Saturday, May 19, 2012

Fiber Friday.... Shopping Saturday

Edited to add a very important story element. I was duly reminded, urged, cajoled, and admonished by my friend and fellow blogger Julie NOT TO LEAVE THIS PART OUT!!!! You'll find it at the end.

Linking to Wisdom Begins in Wonder- Fiber Arts Friday.
If you haven't browsed here for FO Fridays, give it a try you'll find nice blogs and beautiful projects.

This Fiber Friday post will be in two parts. The second post will cover Shopping Saturday.

Twitter photo from Clara, "Calm before the storm".
The first part is dedicated to an inspiring lecture sponsored by Common Cod Knitters Guild at the Strata Art Center, at MIT in Cambridge. 

I went to Common Cod's Guild Meeting in an excited state of mind. I had been eagerly awaiting the evening because Clara Parkes was speaking.  If you aren't sure of whom I speak, or if (horrors) this name is not familiar to you, let me enlighten you.
Here's a pre-lecture quiz:

Clara Parkes, is best known for:
A. Her baking abilities and a delicacy called Claramels
B. Her knowledge of fiber
B. Being a shameless promoter of Wool Consumption
C. Knitting
D. Teaching
E. The Blog- Knitters review
F. Being a purveyor of an all encompassing calendar of Fiber Festivals
G. Knitter's Book of Wool, Knitter's Book of Yarn, Knitter's Book of Socks
H. Hanging out in a Portland, Maine coffee shop, replete with her computer and notes as she writes her next book
I. All of the above

Which option did you guess? If you are a smahty pahnts, an avid knitter, or addicted to internet sites related to fiber, you would have been correct when you said all of the above.

This is the second time Clara has graced the Guild with her informative talks. As a group, we were quietly knitting, but visibly seat squirming as we waited for Clara to be introduced. She is a woman of small stature, hypnotizing eyes, a memorable laugh, a broad knowledge of all things fiber, and a down-to-earth, approachable soul.

After a few quips, she began to speak. She admonished us throughout her talk- it was a call to arms, it was a persuasive soliloquy. My note-taking was poor at the start, but she gave us three words to reflect on during her talk, Color, Fiber, Source. If this is wrong, I apologize, Clara. (I was still quivering with the thrill of having garnered a "Nice work" from Clara after standing up to show an FO during the Common Cod Show and Tell....)

She shared with us a wealth of information, but the key concept that I walked away with is this; we as knitters, crocheters, consumers of fiber, spinners, weaver need to enter the market prepared to vote with our dollars. She urged us to support the indie dyers, and yarn producers, the fiber festival folks and all of their amazing wares. She asked us to pay closer attention to the source of our yarn, to the base (the type of wool the yarn was spun from).  She counseled us to continue to frequent our local yarn shops, but to share what we have discovered in the festival barns. Your LYS owner just might thank you for a head's up when you discover a new source of yarn.

To save you time skimming through my gushing, here is a list of some of the Parkes knowledge base shared with us that evening.

COLOR
Marigold Jen, an Etsy shop full of hand dyed wool
LaLana Wools, Taos, New Mexico, unique natural color dying
Verb For Keeping Warm, an amazing yarn shop in Oakland, CA
Sincere Sheep Yarn, an amazing collection of yarn from a wide variety of sheep's wool
Tactile Fiber Arts, yarns and fleece, dyed using natural ingredients
Alpenglow Yarn, a source for many varieties of wooland and naturaly hand-dyed skeins
Natural Dye Studios, UK Can you say, "Kaleidoscope of color?" yarns in hues that make you stop breathing
Renaissance Dye, France A source of beautiful, naturally dyed yarn

FIBER
I need to read up on this topic because I am so lacking in my understanding of the types of sheep and the characteristics they lend to the fleece and yarn products. Here are a few of the highlights.
Poll Dorset Sheep, a breed of sheep found in Australia
Tunis, a breed of sheep first brought to the colonies from Tunisia in the late 1700s
Looney Tunis, a yarn made with fleece from the Tunis breed
Solitude Yarn, a yarn provider that is breed specific, fleeces are hand picked, cleaned and dyed with natural dye agents
Eugene Wyatt, blog Catskill Merino
This gentleman is known for a witty and thoughtful blog, deep knowledge about sheep and can be found at the weekly Green Market in NYC

