Thursday, December 24, 2009

Special Delivery

Santa has gotten smart. Now, he has everything delivered to our house ahead of time, so I can just put the boxes under our tree. This way he can concentrate on getting his sled around to all the little kids. But what kind of bothered me was the return address on my present, the Pro-Chem and Dye Company! Hello? Shouldn't it say North Pole?

Naturally, I had to get in contact with Santa to find out what is going on. Is he outsourcing, or what? Fortunately, my dog is from the northern regions, so he jumped on his Pawberry and immediately put me in contact with the jolly old guy. We were invited to his home base in northern Finland (they are reindeer, not caribou) just north of the Artic Circle.

When I asked about the return address, he took me on a tour of his workshops. They are pretty awesome! A woodworkers dream! Lathes, beautiful woods, fun paints. He also has an entire room filled with hand looms for making cloth for all the dolls and stuffed toys. There's also a pottery shop for making pretty doll faces. But still I was confused about the return address, so I asked Santa.

"Do you see facilities for making X-boxes or plasma televisions sets?" Santa said with a twinkle in his eye. Well, no, I didn't. "We're pretty low tech up here. Some would say we're green, but I like to think of it as red," he added with a Ho! Ho! Ho! He led the way back to the house were Mrs. Claus was serving hot cider to a bunch of local knitters who were helping her get the holiday gifts done in time.

And over a cup of cider Santa explained how he has help making Christmas a magical time. "Most of our toys are made from wood or cloth--we don't deal with plastics or electronics. But we have helpers all over the world working to make Christmas bright. Moms and Dads help me out by getting lots of presents ready, and for those who can't, we have people who buy presents for me. Thousands of volunteers help bring Christmas magic to little girls and boys, by either buying toys or handmaking special gifts for children they know and those they don't. I know the knitters have been especially busy this year making wonderful things to send far and near."

I asked Santa if he wanted to say anything to all the knitters out there, working to make the holidays bright.

"Why Merry Christmas, of course."

Thanks for visiting my blog. And oh, I finished that sweater. See you next year!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Thick n' thin

Ultra thin sock yarn and real thick rug yarn are running side by side in my spinning efforts this month. Neither can be more dissimilar and similar in technique. One of the great similarities is the need for concentration to insure the correct amount of fiber in the drafting zone.
The thin yarn is proving to be exceptionally fun to spin. For this I’m using a commercial blend of superwash merino, bamboo and nylon with the intent of creating a three ply yarn. I died the wool myself. Here, you can see an early and later picture of my first bobbin.

To spin, I’m using a Mabel Ross style supported long draw most similar to #6 in Jeannine Bakriges excellent article in the Winter ’09 Spin Off. My main variation from this is that I am drafting vertically, which allows me to better see the drafting triangle and the double draft action as I release the twist. I will run this by the Spinning Sensei, my technical advisor, to see if this is indeed the correct nomenclature for the draft I’m using. (Some of you may be surprised that I like Jeanine’s article after my spoof in the last blog. Well, it has to be good to be spoofable. I plan to razor the pages out of my Spin Off and put them in plastic sheets so I can refer to them.)
Double drafting with this roving is a joy—it is absolutely fun and engaging to feel the elasticity of the draft and pulling it out to the exact thickness. Though concentration is needed to keep it even, the tactile experience is so enjoyable, I couldn’t help but pay attention. Once I have the Sensei’s input, I will be posting photos of the drafting technique on my website when I put up the information on the bamboo workshop this spring.
For the thick yarn, I also used a supported draw. I need to study it more carefully to give you the name of the technique. The challenge was to ensure there were enough fibers in the drafting triangle to make a thick single. When three plied, this yarn turned out to be a hefty 5 WPI. This will make excellent yarn for the weft faced rug I’m planning. I will talk more about this draft in future blogs.
Thanks for visiting my blog. Please stop by again.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Name that draft

Oh, please! Did Spin-Off Magazine really have to go ahead and start naming drafting techniques? Though I respect the scholarship of the writer, I am also concerned about the long term affect on the spinning community. I cringe at the prospect of sitting in a spinning demonstration and hearing one of those studious types pipe up with “Is that English or American Long Draw?”

Spinning is essentially an "unvented" craft, to apply a concept developed by Elizabeth Zimmerman. It was an art nearly lost to mechanization and refound and continues to be found by spinners everywhere as they experiment and explore the craft. Do we really as a community want to pigeonwhole all the possible drafts? Are we ready for this kind of codification of our communal knowledge? Do we really want to learn all those names?

