Category Archives: Fiber Artistry and Equipment

Olio – May 29, 2017

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things.



Thursday we awoke to flooded creeks after a night of torrential rains.  After taking grands to school, I left hubby in charge and took off for a few days of R&R to spin at Hawk’s Nest with friends.  The New River was muddy, the clouds hung low that day but gave us beautiful weather for the other two days.  There are always critters on the lawn, lizards, raccoons, this time 4 baby groundhogs and their Mom.


I beat the rain home on Saturday night and woke to another nice day on Sunday.  My favorite guy hopped on his ride and took off for a bit.  My ride, the tractor, was driven out of the barn and the lawn was finally mowed.  A lazy dog as usual in the middle of floor for everyone to have to walk over.



The pullets spent 5 days locked in the hen house and while they were getting large enough for that transfer, the run got overgrown with lambs quarter and this morning when they were finally released to run, they were lost in the overgrowth.  One has already gone over the fence into the garden.


Today another great day and while my guy took off on another ride, the garden was finished except for the climbing beans that must wait for the corn to come up.  The three sisters garden was planted with 10 hills of sweet corn and 5 hills of heritage popcorn.  The potatoes in the barrels got another layer of soil and there are only about 3 more inches till the barrels are full.  The bush beans, tomatillos, and sweet potatoes were planted, bunny barrier installed around the beans, and all the beds weeded again.  The pumpkins are a couple of inches tall in little pots on the deck.  They will go into the garden in a few days. It will only require maintenance now.

5/22/2017 Garden Day

IMG_20170522_200005 IMG_20170522_195951


The morning came with light rain after the torrents of overnight.  The morning was dense with fog, but by noon, the sun began to come out and the garden and chicken run fencing called.  The posts were set yesterday for more than half of the second fence.  The first photo shows part of the run fences, but there wasn’t enough extra fencing to finish the job.  A roll of fencing will be purchased and the run completed.

Before leaving for the Spinning Retreat on Thursday morning, the teenage chicks will be moved into the big coop and left cooped up with food and water while I am gone.  The family will just have to make sure that their containers are filled daily, but the chicks will stay inside so that when I return on Saturday night or Sunday, they will be accustomed to their new abode.

Since the fencing job could not be completed and as the days of rain have caused the weeds to thrive, granddaughter and I tackled the garden beds again and weeded them, harvested the first radishes of the season, thinned the turnips.  Still having some energy, the rest of the corn and pumpkin patch, the three sister’s garden was dug in.  It has been pretty thoroughly weeded, but will still need a good raking to get the rest of the weeds and a few more rocks and then the hills made to plant the corn.  Tomorrow looks very rainy, but perhaps there will be a window of decent weather to get that done prior to my departure.


At the community open house on Saturday, I plied 350 yards of sport weight natural colored Leicester Longwool and began spinning the 8 ounces of Romeldale that I  had purchased recently.  The fiber is very soft, but has such a short staple that it is spinning into an extremely thin single.  That is a dime under the strand.  Because of the short staple, it doesn’t feel very soft spun.  It may bloom after it is plyed and  washed, we will see, but 8 ounces is going to make a lot of thin yarn.



5/19/2017 End of week Olio

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things.

Three or four years ago, my brother was making kitchen steps and selling them where he lived.  I requested one as my cabinets were built and hung by the Jolly Green Giant, aka eldest son who is considerably taller than I am and reaching items from the top shelf or the top of the cabinet required at least one step for me, though I am a tall woman.  Then the grands moved in and they needed the stool to even reach the counter tops.  The stool came to me with primer on it and in my laziness, it remained that way, though it was beginning to look pretty cruddy.  This morning, as a trip to Michael’s Craft store was in order, a bottle of Milk Paint Primer and a bottle of Port Milk Paint were purchased in addition to the little jar of Violet Cake Icing colorant.

