Tag Archives: spinning fiber

Lessons from Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em – 2/24/2019

I spent the last week a couple of towns over being grandmom in charge of two of the 7 grands while their Mom flew to Wisconsin for a week of training.  It gave me a fair amount of spinning and reading time during the 2 1/2 days they had school.  Monday was a holiday, Wednesday a snow day, and Thursday a late start.  The days allowed me to finish breeds 9 and 10 and begin breed 11 for the Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em challenge.

9 breeds. IMG_20190224_135458


Since this challenge started in January, I have spun from the Critical list; Gulf Coast Native, with Florida Cracker and Hog Island in my possession to still spin.  From the Threatened list; Dorset Horn, Jacob, Karakul, Leicester Longwool, Lincoln, Navajo-Churro, and Romeldale/CVM.  From the Watch list, I have Tunis from two  suppliers, as it’s texture and natural white color will be the center of my Hap that is the knitting project that some of these yarns will be finished into.  Also spun from the Recovering list is Shetland and a second 4 ounces of it was purchased as the main secondary color of the Hap.

As I have worked the various fibers, I have had to work on my spinning skills to use the best technique for each breed.  Several have required a long backward draw and lower twist reminding me to slow my treadling.  Some shorter fiber has forced me to use a short forward draw, which isn’t my preferred method due to arthritis in my right (lead) wrist.  I am left handed and have tried to learn to reverse hands, but have not been successful.  Some fibers have had a lot of neps, some of which I have not removed, making a more textured yarn than the yarn I usually spin.  Some of the yarns require that the yarn be spun heavier than I usually spin.  Over the years, my yarn has gotten to be an even, consistent yarn  rarely thicker than dk weight.

One of the fibers came as clean unprocessed wool and had to be carded to rollags, one had to be washed and awaits flicking the tips or carding.  Some have been pencil roving, a few more cloudlike.  It has been a good learning experience so far and I look forward over the next two years, obtaining and spinning the rest of the breeds.

My preference for spinning and knitting has been a medium length staple with a crisp finish, sweaters and shawls that I keep are always of these characteristics.  I don’t care to spin the very soft next to the skin breeds, though I do spin them and knit them for items for sale in my online shop.

My preference for pencil roving, thicker roving, batts, rollags, or spinning from locks is still undecided.  I guess that will be determined by the breed on hand.

And just for fun in the midst of the week, I finished spinning a 50% merino/50% silk blend that once washed will go to the fiber retreat next week with yarns for sale.  It is 126 yards of fingeringish weight yarn.  It will make a nice trim for a hat or scarf.


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.







What to do when you can’t garden

I want to get in the garden and get the weeds out, to get the seedlings and remaining seeds in, but it is too soon and too wet and I have a problem with the chickens digging up a couple of beds that I have started.  I covered them with row cover and the spring winds keep blowing it off.  As soon as the cover is off, one or more chickens are in.  I have planted Daikon radishes twice to find them scratched out before they are a couple inches high.

The tomato, tomatillo and pepper seedings are being hardened off with a bit more sun each day and brought back into the house for the night.  We are still 9 days from the last average frost date here when we will put them in the ground, plant the other seeds and start on maintenance until the produce starts coming in.  Many of the locals haven’t even plowed or tilled their gardens yet.

Before we do this, we are going to reduce the chicken runs so they can have more free range time and use the fencing to keep them out of the gardens.

In the mean time, as we have had a couple of days of rain, I have been spinning.  At Hawk’s Nest Retreat, I bought enough if a beautiful Coopsworth 2 way swirl from Debbie Martzell, one of the vendors, to spin then knit myself a sweater.  The beautiful roving has been sitting in a plastic bag waiting for me to get my Etsy shop up and running and to finish spinning some fiber I had started.  I had 8 ounces of undyed creamy white Dorset lamb from the prior Hawk’s Nest Retreat on too many bobbins that were awaiting my jumbo flyer in order to ply them.  That has been plyed and is now awaiting a large skein winder so that I can see how much yarn I actually created, my Niddy Noddy isn’t large enough for the skein I have to create.  Yesterday, I started spinning the Coopsworth.  It is a delight to spin and the color is so lucious.


My knitting and spinning friends will grin, the color is so me.  Someday, I may venture to other shades, but teal and blue seem to grab me most.