Just in case we do, and since Spin-Off has decided to begin naming drafts, I thought Whorlwindweaver would jump on the bandwagon and do some of her own naming. The draft above is the Midwest Pinch and Release Long Draw (MPRLD). Above, I demonstrate the release, and below the pinch while drafting back. As you can see below it really goes a long way—right out of the frame in fact.
This is not to be confused with the Big Apple Pinch and Release Vertical Long Draw (BAPRVLD), which I will demonstrate at a later date. It is an adaptive measure for people spinning in confined areas, such as a small New York apartment. Another one to be demonstrated in the future is the Lorna Short Smooth Release Draw (LSSRD), which is a useful and not yet cataloged draft that produces lovely yarns. Along with this, I’ll demonstrate the Whorlwindweaver Short Smooth Release Draw for Really Thin Yarns (WSRDRTY).

To maintain optimum confusion, all drafts should be referred to by their acronyms. So I expect the studious among us to pipe up with, “Are you sure that’s LSSRD? I thought WSRDRTY included the over hand position!” Well, maybe she’s right, how would I remember?

Thank you for visiting my blog. There will be a quiz next week!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Balancing act

There is no need to go to great lengths to measure the yards per pound in any given bit of spinning. Spinners don’t need to count as they wind onto the skein—or run their yarn through a counter. There is a simple gizmo that will do this for you with only a snippet from you skein. This is the McMorran Balance, an item readily available from any number of suppliers. (I happened to get mine from the Yarn Barn of Kansas.)

Upon joining the 5K Stash Down on Ravelry, I discovered some newer spinners weren’t yet familiar with the gadget. I thought it would be helpful to some to know about this device. It also comes in handy for knitters who have been given mystery yarn, such as the bright blue shown tipping the scales of the McMorran balance shown above. You merely hang a long enough thread to tip the scales as shown.
Next, you start snipping away. I try to go even on each side—but I do it kind of by eye. The important thing is to take a little bit at a time because slowly, the scale will begin to balance.

The goal is to reach that moment when the scale is balanced, as shown above.
Then you take that bit of yarn and measure it. In this case it was 5.75 inches long. This is multiplied by 100, and so I have 575 yards per pound. The one shown above is the “standard model” there is also a metric model available for the rest of the world. Of course, instructions will come with the balance.

I hope this is helpful. Thank you for visiting my blog. Stop by again.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Happy dance!

Time to do the happy dance: A sweater I’ve been knitting for what seems like forever is done! And since I’m one of those people who knits only one sweater at a time, it means I can get started on a new project.
(Please note, I said one sweater at a time, so I’m knitting other things, just not sweaters.)

This Finished Object represents 1600 yards of knitting in the “old way.” This is a gansey inspired by two books: Patterns for Guernseys, Jersey’s and Arans by Gladys Thompson (Dover Press) and Knitting in the Old Way by Priscilla Gibson Roberts and Deborah Robson (Nomad Press). I modified my own design to make a light sweater that would fit. You can read all the details on my Ravelry project page.

I’m glad to be done and I’m thinking about my next project—which will be that Fair Isle yoke sweater I’ve been thinking about for quite some time. It will be predominantly knit from a three ply yarn I spun from Pat’s Rambouillet sheep. She has lovely fiber!

As for my small projects, I’m getting a little bit tired of knitting socks, so I’m going to take a break and knit some hats. This time, I won’t be using handspun, but chose from a big pile of yarn that was given to me with the loom I purchased this summer. What do you think of those colors? It’s good thick yarn so I should be making lots of fun hats. Hope my family is ready for this heady largess.

Thank you for visiting my blog. Please stop by again!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Court-ordered knitting

A summons to jury duty turned out to be an excellent opportunity to get the jump on my holiday knitting. I was ordered to appear for two days, which basically consisted of sitting around the jury room waiting.

I didn’t even get as far as a court room as cases before judges were either settled or still in pre-trial when it was time to go home.

As a knitter, any time spent sitting around is never wasted and I was able to finish a pair of winter survival socks. These are natural brown Romney wool mixed with multicolored Firestar and are shown to the right.

On my first day, I finished one entire sock starting from about where the picture below shows. On the second day, I started a new pair with a different pattern. After knitting a few inches, I decided I didn’t like the pattern, so I frogged it and started over. I decided to do my next pair in the same basic rib pattern, shown below.

