Tag Archives: fiber

Yarn setting day – Oct. 27, 2017

After yarn is spun and plyed, it has to have the twist set.  With the Spinzilla competition, the yarn is measured before the twist is set and it was labelled with fiber type, yarn weight, and yardage and piled in a huge canvas bag.  Since Spinzilla, a couple more skeins have joined the bag.  Some of the yarn is designated for my use, some will be re-labelled and put in my shop for sale and taken to the two Holiday Market events at the Blacksburg Farmers’ Market along with the hats, mitts, soap, balms, and salves.

The canvas bag is generally the bag I use to take the 6 or more dozen eggs that I sell to friends each Friday morning but it has been unavailable for a few weeks.  This morning, with Jim off to an appointment, the grands put on the school bus, daughter and SIL at work, it was time to set the twist on all of the skeins.  To do this, the skeined yarn is submerged in a container of warm water.  Because I have handled the fiber and it has sat around, the wash pan contained a bit of wool wash too.  Some of the dyed yarns bleed a little color, some of the natural yarns aren’t as clean as you would think, sometimes turning the clear wash water the color of tea.



Each pan with a couple of smaller skeins, sits until the submerged yarn is totally saturated, then it is gently squeezed out, placed on a clean towel and rolled to absorb more of the water.  Once done, each skein is given a gentle shake and hung to dry.


Twenty three skeins of yarn of varying length hanging to dry.  It is a nice sunny day and normally I would put the drying rack on the back deck to dry, but with the deck in partial deconstruct and the deck boards hazardous to walk on, it is sitting on the hearth.  It will take a bit longer, but it will dry.  The barn kitty inhabits the front porch so I don’t want to try to dry it there.

When I started crocheting in my teens, and knitting when eldest grandson was eminent, I didn’t know much about fiber.  I bought what felt good to me and was a color I liked.  I shudder to think about some of the stuff I made afghans from.  With the pending grandson, I searched for organic wool and cotton, undyed for his soakers, tees, and sweaters.  The internet was available and so I wasn’t limited to the local big box stores.  There were fewer yarn stores then and I hadn’t fallen into the rabbit hole of fiber artistry, animal raising friends, fiber festivals, etc.

When I took the drop spindle class many years ago, the instructor brought many different types of wool for us to feel and use.  Who knew that there were so many choices each with their own characteristics?  Unfortunately, that rabbit hole has made me a fiber snob.  I have now experienced many different animal fibers and know what I like and what I don’t.  The twenty three skeins drying represent Coopworth, Alpaca, Merino, Silk, California Red, Hebridean, Targhee, and Cormo.  Some are softer than others.  Some with more crimp making them stretchier.  Some are dyed, some natural from snowy white to dark almost black brown.  I have spun Romney, Pohlworth, Shetland, Mohair, Dorset, flax, camel, and more.  I have spun clean prepared tops and roving and spun raw unwashed Alpaca.  I have even worked with washing, carding, and spinning raw wool.  My spinning started with irregular thick and thin yarn, now it is consistent and fingering to dk weight, fairly fine.  I need to practice making thicker yarn again, some projects just need a thicker yarn.

Back to the deck.  Eldest son after we took the railing down and stepped through more boards, suggested I block off the door.  It already had a small post it note that said not to use the deck due to its hazardous nature, so I used paper painters tape to tape across the half that opens.  That didn’t really slow anyone down from going out there.  Yesterday, the post it note and the tape came down.  Sturdy cotton string was tied from hinge to hinge and a “Stop” sign that says “Whoa” on it was hung.


Soon we will redeck the portion outside of the doors, finish deconstructing the large rotting part and build new steps to the ground.  Maybe next summer, I will start on making a patio at the bottom of the steps for my kitchen herb garden and for some flowers.

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.



Garden and Crafting

A few short days at home between the visit to Shrine Mont and leaving for a week of being Grandmom in charge for eldest grandson have been busy.  The first night back, when I went to lock up the chickens, my reluctant pullet managed to fly over the fence into the garden.  The lower un-planted part of the garden was literally chin high to my 5’8″ frame.  The lawnmower was fueled and with much effort, about half of that area was mowed down in an effort to remove the cover for the chick.  As it got too dark to see what I was doing, a decision was made to leave her to her fate, hoping that she would just find safe cover in the remaining weeds or up in the tomato jungle.  She did survive the night and greeted me the next morning outside the gate.  The mower was still in the garden, so in spite of the heat and threatening thunder storms, the rest of that area was mowed and hand weeding commenced on the area around the cucumbers, sweet potatoes, and the dozen or so volunteer tomatillo plants.  By the time I finished, my stamina was gone and I quit, tossing half a dozen overgrown, yellow cucumbers to the chickens.  No harvest had been done in our absence.

Today, with the temperatures only a few degrees lower, a determined effort was made to weed the upper garden, thin the tomatoes and sunflowers, and harvest as many tomatoes as I could.  A 4 gallon feed bucket was filled with mostly plum tomatoes, a dozen heirloom slicers, and peppers.


