So we went to Tales of Hoffmann at the IU Opera Friday night, and sadly, it was not a resounding success. I looked up halfway through the first act, and Rahul and our friend Trevor were both fast asleep, not having been captivated by the singing, flying glow-in-the-dark wine and beer bottles, the song about a crippled dwarf, the manufacturer of magical eyes (yet another Blade Runner-ish element in this opera), or the tale of doomed man-robot love. Trevor left after the second act, and Rahul complained bitterly that I was making him stay for the entire opera. On the plus side, I enjoyed it, and I got to wear my Swallowtail Shawl, which I knit sometime last year and haven’t ever gotten a chance to wear since then. It’s Handmaiden Sea Silk in “Forest,” one skein, and is fastened with a beautiful Perl Grey shawl pin from Robynn. Afterwards, we went to a couple of local bars (Bear’s Place and the Root Cellar at FARM) to meet up with friends.

Bright and early on Saturday morning, I met up with Kalani, Nicole, Leigh, and Norma at the Sample Gates, and we drove about an hour northwest, for a field trip to The Fiber Event in Greencastle, IN. It was so much fun!

We saw a sign for Live Nude Bait on the way. (also gold panning and cigarettes!)

The weather was somewhat cold (around 40 degrees) and rainy, but thankfully a lot of the fair was indoors, and all of it was at least under a roof of some kind.

We saw some sheep being sheared!

One of the more experienced shearers was teaching a woman how to shear sheep, grabbing a sheep and flipping it over onto its back in one deft motion, like a judo master.

sheep rush

He righted it again and when it was his student’s turn, the sheep did not want to be turned over. It dug in its heels and resisted.

resisting sheep

Mostly, though, once the sheep were upended, they lay there quietly as the electric clippers buzzed.

Inside the fair, there were piles and piles of raw fleeces and rovings all over, and skeins of hand-dyed yarns dangling from hooks or piled in bins.

We saw fluffy angora bunnies:

We made friends with alpacas and llamas:

Doesn’t this one look like it’s on the red carpet at an awards show?

I’m actually sort of afraid to take pictures of llamas, particularly flash photos. They always stare at me intensely and put back their ears, and I’m afraid they’re going to spit at any minute.

We saw this antique New England braiding machine (from the 1800s, but I forget exactly when–1816, maybe?) whirring around. On a related topic, apparently there’s going to be a conference for owners of antique sock knitting machines, this June, in Nashville, IN. I see people using these around town every so often, at fiber arts events or in the yarn shop. They seem like fun.

We saw Kalani’s Shibuiknits patterns for sale at one booth, and thought she should surreptitiously autograph them and put them back on the rack. Here’s the famous designer herself, posing with her patterns!

I saw this sort of creepy-looking needle-felted creature–not sure if it’s a bear or a dog. The sign says: “Hello, My name is Secret. I’m named Secret because I have a secret. It is up to you to figure out what it is. You may have to pick me up to find out. Good luck!”

When you pick it up, the secret is that there is a smaller needle-felted creature embedded in Secret’s ass.

We ran into Elli, from our knitting group, and Wendie, who lives up in Indy. I was looking at a sign on a table and a woman there said “Excuse me, are you Huan-Hua?” Startled, I said yes, and she introduced herself as Holly, one of my test knitters for the Botany Baby Sweater! I saw Suzanne, who runs one of the yarn shops in town, and Diane, another spinner and knitter from Bloomington, and met an indie dyer I’d seen posting on Ravelry.

Here’s a group picture we took outside:

From left to right: Nicole, me, Kalani, Leigh, Norma, and Elli. Leigh is clutching a large ball of roving. She bought two balls of roving. The funny thing about that is that she doesn’t spin. (Yet.)

Here’s an equally important group purchase picture–the trunk of Nicole’s car, packed full of our purchases for the day.