Another good thing about jury duty are the two hour lunch breaks. I was able to visit a friend over lunch, drink tea and talk about our favorite fiber subjects. What a great way to spend a day.
So, by order of the court, I’m on my way to having my Christmas knitting done by Thankgsiving. How cool is that?

Thanks for visiting my blog. Please stop by again!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Crafting holiday

Every so often a weekend comes along that is not so crammed with commitments that it is like a having a real day off. It is the kind of day where you wake up and not only realize it is Saturday and you don’t have to go to work, but there is nothing you “have” to do. This is even better when the sun just happens to be shining and it is warm enough to open some windows and let the fresh air in.
I just happened to have one of those Saturdays, and with all the beautiful light flowing in from outside, and all the stretches of commitment free time, it was the perfect time to tackle a bit of crafting. You may remember that I moved a warp onto my smaller floor loom after a slight disaster winding it onto my table loom. I won’t go into details here, but let’s just say I had been kind of ignoring that loom. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do.
As the sun poured in, I sat on a little stool and enjoyed the luxury of an uninterrupted stretch to count threads and figured out that I had enough to make something 17 inches wide. This should make an okay kitchen towel, especially since these will be my first kitchen towels. After adjusting the threads along the raddle, I was able begin threading in rosepath.
Having a stretch of free time is so nice. I also got a dye pot going, figured something out on a sweater I’m knitting for my husband, and made a dent in carding the purple Shetland (shown below) for a sweater for me. Shown above is a sock I finished from one of my Tour De Fleece yarns. It is a blend of gray Corriedale and purple/red mohair.
Thank you for visiting my blog. May you find time for a crafting holiday!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The long haul

Marshalling patience, I have begun the long slow process of weaving a 9 foot stair runner with a handspun weft. The loom, shown at top, is ready. This is my first project on this new-to-me loom and I’m using the 8/4 linen warp that happened to come with it set at 5 ends per inch. I’ve wound on the warp and have now threaded the heddles and sleighed the reed—which for you knitters, just think of the loom being as threaded and almost ready to go.
What I need now is weft, and that will be an entire process of its own and much more time consuming than putting the warp on. Over to the right you can see a bag of gray wool that has been picked and is ready for the carder. As I pick, I keep the fleece in old zippered bedding bags—they are great for this purpose.
To the right is a pot of wool being dyed deep green using my own dye recipe. I’ll need a lot more pots of green and all these dye lots will need to be blended to create a single consistently colored lot before I begin picking, carding and then spinning. The rug will be woven in three colors using alternating shuttles of light gray, a darker gray and dark green. Since all of this is to be handspun, I have a lot of work ahead of me before I can even start weaving. The whole project represents a long haul.
Knitting and spinning for knitting projects ought to fill in the cracks in time quite nicely. My last picture is the socks I just finished on sock blockers. I showed these socks in progress in a September blog and now they are done and ready to go to the wearer. They are a blend of gray Corriedale and a couple of ounces of Cotswold dyed deep blue and purple.
Thank you for visiting my blog. Please visit again!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Knit n' nap

Being under the weather for the past few days fighting off the latest seasonal crud has caused me to develop a new crafting skill, the “knit n’ nap.” This is where the avid knitter cuddles up in a comfy chair with a cup of hot tea and a nice project and intersperses sips of tea, with a few rounds of knitting and a whole lot of napping. I pretty much snoozed and knit for a good part of three days and looking at what I accomplished, I did mostly snoozing.

I think knitting is a good sick day activity because it is so soothing, and, as long as your project isn’t too complicated, very good for dosing off. I don’t recommend lace projects which might keep you awake. The idea mostly is to get plenty of rest.

I didn’t get much done this week. The picture above is the project I am working on currently—and I was doing the sleeves in my half-waking state. It’s all plain stitch down from the shoulders and fortunately, I had already started it last Sunday so the “hard part” of picking up stitches was done.

The project is spun from a fleece I purchased at Elihu Farm some years ago, carded and spun into yarn that has been sitting around waiting to be knit. The ram providing the fleece was named Champ, a romeldale cross. It is a lovely soft light moorit fleece and I spun a two ply yarn at 11 wraps per inch. The yarn is shown below.

The sweater will be a traditional Guernsey style inspired by books I have in my library, Patterns for Guernseys, Jersey’s and Arans by Gladys Thompson (Dover Press) and Knitting in the Old Way by Priscilla Gibson Roberts and Deborah Robson (Nomad Press). This is the kind of Guernsey made with simple knit and purl patterns. The sleeves are started from the shoulder and knit down. Gladys Thompson has one particularly lovely Guernsey I want to try someday. It is a good book if you like traditional knitting.

