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.
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.
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.
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.
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.