Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Christmas Visitor

The holidays always bring up this memory, from many years ago, before I was a spinner (if you can imagine such a time existed).  

It was Christmas Eve and  I had just gotten up and was getting ready to make coffee and get on the road to my Mom's house in PA for the holidays.  I went into the kitchen and opened the blinds to see the birds at the feeder, when I jumped back and screamed "OH MY GOD!"

From the other room I heard a half-asleep "'Oh my God' what?"

As I started to answer, I knew what I was saying, but had no idea how crazy it would sound until the words had escaped and it was too late to pull them back,

"There's a SHEEP eating from the bird feeder!"

I heard the footsteps as Scott came out of the other room into the kitchen to see for himself.  Sure enough, there was a sheep happily munching up all the bird seed that was in the little wooden feeder.

Where did it come from?  This area was definitely suburban and there were no farms for many miles.  Scott said "Maybe it wandered out of one of those live nativity scenes."  I looked over the top of my glasses at him and said "I'm the only shickse in the neighborhood, so no."  I figured it came from somewhere, and there must be somebody wondering where their sheep is.  So I called the police.

Actually, Scott called the police.  I heard him saying "Can you please send somebody to pick up the sheep, and not to pick me up in a straightjacket?  I swear there's really a sheep here!"  A little while later, the police showed up with a lasso.  After several unsuccessful attempts to catch the sheep, it took off into the woods and they said we should call them again if it came back,  I said I definitely would, since someone must be missing it.  "Oh, someone is missing it" the officer said "but not for the reasons you're thinking."  0,o  What did he mean?  Were these people going to kill it and eat it?  I certainly didn't want it returned to them if that was the case,

The sheep returned a few hours later, so I called PETA who put me in touch with Farm Sanctuary in upstate NY - an organization that rescues farm animals.  They had sent two women down a few days later, who were also unsuccessful at catching the sheep.  But they did give me some useful information.  They recognized the breed as a Barbados Blackbelly, because of its ability to jump high and far - when the cops were chasing it, it jumped clear across an 8 foot wide garden with no effort.  They also said it was a ewe due to its lack of horns.  So I affectionately named her "Sheepy".

I know it's a tiny picture, but we could never get very close to Sheepy, since she spooked so easily and would take off.  But she would always return later,  I guess she figured out we were nice people who wouldn't hurt her.  It also helped that Scott went out and bought a bag of Purina Sheep Chow, and we would leave a Yankees popcorn bucket full of it, along with another bucket of water, for her every day.  we also hung a tarp over the swing set so she would have a sheltered area to lay in when it snowed. Never did I think when I moved from Pennsylvania to work in New York City that I would have to come home and feed the sheep!

Sheepy hung around for about a month and then one day she didn't return.  I hope she found a nice home somewhere where she is loved and well cared for.  We've since moved to another town as well, where we have many strange animals wandering through the yard.  But none were as unusual nor as memorable as my first sheep.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Rhinebeck 2012

Rhinebeck is something I look forward to every year, pretty much like a little kid looks forward to Christmas.  You make your wish list, you count down the days until the actual event, and then *poof!*
Just like that, it's over and you have to wait until next year.

Since I only live a little over an hour from Rhinebeck, I stay at home and drive up each day.  This year I took a workshop - All Spindles All Day with Abby Franquemont.  Although I've been spinning for a number of years now, I wanted to get a different perspective from the master spindler herself.  It was a very interesting class and I did come away with different opinions than the ones with which I had started the day.  Particularly, low-whorl spindles without hooks.

Since the first spindle I learned on was a high-whorl, I had subconsciously made them my preferred spindle of choice.  I could spin on a low-whorl, but would always switch back to the familiar.  In this class, we practiced both.  And I discovered that you could get a lot of spin out of a low whorl by rolling the shaft on your leg.

We also used a spindle with a hook and one without.  I had always been of the opinion OMG I NEED A HOOK!  But I found that tying a couple of half-hitches isn't so bad, and the yarn doesn't jump off as it sometimes does with a hook.

So, on Saturday while I was shopping with limited funds (made a mental note to speak to the organizers of Maryland Sheep and Wool and Rhinebeck about scheduling these festivals to coordinate with my bi-weekly paychecks), I found a big, clunky low whorl spindle for $12.  I also found some amazingly soft Border Leicester roving (purple, of course) and I started spinning it on my new spindle on the car ride home (don't worry - I wasn't driving!).  It's not quite the size of a Navajo spindle, but it will hold a lot of yarn.

Notice a color theme here?  I also picked up some Country Classics dyes and some felted friends.  And wine and cheese.  And more wine.  I was also very excited to find the burgundy/grey CVM/Romeldale I had spun last year, but forgotten where I had purchased it.  I found it at Spirit Trail Fiberworks, so I bought some more along with some Targhee/Merino/Dorset/Finn.  Their fibers are amazing and unique - they have a lot of rare breed fibers which are incredibly soft and still have a bit of that wonderful sheepy scent to them.

