Sunday, October 11, 2009

Yarn School!

Last weekend I spent my time in Harveyville, Kansas. "What's in Harveyville?", you might ask. Not much! It's a very small town, but there is a very enterprising couple who bought the old elementary and high school buildings when they were no longer being used. They live there, along with some sheep and chickens, and they run various workshops in the schools. Twice a year (spring and fall) they run "Yarn School," which is a wonderful workshop for people who spin their own yarn, or would like to learn how to spin. I had read good things about it, so this fall I decided to check it out for myself.

When I arrived, I checked in to my private room! I had chosen a private room because I knew I'd have to do a little studying while I was there. So I was assigned to the Principal's Office! I was never one to be sent to the Principal's Office when I was in school, but I didn't mind being there for yarn school! Participants can have either a single, double, or quad room, with varying rates of course. All the old classrooms in the elementary school are converted into dorms, so you may be sleeping in "Grade 2" or "Kindergarten!" In the high school, the gymnasium is used for the spinning sessions, and the chemistry lab is used for the dye sessions.
We began with check-in on Thursday evening, followed by spinning time in the gym and getting to know our fellow spinners. Some of the beginners were trying different kinds of wheels - there is a wide range of "school wheels" for people to try who don't have a wheel, or who traveled by air and couldn't bring their wheel. One of the first people I met was Lynda from Florida! Wow! What a long way to come for yarn school. She brought her Canadian husband, Marc, who was a bird watcher. He did his bird watching while she did yarn school. What a great idea!

Friday was an exciting day - DYE LAB! The old school chemistry lab is the ideal place for dyeing fibre and yarn. The benches are impervious and nobody minds if you spill some dye. There are sinks at each station on the lab benches, and there's a washing machine set up for rinse and spin-dry of dyed fibre. We were all able to try several techniques, including crock-pot dyeing, mason jar dyeing, and plastic-wrapped microwave dyeing. All the dyes used were the Jaquard acid dyes so citric acid was the mordant. Simple and non hazardous.

The dyed fibre was set out on "laundry lines" in the gymnasium loft area. They made a wonderful colourful background to our spinning activities.
After the majority of the water was dry, I took mine back to my room and let them dry by hanging them on the wall on coat hangers!
Here are my completed, dry dye lab creations! The pink/orange one at about 3 o'clock is my "outside my comfort zone" coloured fibre, where I tried to do something really different. The bottom one at 6 o'clock is dyed corriedale. The ones at 7 and 8 o'clock are fibre from the vineyard sheep of a friend of ours in Milo, Iowa. She has a mixed breed flock and their roving dyed really well. The big poofy one in the middle is my favourite, and is superwash merino. The one up at 11 o'clock is sort of deep cranberry and spruce - kind of a holiday colour theme. The one over at 1 o'clock in green and brown is also from the vineyard sheep and will be featured in a minute!
Also on Friday we had fun carding up batts and spinning them. Here's the drum carder table with some of my fellow participants making their batts.
Here's what I spun up from my mixed batt.
On Saturday, we had some morning spinning sessions, during which the group broke up into various skill levels. For lunch, we visited a wonderful alpaca farm! What a great time to get up-close-and-personal with some wonderfully gentle alpacas. The farm was "Alpacas in Wildcat Hollow" in Eskridge, KS.

On Saturday afternoon we focused on plying. I wanted to improve my Navajo plying techniques, so that's what I focused on. We could all work individually with the instructors, who were tremendously helpful. I spun up the green and brown roving that I showed you earlier in the picture with all my dyed fibre. Here's the finished product! My Navajo plying improved tremendously and I am less intimidated by it now.
Also on Saturday, we had visits at the school from two fibre producers - an angora rabbit breeder and some pygora goat owners! Look at this pygora goat! I had no idea that their coats were flat like that at their head end, and then became so fluffy at the back. Fascinating!
Finally, on Sunday morning, we did specialty spinning and plying techniques. My favourite was the coil or "beehive" spinning technique. It's really effective at making a very unique art yarn. Here's my first try!

I was really pleased with how that turned out and I can't wait to try some more. I think I might make a cozy neck warmer with this batch.

Since I returned home, I spun up the roving pictured at 9 o'clock in the picture of all my dyed fibre, and then I plied it with the very same roving but left in the natural oatmeal grey colour. Here's how that turned out. I love it!
One of the best things about Yarn School was that there were sheep in the playing field out behind the school. Adorable little Shetlands and some baby doll sheep too. That way, I didn't miss Marshmallow quite so much!
Maybe I'll go back next year!


Michelle said...

That is such a cool business, and so wonderful that you got to go! I can't imagine ever having an experience like that with my life, but I do know that "seasons" change and maybe it CAN happen someday.

Hidaway Farms Shetlands said...

Wow!! I find your "yarn school" soooo appealing. I am a teacher, have Shetlands, and love to spin!! Wish I lived nearby. North Carolina is a little too far away.
I love the dyed roving and the specialty yarn was beautiful. What a wonderful event!!

Christy said...

I want to go to yarn school! Maybe next year. I also want a pygora or 2 very much!

angie said...

wow, this looks like a fun weekend!

We saw these folks profiled in Ready Made magazine a few years back - they are pretty inspirational. I love the reuse of the buildings!

colorandtexture said...

I'm so glad you came to Yarn School and it was wonderful to meet you!! Your spin is just beautiful!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Yarn School is the best kind of school! What a great way to learn an perfect your dying and spinning techniques! They sure kept you busy, too.

The pygora is such an odd mixed breed critter, isn't it? I thought they were pygmy goat and angora goat bred, but that one has a Nigerian head, not a Pygmy. Funny how it's also a half and half critter, too. lol!

Just look at all of your gorgeous wool and yarn. You did good! And what a great time you had, too. :)


Holly said...

I'm so envious. I'd love to go to a spinning school. But alas, I'll just have to be content spinning alone. Would you please give us an update and let us know what you create with all that wonderful fiber you dyed and spun?

Flartus said...

I don't know much about yarn, but your stuff looks good! I like your outside-the-comfort zone color, so there. I keep thinking I should buy some yarn from you to give to my mom; she's a big knitter. But I don't know if she'd care one way or the other about where it came from!

Yellow Jacket Ridge Angoras said...

WOW!!!! I want to go to yarn school. Please let me know next time they have one or how to get in touch with them!!!!! Your work is beautiful!!!!! You've done well.