One reader was curious about what happened to my weaving project. Oh, it is still sitting quietly, awaiting threading. Last weekend, I did rewind the warp and added the warp sticks I’d forgotten and also began threading. As I feel better this week, I hope to finish the process and be able to show you some progress.

Thanks for visiting my blog. Please come back next week.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Weaving in Woodstock

Searching for a weaving guild, I drove up to Woodstock, IL, with spinning guild friend Pat to find out what Woodstock Weavers is all about. Woodstock Weavers is having their annual show this October, and you can find out more about it at their website This year’s show is judged by Robyn Spady and at the meeting I attended, she gave an abridged version of her workshop “There’s Two Sides to Every Cloth” about double weave.

It is fascinating to me all the things that can be done with weaving. As a new weaver I don’t expect to be doing double weave anytime soon. I’ll be glad just to get the warp properly on my loom! One thing I learned is double weave can use twice as many warp threads--so you can see why I'll leave that for a future experiment.

Woodstock, by the way, is a lovely little town and would be a nice destination for a fall weekend, even without a weaving exhibit to visit after lunch.

Since we were up that way, Pat and I stopped at The Fold. I have a picture here of all the different colors of roving available—there’s plenty of lovely stuff! Though I generally like to do my own carding and dyeing, I don’t mind purchasing some nice roving every so often. I found a merino/bamboo/nylon blend that I want to experiment with, and a small bag of coral merino that will make a nice accent color in the Fair Isle yoke I want for a sweater.

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Sunday, October 4, 2009

Creative synergy

There is nothing quite like driving up to one’s knitting Starbucks to find it swathed in yellow crime scene tape. Upon closer inspection, I realized I’d let my imagination run away and it was merely construction scene “caution” tape. Inside, the Starbuck’s had been gutted and stripped back to its aluminum studs: closed for renovation.

Not wanting to miss the meeting, I rushed home and checked the Raverly group—all the while kicking myself for ignoring the premonition to check for news before I left in the first place. Fortunately, it had moved to the next Starbucks over. I was relieved to get there with still an hour or more of knitting comradeship to go.

Which has me thinking that I can’t underestimate the importance of the knitting group. At this meeting, I showed off the pretty new yarn I purchased at Neota Designs in Estes Park, Colorado. I really had no idea what to make with it. I had thought socks when I purchased it, then later maybe a pretty hat. As I sat knitting with my group, Dana pulled a lovely lace scarf pattern (Knitpicks Gust) from her portable stash and Lorna remarked it would be perfect. They and others agreed. Looking at the design, I had to concur. The design is perfect for my yarn and once finished, it will look great with my wool “go to work” winter coat.

A creative synergy develops when knitters get together. I know the encouragement of my knitting friends will help me try something new. I don’t often knit from patterns, and I rarely knit lace as I like sturdy warm woolens. Without the momentum of the knitting group, I’m not sure I would have thought of it.

Thank you for visiting my blog. If you aren’t a member of a knitting/spinning/weaving guild or group, look for one in your area! You’ll be glad you did. Have a great week!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Bending the rules with Carol Rhoades

“Bend the rules, play with it and have fun,” is Carol Rhoades parting advice to the Illinois Prairie Spinners who gathered in Wheaton for a workshop. Carol showed us how to “take our yarn in new directions” and we spent the whole day experimenting/bending basic techniques like carding, whether we spin S or Z, and more. She walked us through experiments with these spinning basics so we can create the kind of yarn we need for a project.

Hand outs included a big zip lock bag full of fun and interesting fibers—including cashmere! We used many of them during the workshop, and I’ll be playing with the balance for the next few weeks. This will give me a chance to carry on the experiments Carol encouraged us to do.

As for me, I might actually know how to spin cotton! And one of the keys is that she showed me how to improve my hand carding technique so I could do it in a gentler, less energetic way. I don’t card wool by hand much anymore, but I think it would be a good way to process cotton. I’m still trying to decide if I like cotton punis or rolags better.
Carol also showed us how to put more air into our rovings as we spun (as well as the opposite of putting less air). She is shown demonstrating this in the picture below. That was one technique I enjoyed trying—okay, I enjoyed ALL of the techniques.

