Stash Flash-back

I can happily report no new acquisitions of stash recently -go me! I was wracking my brains to think what could I blog about for this Stash-Saturday post when it struck me I never fully filled you in about my Rhinebeck purchases last October. (Denial, much?)

One of the high-lights of my weekend was to shake the hand of a designer I greatly admire: Lisa Grossman, a.k.a. The Tsock Tsarina.

More than because I love her designs (though i was acting like a bit of a star-struck groupie) I mainly wanted to introduce myself because she’s a knitting-buddy of Helen Of Troy (OfTroy on Ravelry) who blogs at Golden Apples. Helen is a knitter and blogger that consider as an online friend because she reads my blog and often comments. We’ve never met – and are unlikely to get the chance to – so I felt shaking Tsock Tsarina’s hand was the next best thing to shaking Helen’s.

Anyway, The Tsock Tsarina does the most amazing designs for sock – many quite outrageous; all of them witty – which she sells as kits.

It was tough to chose but I opted for “Poseidon” in the end.

This had a beautiful skein of Jennifer’s Flock Sock in “Thalassa”, a bright blue with tints of green. This had a beautiful skein of Jennifer’s Flock Sock in “Thalassa”, a bright blue with tints of green.

I’m thrilled with the pattern too as it has tutorials on a few techniques that are new to me: Russian Long-stitch, for starters. This is a front-runner for the next pair of socks for me.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Weasels and Wheels

Back to some Rhinebeck stories and the many encounters that made the weekend so special.

In Building E we met with Phil Nicholson (seated at loom below) and Hans Franzen (standing to left, below) of The Holy Trinity Weavers.

Holy Trinity Weavers

They had a beautiful two-colour pattern up on their loom and were demonstrating other spinning and weaving artefacts and techniques. They were a fascinating pair – indeed, I should say “couple”. With great delight Hans explained that he and Phil were recently married (in Connecticut, I think). I wish them a long and happy marriage.

Phil explained to us what this is:

It’s known as a weasel and is essentially a swift or skein-maker but with the added bonus that it measures the yarn for you as you wind-on the skein. It has a racheting mechanism – based on the mechanics devised by the Romans for their odometers – that clicks while the arms of the skein-holder rotate. The length of yarn that is wound on each turn is 2 yards. After 40 turns (80 yards) the mechanism makes a “pop” sound.

Phil explained that in days of old the pionneer farmer would spin and measure out any unsold fibre at the end of the season to make (weave) the winter clothes for the family. The job of winding-on the yarn ad nauseum was given to the children of the family and this was the basis for the nursery rhyme “Pop Goes the Weasel” (whereby the child is in the role of the “Monkey”): 

All around the mulberry bush
The monkey chased the weasel;
The monkey thought ’twas all in fun,
Pop! goes the weasel.


Rhinebeck – now in Techni-Colour!

I was bowled over by the beauty of New York State in Autumn (or Fall, as I should say). When I first saw New England, some 20-odd years ago as an au pair for family in Connecticut, I was struck by how green it all is – greener than Ireland, in fact, thanks to all the deciduous trees. Seeing it again at this time of year, as all those deciduous trees put on their annual display, was such a special treat. The array of golds, oranges, yellows, reds, greens were all set off by a back-drop of crisp, gorgeous blue.

Hudson FallHudson in AutumnAccross from Jenny'sMy camera does not do it justice

So I set myself the task – a mission, if you like – to find a skein of yarn that would capture this colourway so that I could be reminded of its beauty and of this feeling again in the future as I knit it up. There were many contenders but the winner was found at the Blue Ridge Yarns Stand in Building A on Sunday Morning:

Rhinebeck Colourway

The colourway is officially called “Apple Rose” but I’m re-naming it “Rhinebeck Colourway”. It came close, but it doesn’t have the back-drop of blue sky represented. I think that alongside the Fleece to Shawl competition (I told you about in the last post) they should have a dyers competition for the capturing the essence of Rhinebeck.
When I bought my wheel later on Sunday from Liberty Ridge Farm’s Stand, Sunny Bixby insisted that I should have a bag of her carded and dyed roving to practice on. She had an intimidating range of fabulously dyed colours, covering a 4m wide by 3m high wall. It was a daunting choice so I asked for colours that would again capture the Rhinebeck colours. Instead of using these to practice, though, I think I’ll have to find other fibre to practice on so that I build-up my spinning skills to a level that I don’t destroy these beauties forever.

Don de Don Don!

On our first day of Rhinebeck we found the volume and variety of yarn so over-whelming the only thing Clarabel and I felt we could do was to take notes of all the stands we wanted to come back to.

In fact, our first two purchases of the weekend weren’t even yarn related! In Building E we were introduced to the concept of being “Smakert” for breakfast by the proprietress of “From Our Father’s Kitchen”; and we got the ball (and the dollars) rolling by buying alcoholic jams, chili-laced marmalade and some delicious, locally-produced spicy sauces and mustard.

