Tuesday, August 29, 2006

2006 down, 2007 to come

The 2006 Nevada State Fair is now over. (Or it will be when I finish sorting through the bags and boxes and bins I brought home.) Aside from educating the public about fibers and having a lot of fun, my goal is to bring together the fiber producers with the fiber consumers. I think this year was successful in all these goals.

Saturday we had open judging of competition items by 3 amazing judges. Stephanie Gausted judged the handspun and handwoven items. She is both increadibly knowledgable and a great teacher, giving comments and encouragement for every entry.
Terry Mendenhall judged the Fleece & Fiber entries for the second year, and Sharon Chesnut judged the Mohair fleece. These are both wonderful judges who are so highly respected in their fields that folk will enter the competition just to hear their comments. All these judges were so good that we postponed the spinning contest until Sunday so everyone could listen to the judging.

Sharon was the big winner this year, winning Best of Handspun-handknit, Best of all Handspun, and the first-ever Best of Nevada-Grown (along with Mim). The Nevada Grown competition was created to celebrate fiber producer/finisher partnerships. Mim of Desert Peach Farm raised the shetland wool, and Sharon spun and knit the sweater. I earned my own pretty purple ribbon for my 3-ply icelandic skein, which topped the Handspun Skeins category.

Sunday started with a great workshop on fiber types given by Linda Loken. She had examples of every spinnable fiber imaginable and everyone learned a lot.

After that was the spinning contest, organized by Mim, and our very first Fiber Auction. I was particularly anxious that the auction would work out and be a positive event for both producers and buyers. The producers really came through for me! We had in the auction: 21 mohair fleece, 17 wool fleece(mostly colored, including fine, medium, long, and primitive), and 11 alpaca fleece. The quality level of these fleece was astounding. Although most of the wool and alpaca fleece were from northern Nevada, the mohair came from all over the west. The sale was handled as a silent auction, and about half the fleece sold. The producers were happy with this statistic, since it was our first attempt at a sale and the Nevada State Fair is a pretty small operation. From the outset, I wanted this first auction to get the word out so that we will be a magnet for fiberholics next year. So be sure to put it on your calendar!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Fair Fun

Today was the second day of the Fair. The Guild's tent is huge, and many of the Fair competition entries will not come in until the last minute (noon, Friday). Lots of folks have been wonderful, coming every day to demonstrate spinning and weaving to anyone who wanders in, especially kids. We don't close up the tent each night until after 10:00pm. I was able to get away some during the afternoon to wander about and see the Fair. I'm not one for carnival rides, but I do love the livestock and kids and just plain happy chaos. Tomorrow I hope to get out and about some more. The big events for fiber fanatics are Saturday and Sunday, so I need to do the rest of my wandering on Friday.

I hope I don't miss the "Most Creative Use of Duct Tape competition. I did get to see the goat races! ;-)

Monday, August 21, 2006

Hurry up and wait...

Today was my 1st NV State Fair prep day. As coordinator of the Guild's fair efforts, I was out at the Livestock Events Center promptly at 9am this morning to get going on a myriad of details. The large tent roof was supposed to go up today, followed by the horse-panel walls and security gates. I was hoping to be able to start rolling out flooring and stapling up wall coverings before going over to the 4-H judging at 5:30pm. This didn't exactly work out.

This is as far as my tent has progressed. Sigh. That leaves just tomorrow and Wednesday morning to work miracles.

The Fair opens officially Wednesday afternoon, though some equestrian events are already going on.

The carnival rides are starting to pull in, but they are not set up yet. Since I spent plenty of time waiting on the tent folks, I took a few pictures of rides still on the trucks.

I spent the evening judging Youth Photography. There are some amazingly talented kids out there! And the advent of quality point-and-shoot digital cameras is letting even really young kids come up with great shots from their unique perspectives. The Champion youth photo this year is a beautiful black and white image that any professional photographer would envy.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Shawl geometry

I've been up to my eyebrows with work, plus planning for the Nevada State Fair, so haven't much in the way of fibers to report. I spent much time at the DMV today, taking care of the Lorax's registration that I .. er.. neglected to pay on time (spaced it while I was concentrating on my Kiwi project). I did get some knitting in on the socks while at the DMV.