First up upon arriving home was to soak a huge skein of sport weight handspun Leicester Longwool that I had spun a while back and while it was soaking in a citric acid bath, a pot for kettle dyeing was set up with some of the Violet colorant.  A friend had shown me some skeins that she had dyed this way and the way the color broke during the dyeing process fascinated me and I wanted to try it for myself.  When everything was ready to go, the skein was held with about half of if in the dye kettle and as soon as the color began to break, the rest was dropped into the kettle and submerged to simmer until the dye was absorbed by the yarn.  What a gorgeous skein it made.



The color breaks to a beautiful teal blue, even some of the yarn that was originally submerged in the violet showed the color break.  This photo doesn’t do it justice as it was still very damp.  There is another very large skein of the same weight almost finished spinning and it is going to be dyed the same way and the two worked together into something lovely to wear.

The garden has received no more of my attention in the past few days due to the heat and the intermittent thunderstorms.  It won’t get my attention tomorrow either, as there is an Open House at the Newport Community Center and I will be there spinning as one of the local Artisans.  The local blacksmith will be there, a used book sale, an art exhibit and sale by local artists, a silent auction by the children’s Loco Arts program, activities for the kids, and a pig smoked outside for BBQ.  Next week is to be more seasonal and as the bi weekly garden notice was received today telling me that the corn and tomatillos could now be planted outside, it really needs to get done and the pumpkins need to be put in little pots to give them a head start.


Fibers, yarn, handspun knitwear ready to go tomorrow.

Back to the stool.  After the dyeing was complete, the kitchen stool was thoroughly cleaned and received a coat of Milk Paint Primer and the first coat of the colored paint.

kitchen stool

Another coat of the Port color will be applied tonight and tomorrow if there is time or Sunday, the sealer coat will be applied.  It has only taken 3 or 4 years to get this done.  At the same time I bought the stool, I had my brother make me a spinning stool.  It was totally unfinished and it sat for about two years until it was finally given a Polyshade finish of Walnut.

spinning stool

It sits in my spinning area, sometimes used as my spinning stool, sometimes as my side table with a hand woven linen dresser scarf, made by a friend and won as a door prize at the spinning retreat we attend a couple of times a year.  She was excited that I won it, I was more excited that I won such a great gift.  She and I will be heading out later next week to attend the retreat.  It is normally held in February, but the lodge had HVAC failure requiring major reinstall and they moved us to May.  I am looking forward to seeing folks that are only seen a few times a year and having 3 full days of spinning and social time.


Recovery Day

It seems that after a day of toil in the garden, this senior citizen needs a rest day.  Yesterday was basically a nice day, mostly cloudy, but warm, but the body said no more.

The spring cover crop seed has arrived and it needs to be planted, but the area in which it is to go must be cultivated, sown, then raked. We don’t own a tiller, nor can either of us manhandle more than a small one at this point and the only other option is to take the 3 prong cultivator and do it by hand.  It is a large area and the tractor drove back and forth over it while clearing it and moving soil for the boxes, so it is fairly compacted.  Instead of tackling it yesterday, I opted to stay in and craft.  There is a good supply of Leister Longwool fiber from Sunrise Valley Farm locally and a plan still in place to spin enough to make me a sweater from it.  The first attempt was just too heavy trying to do Fair Isle with yarn that was at least light worsted weight.  One bobbin was full of a very fine singles and another was started.  By last night, the second bobbin had been spun and the two plyed into 405.33 yards if fingering to sport weight yarn.  If knit on slightly larger needles than that weight would normally call for, I think it will be a nice draping fabric for a sweater. There is a lot more of the fiber to go and more from this year’s shearing reserved for me.  More must be spun, about 3 or more skeins that size, a pattern selected, and a decision about whether to add color, keep it natural, or dye the completed sweater.



