Workshop Prep!

March continues to bring all sorts of excitement. Yesterday’s news, for instance, said “Flooding is almost guaranteed in the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky region, he said. The Little and Great Miami rivers and the Ohio River could hit flood stage or rise above…” and this morning, quite a bit of flooding, even nearby, is being reported. We’re atop a rise on higher ground and our drainage is good, but it’s wet. Here’s my office window view the past few days:


It was raining so hard I drove the boy to the end of the driveway to wait for the school bus (no school closing for him, as our district is not one of the ones underwater). He snapped this photo of our swamped main storm drain that leads to a nearby creekbed (which is normally almost dry).

It’s been 4 or 5 inches of rain in the past 24 hours, apparently. Oh, the melodrama! Just… not enough to scare the bus drivers.

And time for work, too, Mom.

Pay no mind to the almost-finished objects and works in progress and so on, standing taller than my monitor and threatening to crush me. I won’t be getting to any of those today. No, today is a workshop preparation day. This seems, to me, not odd at all, because I grew up doing it — but at the same time, I think my upcoming workshops at The Spinning Loft in Howell, Michigan are the first I’ve done in over a decade, so it’s been a while.

Working with Beth has been fabulous; she’s given me accurate head counts all along the way, kept me posted on any special needs, gathered things she’s got questions about dealing with the topics at hand, and let me know what sort of things she keeps on hand just in case. She’s asked all the smart questions about space needs and class configuration and setup. It’s hard to believe she hasn’t been hosting workshops for decades; she’s on the ball about this.

The bulk of my fibers for my two workshops arrived last night, and today I’m divvying them up into packets. I find that doing these in advance, student by student, streamlines the in-class time for certain types of classes. I always do enough for the signed up students, plus me, plus two, plus I try to have extra random leftovers of various things. Having packets ready, plus extra, plus leftovers, is especially important if a material is hard to find, specialized, or requires advance setup (like warps for a weaving class). Unforeseen things happen. If someone spills his coffee right into his pile of materials, having more is a win. And what if there are extra people who show up? Let’s just say I’d rather have overprepared than underprepared. Nobody ever left a class upset that there were too many supplies, but too few? That’s a problem.

I could just take this heap of pencil roving and distribute it in class — and sometimes, I’d do exactly that. But we’ve got a full group and lots of material to cover and it’ll be easier to be able to say “Now, take your pencil roving — that’s THIS” and hold up my sample, “and do THIS with it.” So I’m divvying it up.

Then I do the same with the other fibers planned, and put together a packet.

Well… 15 packets, plus extra bits.

And that’s the fiber for the evening spindle class! We have three very nice pencil rovings, a medium wool top, a coarser carded brown wool in industrial sliver, and some fine wool. This selection gives me room to work with spinners at all skill levels from “never touched fiber before, not sure what a spindle is” to the likes of Faina “Forest Path Stole” Letoutchaia, who I’m sure will be ready with a basket of overripe tomatoes just in case I don’t have answers for her about something.

(NB: Faina is one of my favourite yarn people. We wisecrack with each other, but don’t mistake it for anything other than good-natured! I’m hoping she’ll stay after class and show me a spindle trick or two with the Russian spindle, a tool which… well, I don’t think I even own one right now, we’ll put it that way.)

Selecting fiber for the sock class was a different sort of exercise. As we were discussing in “Spinning for Socks: Why?” there are many things that make a given pair of socks ideal. With this class, I want to not only teach students how to spin sock yarn like the millspuns they may be buying to knit socks with, but give them an opportunity to think about what more is possible.

So, we’ve got your basic soft, fluffy Merino top, and we’ll talk about how to get a bouncy, lofty, squishy sock yarn with it, like some of the American and Japanese brands. We’ve got a few natural shades of Blue Faced Leicester, and we’ll get into harder-wearing sock yarns with these, like some popular millspuns from Europe. And then we have a few blends, like the Karaoke merino/soysilk blend featured in “Spinning for Socks: Colour!, and…

…some of my drum-carded luxury sock blends, and a bit of that pencil roving, and a longwool, and… yeah. Lots of stuff. And I should be finishing making the packets, instead of sitting here blogging in the dreary rain, warily eyeing the increasingly sodden back yard and exclaiming, “Holy crap, is that a new stream in the neighbours’ horse pasture?”