Yes, the rumors are true, Carol Rhoades does have you CUT FIBER as part of a carding exercise. I was so overcome with shock that my hands weren’t steady enough to snap a picture of her doing this—so I can’t prove it. You will need to sign up for one of her workshops instead. Just a hint: if you don’t like scissors, you might be better off combing/flicking really long staple length fibers.

Since it was an all day workshop, we also had a great lunch arranged by our workshop coordinator Jane Plass. She ordered in from a really good deli and the food was excellent! I’m looking forward to our next workshop.
Join me next week (and for Sundays to come), as I follow Carol’s advice to “bend the rules, play with it and have fun.” Thank you for visiting my blog!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Knitting by candlelight

As I write this, I’m sitting in Rocky Mountain National Park—the sun is shining though not on me---I can barely see my laptop screen as it is! I have a lovely view of mountains and the day promises to be warm—but in the cool wear a nice sweater kind of way. We did lots of hiking up here and are completely enjoying the beauty, the peace and quiet and the fresh air. One of our neighbors is the elk shown to the right, who we named Murray. He bugled his heart out in an attempt to catch the fancy of a passing elk cow.
Our site turned out to be a regular “Wild Kingdom” with Murray and his friends, coyote’s yipping and yowling in the night (and one who came out in daylight to check us out) and numerous bluebirds, yellow rump warblers, chickadees and a band of magpies. Three magpies landed on the picnic table and squawked at me as I was entering the trailer with the Pillsbury Dough Boy. I told them no way, and put the cinnamon rolls in the camp oven. No sooner had the rolls begun to bake that we heard pecking on the roof of our trailer. This was followed by a magpie bouncing on the tent part. Another soon followed. I had to step outside to chase them off. Our dog did his share by squeezing his squeaky toy.
While in Estes Park, I stopped in at Neota Designs Studio and Gallery and this is a must see when you are visiting the area. She has lovely handwoven items, along with handpainted yarn, a sample of which you can see on the left. I know I rarely buy yarn but I couldn’t resist this. It will be perfect for a hat to go with my winter parka. Neota Designs offers gorgeous handwoven items which you need to see to really appreciate. For the knitter, there is handpainted yarn. My favorite was the alpaca and since leaving, I have an idea for using some of the handpainted yarn with some handspun for a multicolor sweater. For those of you who don’t spin, she also has natural colored alpaca yarn that would complement the handpainted selection nicely. Hmmm…. Ideas are flourishing in my head. For more information, you can visit her website at

Naturally, I continued working on fibery projects. You can see the progress on the handspun socks to the right. I did quite a bit of knitting by candle lantern as I sat up late being serenaded by a lovelorn Murray and the occasional pack of coyote enjoying the meadow near our campsite. The three candle lantern gave off just enough light to knit by and just enough heat to keep my hands warm as I sat at the little camper table.

The winter survival socks featured in the Aug. 9 blog beat out commercial Smartwools for keeping my feet toasty around the campsite. We had some frost while we were there, so these sturdy socks were tested.

Thank you for visiting my blog! Please come back next week.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Playing Tag with Chaos

Warping a loom is like playing tag with chaos. The only thing between you and a tangled mess is the cross, and between the cross and tearing your hair out are the lease sticks, which are in place for a very good reason—to keep your warp strings neat and orderly and in place—warp strings whose first tendency is to twist into a congealed snarl. This way, despite the tendency to tie itself into a knot, the warp can be wound so it is not only pleasant to weave but have at least some resemblance to those pristinely warped looms pictured in advertisements.
I am a new weaver. So I can’t begin to call myself a teacher. But what I can be is a reporter—reporting just what it’s like to have a few hundred linen threads twist around and around, snarling and snagging, while I try to wind them on in an orderly fashion. It is awful.
This is not what I imagined when I daydreamed about learning to weave, gazing longingly t all those lovely loom advertisements.
I will show you my warping progress one step at a time. The topmost picture shows the warp fresh off the warping board, all neatly tied, and draped over the loom.
They look harmless at this point. The cross is already being preserved by the lease sticks, which at this point are clamped to the warp beam. In the second photo you see the lease sticks in a better position. My LeClerc has some eye hooks especially in place for suspending the lease sticks.

