Fiber Debauchery

Two weeks ago, I attended a fantastic retreat with my 563 closest fiber friends at an über-mod hotel in Tacoma. This is the third year for several delegates from the Fiber Gallery in the Greenwood neighborhood of Seattle. We met artists, writers, teachers and designers; celebrated a couple of birthdays; learned to spin, ply and weave; shopped, laughed, sympathized and commiserated, indulged and spent wonderful time in each other’s company.

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Open a hotel to a large group of women with fiber and watch the havoc ensue. As the hotel was undergoing extensive renovations, we rubbed elbows at the bar with several contractors unwinding at the end of their shift. Clearly making a play, one of the electricians leaned over to Loren, asking ‘what the most exciting new product was at this convention’. He tried vaguely to say he remembers his grandmother doing something with needles and tiny thread making little knots, confusing tatting with the knitting most people were carrying.

For me, the most exciting thing in the marketplace was all the fiber. Walking into that space, my eyes saw everything in a new light. I was a knitter last year, so my interest lay only in the yarn. This year, my eyes were drunk with all the different fibers on display. Since most of my roving has been bought online, it was a feast to see and touch the many color and fiber blends.

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I indulged in several expensive blends to expand my catalog of fibers and effects. The shimmering bundle of softness on the left is a 60/40 blend of merino and bamboo from Blue Moon Fiber Arts the saturated colors on the right are merino/tencel blend from Chameleon Colorworks. One of the women who bought merino roving from the Chameleon folks had already spun several ounces last week; she brought it to our knitting group still wet just to share the beautiful color with us.

As I walked around the marketplace, getting a lay of the land, there was one booth that attracted my eye over and over, though I didn’t stop to look at anything carefully until a friend started to fondle their sock yarn. As my vision narrowed to take a closer look, I realized it was the overall palette that appealed to me. Their products had a tone, much like a piece of music, that was both engaging and harmonious.

A moment later, one of the business partners spoke up: she knew me from something. We paused for a minute, searching our collective memory and then suddenly realized our faces were familiar because we read each other’s blogs: it was Maia of Maia Spins, now also partner in Tactile Fiber Arts.

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The dynamic team of Missy B and Maia use natural dyes for their fiber and yarn – read more at their store blog. Between Madrona and Stitches West, these two women have been very busy, so check out their blog for more pictures of fiber (the store should be open March 3rd, but we know how these things go). The golden fiber is a 50/50 merino/tencel blend; the plum fiber is a 50/50 merino/soy silk blend; the green fiber is blue faced leicester which felts very well and is more economical than merino.

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I couldn’t wait to try some of my new roving. The word around Madrona was that plant fibers add shimmer to the roving, but don’t impede its ability to felt. As soon as I returned home, I ripped the wrapper off the merino/soy silk to take it for a test run. True to legend, this scarf is soft, supple and slightly shiny. It was a little more difficult to lay out the batt because the fibers wanted to cling to my fingers instead of staying on the workbench; there are some thin spots as a result, but I will know for the next time I need to put down a little extra fiber. Ultimately, that means this scarf is not for sale, but something for my personal collection. I love it when things work out that way.

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7 Responses to “Fiber Debauchery”


  1. 1 Larissa Tuesday, March 4, 2008 at 9:55 am

    Hi Leah! Looks like you guys had a blast at the retreat- wish I could have been there. I miss all of you fiber gallery knitting ladies: I haven’t found nearly as a cool a community here in Boston yet 🙂

    Take care, and say hi to the group for me. -Larissa (the former grad student/scientist from the fiber gallery group)

  2. 2 Josiane Tuesday, March 4, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    Great purchases and lovely scarf! I can’t wait to see what else you’ll do with the rest of the fiber… Have fun playing with it!

  3. 3 Maia Tuesday, March 4, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    Oooh! Cool! I haven’t seen our fiber felted before. I love the way the purple looks!

    Madrona was so much fun! I can’t wait for next year.

  4. 4 Colette Friday, March 7, 2008 at 1:17 am

    I recognize your enthousiasm! Me, too started on a normal spindle (with a hook) and later I bought me a turkish one (without a hook). I simply screwed the hook from the first on top of the second. It truly saves time if you don’t have to wind off your spindle all the time.

    although timesaving is not the reason why we spin on either both of them, isn’t it 🙂

  5. 5 Trish Saturday, March 8, 2008 at 11:25 pm

    It was killing me but I don’t remember ever using the words “you are doing it all wrong”!! You are a great spinner, it was just that you needed a little guidance. Glad to see your well and truly hooked, I mean happily spinning. Hope to be hiring you soon…. Trish

  6. 6 jackie Monday, March 10, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    Spinning is really addictive. Next stop….new wheel!
    And I really wish that I could have been there. Your retreat sounds wonderful!


  1. 1 Tactile’s Birthday Contest « HomeWork Trackback on Friday, March 13, 2009 at 1:37 pm
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