Lambtown Ladies Sing This Song…

Oh, Lambtown. I know I always gripe about how you’re always on the same weekend as everything else cool that my friends want me to go to, but man, am I glad this year that we got things out of the way before school really started.

I spent Saturday afternoon with a fun bunch of natural dye enthusiasts. Things were very nearly disastrous when the stove wasn’t working at first, and I had to come up with Plan B–solar dyeing on the blacktop outside the kitchen and rotating the dye baths on one electric induction burner. Thank goodness I had thought to bring that just in case! About halfway through the class the stove was finally working, so we were able to finish up with multiple dyebaths simmering.

Of course there were many other surprises, as always with natural dyes. This time around, purple corn came out more like a slate blue, and even with a vinegar rinse didn’t shift much into the purple/pinkish zone. Was it the corn? Some was from the same batch that I used for my first test, and some was ordered from a different farm. Was it the water? Dixon tap water versus Davis tap water? Was it the alignment of planets or phase of the moon? We’ll never know.

I couldn’t have asked for a better bunch of students. They were game for unpredictable results, asked really perceptive questions, and were ok with answers like “I don’t know. That would be a great experiment to run.” They came up with great ideas for activities to do with their own families and students–like having a group of 4H-ers each bring a bucket of water from their homes and seeing how the same dye comes out differently in different water. If any of you are reading this, thanks for your part in making this a successful workshop!

On Sunday afternoon I was scheduled to do a one-hour demo of card weaving. I showed up early enough to have time for a little shopping before hand, but not so much time that I could get into too much mischief. But I considered some heavy-duty mischief (drum carder? viking combs?). The demo went great, and then I watched Stephenie Gaustad judge the alpaca fleeces in the wool show. I learned a lot from watching her handle the fleeces to check for luster, softness, evenness of staple, and vegetable matter contamination. Oh, the VM. So many of the fleeces seemed to have great character but lots of foxtails and feed stuck in the locks.

So that’s all done with. Now we’re on to Spinzilla and the first week of grad school, two activities which are proving to be not entirely compatible…

So About that Workshop…

One thing that’s been difficult for me in transitioning from hobbyist fiber arts nerd to semi-professional fiber arts nerd is fighting the sense that I’m wasting time when, for example, skimming 19th century travelogues for descriptions of shepherding practices. Okay, that probably still counts as wasting time. But it’s been really hard to convince myself that this is my work now, and that it’s really okay to spend a hefty chunk of my time reading about and playing around with string. So I’m really excited to have my first gig as a fiber festival presenter next month. Yay for Lambtown!

I’ll be leading a workshop on natural dyes, focusing on locally available materials and environmentally sustainable methods. I promise that it will be fun! If you happen to be in the Sacramento area in the first weekend of October, please check it out.

I’ll also be demonstrating card-weaving the following day, and I promise that that will also be fun. Thanks to my colleagues in the Davis Spinners’ Guild and Sacramento Weavers and Spinners Guild for putting together this event and letting me be a part of it.