Category Archives: Fiber Artistry and Equipment

The Crazy Cat Lady – 12/14/18

But not cats, spinning equipment.  A while back, I posted that I finally had all the spinning equipment that I needed and it was all comfortable to me.  Well, an opportunity presented itself this past summer to purchase an antique sitting quill spinning wheel from Pennsylvania.  It couldn’t be shipped, but a friend was an acquaintance of the seller and was going to be in her area a few weeks after and she said she would pick it up and take it to her home until we could connect.  We live about 3-4 hours apart.  She and her husband were going to be setting up at the Shenandoah Fiber Festival in September and though that is also 3+ hours from home, we can visit our eldest son and his family in that region, a plan was hatched.

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This beautiful little wheel joined the huge walking wheel in our loft.  She has been taken to a couple of living history events as she travels in the back of my car nicely.  But this meant that the Ashford Traveller that I had been taking wouldn’t go anymore, and though a pretty little wheel, wasn’t what I wanted for everyday spinning, her bobbins were too small and I didn’t want to spend more money to get the larger flyer, so she was offered for sale and sold quickly.  The Ashford came apart enough to box it in a medium moving box and it could be shipped.  That left me with no everyday wheel and I wanted something with huge bobbins and yet small enough to travel, so Miss Polly came home with me, a Spinolution Pollywog, a tiny little 8 pounder.

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So now, I had the 49″ diameter great wheel, the sitting quill wheel, Miss Poly, and a gorgeous Golding drop spindle.  Then I found another Golding spindle that called to me and I purchased it.

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The Celtic sheep spindle is a joy and spindles are so portable to take spinning anywhere, anytime.

Yesterday was our spinning group’s annual Christmas Party with Dirty Santa exchange, potluck snacks, and camaraderie.  It is always a fun afternoon with the opportunity to give away fibery items you no longer want, sell those that you don’t want but don’t want to give away, and of course the Dirty Santa fun.  One of our group members has turned her interest to quilting in the past few years and has dropped out of coming to the weekly gatherings and the parties and she decided that since she was no longer using her wheel, that it should find a new home.  The hostess picked it up from her home and brought it to her own home.  The original owner did not want to sell it, she just wanted it to go to a new loving home.  The wheel is a 40 year old Jensen, hand made wheel and it is beautiful.  That wheel came home with me yesterday.

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She is larger than my sitting quill, but smaller than the great wheel, a large sturdy Saxony style wheel of Cherry wood and she glows.  With the leather fittings and old style hooks, she also can go to living history events with or instead of the sitting quill wheel.  The loft now houses 4 wheels, I’m running out of space, but not out of love for the art and the beautiful equipment.

Perhaps an intervention is in order.  At least an organization so that I can use them and get to the fiber to spin on them.

Experiments, successes, failures – November 13, 2018

The first craft event is creeping up quickly.  The preparation is plugging along.  Last night, the hand spun, hand knit Assymetrical Scarf was finished.  I played chicken trying to use every inch of the hand spun Merino and Bamboo and failed, resulting in having to tink back 3/4 of the width of bind off stitches and an entire purled row in order to have enough yarn to bind off successfully.  There certainly wasn’t much waste, only about 18″ of the skein remained.  It is currently spread out on a beach towel on a guest bed drying from being blocked.

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It will add one more scarf to the inventory for the upcoming events.  The other one I am working on is a 5″ wide rectangle and have decided once it is 20″ long, bind off, stitch up the ends and pick up stitches along the edge, knitting upward to make a hat.  I don’t really like it as a scarf and it is hand spun superwash merino, so it will make a good reversible hat to add to the inventory.

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Other experiments have been in the soaping.  The use of cosmetic clays has been part of the chemistry as natural colorants of the soap and as the clays have very beneficial properties, but the clays have always been blended in thoroughly, giving the soap an even color.  A few days ago, I decided to play around and divided the batch in half, mixing the clay with half and dark cocoa with the other half.  Cocoa is a good antioxidant and a natural colorant.  The clay layer was poured into the mold, the cocoa layer on top and lightly swirled with a plastic spatula.  I am very pleased with the resulting product that is curing for the December events. The green tea with European clay is a success and a nice green color.  It was fairly highly super-fatted so it is soft and will require a long cure.