We had our Spin City- NY meetup around 3:00 on both Saturday and Sunday.  It's fun to get together and check out what everyone bought.  Just before the meetup, I had found a pound of Ramboulliet roving at a ridiculous price so of course I bought it.  We were busy chatting and passing around our purchases, and when I went to leave, my pound o' Rambo was missing!  But being among fiber friends, I didn't panic.  I figured someone had mistakenly put it in their bag and I would see it again.  Sure enough, I got it back the following Monday at our regular meetup.

On Sunday I got to meet Richard Ashford and try out the new Ashford Country Spinner 2 at Loop's booth. Steph Gorin helped to develop this wheel, which is great for spinning big, chunky art yarns!  It is amazingly smooth and easy to use once you get used to its appetite for fiber.  Check out Steph's tutorial videos on the Ashford website:

So, another Rhinebeck has come and gone, having enhanced my spinning knowledge as well as my stash.  Good classes, good friends, good fiber, good times.  Only 160 days until the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival.  Is it too early to start my wish list?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Fibre Fallout 2012

A little over four years ago, I was on one of the Ravelry forums when someone posted a link to Fibre Fallout.  I clicked on the link and thought it sounded interesting - an all-inclusive weekend of spinning and classes, and it wasn't expensive or far away, so I signed up.

I only knew one other person there, but I made many friends and learned a lot.  I took a Natural Dye class with Rita Schwab where we actually cooked plants to extract the dyes, then on Sunday I learned how to choose and skirt a fleece with Nelda Davis.  It was such a great weekend, I raved about it to all my Spin City-NY friends and in 2010 there were five of us who went.  I took classes in Wheel Mechanics and Sock Yarn Spinning with Judith Mackenzie, and Spinning Fine Fibers with Patsy Zawistoski.  They had expanded the weekend to include Friday afternoon classes as well.

This past weekend, Spin City-NY was represented at Fibre Fallout by 14 people (a few of whom are not pictured here)!  We had such an incredible time!

Having spent all week staying up late making flyers, prepping for the Campaign for Wool event, and working late, I had slept about 12 hours in three days.  But the excitement of the weekend had me up early finishing the laundry and shopping before heading off to New Jersey.

The most difficult part of this event is choosing which classes to take when you send in your registration.  They are all so good I wouldn't be disappointed with any of them!  I started the weekend with Judith Mackenzie's Boucles, Bangles and Beads class, where we learned different techniques for making fun, textured yarns.

My favorite was this one, which was made by pulling wisps of mohair locks between two silk threads.  The grey yarn at the end of the bobbin is my coreless corespun alpaca/silk blend.

I'm planning to make a lot more of this mohair yarn!  The class was so much fun, it was quarter to six before I remembered to look at the time.

After class, Lynn, Lisa, Melissa and I went for a hike through the camp's trails to see the labyrinth, which we then walked through.  Must put this on the to-do list for FF 2014, but with a drop spindle this time.

Saturday's class was a full day dye class with Kathleen Taylor - we did spiral dyeing on superwash merino sock yarn in the morning, and dyeing on sock blanks in the afternoon.

I loved the Country Classics dyes we used in this class!  The colors are so true to what the swatches look like and very, very little color rinses out.  And so vibrant!  The colors I chose for the above yarn were the Wild Iris, Mountain Aqua, Key Lime and Very Hot Pink.  Then I finished it with small dots of Raven randomly placed throughout the skein. This was my first time dyeing dry yarn - usually I wet it first - so there was less color bleed than I am used to.  I was disappointed at first that I had brought the wrong brushes.  I know there is a pack of chiseled foam brushes somewhere in the house, because I kept seeing it for the past few weeks.  Of course, when I went to pack for the weekend, they were nowhere to be found, so I ended up packing round stencil brushes.  They actually ended up working out better than the chiseled ones because they made a more defined edge.  So much better, that Kathleen said she was going to start using them herself.

After lunch we dyed sock blanks.  For those unfamiliar with them, a sock blank is two strands of sock yarn knitted together in a rectangle that looks like a small scarf.  You paint your dye on the knitted fabric and when it dries, you unravel it and wind the yarn into two separate balls.  When you knit your socks, they come out the same because the yarns were dyed together.

This was the first one I did - Buttercup, Cantaloupe and Butterscotch.  I thought it looked boring - the repeats were too long and I should have used more colors.  I added the Scarlet stripes.  We'll see what it looks like when it re-knit.  I finished less than halfway through class, so I did a second one:

For this one I used Bermuda Sand, Cherry, Lilac, Cornflower Blue and Evergreen.  I was happier with this one, but I still think the repeats are a bit long.  I'll be able to gauge better when I see how they knit up.

