Nov 18, 2014

Never Say Never, Yet Again

In my last post about Rhinebeck (sort of), I am here to share yet another "I swore I would never do this, and now do it and love it" experience.

Once upon a time, I swore I would never knit socks. I now knit socks. That transitioned into never knitting sweaters. I now knit sweaters. I switched tactics and went with never weaving. I now weave. That became never spinning. Boy did I fall down that rabbit hole. But I was adamant that my spinning would ONLY happen on a wheel, never a spindle. Why? I was convinced that I couldn't do it, that it was slow, and inefficient and that it would be boring. 

You would think that I would have seen what happened next coming from a mile away. You'd be wrong. Here's how the totally predictable sequence of events went down: 

On occasion, a lovely woman in my knitting group brings her spindle. She is usually spinning on a turkish spindle, whose cop (the ball of newly spun string that hangs out on the spindle) is pure, organized sunshine. Watching her winding a cop on a turkish spindle with precision was slowly drawing me to the dark side. 

From Simply Notable's excellent guide to winding a cop
So I started investigating. Being the fiber snob that I am, I went for the best. I started stalking the Jenkins Yarn Tools site, you know, for science. Keep in mind, at this point I still have never ever attempted to spin on a spindle (if you don't count one failed attempt at using a Navajo spindle, which I don't). By the time I went to Rhinebeck, I still had never spun on a spindle, and I still hadn't taken the leap into purchasing one. So what happened next was of course inevitable. As if fate had arranged the vendor locations herself, my very first stop (the stall with the used hand cards for which I made a bee-line) was opposite a vendor with a small table of Jenkins turkish spindles. I bought two. 

On the left, a wee Kuchulu, whose tininess seduced me. On the right, a more robust - but still relatively small - Lark. As you can see, I waisted no time in testing it out. I'll be honest, I about crapped my pants at how easy it is for me to spin on these things. A large part of that is that I am not a true beginner. I know how to draft and deal with fiber, so my mind was free to concentrate on making sure the spindle was spinning around properly (and since these are basically the Maseratis of spindles, that required very little brain power). 

What was even more surprising, though, is how unequivocally fucking FUN spinning on a spindle is! Sure, it takes a little longer than using a wheel, but what it lacks in speed it makes up for in meditative bliss. There is something so very calming and zen about spindle spinning. Spinning on a wheel certainly elicits those same feelings, but to a lesser degree. I can't explain why, but when I am spinning on these spindles, all is right in the world. 

Using some samples of Finn fiber a kind woman gave us at Rhinebeck, I spun and plied some fingering weight on the Lark. I then used the bone knitting needles I purchased there to knit up a little sock ornament.

It's a wee Rhinebeck sock. 

I am now spinning up some lace singles out of Fiber Optic Yarns merino/silk gradient in Steampunk

How can you look at that cop and not want one of your very own? Pure. Bliss. 

Nov 6, 2014

Rhinebeck Rant

Disclaimer: This is the logic portion of this post. I totally understand and rationally believe that everyone is free to do whatever the hell makes them happy (within reason - no breaking in to steal my stash, people!). You don't have to do anything a certain way. There is no correct way to knit, no "appropriate" amount of yarn/fiber to have in your stash, no sanctioned method of enjoying a festival. I get this, and believe this. This post is less on the rational, more on the emotional side of things, where strong feelings take over reason, locking it in the basement while throwing a kegger in my brain. 

Here's the thing about Rhinebeck. The festival highlights farmers, breeds/animals and fiber arts. Any given year, you know that you will be able to see sheep/alpaca/llamas/goats/bunnies, you will be able to talk with the people who raise and shear fiber animals, mill, spin and dye fiber/yarn, and create beautiful objects inspired by or made with all things fiber, you will have the opportunity to take workshops with amazing teachers to learn a new skill or hone your craft, you will be surrounded by people who are just as obsessed (and sometimes more so) about all things fiber, and you will be able to buy so very many products related to fiber arts. For most of us, it's an event that requires planning, time and money. Even if you are lucky enough to live within driving distance, it still requires planning, time and money (just less of all of the above). As a result, you would think that a priority would be to take full advantage of the short amount of time you have to experience Rhinebeck.

So when I see people post in the "show your haul" Rhinebeck thread on Ravelry that they went in, purchased four skeins of yarn from a dyer who sells her stuff online, and that's basically it, I lose it a little. When I see a string of photos showing people's "hauls" that are almost entirely stuff from such dyers, I lose it a lot. When I read that a person didn't even go into the barns (the majority of which is NOT the fancy-pants dyers that everyone gets their panties in a wad over - think individual farms, rare breeds, mills), I lose it completely. Don't get me wrong, those fancy-pants dyers are amazing, their yarn/fiber is super incredible, and you can bet your ass I have plenty of it in my stash. I am not suggesting people shouldn't shop there at the festival (hello, did you see my giant purchase from O-Wool?). I don't have a problem with that. I do have a problem with people ignoring everything else.

People who make a beeline for Miss Babs (for example), spend all their money there, maybe buy some maple cotton candy and call it a day? You're doing it wrong. You are missing the chance to source your knitting/spinning material straight from the people who raise the sheep (or other animals). You're missing the opportunity to buy yarn/fiber with a story and people behind it, that you often cannot find online (or requires extra special searching abilities to do so). Even if you don't buy anything, skipping the barns is like skipping the whole point of the festival. If you leave Rhinebeck without petting a sheep, you fail. If you leave Rhinebeck still believing that "good yarn" can only = "super soft, pretty-colored yarn," you fail. No, not everyone is required to buy, knit/spin with, love the non-fine wools. You should, however, be required to 1. know that they exist, 2. know that they have qualities which make them better than fine wools in various circumstances, 3. know that people lovingly raise and preserve them, and 4. know that wool straight from the farm is different (better) than wool from some unknown mill that may or may not be sourcing all its soft stuff from China. It takes very little effort to learn these things at Rhinebeck.

On the one hand, I get that the relatively small self-selecting group of people showing off their haul is probably more prone to seeking out the "must have" unicorn-fart yarn, coveting it and showing it off, and that the majority of people visiting Rhinebeck don't play that game. On the other hand, when I see that same group tapping into their grumpy, petty, entitled personas to disparage those same makers they covet for not having enough available to meet their specific desires, for not taking up even more booths to offer more stuff/reduce traffic, for not getting the festival organizers to make it ALL about them... I am left with a strong desire to shove that fancy-pants yarn up their asses and respectfully request that they find something better to do with their time next year.

Yes, these people will always exist. No, there is nothing I can (or should?) do to change them. Yes, they will always make my blood boil. And yes, I should probably just let it go. I mean, let's be honest, I spend most of my time in the barns, so keeping all those people occupied in the buildings helps keep traffic down where I am, but still. I can't shake this urge to scream "YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG."

Time to go release reason from the basement prison so it can clean up all the red solo cups and vomit.