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The favored Goat milk, oatmeal, and honey soap did not fare so well, there is a very soft tunnel through the top quarter that even if it firms up will leave a miscolored, misshapen bar.  That one fails about a third of the time.  The resulting product are bars that get used here at home.  It is most successful if I let the sodium hydroxide solution and the oil mixture cool to room temperature before mixing and by adding the goat milk, honey, and oatmeal before adding the solution.  It takes forever to get to trace, a thick pudding like consistency, necessary before pouring it into the molds.  So that one was a failure.

The 4th batch is saponifying now.  It is a Himalayan Pink Salt and Moroccan Red Clay scented with Lavender.  It will be interesting tomorrow to see how red it turns.  The poured color is never true.

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Kitchen Chemistry – Nov. 11, 2018

The day dawned very, very cold for this time of year.  According to our local weather blogger, the last time it was this cold this early was 1995 and a couple of weeks later they had a record snowfall.  I hope we aren’t headed for a repeat of that.

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More work has been put into the Asymmetrical Scarf of hand spun Merino and bamboo, the ball of yarn is getting thinner and the scarf is getting longer.  Hopefully it will be done by Saturday for the first craft show.

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I love the colors and realized that it blends with the project bag that is containing it.

The afternoon was spent with more kitchen chemistry.  The lotion bars that were molded yesterday weren’t firm enough and there was no more beeswax in the house.  A quick trip out to resupply it and get two essential oils.  Since the metal measure that was the top of the double boiler had another batch to be poured, beeswax was added to it and remelted, the soft bars that I froze overnight so they could be removed from the silicon molds were dumped on a labelled sheet so I wouldn’t mix the scents, the molds washed and refilled with a Man bar scent and some unscented ones and while they were setting up, one of the scents from yesterday was remelted and more wax added.  This process was repeated until all had been remade with a more solid mixture.

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While they were setting up, one of yesterday’s soap molds was sliced into bars to cure.  The other mold wasn’t quite ready yet.  A third batch was measured out and made, Moroccan Red Clay and Cocoa soap.  I am anxious to see how this one unmolds as it was divided in half.  One half getting the red clay, the other half getting the dark cocoa, they were then poured in two layers and swirled.  This was a new technique for me.

Once the soap was wrapped in a towel to set up overnight, the lotion bars were tinned up, labelled, and sealed with shrink bands.

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The big crate has 8 sections and seven of them have different scents of lotion bars leaving a jumble of salves in the front and a need for a way to display them.  There was a smaller deeper box that looked promising if altered.  The top part was sawed off and the slats broken apart, the two long ones cut to the length of the two shorter ones and the parts painted with the Melted Chocolate color paint that has been used on the other crates and frames.

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It is about half the size and once all the parts are dry, the slats will be glued in to provide spacers for the smaller tins of salves.  A bit of table arranging will be necessary to make it all fit, but it will work.

The kitchen chemistry for the day ended with the magic of making pizza dough and a homemade pizza with the fresh mozzarella purchased at the Farmers Market yesterday.  A jar of the pizza sauce I canned, a Farmers Market red onion and Italian Sausage, some mushrooms, and pepperoni from the grocer and again we enjoyed great pizza.  The chickens will enjoy the crust bits and the whey from the cheese tomorrow.

Back to knitting while the paint dried.

Craft season – Nov. 10, 2018

Craft season is upon us.  Today we wandered about the big show that may be in my future next year to see who had what, prices, and may have bought gifts for upcoming birthdays and Christmas.  One of my products is soap and there were at least three vendors with soap.  One had felted soap for $12/bar, one had beautifully packaged bars that you couldn’t see or smell for $4.50 each.  Another had melt and pour bars in gaudy colors and scents for $6 each.  Knitwear was scarce.  If my friend and I share a booth, we would have enough inventory of items to make a go of it, I think.

