Saturday, 26 March 2011

Handspinning Rare Wools DVD by Deb Robson - Not just for spinners!

Little packages from America are always exciting, and the wait for the last one seemed much longer than usual since I'd pre-ordered it earlier in the year.  There is a discussion thread about it in Blacker & Beyond on Ravelry (Ravelry members only can use this link, but it is free to join

I've been watching some of the chapters again and, seeing the level of interest from another member of the household, I thought I would post my thoughts about the dvd here as well.

To use Deb’s own closing word - MAGIC

A quote I will remember and use when talking to people about why I get so excited about the enormous variety in wool from different breeds:
“Like telling a woodworker they can only work with pine”.

Right, I shall put my reviewer hat on as per a request from a friend, and for anyone else who might be interested. These are of course my personal opinions!

Photography is superb with one tiny exception that I’ll mention later. I really liked the studio set up - calming and quiet on the eye but nice images of sheep in the back that I enjoyed but weren’t distracting. I want one of those vertical basket supports!

Sound quality was good, gentle music between the sections feel appropriate in nature to me.
DVD menu was fine - you get the option to choose ‘chapters’. For someone who was wanting to get straight to the chapter for a particular breed, you would need to know which ‘class’ that breed fell into.

If you put the dvd into a computer you can download a very informative pdf with a list of every breed covered in the dvd and information about the classification of every breed regarding ‘rare’ status from RBST and American Livestock Breeds Conservancy - it was very helpful to be able to see that information from the 2 organisations on one table.

Looking through Deb’s fleece preparation equipment and supplies, along with her talking about why she uses what she does, was fascinating and I learnt a great deal.

The first chapter of dvd 1 - what is a breed, what makes it rare, and why should we care? - was extremely informative, and Deb really does manage to come across ‘on film’ with the same passion and enthusiasm that I’ve experienced listening to her in person. Absolutely packed full of interesting facts and at times, yes, I did get emotional. The future existence of some of these breeds is not guaranteed.

The way the different breeds were grouped seemed to me to be logical and sensible.

The close up filming was good and you could clearly see what Deb was referring to in a fibre or yarn, but as we all know it is difficult to show fine detail in very dark colours. When one ‘black’ yarn was displayed on a mid grey surface that didn’t help. Although I could manage to see everything, I felt I was having to make a conscious effort to do so. All the subsequent very dark fleeces and yarns were on a lighter brown woven mat and that really improved the ease of viewing them.

I learnt a vast amount about both the breeds and their wool, and how to prepare and spin these very different fibres.

There was however also a great deal of information for knitters, weavers and crocheters and I don’t think the title of the dvd gets this across. I suspect the pragmatic need for a short title may have played a part in this. I wonder also if the spinners involved with the production of this dvd perhaps didn’t realise that non-spinners would find a ‘spinning’ dvd interesting and useful, even when it has such a lot of information about the breeds and fibres.

Many who don’t spin would still want to watch a discussion about the spinning qualities of wool from different breeds, and this will enable them to evaluate breed specific commercial yarns better and could be valuable to them in their yarn purchases. As someone who has only been spinning for a few months but was knitting with breed specific commercial yarns before then I would definitely have found this dvd extremely useful and interesting when I wasn’t a spinner. Deb does also show samples of commercially spun yarns from some of the breeds and discusses them, so I would have no hesitation in recommending this dvd to non-spinners.

I’m very pleased I own the dvd because there was so much information there that I've already found myself going back to watch individual chapters again.  It was a very enjoyable 3hrs  watching from start to finish, and I’m very pleased I did that, but there was too much to take in fully during that one session. This isn’t just a ‘watch once’ experience - this is a dvd that will be an invaluable, ongoing resource for me.

So, would I sit there in real life with knitting, spinning and sheep loving friends and advise them to buy it - you bet! ☺

How to get hold of your own copy:
DVD  can be purchased from Interweave - there is also a preview on this link.  For those outside America, my experience of ordering from Interweaves is that if they have an item in stock then it comes across the Atlantic quite quickly.

Download  is a much quicker way to get it if outside America.

While waiting for the dvd to be released I found it very interesting and encouraging to read Deb's post on her blog

A friend has also blogged about her experience of watching this dvd and you can read her thoughts here

As if all this weren't enough to get lovers of sheep breeds excited, we do of course have the release of "The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook: More than 200 Fibers, from Animal to Spun Yarn" written by Deb and Carol Ekarius, in a few months time.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Knit Camp story published in UK

Back in October 2010 I'd very much hoped I could put the bad part of Knit Camp behind me, and just move on with my new skills (spinning), new interests and passions (rare breed sheep and breed specific fleece & fibre products) and enjoying the new friends I was meeting online and 'in real life' through these interests.

Abhorring the way an individual has behaved towards others does not mean I wish them ill.  In fact I very much hoped that Jo Watson had learned from her multiple and serious mistakes, would gain some benefit to her own peace of mind by continuing to make what reparations she could, and very importantly that she would gain the insight to appreciate she does not have, in my personal opinion, the necessary character and business skills to take on what she had attempted in the past, or similar future endeavours.

