes:

Conference of Northern California Handweavers

One 12-hour workshop, over 1.5 days (8 hours + 4 hours)—Rare Breed Wools for Spinners

Some of the most wonderful and practical fibers come from what are now rare breeds of sheep. Come discover kindly wools and beaver wools, double-coats and singles, lusters that have shine and body, classics that have bounce and warmth . . . and, in a number of these breeds, a rainbow of sheepy colours. If we don’t use these fibers, we’ll lose them! We can’t use them—or know what we’re missing—if we don’t know what they are. We’ll explore the range of fleeces, with a focus on the rare ones but likely with a couple of baseline standards thrown in so you can feel the differences, and we’ll spin, play, and open doors of possibility. (12 breeds.)

Spin-Off Autumn Retreat

One 18-hour workshop, over 3 days—An In-Depth Look at Rare Wools

You don’t need a lot of experience to enjoy this class in unusual wools—just a willingness to have adventures. Rare-breed wools come in a huge variety of colors, textures, lengths, and descriptions. They can also be hard to obtain, and spinners often don’t know how to begin working with them. Come get your hands on a selection, and learn how to feel comfortable in the spinnerly wilds! Beginning with the shearing season and a group of special contacts, we’re collecting for this workshop’s pleasure fleeces from as many as 15 rare breeds of sheep listed by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy and the Rare Breeds Survival Trust. You should have plenty to experiment with in class, and perhaps a bit extra to take home and play with.

One 5.5-hour workshop, 1 day—An Intro to Rare Wools

Here’s an all-day excursion that will introduce you to some of the types of wool grown by rare breeds of sheep. We’re putting together a diverse collection of fleece varieties—aiming for 8, so we’ll have a very busy day—to whet your appetite and increase your confidence in dealing with unusual fibers.

Four 3-hour retreat sessions, two per day over 2 days—An Overview of Rare Wools

Come join a quick jaunt through the possibilities of rare-breed wools. You’ll get an overview of what breeds are rare, and why, and you’ll get your hands on samples of at least 6 breeds. Because of the time constraints, this will be a quick hike through the territory, but you’ll come away with a good idea of what the fuss is all about.

Last I heard, there was an available space or two in the CNCH workshop in May.

Registration for SOAR opened two days ago, on April 12. As of this morning, both of my workshops and two of the retreat sessions have waiting lists. When I looked, there were still openings in the Friday morning and Saturday afternoon retreat sessions. I haven’t been to SOAR since 1999. It will be good to be back there!

I’m going to “steal” two of the photographs from the SOAR site. I think it’s only fair. I took the pictures. They just added the rules around the outside and the drop shadows. (I like the effect. If I had more time, I might do that to some of the regular photos I post here.)



Because I took these photos, I can give you more information about them than is available on the SOAR site. The sheep on the left is a Cotswold (photo from the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival Parade of Breeds), the wool in the middle is Cotswold wool (the line underneath is 4 inches or 10 cm long), and the sheep on the right is a light-phase Soay ewe who lives in Cumbria (and is shedding her wool).

By the way, I love to hear ahead of time from folks who are coming to events that I’ll be attending. It helps me feel like I’m going into an environment of friends. I also have a lot more fun planning classes when I know I’ll have real people there and not just numbers (“maximum so-many participants”).

I’m also planning for 2012, and am almost ready to talk about part of that. It won’t be the same as 2011. Then again, each time I teach it’s different anyway.





3 thoughts on “This year’s classes and workshops–all on rare-breed wools”

  1. Well, I’m signed up for the last Saturday retreat session – hope we both survive til then. Just finished watching your DVD and will have spun up 14 things from the two endangered lists, before SOAR. I can’t wait!

  2. So far the Hog Island isn’t bad, and I’m really liking the Gulf Coast.  Katahdin is … interesting.  Some Dorset, Shropshire, and Karakul came in the mail, yesterday.  I imagine MDSW will be just as crazy as SOAR but hope to meet you at the Fiber Crawl party.  Childhood friend Christiane at North Valley says her Lincoln locks may have ended up on the cover – can’t wait to see up close!

  3. If your Hog Island isn’t bad, Lynn, you’re doing well. There are very few of the sheep, and I’m convinced that the wool can be better than what I’ve seen, if it’s not considered a throw-away. Gulf Coast can be a delight! I’ve recently spun some (from Spirit Trail, ready-to-go and dyed) for a project. Katahdin (or some other hair sheep) is good to experience.

    Yes, Maryland will be crazy. But the Fiber Crawl party should have a few relatively less-crazy moments.

    The cover styling was fairly crazy, and all for aesthetics rather than identification (although I was carefully tracking what got taken out so it could be put back correctly, and I do have scrawled notes somewhere), but there is nothing in the set of samples that I see that those gray locks could be *other* than Christiane’s Lincoln that she calls silver gray. Most of the samples in the spread on the purple background in this post are hers as well: .

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