October 5th, 2008

storyteller doll

Fall Fiber Festival

I was, for a change, organized enough to actually sign up for a workshop at the Fall Fiber Festival (aka the Montpelier Sheepdog Trials). The downside of that was that I had to get to Orange before 10 a.m. yesterday, which meant leaving the house fairly early for a weekend. The drive down was fine, with the only slowdown involving the perpetual roadwork through Gainesville.

The workshop I signed up for was on nalbinding. My main reason for signing up was that it was something I'd never heard of. (Class listings that send me to wikipedia are a good thing. Yes, I'm weird.) It turns out to be a very old non-woven fabric technique, using a single needle (like a tapestry needle, not a knitting needle) and short lengths of yarn. Some of the instructor's examples looked very much like knitting, though the stitch we learned (basically a buttonhole stitch worked over one's thumb) does not. Three hours was a good length of time for the small group to get started on making starting caterpillars and learning pivots and connecting stitches. That's enough knowledge to make a small bag or even a hat. The fee included a nice little illustrated booklet. It was enough fun that I'm going to continue playing with it, especially as it is conveniently portable. By the way, I believe that this technique is pretty much the same one that I saw used in Papua New Guinea to make bilims (string bags).

After the workshop, I had lunch and then did the rounds of the sales tents. Despite all temptation, I am practical enough not to bring home an alpaca. I was reasonably restrained and only bought 2 books (and a pamphlet), 1 skein of sock yarn, a packet of wool for felting from a place that had very nicely packaged palettes of dyed merino, and 2 sets of knitting needles (long cabled circulars that I actually need and ebony straight needles that I couldn't resist). There were lots of temptations but I figure that Stitches East is only a month away and I need to do some stash reduction before then.

All in all, a fun excursion.
storyteller doll

The Sorceror

Since I was already most of the way there, it made sense to continue south from the Fall Fiber Festival to Charlottesville and see the New Lyric Theatre production of Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Sorceror." It is an inherently flawed operetta, but even flawed Gilbert and Sullivan is fun. Tuneful music makes it possible to ignore the sheer silliness of the plot and the fact that the first act is nearly twice as long as the second. It's also rather troubling that there's never really any explanation of why Dr. Daly relents in his attitude towards Constance. But one does need that nice "rousing finale full of words and music signifying nothing" (to quote Tom Lehrer) and I suppose it would be unfair to leave somebody out.

I thought the performances quite good for the most part. Dan Stern did an especially nice job as Dr. Daly. My only real quibble was with the costumes. I know John Wellington Wells is supposed to be a bit ridiculous, but I thought his costume was a bit overdone, as were those of the spirits.

A good job overall and I am always happy to support companies putting on productions of operettas besides the big three.
storyteller doll

Retail News

Had I remembered that I needed cash earlier in the day on Friday and gone to the branch of my bank I usually use, I might not have needed today's Post to tell me that Olsson's Books and Records has gone out of business. It's not really a surprise, as it was clear the end was coming when they had to shut down the Penn Quarter store. And the Crystal City store was never particularly good, though the Courthouse branch got much of my book buying money over the past few years. I think that leaves Politics and Prose as the only significant indie new book store left in the area. (It is, by the way, an excellent store, but not particularly convenient for me to get to.)

In brighter news, I had my first U.S. sighting of dragonfruit for sale today at Wegman's. I was tempted but I'm not going to pay over 8 bucks for one. Especially since I will be able to have my fill at under a buck each in December. I have, however, seen them at even higher prices. They were going for nearly a hundred dollars each in Tokyo!