Category Archives: Fiber Artistry and Equipment

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.

R & R and Thanks to my Love

We had a great and relaxing weekend away.  A weekend trip to visit our eldest son and his family near Front Royal was planned.  Their log home is not really set up for guests, though I have a cot there for when I am babysitting, so we booked a room in a motel in Front Royal, a short drive from them.  We got up there in the late evening on Friday and son came in to pick up the cooler of chicken, beef, and other frozen goodies and a large canvas sack of home canned goodies, eggs, and sweet potatoes so that we didn’t have to drive the dark curvy road to them after travelling there.  We visited in our room in our coats while we waited for the heater to get the room warm enough to settle into.

Saturday, a meet and greet was scheduled at 8:30 a.m. for me to purchased a support spindle and bowl from a fellow fiber artist that had listed it on Ravelry,  a fiber artist social network.  It turned out that she lived near Front Royal.  That was an anticipated purchase and the spindle and bowl are lovely and fun to use.


It is slightly small and lighter than my other support spindle, so with my two remaining drop spindles, I had a 33% increase in spindles.

Our motel was situated with a median that required us to either make a U turn to get to the familiar road, or take a tour of the historic downtown to get to the other familiar road, and as we cruised down before the businesses were open, I spotted a Great Wheel in an antique store window.  After our transaction for the drop spindle and a visit at son’s house, sitting on the front porch on a beautiful warm morning, we lunched with them in town and had authentic delicious Mexican food.  That was followed by a walk downtown and by the antique shop on foot.  The 49 inch wheel looked sound and true, minus the quill.  My love bought the wheel for me as a 39th anniversary and Valentine’s gift.  We left it to be packed and drove a third of the Skyline Drive, stopping at overlooks to try and spot son’s house.  Though we could see his landlord’s roof, the houses to the left and right of them, their house sits in evergreens and deep in the hollow and we couldn’t see it.   After taking son and grandson home, rearranging the seats to make it fit, the carefully wrapped and padded wheel was loaded in the car and followed us home, a 50% increase in spinning wheels.


Left to right, the nearly 200 year old Amable Paradis, the Great Wheel of unknown age, and the small light colored Louët with my stressless chair and ottoman my spinning stool and work baskets.

While online chatting with Bobbin Boy about the Great Wheel, they told me that the parts for the Paradis wheel were on their way back to me.  It looks like obtaining a quill for the Great Wheel from them is possible and affordable, so that purchase will be made soon.

Today was still warm, but very rainy when we visited again this morning at son’s house and for a portion of our trip home.  Then the sun came out and it went up to 80ºf in the Virginia mountains in mid February.  And they are threatening us with snow flurries over night today and a high half that tomorrow.  At home, a rearrangement of the loft was in order to accommodate the large third wheel.  By moving the love seat closer to the television, turning the desk and file cabinet, there is now a spinning studio for this fiber artist of the house.  A bit more needs to be done to better organize Cabin Crafted Soap and Yarn store supplies and packaging material and moving the bookcase of yarn and fiber from our bedroom to the “studio” needs to be done, but it has been a full weekend and the job will have to wait until tomorrow.

Once all the parts are here, a steep learning curve faces me to learn to spin on the two “new” old wheels.

It’s Back!

It has snowed all day.  Nothing is sticking, it is mountain snow showers, but the high was at 7 a.m. and it was below freezing then.  The wind has howled all day long.  This weather system according to NOAA is the system that spawned the major snowstorm up the east coast of the US.  And yesterday it was in the upper 60’s.

My new parka has been most welcome today, as this was school and preschool days, a book reserved at the library arrived and needed to be collected, parts to fix the kitchen faucet came in, a special order from the grocer also arrived, plus it was Spinning Group day and one of my fellow en-actors at Smithfield House Plantation was coming to give me a lesson on how to warp the backstrap loom that was acquired a few months ago.  The spinning group was large and boisterous, having a lot of fun while D and I sat on the floor and got the loom set up and got me started with weaving on it.

Because of the arthritis from old shoulder and wrist injuries, drop spindle spinning, my portable spinning has had to be curtailed.  There is another type of portable spinning that involved a spindle that is supported in a bowl or dish in your lap or on a low table and my interest in learning this has been piqued.  One style was purchased online, then a different style was found on the fiber social network, and in inquiring about purchasing it, found out the gal selling lives just a few minutes from eldest son.  We already have a weekend trip to see them scheduled for this weekend, so I will get to meet this other spinner who is also homesteading a small acreage and pick up the spindle directly from her.  What a fun coincidence.



