Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Surprise Win

Now, I'm not all that big on competition. So when friend Amy suggested that our guild put together a Sheep-to-Shawl team for the Alameda County Fair's contest, I shuddered a bit. It's been a few years since I've participated in one, and all I remember from the experience is that it seemed unnecessarily stressful.

We did a couple of knitted Sheep-to-Shawl teams in the intervening time, and they were a lot of fun, mostly because we were just doing it to prove a point, and didn't expect to win against a much faster weaving team.

This time, we put together a totally laid-back team - none of us cared if we won, nor did we expect to. Amy and I spun the warp out of gray Montadale roving - I tended towards too thin, and she tended towards too thick, so we plied them together to make a mostly consistent warp yarn. Amy wanted me to weave, since she thinks my selvedges are less wobbly than hers.

Then I had some fun with my Earthhues kit - the purple is cochineal, the green is osage orange, and the oranges are various combinations of madder, cochineal, fustic, and osage orange (if you've got the kit - they're "True Red," "Terra Cotta," and "Poppy."). Probably more complicated than it needed to be. If I were to do it again, I think I'd do at least one less color, just to preserve my sanity when warping.

I chose a simple herringbone pattern, with direction changes at the centers of the color stripes. I freely admit I stole the general idea from one of the other local teams, except that they use different stripe combinations and a bit of basketweave. Also, I used a bit of the same color changes that many of us veteran Peggy students picked up from fellow student (and color genius) Antoine. But the main objective was to use a pattern that is easy enough to weave in a public setting, but still looks nice.

So, here's the hitch... the contest was held the day after I returned from a solid week of family camp with my family, in a location far away in the Sierras, with absolutely no cell phone service nor internet access. And on the day I was packing up the car, our team members were dropping like flies. Not that I blame them - life interrupts sometimes. So I left it to Amy (whose idea this was to begin with) to find some replacements. Pleasantly, I discovered when I returned that she'd put together our eight, with even a few reserves in line just in case.

And what a team it was - everyone spun consistently. It also helped that I had serendipitously picked a really nice gray corridale fleece (from Hub Corriedales of Bonanza, Oregon) at Black Sheep to use as the weft. Everyone said that it spun up like butta, with just a bit of teasing or flicking.

So against all odds, and six other teams (including several perennial winners), we won! I was totally shocked, as was the rest of the team. We walked away with the team members saying how much fun it would be to do it again. Although this is the only Sheep-to-Shawl contest I know of that is held in an air-conditioned building. We San Franciscans are total heat wimps.