Posts tagged ‘demos’

Again this year I did a spinning demo at the Swedish Christmas Fair. Last year we were an emergency replacement but we had so much fun that we did it again. Alfred brought his antique wheel, we ate open-faced sandwiches and spun all day. I had to run back home and find the clip that had fallen off my flier (which resulted in an expensive parking mess upon my return) but other than that it was a perfect day.

The Swedes kept textile traditions going long after most other countries forgot how, so everyone had stories about grandmother’s spinning wheel and got compliments on my spinning from women who did it themselves as children. It’s nice to do a demo where you don’t have people pointing out to their children your “loom” or asking if I killed the sheep myself.

Plus I got quite a bit of spinning done. I hadn’t taken out the wheel for months.

Yesterday I did a spinning demo at the Swedish Christmas Festival in San Francisco. A couple of days ago a friend sent me an email about it, at the last minute the organizers contacted her about getting a couple of spinners to demonstrate traditional crafts. (When we got there, we found a weaver, knitter and wood carver as well.) I didn’t want to go by myself, but at least one other person was going to be there. I didn’t have anything particularly urgent yesterday, so I went.

It was a little amusing, here we were two people who were neither Swedes nor all that big on Christmas sitting down for a day at a holiday festival. It started off ominously when the display of toys behind us started playing sickly-sweet Christmas tunes. But they fed us sticky buns and smoked salmon sandwiches and we had a great time. As a culture, the Swedes kept many textile traditions alive when all across Europe people were abandoning them as fast as possible. Of the group who normally comes out for demos, we were probably two of the most appropriate as we both are traditional spinners and weavers and know a good bit about Scandinavian textile history.

My friend brought his antique wheel that he describes as having “come across the country the first time in a wagon and the second time in a UPS truck.” He bought it off eBay from a family in Minnesota that has records going back to its manufacture in 1797 in what is now Norway. Dozens of people stopped by to say their mother or grandmother had one just like it. A very frail elderly woman told us how, as a girl of ten, she and her sisters spun in a demonstration for the King of Sweden. Seeing us clearly brought back a rush of memories and was one of the highlights of the day. Even me, there with my very Italian name on my little paper nametag, had someone stop by and say he was also a Longo. His family had come from Sicily to Argentina and now he was in the Bay Area. We are probably related somehow.

There were of course a lot of blonde heads wandering around, but this being San Francisco not as many as you might expect. A couple came by to chat with us, a tall burly man clearly of Scandinavian origin (in his amazing wool coat and 18th century style buckled shoes) and his Japanese wife. I can’t imagine what he must have went through living in Japan, but they spent many years near her family home as well as the United States. A college student doing a paper for her folklore class talked to us about the history of handspinning, both ancient and modern. Most everyone that stopped by knew that we were spinning, as we talked about what we were doing and kept watch on tiny hands intent in exploring every little moving part.

I had no idea what to expect when we showed up, but I think we will be back again next year.

Today we went off to the fair, to have a look around and get a picture of my yarn in the display case. Fortunately there is more than one digital camera in the household.

Skein of yarn and ribbon: First Place San Mateo County Fair

My friend predicted I’d get a blue ribbon and I did. I’m not personally all that motivated by winning, so I had to be convinced to enter. It is another way to explore further what judging yarn means, so I can learn something there. (I won’t get the comments, if any, until after the fair ends.) Perhaps somebody will be inspired to explore traditional yarns as a result, and that is a good thing.

There was a group of spinners demonstrating in front of the yarn and weaving display, one turned out to be a yarn judge. I asked her about how they evaluated the entries and the judges were looking specifically for technical skill. I’ve talked to many people about entering their yarns in competition and have heard several stories of seemingly random results, so this is encouraging. It isn’t that I don’t care at all about creative visual design (let’s just say it isn’t high on my list) but I do think that some people don’t look past it to consider structure. It is the structure that interests me, and that is best seen by starting with even and consistent yarn. Such that apparently there was some discussion about whether on not my skein was actually spun by hand.

I get this comment once in a while, it’s still always weird when I do. (People ask me all the time where I buy my clothes, you would think I’d get used to it.) Some spinners believe one shouldn’t worry too much about making fine and even yarn because irregularities give it “character.” If they wanted even spinning, they would buy it already made. I actually don’t consider if yarn is machine or hand spun when evaluating it’s qualities, only that it has certain characteristics. Handspun yarn tends to have particular ones and machine spun others. It’s all still yarn. It’s the whole subject of what is “good” yarn where I get bogged down in the sea of opinions and personal preferences.

It hit me today, as I was cleaning out the sock collection. I know what to do with those old socks! I’d been trying to come up with some practical re-use of the wool blend socks I wear year-round here in San Francisco. The feet are all worn out, but the tops still look great. But I don’t sew sweatshirts or anything in need of a cuff.

But yesterday I was at an outside spinning demo where it was cold and windy, an unusual thing for the East Bay this time of year. I was fighting the wind to keep my fiber under control, so I tucked it into the sleeve of my sweatshirt. Now I have a nice wool-blend wrist distaff for spindle spinning. And I don’t have to feel guilty about throwing away those old socks. You can read about it here.

MaryJo Lanik, of the Van Wyck Homestead Handspinners and Weavers in Fishkill, NY, sent me some photos from the Knit-Out that I stumbled upon on my visit to New York last month. Here’s one of me (right) teaching drop spinning:

Teaching spinning at Knit-Out New York

It was fun. You never know when you might find yourself on the other side of the country teaching spinning.

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