Category Archives: Fiber Artistry and Equipment

Way Over Due – 4/18/2019

It is definitely spring cleaning time.  With two big dogs in the house, the house closed up for winter, living on a gravel driveway off a gravel road,  and recovering from the concussion I got in our accident in February, the house was in sad need of a major overhaul.  I can vacuum and dust daily and still it accumulates way faster than I can keep up.  The HVAC guy came last week for the spring service and put a new filter in, but still it accumulates.  Starting this morning in our bathroom, it got a deep clean.  The later morning and afternoon were dedicated to deep cleaning the loft and our bedroom.

The loft is our computer, TV, and my crafting area.  I recently decided that I had accumulated too many spinning wheels, and a few other crafty things that are just gathering dust.  Three wheels and some other items were listed for sale on various sites.  I want to keep my Great Wheel and one wheel that can be used at home and at historical demonstrations and have room to set my triloom up so I can use it.  The first order of business was to get 4 more cube bins for the cube storage unit.  Everything was removed from it and from the bookcase and also from a smaller folding bookcase in our bedroom.  They were wiped down with a damp rag and organization was accomplished.  The cube unit with it’s bins now holds all of my handspun yarn that isn’t for sale, the small amount of mill spun yarn that I am keeping, including a bit from a fiber and yarn dyer friend that recently passed away.  The remaining 4 bins have roving and clean fleece that are awaiting spinning.

The smaller shallow bookcase actually has the books for knitting, spinning, basket making, and Zentangle.  It is a very shallow bookcase, but it also holds a few small shipping boxes for my shop, the Shop files, and a couple of baskets that are currently not needed.

The larger bookcase has a bin of tools for making labels for the shop, one of knitting  tools and stitch marker making supplies, one of my wool samples for camps and classes to show the different breeds, and one for bags, paint for signs, and brushes.

The top of the two bigger units hold my lazy kate, skein winder, and ball winder.

IMG_20190418_190545

Everything has a place, it’s very own place, and I can find it.

I only have two baskets by my chair at this point, one for spinning tools and current spinning fiber and one for my Hap Shawl that I am knitting from the Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em skeins that I spun.

IMG_20190418_190608

Everything got a good dusting including all the other furniture upstairs.  Vacuuming with the big Dyson and in tight spots with the hand held Shark.  One of the big dogs is an English Mastiff.   They are prone to drool and shake their head, so slime gets in places like walls.  The hall and stairwell walls got a thorough scrubbing as well.

My sewing area in the bedroom still needs a bit of work, but I am in the midst of a project there, so it will get done soon.

If the wheels sell, I will have room for my loom to be set up, a project using some of the Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em yarns that were too bulky or too fuzzy for the shawl is developing.    Some of it will have to be dyed and some Merino top also needs to be dyed before my next vending event in May.

At last weekend’s event, a friend who with her husband are suttlers at Rev. War events suggested she could sell some of my soaps and salves.  A display box was set up that they can drop into one of their totes and will be delivered to her in a couple of weeks.  That got me organizing my products for upcoming shows and events and I took the time to update my Etsy Shop and do inventory.  Those records are now accurate.  It has been a busy couple of days.  The main floor of the house still needs a thorough cleaning and we have a couple of rainy, windy days coming up, so it will probably get done.

Conserving rare breeds – 4/12/2019

Over the past several months, I have done several blog posts on a Challenge sponsored by The Livestock Conservancy, an organization that promotes heritage and rare (endangered) breeds of livestock.  The challenge is regarding sheep and is called Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em. A local shepherd friend that raises two of the rare breeds asked me if I was interested in such a challenge last summer to which I responded I was.  She kept me informed of the progress of the initiation of the challenge and as soon as it looked like it was going to begin and shepherds had the verification stickers for the passport for which we registered, I started buying wool and began spinning.

My nature, is perhaps unfortunate in that I can be very competitive.  As a result, I sped through 15 breeds in just a few months, completing in 3 months what they were seeking in 3 years.  It hasn’t stopped me, as I have purchased half a raw fleece for number 16, was gifted 3 raw fleeces of rare breeds by a friend which I am washing, combing, and spinning even though they are ones I had already submitted.