 Saturday night after dinner was the participants' fashion show, where I modeled my Strawberry Lace Scarf and a skein of singles yarn I finished from Loop's Purple Rain Clouds.  450 yards!  Still trying to decide what to make out of it.
If you haven't spun something from Loop clouds, well, what are you waiting for?  OMG these are so AWESOME to spin!  So easy to draft because the fibers have so much air in between - that is unless you squish them in a ziplock in your purse.  Ask me how I know.  And the variety of colors and fibers in each one keeps it interesting.

There were so many beautiful projects from everyone in the fashion show!  In addition, each class had a table displaying their work, so attendees could see what the other classes were working on.  The weekend-long weaving class was my second choice, but dye is still my favorite.  The weavers had these amazing projects on these tabletop harness looms.  It looked interesting to learn all the different patterns.  The weaving mentor, Daryl Lancaster, joined the Spin City crowd for dinner Friday and Saturday.  She wore several of her handwoven jackets throughout the weekend and they were absolutely gorgeous!

Saturday night ended up back at the lodge with a game of Wild Wool where you build sheep out of Legos.   Basically, you roll the die and grow wool until Christina steals it.  And then you drink.  I'm pretty sure Christina and Dawn made up that rule.

Sunday's class was my favorite, but it was definitely the messiest!  Gradient Color Band Dyeing with Kathleen Taylor.  You wind your yarn into a tight ball and submerge the ball in your dye bucket (or buckets if you're doing two).  Then you pull a length of the yarn between your fingers to squeeze the dye into the yarn and lay it in the rinse bucket.  You keep pulling lengths of yarn until the entire ball is unwound and in the rinse, and you change colors several times throughout the process.  I started with Wild Iris.  Shocking.

I went from the Wild Iris to Lilac, Raspberry and Magenta.  Once your yarn is all in the rinse bucket, you wind a wet skein  - THIS is the really messy part!  It's pretty much impossible to do this without splashing, so we did it outside.  When I do this at home (which I plan to do a lot!) I think I'll do the whole process outside.  Then I will have the prettiest yard with spots of color everywhere!  After the skein is wound, we use the microwave to heat set the dye.  And here's how it looks:

Again, a learning experience.  I should have done more of the first color before switching.  But I like it anyway.

 It was so hard leaving and going back to work after such a fantastic weekend!  The North Country Spinners do such an amazing job with this event and this year's was no exception.  I'm already looking forward to Fibre Fallout 2014!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Wool Uncovered - Sheep in Bryant Park

When I heard about the Wool Uncovered event in Bryant Park last Thursday, I contacted The Campaign for Wool to see if we could hold a meetup during the event.  After several emails back and forth, we were given the ok to meet at the event.

The Campaign for Wool, created by HRH Prince Charles, is a campaign to promote the use of this wonderful natural fiber.  They hosted this event which included sheep, wool, rugs, chair covers, tree cozies, home insulation, a mattress, knitters and of course, Spin City-NY.

They even emptied the fountain and covered it with wool!

I scheduled the spinning from 12:00 - 3:00, figuring most people would be working during the day, but could come by at lunch.  I was there from 12:00 until almost 2:00 with my Roadbug wheel. It was warm, but I wore my newly finished Strawberry Lace scarf from my own handspun merino.  (So newly finished that I wove the ends in during the taxi ride from my office to the event!)

Scarf is pictured below in progress.

We had a lot of spinners and drew quite the crowd!  There were plenty of questions from spectators and we were interviewed by several publications.

What a great way to spend a lunch hour! Thank you, Campaign for Wool, for hosting this event!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

A Fish Story - Sort of

Labor Day weekend has been fun so far.  Lobster and Steak bake Friday night with a live reggae band - and right in the neighborhood, which is rare.  Saturday we got up pretty early and had breakfast in the gazebo.  Walked around a little bit looking at the frogs and turtles in the pond.  We saw some fish jump and remarked about how some of the neighbors had gone fishing in our pond, but we haven't yet.

When we walked back to the house, Scott went into the tool shed and came out with a fishing rod and an assortment of hooks and lures.  He said we could thank the former landlords for leaving them behind.  I looked at the size of some of the hooks - WTF did that guy think he was going to catch in this little pond?  The hooks were bigger than most of the fish in the pond!

We opened a package of shiny red worms and after many adjustments and some WD40 (the rod had been in the shed a while) we practiced some casting in the yard (being ever the knitter, I kept calling it "casting on").  We felt pretty confident and headed for the bridge.  I know we had a lot of work to do, but it was beautiful out and the work could be done later.

