Friday, July 27, 2012

Thread Finds from the Treasure State

"The Treasure State" ... a nickname of Montana because of the gold and silver and copper that have been mined from various areas within the state for well over 100 years. But this state of my childhood (and hopefully of our retirement) has more treasures than those of economic value. Its mountains and plains, rivers, lake and streams, critters of all sorts and abundant plant life, and plenty of space ... lots of space! ... all come together to form one treasure that is available to anyone and everyone who takes the time and energy to enjoy it.

Frankly, I believe it's the people of Montana that are the real treasures of the 21st century. During my recent 2-week stay there, I met some real jewels.

One of them, Debbie Rodgers, owns this store, Willows & Wool. I found out about her from a young lady who was in the vendor area of the 2012 Sapphire Quilt Show spinning yarn, both on a spindle and with a wheel. That's what is really cool about quilt shows ... all sorts of fiber artists show up! The young lady told me about Willows & Wool and handed me a business card. Located in Corvallis, Montana deep in the heart of the Bitterroot Valley, I was quite happy to go and hunt this store down. I had not explore Corvallis as of yet and my Mom was a willing participant in the hunt. She's nothing if not my main enabler of anything and everything to do with craft!

Can you imagine showing up to work at a place like this? I not only can imagine it, I dream of it. Those are some of the Bitterroot Mountain Range in the background; presently obscured a bit by haze from the Chrandal Creek fire that is still quite active. One of the problems of living and visiting Montana is that fire is ever-present during the summer months. The people are stoic about it, being aware of the restorative power of nature which often needs fire to clean out the old and bring in the new. Thankfully, this fire poses no threat to the people of the Bitterroot Valley, but it does put a smoke blanket on the view of awesome mountain peaks.

I can't believe I neglected to take photos inside the shop! I recalled the thrill the first time I entered into a quilt shop and seeing hundreds and hundreds of bolts of fabric lining shelves from ceiling to floor in a rainbow of color. A fiber store is even more exciting the first time! Not only is there a rainbow of color, but such a grand variety of fiber ... both animal- and plant-based fiber. My head was spinning. (Pun intended.) And all the "toys" to go along with weaving and spinning.

I bought a couple bags of fiber, one of which is shown here. Locally raised alpaca, I get a kick out of the package label showing the actual animal the fleece came from!

Alpaca is incredibly soft and is not cheap. Since I am still a newbie spinner, I do not want to spend  a small fortune on fleece and fiber while still at the beginning of my learning curve. But this package was quite affordable and it was LARGE. There's enough fleece to spin plenty of yarn for a serious project. And I love the color. It can be dyed, although I've not yet learned about dying natural yarns. But the color is gorgeous on it's own and someday brown will really become the "new black."

Debbie was gracious enough to give me a discount on this fleece too, because of the debris that remained in the roving, even after was seems to have been plenty of washing and prepping. The feel of the fleece is soft and dry, hence proof it's been washed enough. I do not know enough about prepping fleece to know why bits of straw and other farm debris remains in the fleece, but there they are, and their presence brought of price of the fleece down to a "steal."

I found that it was easiest to pick the debris out during the actual spinning. The flecks of straw stand out from the fiber when getting a good twist going. Remember, I am a newbie, so this extra effort is not bothering me too much. Actually, it's giving me some lessons about the properties of alpaca fleece! (And yeah, lemonade is one of my all-time favorite drinks.)

This fleece is so easy to work with ... so soft, and the pre-drafting done by the folks of Misti Mountain Treasures sure has helped me keep my spun yarn somewhat consistent. To think this is only my thread attempt at spinning yarn! Not bad, don't you think?

I couldn't help myself! I've seen this sticker around on various items ... most of them souvenirs.
A parting shot of the signage for Willows & Wool. I was grateful for the sign because it made finding the store a lot easier to find from the road. The store is actually one of the outbuildings on the owner's spread. Debbie does not have far to commute!!

So if you are a spinner or a weaver (whether weaving fabric on looms or baskets from willow) do take the effort to visit Debbie and her store. She is a most gracious hostess and so are her two Boston Terriers who will greet you with a wiggle and a smile.

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