This past Saturday was the 9th annual Woodstock Fleece Festival, and I made it! It is held an hour away by car, and is by faaar my favourite local event for fibre folks.
Last year was a definite miss. It’s much improved but a school week is a school week – I can’t predict whether our nurturing reserves dip too low for a Saturday morning trip. Plus, N had a 12:30 pm dental appointment in town.
It was a blur! I see from the pamphlet that I totally missed some vendors (sorry, Peggy Sue Collection; The Gaynor Homestead!) but I feel completely rejuvenated by my trip out, and here is why.
Found! A Squirrel-cage Swift
You may know him as Wheelwright? Reed Needles has repaired one of my antique wheels, and visiting his booth of many Canadian Production Wheels (CPWs) is always a must-do. I was expecting to only say a few words when I had an, “Hey, is that functional, Reed?!?” moment.
It has been totally mentioned by me to Reed a few times now: he is an enabler par excellence. With a twinkle in his eye he noted that yes it works, and that the circa 1860 fittings are hand-forged.
The spirals are beautiful, and it fixes the upper roller cage easily/ properly.
A closer look at the flanged rollers shows yarn (I suspect linen of course) wear on the dowels.
Reed was selling this swift on behalf of a local weaver’s estate. It is sturdy enough for life with an active child + speedy unwinding of skeins.
The cut end of the base on the post-side has some deep cracks but this tool will let me unwind yarn gently, and round skeins if needed.
Other names for this tool are ‘roller-cage swift’ ‘barrel swift’ and ‘rice.’ According to The Alden Amos Big Book of Handspinning they are believed to have been developed in continental Europe (p. 270).
A similar swift with a wooden upper handle is shown in Keep me Warm One Night by the Burnhams (no. 38; see p. 42) as a gift to the Royal Ontario Museum and from Ontario.
A swift – any swift – is used by the fibre artist to:
… unwind the skeins and is not suitable for making them. When a skein is to be used, it is placed on a swift that is adjustible in size and wound off into a ball, or onto a spool or bobbin. (ibid, p. 22)
This swift adds choice because I do have a large umbrella one from Glimåkra that also works well. They are both shorter than the skeins wound on my blue antique click reel (i.e. tool that winds skeins). The squirrel-cage may be easier to handle the wider skeins, and I will go very slowly when checking that point out.
The squirrel-cages will hold more than one skein at a time without needing to collapse the tool as you do with the umbrella. The cages also hold all courses in a skein with even tension across. I am interested in how the squirrel-cages compare to the umbrella ‘v-shape’ on unwinding skeins to the warping board for weaving.
Growth of this festival year-over-year shows most clearly in the barn marketplace. Remembrances Pottery was a fun discovery – their stunning handmade mugs, buttons, etc warranted a quick stop.
This and other quick stops were accompanied by the bag of raw wool that you can see in my trunk up there. It still needs cleaning!
As you may guess from all the talk of rushing, and new time constraints, I probably shouldn’t have. This is a 5 lb 4 oz lamb’s fleece from Willow Farm.
The shepherdess, Josslyn, explained that this may be the last year they attend but that farm direct sales are still possible. I have missed cleaning fleece so much!
The llama pack and obstacle course was brought to us by the Norfolk 4H. These babies were shy but the performing adults allowed for happy petting.
As always festival organisers also had some sheep in the barn for attendees.
This family friendly atmosphere is why the event is growing, and I hope to bring N & T next year. This year, I was thrilled to see some spinning friends at long last, and hit all the high notes.
There being much to be done in fall is not new. What is new sits in my immediate family, and would include the words cancer patient & break-up. Necessary but not easy stuff is ahead but we are well in the midst of that.
My next warp will be for a head-scarf – pushing the baby blankets behind because first things first.