me with my banjo

I bought myself a banjo for xmas! That’s right, and I’m even practicing and everything. This morning I stopped at the music store on my way to work and got a set of those nifty banjo picks that slide over your fingers like big ol goth fingernails. I can’t strictly say that I know how to play any songs yet, but I’m working on Wildwood Flower, which is one of my favorites. And I’m learning chords and finger-picking rolls. Oddly enough, I just learned from my mom that she spent most of the time that she was pregnant with me learning how to play the banjo! And then when I was born, she gave the banjo away so I never had any idea that she played it.

I also got my number one most wanted thing for xmas, a spinning wheel!Oddly, I don’t have a good picture of it, but it’s an Ashford Traveller and you can see a picture of one here. It took a few weeks to get it here from Boise. It’s too big for a carry-on and too fragile for checked luggage. I thought we would have to drive all the way back to Boise in the snow to get it, but then Craigslist came to the rescue. Someone was advertising a rideshare from Boise to Portland, I offered to pay some gas money if they would bring over my wheel. It worked great, we met them in Portland, and I got my wheel! (And also some other stuff that I’m sure Preston thought was very important, but whatever cuz this isn’t his blog). So I’ve been spinning and spinning for the last couple weeks.

me with hand-spun yarns

That’s Pavi down there in the left corner. He likes to help with the spinning very much. I made a trip up to Weaving Works in Seattle to buy some more roving (after I spun all of the dark brown roving that Kathy had supplied me with, and that I thought was a lifetime supply, in a few days). I’ve learned that I can spin and ply about 2 ounces of prepared merino roving in about 3 hours. At around $2 per ounce for the roving, that’s not a bad price for a few hours entertainment. But since I want to do it ALL THE TIME, it’s starting to cost more than I really want to spend regularly. One solution has been to buy white roving instead of the color dyes. I’ll either dye it myself (which I’m a little overwhelmed by) or just use it white. I’m spinning up some of the white stuff now, doing it as fine as I can, and I think it’s very beautiful. (click for bigger)
spindle of spun white merino wool

I’m also planning to go to the Madrona Fiber Arts Festival in a week and a half. I’m interested in buying a whole fleece and just getting it processed into roving (rather than trying to hand card the whole thing). I found this little processing facility called Big Sky Quality Wool whose prices don’t seem too bad. Also, I know Kathy sent of her fleeces somewhere to be processed, so I’ll get some info from her about the pricing and if she was happy with the quality of their work. Anyway, it’s possible to buy a fleece online for a fairly good price, but I don’t know enough about the different kinds of wool to know which kind to get. I know I don’t need a Merino fleece (super-nice, but expensive) but I don’t know what other kinds are soft and good to work with. So I’m planning to go to the Fiber Arts Festival and take a notebook and start educating myself about different kinds of wool in a place where I can actually touchy-feely a lot of different breeds. And while I’m sending stuff off to be processed anyway, someone in my knitting group offered to give me a whole alpaca fleece! She said someone gave it to her more than a year ago and she just doesn’t think she’s going to get around to doing anything with it. Alpaca roving is a lot more than $2 per ounce, so it would be a raging deal to get a free fleece and send it off for processing. I can’t wait!

Bonus picture for the fiber folks out there (click for bigger):

close-up of handspun yarn