In the midst of the spinning, grand daughter announced that she was old enough to learn to knit and wanted to learn to spin.  The first knitting lesson was given with her sitting between my legs and me doing the wrap while she held both ends of the circular needle, picked up the next stitch, criss-crossed the ends in the right position, let me wrap, then over the top and off the needle.  She did a row and a half before her brother came home and she wanted to go outside and play.  She is in no way ready to knit on her own, but she is eager and understands what she has to do.

Also breaking up the spinning on the Louët, making the yarn for the sweater, continued practice occurs on the great wheel.  There are still a couple of issues that a solution evades me.  The post that holds the wheel if fully set causes the wheel to drag at one point.  If it is shimmed enough to allow the clearance, it tends to pivot slightly causing the drive band to walk off.  This requires fairly constant readjustment to prevent the drive band from falling.  The mother of all that holds the quill is slightly loose in it’s mounting and even the light tension required to draft the fiber causes it to pivot slightly which can also cause the drive band to walk off.  Both of these problems need to be solved, though the process of long draw spinning and winding onto the quill is getting more consistent.

Last night the wind howled and at first light when taking grandson to the bus stop, it revealed that both row cover domes had blown off the beds.  Once both kids were dispatched to bus and preschool, a bit of repair work was done, hopefully to stay in place during today’s continued cold wind.  Tonight is supposed to drop to 24ºf (-4.44c) and though there are no sprouts yet, the beds need protection.

The plum trees still need to be planted.  Maybe after lunch.

The March “Blizzard”

I know that points north of us have gotten and are still getting deep late winter snow.  We only got about 3 inches and the roads stayed relatively clear.  The snow is wet, sloggy snow.  The cedars and pines are heavy with the wet glop.  The snow less of a problem than the ice layer beneath it.  Brushing the snow off of the car revealed an ice glazed vehicle with doors frozen shut and ice glazed windows.

Our local county schools closed for the day, announcing last night, the other counties around us opted for a two hour delay which would have been a better option for here, but the western half of our county may have received more snow.  Granddaughter’s school in the next town was not closed and driving in it was apparent that they received much less than we did, and her teacher said she received even less in the valley.

It is enough snow that the cooped chickens will not go outside their coop.  Though it is not a practice employed often, their food and a bucket of water were put inside for them but the pop door open if anyone gets brave.  The 16 chicks are cozy in their brooder as we fortunately did not lose power.  Tonight we will build fires in the woodstove and fireplace to help take the edge off for the heatpump.

Tonight we are going to have the first of three nights of temperatures in the mid teens (-9ish C),  The ice glaze, snow melt during the day today, and plunging temperatures with more flurries due today, overnight and tomorrow, the roads are likely to be a slippery mess tomorrow, especially the mountain roads to get to the main road that is always well maintained for the truck traffic that uses it instead of staying on the interstate.

This school closure makes one more day to be made up.  The built in days have all been used and they are down 2 days now.  There may be another day or two built into their schedule.  It isn’t common to get much snow this late in the winter, but it is always a possibility with our last frost date not until near Mother’s Day.

At least the garden planning and indoor seed sowing doesn’t rely on what is going on outside, as it continues to flurry.  Of the 4 small sweet potatoes saved from last year’s crop, the two purple one have roots and shoots,  one of the orange ones has roots though the other one got mushy and had to be composted.

Sweet potatoes

As soon as the slips are large enough to root, they will be broken off and rooted.  I guess the orange ones are going to have to be purchased at the Feed store when they come in later this spring.

The birds have found the feeder that was hung earlier in the winter and is now frequented by Tufted Titmice, House finches, an occasional chickadee, and the tiny ground feeding juncos enjoying the spillage on the deck. One of the birdhouses on the garden edge deteriorated and fell apart last year so there was only one.  It  too needs repair, but as we have a couple of families of blue birds each year, we bought another box to mount on the second pole.  With all of the scrap lumber in the garage, I should be making them myself.  Perhaps this one will get measured and a plan drawn before it is fastened in the garden.


