The Garden State Sheep Breeders' Sheep and Fiber Festival was laid back and enjoyable, even if it did rain, mist, or otherwise saturate the air the entire day, keeping away crowds and making it hard to walk outside without encountering ankle-deep mud (at least, I hope it was mud. Hard to be certain with so many animals being walked around...).
I came well short of my goal of selling out of my luscious alpaca (for the record, I sold none), but I had a surprising 8 or so sales of hand-spun and hand-dyed. The alpaca will go up on Etsy and I'm inspired to dye more - so much so that I've got a pound of merino hanging out in my craft room and a pound of finn on its way to me. It'll be hard to let the finn go, I'm sure. I freakin' love finn. If it were legal, I'd divorce my husband and MARRY finn.
Okay, maybe I wouldn't do that. I mean, my husband's pretty awesome. In fact, as I was recounting the day with him Saturday evening (drowsily and sorely as I'd stupidly forgotten to pack a chair and ended up literally standing from 8:30 until 5:30, except for the 3 minutes when I braved the portapotty. In the rain. Hoping that was mud all over the floor... Oh, and the 30 minutes or so that I spent testing wheels.), he mentioned that he thought I should get a charkha. Actually, he said, "You should get that wheel that sits on the table and you spin it sideways, like Gandhi." And I replied, "Well, considering I was thinking about getting a Martha (from Watson Wheels) and how expensive that is, maybe I could get the charkha AND a Bee!" He didn't know what a Bee was, so I showed him the site (with video!), and he approved. I think his actual words were, "That's pretty cool!"
And, actually, it is pretty cool. There were a few wheel retailers at the festival, and since I'd seen fit to forget any sort of craft-in-progress to occupy whatever downtime I might have, I ended up roaming around the booths, testing Louets and Ladybugs just to spin a bit. I bought a spindle from Jesh, and some lovely fiber from Roclans, and that helped take the edge off of not having anything of my own to spin. Sometime around my 3rd or 4th lap of the vendors (and just before my 2nd bowl of 4-H chili), I saw the Bee in BitsyKnits's booth and decided I should try that one, too. I admit, I was skeptical of the Spinolution wheels in general, but the cuteness of the Bee was what attracted me. It's wee, it's foldable, it's fast! And, after a couple of herky-jerky starts, I managed to sit back and spin an even single. The treadling is a little different, more of a rocking than a pedaling action, but I found that was just a matter of finding the right muscle motion. Bitsy was fantastic and showed me how easy it was to fold and unfold the wheel, change ratios, and everything. She left me to it once I was set-up, and I could have honestly sat there for the entire day. The spinning was smooth, the wheel was quiet (or as quiet as I could determine given that I was in a barn with people milling about), and I have to admit - I kinda fell a little bit in love with it.
I'm now debating my next step (and, honestly, the next step depends on what happens with the Pennsylvania budget and whether or not libraries close as scheduled October 2), but I feel that I'm leaning towards the Bee over the Martha right now. It isn't so much that it's the cheaper (or, if you prefer, more affordable) option, but that it's a true traveling wheel. Yeah, I can bang about with my Fricke, and the Matchless has a shoulder strap somewhere, but both of those wheels remain bulky for traveling on the bus. The Bee? Why, I could tuck her in a saddlebag and take her on the motorcycle. Or, I could gently place her in the Ghia's boot (read: toss) and travel to spin-ins and spin-outs with a human passenger.
If you didn't get to the Garden State Sheep Breeders' fest, I definitely recommend you try to make it next year. And who knows - I might be there again, though this time I'll have a chair. And maybe I'll be spinning on a Bee!