Totally felt the need to get out of town for a weekend — nothing fancy, just a place to crash and clear my head.  Stumbled upon a listing for sheepherder wagons on a working farm, and immediately knew that this was where I needed to be. Bonus points that the host was willing to teach me a few things while I was out there. I’ve been messing around with a drop-spindle and even tried to spin yarn with a hand mixer (doesn’t really work, BTW).

Putting to practice the skills that I’ve learned

Spending a weekend at Blakesley Creek Farm was hands-down one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.  I was greeted with hugs and treated like family.  After a quick tour of the property and an introduction to the sheep, alpacas, dogs, cats, chickens, geese, and rabbits, Lois insisted on teaching me how to use the spinning wheel so I could, in her words, “stay up all night to spin.”  

I spent the better part of the weekend in her classroom workshop binge-watching TV on my tablet while trying to spin the fiber into yarn.  My first batch or two were pretty lumpy, but I was starting to build up some muscle memory.  I figure if it took me almost a year to feel competent as a knitter, I should be patient with myself as I learned how to spin fiber.

On my second day, Lois introduced me to her friend Nicole for my lesson in wet felting.  Wow!  Nicole taught me how to layer the fiber, soak it with soapy water, and pummel the heck out of it to get the fibers to bind.  Lois showed me how to needle felt, and I added additional detail to the table runner I had wet felted. She also introduced me to carding and color blending fiber for spinning.

Layers of fleece before wet felting

I think I have a new obsession. Spinning is very meditative, and I love experiencing a sense of calm while I’m trying to coerce the fibers into a workable form. I definitely have a new “fiber arts bestie” in Lois. The agreement is that she will teach me in exchange for me teaching more people the things I’ve learned. Done and done.

She encouraged me to attend the Black Sheep Gathering the following weekend.  Never one to shy away from a new hobby, I headed down and met many sheep in addition to fiber enthusiasts who were happy to help me pick out tools and teach me tricks of the trade.

Me and all the fleeces

I came home with parts and advice for repairing the Louet S15 wheel, a gorgeous new wheel and lazy kate from Athena Spinning, and hand carders from Celestial Farms that practically match my new wheel.

The new wheel folds up easily and travels well — the first plan is to take it camping, and the bigger more over the top plan is to bring it on my next international flight to maintain blood circulation, aka most expensive photo op ever. I’ve always wanted to take Jenn Likes to Make Things on the road, and this is one more way to do it.

I also bought two inexpensive fleeces so I could try processing a skein of yarn from start to finish.  More on that later.