I liked to fish, but I hadn't done it in years.  My grandparents used to take my brother and I fishing when we were little.  Grandma would pack a lunch and grandpa would get us set up with fishing poles and bait and everything we needed.  The only thing I ever caught were small sunfish, but my grandpa would always say something like "Sunnies are good eating!" to make me feel better.  I would be so proud of it that when I got home I would sit on the garage apron and scale and clean my fish and give it to my mom to cook.  And she'd return the plate to me with a little piece of cooked fish the size of a quarter.

When we got to the bridge, Scott cast the first line out and waited.  The current gradually sent the bobber toward us and he reeled it in and it was my turn.  I cast the line out and waited.

Scott: I know this is kind of boring.  It's not like fishing with a lure where you're constantly casting out and reeling it in."
Me: "I think it's nice and relaxing.  Until somebody bites your worm."
Scott: 0.o

He was getting antsy, so he went off with a shovel in search of some real worms while I cast on again.  (Oops!  You know what I mean).  Of course, the second he walks away I got something.  It was like the hook with the worm on it landed right in a fish's mouth while he was yawning.  The bobber went right under the water.  "I got something!"  Scott came running back and took the rod, but I guess I didn't set the hook properly, because we reeled it in and the hook came up with the worm still on it, but no fish.  Scott laughed and said "That's why it's called 'fishing' and not 'catching'."

So he went back on his worm hunt and I tried again.  And again.  And several more times.  Nothing.  Except for catching the tree limbs overhead twice.  The fish were laughing at me.  I just knew it.  The sun went behind the clouds and with the overcast sky we could see under the water.  Two fish were looking directly at the worm on my hook - just sitting there staring!  They were probably saying "She thinks we'd eat that?"  "What a dumbass!"  Then they got bored and left.

The sun came back out and we walked over onto the bridge this time.  I cast on (HAHA!) several more times with no activity.  At least not near my hook.  Fish were jumping completely out of the water all around the pond - again laughing at me.  And then I jinxed it.

I said "One more cast-on and then we'll go in and work."  You know when you say "just one more" is when you run into trouble.  So I cast the line and waited.  And waited,  The bobber was moving closer and I was just about to reel it in when I saw it get pulled under.  "I got something!" I yelled to Scott.  I was trying to give it some line and then reel it in a little at a time, tryng to set the hook so I wouldn't lose it like the one earlier.  But when I reeled in I felt like nothing was happening.  Did I hook something on the bottom?  It couldn't be - the bobber got pulled under.  It had to be those damn fish again!  They grabbed the hook and tied it around a log at the bottom of the pond and they're sitting there laughing at me!  >:(

Scott came over and asked "are you reeling it in?"  I said "I'm trying, but I think it's caught or something."  He took the rod from me and tried.  "Wow, Hon, whatever you caught is BIG!"  What could it be?  I didn't think there was anything that big in this pond.  He kept reeling and reeling and finally I saw a big, red mouth coming toward us under the water.  WTF is THAT???  He reeled some more and I saw it was a turtle.  But not just any turtle - it was the biggest, most prehistoric-looking snapping turtle I had ever seen!  HOLY SHIT!  What are we going to do when that thing gets out of the water?  It looks MAD!  He kept reeling and the turtle's front legs were on the shore and I could see the entire shell, which was about the size of a car tire.

Scott said "I'll have to try to hold his head with one hand while I take the hook out."  I  said "How are you going to do that?  His head is bigger than your hand!"  While I was fearing a trip to the emergency room, SNAP!  The line broke and just as quick, the giant turtle disappeared under the water.  I felt bad for having hooked him, but the hook was small enough that I'm sure he'll be able to dislodge it on his own.

As Scott laughed and said "Leave it to you to catch the biggest thing in the pond!",  I gathered up the rod and the rest of the bait and we headed for the house.  I smiled and said "That's why it's called 'fishing' and not 'turtleing'."

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Ultimate Ootums

My boyfriend thinks it's hilarious that I'm always making comments about over-indulgent mombies.  They spoil their kids to the point where they can get away with anything, because in their eyes their little ootums can do no wrong.  Their kids are always the topic of conversation, they have a gazillion pictures of them, (which everyone they encounter has seen), and everything they do is for their kid because no other kid is as awesome or special as theirs.

He laughs at me because I am exactly that.

It's all your fault I am this way.  You started it.  I was just walking around the fair when I dragged my friends to go look at the bunnies (one of my favorite things to do at the fair).  All the other bunnies were cowering in the back corners of their cages, having had enough of  being poked by everyone sticking their fingers through the bars of their cages for several days in a row.  But when I did it to you, you hopped forward and licked my hand.  I knew then you were coming home with us.  It just took me a while of walking around the fair some more and trying to scrounge enough money to spring for your release (between 4 adults, we couldn't put together $15 - oy vey!  So I went to the ATM.)  I almost gave up hope when we arrived back at the bunny barn and the door was closed.  But your Daddy is not one to give up easily - he flung the door open and we went in.  Next thing I knew we were walking across the fairgrounds carrying you in a Build-a-Bear box.