On the chick watch, we are on day 4 for 5 eggs and day 3 for the other 5 eggs and Broody Buffy is being such a good Mom.  She leaves the coop first thing each morning for a bit of food and a drink and goes right back to her nest.  Every evening, as I move her off the nest briefly to check, there are always one or two extra eggs that other hens have laid and she has pushed under her.  The second Ms. Broody hasn’t committed to really being broody yet, so we don’t have two sitting.  I’m still hoping for another brood of 10 before too long.

Retreat. Refresh, Renew

On Thursday morning, after another night of snow and little sleep fretting about whether I would be able to leave, I put my little CRV in low and crept up the drive and road in about 6 inches of new snow, not knowing what the paved road down the mountain would reveal.  I left more than an hour before I was to pick up my friend who was riding with me, just in case I had trouble.

The paved road was covered in snow with only tracks from a couple of vehicles but it was drive-able and when I safely reached the main road into town, they had pretreated it the day before and it was wet but not covered.  Since I had time, I stopped at a local coffee shop and bought a bagel sandwich and a cup of coffee to go and made my way to her house.  Though my friend’s address is a town address and she lives on a street with suburban type lots lining both sides, the lots are large and the street surrounded by farm fields, so the road to her was similar to ours snow covered, but flatter.  Friend was retrieved, suitcases, her product to vend and spinning wheels loaded and off we went to the retreat that is in a lodge in a state park near the New River Gorge in West Virginia.  We had stopped and lunched at Tamarack, a cafe run by the Greenbrier Hotel in a large ring shaped building around snow covered gardens with hand made crafts and food items displayed throughout.  A great place to eat and browse for gifts and crafts.  As I had walked out and left my tea mug on the counter at home, I indulged in the purchase of a pottery mug to take with me.

imageOur room on the 4th floor looked down on the frozen snow coated section of the New River.  The retreat is held in the Lodge conference room and lobby.  It is a gathering of fiber artists, spinners, knitters, weavers, and crocheters.  Many are vendors as well as participants with displays of fibers to buy, jams and jellies, jewelry, and hand made woven or knitted articles for sale.

Spinners, weavers and knitters, socializing and making yarn.
Roving from an abandoned flock of sheep, rescued and 20% of the price of the sale goes back to the rescuer to help her feed and have them sheered. This one in daughter preferred colors, so purchased to spin into yarn for her to knit.
Felted wool dryer balls from one vendor at a good price, so added to our collection.

The Lodge provides us with a complimentary breakfast, specials at a good price for lunch and dinner and even made Red Velvet cupcakes and coffee as a mid day snack at a low price.

We visit, watch each other spin for new techniques, shop at the vendors, chat, eat and have a nightly cocktail party catered by delicious food offerings from each retreat participant.  As many folks leave on Saturday, the door prizes, donated by the vendors and some participants and a gift exchange drawing occur around check out time. I won two bags of coordinated roving to spin and received two skeins of beautiful sock weight yarn to knit.  Wonderful prizes and gifts.  Some folks come for a day, others for a couple and some for the three days.

I have made new friends at the two retreats I have attended, come home with new recipes, fiber to spin that came from the farms of some of the participants or from the door prize drawing.  My big purchase at this retreat was a pound and a half of Coopsworth over dyed roving, enough for me to spin into yarn to make myself a sweater, the first time I will have enough to make a significant project spun and knit by me.  I will share photos of it when I have daylight and begin to spin it.  It took me both days there to fill a bobbin with 4 ounces of fine Dorset Lamb that I bought last retreat and now home, I will spin the other half to ply.  It is natural creamy white and may become my first dyeing project.

I miss my family when away, but the retreat refreshes and rejuvenates me so I come back relaxed and renewed to them.  As a treat, I also returned to a clean refrigerator and a vacuumed and dusted house and clean kitchen, thanks to my daughter.  Glad I bought her the gift.

My friend and I reserved our room for the fall retreat before we left today.

Olio – October 28, 2014

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things.

We have had two absolutely gorgeous days in a row with mild nights.  It has been windy off and on, but Mountaingdad has had two great motorcycle outings, probably the last two of the season.  Tomorrow we return to fall weather, late fall weather, if the weather prognosticators are correct we will see snow flurries on Saturday.  I am definitely not ready for the white stuff or any frozen form of precipitation.  If it does happen, the pumpkins vines will finish dying off and the rest of the harvest will be made, the pepper plants and tomatillo plants will be tossed in the chicken pen for them to pick over.  I really need to get the garlic planted and well mulched before the ground freezes.

