Category Archives: Fiber Artistry and Equipment

End of week 9-16-2017

This has been a crafty week ending with a good session on the tractor to beat the too tall grass back to a reasonable length.  The unused chicken run is going to require the weed wacker and this body is just not up to that this afternoon.  Our house sits on a slope that has the main floor at ground level on the front and on the second level on the back.  To mow with the tractor first requires that the gas powered lawn mower (not self propelled) be hauled out and a couple of swipes around the house along with a couple of areas that the tractor can’t reach, must be done.  The typical mowing is 4 or 5 acres, around the orchard trees, the garden and chicken runs, and the front, back, and side yards.  The area that is hayed and we usually brush hog in the fall is going to be hayed this fall, taking this task from me this year.

The crafting has involved designing two new patterns for fingerless mitts for the shop. The patterns have been shared with a few friends, I am hopeful that if they knit them, that they will alert me to any miscues that might surface.  Also this week,  3 batches of Shea based cold process soap, and a couple dozen tins of salves and balms were made for the shop and the upcoming shows.

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The lower ones are for me, though I will knit a pair or two for the Holiday Markets as well.

A few weeks ago, a friend asked if I could make a particular hat for her grand daughter who is turning 1 soon and has yet to grow hair.  The project was quick and sent to the friend, who in turn sent it to her daughter.  The photo credit is from her daughter, they were very pleased with the results.

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And then today was Worldwide Spin in Public Day, and my new Spanish Peacock drop spindle accompanied me today as we went to our usual Saturday morning breakfast and Farmers’ Market trips.

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A busy week.  Tomorrow the garden and a batch of pickles will be the focus.

End of Week – 9/10/2017

The cruise obviously did not happen.  We are safely in our Virginia mountains, not at sea.  We will use our credit to try again in the spring when we are out of hurricane season.  Since we are home, we took advantage to make a short trip to Meadows of Dan to supply with Bent Mountain cabbages, Virginia apples, and Ashe County cheeses from the Poor Farmers Market.  This was done after our morning trip to our local Farmers Market yesterday.

Each day we try to take a brisk walk to improve our stamina and help both of us shed a few pounds.  Yesterday was a home football game, bringing thousands of extra people into the small town, making traffic miserable, especially as the main bypass road around the town is in the midst of construction, repaving great sections and a new interchange at the campus.  This has made travel even more miserable.  With no place to park on football days, we missed our walk yesterday but enjoyed getting away from it.

The apples purchased yesterday were processed today to make two batches, a total of 15 pints of spiced applesauce.  It is cooling from the canner to be labelled tomorrow and added to the shelves in the basement for our winter enjoyment.

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Two of the cabbages were slated for kraut.  One of our favorite winter dishes is pork chops seared then topped with applesauce and sauerkraut and slow cooked in the dutch over.

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Two half gallon jars are fermenting on the counter.  If I can stir up another wide mouth half gallon, the third cabbage may also become sauerkraut as one of these jars will be packed in pints or quarts and given to eldest son and his family once it is fully fermented.

Tomorrow, a couple of flats of jars will be purchased for another prep of salsa and an attempt at making Asian Pear Butter.  Once that is done, the fading tomatoes will be pulled and that bed seeded with a cover crop.  The peppers are being allowed to ripen to red before making a batch of Sriracha style sauce and for drying to use in enchilada sauce this winter.  The corn stalks are about to be pulled for fall decoration, the fall radishes and turnips pulled for salads and kimchee.  The sweet potatoes will be left until the first frost is threatened, then dug.

The young hens are now giving us 9 to 12 eggs each day.  The old hens have all but quit laying and some appear to be beginning to molt.  They have had a good life and will be humanely killed soon to be stew chickens.

On the craft front, I have spun little since I returned from the retreat, but I have been working on designing a fingerless mitt pattern.  I think I have gotten it all figured out and written up.  Here is a peek of the finished mitt.

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They should soon be in the shop.

 

Away, Far Away – 8/28/2017

Life continues to spiral away, hopefully to slow a bit now that the grands are back in school as of this morning.

The eclipse provided a great science lesson last Monday, with eclipse viewing glasses thanks to eldest son and the grands’ other grandma, reflections caught through the broken clouds in a planter saucer of water.

Daughter having to take a day off so we could do more appointments.

More canning, lots of Jalapeños.  Tomatoes being frozen to peel and process this week after more jars are acquired.

Pullets figuring out the egg deal and thus many to deliver to folks who appreciate their efforts as much as we do.