This upcoming weekend is my first show of the season, followed by the first three Saturdays in December at the Holiday Markets held by the Blacksburg Farmers’ Market.  Those are always fun, often cold and windy, but among friends.  Thermos of hot coffee or tea or soup and Hot Hands packets to go in gloves are in order.  I hope my shop apron fits over my parka.

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With it’s big pockets, it is good for cash, a pen, and the Square reader on my phone.

Once the notification came in today that those were a go, more soap needed to be made.

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Two batches were made this afternoon, the Goatmilk, Oatmeal, Honey soap which is my favorite, but has about a 33% fail rate, and a Green Tea European Clay batch.  Those need to sit wrapped in a towel tonight and labels need to be made so I don’t forget what went into them.  Tomorrow I will make a Moroccan Red Clay and Cocoa batch, and a Lavender batch.  Once the soaps are curing more lotion bars need to be molded and labelled.  The weather will be cool enough that I won’t have the melt problem I had last spring.

In order to have my sales come out even dollar amounts after collecting state sales tax, I have played with numbers to figure out how much to charge.

I have another half pound of alpaca/merino to spin and a two scarves to finish knitting.  Guess I had better get busy.

New – Nov. 8. 2018

Of late, getting to sleep or staying asleep have been challenging.  Not wanting to take drugs that have side effects including poor sleep, other options have been sought.

For starters, caffeine is out of the question after noon.  One cup of coffee in the morning, and a switch to tea, preferably herbal or decaf versions.  Putting down the screen at least an hour before bedtime and returning to real bound books, not an e-reader are other changes.  Knitting, spinning, or reading are okay.

Several of my friends have begun doing Zentangles, a mindful, relaxing, calm slowly drawing of patterns on a 3 1/2″ square paper tile.  Later other shapes can be used and color can be added.  Thinking that might help clear my mind of the daily detritus that accumulates and keeps me awake, a bit on online research was done and a simple book of instruction and patterns purchased.  Using a soft pencil and a thin microtip pen, I have been playing with this for several days.  Fearing that the shoulders would tense and my “it must be perfect” mindset would set in, I was surprised at how calm and relaxing it is.

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Click on the image to enlarge.

The top left is the first one, totally copied from the instruction book to learn some of the shapes,  the top middle is an altered pattern from the book.  The top right has no redeeming qualities as far as I am concerned and I have looked at it for a couple of days trying to see what to do to make me like it.  The bottom is left is a copied pattern to learn a circle and the bottom right is my first one that I did only referring back to a couple of shapes.

Some people keep all they do in a journal, I envision them as very personal note card fronts or individual bookmarkers.  We will see if it sticks, but now I feel like I understand more why one daughter-in-law always has a sketchbook with her and an assortment of pencils and pens.

The featured photo is of this morning’s visitors and a reminder that those doors needed a good cleaning, now done.  The chickens finally figured out their no waste feeder and it is indeed no waste, but the slackers haven’t laid an egg in a week, not a single egg.

Adjustments – Nov. 6, 2018

Every time my shop has been set up at a craft event, my space has been 10 X 10 feet, my pop-up tent is 10 X 10 feet when I am outdoors.  My application for the first event for me this fall asked for a 10 X 10 foot space against a wall and paid the premium application fee to get it.  Night before last a call came in and I was informed that there were no spaces of that size available.  My options were an 8 X 8 foot space in the middle of the room or a 4 X 12 foot space in the hall.  Not wanting a long skinny spot, nor being in the hall, I opted for the 8 X 8 foot center space and requested that the cost difference be reimbursed to me.

This produced a dilemma for me.  My stall is set up with a mannequin that is free standing, 2 tables that are 2′ X 4′ each, and the wooden ladder rack that I made that is two panels each 31″ wide hinged with a piano hinge so it doesn’t open fully.  And a space for me to sit on a small stool to spin or knit.  This needed to be arranged so that the stall is open and inviting, and not knowing who or how the adjacent stalls will be set up.

