Thursday, June 25, 2015

Oh Colorado!

This is a beautiful state. And summers are the short, sweet time of high mountain passes and long wandering trails. I needed to take a long detour to Crested Butte yesterday and decided to take the (more) scenic way home over this amazing 12,126 foot pass.
Being an incurable long-distance backpacker, I always search out trails when I'm driving. Even if I don't have time for any hiking. I crossed the Colorado Trail four times and the Continental Divide Trail twice in my drive from the great bowl of the San Luis Valley in the south of the state to the northern reaches of the Front Range where I live now.
You know you need a long hike when you spot a thru-hiker at the top of this ridge and wait around awhile to see if maybe she is headed down to the pass and maybe needs a ride to Buena Vista for resupply... and then are disappointed to see the little figure disappearing over the ridge toward Mt. Yale. Thru-hikers have great stories and the best way to hear them is to give them a ride to the grocery store. It doesn't hurt to give them any and all food you might have in your car also. They will most likely eat anything. (Beware. They are always stinky.)

The last crossing was at Kenosha pass. I have frequently accessed the CT from this point, stayed in this campground, worked a week-long trail crew from here, hitched to Jefferson to pick up a resupply box and get a burger... I even remember trying to scrub a filthy pair of hiking pants in my cloth bucket in the frigid water of the campground faucet. The trail west from here is absolutely gorgeous with long views of South Park (yes, the one the show is named after) and the big peaks finally in front of you in your trek from Denver.
I didn't have time for more than a few hundred yard stroll up the trail yesterday but I did take a peek at the trail register. There have been a lot of thru-hikers already. I wonder what they found when they hit Georgia pass only 12 miles from here. The snow is rather epic this year and I imagine the postholing was pretty horrific.

Right at the bottom of the pass is this little bit of Serendipity... one of my favorite yarn stores. I might have stopped. Please don't tell anyone.
The only bad thing about the day was remembering 4 hours in that I had left the best cookies in the world in the San Luis Valley. My mom made me a whole box of white chocolate macademia nut cookies and I left them in the cupboard. I almost turned around. They are that good.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Are these your people?

We know when we have found our people. The signals are clear.
You see knitting sticking out of a silk-screened shoulder bag or a spinning wheel strapped into the passenger seat. Maybe a hand-woven garment, handknits in winter, or a propensity to sniff yarn.
Amy Wolf judging the fleece at Estes Park Wool Market 2015
Conversations overheard include words like AVL, draft, border leicester, pick-up, bobbin, tapestry, dyeing... In fact I suspect this is why we go to conferences. We know the people there will understand us.
Small conferences like Michigan League of Handweavers Conference are a great place to spend time with other fiber enthusiasts. I enjoyed teaching at MLH partly because I know my fiber geekiness will not be frowned upon.
Participants in the Color Theory for Tapestry class talking about Millie Danielson's work in tapestry (Millie on left, Linda on right)
The instructors were top-notch and I relished the opportunity to talk to the likes of Kathrin Weber (Blazing Shuttles), Sharon Costello, Cheryl Rezendes, Kate Larson, Mary Sue Fenner, JoAnn Bachelder and Sadelle Wiltshire.

Kate Larson's class was learning to spin different yarns for various Scandinavian knitting patterns as well as weaving belts.
Kate Larson (center) and two of her students
One of the things I loved about Kate's talk to the conference and her work in the classroom was the stories. All the patterns have stories. Narrative seems integral to her work and I'll be following her work with Interweave and in SpinOff magazine. She has a book coming out in the fall, so pre-order! The Practical Spinners Guide--Wool.
Kate Larson's work. Examples of different yarn preparation and spinning in the mittens and some traditional belts
Kate Larson. All handspun with traditional knitting pattern and embroidery work.
Cheryl Rezendes was also doing some amazing work. She also has a book that just came out on fabric surface design (called helpfully enough, Fabric Surface Design). In another life with a lot of time, I would take every class both Kate and Cheryl offer. They were inspiring.
Surface design work of Cheryl Rezendes
Cheryl Rezendes
And here is another one of my people. We spent some time at "Alamosa Beach" this morning otherwise known as Great Sand Dunes National Park. Medano Creek runs a few months a year and is the best thing in the world for little girls to play in.