For now, it will be an indoor day with more cancer/heart health garlands being made for the yarn bombing efforts of a knitting group to which I associate.  Breast cancer, heart health, children’s cancers and melanoma sections have all been mailed off.  The skin cancer is about half done, crocheted this time, then on to white for lung cancer and a second skein of gold for children’s cancers.


Return to Novice Status

Old skills applied to old new to me toys make me feel like I’m learning all over again.

The little ancient Saxony wheel is up and running, or plodding.  The effort to keep it going wears my right hip out, but it will be authentic to the period when spinning in costume.  The first skein of yarn off of it is only marginally better than the first skein that I ever spun.


I have to admit, since I only had two bobbins and they were full of the singles, it was plyed on the Louet.  Now there are 3 bobbins.

The quill for the Great Wheel came and it was just an ornament for a few days while videos were watched and study of why the 49″ diameter wheel seemed to tilt inward at the top, causing the drive band to walk off.  It is difficult enough to learn a new technique when the equipment if functioning correctly.  It appears that the axle that holds the wheel on was not at right angle to the post holding the axle.  Upon close examination, it looked like a not very good repair had been made at some point and with much effort, half a dozen or so  old square headed nails were removed from around it, allowing it to be removed and reset at the correct angle.



A bit more effort and the wheel was remounted, but touched the supporting table.  More is being learned about antique wheel maintenance than I believed was possible.  The upright that holds the wheel had to be removed and shimmed so that the wheel cleared the table.  Tonight some singles have been spun on that wheel.  Not really the prettiest, but a beginning.


The other new fiber toy that came home the same weekend as the Great Wheel is the supported spindle.  That is another learning curve.  A drop spindle was the first spinning that I did and began doing it about 7 ot 8 years ago, but the support spindle is a different technique, so three new techniques to learn in just a couple of months.


There can be no more.  There is no more room to store and use the wheels and spindles, no room for other crafts in “my space,” a corner of the loft with my chair, three spinning wheels, Lazy Kate, Swift, spinning stool, bookcase of spindles and fiber books,  and crates of Cabin Crafted stock.


This is my cozy corner to learn, relax, read, spin, and knit.  Back to honing my skills so I don’t look like a total novice on April 1, the first day back at Smithfield Plantation.

Olio – March 3, 2017

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things.

It is March, the most changeable month of our seasons.  Three days ago it was in the 70’s, then the rain came, the wind blew, trees around the region fell and with them the temperature.  Today it is barely at freezing and this. . .


Yes, that is snow folks.  Only a light dusting, but this is what we expect this time of year, not 70+ºf.  Tonight it drops into the teens.  If the sun comes out, the garlic will get another blanket of hay or a piece of row cover to keep the 9 inch shoots from burning to the ground.  In town, the flowering almonds, daffodils, and forsythia are blooming. We have a young maple with flowers and tiny leaves.  It is weeks too soon.

The chickens fled back into their coop as soon as the flurries began this morning.  Those birds just don’t like snow.  The dozen new chicks get picked up in 10 days.  Their abode needs to be set up this weekend so that the warming table can get the environment right for them when they come home.  So far, Tractor Supply has done a great job of keeping me from buying a few Welsummers as the two times we have gone down, the bins have been empty.  It wouldn’t work out too well to have 4 chicks almost 2 weeks older than the tiny Buff’s coming home with us soon.  The brooder coop sides that remained plastic last year still need to be enclosed within the next 6 weeks.

Mother Earth News alerted me that the onion sets can be put out under cover.  To do that, another day of moving compost is in order.  There is still a big pile and 2 empty boxes to fill.

Over the winter, steps were taken to make spinning at the Smithfield Plantation House a bit more authentic.  Two antique wheels entered our home, both have had parts made or repaired by Bobbin Boy and returned.  The little Saxony style wheel, the older of the two spins.  The effort to spin on her is much greater than on the contemporary wheel, but yarn has been made.