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Yesterday afternoon, an 8 X 8 foot space was laid  out on the kitchen floor and the tables, mannequin, rack, and my stool arranged until it looked appealing.  This produced another issue of where to hang the shop sign so that it is visible and not obstructive.  It hangs from the tent when outdoors.  Since the products are displayed in wooden crates much like old fashioned wooden soda crates, which have some weight to them, the sign will hang from the side of one down the facing end of one table.

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The other hanging sign is one that leads with “Why Buy Handmade?”  It will hang from the end post of part of the ladder rack.   The space is a bit tighter than that to which I am accustomed, but I think  it will work.  Hopefully, it will be a good event and worth the time put in.

Tomorrow is an opportunity to don my Colonial garb, grab a spinning wheel and help teach and demo to a group of home schooled youth visiting Wilderness Road Regional Museum for a history day.

I voted, did you?

From Fall to Winter – November 3, 2018

Yesterday’s rain and wind blew through last night and the night was chilly, it was quite cool this morning still blowing strong making it feel colder.  Animal chores were done and after not making it to the Farmers Market in a few weeks, we headed in to town to get breakfast and shop at the Farmers Market.  We knew today was a home football game that always makes traffic worse and eating in local restaurants nearly impossible.  We didn’t know that it was Homecoming, there must have been 40 people waiting in the cold to get in to the little local diner where we often get our breakfast on Saturday.  The Waffle House and fast food places all had lines.  A little further out, not in walking distance is a bagel shop and we got there, got breakfast and sat down just as the line snaked out the door.

It was cold enough to warrant my winter coat, a knit hat, and gloves for the market, but veggies, bread, and meat came home for the week.  One stall has whole hog sausage, fresh mozzarella, and fresh cultured butter.  The Italian sausage and fresh mozzarella purchased decided dinner.

Once home, the huge 2 gallon bag of frozen red cue balls that have been in my way were dumped in the sink, some warm water run over them so the skins would slip off, chopped with the big butcher knife and seasoned with onion, garlic, and Italian herbs and set to simmer.  When started, I wasn’t sure if it would be pasta sauce or pizza sauce.  My recipes are basically the same but the pizza sauce if reduced until it is thickened.  There is 1 ripe tomato sitting in the kitchen window, it will be part of my breakfast tomorrow with a scrambled egg and a slice of toasted bread.

Because of the morning’s purchases and because we really like pizza prepared from scratch at home now that I have a crust we like, the decision was to reduce it to pizza sauce.  Seven half pints were canned plus one left out for dinner.  I had them about half canned when I remembered that I hadn’t added citric acid or lemon juice, so pulled them from the canner and we left to take a walk in the woods and around the pond.

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The pond always had a dozen or so geese and ducks, but this huge flock must be passing through and taking a feed and rest break.  There must have been more than 100, diving and honking at each other.

The walked relieved my frustration at myself for forgetting the lemon juice and once home, each jar was unsealed and reheated, lemon juice added and re-canned with fresh lids.

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Other than enchilada sauce once the Anaheims are all dry and toasted, the canning is done for this year.  There are many jars of Rotel style tomatoes for chili, plain canned tomato sauce, pizza sauce, apple sauce, bbq sauce, and jams to enjoy this winter.

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The remaining cup of sauce with the local sausage, fresh mozzarella, Farmer’s Market red onion, our own green peppers and pizza was made.  The trouble with making it is that one pizza is too big for the two of us and neither of us like cold pizza, so we both always eat too much and one slice always goes to the chickens.

When I went to the fiber retreat last month, I came home with 2 pounds of fiber.  One pound was more of some that I had purchased at Shenandoah Fiber Festival as I decided to spin and knit myself another sweater.  The other pound was a light green alpaca/merino blend.  Almost half of that has been spun and is to be plyed.

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4 ounces

Once it is plyed, I think I will change colors for a while.  Tomorrow I am going to introduce spinning to a new wanna be spinner.  Hopefully she will fall in love with the art as I have.  And later this month, I have two new wanna be’s to teach.