It should have occurred to me that night how much personality you had.  We stopped at the Main Gate for a drink and put your box in the center of our table.  You kept standing up to look around and all these girls were coming over to look at you and pet you.  Since you were always charming the ladies and you would be living with 2 girl bunnies, I decided on a name that suited you - Hef.

And that's when I became one of them.  The over-indulgent BunnyMombie.  I had other bunnies before, but none that did the things you did.  You were the first bunny to run from room to room and binky (for you non-bunny people, a "binky" is a little happy jump bunnies do - and it's hilarious the first time you see it) in the doorway, then flop down by the door when you were tired, feet sticking out the back like you were a dog.  You were the first one to figure out how the Treat Ball worked, and you loved playing with it (even though I would scoop up the treats you missed and put them back in the ball).  You were the first to run to the refrigerator and beg for treats, and you were the first one to run to the door when I said "Daddy's home!"

You figured out how to open the food container and help yourself.  And when that didn't work, you learned to push the container off the table so it would pop open when it hit the floor and spill all the food out for easy access.

But I never got mad at that.  I never got mad at anything you did, because you were my ootums and could do no wrong.  Daddy and I don't eat in bed, but you, on the other hand...

I didn't get mad when I was trying to eat a bowl of ice cream and you jumped in my lap and helped yourself from the other side of the bowl.

I didn't get mad when I was getting the vacuum cleaner out, left the room for two minutes and came back to you sitting next to the vacuum with the chewed-off plug next to you on the floor and a wide-eyed look on your face that said "Who could have done that?"

I didn't get mad when you thought the bottom shelf of the bookcase was your chew toy.  Or when you thought my new magazines were put on the floor for you to shred.

I didn't get mad when we returned from apple-picking and heard a crunchcrunchcrunch noise and found your furry butt sticking out of one of the apple bags we had placed on the floor.  I wasn't even mad that you had taken a bite out of each apple in the bag.

I didn't even get mad when you decided to hump one of my bunny slippers.  While my foot was still in it.

No, none of these things made me mad.  Instead, they made me laugh hysterically, remark about how clever you are, and share the story with anyone who would listen.

And yes, you were incredibly clever.  You figured out exactly how to bite your cage bars to make it sound like there was a jackhammer in the room at 5:45 AM, and if you did that I'd have to get up and feed you so I could go back to sleep.  You figured out how to climb the stairs to get to the food I tried to hide on the top step.

You figured out how to get me to give you exactly the food you wanted by giving me "The look" every time I'd put the wrong thing in your dish.  I'd put a handful of pellets in and you'd sit there and give me the look.  Then a handful of oatmeal - and the look.  Then some veggie poofs - and the look.  Finally, I'd throw a yogie bite in there and I couldn't get my hand out of the dish because your head was in the way.  And when I didn't catch on, you'd let me know you were upset by flipping your dish so all the food would spill out and I'd have to start over.

You were so clever that when I'd take too long cleaning your litter tray, you'd find a piece of newspaper on the floor to use so you wouldn't pee on the floor.  We used to brag how you never pee outside your cage.  Which you actually did 3 times - once on Daddy in the car, and once on each of our mothers' couches (each time right after we said "He never pees outside his cage!")

You had us jumping through hoops every time you had that forlorn look like you might be sick.  We would run to the supermarket for any kind of fruit of vegetable that would help, and then rush you to the vet (sometimes 2 vets) to make sure you'd be okay.  You had more regular checkups than we did, had a better diet and were taken care of better.  You even got your very own room at FancyHotel that didn't allow pets when we begged because we had no one to watch you then.  You had a vacation home at Grandma's in PA, your own personal chefs and maid service.  You lived through several blackouts, heat waves, cold snaps and a flood without ever experiencing any discomfort.

Everyone who ever met you fell in love with you instantly, even though you would shut off the outgoing personality you had around Daddy and me as soon as a strange person was present - and we would call you our Warner Brother's singing frog.  Because we would brag about how personable you were and then it looked like we were crazy when you'd clam up.

But you did warm up to some people.  Like Grandma, who would bring you a big basket of fresh veggies every Easter.  Or Aunt Linda and Uncle Paul, who watched you while we were on vacation and didn't want to give you back to us when we came back.  Or Drew, who would ask "Did you bring the bunnies?" every time we went to visit - before he even said hello.  I have great memories of Calvin and Drew (who are now in their teens) playing with you when you were all little boys.  Some of these people got to experience the wonderful snuggles and bunny kisses that were part of our everyday life.  As soon as I'd wake up in the morning, I'd pick you up for snuggles and kisses.  Same thing when I got home from work.  I could have a really lousy day and I'd pick you up and you'd lick my face until all my problems were forgotten.  I'd sit for the longest time just petting your head.  I'm amazed that after nine years you still had any fur left from being pet so often.  And when all three of us were together is when you would finally start eating.  You were always happiest when we were all home.