It is a bit rougher than yarn generally spun by me, but it is yarn! Yesterday an attempt to spin on the great wheel was made.  Something isn’t aligned quite right and the drive band walks off the back edge.  The wheel does not have a groove and it was suggested that a beeswax paste be thinly smeared down the center to help hold it, but it still moves off the back.  It is hard to learn properly when so much attention is given to keeping the drive band string in place.  Also during the winter, additions were made to the costume that is worn while spinning at the plantation.  A Dormeuse/Mob cap, Apron, and Fichu/kerchief were added to improve the look.  A gown should also be worn, but that is not in the budget right now, plus it gets terribly hot in the weaver’s cottage during the summer months. Here is the new look.


One of the issues with the petticoat (skirt) was that it was one long panel with a single seam and a drawstring of ribbon.  It was awkward and bulky at the waist.  Some of the re-enactors and seamstresses on Ravelry, the social network for fiber artists, gave me some pointers on how to deal with that issue.  Yesterday, the drawstring was removed, the single panel split into two, hidden pockets added to the front panel and the side seams resewn to the bottom of the pockets.  Cotton twill tape was added to the tops of the two panels distributing the fullness and stitched in place.  The back twill is tied in the front, then the front overlaps the back a few inches on each side and ties in the back.  It is so much more comfortable and now I have pockets for my very nontraditional keys needed to get there and for my Hussif, a small needle book, that has needles, pins, thread, and my tiny scissors.


The Hussif, a contraction of the word housewife, was carried my many people, women of the house, pages, soldiers, and sailors.  It is a small rolled sewing kit.  Mine doubles as both a small sewing kit and a tiny knitting notions kit with the addition of a cable needle, a few stitch markers, needle gauge, and a tape measure.


Traditionally, each pocket was made of a different fabric and was used to contain the necessary tools of a sewing repair kit.

Participation as a historical spinner is encouraging me to learn more of the period, customs, and terms.  The location is beautiful, though earlier this week, a very old, maybe 300 year old maple tree on the property fell.  Not during the storm, which is probably a good thing, as with little wind, it fell away from the forge shop into the yard.  During the storm, it might have taken a different path down.  The lead blacksmith rallied a group and the trunk and larger branches have been salvaged and once dried, will be made into tables, benches, handles for tools and knives.  Saving a bit of the area’s old history.


Surprise Opportunities

Each year on this weekend in February, one of the spinning retreats dear to me occurs.  About a month ago, the group received an email from the organizer with the news that the state park facility where it is held had a major equipment failure affected the heating system and the lodge had to close for a couple of months.  The event offered rescheduling in May if enough participants were interested.  Of course we are interested, but it still left a hollow spot for this weekend.  I am not a social butterfly and attended this the first time only after being welcomed into the local spinning group and knowing what part of this group attended the retreat.  Friends have been made there, friends that are only seen a few times each year, but friends that are treasured.

HN group

This is from last year.

Unexpectedly, late Friday evening, I received a text from a number I didn’t recognize, but the info was.  Once established who was on the other end of the exchange, I found out that 4 of my friends from the retreat and had already arranged time off from work and/or care for their critters back home had come for the weekend to the mountain top lodge 4 miles from our house.

Yesterday winter had returned to our mountain with cold rain and wind.  We did our weekly Saturday breakfast out and got to the Farmers’ Market half an hour before they opened.  After waiting the time with a cup of coffee from the local coffee barista, the market goodies brought home and put away, and a quick vacuuming and dusting of dog and cat hair, I packed my sturdy contemporary wheel and a basket of fiber and drove up the mountain for an afternoon with friends.  We enjoyed a late lunch in the lodge dining facility, sat in the sitting room of the suite reserved by one couple, spun, knitted, talked and told tales.

When we are at the retreat, each day winds down with a happy hour at 5 and though we ate late, Jim and I invited them down for cheese and crackers and a beverage from a list of choices.  Three of the friends drove down the mountain to our house and got to meet Jim, the household dog and cat pack, saw our farm, visited for an hour or so and then headed back up for their last evening of the weekend at the Lodge.  Though the retreat was postponed until May, these friends helped fill the void that the postponement had left in my heart.