 

A week on the farm – Oct. 26, 2018

Today was to be the Spirit Trail event at Wilderness Road Regional Museum, a fund raiser for the education program there.  I was to be in the old kitchen serving hot cider and playing with kids as they made corn husk dolls or besoms.  The event has outdoor actors and a horse drawn wagon ride.  The weather had other ideas.  The day started at 43ºf and heavy rain.  Both have held all day and the event has been postponed until Tuesday afternoon and evening.  Some of the characters won’t be able to reschedule, but it will still be a fun event.

After two days of garden and fence work earlier in the week, followed by a couple hours wrestling the huge  Stihl line trimmer to beat back areas that have been neglected most of the summer, I was beat.  Yesterday, chest muscles and lower back revolted and said take a day off.

 

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Yesterday morning was spent knitting on an Asymmetrical scarf from some of my hand spun merino/bamboo, followed by a grocery run and dinner prep of a cold weather treat of Stout Beef stew.  While the stew simmered, enough energy was rallied to do a bit of mowing and bush-hogging.  Hubby had started at the top of the property and worked his way down to the house while I was fencing.

Last evening as we sat down to enjoy the stew, our hay man arrived and began bush-hogging the fields.  About a quarter was done before it got too dark and today too wet.  We will work areas that he can’t do with his 10′ machine and once done, the mowing will be done for the winter.

There are still two sections of fence to be taken down and one to erect when the weather improves this weekend or next week.  Most of the creeping charlie was covered with tarps, cardboard, and paper feed sacks to try to kill it off.

My favorite jam from this year’s prep was Asian Pear Orange Marmalade.  The recipe only made a few half pint jars and I knew it wouldn’t last the winter, even using it sparingly and interspersed with raspberry, wildberry, or grape ones I kept.  As pears are still available, a couple pounds of Bartletts were purchased and another batch this time Bartlett pear orange marmalade was made today for the shelf.  It again only made 5 half pints, but so delicious.

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The chicken molt seems to be ending, the coop and pen no longer look like daily pillow fights, but egg production hasn’t picked back up.  The daily count is zero to 3.

Now is time to sit back with the garden plan, the seed catalogs as they come in and plan next year.  It is also time to get more knitting and spinning done for Christmas gifts and for holiday craft shows.

 

Olio – 10/16/2018

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things

Time goes on, the summer and garden fading rapidly with seasonable though still damp days and chilly nights.  Sweater weather, just in time to wear the newly finished sweater of yarn spun by me and then knitted by me.

my sweater

It now sports deer antler buttons made by one of my daughters in law and the sleeves were lengthened from the 3/4 length they were when this was taken to wrist length.  A nice addition to the sweater wardrobe of hand knits.

The past weekend was one of my favorites, a group of folks, men and women, have a fiber retreat in Tennessee.  The trip there was dicey as the remnants of Hurricane Michael made their way here the morning I was to leave and the first couple of hours of westward travel on the interstate were in heavy rain and the always present semi trucks spraying the water back up as fast as it fell.  The retreat is at a state park with delightful cabins in the woods and a conference center that accommodates the 30 or so participants who come to knit, crochet, spin, and other crafts such as spoon carving, needle felting.  I attend as a participant and a vendor, selling soaps, salves, yarn, buttons, and knitted items.

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There are classes, Brioche knitting, and yoga for the hands then later for the neck and back.  It felt so good after those classes I wanted to adopt the instructor and bring her home with me.

One optional activity was making  a My Word token.  Cards are used to ask questions to help you select your word.  My choice was a reminder to myself, the word CALM.  To look at when I am stressed, to remind me to take a deep breath, possibly practice some of the yoga.

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Once home after the long weekend, relaxed and calmed, the car unloaded, the accounting done, some inventory taken, prices adjusted prior to the next event in a month, I reorganized my spinning wheels so they can be used, not just admired.

