Saturday, September 30, 2006

Coverage of Francophone Spinners' Retreat in French Newspaper

Est Republicain, Sept. 15. Same daily that reported Osama bin Laden was dead. Translation to follow.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Spinning Wool in Segou, Mali

Here is a video of Djenaba, a young Malian spinner test-driving the Babe Pinkie. (Loading may take a minute. Please be patient.) This is one of the spinning wheels that I handed to Youssouf in Marrakesh in June. On September 14, it finally made made it to Segou, three hours away from the Malian capital of Bamako.

Also delivered to the carpet-weaving cooperative called Tapiserrie Nieleni, a multi-functional women's cooperative where they process wool from fleece to carpet, were charkhas: the modern kind made of PVC by Nels Wiberg, and the Indian-style one in a wooden box called book charkha.The book charkha was fascinating to the Malians, especially when they saw that the little box also contained a skeiner. Notice how enthralled Djenaba's fellow spinner was.

When I consulted Djenaba about her preference, she patted the Pinkie. Djenaba was taught to spin with a wheel by a German volunteer. In fact, the Malians had fashioned one spinning wheel with bicycle parts. Below, Youssouf checks to see if the metal wheel is for real, while Ina, the cooperative's adviser, looks on.

Ina said that when they use yarn spun with a spindle, the resulting carpet is very heavy and expensive to ship. With the new wheels, they will be able to create carpets of finer yarn and those would be less expensive to ship and would mean more income for the women.This is a sample of the cooperative's products. I would have bought this one, but it was so heavy.

A weaver working on a carpet (above) and wool being spun on a spindle (below). There are 65 women working in this cooperative, from fleece-sorting to weaving. Twenty of them are spinners and almost all of them use spindles.

A generous hank of superbulky being taken off to the loom.

To be continued...

Sunday, September 17, 2006

More Photos from the Lorraine Spinning Retreat

The organizers: Sandrine and Richard. Sandrine owns the francophone spinning forum, Tricofolk, and an online knitting and spinning boutique, Alysse Créations. Richard sells corsetmaking supplies on the same website. He also makes them to order, or will sell patterns. For fans of Sophia Coppola's Marie Antoinette, this is your chance to create your own. Really cool with jeans.

The angora goat farmers and generous hosts of the retreat: Marylene (wearing glasses) and Alain. Marylene takes care of the goats, unless she's on the road selling the mohair products of an angora goat cooperative under the label, Horizon Mohair. When she's away, Alain takes over. They have a large room that functions as an fiber processing museum with old picking and carding equipment for young kids and their parents to learn about a mostly forgotten trade, that of spinning.

All of the spinners drove in, four of them with their pack mules, I mean, husbands. I flew in to Paris on frequent flyer miles and took the three-hour train ride to the farm.

The aspiring spinners: Garance and Amelie. Garance is the daughter of Laurence, a.k.a. Laine Zinzin. Garance learned to spin during the spinners' weekend for the first time because her Apple computer was back at home. Her mom says she's a whiz with PhotoShop. Amelie's mom, Florence (a.k.a. Pouxy because there is another Tricofolk spinner with the same name), is into chiengora and persian cats, which sells under the label, Canilaine. I was pleased that both teens went for my rovings in tresses which I had brought along for the supply swap (we also exchanged handspuns in a raffle). The fiber was dyed with pigments from Morocco and they couldn't resist the bright colors.

The inspiration: Pluckyfluff. Just as in Majacraft's Spinning Magic Weekend, Lexi Boeger's book, Spinning Revolution, was inevitably present. There were two copies being passed around. Since the technical aspect was difficult to understand for most of the spinners, Laurence translated for them.

The new fascination: The Little Gem2. That is Muriel on my foldable little wheel. As with all Majacraft products, the spinner controls the wheel, not the other way around. Moreover, you never need to oil to get it to operate smoothly. There were eight European spinners who came and at the end of the retreat, we were calling Majacraft in Tauranga, NZ, for Little Gems for two spinners. I'm proud to sell the Little Gem -- see the Fall issue of Spin-Off magazine. Spinners in France, Belgium and Switzerland may now order them from Sandrine at Alysse Créations

Finally, Laurence and me test-driving the charkhas for Africa and, at the same time, posing for the journalist of Est Republicain who came to cover the event.

For spinners in the US and Canada interested in the next francophone retreat, it will be in June 2007 in the Cévennes region of France. It is being organized by Joelle (unfortunately too far to make it to Lorraine this year). Cévennes is lovely and provides hiking opportunities for pack mules. Laurence, who has a farmhouse in the region and spends the summer there, is also promoting it.

Next blog: The Spinners of Mali.

Friday, September 15, 2006

First-Ever Retreat of Francophone Spinners in Lorraine, France - Sept. 8-9

See the photos on Sandrine's blog. With the strong support of her husband, Richard, corsetmaker par excellence, she organized the get-together held in the angora goat farm of Marylene and Alain, folks behind Horizon Mohair.

More photos by Sandrine and Richard here. Florence, who raises sheep in Belgium, blogged about her six-hour drive to France here.

All lined up: me, Midian (Switzerland), Sandrine (France), Amélie (Pouxy's daughter), Carine (Belgium), Muriel (France), Pouxy (France), Laurence (France) and her daughter, Garance. Below: Florence (Belgium) and Agnès (Switzerland).

Materials for swapping.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Flashback: June 2006 - Textile Fair in the Burgundy Region

Flavigny-sur-Ozerain -- you may not think you know this place, but if you've seen the Johnny Depp movie, Chocolat, you do know it. You may also have sucked those tiny anis-flavored dragees in lavander tins that is the other claim to fame of this, otherwise, quiet town.

Last June, Flavigny-sur-Ozerain saw the Weaving and Textile Arts Exposition for the European Market, the second such event with the objective of sensitizing the European public to the textile arts, specifically hand-weaving.

There were only about a dozen merchants/exhibitors and one fleece shearer who wore a t-shirt appropriately marked "Mouton" (Sheep). Laurence Pocztar, whose idea it was to drive to this event, paid the equivalent of a Starbucks triple latte to Monsieur Mouton and he readily sheared a sheep of Laurence's choice and stuffed the fleece into a sack for her to take home.

Along on this car trip was Augusta Uhlenbeck, a Dutch master fiber artist residing in France who weaves magic into the textile she creates on her loom.

Photos from the outing:

Augusta (top) and Laurence (above), hungry after a four-hour drive from Paris. It should have taken us only two hours, but we took to the road without a map and we had to borrow the map of picnickers along the way as we veered away from the direction of Flavigny.

Felting demonstration.

Spinning demonstration.

An old European wheel.

Mr. Macho, err, Monsieur Mouton.

Laurence chooses which sheep to have sheared.

A bag's worth of fleece for the price of a cup of coffee.

Back at the Laine Zinzin studio.

A happy cat on a bed of washed mohair bought all the way from Texas. Laurence has a preference for doing the entire fiber preparation herself, but this Texan mohair was a challenge. The odor just prevaded her studio.

When I got back to Paris it was midnight. Fortunately, this city never sleeps. So it was four-season pizza, a little pitcher of wine and a book on natural dyeing bought from the textile fair to cap the fiber-filled day.

Little Gem2 homeward bound.