For the last 3 weeks… maybe 4…maybe more…I have been getting ready to teach at Rhinebeck. I’m teaching six class periods and one of the classes repeats so I have 5 classes to get ready.

Many of the classes I teach use raw wool for at least part of the time so my preparations for any teaching always begins with wool washing. This year, for some reason the wool refused to dry as quickly as I needed it to. Some of it took 6 days despite sitting in front of a fan. Maybe I was piling too much on each drying rack. I don’t know but it was very frustrating and I was running out of room for drying. I washed at least 3 pounds of 17 different breeds (that’s a total of about 51 pounds of wool washed for this trip). Eventually it was all dry. Yay!

Next comes class handouts. The handouts are just kind of an outline of the class with space for students to take their own notes. I don’t like to give too much in sentence form. Writing things down helps to cement it in the mind. i can find very few of the outlines from classes I have taken but I remember things from each of them and many times it is because of notes I’ve taken. So I want to give this opportunity to my students.

I have to rework the handouts almost every time. This is because I’ve decided to add things to the class, revamp things I didn’t like from the last time I taught the same class, change wording on things that may not be clear enough, or rework things based on changes in the fibers that are available for the class period. I want the class to be fresh each time I teach it even if I’ve taught it many times before. I want to stay as excited about what I’m teaching every time I teach it as I was the first time it was offered. Reworking and/or reviewing the handouts helps me do that.

When the handouts have been looked over once then I go and collect all of the fibers together and make notes of any changes based on what I have or what I can get and what kinds of things I think might be fun to play with for the particular class. For example, for the upcoming Rhinebeck class called Spinning Fine Yarns I have added a few more fine fibers to play with. We always do a couple of silks and a downy fiber like cashmere but this time I added Camel and Rayon Bamboo as well as one other that is escaping my brain right now. So after we learn about adjusting our wheels and what kinds of preps and spinning methods work well we get to play with a wide variety of fibers that are thought of for finer spinning but may be a little scary and see what we can do with them.

For the Fleece to Finish class this time we are spinning several wools that I have never included in the class before but I love them so much I want people to try them.

So now I have the fibers together or have ordered what I am out of I can go back and put the final polish on my notes as well as the handouts.

The fibers are then separated and packaged and labeled with the class name and the fiber type. Each class has its own bag. Once the fibers are in the bag I add additional things like labels that might be necessary, breeds cards that I use for certain classes, and other things that might make the class a happier place. I also print out one of each of the class handouts so I can take them to be copied at my second favorite hangout – Staples.

Usually gathering samples comes in here. I have a problem with this festival at Rhinebeck this year, though. Storey Publishing has almost all of my samples. I have nothing for show and tell. This is good because it means the book is well under way. This is bad because the people will have to put up with my spinning smaller samples during class and they won’t get to see the lovely little swatches that show the yarn in its best light.

Next I pack the tools I will use as well as at least 5 extra of each type so I can lend them to students.

And finally, on the day before I leave I go over my list 1400 times and make sure everything is there and then I pack my personal stuff since I prefer to change my clothes periodically. I often bring several projects to work on and almost never work on any of them since by the end of the day I just want to fall into my bed and watch mindless television. My projects which I won’t work on this time are the Hiro sweater that was meant to be finished in time for the festival – but there was that knitting injury – and also a cross stitch and embroidery project I am working on because I love to copy from Jillian Moreno as often as possible.

As you can see, preparation for these trips is time and brain consuming. I love it all. I love the anticipation and the planning and I particularly love meeting the students and getting to play with them for a few hours.

I am almost ready to go. We leave on Tuesday morning early so I have yet to pack my personal items though they are piled on my bed. But here is a photo of the pile of what is coming with me. I still need to add my spinning wheel to the stack.

Rhinebeck pile


Those 4 largest bags are from Ikea and they are wonderful if you want some you can get them here.

I’m off to obsess over the preparations a little more. I hope all the stuff fits in the car. I’m driving with Jillian and she had a dream that she had so much fiber that her students couldn’t fit in the classroom. Not sure it will all fit in the car in that case, although I had a dream that I forgot my fiber at home so we might be ok.

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