Saturday, November 24, 2007

Paula Simmons' Rover No. 1 finds a new home

I called Paula Simmons inquiring about the Cottage Industry Rover made by her husband, Pat Green. She informed me that Pat no longer made them and she suggested I look for a secondhand one. I said there was no way I would consider buying a secondhand as it's a delicate machine and I was concerned not just about its provenance, but also about its history. Then she offered her very own machine, 15 years old and which she said hadn't been used in 10 years.

It took about two months before I finally got it. First there was the weight: 360 lbs. They had to find a way to take down the machine from upstairs their house. Then Paula agonized over parting with it. She said on the phone, "Once it came down the stairs, there was no turning back. I loved it. It even has my name on it. It wasn't easy." [True enough, on the infeed tray is a metal plate that reads: "Paula's Rover #1".]

Finally, before calling the shipper, Pat took it apart to make sure it was in excellent working condition and called Mr. JumpSheep to give detailed instructions about uncrating and putting it in functioning order. The crate, once empty, was to be turned upside-down to provide a convenient table. There were more technical instructions that just went over my head. The phone call took two hours because the conversation eventually drifted into political and economic philosophy.

Just right now, the machine is still sitting in the garage because the house has been undergoing a much-delayed improvement (14 years!). I have made a number of center-pull balls that I'm sending to Sandrine of Alysse Créations in France to test. I would love to do loose rovings, but since the machine is sitting very low right now, the center-pull ball was the way to go. Once it's put on a table, I could put a basket underneath and create the loose rovings.

Initial attempt:

Friday, November 16, 2007

JumpSheep goes on sale in Europe

JumpSheep hand-painted yarns are now available in Europe at Alysse Créations. These are half pounder superwash merino in fingering weight dyed with Gaywool.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Obit: Springwater Fiber Workshop, Alexandria, Va.

Springwater Fiber Workshop was not only my LYS (local yarn store), it was a fiber workshop where I learned to spin and dye when these crafts were not yet as trendy as they are today. It was supported by commissions for the arts, other agencies and foundations. Most importantly, it was supported by the teachers and the members of the community who have made Springwater a part of their lives.

Once I was on my own at the spinning wheel and producing knittable yarns, the shop welcomed my products and sold them at the store. Springwater didn't just ask for my support; it also provided me with encouragement and support to pursue my interest in fiber arts. Therefore, it was with great disappointment that I learned yesterday of the closure of the school and of the shop "effective immediately". Needless to say, there were a flurry of emails on the yahoo group of Springwater habitués. Finally, my spinning and natural dyeing mentor, Sylvie Demar, wrote this:

OK all;

Before rumors start flying . . . .

The decision to close was not made lightly and for me personally it feels like another death in my family.

Decisions were made that at the time seemed the best way to solve some of the problems and, unfortunately did not work.

During this process, additional problems began to surface, and reached the point of being unsurmountable.

Personally, I'm tired of fighting.

Springwater has always had financial obstacles - one was trying to maintain an open studio in an extremely and increasingly high rent area so as to be close to other arts (i.e. Art League).

Closing is the result of many, many factors in combination with a downswing in the economy. And yes, rising gasoline prices are included in this.

The fact that one can now find almost as many knit shops and knit classes as Starbucks in any given area is also a contributing factor. Why drive in congested rush hour traffic to a place that is notorious for bad parking when you can just go down the street from where you are to do the same thing.

Also purchasing on the internet, while extremely convenient leaves many small organizations/retailers wondering how to pay the rent when people come into a store, look around and try things out - then buy online because its less expensive.

The only way to keep small businesses open is to patronize there as much as you can - even if it costs a bit more or is less convenient than buying online. Not a criticism - just a statement of fact that times have changed.

These are not the only reasons for the decision to close Springwater - but these consumer trends are forecast to continue, making it extremely difficult to deal with.

So, having said all that, we need to celebrate the spirit of an organization that while physically will pass into history - but will live on in spirit for a long time.

One last point:

The lease on the site is up the end of this year and all of you renters know what that means:

new lease = higher rent or moving - and believe me its worse for commercial property than for residential.

All of these contributing factors and more unfortunately made the decision to close the most prudent.

Sylvia D.

If you have your beloved LYS, you have to think twice before buying the cheaper products that you find on the internet. You may be saving a few dollars, but losing your community of crafts people.