Do you know who your people are? The ones that make you feel safe and inspire your creativity?

Monday, June 22, 2015

Creating a tiny portable room for ancient wood

I'm having a little family time this weekend. And in the process I've witnessed the creation of a little room that is all about an ancient wood from the high mountains of Colorado. This room will soon be taken in pieces to Pittsburgh for the American Association of Woodturners Symposium.

I drove through the Colorado mountains on Thursday. It was great to be back in the high country. There is still a lot of snow in the Collegiates. I was headed for my old stomping grounds in the San Luis Valley.
... and a little reroute was needed as CO-285 was closed for about 35 miles due to flooding. It is the kind of navigational challenge I like and was a little disappointed when I realized I wasn't going to have to go over a high mountain pass on a gravel road. The highway department just rerouted traffic on a couple other highways not impeded by the flooding Platte River.
Bone Mountain Bristlecone is a business started by my sister. Laura married into the Christy family who have spent most of their lives living in rural Colorado. You can read the whole story of this amazing wood on their website HERE. Luke's parents homesteaded a piece of land at 9,000 feet high above the valley in the South San Juan mountains in the 1970s and are still there.

I remember my first visit to their house well. We got there after dark and the last 15 miles from the pavement got progressively harder to manage until high clearance four wheel drive is necessary. The stars were brilliant. There are no lights. Their warm wood cabin embraced me and I was soon eating amazing food cooked on a wood-fired stove.

These are the people who have collected (with permit) bristlecone pine from a mountain that was burned by a forest fire in the 1870s.
The wood stood there weathering for a century before Jim and his family took it home. Now it lives again in beautiful art pieces--tables Jim has made and work of the people they sell the wood to now.
The growth rings on this round are so close together you can't count them.
My sister and her husband are constructing a booth for a trade show and in true Laura Mezoff Christy form, it is both completely modern with its metal siding and rusted metal logo and true to the wood with the bristlecone shelves and piles of lovingly cut wood. It smells amazing.
Freebie "sniffing" pieces... they smell amazing!
I'm off to box some wood and load it in a red Sprinter van.
If you live in Pittsburgh, go visit them at the trade show June 26-28. American Association of Woodturners Symposium.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

A sheep named Georgia and the paco-vacuñas

No, Paco-Vacuña is not the name of a band (though I'm thinking it might be a good name for our next dog). I went to the Estes Park Wool Market for the first time yesterday. Being a wool market virgin, I didn't know what to expect. I've been to Taos many times and thought it might be something like that... planned on staying for an hour or so and then heading out for a hike. After four hours I had to drag myself away. It was fantastic.

Following the advice of the esteemed Maggie Casey, I went first to hear the fleeces being judged.
Amy Wolf. A wolf in sheep's clothing? I bet she hears that joke a lot.
She was a wonderful judge and I wished I had been there all morning. I learned so much in the hour I listened to her.

Of course there is a fantastic vendor hall where I ran into old friends and favorite yarns. I went to the wool market with the intention of only buying one bit of fleece from Sheep Feathers farm and hearing the fleece judge. As it turns out, everything was fascinating.

Cat Mountain Fiber Arts was there from Alamosa. Her booth has grown a lot since I did THIS blog post about her a few years ago.
Estes Park Wool Market has been in operation for 25 years now. Thus these signs on many booths.
And Shuttles, Spindles, and Skeins from Boulder and Los Vigiles from Chimayo were also there. All little bits of past and present lives...

The animal barns were large and it was wonderful to talk to so many people raising fiber animals.
"If we all watch in a different direction, no one can jump us."

"I know, right?"

The llamas were strutting their stuff in the ring (mostly... a few weren't all that cooperative it seemed).

And back in the llama barn they were wondering about their morning snack.

There were sheep dog demos. Not all the dogs were well-behaved, but the ones that were the best were amazing.

And this is a paco-vacuña. They are tiny and adorable. Their fleece can be as soft as 15 microns and I bought a couple little trial baggies to see if I could learn to spin it. I think I may need a little more practice with the sheep before I can handle this stuff.

And the goats were adorable. Emily is always threatening to get a goat (or rent a herd--does anyone do that?) to eat the jungle that is our back yard. I suspect owning these is not as easy as it might seem from their angelic festival faces. I watched another goat nibble on his owner's backpack for awhile before she noticed.

