Last weekend I was at The Spinning Loft in Michigan teaching a two-day workshop called 3Ls and 3Cs. With such a cryptic title (although yes, there was a description of the class), I was delighted to find a room filled to capacity with wonderful folks. We couldn't have fit in one more. Fortunately, everybody had a comfortable spot to work (once we fiddled with the positioning of a table and a couple of wheels).
This is half the room before we got started on messing it up:
And this is looking in the other direction:
I didn't get a picture of what the space looked like two days later. It was impressive.
The top photo shows a pretty good view of one of the THREE walls of wool Beth Smith has displayed for sale in the shop. She's in the process of reorganizing her business so she can do more teaching and writing, which means she's closing the retail location, focusing her sales on wool and some selected equipment, and moving the collection of fleeces to a workspace at her home. The website will be the way to find her and her treasure trove.
This was a new workshop for me. It could have been two one-day workshops, instead of a two-day, although the material became a whole lot richer because I could relate the two experiences to each other. When Beth and I decided that I'd do another class for her, we both thought, "Let's do something different." We came up with the concept and the description, both of which remained true throughout the preparation and teaching phases. Yet between the two, when I was researching the material I would present, I made so many new discoveries about sheep and wool and the history and practice of using these resources that it was like I'd unintentionally opened a door into yet another room full of fiber-y magic.
3Ls: The three Leicester breeds, which have confusing names and quite different wools: Leicester Longwool, Border Leicester, and Bluefaced Leicester.
3Cs: Two C breeds that I couldn't tell apart before I began work on The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook, Corriedale and Cormo (they're EASY to distinguish now, of course), plus another C that I knew would offer a totally distinctive spinning experience and that came from the same part of the world, Coopworth.
So we had three British breeds and three from New Zealand and Australia. We had six wools that vary in texture, history, interrelationships, and behavior.
I knew we'd come up with a good idea for a workshop, but I didn't realize exactly how good it was.
When I was getting ready for the class and dug into the details of these breeds (more deeply than we could for Fleece & Fiber), I came across details pertaining to each that opened my eyes to new ideas, as well as relationships that I didn't know existed between them, and so we ended up looking at about how breeds come into being and are defined, how some of them move around the world, why some succeed wildly while others (equally valuable) become endangered, how to tell one type of sheep from another (although it's hard to be certain, especially with all the crossbreds out there, a set of clues can help narrow the field) and the same about wools. We touched on how people worked with genetics before Mendel and Darwin came along, and some ways in which they work with them now.
And we spun a lot of delightful wool while surrounded by adventurous and interesting companions.
Thanks to all the folks who came to Howell, Michigan, for this voyage of discovery!
Then there's the sweater. In my so-called spare time, I'm making both swatches and a few finished objects that show possible applications of breed-specific wools. Recently finished, and debuted at The Spinning Loft as a working part of my wardrobe, was my new Cormo sweater.
I completed it while I was in Seattle helping get Mom settled in her new living situation. That's where I took the photo above, my first experiment with the self-timer on my camera. (My sister's house is set up better for this type of activity than my house is: she's got a great dividing wall between the kitchen and the dining room which can be used for an appropriate-height camera support. Plus she doesn't have boxes of wool samples in the background everywhere.)
I made a few modifications in the design. Ann likes to work her sweaters in pieces, while I like mine in the round, so shifting construction methods was number one. Ann's design is single-color, and I had two colors that I wanted to use; the question was how, and you see my solution. I didn't figure I needed to draw a dark horizontal line across my hips, so the lower lace section is in the main color. I also have quite narrow shoulders that benefit from enhancement, so I added saddle shoulders. The biggest trick in that modification was calculating the saddle construction so they didn't bump into the lace patterning at the center front. (There is also a small lace motif at the center back, but its positioning wasn't an issue for this modification. I could have worked the lace and the saddle shaping simultaneously, but I didn't want to.) The other thing I needed to determine was how to combine the color shifts for the motifs at center front and back (intarsia) with the lace patterning—that is, where to change colors. I made my joins one stitch outside the lace areas, so that the lace-producing maneuvers would be cleanly inside the dark sections.
Oh, and I lengthened the body and the sleeves, but I always do that. I'm long-waisted, and I also like to have sleeves that keep my wrists, and ideally part of my hands, warm.
The sweater is extremely comfortable and practical. I ended up wearing it all last weekend, because the zipper on my sweatshirt broke on the first evening and limited my weather-appropriate wardrobe options. Not a problem. This sweater is a delight.
Cormo: Soft enough to be worn next to the skin (like in camisoles or sweaters to be worn without an underlying shirt); woolen-spun for lightness and warmth; fingering weight for flexibility and versatility; great color for travel; and it's wool, so when I spilled tea on myself I just grabbed a kleenex and dabbed it off, with no damage done, even temporarily.
I could live in this sweater. I may need another one . . . from a different breed-specific wool. I'll have to contemplate which breed, and gather or make the yarn. I also need a cardigan.
At the end of the weekend, Beth and I got to go see sheep! (This is a Scottish Blackface.)