During the past several weeks, the Conservancy posted a series of questions to fiber providers and another series of questions to fiber artists and I responded to the questions thinking they were for statistical purposes.  This morning, I was asked for some photos of myself and my projects and what my blog URL was as I had done a couple of blog posts about the program.  With my return email of the requested information, I said I was now getting curious and the responding email was a link to the Livestock Conservancy blog, featuring me with permission to share.  Wow, what a surprise and a treat for a rainy day.

If you are a knitter, weaver, crocheter, felter, spinner and you haven’t heard about this challenge, I encourage you to join the Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em facebook page, join the challenge and have fun with the various breeds.

Old Dog, New Tricks – 3/4/2019

The saying goes that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.  I am trying to prove that adage incorrect.

One of the breeds that I ordered for Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em was raw Florida Cracker.  Not having much success in the past with raw fiber, I was determined and watched several YouTube videos, talked with some more experienced folks and tackled the job.  Four washings, several rinses, a good drying, and I had a box full of locks with lots of tips that were tightly and stiffly bound together.

IMG_20190304_100034

I don’t own combs or a drum carder, just hand cards and a blending board with an extra flicker brush.

IMG_20190303_145642

Last night, I tackled the box and started producing rolags.  Now mind you, I am no expert with the hand carders, I “use” them when doing demonstrations for living history as a spinner, usually only having roving on hand and pretending to prepare the wool into rolags from which I then spin.

My first card full left me with hard tips still in the rolag, FAIL.  Then I started opening the tips with the flicker, turning the lock around to loosen the cut end and filling the carder.  I was producing rolags, not very pretty, but usable.

IMG_20190304_100039

The fiber releasing quite a bit of grit as I card it, but is spinning into a nice even relatively fine singles.  The finished yarn is going to need not just a soak after finishing, but a good wash.

IMG_20190304_100045

I think my next fiber preparation equipment is going to be combs.

Lesson learned is that you can teach an old dog new tricks, but more practice is needed.  I have a raw Jacob fleece awaiting my new skills.

Fiber and Fun – 3/3/2019

This was the weekend of the February fiber retreat at Hawk’s Nest.  I went as a participant and as a vendor with soaps, salves, lotion bars, yarn, antler buttons, hand dyed Merino top, knitted, and woven wearables.  This retreat is held at the lodge of a state park in West Virginia, about 2 hours from home if I don’t stop on the way.  It is a meeting of friends, lots of spinning and knitting time, socialization as we craft together, dine together, and have social hour before dinner.

IMG_20190301_142826

IMG_20190301_165443

I took several of the fibers for Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em and worked on producing yarn from part of the 10 ounces of Tunis and spun some Rambouillet Dorset wool just for a change and I think it will be plyed with the orange when it is all spun.

IMG_20190303_144354

IMG_20190303_144715

I haven’t spun enough of the Tunis to report it yet, nor have I finished all of the Rambouliett Dorset and need to spin the orange.  I don’t know what that 8 ounces of yarn will become when done, perhaps a woven shawl.

My only purchase was a Jacob pelt to pad my chair or warm my feet.  Such a soft lovely little pelt from Hearts of the Meadow Farm.

IMG_20190302_064846

It was a rainy drive home, but the car is unloaded, though not all put away.  Most of the accounting has been performed.  Once I am ready to spin some tonight, I will work on flicking, carding, and spinning this box of washed Florida Cracker locks.  When it and the Tunis are done, breeds 11 and 12 will be reported to SE2SE.

IMG_20190303_145642

I had a delightful weekend in a nice room with a bed just for me, all the amenities I could desire, but it will be nice to be home in my own bed tonight.

Lessons from Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em – 2/24/2019

I spent the last week a couple of towns over being grandmom in charge of two of the 7 grands while their Mom flew to Wisconsin for a week of training.  It gave me a fair amount of spinning and reading time during the 2 1/2 days they had school.  Monday was a holiday, Wednesday a snow day, and Thursday a late start.  The days allowed me to finish breeds 9 and 10 and begin breed 11 for the Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em challenge.

9 breeds. IMG_20190224_135458

 

Since this challenge started in January, I have spun from the Critical list; Gulf Coast Native, with Florida Cracker and Hog Island in my possession to still spin.  From the Threatened list; Dorset Horn, Jacob, Karakul, Leicester Longwool, Lincoln, Navajo-Churro, and Romeldale/CVM.  From the Watch list, I have Tunis from two  suppliers, as it’s texture and natural white color will be the center of my Hap that is the knitting project that some of these yarns will be finished into.  Also spun from the Recovering list is Shetland and a second 4 ounces of it was purchased as the main secondary color of the Hap.

