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.: 10.02.2007 

Some Good News and an Excruciatingly Detailed Account of Yarn School

Jump links: Good News | YS Thurs | YS Fri | YS Sat | YS Sun

Good News: Someone has put a bid on our house. If everything goes well, we could be closing on Oct 26. We're not holding our breath, but we are glad to see that someone is interested after only being on the market for about a week.

Yarn School, Thursday: The flight from Lville to St. Louis was miserable, as we were seated in the middle of a softball team of middle-aged men who were acting like two year olds. The flight attendants thought this was cute and flirted and joked with them as they shouted across seats, passed around soft porn, and drank many beers. Mind you, this is on SOUTHWEST, where they recently denied a woman a seat because her skirt was too short. Go figure. Thankfully the flight was only about 45 minutes long and they did not continue on with us to Kansas City. R, J, and I grabbed some food in St. Louis (thai pizza for me). The flight to Kansas City was uneventful. At the airport we grabbed our luggage (I saw a girl wearing a YARRRRRN shirt in the hallway and pointed to her. "Yarn School?" I called. "Yarn School!" she responded. "See you at Cuervo's!") and headed to Jose Cuervo's 'Tequilarilla' to meet other YSers for margaritas. There must have been about 12 of us there total. I had two, giggle, giggle, which came with plastic souvenir shakers that I promptly forgot about and left on the table.

The shuttle came and we climbed aboard, but about 15 minutes after leaving the airport the driver got a call and we had to go back. K, a lady from New York, had been delayed by two hours and though she had called everyone she could get a hold to let them know, the shuttle service had somehow translated this into that she wasn't coming. We went back for her, but every seat in the shuttle was full and she had to sit on the steps, the poor woman. She was an extremely good sport about it, and wouldn't trade with folks when people offered to switch out with her to give her butt a break.

Mostly on the shuttle I spoke to the people around me: V (in the front seat), B (4 months pregnant and next to me), and K (in the stair well). J and G sat behind me. I got a tap on my shoulder. It was G: "Are you the Zabet? Because I'm like your biggest fan!" I had absolutely no idea how to handle it. I still don't even expect folks to know about The AntiCraft, much less to be fans of it. I said really articulate things like "cool," "great," and "thank you" over and over. It took two hours to get to Harveyville (which is one of those "blink and you'll miss it" kind of towns) and towards the end we were all starving and beginning to wonder if the driver was lost (he wasn't, we were just really that much in the middle of nowhere).

Let me explain, if you don't know already, that Yarn School takes place in an actual school - the old Harveyville high school and elementary school. Nikol Lohr (of infamy and author of Naughty Needles) bought it and has turned it into The Harveyville Project, an artist commune/community project space/really big house.

Once at the school we settled in. R, J, and I were sharing a room and it was on the second floor, much to my and J's surprise. I struggled my suitcase up one step at a time. R and another YSer called down to ask if I needed help and I replied that no, I could do it, I'm an Amazon. A short, fat, asthmatic Amazon, but an Amazon nonetheless. I made it up the steps without an asthma attack and minimal panting, so go me. The school is only two floors, but there are more stairs than at home. I'm pretty sure that if I hadn't been going up and down the stairs at the townhouse for a month now that I wouldn't have made it up the stairs at YS at all. Our room was an old classroom (of course), so one wall was all windows and there was an office in the back. Originally my bed was back there, but the ceiling fan turned off with the lights, so there was no airflow. J and R helped me move my mattress out to the main room, and trust me when I say it was big enough for three double beds. Huge room!

That night there wasn't a proper diner (grumble, grumble) but drinks 'n hors devours. I think I ate about a dozen delicious spicy lamb meatballs with pita chips. (There were also a selection of olives and some spinach-and-mushroom pies, but I don't do olives or mushrooms.)

Ok, I will admit it, I was not the happy camper the first night. But remember that pretty much my first reaction to everything is not to like it and it takes a while to grow on me. I was worried about the bed thing (which was easy to fix, but I fretted about it first), I was worried about the bathroom situation (the stalls were very narrow and required some acrobats to ensure cleanliness), I harbored a fear that the showers would be one big room and my large ass would be displayed for all to see, I wasn't sure if I could handle so many stairs, and I was nervous that all the meals would include such large amounts of things I don't like to eat. Yes, hello, I'm neurotic, have you met me? J was equally unhappy, but mostly because (as she admitted later) she's rather spoiled. I also wonder if she was perhaps expected more renovation to have been done to the place already and to not be in the middle of it.

After hors devours there was the big swap session, but I just ran upstairs and hid and called Hubby to whine. Yes, I am a sad, cowardly creature. Hubby gave me a much needed pep talk and I went to bed. At least I didn't spend some ungodsly amount on yarn or fiber by going this route.

