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I’m still suffering slightly from sensory overload from yesterday’s sojourn to the Black Sheep Gathering here in Eugene. It was fun and marvelous and lovely, as usual. I didn’t sign up for any workshops, so I didn’t have anything scheduled. Instead, I was absolutely free to wander the trade show with my mother. Good times.

Unfortunately, I forgot that I had my camera with me, so I didn’t take any pictures of the Gathering itself. (Readers will find that this is a common problem with me–charge camera, carefully pack camera, bring camera, then completely forget camera.) I wish I hadn’t forgotten, as there were some fabulous photo opportunities. Fiber people who sit at their booths don’t waste time; they knit and crochet and spin and otherwise demo their wares (and other people’s). There were some gorgeous spinning wheels and fabulous fibers. Mum and I got to watch a nice lady process some bright green locks with a flick card, then with combs, then with her nifty diz (Mum bought one). We enjoyed the mixed smells of silk and lanolin and all the textures of a wild variety of fibers. (Yak down is becoming more popular.) There was a booth actually selling Orenberg shawls like lacy cobwebs, and nobody minded me wandering through and wanting to touch everything.

As we walked slowly through the booths, I found myself thinking about the eternal question: Why do I knit? I mean, as many of us have been told, I can buy socks for two bucks at Wal-Mart. The answer is almost equally simple: I knit because I love color and texture. It’s a sensory art. I get all the joy of deciding precisely what colors and textures I want to work with, and then I get to make something specifically for the person who is going to wear it (often myself). If I can’t find a yarn that I like, I can make that myself, too. If I can’t find the exact color I want, I can dye the yarn myself. (I will freely admit that, as this is a very labor-intensive process, I am far more likely to purchase yarn for a project than I am to make it, but I’ve just finished spinning that white shetland and I’ve started spinning this gorgeous purple merino and…) It’s a hobby (or a passion) with entertainment value. I get just as much entertainment out of making something as I do out of wearing it or seeing other people use what I’ve made for them. (This is also why I don’t even blink at spending $20 for a skein of sock yarn: It takes me about a week to make a pair of socks if that’s all I’m working on, and that’s generally at least 12 hours. Thus, if I calculate $$$ per hour, a skein of sock yarn is cheaper than going to a movie. Plus, I get a pair of socks out of the deal.)

On a related note, I have designated this summer (June through August) the Summer of the Stash. This means that I am (technically) not allowed to purchase yarn or spinning fiber for those three months and all of my projects need to come out of my stash. I am allowed to buy books, patterns, and tools to allow me to use up my stash. I will be posting periodic “SOTS Updates” in this journal as the summer goes on.

Even at the Black Sheep Gathering, I am happy to announce, I was doing extremely well. I purchased yarn and fiber, but for Alex. (Alex is my husband, and purchasing things for him to play with doesn’t count against SOTS.) I bought him some nice linen for weaving (though I think he’s going to use it for sewing), some linen/wool blend fiber for spinning, several woodworking books, and a good basket that I used for shopping at the Gathering. (Purchasing a basket early on was a lifesaver.) For myself, I purchased a really awesome spindle that consists of a wooden shaft that doubles as a hair stick and two “donuts” made of stone (blood agate, I think), a tool for measuring and calculating the diameter of my spinning and the diameter I want to spin, a tool for holding the twist of the single on my spinning wheel when I need to wander off to do something else, and…a spinning fiber sampler. In my defense, it was an “Ancient Breeds” sampler that I bought for research purposes, and I’ve never seen such a thing before. When I presented all of my purchases to Alex, he nodded sagely and said, “That is acceptable, for research purposes.”

I also came away from the Black Sheep Gathering feeling inspired. I am a list-oriented person, so I need to make a list of projects in progress and projects I want to do. I will also probably post a list of things that get finished during SOTS.

Next Time: Projects, photos, and a report on helping Mum spin.