In the next picture, you can see that not only are the warp bundles tied to the apron with these cool knots, but also, I’ve spread the warps through the raddle. The raddle (that’s the pronged thing) is spaced at one inch intervals, and since my sett is 5 warps per inch, there are 5 warps in each space.
This is where I learned the value of that cross, because this is where the warp is in order—every place else it is twisting onto itself over and over again. It took some untwisting to get it this neat and there were a few I missed when I took this picture.
After this, and with the help of my husband, I wound on the warp. He was in charge of holding the warp under even tension, and sat on the bench. I wound it onto the backbeam and kept an eye on the lease sticks. As I wound the endlessly twisting warp threads would tangle and get stuck in the lease sticks. I had to stop regularly to undo these tangles—which fortunately came undone. If you look closely at any of the pictures you can see twisting and tangling going on as the threads naturally turn on themselves.

I was so focused on keeping the warp flowing freely through the lease sticks that I forgot to pack the warp properly—as you can see there are no sticks separating the warp on the back beam. This is a giant OOPS! It means I have to unwind and rewind.
I'm "it."

Thank you for visiting my blog. Please come back next week!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Fleece O' Matic

My washing machine died last Sunday, which is not a good thing considering I have 5 fleeces waiting to be cleaned. Good thing I had washed most of our clothes, so it wasn’t too bad. The next day, I stopped in at my local Dependable Maytag appliance store to have a look at some Maytags. I avoid big box stores for major purchases because I value service and because the savings touted by box stores are an illusion.
Now washing machines have changed a lot and now have really cool features. Unfortunately, as a crafter, I have very specific needs. For instance, I can’t use a machine that senses how much I’ve loaded into the machine and then it decides how much water I need. I need to be able to fill the tub first and then add the fleece. I also can’t let it agitate. I need to soak and then spin. (For more information on how to wash a fleece in a washing machine, please visit my website at

What I needed was a Fleece O’ Matic. So I explained the situation to the knowledgeable salesman and he took me immediately to the old fashioned top loaders, because only these would fit my needs.

And here is where I must confess to a case of feature envy, because what I really wanted was one of those top loaders with the big shiny agitator free tubs and control panels suitable for steering a starship. But what I was looking at was pretty much what I’d been using all my life with the same utilitarian knobs that I’ve seen since childhood. I did what I could to dress it up—stainless steel tub, clear top, etc. but it is still your basic washing machine. Sigh.

The demands of this hobby forced me to swallow my feature envy and buy what was practical for the kind of work I do. And it is a really nice washing machine as it is. Plus for once I can tell my husband my hobby is actually saving money, because the machine I needed cost half as much as the state of the art kind.

Thank you for visiting my blog. I post every Sunday. Please stop by again!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Fiber overload

Fiber overload is a syndrome most often associated with fiber festivals, but can also strike during farm visits (as it did on my recent trip to Elihu Farm) and has been known to occur at home when a fiber enthusiast is sorting through his or her stash. The symptoms include feelings of elation accompanied by an overestimation of just how much fiber one can possibly spin/knit/crochet/weave in a lifetime. Further, it is known to cause befuddlement and a tendency to “flit and fondle” a condition where the stricken will spend long moments gazing at and touching a particular fiber/skein and suddenly run to another fiber/skein to spend long moments examining it.
In the worst cases, the fiber overload sufferer can be seen stumbling around lugging four or five large bags of purchases muttering “where did I see that painted roving?” or some such thing under her breath. If you suspect you may suffer from this, make sure you don’t go to a festival alone—and if your friends are spinners/knitters/weavers, go in a group of at least three in case more than one of you is overcome at the same time. This why I like to have my husband along at festivals--not only is he immune to fiber overload but I will never be that woman with six bags of fleece muttering to herself about the roving. My husband carries not only my purchases but chocolate—which is a kind of smelling salt to snap the fiber overload sufferer out of the worst symptoms.
Symptoms have been shown to last for as long as a week after exposure. Lingering fiber overload brought on by my visit to Elihu Farm is why I promised in my last blog that I would be able to show you a warped loom this week. I was suffering from the classic overestimation symptom. Yes, I did wind some warp, but I’m far from being able to start showing you pictures.
In the meantime, I have the glitzy purple socks I finished this week from a three ply Bluefaced Leicester and Firestar blend. This is one of the skeins I spun in this year’s Tour de Fleece and you can see pictures of the spinning in my July blog and on Ravelry. I finished off a lot of things this week, including some dark brown Rambouillet I was spinning three ply, shown here ( this is from the sheep of one of my guild colleagues Pat). Plus I washed one of my new fleeces. For fun, I’m adding a picture of that fleece I told you about last week—the light brown moorit.
Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope you enjoyed it. Please stop by next week. I put up a new installment every Sunday!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Spinner in Fiberland

Fleece stacked to the ceiling, lambs resting on sweet straw, a skirting table covered with fresh fleece—what could be more idyllic? I was fortunate enough to visit Elihu Farm in Valley Falls, N.Y., this week to purchase some fleece for my latest rug project. I had very specific tones of naturally colored fleece in mind and I knew that Bob & Mary Pratt with their herd of nearly 200 ewes would have what I needed. The Pratt farm is in a picturesque setting nestled in the rolling foothills south of the Adirondacks and west of the Green Mountains. The farm gets its name from the original owner who settled the land nearly 200 years ago.