Relearning an old skill, Tunisian Crochet.  Another way to use some of the yarn I spin, but I am so slow with it still.

And a couple days of R & R away for me, friends and fiber, to my favorite fiber retreat, The Knotty Ladies (though there are a couple of guys that are there too).  It is an opportunity to vend my shop as well and yarn, stitch markers, soaps, and salves sold, though none of the knit wear, but then again, everyone in the room knits, spins, crochets, weaves, felts, or some combination of those arts.   A generous skein of sport weight Hebridean was spun and 12 ounces of the softest Merino/Alpaca blend of fiber purchased and one skein of it spun.  There may be a sweater in my near future.

Finally back home to my family and my own bed.

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More Smithfield – 8/16/17

Another opportunity to educate.  The teacher may retire, but never gives up teaching.  Today was a special event on a day that Smithfield is normally closed, but was booked for a USDA event in cultural awareness.  They specifically asked to have as many of the craft volunteers available as possible.  One of the blacksmiths and his wife who assists him are retired.  The lace maker was able to get the afternoon off, and I am retired, as are several of the docents that give the historical tour of the inside of the house.  Though there are several areas in which I can sit and spin, the winter kitchen in the main house, the large shaded side porch of the house, my favorite is the slave cabin that itself has a history, having been moved at least twice and houses the huge functional Appalachian Rocker Loom, a non functional weasel, a non functional great wheel, and the accouterments of the slave household.  This location allows a sharing of slave life on the plantation as well as history of spinning and demonstrating fiber prep and spinning on spindles and one of my wheels.

Today’s fiber for prep was some of the Dorset that I washed from raw and am still carding for spinning, and it was used with the drop spindles. Combs or a teasing board are going to be needed to get that done.  For spinning on the wheel, I used some of the Hebridean from Hebridean Woolshed in Isle of South Uist.  My bucket list contains a trip to Scotland to visit them.  One skein of that wool was finished last night so the visitors could see the unspun wool and yarn from the wool.

Each visitor from the group today thanked the volunteers for giving up their day for them and at the end of the day, each of us was presented with a thank you gift, a small burlap sack with bread, honey from Virginia, Peanuts from Virginia, and a few apples.  A delightful and pleasant surprise.

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Kitchen Alchemy and Camp – July 25, 2017

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This is the time of year that the herbs and wild plants that are used in the salves, balms, and some soaps in the shop are growing and being harvested.  Once a batch is dried, jars of the herbs and the oils that make the infused oils are started.  Sometimes they are suntea processed in a window sill for a month or so, but sometimes one or more are needed sooner than that and they are infused in a makeshift double boiler system for 3 hours.  Once the infused oils are made and cooled, they are strained into a clean jar and the portion needed measured out and rewarmed to melt the organic beeswax needed to make the oil into a salve or balm.  Before our weekend away, a kitchen alchemy session was conducted and several salves resupplied, labelled, and put in the shop.  Some of the oils are needed for the Mountain Makings camp that is in session this week.

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Today was day 2 of their camp, my first of two sessions working with the young ones.  My friend, Jennifer, and I worked with them last year and again today.  The children are 7 to 12 years old and all very involved in the activities.  We had a very brief discussion of spinning and how  and why it was used in past generations.  They were each given a few ounces of hand dyed fiber and a hand made drop spindle, an improved version of last year’s with a heavier whorl.  One parent was fascinated with this portion of their program today and stayed.  She was given a spindle and fiber and followed right along with the children, making her first spindle full of yarn singles.  After the spindles were all being used without too much more assistance, they put them down and each were given a packet that contained a cardboard loom, weaving needles, yarn, and an instruction sheet for reference at home and they began a small wall hanging that they wove themselves.  Once they were all working well with that, we moved to our spinning wheels and gave each child an opportunity to spin a long enough singles to double it back on itself to create a length of hand spun yarn that they can use in their weaving.  At the end of the day, they will go home with their spindle and fiber, their loom, yarn, and weaving needles.

Tomorrow, I will return alone to take the children on a plant walk to identify some of the plants that can be wild harvested for their salve making.  They will get a handout of plants, their uses, and recipes for making the infused oils and instructions on making a salve.  We will make salves together and they will take home a tin or jar of their salve.