I wasn't ready for you to leave us so soon.  I'm not mad at you - I understand that you had to go, but I am brokenhearted about it.  Even if you had lived to be a thousand years old I still would not have been ready to let you go.   I am glad you were able to wait until I got home - so you would not have to be alone, or somewhere strange and cold.  You had us right by your side, petting you and telling you how much we love you right until the very end. 

I miss you terribly.  So does Daddy.  You two were best buddies.  I still want to go look for you as soon as I get up in the morning and as soon as I get home.  Sometimes I can feel you nudging my ankle with your nose like you always did when you wanted to play.  My brain still adds things to the shopping list for you.  I still have the urge to pull into Pet Goods as I drive by to pick up a special treat for you.  When we pick out carpeting, i still wonder if it's soft enough for your little feet.  I just want to pick you up and hold you and make the tears go away while you lick my face.  As painful as it is that I can't do that anymore, I wouldn't trade it for one less minute that I was fortunate enough to have with you.  You are and always will be the most amazing little ootums.  And I will always be an over-indulgent BunnyMombie.  Because that's how it should be.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Vogue Knitting Live

I really wanted to write this right after VKL, but a nice upper respiratory infection had other plans for my time and energy. >:( If you have not read my previous post yet, go read it now. It will give you a better understanding of the stress level.

So I left work that Friday evening and hailed a cab (Did you ever try hailing a cab on 10th avenue around 6:00 PM? There's a zillion cabs around and they're all off duty), got to the hotel and checked in. I went to turn on the light on the nightstand and clink - the band finally broke on my cheap watch. Ok, so I have no watch for the weekend. My iPhone still has the time.

Friday night was the kickoff party at The Yarn Company - the yarn store uptown where I teach.
I met Debbie Bliss and her daughters immediately as I walked in the door - very lovely people!

Me with Debbie Bliss:
Jayne spinning something uber-fine:

It was a great kickoff party! Great food, great company, great drinks, although I didn't have any because I was nervous about teaching the next morning. As I went to leave, I got out my Ikea bag I brought to bring my supplies for the classes. I thought it was one box - turns out it was THREE boxes, each the size that would have filled the bag. How am I going to get all this back to the hotel? The Amazing Johnathan (not the stand-up comic, but a guy who works at The Yarn Company and is AMAZING) helped me carry all the boxes downstairs and hail a cab. He loaded them in the cab and I was off.

Back at the hotel, I did a series of shuffling maneuvers to get everything up to my room. I spent the rest of the evening packing everything for Saturday's class, ironing my clothes, etc. Saturday 7:00 teachers meeting was SOOOO early! But there was coffee, so I was cool with it. They said in the meeting that we had to be in our classrooms 25 minutes before the start of class. The meeting adjourned at 7:34 - class starts at 8:00. 0.o

I went straight to my classroom thinking it's super early and I'll have time to set up when I walked in and there was a student already sitting there. I immediately started setting up as students started coming in. It was like being caught in a whirlwind of introductions, setting up and students purchasing the spindle kits. There was some confusion with the kits - the original course description said students could bring their own spindle and fiber, then I thought I had to sell the kits. And then I had my first student complain to the Vogue Knitting Live staff. We worked everything out and I proceeded with the class.

Class was awesome! I was nervous teaching such a large group at first (there were 15 students - I normally teach 6 at a time) - but as things started rolling it got more comfortable. And my students were fantastic! I love hearing someone say "I tried this before and I couldn't get it, now I got it! Thank you!" I got a lot of positive feedback.

I called Scott after class - he was pissed. Here I was, so happy I just taught my first class and he's mad that I waited until now to call. So much for feeling awesome.

I walked around the marketplace with my friend Melissa for a little while before she had to meet a friend. I was admiring some balls of fiber in this great booth with a felted llama chair, when I ran into a former student. She had quit her job in the garment center, bought a llama farm on Long Island and she looked happier than ever. It was very inspiring.

I spent a while doing a spindle demo at The Yarn Company's booth, then ran some errands and got ready for the next party - Gryphon (formerly of Sanguine Gryphon) was there - sorry I did not get any pictures, but she had a great Victorian outfit with a bustle and top hat. Again, great food, great company, great drinks, and I didn't have to bring anything back to the hotel!

I found the Mac Daddy of Duane Reade's on the way back to the hotel - 52nd and 7th - they even had self-serve frozen yogurt and slurpees. I got a slurpee and a bagel for the morning and went back to the hotel to finish knitting my red handspun moebius scarf. Got everything packed and ready, finished the scarf, set the alarm and went to sleep. Or so I thought.

