Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Visits with Rita and Barb

So much has happened in the last month that I hardly know where to start. July 30th found me on the road again, northbound to New Hampshire. My first stop was the home of Rita Buchanan. It's always such a joy to visit Rita. She and husband Steve have the perfect artists retreat in rural Connecticut, a modest sized central home, light and airy, with two separate studios. Steve's studio (he's a nature artist and you've seen his work on the "Crop" stamps as well as many others (Vintage Motorcycles, Pollinators, Reptiles and Amphibians)) is above the garage with the entrance tucked well back into the woods. Private and quiet. Rita's studio is in the house next door! She walks there every morning, crossing a bridge over a bubbling creek and following a path through the woods. When they first bought it, the house was almost a tear-down, but Rita and Steve completely gutted it, cleaned it out and remodeled, all by themselves. It's a dream studio, with four separate working rooms, three down and one up. One of the downstairs rooms is almost all windows with a view of her lovely garden full of lovingly tended shrubs, trees, flowers and stonework. Rita always gives me a mini lesson when I visit and this year it was a cotton spinning lesson.She had me spinning cotton on a Schacht Matchless in 5 minutes! And it held together...I was speechless. Rita spins everything on either her Schacht or her electric spinner. The bowl above contains some of her handspuns awaiting the loom in silk, cotton, linen and hemp. We used her handwoven dishtowels in the kitchen (can you imagine?), woven in subtle patterns from handspun cotton and linen. Her terry handtowel above is so cushy, so utterly touchable, all handspun and handwoven from the natural colored fibers, green cotton and linen. See how the terry stripes are one fiber and the flat stripes another...and it's reversable! What an elegant asthetic! What remarkable craftsmanship. Stunning! To top it off we took the kayak and canoe out on a local lake and picked blueberries from the boats. These became sublime muffins the next morning...the ones we didn't eat, that is. Rita loved my kayak...looked like a little girl with a new toy as she paddled. Thanks, Rita, for such a great time!

On my way home I got to visit Barb Parry of Foxfire Fibers. What a treat! I had met
Barb when she took my class at SOAR in 2003. She spoke so lovingly of her animals then that I've always wanted to see her again and meet the flock. Finally this year I got to do just that. And her remarkable love for her flock pays off in the sweetest, most affectionate sheep I've ever had the pleasure to meet. The little black ram lamb snuggling against me is Cinder, who followed me when we started to leave and snuggled me for more pets all the way to the fence. Barb takes such great care of her animals that it shows in her fiber and yarn. I bought some of her cormo, alpaca and silk millspun that she had dyed because I just could not resist it's cush and cuddly softness. Those skeins glowed in the front seat of my car as I traveled south to Webs and all I wanted to do was whip out my needles and start knitting. I bought some square needles at Webs and started in on some Spiralling Leaves Fingerless gloves, altering it for the worsted weight yarn. You'll see them soon.
You can read all about Barb's life on the farm on her Sheep Gal blog. If you haven't seen her new book, Teach Yourself VISUALLY Hand Dyeing, you should definitely check it out. She covers many types of dyeing in beautifully illustrated and easy to follow format. Get your copy today!

More soon. There are stories from Harrisville and the Tennessee Museum workshop yet to tell. My LYS owner and pal Jim Warf of Decherd Needleworks got in a new shipment of Cascade closeouts and he's got a ridiculously fine sale going on...up to 75% off some nifty yarns. You don't have to be in Tennessee to check it out. You can buy online from him. More on all this soon.