FibresWest 2012

FibresWest comes and goes so quickly each year. It’s like a rush to pack and ready everything on the Wednesday, getting the car rentals and driving an hour out to Abbotsford (each way — over the weekend, it’s over six hours of driving) to set up our booth on Thursday. Then Friday and Saturday whoosh past, meeting and greeting customers and friends, both old and new. We drove through a monsoon to get to Abbotsford and throughout the show, there were moments when the whole festival collectively paused to listen to the intense hail coming down around us. But despite the harsh March weather, it’s a wonderful time to reconnect with fibre people… and learn new things.

Two years ago, I attended Interweave’s spinning retreat, SOAR, in Delavan, Wisconsin and watched a classmate (Stetson) in the Margaret Stove Lace workshop spin on a Russian supported spindle. It was the most fascinating thing to watch and I desperately wanted to learn how to do that. So I looked around the SOAR marketplace but couldn’t find anyone who was selling Russian spindles… only tahklis for cotton. It’s been a while, but just this past weekend at FibresWest, I met Caroline Sommerville of Ancient Arts Fibre Crafts who had a huge table FULL of supported spindles.

Carney's Turnings Russian Spindle in Jatoba, plus bowl in Bocote wood by Jim Leslie in Calgary

Carney’s Turnings Russian Spindle in Jatoba, plus bowl in Bocote wood by Jim Leslie in Calgary

I managed to escape their booth with just one supported spindle. A bottom-heavy Russian spindle in Jatoba wood, weighing 43g (#1 in the photo). I tried practicing on it with some of our merino bamboo silk fibre, but Caroline says the fibre is not appropriate to the spindle… rather, the spindle is better suited to cashmere and yak and very very short stapled fibres. Excuse me while I paw through my fibre stash for some extra cashmere to practice with?! I’m torn… I want to spin beautiful wonderful fibres with this spindle… but I don’t want to waste said beautiful wonderful fibres as I practice. Teresa was also bitten by the supported spindle bug and ended up going home with a gorgeous blonde wood Tibetan spindle… and then sent me this video:

Carina, the unintentional enabler, bought a larger Turkish spindle on Saturday morning (possibly to do some plying?) and announced that there were only four more Turkish spindles at the Fibres Plus booth. I had to go look and the warm, red Arbutus wood was too seductive to refuse. So I unintentionally ended up with a second tiny Turkish spindle. My parents also have a large Arbutus tree in the front of our family home, so of course, there is a bit of sentimentality thrown in there too. This spindle is lovely and TINY at 21g (0.74 oz) and even smaller than the first one I bought at SOAR in 2010. And it’s a wonder why I always end up spinning fine yarn.

The Arbutus wood has an otherworldly kind of wavy grain to it and very interesting but soft figuring also. It’s small enough to carry around in my purse but so delicate, I’m afraid I’ll crush it. Maybe I should get a little plastic box from the Daiso for the spindles so that I can carry them around in my bag. I did see another spinner carry her series of Tabacheck Russian spindles in a hard wine bottle case. Very smart.

Despite all the hard work to set up, the many hours of driving, and the long hours in a very very cold venue, I’m so happy that I got the chance to be at FibresWest and get inspired by all the other fibre artists and craftspeople around us. From potters to button makers, from dyers to weavers, I’m grateful that everyone made the effort to come out and share their passions too.

  • jenn

    you weren’t the only one to drool over those gorgeous support spindles — they were beauties!
    although they are technically best for short stapled fibres, you can spin pretty much anything on them . . .
    I didn’t really “get it” until I tried merino top spun from the fold on my support spindles.

    think long draw, relax, and happy exploring!!!

    PS cotton is probably a more economical choice for learning 😉

  • Jennifer Crowley

    I have to agree with Jen, I think you’d have an easier time with cotton to practice, but that’s my very limited opinion.

  • June

    Those are beautiful spindles. I have a Turkish Delight and just love it. I have very limited experience with support spindles and never found a happy place, they always seemed to stop spinning too quickly. If you find the secret, please share!

  • Anonymous

    Oh it all sounds so fun!!! I’d love to go to a fiber festival someday!

  • Claudia

    The spinning is interesting, but I was a bit distracted by the amazingly well-behaved cat!  :-)

  • Amphibiaknitter

    Beautiful spindles.  The one thing I really miss about not living on the West Coast anymore is the Arbutus trees.  I had no idea their wood was so beautiful under all that peeling bark.

  • Caroline Sommerfeld

    Hi!  This is Caroline… honestly dont be afraid to learn to use these support spindles with cashmere.  Choose a light brown cashmere as it is the easiest to work with (since it sticks to itself a little, rather like wool does) and put it into a rolag form.  You will be spinning in no time and wont have wasted it since even a lumpy cashmere yarn is a joy!  The spinning technique is indeed a long draw where you let the twist into the drafting zone to help the process.  Fibres like wool need a very light hand and need to be short stapled.  Cashmere is ideal since it isnt sticky, has enough length to hold together better than cotton, and of course makes wonderful yarn. 

    Good luck spinning!  Much enjoyed the post.

    • SweetGeorgia

      Thanks Caroline! Yes, I took your advice and ended up practicing with a blended batt I made from merino and camel in Abby Franquemont’s carding class at SOAR a while back. I’ve been tearing off small sections, making them into rolags and then spinning long draw. It’s AWESOME. The spinning is quiet and goes pretty quickly. Hope to have enough to photograph soon! Thanks so much for the inspiration.