I woke up and looked at the clock - 7:18! WTF?? I set the alarm on my phone - that stupid, annoying thing goes off every morning - WHY NOT TODAY??? Oh, because I never hit "Save" when I was done editing. Oops.

I raced through my morning ritual shaking like a leaf in a hurricane - called the bellman who loaded everything on the cart, checked all the closets and drawers and we were out, downstairs and in my classroom in 20 minutes - a personal record - one I hope to never break.

There were more people waiting than yesterday, but something was different - my table was gone. I quickly ran to the Vogue staff and they quickly got me another table, but the students were eager to get their kits, so I ended up just handing them out straight out of my Ikea bag. Even more of a whirlwind today of introductions, setting up and selling the kits, but I kept in the back of my head this is all just a series of little problems - each one will get solved one at a time. The Vogue staff was able to arrange a late check-out for me and the awesome staff person outside my classroom even ran to Starbucks to get coffee for me! Class went well again and I got more great reviews.

After class I had 30 minutes to set up for my demo on the main stage at 11:30. After everyone left I grabbed my bag with the multitude of spindles I brought for the demo, locked the classroom and headed for the main stage.

Now this is the part that really made me nervous. Talking to 15 people I've now handled. But doing a demo in front of LOTS of people, on a stage with bright lights, cameras and a microphone? That's a whole new ballgame. I got to the stage just as the fashion show was ending. The sound guy helped me set up as some of the crowd got settled in. Ignore the people - just focus on setting up. It'll all be over soon. So, as I was setting up, I realized one of my spindles is still in the classroom completely at the other end of the hotel! I checked my phone for the time - 11:18. I sprinted the entire length of the hotel, grabbed the spindle and sprinted back just in time to start the demo.

It went well. I showed several different kinds of spindles. Kept walking away from the mike and then realizing I'd have to go back so people could hear me. But again, it was not as scary as I had anticipated.

I went back to the classroom and got everything ready for my afternoon class before heading upstairs to grab lunch. I thought I'd try Starbucks again, but the line was even more ridiculous than yesterday. I figured I'd go to the deli across the street, but I didn't have my coat. So I ran
to the deli across the street. As I looked around trying to figure out what I wanted I saw Tavy from The Yarn Company. I sat with her and chatted for a few minutes while she said how well I did and how great the demo was. She left to go back to the booth and I got a cup of coffee. As I looked around to see what I wanted for lunch I realized that all my money was locked in the classroom! Why couldn't I have remembered this five minutes ago when I could have said "Hey, Tavy can you spot me a few bucks?" - probably the same reason I can't set an alarm properly.
I dug through the change pocket in my purse and scrounged up enough to pay for the coffee. I went back to the classroom, dug out the no longer soft bagel I had never gotten the chance to eat for breakfast and sat down and had lunch? Breakfast? Whatever.

I now had about 45 minutes to shop or say hi to vendors before my class started, and since the market was closing before the end of class, I had better do it now.

I went back to the llama booth and bought a ball of the softest Cotswold/Bamboo roving ever. I said goodbye to Lexi at the booth and went over to Loop where Christina insisted on taking me to meet Yellowfarm Fiber. But we had to stop at the $10/oz. cashmere booth on the way. They mostly had yarn, but they had some spinning fiber. We told them we wanted an ounce, but when they couldn't get the scale to work they told me to just take it. 0.o Only with Christina would I be able to get something like cashmere for free.

I then stopped at The Yarn Company before we headed to Yellowfarm. A nice group with awesome spinning fiber - they had no more dyed locks for sale, but they still had gorgeous balls of roving. They told me to offer my afternoon students a discount at their booth. I thanked them and ran off to teach my last class.

Once again, there were students there ahead of me. But this was going to be a smaller class and I was more relaxed now that the demo was over. Yet again, something wasn't right. I looked at two of the students and asked "Did you bring a wheel?" to which they answered no. I said it was in the course description that student must bring a wheel, a lazy kate and 3 bobbins. About half the class said it wasn't in the description. I went to the Vogue staff again and let them know the students weren't aware of what to bring. They assured me it in fact was in the description and asked what they could do to help. I remembered that Yellowfarm had a couple wheels in their booth, so I asked the staff if they could ask Yellowfarm to borrow the wheels for class.

In the meantime, I sold the leftover spindle kits to the students who didn't have wheels so they could at least learn to draft. I started the class the same as I had the spindle classes and figured they could take turns on the few wheels we had later. Pretty soon the Vogue staff came back with the awesome people from Yellowfarm toting a couple of Louets for us to use for the class. The whole experience ended up reinforcing the need for students to learn the spindle first - every one of them said they were really happy they learned to draft on the spindle before trying the wheel. I think it makes it much easier.