Two years ago.

Until our next meeting, safe travel home my friends.


The garden box per month purchase idea got sidelined this winter somehow. Today some catch up was in order. Home Depot had 4 complete boxes of the 4×4′ ones and several 4×8′ ones that though they were made of the same parts minus 4 slats as two of the smaller ones, cost more than twice as much. The price was higher than the 2 purchased in the fall. We came home with the 4 and with what is in the garden already will allow me to combine sets and end up with an extra 4×4 once corner posts of some sort are found.

Tomorrow the rain will be gone and an attempt to put the new ones in place with more paths mulched will occur. It is almost onion set and pea seed planting time. Home Depot already had cabbage, lettuce, and broccoli starts.

Tractor supply got some chicks in today. We live halfway between two stores so both were called. One only had meat chicks, the other got Welsummers and Americaunas.  Oh the temptation to add some Welsummers with their dark reddish brown eggs, but saner heads prevailed. New Country Organics, 2 hours from us will be getting several heritage breeds of chicks in early March but you had to reserve them. A dozen straight run Buff Orpington chicks were reserved today and a day trip in a few weeks is in order with a tub to haul them home.  That store has been on my agenda for a while so this will be an opportunity to visit and get some garden supplements in time to make the seed starter mix.



The cowl out of my handspun silk is dry, soft, and beautiful. Because I don’t care for tight things around my neck, I added one pattern repeat. Lovely pattern, Pretty Thing by Stephanie Pearl McFee aka The Yarn Harlot.


Olio-Week’s End, February 17, 2017

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things.

This week has been an emotional wreck.  The grandson that lives with us is with his Mom, Sister, and “Dad.”  His biological father lived in Florida and without sharing details, passed away on Wednesday afternoon.  Grandson had been told about a week before that he wasn’t doing well and couldn’t talk on the phone on the scheduled day, but it was still very hard news for him to take and for daughter to have to deliver to him.  They are awaiting information on the service so they can go down and let the young man be there.  It is hard,  he is 10, and as my sister reminded me, children his age are still too young to fear death, though I’m sure he will have his share of tough moments over the next few weeks.  I still do over my Dad’s passing and it has been 14 months.

The week has been up and down with the weather as well, and the changes are causing allergy symptoms for some in the house, weather related headaches for others, and confusion for the animals as they go out to freezing wind one day and temperatures that invite playing in the creek the next.  Each day is a debate of what to wear, the uniform has become a short sleeve t shirt with a sweatshirt or fleece over it, a parka added if necessary.  Gloves stay in pockets when needed.  Some days, the layers stay on, some days peel down to the t shirt.

If we hadn’t had to cancel our ski trip, we would have arrived home late last night from a week in Colorado.  We missed not only the skiing, but also the company of our cousins who are wonderful hosts when we visit them.  Instead of sharing our anniversary dinner with them as we did 4 years ago, we just enjoyed each other’s company at one of the finer restaurants in town, a great 4 course meal that was delicious.

Last night, the cowl that was being knit from the silk that I had spun was finished.  It is beautiful and is blocked and drying.


The weekend approaches, our usual breakfast and Farmers Market Saturday, tomorrow and more vendors are beginning to return with early greens, so good food will be had next week.

My spinning is improving on my little antique spinning wheel.


Generally it doesn’t throw the drive band, but the upright nearest the spinner still moves some and causes the wheel to skew and throw the band.  The next time it jumps off, the upright is going to be wrapped in a few rounds of waxed hemp thread to see if that will tighten it enough to hold its position.  The peg under the table also needs to be forced in tighter to help.  The missing part for the new antique walking wheel is being made and when it returns, another learning curve for me as a spinner.  Also improvement is noted with the support spindle that we got last weekend.