This past Saturday, I left my warm duvet and blankets at 7am to get ready for an hour and half trek to Bodega, California to attend a workshop at the Hand•Made Studio. And, boy, it was worth the time and gas. So worth it. (Also worth the skipped breakfast at home, because it gave me the excuse to stop at Wild Flour Bakery for a scone on the way.)
I learned about the Hand•Made Studio a few months ago after going through the website for Fibershed, which is an amazing project promoting local wool, natural dyes, and labor, all sourced within a 150 mile radius in Sonoma County/SF Bay Area. Here is an excerpt from the Fibershed website describing the project:
Fibershed develops regenerative textile systems that are based on carbon farming, regional manufacturing, and public education. We envision the emergence of an international system of regional textile communities that enliven connection and ownership of ‘soil-to-soil’ textile processes. These diverse textile cultures are designed to build soil carbon stocks on the working landscapes on which they depend, while directly enhancing the strength of regional economies. Both fiber and food systems now face a drastically changing climate, and must utilize the best of time-honored knowledge and available science for their long-term ability to thrive.
Hand•Made Studio, a Fibershed partner, is a small art space offering workshops and community meetups with a yearly trunk show featuring hand crafted goods like fiber, yarn, soaps, wood crafts, and pottery, all made locally by teachers and students. The studio is located in a tiniest of tiny towns called Bodega, well-known for being the film location for Hitchcock’s Birds. Don’t let that creepy fact freak you out, though, because Bodega is a lovely little down, from its surrounding beautiful rolling agricultural landscapes to its friendly residents. There are only a handful of shops located in the main part of town. As they say, blink and you’ll miss it. Hand•Made Studio, marked by a modest wooden sign, is tucked behind the main batch of shops including a cafe, general store, and art galleries, making it tricky to spot if you are just driving through.
In November, I took my first Hand•Made Studio workshop with Marie Hoff, the owner of the art studio. It was a class introduction to spinning yarn and to the anatomy of the spinning wheel. The class was a fast two hours with only three other students attending with me. Marie talked about the different kinds of spinning wheels being made out there, how to shop for a good wheel, and how to properly care for a wheel after each use. She also demonstrated how to spin and ply on a spinning wheel, and then how to soak and block a finished hank of yarn “to set the twist.”
Plus, being a brand spanking new spinner, Marie was also kind enough to give me a brief tutorial in how to use a drop spindle. Before heading home, I purchased an oak “top up” drop spindle handcrafted by a local woodworker, Tom Spittler. I figured that I could practice spinning on it at home before deciding to one day take the dive and invest in a shiny spinning wheel of my own. Sigh, which I am hoping will happen some day soon. It is a dream for now.
I have to tell you, I learned so much in that first overview class, and I fell in love with the art space, and I genuinely enjoyed the company of the spinners, knitters, and crafters that I met in the class. Deciding that I wanted to be even more involved, I signed up for a second class, which was the Raw to Ready fleece class that I attended this past Saturday.
The Raw to Ready workshop was taught by Melanie Perkins of the Spindles & Flyers Guild, who taught us how to prep and card different breed fleeces. In the 4(ish)-hour class, she provided us with almost a dozen different raw fleece samples from a variety of sheep breeds, including Shetland, Merino, Old English Babydoll, Scottish Blackface, Corriedale, Gotland, Wensleydale, and Ouessant, as well as, Suri and Huayaca Alpacas. She then walked us through how to soak, dry, and/or card each one. I was amazed at how each sample was so different in look and texture. Some required more TLC to prep than others, while some only needed a little hand flicking to be ready to spin. Melanie was wonderfully patient and informative, and she was happily willing to answer my and my other five classmates’ many questions.
I am planning on taking more classes, including a natural dye workshop in January, with the Home•Made Studio in the new year. I know it’s a trek from SF, but I think it is self-rewarding for my efforts. I am happy to say that I have a new found love (and obsession) with fiber! ♥
I also discovered that I really do love sheep smell. Is that weird?
Some personally prescribed homework for myself: to go through and practice spinning each fleece sample on my drop spindle to get a feel with how each one spins. I can’t wait. Stay tuned!
“After all, the wool of the black sheep is just as warm.”