Posted in Life Spinning Wanderings

La Push retreat with Judith MacKenzie

April 1, 2011 - 10:29 am

On Sunday after brunch I left for this retreat.  It’s now Friday, the official retreat is over, and I’m here on my own for a day, expecting Zack and David tonight.  To say I’m missing them would be putting it mildly.  I kept rolling over in bed last night expecting the weight of a cat on the covers, expecting David beside me, and feeling little jolts when neither of those things were true.  It’s a good vacation in the sense that I’m definitely ready to be heading home.  I love my everyday life, and I miss it.

The weekend should be lots of fun, though.  There are many things to explore here on the reservation, and other places to go on the Peninsula.  There’s a wood carvers studio, and some other tribal arts centers I expect Zachary will appreciate.  The opportunities for stunning photography should please David.

The drive out here was so much fun!  I carpooled with Heather, who makes a wonderful companion.  She is wheat and cow dairy free, so my gluten free needs are easy for her to understand.  We also seem to be able to talk and talk and talk and laugh and talk some more, and never tire of each others company.  Five days of togetherness in unfamiliar and intense surroundings is challenging, but we were as delighted with each other at the end of the trip as at the beginning.  I’m so glad she’s moved here, so close to me!  I look forward to friendship and fiber arts collaboration for years to come.

She and I stopped in Port Gamble at the Artful Ewe on the way, and had tea at the Tea Room.  I purchased some tealy green locks from a local Romney cross sheep to spin.  Heather walked around touching things and cooing.  We pet Grace, I gave Heidi lots of hugs, and we got back on the road to La Push.

The retreat has been fascinating.  There were delightful people, good food, and of course lots of spinning!  I spent most of the week working on my woolen spinning, with occasional breaks for some “comfort” spinning of fine worsted yarn.  I spun several hundred yards of silk for the progressive yarn project, and I’m looking forward to making more so I can start the plying.

I learned the yarn I want to spin: fluffy, airy, diaphanous woolen yarn, is best accomplished with down breed sheep.  The first time I sat down with Judith on Tuesday to talk about what I wanted to work on I showed her a little sample that was the closest I’ve ever gotten to what I want, and she said, “Oh!  You’re using wool form the wrong sheep!  Here, try this,” and handed me a length of Columbia roving.  The sky opened and the clouds parted and five minutes later I had a sample of exactly what I’ve been trying fruitlessly to produce for several months.

I also confirmed that I’m really really allergic to lanolin.  I spun some of the locks I’d picked up from Heidi, working on making the “wolf yarn” on Judith’s A Spinner’s Toolbox video, and after about 15 minutes my forearms were red and splotchy.  No more lanolin for me.  🙁

It was an interesting exercise, even though I had to quit.  If I work further on this yarn, I will focus on spinning the fine core yarn, and add fluff where possible, rather than focusing on the fluff.  Even though the fluff is the goal, the fine yarn core is the structure of the yarn.  Spinning it from the back of my hand as Judith demonstrates is HARD!  I believe that will be the key, however.

I do not believe wolf yarn is on my quest for fluffy diaphanous yarn.  I like the order of the Columbia far more than the chaos of the wolf yarn.  I need to spin and knit enough of each to be certain how it looks in the finished product, but I’m virtually certain from what I see in the yarn.  It’s an interesting, challenging exercise, however, and worth pursuing for that reason.

On Wednesday, Judith gave us a length of Rambouillet mixed with Mohair to spin woolen.  I hated this.  Hate hate hate with the heat of a thousand suns.  It was difficult to draft, and nearly impossible to join when it broke, which was frequently.  I persevered, however, and by dinner time I had a hundred yards or so of finished woolen yarn.  Ugh.  It was No Fun.

Just before dinner on Wednesday, we started lichen dye pots.  This was nifty!  I love the colors that were produced.  Judith put in samples of her Rambouillet, and I tossed in the Columbia and Rambouillet/Mohair blend as well.  She pulled out little skeinlets every few minutes as the dye bath started simmering so we could see the progress of the dye.

At the end of the retreat yesterday, Judith sent me home with all the samples, which was a delightful gift!  The downside of this is the icky factor.  I do not like icky stuff, and the slimy yarn matted with lichen definitely twigged my icky nerve.  Heather is happy to dye me up more, however, should I wish, and no one else at the retreat seemed to mind handling the finished yarn.  I believe this is my own personal foible, and reinforces my belief that while I am intellectually interested in how dyeing works and I very much appreciate the product, I have zero interest in going through the process myself.  I am so glad there are folks who want to dye!

The other highlight yesterday was spinning bison down.  Judith had some bison roving, and oh was it delicious.  We had also spun up a sample of bison/silk.  I hope I have enough of these, perhaps plied up with some plain silk, to make something.

This is far from all we did and saw during the retreat.  Judith had many things for us to sample, including several different silks and cashmere.  Mmmm, cashmere.  She showed us yarn from paper, and some finished products and swatches from the yarn.  One of the participants taught folks traditional cedar weaving.  We saw whales on the last day, while sitting down for breakfast with one of the tribe elders.  I look forward to the next time I can do something like this!

The Oceanside Resort itself is a mixed bag.  The setting is amazing!  My room looks out over the ocean.  The view is spectacular, and it’s certainly a secluded retreat.  My room is decently appointed, with a usable kitchen.

For the money I’m spending, however, I expect more service than is provided.  I’m on my sixth day here, and have not had any maid service in the room.  I asked one of the room cleaners for clean towels yesterday, and was sullenly directed to a service building at the other side of the retreat.  I walked around the building until I found an open roll-up door to a sort of garage room, and had to shout to get someone’s attention, who was not at all friendly about the towel exchange.  I had to give her my room number to be allowed to take extra towels beyond the two provided so that the three of us can all shower tomorrow.

The walls seem not to be insulated at all; someone checking into the room next door at 11 or so last night, not being particularly loud, just walking back and forth getting stuff up from the car and settled, kept me up for the better part of an hour.  Folks who had rooms on the lower floor complained that they could hear everything going on in the room above.

The office is only open from 8 am to 8 pm, and that’s the only place on the resort property with access to a phone or internet.  Outside of those hours it’s necessary to drive a 40 minute round trip to Forks.  This would not be so bad if there were cell phone service, but there is not.  I do appreciate the solitude of the setting, but would still like to be able to check in with the folks I care about to make sure they are ok, and have some way for them to reach me.

I have most of today on my own.  I’m hoping to get more rest, to make progress on a Secret Knitting project, and to at least get a good start at spinning the Abby Batt “Peace Flag.” First, though, I’m going to head over to the office to check email and post this entry.  I’ll add pics and links next week when I have better Internet access.


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