Monday, May 23, 2011

Home again, home again

But can't wait to go back.

I’ve had a fabulous long weekend.  I was in the beautiful city of Lexington, KY, for the Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival. But since I was going to be all the way over there, I decided to spend some time just enjoying the area. Last year when I came, there wasn’t much time to see anything.

I drove down on Thursday, a nice leisurely drive down. On Friday morning, I headed down to Berea, an area that is famous for folk art. While there was beautiful woodwork, pottery, glasswork and some quilting, I’m a little surprised that there are not more textile arts in this part of the country. I’ve visited several folk art places in Kentucky and haven’t seen even very much weaving, never mind knitting or other textile arts.

After Berea, I headed over to Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill. I’m in love. This is the most wonderful place and the most wonderful people. This was a strong, functioning Shaker village that was active from about 1805 until 1910. At its height, there were approximately 450 people in 5 or 6 communities. In 1910 it closed down but it wasn’t until the 1950s or 60s that the non-profit was formed and they started buying back the land and restoring the village. Amazingly, the buildings that are there are the original buildings, not reproductions. There were all kept standing and have been turned into, not only display places but also guest rooms. There were wonderful crafts and room displays, etc., but the most fun was a little ride through the village in a horse-drawn buggy with an interesting fellow that was able to give all the history of the place and has been there for many, many years. You can easily see how connected the staff is to the place.

The biggest highlight, even more than the buggy ride was the sheep shearing demonstration. The guy who did the demonstration is 77 years old and some of the younger guys who shear with him say that he can still out work people half his age and that he is a living legend in the shearing world. He was quite the character. The sheep he was demonstrating on were Polypay sheep, which is a relatively recent breed developed from crossing Dorset, Rambouillet, Finnsheep and Targhee. It was fascinating to hear him tell the story of why each of the breeds were worked in – have a look here for more info.

(That's my fleece he's holding up!)

Of course, the reason for the trip was teaching a class at the Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival on Spinning for Lace. I had 6 ladies in the class and everyone seemed to have a good time. The basis of the class was looking at the 3 elements that will set you up to be successful at spinning lace:
  • Equipment – getting your wheel set up so that you’ve got lots of twist going in and very minimal pressure on the yarn being pulled onto the bobbin.
  • Preparation – preparing your fiber to give you the best set up for spinning a light-gauge singles.
  • Technique – using a technique that will either complement the fiber being used or achieve the sort of effect you want for the finished yarn.
They did such a great job and it was a lot of fun to see the excitement in their faces when they achieved a yarn they never expected they’d be able to make. To me, that’s the joy of teaching. That grin and giggle and excitement is what makes me love to teach.

It’s been hard not to include 43 photos here because the countryside was so beautiful and the Festival was so much fun. So here are a few that will give you a taste. You really need to plan on hitting this Festival next year, for sure. This was only their second year but it was so well done and with so many interesting and varied vendors. There were demonstrations and animals and fleeces and fiber and wood and so much more. The organizers did a fabulous job.

I also want it known that I showed steely self control because I did not come home with a mohair fleece, nor with a Cormo fleece, nor with a Jacob fleece, nor with any other fleece except the Polypay. I did not come home with a new spinning wheel (although I finally got a chance to try out the Spinolution – which has the most clever travel wheel you’ve ever seen. Not sure how much I liked it but it was definitely interesting) nor with a handmade table loom or shuttles or baskets. If that’s not an iron will, I don’t know what is. I am, however, planning to go again next year to get all the things I missed this time!