As I have worked the various fibers, I have had to work on my spinning skills to use the best technique for each breed.  Several have required a long backward draw and lower twist reminding me to slow my treadling.  Some shorter fiber has forced me to use a short forward draw, which isn’t my preferred method due to arthritis in my right (lead) wrist.  I am left handed and have tried to learn to reverse hands, but have not been successful.  Some fibers have had a lot of neps, some of which I have not removed, making a more textured yarn than the yarn I usually spin.  Some of the yarns require that the yarn be spun heavier than I usually spin.  Over the years, my yarn has gotten to be an even, consistent yarn  rarely thicker than dk weight.

One of the fibers came as clean unprocessed wool and had to be carded to rollags, one had to be washed and awaits flicking the tips or carding.  Some have been pencil roving, a few more cloudlike.  It has been a good learning experience so far and I look forward over the next two years, obtaining and spinning the rest of the breeds.

My preference for spinning and knitting has been a medium length staple with a crisp finish, sweaters and shawls that I keep are always of these characteristics.  I don’t care to spin the very soft next to the skin breeds, though I do spin them and knit them for items for sale in my online shop.

My preference for pencil roving, thicker roving, batts, rollags, or spinning from locks is still undecided.  I guess that will be determined by the breed on hand.

And just for fun in the midst of the week, I finished spinning a 50% merino/50% silk blend that once washed will go to the fiber retreat next week with yarns for sale.  It is 126 yards of fingeringish weight yarn.  It will make a nice trim for a hat or scarf.

IMG_20190224_144502

Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em – 2/7/2019

I am a spinner, both drop spindle and on one of my 4 wheels that range from ancient to less than a year old.  I started spinning about a decade ago only on drop spindles and using easy to spin, clean, dyed wool and silk.  My knowledge of wool was that it came from sheep, little did I know how many different breeds of sheep there were and how different the properties of their wool varied.  Along the way, I did get introduced to Alpaca and helped with a couple of shearings, being rewarded with some of the fiber to spin.  Alpaca lacks the lanolin of sheep wool and is easier to clean and can be spun directly from the dirty locks and then washed as yarn.  But I prefer wool and have had my preference for the breeds that I spun.

IMG_20190206_092208


A couple of years ago, there was a new vendor at the weekly Farmer’s Market and she had yarn and roving as part of her goods.  The wool was a breed I had not spun, in fact, had never heard of and I made a new friend and learned about the breed that was on the Livestock Conservation list, Leicester Longwool.  I enjoyed spinning the wool I bought from her sheep being raised locally.  I have been to their farm, visited with their critters last spring when there were lambs bouncing around and one little beauty being bottle fed as she had been rejected by her mom.

This friend asked me this past late summer if I had any interest in participating in a project that the Livestock Conservancy was putting together that would allow using fiber from threatened sheep breeds.  This was perfect timing as there was so much contention with the anti wool ads that were being publicized. I said yes and she said she would share the information when it was getting going.  She did, the idea that you purchase a minimum of 4 ounces of wool or yarn, spin, knit, crochet, needle felt, or otherwise produce something with the wool.  When the wool is purchased, you get a sticker, and that sticker goes into a passport book that you get for registering as a fiber artist with the program.  The program is scheduled for three years and to earn a prize, you have to use at least 5 of the 22 Conservation Priority breeds.  I fell in hard and immediately ordered several wools I had never spun and finished the first 3 before I could even officially register to get my passport.

IMG_20190205_201131

The first three I spun were Jacob, Navajo Churro, and Shetland.  Shetland is the only one I had previously handled.  I enjoyed all three of these, really falling in love with Jacob.  As I started the fourth, Karakul, they opened the registration and I quickly sent my $15 to get the passport, a lapel pin, and more information which I am anxiously awaiting the arrival.

Last night I finished the Karakul, an ancient Asian breed that as lambs have a decent fleece, it is a primitive breed with a double coat and as they age, the coat often gets fairly coarse.  It is the wool of Persian rugs.  The Karakul 4 ounces was interesting to spin, feeling much like spinning flax or a horse’s tail, but the whole purpose of this is to experience the different breeds and to support them as they are all in need of conservation.