The bottom one is the one we will pick up Saturday.


The best made plans sometimes go astray.  We had planned a week long trip to Colorado in early February to stay with cousins and ski.  Bought the airfare in October, reserved ski rentals, then a medical issue arose and the trip had to be cancelled.  The cancellation of the ski rentals was easy.  The airfare, not so much.  We had paid extra for the insurance that assured us that in case of a medical issue, the airfare would be refunded, after all, we are senior citizens. NOT! It can be refunded if the medical issue precludes travel at all, certified by the doctor, not just if the reason for the trip has been forbidden by the doctor.  We now have airfare for 2 that must be used before a year from the date of the original ticket purchase.

Okay, so we start looking for other options.  One option requires us to have current passports.  Ours are expired.  We were going off to get our photos retaken in a few days, the paperwork was all filled out, and the entire senior staff of the State Department walked out.  Guess that will delay things there for a while.

My spinning group meets on Thursdays.  Getting there was already a bit of a challenge for me because we pick up granddaughter at preschool at 12:15-12:30 window, she must be fed, and there is no way to get home and back to town again in time which means taking two cars to town, but one of the cars has been acting up of late.  Sometimes it just won’t start, not a grind, click, anything.  The dash lights come on, the radio works, the battery indicator is strong, it just won’t start, but not consistently and the dealer can’t duplicate it to repair so we have been hesitant to drive it much.  We were going to today anyway so I could go spin and socialize, but then we got a call that grandson had to be picked up at school and granddaughter is supposed to be napping.  Another plan foiled.

Instead, of socializing with the other spinners, I am sitting home spinning my Leicester Longwood and knitting a cowl from the silk that I spun a couple of weeks ago.  I just couldn’t put it in my shop, it called to me to make something luxurious just for me.



Sometimes, we just have to be flexible.

Tools of the Trade

In addition to keeping the household of 4 adults, 2 children, 3 big dogs, 3 cats running, raising chickens for our  eggs and some meat, making soap, balms, salves, and beard products for my online shop and craft shows, I love fiber arts.  I sew, knit, crochet, and spin fiber into yarn for my own use and for sale in the shop and shows.

A couple of years ago, we were flying on a vacation, I took knitting with me to help occupy the time and keep me settled on the plane (I’m not a huge fan of flying).  The project that I took was  socks for one of the grandson’s for Christmas, Batman socks.  I had black and gold yarns and I wanted to put the Batman emblem on the cuff of each sock.  I rummaged through my bag and could not find a piece of graph paper though I usually carried a small graph paper notebook and ended up drawing a grid on the back of a receipt and graphing out the emblem.  Several days into the vacation, we were shopping in one of the native markets and I spotted a small woven fabric covered notebook cover with a graph paper pad in it.  It was inexpensive and I purchased one.  The pad got used up over time and I discovered that it was a non standard size and unavailable in the USA or on any online store I could scare up.  It was larger than the pocket Moleskine or Fieldnotes books, smaller than the medium Moleskine variety and it had to be side bound with staples, not a spiral.  The cover sat idle and empty, but I liked it.  Recently, it occurred to me that I could use the woven part of the cover and repurpose it with some added fabric to make it fit a standard size. My very talented and crafty sister in law was called on with several questions, many ideas, and finally, bravely, I cut the notebook cover in half, removed the binding, made a new liner, spine, and binding that enlarged it enough to handle a standard notebook.


This required setting up the sewing machine and pulling out the sewing box. They are in the dormer in our bedroom where I have a handmade walnut table, pottery lamp, and shelving to store my yarn and fabric.

Compared to many of my friends in the fiber arts, I am a lightweight. Most of them have multiple wheels, looms, sewing machines. I do have two wheels or I will once the antique one has all of its parts back. But the rest of my equipment will fit into a tote bag.



The Louët has a built in Lazy Kate for plying, but I don’t like it, so I use the one my son made me for Christmas.


A swift and two different sized Niddy Noddys for winding yarn into skeins from a bobbin.




And two different sized Lucets for making cord.


An assortment of various drop spindles for portable spinning.


Hand carders for combing unprocessed clean wool.


A backstrap loom, that I need an instructor to teach me to set it up for weaving.

With one set of interchangeable knitting needles, one set of double pointed knitting needles in various sizes, a few fixed circular knitting needles, and several crochet hooks, I have all I need for spinning, sewing, knitting or crocheting.

It will all fit nicely in a beautiful hand made tote from a friend.


Though I don’t carry it all with me, I could.



