Thursday, June 01, 2006

Life has been rich

And I have to locate my camera.

Last Saturday Doug and I went to a flax-spinning workshop. We got to use a brake, a scutching stand, and two sizes of hackle. Since the actual flax stalks had been retted by someone else, it seemed like a very fast fiber prep from straw to a hank of what looked like teenaged-girl scalp. The outer bits of the straw fly all over, and the brake clacks, and then you take your handful of ratty fiber to an upright and hit it with the wooden sword. Norman Kennedy had told the teacher (Gina Gerhardt (sp?)) "Lass, you have to make the noise," so she had us making lots of noise, and the bits of outer staw fall off. Then you drag it through something very like a multi-pitch woolcomb, and then through a finer gauge one, and half of your handful (or more, depending on how well it was retted, which is to say how loose the outer bits of stem are from the inner fibers)becomes tow, and suitable for carding, and the long fibers look exactly like a dirty blond ponytail, the line flax. The actual spinning of the line flax is strange, because the staple is over a foot long. it is very possible to do spining relatively few fibers and make a fine thread, although I am more aware than ever that 200 - 500 threads per inch fabric like the ancient Egyptians made regularly was the insane.

I do not think I am going to become a wild keen linen maker, but it was interesting and I enjoyed the noise. On the other hand, i an really happy to wear linen rather than wool now that the weather has turned sticky (to say nothing of cotton, but linen really is cooler, as Juno will tell you. (though not in this post. She made a really lovely linen sleep shirt, she thought, and found herself wearing it, the envy of all who saw her, all weekend). Juno's pictures and her explanation of the party at Cate's on Saturday sums up everything I could say. Cate has a lovely house, even when you can only see bits of it because it was filled with women (mostly) and spinning wheels (and I think I saw more spindles in action at once than I ever have at once before).

The segue behaved badly, because there should have been time to say that after the flax-spinning, Doug drove us to Northampton (where I picked up Ellie last weekend and where I will be dropping her off this weekend) to Cate's house. Where Juno was wearing her linen shirt, and there were more people I knew than I have seen since Rhinebeck. It was wonderful. I hope Cate will have a keg party again when the twins are old enough to appreciate it. But Cate's family's absence did allow for considerable overnighting, and breakfast was fun as more and more people kept appearing. I think she had them on hooks in the closet.

The festival itself -- the weather was sunny and quite hot enough, somewhat of a contrast from the New Hampshire Sheep and Wool: if you weren't careful, you could have had hypothermia at NH and suntroke in MA within 14 days. I managed not to buy a Hitch-hiker (I love my Joy. I DON'T need a wheel for spinning in the car, and anyway I ususally don't have anyone else to drive. Pity.) I picked one of my daughter's dorm-mates from the college (she is spending the summer there too) and enjoyed continuing her ruination by encouraging her to buy more roving. I did succumb to Foxfire and Fantom Farm myself, and Jaeger Icelandic yarn and a skein of a mottled green that Cassie said everyone else at the party had also bought the day before. It's a really nice mottle, with bits of blue, and the yarn is part camel. I apparently believe I will get cold again someday, although it seems unlikely.

By far most of the fiber I brought home was given me. I have a pound of Damn Camel from Cate (if you can spin it, you can have it), an ounce or more of the lovely sage green Icelandic from Juno, and a batt of lovely angora-mix from Helen; so even being really scrupulous about not buying for my stash would not have saved me. Though Etherknitter kindly spun some of the blackish autumnal I am working since NHSW, while we tried to tempt her to various wheels.

A wonderful weekend. It was so good to see all those people.


Marcy, Blogless said...

A flax workshop??? Rats! Why didn't I know about this? Was good to see you, Laura, even if you do seem a bit confused about who your daughter is.

mamacate said...

So glad you came. And bravo for braving the damn camel. You'll have to show me your damn camel finished object someday.

Plus you're welcome back anytime. You seem to have cornered the market on local Eleanors anyway.

Laurie said...

I surely appreciated the loan of the fiber. I'm impressed you have chosen to address the fiber addressed as Damn Camel. I was tempted, but was afraid of madness.

It was lovely to see you again. This is getting to be a habit. At least I wasn't alpaca-obsessed that day.

Juno said...

You have a charming way with a tale. It was *lovely* at Cate's house. I want to go back. Except that these things can never quite be duplicated, can they? That's what makes them special.

(Why yes, I am 500 posts behind, why do you ask?)