It was with great shock then that  we realised she was in fact moving on into new business ventures in the knitting and craft arena.  A number of us were appalled at the thought that she might, in future, do to other people what she had done to the hundreds affected by Knit Camp.  At times UK law, especially relating to companies, can be frustrating and appear not to offer protection from those wilfully deceptive, fraudulent or incompetent.  In early November 2010 the thought was that it was probably largely the latter that could be applied to Jo Watson.  My personal opinion has now changed.

The tutors had made multiple complaints using the regulatory bodies that do exist for companies.  However any result of that may never be made public.  Public information on the internet about Jo Watson and her new endeavours was shared on Ravelry.  Then the Americans did the 'cavalry charge' over the hill and an article, Unhappy Campers, was published in Yarn Market News in November.  This is a free print and on line trade journal for the USA and, I think, the international yarn industry.  Sadly the article itself wasn't available on line through Yarn Market News.  The content of the article however did reach people outside their normal readership.  I've read it - a well written, good and accurate summary of most of the main events, and pretty damning (in my opinion) of two of the people it named - Jo and Doug Watson.

For 'us Brits' though it was still frustrating that the story wasn't available to the British public.  Also, having been dragged back into the Knit Camp aftermath, some of us on Ravelry started trying to think laterally about the facts and information that were either publicly available, or that we and others might unknowingly have in our possession.  Some interesting possibilities presented themselves.  Miss Marple would have been proud of what people uncovered and posted about that was available in public places for anyone to read - it was just a matter of finding it.  A very vague post requesting certain information from campers also produced some very revealing facts - my thanks again to all those Ravellers who took the time to send information to me - it was more valuable than may be apparent at the moment.

 Image from Wiki

OK - this is going to be frustrating for many of you reading this.  If I say what we found out and what was done with it, then someone might be alerted.  So my apologies, but I'm sure all of you reading this (well, excepting one obvious person) will understand.  There is also the possibility of course that there may be future developments related to this that are in the public arena.

With this new knowledge at hand, and still frustrated that 'the story' hadn't been told in the UK, but having the USA publication of the story as 'new news', I tried a long shot.  I contacted a certain UK publication with all this information.  Bullseye!  Over the Christmas and New Year period one of this publication's reporters was busy sifting through all the reams of information that I and some of the tutors sent to her.  Then we waited - it's a 2 weekly publication and the first one in January was a day later than usual coming out.  No article - too much other news.  Two weeks later on the Monday evening emails between the reporter and myself as the sub editors (I think that's the term)  decided what was going in the next issue.  Not good news and frustration for both of us.  She did however say that if it kept being bumped, then she had other publications in mind that might pick it up.  Time passed and I stopped even rushing for the publication when it came (we've been subscribers for years).

One thing that did crop up as a result of the reporter doing the investigating was that we found out that the University of Stirling was owed, by Events by British Yarn Ltd an amount of money that meant they decided to take action. (bottom LH corner).  The result of that was a Winding-up Order and an Official Receiver appointed as Liquidator.  A Raveller made contact with the University of Stirling and all the information people had gathered from public websites and documents, or sent from their personal records, has also been sent there and we've been told that their lawyers are finding it helpful.

Then something very exciting happened on 10 March that caught me totally by surprise - and full credit must go here to a Raveller, Judithknits, who spotted this and posted.  The story had been published by The Oldie.  Quick email to the reporter and yes, it was her work.  (thank goodness after all the time and effort she'd put in!)  The post was made in the evening so I had to wait until the next day to track down where to purchase The Oldie.  Not easy to find.  WH Smiths and Waitrose may be the only nationwide outlets that stock it.  There were then stories appearing on-line of people trying to track one down in their local area, and of course the international interest was very great.  It appears I wasn't the only person who emailed or rang The Oldie to plead if the article could be published on their website when the current issue was off the shelves.

I now have enormous respect for The Oldie team.  They could have just left things and let the magazine sell out in the shops, or have promised it would go on the website next month.  But no - that appears not to be how they operate.  Virtually the next day the article was there - up on the website - where people all around the world could read it.  (Link doesn't not work now, so see below for image of article from The Oldie April 2011)  My view of it - succinctly damning.  Just having the story out in public, has been helpful for many people, especially those in countries that would have dealt differently with the situation through their legal systems, and who feel especially frustrated about how things have happened over here.  We all have a sense of 'natural justice', and in this case there is a feeling that proper justice has yet to be done.  (as a small aside, after reading The Oldie my mid 50's husband asked it he could have a subscription for his upcoming birthday!)

So my heartfelt thanks again to the reporter and The Oldie team - you've done more than you could know.  
Thanks also are due to the University of Stirling for doing what they have done - having an Official Receiver dealing with the financial records of the Jo Watson's company can only help bring justice.

One last point to add.  In the course of all this I received a number of private and confidential messages from people linked in some way to Knit Camp, Ravelry, or Jo Watson prior to Knit Camp.  Confidential is a word I take seriously.  Knowing what I do though, I want it to be known in public  that these people, in how they responded publicly and on Ravelry to certain situations that arose, all acted, (for the greater good of minimising damage to people booked to attend Knit Camp), with great restraint and dignity and accorded Jo Watson a level of courtesy that was in no way reciprocated.