July 23, 2012

Uniquities Fibre Farmers' Market and Freeman Museum

I arrived early for Uniquities' fibre farmers' market in Vienna, VA and wanted to stretch my legs.  The weather was what a Vancouver Islander considers excellent, 24 C / 75 F and such a light mist of rain falling I couldn't decide whether to put my hood up or down.  I went for a walk down a handy rails-to-trails path and visited the Freeman store and museum.

Upstairs in an exhibit case are a Civil War-era (and thus pre-embargo) ivory bodkin and a tortoise shell comb.  I hate to think of the poor tortoise but the material was beautiful.  No wonder manufacturers imitate it (inadequately) with plastic.  The shape of the comb reminded me strongly of reproduction combs sold by The Spanish Peacock and Crossman Crafts (both of whom also sell fibre arts tools).  The museum had the bodkin labeled "bobkin," not sure why.  Both bodkin and comb are delicate in size and workmanship, and functionally streamlined, not fussy like some Victorian items.

There is an open photograph album on exhibit and the signage draws attention to a photo of Civil War soldiers.  On the facing page is a photo of an elderly woman in a hard-backed chair.  The photo is partly damaged, blotting out whatever she is holding in front of her.  Likely she was posing with needlework of some kind.

Bought ripe peaches on the way back at Maple Avenue Market, fragrant peaches, something I don't find even at a good health food store.  (Yes, peaches have nothing to do with handspinning unless you want to talk about modern versus traditional production and marketing, biodiversity, heritage breeds, and living things bred to take their qualities out of them.)

The fibre market was good.  At the Uniquities' booth, the saleswoman gave a good explanation of the uses and qualities of every fibre I picked up to look at.  They were selling a clever breed-specific sampler bag for handspinners, all local fibres, containing wool from breeds representing five different categories of wool and stacked from finest to coarsest: California Variegated Mutant, Tunis, Dorset, Cotswold, and Karakul.  I went for a tried and true item, a quarter pound of un-dyed Sweetgrass Targhee top.  I continued around the room and discovered that Avalon Springs Farm and Solitude Wool both had Virigina-raised Targhee roving.  I felt some regret for not getting the local product but not enough to buy more Targhee.

Now, longwool, that's a different case.  I can go for more of that!  I bought a quarter pound of un-dyed Cotswold lambswool pin-drafted roving from Solitude Wool.  So soft, so shiny, and locally-raised.  I was interested in a two pound bag of their local washed grey-beige Romney locks, as the wool was very clean and the price was economical compared to top.  (For comparison, a two pound bag of Romney locks would cost slightly less than two wee quarter pound bags of the Cotswold lambswool roving.  The Cotswold was priced competitively, it is simply a different product in a higher state of processing.)  I might have bought Romney locks if they'd had the dark brown there, which the staff said they didn't bring, or if I'd realized I could dye the wool, which is never my first instinct.  I tend to be literal and WYSIWYG about fibre.

Overall looking at the fibre at that market, most was synthetically-dyed and so off the menu for me given my synthetic-free-fibre resolution.  Un-dyed wool made up a tenth of the un-spun fibre there, maybe.  I felt underserved in that regard, but colour sells and I understand.  There was a fair bit of yarn, if you like your yarn ready-made.  I got to handle the one yarn I'd been wanting to see in person, Solitude Wool's springy Suffolk and Dorset blend sock yarn.  I would buy it if I'm ever able to knit a well-fitting sock and am unable to properly spin sock yarn out of the Hampshire wool I have.  There were some fibre tools at the market.  I window-shopped at The Spanish Peacock's booth, as I already own one or two of every in-stock item of theirs I want.

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