As we pressed on into Building E, we learned about “The Big Wheel” from Susan and had the nursery rhyme “Pop Goes The Weasel” explained to us by one of the duo behind The Holy Trinity Weavers. (both to make future a blog post, I think)

Shortly afterwards, we met with a spinner who chatted to us gaily and was suitably impressed by the distance we had travelled, all for the sake of ogling some yarn and sheep. He told us about the Fleece to Shawl Competition he was taking part in the following day in Building E. I may have noticed this on the programme, but there really isn’t anything like someone – a contestant especially – telling you about an event for you wanting to engage and know more.

For the uninitiated (a.k.a. my readers in Ireland, I’m guessing) The Fleece to Shawl competition involves the challenge of spinning enough yarn to weave a shawl minimum 18″ wide and 72″ long within three hours. Each shawl starts with raw fiber which may be washed; but it must be in obvious lock formation. Generally the teams are made up of 1 weaver, 3 spinners and 1 person plying. Within that structure they must have one announcer.

“The announcer will be assigned two 15min. time slots to speak to the public about their team history, what the teams are doing and answer questions. When not announcing they may help their fellow team members and be available for individual public questions.”

Each team supplies its own spinning wheels, shuttles, bobbin winder, hand cards or flickers but “No drum carders, pickers or electric equipment”. The loom can be “pre-warped” i.e. the threads that go up and down on a loom can be set-up prior to the start of the three hours. There are very strict parameters involved, however:

“Pre-warp loom (may be handspun, or commercial; dyed or natural) at no fewer than eight ends per inch.”

“Warp yarn and spinning fiber must be 100% wool. Handspun weft will not exceed 3 times diameter of warp.”

The teams are judged on a 100 point basis:

1. Team Display:
a. Team Sign 5 points
b. Team Attire 5 points

2. Announcer:
a. Knowledge of presentation 10 points
b. Oral presentation 5points

3. Fleece:
a. Certified featured breed, Oxford 10 points
b. Natural Color or Natural Dyed 5points

4. Spinning:
a. Uniform preparation 5 points
b. Overall uniformity of yarn 5 points

5. Weaving:
a. Design 10 points
b. Straightness of edges 5 points
c. Evenness of edges 5points
d. Evenness of beating 5 points
e. Handspun Warp 10 points

6. Time:
a. First finished 10 points
b. Second finished 5 points

7. Point Deductions:
a. Less than 72 inches long -25 points
b. Less than 18 inches Wide -25 points

8. Point Bonus:
a. Team spirit and effort; 5 BONUS points
b. Fringe 5 BONUS points
c. Announcer knowledge of the Feature Breed 5 BONUS points

While the above may suggest only the loss of 10 or five points seem to be in the offing for not getting the shawl done in time, most importantly:

“Any shawl not off loom and completed by 1pm will not be eligible for ribbons or prize money. …Points will be deducted for being shorter”

The prize money is not insubstantial:

  • $500 – First Place
  • $300 – Second Place
  • $200 – Third Place
  • $100 – Fourth Place up to Seventh Place

An additional prize of $100 goes to the highest placed shawl that 100% used this year’s featured breed, Oxford; However,

“Teams competing for the additional $100 featured breed premium, must provide written proof from featured breed owner, to include, date, breeder address and phone, and total weight purchased. Fleece from current year.”

A further $50 was awarded for the best use of colour and another $50 for the best use of pattern.

We went along on Sunday morning and saw four teams in action. One team, I have to admit, I don’t recall at all, other than I met the plyer afterwards. Another team were dressed in fancy dress – so who could forget? They also had cup-holders on their spinning wheels, keeping their sodas handy – only in America, eh?

Unique amongst the teams, they had a very chatty weaver (just to the left of the picture above). We realised quickly that the role of the weaver is critical for the success of the team and their focus is paramount. “Our guy”, the spinner we met the day before, was weaver for his team and was business-like in his way of letting us know that now was not a good time for chatting.

When we arrived, one hour into the competition, the weaver for one team had just made the traumatic decision to start from scratch; cutting out the 3 inches or so that she had woven already. They had set up a very colourful warp set up on their loom, (dyed by the weaver, I think) but it was being drowned out in a weft of natural dark BFL that the team’s spinners were producing. That was a tough and brave decision to make. Unfortunately, the weaver didn’t have such an efficient way as “our guy” in excluding the chatter and distraction of onlookers. Explaining ad=nauseum that you can’t talk to people because you’re counting out a pattern in your head kinda defeats the purpose.

So we watched, we ooh-ed and aah-ed and we acquired weaving knowledge almost by osmosis. (Hey, I now know my weft from my warp!) But we did not last the three hours as spectators. Yes, we wandered off… we made more purchases, bought some yarn, a few spindles, a wheel… and didn’t manage to make it back towards Building E until we were leaving the Fairgrounds at 5 o’clock. On our way, we swung by on the off-chance we could ask someone who might know who won.