During the next week I'll be deeply immersed in State Fair business, so here is a past project to fill the gap until the Fair reports start rolling out.

For some reason I cannot explain, I am forever starting to knit lace shawls. Never mind that I can't think of any occasion where I would wear a lace shawl. So far I have started several and unraveled almost as many before they reached shawl-like status. Several years ago I did actually complete one. It is the "Super Spiral Shawl" pattern from the hugely inspiring "A Gathering of Lace" by Meg Swansen. The book features this enticing picture of Meg in a bright red model.
The pattern is actually very easy and very rhythmic, despite the "intermediate" skill level listed in the book. The resulting shawl is one of those items that gives a lot of bang for the buck in that it looks way more complicated than it is. I chose to knit it in a commercially spun cashmere-merino so it feels great. It won a lovely "Best of Division" ribbon at the State Fair that year.

Now the reality: This is a totally useless shawl. Being round, it either doesn't stay on or has to be folded in half, making the pattern disappear. It is mostly open work, so it isn't warm. the open points on the border catch on anything (or any cat) you are passing. Being black, it attracts white cat hair as if it has a charged magnetic field. And being round, it doesn't even fold up nicely for storing in the closet. Since I finished it, its only outings have been to be displayed artfully across a table at various Fairs. Then it goes back in the cupboard.

Hopefully having learned a few things from that project, I am now knitting a rectangular lace shawl in a falling leaves pattern. I may never find a good occasion to wear it, but at least it will not be round.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


My attempt to get my stash under control is going pretty slowly due work and other distractions. So far I have unraveled several partial sweaters, several half socks, and at least two forays into lace shawls. One of the sweaters that I disassembled was in this nifty fish pattern. I made up the pattern a long time ago and have used it in several (completed) projects. A partial hat was unraveled to release this lovely skein of orange handspun (it is much brighter in person).

Two of the projects that made the cut and moved to the head of the knitting line are a pair of blue/purple socks out of commercial superwash wool, and a bag made out of wool I dyed with kool-aid and spun a long time ago on a drop spindle. The bag is on size 1 needles (what was I thinking?!). As you can see, I need to spin up some more. If you look close, you can see that I knitted a sort-of faux smocking pattern in a band around the bag.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Lorax Blanket

Since I have recently resolved to put more order into my stash and to finish up some of the multitudinous projects I have in process, I once again picked up the Lorax Blanket. Many who know me know that my favorite toy, outside of my fiber toys, is my Miata. 1997 M-Edition MX5 in British racing green with Italian leather interior, to be exact. All in one package, it represents by far my most frivolous impulse purchase ever. A short drive with the top down will cure almost any day's annoyances. A trip into the Sierras on a windy road is, well... indescribably fine. So about 3 years or so ago, shortly after I acquired the car, I began the Lorax blanket. I wanted a smallish lap blanket for chilly autumn drives (with the top down, of course). Lorax is the name (and license plate) of my Miata. If you don't know the story The Lorax, by Dr. Suess, you can read the text here.

Using the logic that such a trip would always involve long pants, I spun up a pretty moorit Icelandic lamb fleece. (Moorit is brown to you non-sheep savy folks.) I kept the design very simple to show off the natural color variations in the wool. It is straight-forward stockinette with a seed stitch border. Although the Icelandic is a bit itchy, the blanket has a great drapiness, feeling both warm and lightweight. To personalize it I knitted "LORAX" into one corner in purl stitches. Unfortunately the name is too subtle to show up in the pictures. I kept the overall dimensions short enough to stay well clear of the peddles, yet it can be turned lengthwise to cover the feet when used by a passenger. To keep it from getting too dusty or dirty when not in use, I have one of those zippered vinyl bags that come with sheet sets. This fall's trip to Apple Hill will be done in style!

In related efforts, I have declared August to be "Freedom Month". This involves going through my massive number of unfinished projects and bags of mystery fiber and ruthlessly unravelling or tossing out any that I am no longer in love with, and thus will probably never complete. If I don't like it at this stage, it is unlikely that I will like it any more after I invest more hours on it. This action is both painful and amazingly satisfying.