Everyone enjoyed the class and again, I got some really positive feedback. As the last student was leaving the classroom with her wheel in tow, she turned around and said "And it did say to bring a wheel."

On to the next - I had to bring EVERYTHING out of the classroom and put it SOMEWHERE while I went to the cocktail reception. Except that I realized after everything was packed I couldn't move it all myself. All the bellhops were busy and there were no carts available, so I did the stop and drag a few feet down the hallway when a nice little Chasidic man asked if he could help. I wasn't quite sure where I was going with all of it yet, so he sat in one of the classrooms with my stuff while I ran the box of supplies up to Tavy, who was having a similar crisis of how she was going to get all her stuff back to the store. I then met up with Steph from Loop who said she could take 2 of my bags home for me - I could easily check the other 4 at the coat check at the reception, so I ran back to the room and grabbed the rest of my bags, thanked the nice little man, and met Steph at the corner. She took my wheel bag and my spindle bag and loaded the rest of her things in before she left.

I went to get on the bus to the reception, when the Vogue staff person asked me for my ticket. I was frantically searching through my remaining bags when another staffer saw me and asked if I was getting on the bus. I said I couldn't find my ticket and she said "You're an instructor - you don't need a ticket." So I was on the bus headed down to Tribeca.

The reception and charity auction was really nice - gorgeous view of, uh, New Jersey. I got to meet more fabulous knitterati, including Lily Chin, Nicky Epstein, the lovely ladies from the farm in New Zealand with the super soft merino, the Vogue Knitting Live and Soho Publishing staff, but my favorite was Shannon Oakey. We met in the elevator and she asked what I was teaching. When I told her spinning, she said she owned a publishing company and was looking for someone to write a spinning book. 0.o I told her I kind of started one and she said we have to talk, gave me her card and introduced me to some of her colleagues. AWESOMESAUCE!!!!

I spent the rest of the evening dancing with Tavy and the rest of the crew from The Yarn Company including Debbie Bliss and her daughters.

Fortunately, we were off Monday, so I had a chance to catch up on some sleep. On Wednesday, Kaffe Fasset and Brandon Mably did a book signing at The Yarn Company. It was great to meet them and hear them speak about their fantastic colorwork. Of course I got their book and two skeins of their awesome yarn!

Love the hat!

Despite all the challenges, Vogue Knitting Live was an awesome and incredibly fun experience! One I definitely hope to have again, but with fewer challenges.

Friday, January 13, 2012

A Knitting/Spinning weekend

I'm getting ready to leave the office and head over to the Hilton for Vogue Knitting Live! It's going to be a fun weekend - I get to do fibery things and socialize with other people who share this craziness. But it's also going to be stressful. Because I am teaching. 0_o And doing a demo on the main stage. Eeeep!

I'm sure everything will be fine, but it's the not knowing what to expect that's the killer. I always stress out a little before I teach a new class. But this is a bigger class this time. I just want to do a good job and have my students tell me they really had fun and they learned a lot. And I don't want to stutter or forget stuff or have vegetables in my teeth.

Maybe that's why I had so many challenges thrown my way this week. Maybe it was to distract me from REALLY stressing out. Or maybe it was so I could overcome those challenges to think I could accomplish anything. Work was a PITA. New (earlier) hours this week (I get to leave the house 45 minutes earlier and I get home 15 minutes earlier - that's fair), a store visit on Monday, and a barrage of ZOMG WHY IS THIS WRONG??? when I got back. All of which I got to answer "Because you asked for it that way." And then an email of "MLK DAY is not a holiday this year" followed an hour later (after a lot of bitching) by an email that said "Whoops! I meant it IS a holiday!" 0_o

A week of four hours/night of sleep, a broken dryer, a septic tank that's full and a lack of funds until payday was the tune at home. Plus a bunny who is eating, but still not like he used to, and who occasionally sneezes loudly and vocally to scare the crap out of us.

Then there was the email about the VKL teachers reception which said to wear your red handknits. I don't have any red handknits! So I will be finishing (hopefully) my red handspun/handknit moebius scarf sometime before Sunday night. And then the student in the wheel class who doesn't have a wheel, and the shipment of 12 bags of fiber that was supposed to be 30. I was wondering at what point it would be okay to run away screaming.

The answer is none. Those challenges were shot at me all week for a reason. Like Wonder Woman catching bullets in her bracelets, I dealt with all of it. I didn't have time to sit around and think OMG I'M GOING TO TALK IN FRONT OF A WHOLE BUNCH OF PEOPLE!!!!

So, I'm going to send one more email, shut down and hail a cab over to the hotel. Rather than hoping I'm ready for my new students, I'm now hoping they're ready for me.