Thursday, October 29, 2009

Oh Shenandoah....

I knew the world was a beautiful place, but the more I see of it, the more amazingly beautiful it seems to me. This past weekend, my bf and I went to visit friends in Washington DC for a few days, and while there, we spent a day in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia (only a little over an hour away).

It was one of those perfect autumn days, where the trees are at their most colourful - orange, red, burgundy, gold, deep greens, and purples - and all these colours are echoed in huge baskets of apples that catch your attention from roadside farm stands. The further we drove from DC, the less frequent were shops, businesses, and even houses. Rolling green fields were dotted with huge black cows and noble-looking horses. The few houses were nestled against the far borders of these fields in stands of oak and maple trees that still flourished with leaves on the branches. Many houses - and even barns - were build of local grey stone, a testament to endurance.

Our destination was the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival. We arrived a few minutes before they were open, which you know I love, and so were the only customers at the just-opening yarn booths. The first one was a nearby alpaca farm, where they spun and dyed their own yarn. These handsome alpacas had been raised by this couple from babies, so they were very tame and liked to give kisses!


My bf picked out some yarn from this farm for me to make him things. The blue for mittens; and the natural chocolate and grey mix for a sweater (very intimidating because he wants cables!):


We all enjoyed browsing the barns and booths and talking to the farm owners with their sheep, llamas, and alpacas. We sampled apple butter and watched a very smart dog herding his flock of sheep right down the field road and into a pen on the little hill!

Of course we bought more yarn - my friend crochets - and made so many plans for so many knitted and crocheted gifts!

This yarn is from Rock Creek Fibers, a local Washington DC dyer. The pink, called Cherry Blossom, is 100% single strand silk, and the other is Blue Faced Leicester sock yarn - so soft! She had so many others that I wanted, like a cashmere blend, but I'm on a BFL kick for socks at the moment...


These next yarns are from The Flock Bransonas - I don't know what that means; perhaps it's their name? The first is 600 yard of 100% silk lace. The second, which I mean to pair with the first, is a most beautiful deep dark claret handpainted Mohair/Silk lace-weight. And the skein on the end is a handpainted, hand spun yarn from a woman who shears and spins the fleece from her own flocks of Romney sheep and alpacas (this skein is a blend of both). It's called "Playing With Fire" and though it's only 200 yards, the colours were so stunning I couldn't resist it:


A real high for me was the booth for Solitude - Small Batch Artisan Yarns. Their flyer says: "We are two Loudoun County Virginia shepherds who love wool". They're both spinners, and dye the yarns - the ones that aren't left in their gorgeous natural colours - with natural substances, many found locally. They say, Solitude treats dyeing as art - each dye is inspired, not controlled."

I bought these yarns for small projects, hats, gloves, mittens, an Ishbel shawl...


The colours are so much more vibrant, subtle, and striking than my sorry camera-phone photos convey, but here are some details...

1 & 2: The first two skeins are 100% light weight wool, the first - a deep green/blue is dyed with indigo and goldenrod. The second is the same yarn dyed with tomato vine, and is a very light lime green/grey.

3: The third skein is a silky-feeling DK/light worsted weight from "Border Leicester and Leicester Longwool - both English breeds with heavy, lustrous fleece and a wavy or curly crimp". The colour is a bright cyan green dyed from indigo and weld.

4: The fourth is a gorgeous single-ply from Shropshire sheep - they have a "down-type wool". It's handpainted in variegated fall colours like olive and deep rust, brown, sienna, umber... and it's called "Leaf Pile".

5 & 6: The last two skein are the same type - a two-ply blend of Tunis sheep ("a down breed with fairly fine, soft, springy fleece") and 1/3 red alpaca. It's very soft against the skin, yet feels sturdy and seemed perfect for hats and gloves. The blue skein is dyed with daffodils and indigo, and the mauve skein is dyed with cochineal. I don't know if you can see it in the photo, but this yarn has two plies - one is the naturally dyed coloured strand and the second is the natural red alapca. From a distance, this makes a subtle soft colour - you can only see that the two plies are different when you look close up.

In late afternoon it began to rain heavily. My friend's husband arrived back from his 50 mile bike ride and my bf emerged from checking his Blackberry and chatting with a local vintner. We dashed for the low, swampy field where the car was parked and drove home in a downpour so severe that it obscured visibility 2 feet from the windows. I would have thought it was a hurricane, except there was no wind at all.

Later, when it was calm and fresh again, we went to dinner at a little French restaurant across from the Ford Theatre and next to the house where Lincoln died:


My friend and I shared Escargot and Butternut Squash soup while our men wrinkled their noses and ate salads with cheese and sausage.

Luckily I had left lots of room in my suitcase for yarn, because when I packed, I noticed that I had bought more than I realised. You know how those skeins creep up and throw themselves into your arms, right? Now I have many dreams to make the actual items - gloves, socks, scarves, shawls, and sweaters! I even bought yarn for something for myself - imagine!

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