For years it has seemed like I never had the right size knitting needles for the project at hand. After just a few hours looking through bags and baskets, and a bit of unraveling, the mystery has been solved. With a little more self control about starting new projects before finishing old ones, I should never need to buy needles again!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Nevada County Fair

The Kiwi had its debut yesterday at the Nevada County Fair in Grass Valley, California. Sharon and I drove up to demonstrate spinning as part of the Foothill Fibers Guild. The Nevada County Fairgrounds are filled with tall pines and meandering roads. The handspun and handwoven displays were in the Sugar Pine building. Igor and Beryl and all the other folks who put it together or entered fabulous items did a wonderful job, and within minutes of entering the place I had inspiration for many future projects. In addition to the competition items, there were lots of educational displays and hands-on opportunities for kids to get involved. The highlight of the trip was getting to know some new friends, especially Birdsong, who I had previously only met online through blogging back and forth.

As for the Kiwi, it garnered all kinds of attention and comments.

We drove home around 5-6pm in time to witness the 5000 acre fire just NW of Reno. This morning the air is filled with smoke. Today the Kiwi gets its second showing at the Carson Sierra Spinners & Weavers Guild Meeting.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Baby's First Outing

The day of my Kiwi's debut is at hand. Sharon and I are headed off into the hills to demonstrate at the Nevada County (California) Fair. Like any new mother, I have to coddle my baby so I have found a purple fuzzy bathmat to put under it. Stay tuned for pictures!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Birth Announcement

I am pleased to announce the birth of my painted Kiwi! Mother and child are tired, but doing fine.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Moving along...

The first coat of finish is on! And I didn't even have to unstick any cats from the pieces. Two more coats to go. I'd do the second coat before work tomorrow, but I don't trust leaving sticky drying pieces with the cats. The info on the can says to wait 3 days after the final coat before putting it to full use. That's cutting it a bit close if I am going to take it to the Fair on Friday. Too bad I really have to go to work tomorrow. I could at least do the sanding in the morning...

Marathon Kiwi Painting

It took 7 hours Friday (into early Saturday), 12 hours Saturday, and 3 hours today, but it was worth it. I finished painting the Kiwi! By midnight last night I was cursing myself for creating a design with thousands of little leaves. I soldiered on and I am happy with the result. I particularly like the way the wheel came out.

Next step is to start applying the finish. On the advice of Laura, enthusiast of all things that involve tools or a trip to Home Depot, I purchased water-based satin finish "Spar Urethane". This stuff is really tough and has the added bonus of including U.V. protection. Three coats, with light sanding between coats with 400 grit sandpaper is what is recommended. After that it should be, as Laura says, bombproof.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Driveband of my dreams!

Just a quick note: I have discovered that Pacific Wool and Fiber sells purple drivebands! The perfect finishing touch for the Kiwi! I immediately placed an order, so it should come in time for the wheel's debut.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Been kinda busy, so not much progress...

I just returned from a 5 day trip to Arizona, so I don't have much progress to report on the Kiwi. I am still working on painting the wheel. The purple paint is proving to be difficult to apply evenly, especially on the MDF. On the plus side, the weather has cooled down considerably, so I can work with the paint longer before it dries on me. I am still optimistic about finishing the project in time for the Nevada County Fair. If that doesn't pan out, it should at least be ready for the Nevada State Fair.

I took the first part of this evening off from painting in order to bake a pie as a surprise for my hard-working staff at work. It is peach and blackberry. I didn't have any brandy, so I added a couple of shots of Grand Marnier instead. We may have to card the student employees!

A happy surprise awaited me when I arrived home from the airport: the stack of books that I ordered during Interweave Press' 'Hurt Book Sale' had arrived. I hadn't expected them to arrive for a month or more. I can't wait to spend some time pouring over them. I ordered books on topics from knitting and weaving to spinning and ethnography, so there should be lots of inspiration inside! As you can see, Clara is hoping for some quality cat time to make up for my recent absence.