It’s that time of year!

It’s been quite a while since I had to gear up and get ready for school to start in the fall.  It used to be that without that reminder the Fall season kind of snuck up on me some years.  But not any more!  For the past four years my fall starts in a very different way.

Now I know it’s fall when I start prepping for my classes at SVFF.  The Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival has got to be one of my all time favorite festivals, and here’s is why.

Classes

Shenandoah Valley Fiber FestivalI love to teach knitting and spinning and the Shenandoah festival allows me to do both! This year I am teaching TONS of spinning classes, as well as sock and shawl knitting! What joy I get out of watching students begin their love affair with fiber!  Last year I taught a beginning knitting class and I have such good memories of laughter and that sudden joyful look when the fingers catch up with the brain and they hoot “I got it!”  The beginning spinning class is one of my favorites – I love to be an enabler and watching the origin moment of a new fiberholic is such a high for me!  Again, that moment when a spinner’s hands, feet, and brain all connect in the right synergy and that big grin that spreads across their face! It’s almost always an amazed grin, too, because ten minutes before that you could see how totally convinced they were that they would NEVER get it!!

Friends

One of my personal bonuses for this festival is that I get to stay with a great friend!  She started out as my boss, then later she was a client, and through it all she has been a great friend, mentor, or cheerleader!  Berryville is almost 4 hours away from Spinfoolish Central and so I rarely get to see Ellen in person, or her husband and lovely children! Getting to spend time with them is always such a treat and I look forward to it immensely!  I can’t think of much that would take me AWAY from a fiber festival, but getting to hang out with Ellen makes it TOTALLY worth it!

Spindles

ShenandoahIf you follow me on Facebook or Instagram you must know that I am totally addicted to Spanish Peacock spindles. They don’t go to any other shows now, so the only time I get to see them (Other than FB or Instagram) is at this festival!  The first year I bought one.  The second year I bought 2.  I think last year I bought five – although to be fair a few of them were for friends or students that couldn’t make it to the fair and wanted met to vet the spindles for them. HA! Like they need vetting!  Mike’s spindles are beautiful, they spin like a dream, they are beautiful, the craftsmanship is astounding – especially for the price, and have I mentioned they are beautiful?  I have my eye on three this year, and a few extra for friends or students!  I can’t WAIT! Let the shopping begin!

Shopping

Speaking of shopping – it’s not just spindles!  Here are my favorites, in no particular order: Spirit Trail Fiberworks, Hipstrings, Strauch Fiber EquipmentAnna Branner, Dragonfly Fibers, Hearts of the Meadow, Misty MountainRajkovich Designs, Tatting by Wendy, Taylored Fibers,  and Wild Hare Studio.  Phew!  Serious money will be spent, people!  I often find unique fibers here for my annual Tour de Fleece Fiber Pack.  I also find fiber every year at Hipstings that I just simply can’t leave without!  It wouldn’t be a fiber festival without a hug from Debbie at Hearts of the Meadow! Fiber people are just the BEST!!

In addition to all that, it’s in a great location. There are trees for shade, sheep and dog trails, animals to admire, food to guzzle, and so many friendly faces! If you are in the area, please consider stopping by!  If you aren’t in the area, and you want a great spindle call me quick! I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to go shopping for you!!!

 

 

Ducks in a Row

It takes a lot for me to think of someone as a hero. My Mum has been such an ever-present epitome of decency, kindness, patience, and love that it kind of takes a lot to impress me (apologies to the rest of the world).

I do have a few though.

Anne McCaffrey.

Johnny Clegg.

And Stephanie.

Stephanie Pearl-McPhee that is, you know… the Yarn Harlot.

 

Having a Hero

She is, in fact, pretty heroic.  She’s all those amazing things so many of you seem to be able to manage with ease: a mother, a wife, an aunt, a grandma, a friend… but she is far more than that.

She is a knitter and a spinner. She writes books, gives talks, teaches classes.  She has a blog which has got to be the best blog on the PLANET, not just in Canada.

I mean honestly, she makes it look easy.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I know it’s not easy. I know she must spend hours and days and months to write those books, and perfect those classes – she is genuinely funny and a fabulous teacher.  But still, from where I am sitting, right or wrong, she makes it look easy.

And then, just when you think she’s really the whole package…she ups the ante.

She not only rides a bike…

not only rides a bike in a RALLY (I mean in public, around other people!!)…

but she rides her dagum bike in a SIX DAY rally supporting HIV/AIDS.

Think about that!  She rides 372 miles, from Toronto to Montreal, over 6 days in AUGUST!  Remember August, the month that makes you want to completely avoid the outdoors to you can still breathe?  Yes, that’s when she is out on her bike all day long. (and did I mention they all sleep in tents at night?)

Connecting with a Hero

And even if you do have a hero it’s not always easy to genuinely connect with them.

I always meant to write a fan letter to Anne McCaffrey, but then she died.  And what could I really have said that would have deep and lasting meaning for her?  “You are the only reason I survived adolescence.” True, but honestly, did she really need to know that?

I would dearly love to confer to Johnny Clegg how much his music has meant to me – how it puts me to sleep at night, and wakes me up the morning.  But while this is VITALLY and ESSENTIALLY important to me, I doubt it would register very high on his personal Richter Scale.

But my hero Stephanie makes connecting easy.