Here’s what I ended up buying:

A skein of golden-orange Creatively Dyed Yarn, fingering weight. You can get her yarns at the Loopy Ewe, too. The label says it’s color number Gras #102, 100% superwash merino wool, approximately 500 yards. It’s a four-ply, low-twist yarn and will probably become lace of some kind. However, I’m not sure if it’s correctly labeled–it really doesn’t look like superwash merino to me, as it has a bit of a halo and shine that suggests alpaca or mohair. It also gave Leigh instant pricklies when she held it against her neck, suggesting it’s probably one of those fibers, not just wool. Or it might be a longwool sheep–I think she said it was “Wensleydale merino”–Wensleydale and Merino are two different breeds of sheep, as far as I know, but if it’s pure Wensleydale or a blend, that would explain the shine (it’s a luster longwool breed) and texture.

I got 4 oz. each of some naturally dyed rovings from Handspun by Stefania. I got stuck in this stall for probably half an hour, full of indecision–should I get indigo-dyed Jacob? Cochineal-dyed handspun? A handspun mitten kit containing fluffy white Great Pyrenees dog fur? I thought their prices were really good for handspun–$35 for a handspun mitten kit.

I finally settled on Corriedale dyed in lac (the bug that gave lacquer and shellac their names)–the base wool is a mixture of gray, black, and white, which is what gives the roving that range of dark to light purples:

and also a Corriedale-silk blend dyed in cochineal, madder, and Osage:

But my prize find was 2 oz. of buffalo down for $5 an ounce! I saw it elsewhere at the fair for $18 an ounce, and even that was apparently a bargain, since they’re selling it online for about $25$40 an ounce. I haven’t seen a lot of guard hairs in it, though there is a pretty good amount of wood and burrs. It’s from Jehovah Jireh Farm. I was also tempted by some gorgeous, autumnal-colored roving, a sample of which you can see on the right in the first picture, $12 for 8 oz. of a 50-50 wool-alpaca blend, if I remember right. But I stupidly repacked my bag before leaving and left my checkbook at home, and only had $25 in cash, so I was prevented from buying from a lot of the vendors, including this one–the buffalo plus alpaca-wool would have decimated my cash supplies, so I stuck to just the buffalo in the end.


Thing is, I hadn’t touched my wheel in months, so I felt really guilty about buying new roving and I was determined to turn at least some of my fiber into yarn before the day was out. And I did it! I must be the world’s slowest spinner–it took me about 2 hours to spin one ounce of buffalo fiber. It wasn’t the easiest fiber to spin, because it pulls apart into fluff really easily when you try to draft it, so before I got the hang of it, I was breaking it about every 30 seconds. It’s still awfully uneven, but I’m hoping it will improve once it’s plied.

But here are the fruits of my labor:

A very high-twist single in order to keep the fiber together, as fine as I could get it without breaking the fiber as I spun (not that fine, really, probably a little lighter than fingering weight), to be plied and made into who knows what at the end. I hope it fluffs up at the end, when it’s plied and set–I have a tendency to overspin and produce kind of ropy yarn. I’ll probably have some tiny amount of yarn at the end, 25 yards or something, but hey. It will be handspun buffalo down yarn!

I also went home with a major yarn crush on Briar Rose Fibers, but was so overwhelmed with the beautiful selection that I ended up not buying anything. Thankfully, they also sell their yarns online and go to a lot of different fiber fairs around the Midwest, so it wasn’t my last chance–I can think of an actual project to make and buy an appropriate yarn and amount based on that, instead of wildly snatching up everything from their entire booth like I had wanted to.

I also fell in love with Sea Silk in Peridot, a color I’d seen pictures of online and suspected I would like. I did. A lot. I’m not sure sea green and silver are great colors for me, but who cares? SO PRETTY. Again, though, it’s available online, so I can wait.

Before I forget, too, I took some experimental videos with my digital camera at the event. Flickr just started offering free video hosting, so here are the videos! I don’t think I can embed them, since I’m using free hosting on WordPress, so you’ll have to click through. Sheep shearing, and sheep waiting to be sheared. Turn up the sound–the main reason I took these was to capture the hilarious bleats and yells from the sheep waiting to be sheared.

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