Mom, Robert and I drove out to the Winchester/Berryville area two weekends ago for the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival. It was much smaller than Maryland Sheep and Wool, but I think it was the perfect size for the weekend – just enough vendors to give people options for yarn and roving and tools, but not so overwhelming that you couldn’t see them all in one day (though it was a near thing).
I went into this festival with a specific list of things to look for.
- A new spinning wheel – not because I need to replace my Ashford Traveler, but because I wanted something a little more portable to take to Stitch ‘n Time.
- A WPI (wraps per inch) tool for determining the size of my yarn.
- Spinner’s Control Card (preferably on the WPI tool)
- Roving to spin
- Metallic thread to ply with the bamboo singles currently on my Traveler.
- A raw fleece to process
There weren’t as many booths with spinning wheels for sale as there had been at Maryland Sheep and Wool but, even with the smaller selection, there were a couple of really good options. There was one booth that had a Sidekick and a Ladybug from Schacht, another that had two Lendrums and a Spinolution Queen Bee, another that had a Louet that had only been used once, and another that had a much older Louet that had been well used.
Although each wheel does the same thing – spin roving into yarn – they each have a different feel to them when in use. My current wheel is a single treadle, which gets a little tiring when spinning for longer stretches of time, so I knew I was looking for a double treadle (you “peddle” with both feet). All of the wheels at the festival fit this basic guide, so then it came to the next qualifier: it needed to be portable. While the Louet I saw had a travel case, it bulkier in the case than I was really looking for, so I didn’t actually take it for a “spin.”
This left me with the Ladybug, the Sidekick, the Lendrum, and the Queen Bee. I tried out the Ladybug, which had the better price of the two Schacht options, but I wasn’t impressed with its treadling. It felt a little more unwieldy in the pedals, and had a bit of a dead zone. I really loved the Sidekick, though, which treadles much more like a bicycle than a regular wheel. It was on the list of possibilities, though I wasn’t crazy about the price.
I had been excited to try out the Queen Bee, as most of the Spinolution brands are treadled with the toes of your foot, rather than the whole foot – great for people who have ankle injuries. I also really liked the fact that it used a front hook, rather than an orifice, as most wheels have. I figured that would cut down on the amount of time I normally waste re-threading the orifice, after the fiber breaks or pulls through. In reality, though, I had the greatest amount of difficulty with this wheel. Treadling without spinning seemed to be fine, but once I attached a leader and tried to spin, it kept flipping back and forth between the different directions, or I would get it stuck in a dead zone, or the yarn would jump up over the edge of the flyer pegs and wrap around the outside of the flyer…nothing I did seemed to work. I was actually pretty sad, as I’d had great hopes for the Bee. I think, with a lot of patience and more work, I could probably get it to work properly for me, but right then I was looking for something I could get started on a lot faster.
I hadn’t originally thought the Lendrum would be a serious contender in the auditioning of a new wheel, but the seller brought it down and my appreciation was almost immediate. The bobbins change out a lot easier than those on my Traveler, the double treadle is nice, and it folds up almost flat rather easily. The vendor mentioned that she spins primarily on a Lendrum, and she attached a guitar strap to it with two eyehooks, for easy transport. To sweeten the deal, the basic wheel (at that vendor) comes with a tensioned lazy kate and a niddy knoddy (adaptable for two different lengths), and a pound of fiber.
Needless to say, I left on the second day with the Lendrum.
There were a number of lovely roving options throughout the whole festival, but I eventually left with beautifully dyed selections from Hobbledehoy (colorway: Dandy Lion and Irish Moss) and HipStrings (colorway: Moonstone). HipStrings also happened to have the type of WPI tool I was looking for. I also stopped by the Gurdy Run Fiber Mill booth, which I realized supplied some of my favorite fiber at Uniquities. I had purchased all of the remaining roving in the colorway Nebulous, and spun it up for Mom, but it didn’t make as much as I think she needs for the project she wants. I asked the owner of the mill if she had any more in that colorway. She didn’t, but she can make more easily. I plan to get in touch with her after next week’s festival in Montpelier, VA.
I had hoped to pick up a Lincoln Longwool fleece at the sale (I fell in love with the breed at Maryland Sheep and Wool this year), but there was only one available that had been crossbred with a Border Leicester. I wasn’t pleased with the feel of the wool, so I went on to look for something different. I very nearly picked up a large fleece from a Horned Dorset, and another giant bag from a Jacob sheep named Poseidon (I had spoken with his breeder the day before), but I ended up opting for much smaller fleeces this go around. I’ve processed raw wool before, through Stitch ‘n Time, but never by myself. I picked out a bag of true black alpaca – it’s so SOFT! – and a small bag of fleece from a Shetland ram lamb named Coco Puff. With any luck, the rain will stop this weekend and I can wash both bags and leave them out in the sun to dry a bit.
One of the things Mom and I had looked forward to seeing at this festival was Junior, the Bactrian camel. I’ve seen Dromedary camels before, but never this breed, and I was excited for the opportunity. Unfortunately, it was not to be. For whatever reason, Junior never made an appearance. There were a few handlers there with some Dromedary camels, though, so at least we got a camelid fix.
We also got to see both Angora and Pygora goats, which have some of the softest hair you can imagine. I only saw one Jacob and a small flock of Katahdin sheep at the festival though, which I found a little strange. I guess this festival was all about the goats (and the two little alpacas over at one of the vendor booths).
In the end, the only thing on my list that I didn’t manage to find was metallic thread to ply with the bamboo, and even this was more of an “I found it but didn’t find it” type of situation. There was one booth that had what I was looking for, but not enough in the color I wanted. I figure this is one of the things that will be easy enough to find online or in a brick and mortar store nearby, so I wasn’t too concerned with not picking some up at the festival.