Estes Park Wool Market is a place where fleeces are identified by the name of the animal. This was alpaca from Princess of Quite a Lot. Quite-a-lot-of-what is the question I think.
I bought some of a fleece from Robin Phillips of Sheep Feather's Farm from a sheep named Georgia. More photos of Georgia and other sheep being shorn HERE. It was my goal to buy fleece from Robin's sheep. Not only do I know how well she treats her animals and their fiber, but the fleece fanatics I met at the sheering in February convinced me that I couldn't go wrong with a Sheep Feathers fleece.

This gentleman didn't seem at all embarrassed by his necktie which stated "Sire for Hire" in a bold red solid.

And of course someone had yarn-bombed the statutes. There were some bronze elk wearing excellent scarves on the way into town but the traffic was nuts and photos seemed out of the question.
But even better than the yarn bombing was this board game... for winters to come.
And if that wasn't a great enough day already, since we were already up there, we headed into Rocky Mountain National Park for a hike. Plans were changed due to this sign next to a river that was clearly not safe to cross. I suspect in a few months it will be wade-able and the mysteries on the other side can be explored.
But better views of Long's Peak were found on another trail.
I think Estes Park Wool Market will be on my list for many years to come. Join me next year!

Friday, June 12, 2015

A return to the land of the Dutch... complete with windmills and color theory for tapestry

I spent a wonderful week in Holland, Michigan teaching classes for the Michigan League of Handweaver's Conference. My mother is from Grand Rapids and is 100% Dutch. That makes me half Dutch and that part of me was happy to be back for a few days. I was very impressed by the caliber of teachers at this conference. It is a small conference and was so much fun. I think it would be a great choice even if you don't live near Michigan. It is a conference worth flying to.
This was my room for the three workshops spread over five days. I talked some about the first two in THIS blog post. Monday to Wednesday was a color theory class and I couldn't have asked for a better group of students.

We spent some time working with color aid paper. Anne was working with warm and cool contrast in this example. Paper is a good way to look at color interaction quickly. It is also a good way to start training your eye to see different aspects of color BEFORE you spend a year weaving a tapestry.
On the last day of class Millie was wearing these amazing fish pants. And I caught her working on some paper color projects in the sunshine.
Here a different Anne wove a wonderful study of warm/cool contrast.
And following are a few more studies in value and simultaneous contrast.

This value exercise that Beth did was one of my favorites. When we converted this to black and white, those bars almost all disappeared--the orange-red being the difficult color for everyone in the class.
Jenn's example beelow was turned around the back of the Mirrix loom. I loved the curves. And again, when converted to black and white it was an excellent value study. That orange-red being the one tough nut to crack!
And for those of you who are keeping track, 9 of 12 students in the class had Mirrix looms. That didn't count the two that I brought. This continues to astound me but I am happy to see it. They are great looms (and I will say again, I do not work for Mirrix).

One student with macular degeneration had this great idea to help her visually with her warps. She colored every other warp with a Sharpie, but you could certainly warp the loom with two colors of warp. Bockens makes cotton seine twine at least in the 12/6 size in many colors. This particular student gave me a fabulous idea for a little book the last time I taught at MLH, so probably I should try to spend more time with her. Her ideas are excellent. (The book is still in process, but it will show up one day before too long.) This loom is a Leclerc Penelope, thus the rigid-heddle-like shedding at the top.

And of course the tulips are long gone, but Holland is now sporting some roses.
I didn't go tilting at windmills, but one morning I did take a walk to see this one which I remember visiting as a child. The tourist booth was closed so early in the morning so I walked to an overlook and there it was.
And I love looking for cranes. I always say I'll be a birder when I retire many decades from now.
A crane!!!
My dear uncle and aunt rescued me from Holland and took me to Marie Catrib's for dinner in Grand Rapids. It is a wonderful place for gluten free food. And I'll admit that I added to the glut of deserts I ate over the week by topping it off with one of Marie's salted carmel cupcakes.

Soon I am going to go to my studio and do something I haven't had a chance to do in many weeks. Weave! ...just as soon as I send today's newsletter.

(pssst... if you'd like to get my newsletters, you can sign up HERE.)