While Mountaingdad was off riding, I was enjoying quiet time at home.  Having planned on running errands and perhaps getting lunch out, instead I read, ate leftovers and did a bit of yard and garden work.  Late yesterday, a package I had been awaiting arrived, a Turkish Spindle from Snyder Spindles on Etsy.  I learned to spin on a top whorl spindle and wish I had learned on a Turkish spindle.  After watching a You Tube to see how to set it up, I was off quickly spinning some maroon colored Merino.  I love the way you wind the single on the spindle to create a center pull ball that can then be plied with another ball or plied off of itself.  Though most of my spinning is done on a wheel, it is nice to have a spindle that is portable to take when visiting our kids.  A few ounces of fiber and the spindle take up little room in my bag.


As I was spinning the fiber, I realized how similar in color it is to the yarn that I am using to knit the fingerless mitts to go with my hat and scarf.  I had hoped that the mitts wouldn’t be needed for quite a while yet, but they may be welcome in just a day or two.  I was unhappy with the first one and selected a different pattern to make it over and make the second one.  I don’t really have enough done to show them off yet.

On Sunday, we were notified by one neighbor that another neighbor who we knew had been sick and hospitalized but released and home for a few days had been taken back to the hospital by ambulance and his prognosis was poor.  This saddened us as he was one of the first neighbors we met and though we were wary of him at first, he and his wife had become friendly with the strangers in their midst.  We were even more saddened to learn yesterday morning that he had passed Sunday evening with his family by his side.  He and his wife are our age contemporaries on the mountain. He has had several health issues over the past couple of years and their cumulative effect were more than his body could take this time.  Our hearts go out to his family at this time.

Today we found out that the company proposing the pipeline has filed their preliminary paperwork with FERC, so letter writing will occupy our time for a few days.  Tonight we are attending a meeting on our legal rights.  There may be nothing we can do, but we are going to fight to the end on this project.  As oil prices drop, fracking become less desirable and new wells aren’t drilled.  Keep hoping that the oil prices drop low enough to stop this.  A sign we saw in town says it all, “Stop the fracking pipeline.  Preserve the NRV.”  If you want to read more about this issue, go to www.preservethenrv.com.  While you are looking, do a search for the pipeline explosion in Appomattox, VA in 2008 and look at the photos of the damage that a much smaller pipeline explosion wrought.




Crafty Wednesday


Since the spin in last weekend and the completion of the Tunis/FinnXJacob yarn, I stalled on spinning for a few days.  Last February, just before David took his stock of Green Dragon yarn and roving to Hawk’s Nest, he had the most luscious hanks of Random Colors-Merino for spinning.  He sold every last one of the ones he had made but since they were so popular, he made more for his shop.  A couple of weeks ago, I purchased one to try and it is so delightful to spin.  The one I purchased has rather muted colors, maroon, teal, camel with shades of lighter colors that blend into a wonderful single.  The Merino is so soft and the fiber is long enough to make the drafting smoother and consistent.  The colors of the single are interesting on the bobbin and I can’t decide what to do with it to not dilute the beautiful colors.  It could be Navajo plied, but that significantly reduces the yardage of finished yarn.  I’m afraid that plying two bobbins of it together will muddy the finished yarn.  Maybe I should ply it with a solid, fairly dark neutral.  The hank of roving is 100 grams.  My single is fine, so the yarn is going to be lightweight.

Spinner readers, any suggestions?

Tonight is knit night.  Jim is taking his motorcycle over to the dealer to get his Tour Pack installed and I am a bit leery of taking my car as the other day it acted as though the starter motor may be failing.  I guess if it does, I’m only a few hundred yards from the Honda dealer and Jim can come get me after knitting in his car once he gets home on his bike.

A Spinning Lesson

Several days ago, I blogged about my crafty hobbies and got several responses about how great the photos were, but they didn’t have any idea what the terms were.  This will be a short lesson with photos about how thread, yarn, string or even the huge rope that tie up a ship are made.  Spinning is a very ancient art that involved twisting fiber by hand, spindle, spinning wheel or machine into strands or singles and then taking two or more of those singles and spin them together in the opposite direction, allowing the twist you created to hold the strands together, called plying.