IMG_20190207_085658

Many of the fiber providers offer a breed card with information on the breed and how to spin it and some have offered small samples from a sheep of the same breed, but a different color than the one ordered.  I am using the card to hold a bit of unspun fiber, a bit of spun yarn, and either using the sample to make a mini skein or just winding off a few yards of the spun yarn to make a mini skein that I will be able to use when I do demonstrations or teach camps to show the different textures and natural colors of these Conservation Priority breeds.

My fifth breed, Romeldale CVM is currently being spun.  In my basket are Tunis, Clun Forest, Leicester Longwood (from my friend), Gulf Coast Native (which is raw and has to be washed and carded but also from a local farm), and on order is Lincoln.

My goal is to try to obtain and spin all 22 breeds within the three years.  The ones that aren’t so coarse that they must be felted or made into rugs, will be knitted into a blanket, probably a log cabin blanket for our log home.

Supporting this endeavor, the shepherds that raise these sheep, and helping to dispel the horrible inaccurate ads that shearing is wrong is such a delight.  Thank you shepherds for keeping my wheels and hands busy and helping the public see that fleece comes from a sheep, not a roll of plastic cloth.

The Hoops – 2/6/2019

When I started crafting for selling at venues, I realized that I needed to have a business name, registered for a small fee, that I had to decide whether to be sole proprietor or an LLC, and jump through the State’s hoops to get an EIN and pay state taxes. Toward the end of last year, I received a notification from our county asking me for an inventory and a list of my equipment used which they used to bill me Personal Property taxes.

As I also like to vend at a couple of out of state fiber retreats, I have to register my business with those states and pay their state sales taxes as well, thus another set of applications and more hoops.

I don’t understand why organizers of craft shows, festivals, and retreats don’t let the applicants/potential vendors know that this is a state requirement and that there really is no exception, that fines of $100/day up to $1000 are real possibilities for not doing so.  I think that many vendors operate under the misconception that if they are doing it as a hobby and selling things they make or if they make under a certain amount each year that they aren’t a business.  It would be nice if the states recognized Cottage Industries and exempted them from the red tape, but it isn’t so.

Once the hoops have been cleared, it isn’t such a big deal.

BeFunky-collage

Fiber Fun – Jan. 17, 2019

The past few days have been stay in and play with fluff days.  With one of the fiber retreats coming up in late February, I decided to dye some of the Merino that I acquired last summer after jointly sending two fleeces off  for processing.  Using my soap pots and food safe dye, I dyed three 4 oz braids.  Today they were dry and labelled.

IMG_20190117_203813

With them is a 205 yard skein of  Merino/Alpaca yarn that I spun that will go with 2 other 200+ yard skeins.  There are 3 more braids of Merino and one of Cormo to dye.  All of these will be for sale at the retreat.

Yesterday, two of my wheels, a bag and basket of fiber, tools, and drop spindles made by me were hauled over to Wilderness Road Regional Museum.  The museum is closed in the winter except for appointments, but three of the volunteers had been asking for spinning lessons and I went to provide some instruction.  They were each given a length of roving and a drop spindle and started on some basic drafting and spinning techniques after some wool sampling. They were then given the opportunity to work with one of the wheels, the walking wheel that I repaired there and my wheels.

IMG_20190116_141125

It was a fun time, spreading the knowledge.  After the lesson, another of the great wheels in the museum was repaired by me, so now two of the wheels there are functional.  A spindle has been ordered by me to repair the third walking wheel displayed there.  Having three functional great wheels there will mean I don’t have to haul mine over there for events.

Today, the ice from last weekend’s storm had mostly melted away, except for sheltered and shaded areas, like right in front of our garage, so we left to run errands and get groceries.  While we were out it started to snow again and the predicted trace was rapidly accumulating.

IMG_20190117_144049

We got home to this around 2:30 p.m. and by dark there were several inches on the ground and wintery mix to top it overnight.  We may awake tomorrow to a repeat of the weekend.  Sunday is supposed to start in the low 40’s and fall all day to 7ºf with a very cold Monday.