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Once home today, with a clear bobbin on the wheel, I tackled a one pound bag of raw alpaca locks that I had purchased at the Farmers Market earlier this spring.  I have never spun raw unwashed fiber before, but the alpaca lacks the lanolin of wool and other than picking out some vegetable matter, it is clean to spin.  The fawn colored alpaca is from “Graham” an alpaca living at Poplar Hill Alpacas, a local farm.  It will be plyed with a brown ply from another local Alpaca farm.  This yarn will be knit into fingerless mitts for the Holiday Markets.  If enough is spun, perhaps a hat will be made to match.

And So It Begins Again – July 12, 2017

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The big pots and canner brought down from the high shelves where they rest between seasons.  At the end of the growing season last year, I ran out of jars and energy to can any more tomatoes, so 6 or so gallon bags were frozen.  Instead of using them first, which would have been the wisest thing to do, the canned jars of sauce and tomatoes were used and all winter and spring, the bulky bags of little frozen orbs were shifted around the freezer.  When the last jar of pasta sauce was opened, I decided to make a big pot of sauce from the remaining tomatoes, but chose to only use the spaghetti cooker and ended up using only a few bags of the tomatoes.  That sauce was frozen in wide mouth pint jars and most of it has been used as it takes about 3 pints to feed the 6 of us and 3 pints to make a large lasagna.  This morning, while looking for some chops to thaw for Jim’s dinner, one of the bags of tomatoes fell out of the freezer.  It was time to make them go away, but in a useful way.  After swim lessons, a roving dyeing session, some computer help for Jim, the tomatoes were tackled.  As they had been frozen whole in their skins, I knew that the skins would be tough, but I didn’t want to water thaw and peel 3 1/2 gallons of tomatoes, so they were just dumped into a huge pot to thaw.  The food mill was hauled down and the thawed tomatoes run through a fairly coarse blade to rid the pot of skins.  The remaining sauce was thickened slightly and 9 1/2 pints of sauce processed.  Most of it was canned so it is shelf stable, but the canner only holds 8 wide mouth pints, so the remaining pint plus will go in the freezer, a much smaller space consumer than the bags of frozen tomatoes.

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The new fresh tomatoes are just beginning to come in for this year, so far only a handful of small slicers, but the plants are heavy with fruit, so canning of tomatoes, sauce, and salsa will soon commence.

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The roving dyeing session was done as the camp that I will teach begins soon and the kids find the colors more fun than plain white roving.  Three pans were dyed, blue and purple, blue and yellow, yellow and tomato red.

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A dozen drop spindles have been made for them to each have one to keep.  Last year’s version was a bit too light for the beginners, so this year, I sought larger wooden truck wheels and slightly larger shafts so they spin longer.  My friend that works with me, bought small weaving looms for them as well.  We will take our spinning wheels and each child will be given the opportunity to make a strand of singles which we will double back on itself to make them a strand of yarn.

I still need to go through some of my commercial  yarn to help warp the looms and for them to use as weft to weave a small project.

The other prep is for the other day that I will work with them on herbal medicine.  The plantain leaves and the calendula flowers have been brewing in oil for many weeks now, the handout for the plant walk and instructions on how to use various wild and cultivated plants for food or medicine has been prepared, but still needs to be printed out for them.

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Whew, what a week – July 10, 2017

What a whirlwind the past week.  The garden has been neglected as the only time I was home to work on it, it was either raining or too hot to want my fair skin out in the sun.

Last Monday, eldest continued on the high lifter, staining high parts of the house while I worked on removing screens, staining the windows that tilt inside, passing supplies out the window from the upstairs to him on the lifter bucket.  We moved the lifter as night fell up to the gravel of the driveway before the predicted rain was due.

Tuesday, being Independence Day in the USA, the historic house, Smithfield House, where I go to spin in costume, held a 4 hour celebration of the day with hourly cannon fire, apple pie contest, reading of the Fincastle Resolution and the Declaration of Independence, re-enactors, the blacksmith, weavers, spinners, tours, and fun by all.

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Wednesday it rained and we stayed home with the grands, getting them to their evening Taekwondo classes.

Thursday, they were loaded in our car and off we drove east nearly 3 hours to meet youngest son and his family who drove west about 3 hours and met in Charlottesville to let the cousins play, us to get some snuggle time and to visit with our son and his wife for a late morning, lunch, and early afternoon before the trips were reversed back to our respective homes.

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The car time allowed knitting time as I rode passenger and good progress was made on the fingerless mitts to go with the Fiesta hat from the playful handspun yarn.  The second mitt was finished yesterday.  The set has been uploaded to my shop for sale.