Many fibers can be spun.  Wools from dozens of varieties of sheep, llama, alpaca, cashmere goat, angora rabbit, yak, buffalo, whatever has hair of sufficient fiber length to twist together.  Silk cocoons, cotton, hemp, flax, and synthetic fibers such as acrylics to name a few can also be spun.

I am currently working with wool processed two different ways.  The red on the left is called a batt.  The wool is combed out to line up the fibers and left in big clouds or sheets.  The dark on the right is pencil roving.  It is also combed out to line up the fibers but the fibers are then rolled into long loose ropes with no strength.  These are two of the more convenient ways to process the fiber for spinning.  A chunk of the batt or the roving is pulled off, fluffed apart to make it looser, called predrafting, then spun.  The single that you make is much stronger that the product at the start, but even stronger if it is then plied to another single.







The red batt is Tunis wool and the dark pencil roving is a blend of Finn and Jacob wool, so three different sheep breeds represented.  All of these are fairly soft and have a long fiber, making spinning very easy.


Once the spools, called bobbins are full or you run out of fiber, it can be plied.


My spinning wheel is equipped with a built in bar with two pegs that fit through the center of the bobbins to hold the full bobbins for plying.  This is called a Lazy Kate.  You can see in the photo, the two singles being fed back up to the top bobbin for plying.




This is a two ply yarn for knitting, crocheting, or weaving.  You can see the twist because of the use of the two colors in my effort to make a tweed like yarn.  The coin is an American dime to give you some reference to the thickness of the finished product.

Once it has all be plied onto the bobbin, it will be wound off and measured then washed and hung to dry before it will be ready for use.  We will save knitting terms for another lesson.

For you curious or scientific minds, go grab a few inches of kitchen twine and you can reverse the process to see how it works.  The plies will pull apart and you can see the twist, then if you take a ply and start unraveling it, you will see that it twists the opposite direction.  It is really quite an interesting product.

Long ago, our ancestors would start with the raw fiber, wash it, comb it, spin it, then knit or weave it into a garment for warmth.  My end goal is to reach the point where I can do a process called sheep to shawl where I will do everything except sheer the sheep.  Last year I did help with an alpaca shearing http://wp.me/p3JVVn-mU but that is another story.


Spinning, not the exercise class

I have been spinning fiber for about 4 years now, starting with a drop spindle and switching to a wheel a couple of years ago.  My first wheel was a restored Ashford Traditional that I bought from a friend who had restored it and learned on it and then won a new wheel.  I learned on it, using it for a bit more than a year, sold it to mutual friend who is a fellow knitter that wants to learn to spin.  When I sold it, I bought an Ashford Kiwi 2 as I wanted a double treadle wheel and used it for nearly a year and sold it to get a wheel that travels better for going to spinning group and for taking when I go to spend a week babysitting with a grand.  My new wheel which I have only had for a few weeks is a brand new Kromski Sonata.  Getting the new wheel inspired me to work through some of the fiber I had collected and have made undyed Shetland wool yarn that is for sale at Greenberry House (www.greenberryhouse.com) in Meadows of Dan.  Then I finished 3 ounces of Merino, spun for a friend.

As spinning is going well, I decided that I was ready to start expanding the yarn making process and wanted to mix some of the Alpaca fleece that I have with some wool that I have, so I bought a set of hand carders from Strauch Fiber Equipment Co. (http://www.strauchfiber.com/) as she is a spinner in the group to which I belong.  I have started blending the Caramel colored Alpaca with a light and dark Blue Faced Leicester wool.


Today Jim and I took off for a drive and ended up at Olde Liberty Fiber Faire (www.olfibrefaire.com/).  From that I came home with a big red cloud of hand carded Tunis wool and a bag of dark colored Finn X Jacob to spin and a small pot of garnet red dye to try my hand at dyeing my own yarn.  


Once I feel that I have a good handle on these skills, my goal is to buy a whole raw fleece, wash it and hand card the locks for spinning into yarn to dye.

I’m sure Jim would have rather spent the day wandering around the Blue Ridge Motorcycle Fest that we passed and watched literally hundreds of motorcyclist headed in that direction, but he spent the day with me.

Tomorrow, my wheel, hand carders, a suitcase packed with clothing, yarn and fiber are headed off for a week of babysitting in Northern Virginia while he stays home and critter sits the 2 dogs, 2 cats, and 20 chickens.  I am leaving him with homemade stew, chili, and goulash so he doesn’t have to eat out each night.

Life is an adventure on our mountain farm, and off of it when we take a day trip.