We did better than that! We met the winner – “our guy”! Yes, the spinner we had met the day before, who told us about the Fleece to Shawl Competition in the first place, whom we came especially to cheer on; was the weaver for the winner team. Having read his display board (above) and appreciated the effort he had put into the warp: growing and harvesting plants especially to naturally-dye the wool for the warp; and –  more importantly – having seen his shawl in progress (above right) his team was our firm favourite to win. I was thrilled that the judges agreed.

Don and his Winning Shawl

Now that he wasn’t focussing on his rather complicated weaving pattern, he was back in chatty form again and we learned his name was Don. He explained a bit more about the pattern for the shawl and why he needed to be so focussed earlier. A diamond pattern is not the easiest thing to do in weaving, I learned.

From my knitter’s perspective, the pattern was like a slipped-stitch / mosaic pattern; with each foot-pedal position (forgotten the technical term here) sequencing a pair of “slipped-stitches” towards each other.  Forming a diamond, versus a series of arrows all pointing in the one direction, means repeating the sequence in the opposite direction. Very easy to lose track, therefore of whether you’re going from left to right, or vice versa.

Don couldn’t help laughing at me as I was “toting” my freshly purchased wheel. I think he was a bit bowled over by our enthusiasm for crafting in general that made us travel so far. In reply, I couldn’t help deciding that my new spinning wheel should be called Don. That this given name has a resonance with my Family name is purely serendipitous – I only thought of that days later.

I Love Rhinebeck in Fall; How about You?

I can’t believe that it’s already a week since I was at Rhinebeck. I also can’t believe I haven’t blogged about it yet. So much to say and so litte time back in the hum-drum of the real world.

Yarn as Padding

I think many of the experiences that Clarabel and I had will be stuff of posts to come so for now I’ll try to give you a taster with what were the high-light moments of the weekend.

From the knitter’s viewpoint the following were the jack-pot:

  • Shaking Casey’s hand at the Sunday Ravelry Meet-up and thanking him for Ravelry on behalf of all Knitters & Crochetiers in Ireland (yes… I was *that* dorky and uncool! BUT… exactly how much was I going to beat myself up with regret if I didn’t? Only my entire life! HAD to be done) 
  • Shaking the hand of the Tsock Tsarina herself and asking her to pass on my regards to Helen Of Troy – a regular reader here (thanks Helen) who, I remembered in the nick of time, is her regular Sunday Knitting buddy;
  • Buying an Ashford Joy – with the carry-bag thrown in – for less than I’d buy both here, thanks to the suddenly favourable exchange rate;
  • Nan Kennedy and Seacolors Yarn

  • Having a chin-wag with Nanney Kennedy of Seacolors Yarns who gave me “Shear Spirit” (gratis): a book that features her “living the dream” as a yarnie on her idyllic Meadowcroft Farm. I bought three skeins of her solar-dried yarn in “Coral” colourway to make a funky dress for me;
  • Meeting Jonathan Bosworth – of the beautifully crafted spindles and cleverly engineered spinning wheels and chakras – and inviting him to Ireland on behalf of all spinners here (yup, more of the uncool groupie vibe!) Also, picked up one of his spindles for BionicLaura
  • The Fleece to Shawl Competition – and the spinner / weaver who told us about it in the first place – is all worthy of a post of its own;
  • Getting a demo on how to start drafting a silk hanky from the dyer Gale who also sold me a Trindle

Bosworth and Spindle

  • Meeting “The Librarian” from the “Completely Pointless and Arbitrary” Group on Ravelry and his gorgeous chaparones Pixisis and Golrizjoon on the Hudson Walkway
  • Meeting Jesh at the Ravelry meet-up and then snapping up one of the last of her gorgeous spindles
  • Generally chatting to as many fellow fiberistas as I could (and wangling into the conversation that we’d travelled all the way from Ireland just for this weekend – just to see their reaction)

Other fantastic treats any traveller would appreciate:

  • Driving through Mannhattan alongside all the yellow cabs (more fun and less stressful than I expected)
  • Staying at Jenny’s Country Manor (Donna, the proprietress, is incredibly hard-working; we never saw her husband, Ezra, but his cooking is to die for!)

Jenny's Country Manor

  • Seeing the incredible array of autumnal colours that New York State puts on display
  • The Walkway over the Hudson an old railway bridge at Poughkeepsie that was recently re-vamped as a pedestrian walkway

  • Lunch at the CIA – the Culinary Institute of America, in this instance
  • Dinner at the Terrapin Bistro, quaffing craft beers while enjoying their deliciously interesting re-interpretation tapas

There was more – so much more – but if I don’t stop and publish something soon it might never get done. But before I go, a taster of the Stash Accumulation:


Rhinebeck Stash