Yarn School, Friday: Things got better, though. I woke up twice in the middle of the night to pee (which was downstairs) and I survived both trips without falling and breaking my neck in my somnambulant state. I got a really cool picture of dawn with my cellphone, so that made it worthwhile. I can't remember why I took my phone to the bathroom for the life of me, though. A little later I went down to breakfast, still very out of it. I found coffee and, lacking milk and sugar, I added hot chocolate mix to it. Of course someone pointed out the milk and sugar to me right then, it had been right in front of me all along. "'S mocha, " I articulated, "'s good." Then I picked up an orange and had a total Russia flashback. Sometimes, you just can't face the orange. The thing was a bitch to peel while half-asleep, but I wasn't going to admit defeat in front of strangers. 15 minutes or so later I was awake enough to participate in conversations. G came over and though I still wasn't sure how to handle the compliments it was nice because she sort of adopted my socially awkward ass and prompted me to actually do things all weekend long.

We started that morning with dyeing, in the high school's chemistry lab of course! Adrian of hello yarn explained some seriously complicated math that G and I pitched right out the window. We suspected (and were right) that the math was only necessary for keeping track if you want to reproduce colorways. We winged it instead. Actually, I think most of the YSers winged it except for maybe five people. We started on a 2oz. piece of carded top (translation for non-fiber enthusiasts: a small hunk of wool) which I dyed green and orange. You're shocked, I know. This was supposed to be our "throwaway" practice piece, but I liked mine enough that I kept it. Next I dyed about 1/4 lb of merino carded top (translation: a pretty large hunk of very soft wool) orange and red. The colors were good but the dye didn't take with as much saturation as I was hoping. I think it was due to spraying on the vinegar rather than mixing it straight into the dye, which is what I did on my next dye job: 1/4 lb of medium grade carded top (translation: a pretty large hunk of wool). I did supersaturated autumnal colors, dark olive greens, rusty reds, and woodsy browns. I have to admit, there was some panic in the middle when my olive green ran out and I had only 75% of the piece I was working on dyed. I had to mix another batch of the color using entirely different dyes, and damned if I didn't get it spot on. (First batch was chartreuse and brown mixed together, second batch was emerald green, brown, black, and yellow mixed together.) I have to admit that I felt the most smart and in control when I was dyeing, I felt like I had a good sense of color and how to mix it. I felt confident and really enjoyed doing it, though I don't want to dye at home because I can imagine the mess I would make. No thank you, not without a dedicated counter and sink to do it at.

[Edit: I also lugged the mixer, computer, and mic into the chem lab with me and got some audio for Cast On from the folks dyeing around me.]

For lunch we visited Wildcat Hollow Alpaca Farm. I had minestrone soup, a cheese sandwich on rye, some raw veggies, a brownie, and cinnamon iced tea. It was very good, and I was very ready for a big meal after just having an orange for breakfast. Then we got to hang out with the alpacas, who were just too cute. There was also alpaca raw fleece, fiber, and yarn for sale, but I didn't buy any because I remembered how the alpaca on my Angry Gnome Hat made me itch. It was lovely to fondle, though. (the processed fiber, not the raw stuff).

After lunch I took a nap and then went back to the lab to finish up my dye projects. I missed out on the afternoon workshops, but I wasn't really into any of them: felted beads (tacky), carding (would be interesting if I wasn't up to my elbows in dye), and spindling (I already knew how to do). I tried to time it so that I'd quit dyeing at 4pm so I could shower before having the massage I signed up for at 5pm, but as it was I barely made it to my massage on time. I tried to reschedule because I was hot and sweaty, but she wouldn't hear of it. The massage was nice, but not like you see in movies. I don't know what I was expecting, honestly. It felt good, I didn't have to get entirely nekked, and those 60 minutes went by too fast, but I didn't leave in that dreamy post-massage state you see on TV. Maybe I was just too nervous. I wouldn't put it past me.

I hung out and talked to people while waiting for dinner. G was there, and R, E, and another J (there were many Js at YS). We talked about a lot of things, but I remember them saying that The AntiCraft was "so fearless." I responded that it's easy to be 'fearless' when you are on the internet and you have that screen in front of you.

Dinner was excellent: polenta cakes (which I normally don't like because polenta is meh but these were so yummy I had three), grilled chicken, and green salad with balsamic vinaigrette. It was also somewhat late. We quickly learned this was the theme for food: a long time coming, but so very delicious when it got there. I was glad I packed some granola bars all the same.

[Edit: somewhere between dinner and Flickr I drum carded with G so that I would have a lovely batt to spin from the next day.]