Recently, I signed up for a three year program called Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em, a project to promote threatened, endangered breeds of sheep.  Shepherds that raise those breeds join and sell fleece, processed fiber, or yarn and fiber artists spin, knit, crochet, felt, weave at least 4 ounces of as many of the breeds as they can obtain. I ordered 4 ounces of Jacob roving, a threatened breed from Hobbyknob Farm.  It arrived today and I spun the 1 ounce tri color part of it this evening.

IMG_20190117_153756 (1)

IMG_20190117_222116

There is a 3 ounce bump of gray roving to spin.  The Tri color spun to 64 yards of delightful fingering weight yarn.  Once the gray is spun, both will be knit into Fingerless mitts and a hat.

Today, I ordered 4 ounces of Romeldale CVM, another threatened breed from Marushka Farm.  It is fun to explore spinning and knitting some breeds that I have not previously used and supporting the continuation of these breeds.

Tomorrow, if the weather conditions and roads permit, we will drive back to Wytheville and I will put leathers and a drive band on the Great Wheel at the Edith Bolling Wilson Museum and try to get it functional.

Week on the Farm – 1/13/2019

With winter, not much goes on outdoors here on the farm.  The pullets have a usual routine of venturing out into the pen each day and back at night, they still won’t come when I shake the treat cup, so they can’t free range yet.  They have to be able to follow me back to the pen when the dogs are out.   There have been five days in the past couple of weeks where they remained cooped due to the very cold temperatures and for the past three days due to the winter storm and its coating of ice that has us encased.  We were in a winter storm watch awaiting several inches of snow.  It began as snow Saturday, getting a few inches then turned to a messy wintry mix overnight that melted most of the snow and left us with about a half inch of ice.

IMG_20190112_145000

With the cold hanging on, the ice is still here.  An attempt to check on the chicks on Sunday was a hazardous walk.  Monday, I chipped the ice off the car and carefully made my way to the cleared paved roads to get to daughter’s house so she could go to work and I stayed with the “snow vacationing” kids.  I left at dawn and returned near dark, so the chicks were left alone in the coop.  This morning it was time to go deal with them, though it was a very cold mid 20’s.  First order of business was to break up some of the spoiled hay bale outside their fence and get enough of it on the ice for them to venture out.  Ice chipped off their ramp so they didn’t slide out into the cold.

IMG_20190115_085638

They are busy exploring what seed or bugs they can find in the rotting hay while I tackled the inside of the coop to undo several days of confinement.  Their food was low, the water dispenser nearly empty, and the straw a fouled matted mess.  It is too cold to do a complete coop clean, but the old straw was forked out, new straw piled in, feed filled, and the water dispenser brought to the utility sink for a scrub down and refilling with warm water.  If it gets above freezing, I will go out and fill the black tub seen in the above photo with warm water also.  They went straight to it when I let them out, but I had dumped the ice disc out of it and not refilled it.

IMG_20190115_085645

They have clean dry quarters and a few warmer days ahead.

We did drive to the Edith Bolling Wilson Museum in Wytheville on Friday to see the exhibit and the living quarters that they plan on restoring, and to look at a great wheel that I am trying to restore as she kept sheep on the White House Lawn during the war and the museum promotes sheep and wool in the display.

IMG_20190111_131229

It is an intact, including spindle, old wheel that doesn’t line up quite right.  I have reached out to restoration experts and to an Antique wheel group to try to resolve that situation.  Later this week, I will return to put leathers and a drive band on it and see if I can make it spin wool.  Prior to that though, I am going to Wilderness Road Regional Museum to give spinning lessons to a couple of adults who are interested.

Today though, I am working on kettle dying some Merino top using Wilton Icing Color, a food safe dye that with a vinegar bath will dye animal fiber.  If I am successful with this batch, I will try more.  If not, daughter will get several little pots of the concentrated color for her cake decorating.

IMG_20190115_093801

This batch is cooling and I think the colors are softer than I wanted, so maybe more dye needs to be used in the next pot once this one has cooled.

The featured photo today is the ridge to the south, ice encrusted trees, the clouds lifting, and the sun trying to peek through.  That was short living, it is again thick and gray, but nothing wet or frozen expected for a couple more days.  Sunshine would be welcomed.

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.

IMG_20181214_093012

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.

IMG_20180317_160320

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.

IMG_20181211_185101

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.

IMG_20181213_161917

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.