Sometimes We Need Luxury

Over the weekend, I began spinning a part of my Tailfeathers subscription from last year from Unplanned Peacock.  It was a generous 100 grams (actually more like 125 grams) of pure silk top.  The gorgeous colorway was called Sequoia, greens, a little yellow, some white.  I took my time spinning it, I wanted a thin, even, well balanced yarn.


I started by dividing the top in half, hoping to get fairly equal bobbins of singles to ply.


Once it was all spun, I was concerned that it wasn’t going to ply onto only one bobbin, but I spent the afternoon plying.  It was a soft as butter as it spun, a delight to handle.


It was a full bobbin, very full and this is a truer representation of the color.  It is very even, fingering to baby weight and so soft.


I ended up with 335 yards of delightful yarn.  It doesn’t have a plan, maybe it will go in the shop, maybe knit into a small shawl or cowl.  This was the second time I have spun silk, the first time was totally on one of my drop spindles.  Another lovely skein of yarn.


For the Love of Other Fiber Artists

Each day in the fiber arts brings new challenges.  Some of these challenges I can tackle on my own. Some I can toss out to local friends and be rewarded with answers. Sometimes, the challenge requires me to cast the net farther out into the world for advice and solutions.

My knitting guru moved back to Ohio, but she taught many of us in this area tricks we didn’t know and introduced me to many others in this area that are in the know.  My knitting needs are always met, if I can’t work it out on my own.

The spinning group members are all far better spinners than I and I am never wanting for help in that area either.  They each have their own styles and their own equipment preferences.  This group is further expanded through the 3 retreats that I attend each year.  It was one of those retreats that I learned to card fiber, thus allowing me to start blending my own colors and fibers.  One of the members of this group is also a spinning wheel dealer and can get the equipment for us, or help us with minor repairs.

One of the challenges that I have had to cast out into the world is help with the antique Amable Paradis spinning wheel that I purchased just before Christmas.  As I have mentioned in prior posts, it arrived Christmas eve and eldest son was here.  He and I tackled trying to put it back together based on the photo that was on Ebay as it came shipped in pieces.  We figured it out, but there were some problems.  The legs were loose, solved by using the waxed hemp and the video from Bobbin Boy.  The chips in the whorl and bobbin that would affect it’s ability to spin.  That is also being handled by Bobbin Boy and a second bobbin being made so I will be able to spin two bobbins and then ply them on my Louet.  Once the wheel was put together and stable, I realized that the footman, the peddle assembly that makes the wheel turn, hit the ground and prevented the wheel from continuing to turn.  This assembly is in two pieces, the horizontal part that the foot treadles on that pivots on two metal pins inserted into the front two legs, and the vertical rod that attached to the treadle by leather and to the wheel on a forged metal piece with a pin.


The leather that held the vertical rod to the treadle was huge loose loop.  The leather was pretty dried out, but with some effort, I was able to work the knot free breaking off one end that was very dry and retying it as tightly as the two pieces of wood could be together.  This improved, but did not cure the problem.  It looked to me, that I needed about an inch or inch and a half more clearance for the mechanism to work properly.  I toyed with various ideas on how to raise the legs of the wheel that much without doing any damage or permanent change to the wheel and finally today, tossed the problem out to two forums on Ravelry, an international online social network of other fiber lovers.  I quickly got several responses to just cut off as much of the bottom of the rod as needed, redrill the hole, retie the leather and voila, it worked.  But . . .  Isn’t there always a but?  This lead to me realize another problem with this wheel, but one that I felt that I could manage a solution for myself.  When I treadled and the wheel turned as it was supposed to, the top of the rod would fall off of the pin in the forged metal part.


This piece had a warp in it that causes the pin on which the rod rides to point slightly upward at the top and slightly downward at the bottom of its rotation.  Being forged, it isn’t going to bend, so a solution was needed to keep the rod in place.  The rod has a piece of leather tacked to the back side that may have taken care of this problem at some point, but the wear has caused the hole in the leather to become too large to hold on to the pin.  I have a thick leather belt that was a bit too long for me, so I cut the end off, drilled a hole a bit smaller than the pin and forced it on as a leather washer.  Problem solved for now.

Next up, the wheel is going to get a good cleaning and some lubrication and await the return of the parts from Bobbin Boy.  Each challenge gets me closer to thinking that I made a good purchase to use for spinning at the 17th century home or just for my own use here when I want something different.  I still need to get a handle on tying on the double drive belt and learning to spin with a double drive wheel.  Always something new to learn.