It all happened so fast.  That’s all I can say about the road trip that Rachel and I took to SOAR- what happened when we went, and how we got back.  It was like being hit by a fiber train.  When so much happens in a few days, I decided that photoessay was the only way to go.  I seem to have had a bit of a case of camnesia (forgetting to take pictures) but’s what’s on my camera(s).

We started the trip with a pit stop at Lorna’s Laces in Chicago, and not only did they let us have a good poke around the dye studio, Beth let us have a little fun watching how they dye, and even let RachelH have stab at dying her own yarn. 

Amanda (yarnmanager extraordinaire) took a picture of me while I took a picture of her.   (If you squint in the background you can see the pizza and beer that they had. (The leftovers are thoughtfully documented on their blog.)   Pizza, beer, fun folks and yarn?  Pretty perfect afternoon.)

That smile says "Best buffet ever!" 

We left reluctantly and drove on to Wisconsin, and the resort was on a pretty, pretty lake that put on a fine sunrise complete with mist drifting across the water and ducks that thoughtfully arranged themselves for the shot.

The first morning I had a class with Margaret Stove.  I’m entirely in love with her, and she specializes in spinning fine, fine yarns.  We worked on spinning, she passed around some of here incredible work…

and I spun… by Margaret Stove standards…

A bulky weight yarn.  That’s a penny for scale. Compared to how Margaret spins I’m a total hack. She has you check your singles under a MICROSCOPE to see how you’re doing. I was pretty impressed with myself until that moment, but it’s still the best I’ve ever managed.  It’s under-plied, but considering that I could hardly see it while I was working I like it anyway. 

In the afternoon I took a class on spinning fine fibres with a takli spindle.  (It’s a supported spindle, hence the spoon. That’s what we were using for support, and it was brilliant.)  Takli’s are traditionally used for cotton, and that’s what the white on the spindle is.  (The blue is wool. Ignore it.) I’ve never managed anything that didn’t look like a hot mess with a supported spindle before -so I was totally thrilled.  I credit the success to the teacher, Stephenie Gaustad, who’s just about as cool as they come.  

That’s Stephenie, who’d crawled under the table chasing some students.  I love her – but don’t tell her.  It will only go to her head.

This here is just a random photo from hanging out in the evenings.  One of the loveliest parts of SOAR is the time spent with great spinning friends I only see once a year, and watching the informal spinner-to-spinner teaching that goes on.  This is Phreadde, who has a crazy way with wheels, seen here working her diagnostic magic.  This snap sums up Phreadde for me.

Oh, how I wish I’d gotten this knitters name- she was a brilliant test knitter for Margaret Stove, and that’s the test knit of a shawl from Margaret’s book. (I bought her book Wrapped in Lace: Knitted Heirloom Designs from Around the World while I was there. It’s absolutely fabulous and beyond inspiring, though  the thought of handspinning enough gossamer two ply to make this makes me feel awfully dizzy – that sample is knit from Margaret’s commercial yarn, but in the class she suggested with a straight face that it would be an absolutely normal undertaking to spin your own.  (I swear the world got black around the edges when she said it. There was a collective and involuntary gasp.)

Saturday I took a class from the rather incredible Deb Menz, whom I have long worshipped. (I can’t stress enough how much I tried to keep that a secret in the class so that we could have a shot at a somewhat normal relationship.)   The class was about using wool combs and a hackle for blending colour, and there was a lot of colour.  We chose a base colour we loved, then added six (out of more than a hundred choices) to cool it, intensify it, change it’s hue.. saturation…  Her book Color in Spinning has long been a favourite of mine- and it was pretty glorious to put all that I’d read (and so much more) into practice. 

Hackles and combs are the scariest fibre tools there are- to my way of thinking, so much so that when Deb asked "any questions?" All I asked was what how badly students had been injured in the past.   (Nothing more than a bandaid and a tetanus update, happily.  I was thrilled not to break her run.)

We blended on the combs, then the hackle, then used a diz to pull the fibre off of the hackle into top that’s so lovely it takes my breath away. It’s exactly me, and the incredible thing was that I was profoundly skeptical the whole time.  The colours she had me combine were so crazy pants that I only went along because she’s sort of firm, and I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. 
When we’d pulled what we could off the combs/hackles, Deb had us toss our "waste" (what was left in the combs) into a drum carder and make a batt… 

and I’m pretty much in love whith that too – which (may I re-iterate) is also crazypants. There’s any number of unlikely colours in there- red, purple, a revolting neon gree
n.. Deb’s brain is an odd, brilliant and brightly coloured place to spend and afternoon, and I loved it.

I wish I had more pictures.  Pictures that would show you the feelings that there are at SOAR, that wonderful feeling you get when everyone thinks that these things are normal and interesting. The feeling you get when everyone wants desperately to have a conversation about the crimp in your fleece – when everyone is toting a wheel or has roving stuck to their arse – but I don’t, and I’m not sure you can take a picture of that anyway.  I can’t wait until next year.

Denny, RachelH and I made our way home yesterday in a rather epic drive from Wisconsin to Toronto – and I was home just before midnight, and just in time to wish Joe a Happy Birthday.

Today my charming husband is 42 years young, and I love him more with every day he’s here.  Our family has had a difficult and challenging year,  and while I’ve always seen his many charms, watching him rise to every occasion with kindness, humour, grace and patience has only driven my opinion of him to the highest possible place.  Also…

He’s pretty cute.  Happy Birthday Joe. You’re a wonderful husband, friend and father.  I love you.