The retreats were divided, SOAR-random, into exposure the first day, skillsets the second. Rare wools by Deb Robson was an exciting foray into really weird sheep breeds. She gave us samples of Black Welsh Mountain, Hog Island, North Ronaldsay, Jacob, Manx Loaghtan, Clun Forest, Southdown, and Wensleydale. Our job was to card and/or comb the washed fleece, spin worsted and/or woolen, then move on. We sprinted through the breeds. I had not spun four of the eight before. Deb is a precious resource in the fiber world. She is planning to work on a book covering sheep breeds from other parts of the world next. Her Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook is a work that will stand for decades.
Beth Smith was next. Her workshop was For the Love of Longwools. With a similar idea of exposure, she gave us four breeds. This allowed more time to be systematic and work with the locks more completely. Lincoln, Romney, Wensleydale, and BFL were presented. Beth is smart, knowledgeable, and a superb resource for all kinds of fleeces at her shop.
Let us take a break. SOAR wasn't just about classes.
Evil talked me into the edgy color thing. Blue, yes? A nice streak? An overdye?
No. She dragged me to Deb Menz's classroom, where every possible hue of dyed merino was spread out on a table. We pointed to this and that. One learns that Evil Michelle is always right. Cranberry is in my future. Pictures may or may not make it to the blog.
Lynn coordinated a trip to Harrisville Designs. Yarn apparently doesn't just happen. We saw the entire process, from picker, carder, separate the carded batt into roving, twist the roving in the spinner machine, cone the spun yarn, skein the yarn, wash it, dry it, and label it.
The picker takes stuff that looks nothing like yarn components and turns it into something that gets carded into evenly tweedy roving. That the roving stays together in huge thin sheets long enough to get spun is miraculous. The spinner machine looks like it just rubs the roving together, but it apparently is more complex than it appears. All the yarn that is produced in the Mill goes through ONE washing machine to get the spinning oils out. All the yarn is dried on very high tech racks with drying devices call fans. The big bin of honey colored yarn is a mistake. Something happened in the spinning that produced softer yarn than met their standards. Someone then had an 'ah ha' moment. Harrisville R&D is looking into what went wrong so they can purposefully make this yarn again. (It is soft and cushy and I would buy it.)
I came away with new respect for 40 year old spinning equipment. One room to the left of the entry is completely filled with shelves. Packed tightly on the shelves are parts for the machines. If something breaks that isn't in that room, it is to be specially made for the Mill. I have a bigger tolerance now for knots. (I saw how much waste would occur if knots weren't used to completely empty the cones into skeins.) My particular medical view on life had me taking deep breaths as I watched workers stick their hands by open rollers to clear clogs, and pick at chain-driven machines to clear fluff from the oily parts.
Jonathan Bosworth gave a talk in the SOAR Marketplace on 10/7. He presented his Han Dynasty reproduction wheel. Here he is, doing a bit of spinning on this charka-spinning wheel hybrid.
Behind as usual. Rhinebeck was the weekend after SOAR. I did lots. I saw lots. No spoilers from the audience, please. ;)