Afterwards I got online and popped my Flickr cherry with the photos I had been taking. I like the way Flickr is set up and am considering upgrading to a pro account. Plus, Ravelry only works with Flickr, so I might as well head that direction.

I think I made about ten trips up and down those stairs that day. I slept like the dead.

Yarn School, Saturday: [After rereading this section, I realize that in the beginning I am writing very heavily in the style of a graphic novel I just finished reading, so my apologies for the odd style. It goes away after a bit.]

Morning drill was the same, though this time I didn't bother brushing my teeth or hair or changing out of my jammies before hitting breakfast. Lots of staring blankly until the "mocha" kicked in. Managed to get a waffle, too, which was yummy.

Crappola, I'm already starting to forget. I knew I should have blogged while I was there.

R did a quick count and realized there were more students than wheels, so I was about to skip Spin Lab so I could go back to sleep, since technically I can spin with my wheel, I just don't know enough to control the type of thread I get. G, of course, prompted me to go with promises of sharing her wheel. And, of course of course, it was all needless worry since all the student wheels weren't even out yet so there were plenty of wheels to go around. I ended up stealing G's wheel, though. I didn't mean to, it just happened.

We split into a beginner and intermediate group. The Rs, G, and I were decidedly beginner. Dear J went into the intermediate. Sarah from Maisy Day and Jennifer from Whirled Yarn were the instructors for us newbies. I finally learned more about the mechanics of the wheel and how that affects your yarn, which I found terribly exciting but you probably won't. Here are my insights anyway:

1. A single drive wheel will also use some kind of braking system, very often Scotch tension. A double drive wheel spins and brakes using the same drive band. The brake affects how fast the bobbin spins in relation to the flyer. Tightening the brake speeds the bobbin and pulls thread into the orifice faster, loosening the brake slows the bobbin and gives you more time before the thread goes into the orifice. See #5 for more on this.

2. The higher ratio of your wheel size to your spool size means the yarn twists more per tredle, which is good if you want to spin a fine yarn. A lower ratio means it spins slower, which is better for n00bs and thicker yarns.

3. Those newfangled plastic drive bands rock. R and I have ordered some for our Ashford Travellers.

4. There are two ways to spin. Woollen spinning drafts with the non dominant hand (a "pull back" draft) and the dominant hand controls the spin by just letting go after drafting. This put more air into the yarn, making it fluffier. Worsted spinning drafts and controls spin with the dominant hand (a "pull forward" draft) and uses the fingers to squish air out of the yarn as the dominant hand moves back towards the non dominant hand to draft again. I think I've got that right, anyway. Let me know if I've muddled it. (I am, of course, a heretic spinner. I draft woolen and control spin worsted. Go figure.)

5. Scotch tension rocks. If you are consistently under-spinning or feel the yarn is being pulled out of your hand before you are ready, loosen the brake/tension. If you are consistently over-spinning or find yourself leaning back from the wheel with a long spun thread, tighten the brake/tension. This right here is the most simple and useful thing I probably learned. It kept me from cussing a LOT. (Ok, I cussed a lot anyway, but this kept me from cussing MORE.)

At this point it was lunchtime. Actually, it was past lunchtime. Harveyville was having its fall festival and the parade floats were gathering at the old high school. The theme? Pirates, of course, to celebrate Kansas' long and proud maritime history. The parade started at 2pm, and so did our lunch, which was "al fresco" so we could enjoy the horses, tractors, classic cars, and 10 yr olds on ATVs as they passed by. Oh, and Shriners, of course! It's not a parade without Shriners! We munched on Blake's delicious peanut chicken salad (peanut tofu salad for the Veggies), papadums, and eggrolls. Several folks went out later for funnel cake, but I have to admit that I'm not too into funnel cake. Too greasy. (Yes, I am aware of the irony inherent in a fat girl discussing which desserts are "too greasy" for her. Whatev.)

I say "al fresco" in quotes because it was really more al vento. I haven't talked about the wind yet. There was wind the entire time. Not a breeze. Wind. Full-on, British-nanny-bringing wind. And it never stopped, not once. It was awesome. It was the only thing that kept my sanity points up when I was sweating over wool - 30 seconds out in the wind and you were perfectly refreshed and dry as a bone. We were all amazed that between Kansas City and Harveyville we didn't see a single wind farm. Granted, they are expensive to set up, but I think one would easily pay for itself in that area.

