Tag Archives: fiber arts

Blue Skies and Garden Firsts – 6/27/17

The past week went so fast having eldest grandson here for a visit.  He spent his first years here as we watched him grow from 9 weeks to Kindergarten before they moved for schooling for Mom and Dad.  I see him more often than Jim as I will go up for days or a week or so at a time to help out with care.  He is so big now, soon to be as tall as I and he just turned 12.



Many activities were planned, a day trip to Smith Mountain Lake Dam, a play day at the Frog Pond (a local pool with slides, basketball, and shallows for tiny people), basketball, ping pong , and a movie with dinner evening with Jim, lunches out, books to read, and lots of good food at home for a growing kid.  His Dad, our eldest, came Saturday in time for dinner and ping pong with the young one, and Sunday, son climbed the 28′ extension ladder and got a good portion of the very exposed west wall of our log home re-stained.  They left after dinner Sunday to return to their home for a work and camp week.  Son is returning alone this weekend with hopes to finish that wall and the south upper dormer.

Friday night, daughter’s family returned from their vacation and resumed their house hunting, possibly finding one that will allow their kids their own bedrooms and a start of the school year in their new home.

For the next few of weeks, the grands are in our care during the day with some swimming lessons scheduled soon, transport twice a week to Taekwondo to meet parents.

The weather has cooled and dried out for the past few days.  This morning, a much needed garden session was done with some tomato brutality as I cut suckers that should have been cut before now and the plants tied to their stakes.  Last year there was a huge mess as a new support structuring was tried and failed miserably with many lost tomatoes as they were on the ground for the pill bugs to attack and hidden for purposes of harvest.  This year, there will be only one main stem per plant, determinate varieties, and tied regularly to garden stakes until they reach their full height.  The process revealed many small green tomatoes and one that is already ripening.



Tied and before the cut stems were removed.

Today there was a first sunflower set against the prettiest blue sky.



I’m not sure that any of the sunflowers that I planted are going to produce.  The two volunteers may be all we get unless I can get some seedling going soon.

Last night, preparation for the two days of camp that I will be teaching was begun.  One day will be a plant walk, herbal medicine discussion, and making of an herbal salve to take home.  The other day, with my friend that worked with me last year, we will again teach some fiber arts with homemade drop spindles that they get to keep, a chance at using one of our spinning wheels with help to make a necklace with “their” yarn, and a chance to weave a few rows on a rigid heddle loom.

The haying for this year is done and the hay scattered around our fields like big sedentary buffalo.  Farmer Jeff came by as I was mowing a few days ago to pick up a piece of his haying equipment and it always amuses me to see his behemouth tractor with my tractor beside it.  Mine looks so small, though it is a full size, but small tractor.  Pictures of them together in the header.

I love summers in our mountain home.

Teaching Old Arts

To my joy, I am being given more and more opportunities to demonstrate and teach the old fiber arts.  Today it was with a camp run by our Local Community Arts (LoCo Arts) organization to a group of kids.  They have 7 children enrolled this year and each day they are tackling a different theme.  Yesterday they did plants and as part of the day, they made an herbal salve.  Today part of the theme was fiber.  A friend in our spinning group and I volunteered to work with the children teaching about fibers, how they were prepared and used to make household fabric and clothing.  With only 2 hours to work with them, we were somewhat limited, but it was fun.  My rusty teaching skills were drawn upon, my friend also having been a teacher, and both of us being grandma’s of small children.

The children were able to handle many different animal fibers and flax.  Each child was given a light drop spindle that I had made for them, along with bumps of fiber dyed by my friend and natural colored fiber provided by me.  They were shown various types of drop spindles from my whorl less Dealgan brae, top and bottom whorl, and Turkish spindles and how they worked.  They took apart a length of string to see how each ply twists in one direction, then the several held together twist in the opposite direction to hold them together and provide strength.  They were taught to use their new drop spindles.

Teaching 1


In addition to learning to spin with a drop spindle, we gave each child the opportunity to spin a couple of yards of a single on our wheels.


They then walked away from us holding the end of their single, we cut the other end while holding it and gave it to the child, letting go of the middle so it self plyed.  Their piece of yarn was then strung with a large wooden bead and tied into a necklace for them to keep.

Two rigid heddle looms belonging to my friend were set up by her and she gave them a demonstration on how to use them and the children were given the chance to weave a few rows on the loom to see how the yarn that they could spin could be used to make a fabric.


The children and their two teaching camp counselors seemed to appreciate the lessons learned and the gifts of fiber tools and fiber to continue to practice with at home.

I thoroughly enjoyed working with the kids, they were wonderful.

Next I get to demonstrate spinning at the historic Smithfield Plantation House on the University campus on July 4 at their Independence Day celebration.  It is only for a few hours, but I will also be selling yarn, bar soap, and lotion bars if it isn’t too hot that day.

I love the opportunities that I have had this summer to demonstrate and teach some of the ancient crafts that I have grown to love.

Fiber Arts and Needles

Knitters and spinners are picky about their equipment.  They find what they like and are ardent supporters of their favorites.  Sometimes it takes a while to settle into what “works” best for them.

I am no exception.  When I was just picking up knitting again, I would buy inexpensive needles in the size I needed for the project at hand.  As I got to be a better knitter, I learned that better needles lasted longer and were smoother to use, but I have never been a fan of metal needles, they make my hands hurt and have an off odor.  I also have learned that I prefer the shorter 3-4 inch length tips to the longer 5-6 inch one again as they don’t seem to aggravate my arthritis in my hands as much.  One of the products that has come out in more recent years are needles with interchangeable tips so that you need fewer needles and can change the cord to suit the project.  I loved interchangeable tips until my hand strength lessened due to age and the aforementioned arthritis and I could no longer tighten the connectors enough to even knit through a single row on a sweater without them coming partially or fully unscrewed.  Reluctantly, I advertised and sold my interchangeable sets on the social network for lovers of needle crafts, Ravelry.  I have thought about this problem more and more in the past year and have wondered why the designers of this style needle don’t use reverse threaded connectors, so that as you knit, you automatically tighten rather than loosen the connection.

The problem has sent me off in search of non metal, 3-4″ fixed circular needles in a size small enough to make a hat and long enough to knit a sweater or do the magic loop technique to close up the top of a hat.  The funds from selling my beloved interchangeables will just cover the needles in the most common sizes I use in two lengths, so now instead of having one compact case of tips and cables, I will have a basket full of needles.

The hand issues have also forced me to seek crochet hooks with larger shafts or the Clover brand that has the butterscotch colored flattened plastic handle with a thumb pad.

I have never gotten adept at using double pointed needles and have told my daughter that I would teach her to use them, but I feel like I’m playing pick up sticks with them.

It is all our different opinions that keep the companies in business.  Now I’m off to find an Etsy shop that sells a circular needle case that isn’t notebook sized to store my fixed circulars in once they come.  And to work on my sweater with the craft store metal needle with long tips until my new ones come..



The pattern is Estelle, the yarn Quince and Co. Lark in Delft.  At least I can still knit.