It’s my hope that people will leave this day-long workshop with the tools to spin the sock yarn they really want, and with some food for thought about socks in general, and what they’d like to get out of their socks, and how they can produce custom yarns that make that more possible than the mill does.

I’ve still got to make a handful of spindles for folks to try in the spindle class, and make sure I’ve got enough for folks to choose one to take home, and I have to put together student folders with the paper handouts. And I have a few more samples to spin to be handed around, and the ones dealing with colour need to be wrapped so they show how the colour works. If this series goes well, I’ll probably want to extend the show-and-tell materials, and have actual socks to pass around if I do this one again, much. Indeed, workshop prep can take as much time as the workshop itself!

22 thoughts on “Workshop Prep!

  1. How long do ya think it would take to row from California to where you are?????

  2. boo hoo I want to go. Have fun though, and have a beer for me will ya? Hell have two.

  3. I wish I was attending! 🙂

    Good luck with it and your students are privileged to have you running the workshop.

  4. Do you ever teach in NJ? How much do workshops cost?–just ’cause, you know, I want to start saving up. Seriously, I’ve wanted to learn to spindle spin for years but have never met anyone to learn from. My fantasy is to learn to spin angora & raise my own rabbits. That’s because it’s easier to get wool or alpaca roving, but if you only have a backyard, it’s easier to raise rabbits than sheep.

  5. Mmmm….Northern Lights roving. 😉 I have the lovely pastel one and have already spun the other one….was it named violets? The blue/green/purple one. That was my first Navajo plyed yarn.

  6. I promise not to throw rotten tomatoes at you if you don’t answer my questions, but I *am* bringing a can of wasabi and soy almonds, for bargaining purposes. 🙂 Three hours is not nearly long enough….

  7. I think we’re all trying to send you a collective “Wish you were here!” Because that’d be awesome.

  8. Wait a gall darn minute….what is that poking up from the soggy puddles…..could it be…yes…no.
    Why yes I think it is….grass, GREEN grass. I think I remember that from my distant past. Wow, green grass and on the first day of spring too. Amazing.

  9. If your teaching skills are even remotely as good as your spinning and writing skills (and I’d bet money that they are), those students are one lucky bunch of people.

    Have fun!

  10. Enjoy your workshops, everyone else will, I’m sure, but not me cause I’m still in the sunny south!

  11. Well hot dang. I’ve been reading your posts on the Spindilitis site, and I have glanced over your chain-plying lesson, and of course I’ve looked at your gorgeous yarn, but I didn’t know until today that WE LIVE 15 MINUTES AWAY FROM EACH OTHER!!!! Zip up Rt. 42 to Waynesville some day, and we’ll hang out together!

  12. Abby: This is off your current topic. I just finished reading Weaving in the Peruvian Highlands. Wow. Loved it. Want MORE. I was wondering if you could answer some questions I have after reading. First, what does the “tanka charo” pattern look like? It was mentioned 2x that it was the first pattern to learn. I would really like to see what it looks like.

    2nd: Is there anyone teaching some of this to gringos? I love the idea of simple looms. Have you considered a SOAR workshop to make a chuspa? I would take it in a heartbeat. Please let me know if there are other educational opportunities.

    3rd: Which lead into textile travel to Peru. Have you ever considered leading? Do you have recommendations?
    I would love to see a post on what you would recommend for the textile traveller to Peru. I expect to go there in the next year or two.

    While I was reading this book, people literally grabbed it out of my hands. It is beautiful. Now I want a how-to book. Recommendations?

    Thanks so much.

  13. Abby – We live 2 hours from you!!! Let me know if you ever make it to Louisville. I’m knitting now and if you email me, I will send you photos of my girls in the Hand Made Easter Outfits. — Mia

  14. Sorry, Mia, I’ve got dibs on her visiting first!! 😉 I plan to try to tempt her with the fact that *I* know how to use a Russian spindle, and have both the spinning & the plying spindles. AND some fab-o silk/cashmere blend to work with. You can come too, though, Mia…

  15. There is a horrible shortage of spinning classes in most areas of this country. Please expand your schedule. AND.. you should add a class on how to prepare for teaching a class. A couple of “names” I have taken classes with at Stitches could benefit from your example.

  16. Oooooooo so jealous of those who get to take your class! What lovely and delightful fibers. Much more inspiring than starting with plain so you don’t ‘ruin’ the good fibers with beginning spinning.

    Thanks for your site, it was recommended from Raverly, and I’ve been learning a lot.

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