Friday, December 31, 2010

Yarns at Year's End

December is an “at home” month for me. So, I get a lot of spinning done. Since mid-November, I’ve spun over 30 skeins of yarns, most of which are available for sale at the local quilt/yarn shop, Interquilten.

One of the great satisfactions of creating yarns is also creating the names for those yarns. Here are the most recent yarn titles:

Cinder & Silk
Sun-Speckled Spruce
Saffron & Sandalwood
Just Kidding
Crystal Lake
Sour Grapes
Roasted Toasted
Bloody Mary
December Bay
Lunar Eclipse

Tawni, the owner of Interquilten, will be posting pictures of some of these yarns and descriptions of them on her website. Take a look.

The very last yarn of 2010 is really a set of 3 yarns, from 2 fiber sources. In March, I’d purchased the fleeces from 2 lovely sheep, “Lucy” and “Lacy” (see my blog post).
Both sheep are Border Leicester/Corriedale/Romney crosses. I had the fleeces washed and carded into rovings at Stonehedge Fiber Mill, and I’ve used bits and pieces of them for teaching throughout the year. I also used some of Lucy and Lacy for the above mentioned yarn, “Peppercorn”.

I so liked spinning Lucy and Lacy, that I decided to make up a whole bunch of yarns from these two fleeces to be knitted up into a cozy cardigan. I spun 2 very large skeins of Lacy, and two smallish skeins of a marl yarn of one ply Lucy and one ply Lacy. I’m now finishing up 5 skeins of Lucy.

At this moment, I only have 2 skeins of Lucy done. But my plan is to complete the other 3 skeins by the end of today….by the end of this year!

Here’s a picture of some of the skeins, drying in the bathroom (the warmest room in the house).

And, as an aside, here’s a picture of a pre-sunrise contrail that I managed to see just a few days ago.

Happy New Year, Everyone!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Eggs and Chocolate

Spinners in this part of Michigan have been meeting once a week for, oh, maybe 30 years. Even though I’ve been part of this group of spinners for only the past 5 years, the group has become a very important part of my life.

Our meetings vary in location. For our last meeting, we met at the house of Carol S. Her house is situated on the Platte River. We gathered in her living room with large picture windows facing south over the river (and through the woods). Here are two wintery views:

There were maybe 10 folks in attendance. Midge O. was among them. Midge is a Cranbrook-trained textile artist. She has been working in fiber arts for over 50 years. These days, however, she specializes in making chocolates. I was delighted to find out that she’d brought some of her delicious inventory for sale. I instantly bought 2 boxes of my favorites: “Chingers” which are dark chocolate covered candied ginger, and “Pepitas” which are dark chocolate covered pumpkin seeds with a hint of cumin and salt. Too tasty! I will dole these treats out to myself slowly, very slowly, so that they will last into the new year.

Another group member, Cindy H., raises chickens. And she brought some fresh eggs to sell. There is nothing so wonderful as farm fresh eggs. After I bought a dozen, Cindy and I discussed the dilemmas of peeling hard boiled eggs if the eggs are too fresh. (FYI: I had done a systematic study of this particular problem. It is my scientific conclusion that it takes about 6 days from laying for an egg to become easily peelable.)

We do, as a group, get around to spinning and other such fiber endeavors. Gladys S. arrived wearing a recently completed sweater from bits of yarns that she’d spun. The design is simple, yet elegant. Gladys is another accomplished, life-long fiber artist. She spent most of her life in the south, but now she is a valued member of this northern group.

Carol S., our hostess, is a masterful weaver. Lately, she’s been spending her days in her studio weaving scarves. Here is a picture of some of her most recent projects:

Libby C. brought two knitted items to show. One was a “hand warmer” that she’d knitted from her handspun yarn. It covers a small fabric-covered packet of rice. So, you can put the bag of rice in the microwave for a bit, then reinsert the bag in its knitted cover, put the handwarmer in your pocket and have warm hands in our Winter Wonderland.

The other item that Libby brought was a magnificent pair of gloves that had been knitted by Daryl W. Libby had recently received these gloves as part of a holiday gift exchange through the local weavers guild. Daryl is a stupendously gifted knitter, and these gloves were coveted by all!

Let me leave you with an icicle view of our meeting. Marty F. is the spinner in sight.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


I got an email the other day from Shelley Rau, a woman who’d taken one of my workshops at the NYS Sheep & Wool Festival
in October. She’d been perusing my website and noticed a photo of a particular yarn that I posted in my gallery of handspun yarns.

I’d named the yarn “S’mores”. It’s a 3-ply marl yarn with one ply of marshmallow-colored merino wool, one ply of graham cracker-colored alpaca, and one ply of chocolate-colored American bison down. Here’s my yarn:

Well, Shelley had recently spun a 3-ply marl yarn with the very same colors, but all of alpaca. Here’s her yarn:

And then she’d knitted a vest with the yarn, following the “dishcloth vest” pattern in Debbie New’s book, Unexpected Knitting. Here’s Shelley’s vest:

I do like marl yarns. Whether you’re using the same fiber for all plies or different fibers, you can create a lovely yarn that makes a nicely speckled knitted fabric. If you use different fibers for the different plies, you do need to pay special attention to get the right amount of twist so that the different fibers ply together neatly.

I cover these techniques in a half-day workshop “Spinning Marl Yarns”. As of now, I’m scheduled to teach this workshop twice in 2011: once at the Wisconsin Spin-In in April, and once at the Michigan Fiber Festival in August.

And, an article of mine which features a marl yarn shawl that I spun and knitted is going to be in the Spring 2011 issue of Spin-Off magazine

To see more of my marl yarns, go to my handspun yarn gallery on my website .

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sour Grapes and Snow

Snow season is upon us. We’ve been under “lake effect” snow warnings for the past couple days. At least 6 inches fell overnight. So, the snow in my yard is about 14-16 inches deep right now.

Snow season is a productive fiber season. I’ve been spinning daily lately, and I’ve completed several yarns. The most recent is a fun slubbed yarn. I used two hand painted combed tops. One top is wonderful Rambouillet wool in a lovely combination of peridot and purple colors, dyed by a local fiber artist, Elizabeth Koeppen. She sells some of her fiber and yarns on her etsy website . The other top is a delightful Merino wool in a deep muted purple colorway, dyed by Chris Roosien of Briar Rose Fibers .

Here’s a picture of the two tops (Chris’s fiber is on top, Elizabeth’s below). Aren’t they lovely?

Perhaps you notice the little white dots in the picture. That’s snow. At this time of year, it’s rarely sunny here, so I took the fiber outside to get at least some natural light for the photo. I did get some light, but I also got some snow….

I spun a slubbed singles (thick and thin) from the green and purple wool, and a thin-only singles from the purple wool. