rag dolls and woollies

rag dolls and woollies

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Touching Everything

Learning to spin in New Zealand made me a REALLY BIG SNOB.Their wool was the best in the world and there was no debating that point. When we returned to the US, I HAD to have it, so my very kind, kiwi friend, Penny, would faithfully make trips out to various farms, sometimes on the North Island near Rotorua and other times near her home on the South Island to get huge bags of fleece for me. We'd have to go out to the airport to collect them and the customs people always gave us funny looks.

I'd get home and open them all at once. The heavenly smell of unwashed wool and hay filled the room. The stuff was incredibly clean because the sheep there run around all year on beautiful lush grass. The cat and dog would poke around - I've always been fortunate to have animals who never tore the stuff apart - and I would sink my arms in up to my elbows and come out fabulously greased.

There are a lot of people who don't appreciate this.

But spinners everywhere understand, and while they may not spin in the grease (and call it spinning in the dirt), I have yet to meet a spinner who recoiled in horror at the wonderful smell of new fleece.

Years later, when I met Estee, she started to work on me. "They grow beautiful wool here, too," she would offer and listen patiently while I explained this was impossible. "But there is lots of beautiful grass in Oregon," she suggested, "just like in New Zealand."  I should go with her to the Estes Park Wool Festival and consider buying little amounts of different fibers. "Just for fun," she urged.

This woman knows how to go to a wool festival. First you schlep your kids one year and bore them to death and they'll never want to go again. Once that is taken care of, the next year, you leave at the crack of dawn to get there right when it opens. The procedure goes like this: walk around and look at everything once and don't buy. Just look. Then go around again.

I got over being a snob toute suite. The fleeces were lovely! They came from all over, although usually the Western states. The variety was staggering. And not only wool, but alpaca! silk! bamboo! tensel! sari threads!

Lunch time. We would sit alone over sandwiches and coke and talk over every fleece, everyone's dyed mohair locks, those weird PVC pipe wheels (they were new then), bags of Ashland Bay blended fibers, and how nice the people were who sold the Cushings Dyes. We worked out deals - she often wanted brown wool, I wanted gray - we'd buy two whole fleeces and split them....and so it went.

What a marvelous day of freedom. Once we ran into a friend with five of her kids in tow.. We grieved for her....then hurried away to linger and dawdle some more......and TOUCH EVERYTHING. We stayed all day, and closed the place down.

Israel, alas, has nothing remotely like this and it's been five years since I've gone with Estee to the Wool Festival. Do you read spindlers at yahoo.groups? Well, whenever they start getting excited about the Sheep and Wool festivals in their areas, like the big ones in Maryland or Oregon or New Hampshire, I remember it all over again. Perhaps that's your situation, too. Perhaps like me you've moved far away from a Sheep and Wool festival.

I'll be back. I never consider a plane ticket -- to anywhere -- without checking out the fiber situation.

My daughter had to drive me all over Vancouver this last summer to check out fiber stores and she had to take me twice to Birkeland Brothers. I've got England in my sights and the next trip back to Colorado will be timed just right -- the second weekend in June.


  1. When you come to England, we have to go to Wales - the hills there are 25% white with sheep! I thought of you the whole time we were driving through Snowdonia.

  2. Whenever one of our knit/spin group comes home from a festival with fleece, we pass the bag o'fleece around the table and take turns stuffing our heads into the bag to smell that sheepy loveliness. You're quite right: no one understands.....

    Thank you for visiting Tea Leaves!