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This is big sis and little sis, the two quill wheels.  One a large walking wheel, the other a smaller sitting hand operated quill wheel.  The little Spinolution Pollywog, Miss Polly, sits by my chair with the box loom nearby for my daily craft release.

As fingerless mitts and hats were sold, knitting of more for the fall markets is underway.

One of the items I have wanted for the house is a moveable kitchen island.  There really isn’t room for a large one, but yesterday, the one below popped up on my Facebook marketplace and the price was too good to pass up.  We drove an hour to see it and because the folks are downsizing and knew how far we drove, they knocked the price down even further.  The cabinet came home, fits nicely behind the couch, will provide more cabinet storage for counter top appliances not used daily, and a serving area for holiday meals.

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It is a little low to work on but counter space isn’t a problem if I move some of the counter top appliances, and it can be used for cooling bread or canned jars to keep them out of the way.

The chickens are in hard molt, eggs are scarce, but feathers are not.  There is some new feather growth being seen.  If they don’t all freeze this weekend, they should begin to fill out again soon and some egg production return.  It is about time to get new chicks for the spring egg laying and retire these girls.

Peace and calm until next time.

 

Garden Quirks – 8/11/2018

Each year the garden has some thrivers and some fails.  Usually the tomatoes overwhelm, the peppers keep me busy canning and fermenting sauces, but the cucumbers and pumpkins are just so, so.

This year, the tomato plants stayed small and then the blister beetles came and a deer is getting in at night, the electric charger needs a new battery and the wire needs to be restrung.  As a result the tomato harvest is puny.  I have one overstuffed 2 gallon bag of them in the freezer awaiting processing, but it is only going to be one canning of pasta sauce this year which is sad.

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The 4 X 8 foot bed is sparse and has few tomatoes.

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The ones I am getting have to be picked under ripe and ripened in the window, or I find this.

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A half eaten, smashed red tomato a foot or two from the bed in the wide aisle.

The cucumber vines are lush and loaded with blooms, several jars of pickles have already been fermented and hopefully, many more will follow.

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The sole pepper in the lower right corner is supposed to be a serano, the one that didn’t fit in the bed with the others and was planted with three anchos that failed, but the peppers on it look like anchos, not seranos, they are a large tapered  slightly flattened cone.  The jalapeños and seranos in the adjacent bed are beginning to produce.  As the weather cools, hopefully there will be enough to provide sufficient jars of pickled jalapeños for my hot pepper loving husband and son.  The tags on the starts must have been mixed up because at least one of the seranos in that bed is producing a pepper that is either going to be a cayenne or Tabasco, they are too small to tell yet.  I should just start my own seed, but haven’t had much luck doing that in the past.  They sprout and in spite of my grow light, get too tall and leggy.  After getting hardened off and planted in the garden, they usually fail and I end up buying from a Farmers’ Market grower but then sometimes don’t get what I thought I was buying.

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The pumpkin vines are starting to fade and they are covered with juvenile stink bugs so I cut the three pumpkins that were ripe and hope for a couple of pies at the holidays and maybe one stuffed with rice, veggies, and a bit of sausage.  There are still a few about the size of navel oranges out there, we will see if they mature enough to harvest.  The vines are going to get sprayed with Neem oil today to see if that will reduce the stink bug load.

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Planting two of the beans sprouted nicely.  We should still have 6 to 8 weeks before frost date, sometimes more and hopefully will get enough to enjoy and to freeze.

We went down to the Agricultural Fair this morning to watch some of the horse events.  Our former riding instructor was the judge for the events and we reconnected with her and may start taking lessons again after our vacation.  After watching events we went over to see the results of the display judging and to determine if I wanted to enter in any other categories next year.  I won, I won, two blue ribbons for my two entries of hand knitted shawls, one a modified pattern, the other of my design.  I am so excited.

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Next year I will enter that category again with other items and think I may enter some of my preserves and or sauces as well.  I don’t think my produce is sufficient to enter and my flowers are certainly not show quality except for some day lilies that are bloomed out by fair time.  I will display the ribbons on the items until they sell, then just hang them on my stall at craft shows.