By not just riding in the rally, but by helping to run the thing she shows where her heart lies, and provides me with a perfect vehicle to showing her my undying devotion.  There are so many, many, many things in this world that could be made better. She is an amazing example of how ONE person can make a huge, huge difference.  And I love that she gives me, and all the others who love and cherish her, a simple effective way to make a difference with and for her.

I made a donation, and I offered some Karmic Balancing Gifts.

I think you should, too.

 

 

Tour de Fleece Spinning

Valentina spun this!

You know, there are a lot of things I love about spinning.

I love the fiber. Simply adore the concept of choosing a specific fiber, and spinning it in a specific way to create a yarn that I can do something beautiful with.

I am really happy that I am not a process spinner, or a product spinner – I am a little of both.  That whole process: playing with fiber to make choices, working with fiber to make yarn, and then using the yarn to create something ELSE really works for me!

The feel of my tools – I enjoy that most of my fiber tools are handmade, made of wood, and are pretty to touch and to look at.

And how can you not appreciate the amazing history of spinning – the shoulders, of the shoulders, of the shoulders of the women I stand on whenever I spin fibers together just gives me chills.

All of this is lovely, and seriously is my favorite thing about my life.

But my favorite thing about spinning?

Easy.

This is Iona. She made a video to teach us how to ply on the fly!

It’s the people.

I can honestly say that I can count on ONE hand the number of fiber people who are out and out nasty.

We don’t always agree completely with other people’s opinions or their choices, but one of the magic things when people start talking about spinning (unlike politics or religion) is that we all seem to grow and expand and accept that we are all different – and that IT IS FINE that way.

Melissa spun this!

Some spinners swear by a particular wheel, others by a favorite fiber.  Some spinners cant’ get enough of Navajo plying, others think it’s a waste of time.  Many spinners love hand spindles, while other would much prefer a wheel.  Some like it short, or soft, or purple, or birdseye maple – All of us are NOT LIKE THE OTHERS and yet we still enjoy spending time together.

I have yet to see anyone scratch someone’s eyes out because they didn’t like to spin with Dorset.  Never seen anyone punch a spinner because they love to spin with a charkha. I have never heard of anyone refusing to speak to someone EVER AGAIN because they prefer a Magicraft over a Hanson, or an Ashford over a Loet.

I really think it’s magic.

Kristin spun this!

And for me, this is the start of the most magical time of the year. Yes, there are more fiber events which is marvelous, and yes, it’s shearing season so there is new fiber in my basement which is wondrous. But the really MAGICAL thing about this time of year is that I start to get ready for the Tour de Fleece.

What is the Tour de Fleece?

If you haven’t been reading my blog for long then you might not know what the Tour is, and you can get a basic run down here.  But what is it REALLY?

Casey spun this from fiber she won!

It’s a whole month of fiber comes first.  It’s months of being able to talk about, show pictures of, complain about, be ecstatic about, and SHARE my love of fiber. Which could be amazing on it’s own, but I get to do all of this in the company of LOTS of people who feel exactly the same way about fiber.

Last year we had 149 people on our Tour de Fleece team, and I admit that I was worried.  So many people, I thought, there is bound to be a rotten egg in there somewhere. Nope.  There must be someone who doesn’t get it, who will not be supportive of others or who will not get along with people or push their own agendas. Nope. There has to be someone who I will wish wasn’t on the team. Double Nope.

They were universally lovely, warm, sharing, giving, supportive and caring.

Like I said. magical.

Helen spun this!

Tour de Fleece 2017

This year I asked the whole team to re-sign up (after three years I like to refresh the list) and I was worried. What if no one came back?  More than half the team from last year signed up for the new list in less than two days. Just wow.

Sometimes, when I am tired and there is still a lot to do, I wonder if it’s really worth it. I don’t get paid to run a team. I do a lot of extra things for the team that other teams don’t do, and it takes a lot of time. So, yes, I do wonder sometimes if it’s a good idea. I mean, it happens in July, and I start working on it in FEBRUARY!

It’s worth it.

Here are some of the comments I got from people from last year’s team:

  • You have revolutionized my wheel spinning for life!! 
  • This was an excellent experience, so much advice and inspiration and sharing, thank you!
  • I would like to thank you all for the support, encouragement and inspiration you provided, it’s been a pleasure to be part of this team. 
  • The Tour de Fleece  has the built in challenge days but this Team has the attitude and sets the constructive, supportive tone.
  • I have gotten to understand my wheel so much more during this Tour and have accessed so many helpful online resources. 
  • This team is super friendly, helpful, and positive. It was nicely varied in experiences and approach and the camaraderie was lovely!
  • I love the social contact with other spinners. It is so lovely to have a group with whom one can be gushingly enthusiastic without their eyes glazing over followed by a sudden change of topic…and I love how engaged the team captain was!
  • I truly enjoy Spinfoolish’s writing style. She is funny, educational and keeps my interest, the daily encouragement was one of my favorite things about the Tour de Fleece.

Anna spun this!

And suddenly, it’s very clear that it’s TOTALLY and COMPLETELY worth it!!

So here we go – three months of planning, scheduling, organizing, and creating – which turns into 23 days of pure bliss.  I am already thinking about NEXT year!

(Are you a spinner? Join us! It’s free, low stress, and a HUGE amount of fun!)