After a long cold shower to refresh and renew me, I tackled the haul.  There were 19 pounds of tomatoes, which I divided into 2 one gallon bags of diced tomatoes each almost 5 lbs.; 2 one gallon bags of whole paste tomatoes, several slicers to take with me tomorrow; 3 pints of jalapenos pickled, a pint of mixed hot peppers in salted vinegar that will be made into hot sauce once a quart has been gathered.  Another pint or so of jalapeños were too large to pickle whole, so they will be diced and frozen.  Another couple of dozen tomatoes were split and rotting and were tossed to the chickens.

I will be away from home for another 10 days, so I’m sure with the persistent heat and daily rain, a repeat of the past few days will be in order once I return.  Hopefully it will be a bit cooler by then.

Yesterday, in anticipation of my absence, I dyed a half pound of Shetland roving to spin.


With these two braids, another that I did of Romney to learn the process, and my monthly installment of the Tailfeather’s Club from Unplanned Peacock, I will have plenty to spin while sitting on the porch while grandson is in school.  I will arrive home with about 2 to 3 hours to unpack and repack to leave for a few days at a spinning retreat.  I may have to spin all undyed fiber there and dye the yarn later.  I will also be teaching salve making and be a vendor at this event, so I have to be organized before I leave to babysit.

Tonight, Jim will be taken out to dinner and to buy a couple new pair of jeans as an early birthday.  I will not be here to celebrate with him on his actual birthday.

Falling Down the Rabbit Hole

Of fiber arts, that is.  Already, I knit, can crochet (but don’t much anymore), spin fiber on a spinning wheel and on drop spindles, and recently tackled kettle dyeing of yarn. Last week at the spinning group, my friend that taught the camp with me, brought me three of her rigid heddle looms to try and I brought one she was planning on selling home with me to play with for a week.  By week’s end, I knew I was hooked and told her I wanted to purchase it from her.

Today, was teach the newbie day.  She invited me over this morning to learn how to dye fiber, not just yarn, and yarn with multiple colors using a microwave.  She has a dedicated microwave in her utility room near her utility sink and work counter, just for dyeing.  With 3 bins full of colors to choose from, I was absolutely giddy.  I had taken a 150 yard skein of chain plyed Shetland yarn and a bag of white Romney roving, unsure which I wanted to dye.  She suggested both, then suggested a second pan of roving and walked me through the process with me doing the tasks while she watched.


This is what I came home with from the lesson.  I can’t wait for the fiber to dry so I can spin it and see how it does.

While the fiber was cooling, the next lesson was how to warp the loom for a scarf.  Again, she talked me through the instructions while I did it to learn, provided reminders and suggestions to speed the process up and explain why certain things were done the way she does it which made sense to me.  Once the colors were chosen, the loom warped and the weft color selected, I began weaving on it.  After a few rows, we tried a lighter gray weft and then black and both of us agreed that the black was the way to go. We left for a drive through lunch and on to the spinning group where I un-wove the two grays and started over with the black.


A scarf in the making on my newly acquired, gently used loom.  My husband calls me his “crafty” wife and swears he didn’t say “crappy” wife.

I am now the owner of a spinning wheel, 4 drop spindles, a set of interchangeable knitting needles, a few crochet hooks, and a 10″ rigid heddle loom.  Not terribly much invested in dollars, but lots of hobby time tools.

Newport Past and Present

Today was the Newport Past and Present event.  This was art from folks who have strong connections with our village, art from the past such as quilting, a blacksmith, and spinning; paintings and framed art; a Little theater production; a pig picking with home made sides and desserts, all to support the recreation center in the old school in the village.

With a spinner friend, we set up an educational, hands on display of various fibers, spun yarns and we demonstrated the art of spinning with drop spindles and two different styles of spinning wheels.  It was a full day, full of fun, full of educational opportunities.

Our display of fiber to touch, yarn to fondle and to see how the fiber spins.  My handspun, handknit sweater that was one of the art exhibits for sale (no it didn’t sell). Behind it is one of the lovely quilts on display.
Meet David, my fellow spinner with his Kromski Symphony.

Spinning P&P1

Hubby caught me spinning on my Kromski Sonata when he dropped by for lunch and to buy me lunch.  I was spinning Dorset wool from Glenrose Farm in Newport.  It seemed only right to spin local fiber as the event was to support the local community center.

Spinning P&P2


More of our display.

One of the musical acts with another one of the quilts hanging behind them.
This is Josh, the black smith with his set up.  His first project of the day was to make this…
A beautiful handforged hook to hold the basket of spinning supplies on my wheel.  He custom made it for me and my wheel.

Friends from out of Newport stopped by, neighbors were greeted, new neighbors met, and many opportunities to instruct others on the art of spinning.






Spinning Along

My fiber stash has multiplied of late and I have been trying to spin some fibers that are newer to me and at the same time reduce the bags of fluff to a more manageable size.  I may have to empty out my cedar chest of blankets and pillows just to contain it.