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Friday was laundry and get my act together day as Saturday, Jim and I were taking off in opposite directions for the weekend.  He left on the BBH for a very long ride with his club.  They went way west in the state to various sights and parks and to overnight in a hotel in Norton, Virginia.  I got the groceries for the week purchased, brought home and put away and then took off north to eldest son’s house.  They were not home when I got there, though their car’s were, so I settled in the cool quiet and knitted on the second mitt and spun on a drop spindle.  Finished a novel I had been reading, but it wasn’t worth a review or the time spent reading it.

Sunday, their young one had archery day at the Isaac Walton League facility and I went with daughter in law to watch that while son went with another group from the league to pick up trash from the road into their community.  Sunday afternoon, son, young one, and I drove south about an hour and a half to the American Shakespeare Center’s Blackfriar’s theater to see Love’s Labors Lost in that wonderful setting, the second one that I have had the opportunity to see this summer.  We were fortunate to be seated on three of the Gallants’ stools, the 12 stools on the side edges of the stage.  It was such a great experience, being right there in the action, seeing the facial expressions, having lines spoken directly to you.

After a couple of days and nights away, a drive home early this morning to help with the summer’s swim lessons for the grands and back to the “normal” routine here, I am worn out.  As I went out to secure the hens and pullets near dark, my one little pullet that wants a nightly hug awaited me outside the coop.  In the several years of raising chickens, she is the first that wants to be handled.

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Though the rest of the week is supposed to be record hot, I hope to get the yard mowed, the chicken runs trimmed with the string trimmer, the garden weeded, the onions and garlic pulled and cured and perhaps some other veggies that may have matured in our week of travel and chaos.

Back to Crafting

The shop soap supply was getting low, so 4 batches of soap have been recently made.  Two of them are the same scent, as eldest son and family will get a full batch of one of those scents.

A decision was made recently to change the name of the shop to Cabin Crafted Soap and Yarn Shop and to be more creative on my balms and salves, identifying them by use, not by name.  The new logo requires a huge THANK YOU to my artist daughter-in-law who drew it for me.  I really didn’t want to keep using clip art of unknown origin.  Last fall just before the Holiday Markets, I tried new packaging for the soaps, using cello bags sealed with ingredient labels with the soap type on a front label and putting one of each scent in mesh bags so they can be smelled.  It bothered me to have all of the bars bare and handled by many people as they tried to decide on a scent.  This choice seemed more professional and still attractive.

New business cards are being designed using this new logo as well.

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There are still some of the old lotion bars, Citrus, unscented, and Cedar/Rosemary/ Thyme that will be offered on sale reduced to clear the stock.  Also there are some pure salves, comfrey, arnica, and calendula that will be reduced as well.  They are in the 2+ inch size tins and can be purchased on the shop site.  The shipping cost is per order, not per item and is priority shipping in the USA.  International shipping unfortunately is higher.

Flag Day at Smithfield – 6/11/2017

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Today was such a fun experience.  All along the fence posts were flags from various battles, regiments, units.  There were two encampments of re enactors, the Rebs above with their formations and cannon which was fired off every hour on the hour from 1 when the activity began until 4.

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The Union encampment was up by the blacksmith shop.

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Under the trees was a quilt with period wooden toys and two of the re enactor’s daughters who would demonstrate the toys and let adults and children play with them.

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Josh was in the blacksmith shop pounding with heavy mauls on hot metal on the anvils.

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I held my usual station in the Summer kitchen spinning local wool and discussing slavery, the summer kitchen, the slave cottage structure, the slave garden, and the spinning and weaving arts and how they were used on the plantation.

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Day lilies blooming just outside my door.

The house tour and all of the other activities were included in the gate fee today, including a dance and concert from 4:30 to the end.

During the afternoon, a skirmish occurred using the back and sides of the slave cabin for protection with much blackpowder gunfire.  I had several of the blacksmith’s children trapped in the cabin with me by the “fight.”  At one point, the cannon was pointed down in the direction of the Union soldiers hiding behind the cabin and fired.  It was loud when it was across the yard and pointed away from the cabin and deafening when fired in my direction.  The Rebs came down as a unit and apologized to me after it was over for not warning me ahead of time that a battle was to ensue. They didn’t know anyone was in the cabin.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay for the dance and concert as after leaving a fun filled day, I drove to eldest son’s house and am now sitting by the creek where I will spend the next few days prior to our backpacking trip next weekend.