Exploring the world of fiber, one draft at a time

My posting can be as frequent or infrequent as my spinning, so be as patient as that fiber, sitting in my stash.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

A Perfect Fiber Fair

Last weekend we had a booth in the Wool Gathering fiber fair in Yellowsprings Ohio. I enjoyed this booth for many reasons and it is always tempting to reconsider a decision to stop doing booths, when one has a very successful weekend.

This fiber fair is growing in leaps and bounds, and this year was the largest number of vendors it has had so far. They started with one small tent several years ago,and this year had two large tents with several vendors outside between the tents. I don't really look at it as competition, just more places to shop during my walkabouts.

There was a definate division between 'fiber' shoppers and the casual walk through crowd. The fiber people arrived early in the mornings of both days, setting the days sales off with a nice boost. Then sales and interest in the fiber dropped off during the afternoon, as the crowd became filled more with people visiting the Youngs Jersey Dairy Farm, where the Wool Gathering was held. This crowd was more apt to fondle the hand knit cap, and was also full of many kids wanting a chance to pet a bunny. I was happy to see more fiber people there, it means the word is getting out that this is a regular fiber event. And I look at the none fiber people as a chance to educate about angora rabbits, spinning, and my love of fiber arts in general.

I did some shopping too. I bought a spindle from one of my rabbit breeder friends, Candy Haentzel. She had a few of these spindles last year, and I didn't get one then. I was just playing around with the one she had out for the demo, while I was talking to her, and decided I liked it. It's an odd combination, the spindle is a smooth round stone, and the shaft is a very light wood. It will spin for a nice length of time, if the fiber is drafted very thin while it is spinning. If you stop drafting, the spindle will stop. I used it at my booth to spin up the angora combings from the rabbits, and I think I talked two other people into buying one, after they saw me spin angora with it. I am sure there are better spindles for angora, what I like about this one, other than the pretty stone, is that it is so small. If I am sure I can protect the wood part from snapping, this would be a very portable spindle.

I also bought some fleece. I had preordered two pounds of a natural colored blue face leicester from Lisa Rodenfel, and that was waiting for me to pick it up at her booth. It is very soft clean deep brown color. It has very long narrow curls. I am not exactly sure how I will process this fleece, but I will do it at home. I have no specific plans for this wool yet.

I also bought a Robert Miliken fleece this year. This shepherd must do this sheep raising as a hobby for his retirement, his fleeces are very nice, and very inexpensive. I generally pick up one of his border leicester fleeces, but everything he had this time, looked so much like what I already have at home, that I went for the one nice white fleece, a Corriedale ewe's fleece. It has a lock of about 6 inches, and a very loose wave crimp and loose lock. Different than all the tight curly locked fleeces I have been working with lately. It should be a breeze to wash up, but I decided to send most of it to a new to our area processor, Wooley Knob Mill. I bought the fleece Sat and took it straight to the car, so it wasn't until much later that my husband came back into our booth and said, "there's this big strange bag of fleece in our car?" I laughingly told him I HAD to buy a Miliken fleece, this was the last year to get one without paying shipping, since this was the last year to have a booth. Based on that theory, my shopping list is going to be very very long at the Greencastle fiber fair next spring!

Sunday morning before it got busy, I went outside behind our booth, and laid out an old sheet I had there. I spread the fleece on it, to decide what I would keep and what I would send to the processors. It was a big fleece, 9.5 lbs and it filled the whole sheet. It was well skirted, there was very little dirty spots on it. It is one of the few fleeces I have had to lay out and stay somewhat in order. It is still hard to tell for sure which is the front of the fleece and which is the back, if it's this clean! One relies on the dirty bits to know that is from the hind end. I chose what I took to be the area across the sheep's shoulders. This is supposedly the softest place on the fleece. I kept about two lbs from there, to wash in locks and spin fine for lace. I checked along all the edges of the fleece and found some areas that looked matted (felted) I pulled those out and put them in a bag. I took them home, I will wash them and see if any is usable.

The rest got put into a bag, and taken to the processor. He said it weighed 6.75 lbs and at their $4.50 per pound price it will cost a little over $30. for them to wash it and put it through the mill to make roving. It was a big bag of fleece, I can just imagine what 6.5 lbs of roving will look like! I am thinking about a deep green sweater from this wool, but I do not know yet if I will dye the wool, or the yarn.

Meanwhile, back at the booth.

One of the things I did differently this time, was to arrange to hang the skeins of spun yarn above the booth. The basic idea of building a frame of plastic pipe over the table worked pretty good. The problem was that we only used 1" pipe and so the structure was not very steady. We duct taped and tied it to the sides of the table and for the most part it worked pretty good. I really liked having the skeins almost at eye level, and feel that one of the reasons I sold a big angora skein was that it was so visable.

Finding ways to display fiber is a study in frustration. If the fiber is out in the open, it gets handled excessively, and is subject to the weather conditions. If I try and avoid these problems, it means putting the fiber into something. That immediately makes it inaccessable, and fiber people are very tactile. I won't buy fiber I can not touch first, and can not expect my customers to be any different than myself. I have only been able to come up with the solution of using large ziplock bags. The color or fiber type draws the customer to the booth, and the top being upzipped allows them to touch the fiber if they want. The ziplock bags have a big problem with staying in place though, they are more slippery than any fiber would be just laying on the table. I don't really get many other ideas from vendors at shows, we all just put up with the fact that the fiber is going to get handled.

The bunnies did a valiant job of being on display. I had a dual cage sitting beside me and my spinning wheel and I would let a few folks pet the bunnies. Mostly the bunnies dozed and looked cute. I sold three at this show, and almost the fourth one, but that customer resisted the temptation, and the bunny came back home with me.

This show was so much fun. All of the hard work getting the inventory ready had been done last April. I just packed everything up and went for this booth. The weather was perfect, the vendors in a good mood, the customers buying again, and I even got to spin. I had a 'sister' Haldane owner come up and say hi to my wheel, saying how much she loved the wheel. I quite agree, I set that wheel down, right on the bumpy grass of the tent floor, and it spun like a cadillac of a wheel. I spun and plied two bobbins of a drum carded alpaca on Sat and a full bobbin of alpaca roving on Sunday. That was satisfying, indeed.


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