SOURCE
Some "locally" produced yarns. These companies are on a smaller scale than Berroco, Classic Elite and Cascade and are made with respect for the environment and natural resources.
Brooklyn Tweed, Shelter, a yarn company started by knitwear designer, Jared Flood. Some amazing colors and color names to be found on this site, like Tent, Embers, Long Johns, Sweatshirt
Quince and Co Yarn Pam Allen and two friends began this yarn business in Portland and pride themselves on providing a product that is environmentally friendly and sourced primarily in the USA
Blacker Yarn, UK Specifically mentioned, New Zealand Blend and Jacob Mohair
John Arbon Textiles, UK
Garthenor Oragnic Pure Wool, UK

During this talk Clara explained that the plethora of woolen mills that were historically important to our economy in centuries past have gone by the way side. The machines have been sold for scrap metal, the buildings have been converted to office or residential use, and the skilled laborers that have the knowledge of this industry are long gone. We as consumers of fiber should try to seek out the small independent companies and vote with our dollars in support of the industry they are seeking to resurrect.

Parting words, perhaps due to the setting, with a nod to the professors who use the lecture hall we were seated in...
Clara's notation... 
S=(y/s) infinity symbol      STASH = (yarn/space) infinity

She also advised us that, as knitters, we are never alone.  There will always be someone to seek out and share knitting knowledge, stories and experiences with.

So here is the part I had left out. Sorry Julie, and thanks for pushing me to add it in.

At the end of the lecture, there were informal questions and comments, and that was followed by a book signing. I was third in line, and patiently waited as Clara chatted with the women who had copies of her books in hand. She wrote a nice message in each book, and then it was my turn. (Can I confess to feeling a bit embarrassed to share these details....?)

I stammered a bit, and then thanked her for coming, and for being so entertaining, and for her books, ( can you imagine the gushing ?) and then, I admitted that I had been Tweeting her and felt the need to identify myself to her in person. (No, my Tweets weren't inappropriate or anything like that....)

So she politely asks me "What is your Twitter name?" I told her19vesperstreet and then..... and then.... she says "Oh, you have a blog too, don't you?" Something "Bean" right?

So now, I lose all ability to speak English or any other language, nod vigorously..... and ask blogging advice. Ya, I know, what was I thinking....?????

But she was gracious, and kind, and somehow, we got to saying goodbye.  I left the hall with my knees a bit wobbly. As I exited, I thought, oh, who can I tell this to? Who will appreciate the moment?  A small potatoes blogger like me was paid a compliment, "Yes, I've seen your blog"..... by someone I admire and follow.... oh who to tell?

Well Julie, aka Inky077, you came to mind, as did Evelyn, aka Project Stash. I tried texting, but my phone battery was about to die, so I had to ride the T homewards with a silly smile on my face, happy that I have pushed myself out there into the world in the hopes of meeting others with similar interests. Thank you world, for putting me in the place of meeting such a kind and genuine person.






4 comments:

Stitched Together said...

Oh how wonderfully exciting. It's marvelous when someone you admire knows who you are. I was the same after a flurry of emails with Kay Gardiner of Mason-Dixon fame. It was when I changed from CraftyCripple to Stitched Together. On all my comments for a few weeks I said what my name used to be. She wrote back that she would miss CraftyCripple and we got into a vigil discussion about disability and people's perceptions of it. I really enjoyed the discussion so it wasn't until afterwards I got giddy that Kay knew who I was!

WonderWhyGal said...

What a day! I wish I could have sat in on her talk. She sounds like an amazing woman and artist. I must admit, I don't know who she is BUT I will be checking her out. I know what it feels like to know someone important knows about your blog too. You put so much of yourself into your posts, it's good to know that are read and appreciated.

On a final note, as a producer of fiber from Pasture to Product, I agree with her 100%. I was a a fiber festival yesterday and I was discouraged to see customers come in and walk past our handpsun yarns to buy from booths that were essentially traveling yarn shops.

"When tillage begins, other arts follow. The farmers, therefore, are the founders of human civilization." Daniel Webster, lawyer and politician

Evelyn said...

YAY!! I'm so glad you blogged about your experience with Clara -- we so rarely get the acknowledgement we crave so when we do, we should never feel embarrassed to share or revel in it. My only regret is that your cell phone was dying so I didn't get to receive your excited text. xo

Kathleen Dames said...

One of the many reasons I miss living in the Boston area. Thanks for sharing!