Spinning demonstrations will be part of the fun

by: COURTESY PHOTO: JEANNE LEVY - Yarn cupcakes, clothing and fashion accessories will be part of the craft extravaganza when Forest Groves Valley Art hosts an afternoon of Yarn Tasting, which will include real refreshments.The "finish" might be fuzzy and the "bouquet" might remind you of sheep, but the colors will be superb.

Directly between Saturday’s wine tastings at The Friendly Vine and Urban Decanter, Forest Grove’s Valley Art is offering a free “Yarn Tasting” March 23 to celebrate National Craft Month.

“Sampling yarn is like taste-testing the perfect wedding cake or taking a new car for a spin,” said hostess and Valley Art member Jeanne Levy. “You want to try a yarn to see how it feels in the hand, against the skin, and how it moves on the needles.

“Most of all you want to see how it looks when used to knit your favorite pattern. Does it drape right? Is it cozy? Is it too bulky or so thin it's shapeless?”

From 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, knitters and crocheters will fill the gallery with their latest projects, as well as troubleshoot problems and chat over refreshments about what's “in” this spring in the yarn fashion world. Anyone interested in crafts is welcome.

Since spring is all about layering, some of the newest accessories include hats, shrugs, gloves and scarves suitable for cool mornings, Levy said.

For "Downton Abbey” fans and those who take their knitting inspiration from British period dramas, vintage and retro patterns are also in.

Levy expects Hollywood's upcoming "The Great Gatsby," starring Leonardo DeCaprio, to bring back flapper fashions and “the cloche — a time tested chapeau.”

Levy also revealed a “green” trend that has caught on with knitters, who aside from working with bamboo needles, use recycled T-shirts to make bags, rugs and other sturdy items.

But nothing is greener than the techniques of featured Scappoose yarn artist and Valley Art veteran Kathleen Kreitman of Wolfkat Designs. Kreitman gathers hair from Pygora goats, sheep and her eight cats to spin into yarn on a wheel and then knit into hats, felted purses and other soft accessories.

Right now Kreitman is knitting a watch-cap from what started as a giant bag of cat hair. It will go to her husband, a wood carver nicknamed “Wolf” (hence the title of her work). Certain types of dog hair can work too, she said.

Instead of buying colored yarn, Kreitman dyes her own, usually in the summer months, using white silk fiber and her favorite colors (lately, turquoise and gold). She knits the dyed silk into shawls and scarves. “I like the silky yarn. It has a nice drape to it,” she said.

The process of spinning hair, silk, and wool into yarn for knitting is anything but quick. Although Kreitman's prices might seem high--her felted bags go for $55 and her hand-dyed silk shawls are $75 — they're relatively low given the 20 to 35 hours she toils on one piece.

Kreitman buys most of her materials on the Internet or at fiber festivals like the Black Sheep Gathering in Eugene and the Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival in Canby.

Aside from one class, Kreitman is self-taught, which was difficult at times. She bought an Ashford Traditional spinning wheel, for example, which the manufacturer called “the most popular spinning wheel in the world,” touting its bobbin-brake adjustment, wide legs, ball bearings and large 22-inch wheel as features that made it easy to understand and operate.

In reality, Kreitman had to work hard to get the motion down. “It's like rubbing your head and tapping your stomach,” she said, but “one day it just clicked.” Fifteen years later, she said, “when you’re spinning that fiber, it just feels really good going through your fingers — it’s really relaxing.”

Kreitman will bring the wheel to the Yarn Tasting for a free demonstration. Leaving behind winter's heavier wool shawls and gloves, she will also bring some fresh spring looks, including lightweight caplets of fine cotton, silk or rayon.

Thirty years after knitting her first afghan in college, Kreitman can't think of a better way to spend a long winter’s eve. “I can't sit down without knitting,” she said. “I just feel like I gotta do something with my hands.”

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