After spinning a while my back started to hurt so I decided to record some more audio for Cast On. I had wanted to interview Nikol, of course, and the other crafty instructors who were making it all possible, but tragedy struck. Ok, it was more like asshattery. First? I lost my mic. Total panic. Much rushing upstairs and downstairs. Know where it was? Exactly where I had put it, of course, in the tote bag with the mixer and the computer. Oh, just duh. Friggin' duh, people! Next, the mic battery was dead. Now, here is where I got cocky and experienced immediate karmic retribution, because I brought along a backup battery (9-volt, for the curious among you). Yeah, muthafucka, I thought, take that! Except the backup battery was also dead. Hello, this is my life. This is so completely typical of my life. I very nearly cried (but didn't, so points for me). I asked around to see if maybe there was a spare 9-volt in the school, but no such luck. So it was with great disappointment I packed up the audio equipment and emailed Brenda, who had a fabulous Plan B. But that concluded the audio excursion portion of Yarn School.

At that point I decided to brave the showers, and once again felt stupid for not having at least checked them out earlier. There were separate stalls curtained off from each other, and one even had its own dressing area curtained off. I took a cold shower, delighting in the shock of it after sweating for two days straight. Five minutes after I was sweating again, mind you, but for those 20 minutes in the shower it was worth it.

Then began the long wait for dinner, which happened around 9pm that night. Poor J was a right mess between low blood sugar and a penchant for burbon. She retired directly after diner. I got to hang around and talk to G, E, another J, another R, and S. I hadn't met S yet; she's just getting a business started dyeing sock yarn. There was a really long discussion about saline vs. silicone breast implants, breast reduction surgery, nipple sensitivity, etc - you know, typical girl talk. S gave me some pentagram stitch markers that her stepdaughter had made that were adorable (apparently no retail outlet will touch them, ha!) and some sample sock yarn for B (who we all know is a whore for the sock yarn because you just can't get it in Britain). It was really sweet of her. Plus, I'm always glad to have something awesome to show off on the AC blog, especially if it helps pimp someone cool.

Diner was roasted corn and queso enchiladas, rice, black beans, chips, and fresh salsa. Again, fabulous. I was constantly astounded at how good the food was. I heard a rumor that our chef at one time had his own vegetarian restaurant, and it's a pretty believable rumor considering the fare he served up. Oh, also? The holographic poodle picture that Ne has which SB covets so openly? He had three of them on the wall of his room. SB would have exploded.

After dinner and girl talk I went back to spinning my batt. I wanted to take home at least something I had done from dye-to-ply. There really wasn't enough of it to ply it properly, so R stepped in with her mad Navajo plying skillz and plied it for me. I now have 33 yards of beautiful orange and green yarn. Which isn't enough to do anything with, actually. But damn, it's pretty.

Yarn School, Sunday: Unlike my smart roommates, I didn't pack as much as possible on Saturday night. I saved it all for Sunday morning after my "mocha." I was just getting dressed when someone came looking for me for the group photo around 11:30am. I took photos of folks I thought I had missed thus far. We loaded up the shuttle (a larger one this time, seats for everyone!), got Nikol to sign our Naughty Needles, grabbed our sack lunches (quiche - I didn't have any because it had tree nuts - and some fabulous Indian potato-and-carrot dish), and headed off to the airport.

Of course those of us with time to spare hit the Tequilarilla again, though only one margarita each for R and I. Wouldn't you know I forgot my souvenir shaker again? The 'ritas hit us harder than we thought they would, but I at least had skipped breakfast and only had some of the potato dish, so I shouldn't have been surprised. We giggled our way to the gate and tried to look sober enough to fly, since Southwest has been known to be picky about that. J spent the night in Kansas City so she could fly on to Taos the next day (watch out for the Death Cult!), so it was just me and R on the way home.

Wouldn't you know in St. Louis we were on the plane with the same obnoxious softball team? And wouldn't you know they had won whatever championship they were off playing in, so they were even more obnoxious on this flight? R and I made ample use of our iPods and thanked the universe that at least we weren't sitting in the middle of the team this time.

Hubby picked us up in Prius-san when we got into Lville. Borrowing Prius-san is our reward for picked J up when she gets back in to town later this month. We stopped for a late dinner at Ramsi's, our favorite restaurant, and got back into town about 12:30am. I think I fell asleep around 2am, since I was still in excited-want-to-talk-about-it mode. Then Hubby and I had to get up at 6:30am to begin what would be known as "The Tubal That Wasn't." Good times. I still could use some more sleep, and I think I would even go back next year.

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thus proclaimeth the Zabet  10:01 PM   2 comment(s)


Hey slacker, where's the rest of the entry? My YS entry is way shorter and less detailed.

By Blogger robyn, at 11:42 AM  

Yay on the house! Yarn school, despite its hiccups, sounds like it was fun. I wish I could have gone, but now that my back is out (again) it's probably for the best that I didn't aggravate it with travel.

By Blogger Renee, at 3:37 PM  

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