I’ve been visiting Elihu Farm for more than 15 years, every since my husband and I first came across it during one of the first Washington County Sheep Tours. We have family nearby, so the farm is in the neighborhood. I’ve purchased some of my best fleeces from Mary’s broad selection of fleece types and have not been disappointed. Mary can have anything from fine rambouillet (that’s my favorite fleece Champ) to lustrous Romneys and many kinds of fleeces in between that are exceptionally pleasant to process, spin and knit. I was after Romney today for the rug project—and we had to dig through the giant stack (shown above) to find some of the coarser fleeces more suitable for rugs. I couldn’t pass by one fine one though, a lovely creamy moorit which will make a wonderful next-to-the-skin soft sweater someday soon.

Visiting the farm is something I really look forward to. It’s like going to a fleece fair but without the crowds—and the Elihu Barn is better than the Rhinebeck fleece barn. Above, you can see a picture of just one small section of the fleece area—she has them stacked up to the ceiling. She’s already sold quite a few from this year’s clip but remember, she has a LOT of sheep. If you are lucky enough to live in the Northeast, you’ll be able to find Elihu Farm fleece for sale at one of the many fiber festivals. In the next picture are some of her ewes. The one mugging for the camera produced the gorgeous fine fleece which I already purchased for a future knitting project. The little lamb shown was adorable and liked being scratched behind the ears.

Now that I’m weaving, I go through fleeces a lot faster, so I bought quite a few for that purpose--the two rugs I just finished represent six fleeces. As it turns out, I ended out walking out with six more (five for the upcoming rug weaving project). Yep, I will be busy. Next week, I hope to show you my new loom being warped with the 8/4 linen warp that will form the basis of all these rugs. So visit my blog again!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Dark, tangled side of weaving

After pulling the warp off my loom last week, I was so discouraged I was ready to put the loom up for sale. Not only did I e-mail a friend asking her if she wanted it, I also took pictures to post. Now it wasn’t the looms fault, so what I was doing was completely unfair. It was my fault. I removed the lease sticks while winding the warp on. Why? Brain cramp.

One of you asked what a lease stick is. If you look closely at the photo to the right, they are the two sticks across the warp behind the raddle—that’s the thing with the prongs. You put these in the cross, which is something you create while winding the warp on a warping board. Part of learning to weave is picking up this whole new language that only other weavers understand. It’s fun to talk weaving around knitters and watch their eyes cross.

Another fun thing about weaving is you get to put together odd looking contraptions such as in my picture. It looks fairly neat right now, but it was completely crazy earlier. I should have taken a picture, raw and uncut, but it goes against the grain to post a complete mess. I want to fight that urge and show you the dark, tangled side of weaving as I struggle along the road from novice to expert. I just really started weaving this year.

As for the towels, I started out with 400 ends, but with all warps snapping at the speed of popping corn, and a tangle so thick I had to chop off a bundle, I’m lucky if I have 300. So rather than wide kitchen towels, I probably have narrow kitchen scarves. I’m still not sure if I should pursue this further. I think I’m going to take a break and look into warping my big loom with rug warp.

The counterbalance loom above was not the original loom for this project. To the left is one of the pictures I took when I was determined to sell the offending loom, a perfectly nice Schacht with 8 harnesses. I can’t blame the loom--he has the potential to make lovely projects. I realize now it was a mistake to remove the warp in the first place. I think he needs a name, something other than @#$%& loom. I will gladly take suggestions. The counterbalance, by the way, is a Leclerc Fanny and she’s named Chloe, so don’t call her Fanny, she hates that name. She’ll tangle your warp if you do.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Cutting my losses

It was the best of weeks and it was the worst of weeks. The best part was I re-finished the socks shown to the left. Eager to get on with another project, I knit the second sock too short. So I had to undo the toe, knit more foot and then get back to the toe. Now here they are, nicely sized and ready to go.
They are part of my search for the indestructible sock yarn and I will wear them this winter to see how long they last. My dog, a Samoyed, needs a long walk every morning, so these socks will get plenty of use all winter. He’s one of those northern sledding breeds so he absolutely loves the cold and dashing through the snow.
The socks are a three ply of shades of dark brown and lighter brown Romney and some Corriedale dyed red. The idea is the Romney will provide strength and durability while the Corriedale makes them soft. The three ply and thickness should enhance the durability. Only testing will tell—let’s see how it goes.