On Saturday, I am going to participate in the Newport Past and Present art show and open house.  In addition to demonstrating spinning with my wheel and spindle, I will have displayed in the show, a sweater that is of yarn that I spun and knitted on display as an art of the Past.  All of the art at this show will be for sale and 20% of the proceeds from the sales, will go to the Newport Recreation Center building fund.

At my demonstration, I will have various animal fibers and yarn spun from those fibers set out.  Today, other than trying to do some house cleaning prior to SIL’s mom arriving this week, I have been sitting at my wheel.  I started off plying more than 220 yards of California Red wool.  This beautiful white wool has hints of red fibers in it.  The lambs of this breed are Irish Setter red when they are born.

California Red 1


My helper has stayed close today.  I think he misses his Daddy.  He learned long ago to not get beside the wheel and not to put his nose up where the hooks are spinning.

Once that was plied, I tackled the cleaning, only to have my 14 year old Oreck vacuum decide it was old enough, or so it thought.

Since I couldn’t finish the cleaning, I returned to spinning.  I had a few ounces of Romney and spun a single that plied with Wooly Nylon for 140 yards of fingering weight fun yarn.


I finished the spinning afternoon with a washing session and hung those two skeins, the first California Red skein and the Mohair lock Art yarn to dry.


Back to the vacuum.  SIL used to work with electricity before he went into Radiology and he dismantled the handle of the old Oreck, spliced the damaged wire and reassembled the handle and the old girl works just fine again.  I hope to get more life out of her.

Baby Calves and Spinning Wheels

Granddaughter is fascinated with all of the spring calves and lambs and is often asking us to drive by one of the many fields with babies.  The foals at the Virginia Tech Horse Center haven’t arrived in the fields yet, but we did see a whole field of tiny black lambs a couple of weeks ago.  It looked like most of the ewes had twins as there were many more lambs than ewes.  Most of the calves are too far away from the car to see except as small lumps lying in the grass, but our neighbor’s herd is next door and our gravel road runs right through her property, so we can often drive up and see them right by the road.  This morning, we drove up the road and the herd was right there with all of the babies nearby.  There are six calves less than 2 weeks old and a couple more that were born right at the beginning of the year.



We parked along the side of the road and watched as they ate hay, nursed and were bathed by the cows.  She doesn’t quite understand why she can’t pet them as they are all smaller than our Mastiff that she adores.

In the past week, I have gotten back on my spinning wheel.  I had some roving that I had purchased at the Fiber retreat in February that is for my daughter.  As I had ordered a jumbo flyer for my spinning wheel and wanted to wait for it to ply the two very full bobbins of Dorset lamb that I was spinning at the retreat, I began on her roving.  The roving that I purchased was called Mystery Sheep.  A flock of sheep had been abandoned in a nearby town and had been rescued by a kindly citizen.  Two of the ladies at the retreat have a shop selling roving from their own sheep and also selling from the rescued flock.  Twenty percent of the sale of that roving goes back to helping provide feed and vet care for the rescued flock.  It felt good to buy some fiber that was going to help out.  It was only 2 ounces of fiber and spun up into only about 116 yards of yarn, but enough for my daughter to make herself a slouchy hat, which is a project she wants to start as soon as her house is packed up and moved.


The fiber was soft Easter egg blue and green and made a nice yarn.

Now on my wheel is a very soft Merino just in time for the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C.  It is a nice cherry red and is spinning to about worsted weight.  It is 4 ounces of fiber and should made a nice skein that will soon appear on my Etsy shop.


On the knitting front, I am slowly completing the yoke on my newest sweater, but it has taken me weeks to do the 7 inches that I have accomplished, just too many other things going on in our lives right now.


I don’t generally post more than once a day, but I couldn’t resist this one. As I was reading a blog that I follow, http://divineknits-infiknit.blogspot.com/ she had a post entitled “You collect what…?” a discussion of the various types of collections that people gather and what each of these types of collectors are called.  That post sent me back a bit.  As a kid, I collected postcards when we traveled which was not varied and involved an annual trip to a mountain retreat and a spring or fall trip to the Outer Banks for a camping.  Then in my late 20’s, I took up snow skiing and those trips were more varied, we wore knit caps on our heads then instead of helmets, and I started collecting the little souvenir pin badges from each ski resort and wore them on my knit hat.  The postcards are long gone, the badges might still be stashed in a drawer, but I no longer buy them when we go to a different resort.

But I do collect, functional but beautiful things now.  I do not want clutter about our home, but I love handmade items, so our home is a collection of hand thrown pottery, functional items.  All of our dishes, mugs, service pieces, canisters and crocks to make pickles or hold cooking utensils are pottery.  As well as candle holders, pitchers and platters.

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I also collect baskets, many that I made, or were made for me by a friend that I crafted with, several that are ones purchased by artisans in organisations that are attempting to aid poorly compensated artisans to a fair wage. But they don’t just hang around, they are used lovingly to gather produce or eggs from the farm or to store fiber and yarn.





And I can’t forget the fiber and yarn that I spin and knit into beautiful garments to wear or gift.

Life is good on our mountain farm.