Now for the worst part of my week: while winding on the warp on my smaller loom, I lost the lease sticks. “How?” you ask. Let’s just say it wasn’t pretty and leave it at that. I decided to plunge ahead and was three quarters of the way through threading when I realized I needed to add a few emergency heddles. When I went to the back to perform this delicate surgery, I got a good look at the warp beam.
Oh yes, yarn loves to do the twist.
I realized this wasn’t working out and more effort would just lead to unnecessary frustration at a time when I have better things to do. I decided to cut my losses and pulled the warp off the loom. I know this will shock those of you who save your thrums, but I threw it all away. I will start again fresh another day.

Okay, I rethought the throw away part. The warp is salvageable and I just need to start over again with it.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

New-to-me loom

Buying a wider loom has been a topic of my musing for quite some time. I have lots of ideas for wider projects and so I have been looking around at weaving guild websites to try to find something affordable. At first I was looking for an eight-harness loom, but these tend to command higher prices than their four-harness counterpart. I also needed something sturdy because I have lots of ideas for rugs though one of those big rug looms is out of the question, because I just don’t have the space for it. Though I’ve taken over two spare bedrooms, these are smallish so each can only hold so much.
I saw this loom on a weaving guild website and at first, I wasn’t sure. It is a four-harness 60” weaving width jack-type Leclerc, and I was still thinking eight. But I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I thought about it for a couple of months and I realized that if I was going to do a lot of rug weaving, four harnesses is what I needed. I also knew I had the room for it. I discussed it with my husband, contacted the seller and within a week we were on our way to her house to buy it. Carol, the seller, had already taken it apart so it only took moments to load it into the back of our SUV. It’s amazing how small and portable a loom is taken apart. We put the loom together the next day. This weekend, my husband and I made the raddle shown clamped to the backbeam. Next weekend, I will begin to wind some warp for a series of 3’ X 4’ rugs. My husband has been very supportive—not only does he have hobbies of his own, but he really likes the new hall rugs.
Weaving guilds are a great source for used looms. If you are thinking of trying weaving, you might consider previously owned equipment. You usually need to pick up the loom, so check guild classifieds that are in what you consider to be a reasonable driving distance. Weaver’s selling used looms often throw in useful things like shuttles, raddles, yarn and extra reeds. This loom I just purchased came with 8/4 rug warp which I will use for its first project. Another great place to look are the Spinners’, Weavers’ , & Knitters’ Housecleaning Pages at and, of course there’s the Warped Weaver’s Marketplace on Ravelry.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Finish Line! Woohoo!

Turning up the gas, I pump up the proverbial hill and speed toward the finish line. I'm not here for glory, just to finish. The crowds are gathering in the early dawn as I set the Lendrum up to ply, this is the last leg, I can almost see the finish line.
Okay, so maybe I'm using a bit too much poetic wax. But the truth is the Tour de Fleece was not only fun, but a little bit exhausting. On more than one occasion, I'd be up pretty early and spinning like mad before going to work, trying to get closer to my goals.
Complicating this was a roadtrip I took with my husband to buy a new-to-me loom (I'll tell you about that in my next blog) and then I invited my entire spinning group to my house for a spin-in. Now that was a lot of fun and it helped me get some spinning done, but it also meant cleaning and making sure there were plenty of snacks. Of course, everyone brought snacks and yes, there is nothing better than spending a good part of the day hanging out with fellow spinners!
I managed to spin 4 skeins of sock yarn during the three weeks of the tour. Above, you can see them clockwise from top left: the skein of grey Corriedale mixed with some blue and lavender Cotswold, knitted Blue Faced Leicester and Firestar, a skein of red Cormo blended with grey silk, and grey Corriedale blended with purple and grey mohair. All of these blends will be knit into socks and tested for durability and I will report on them in future blogs.
I never did get to the brown Romney and Firestar blend shown. I think I will take my time spinning that over the next week or so. My next big spinning project is some purple dyed Shetland which I still need to card and then I'll be spinning up some warp for a blanket I want to make from a blend of merino and llama.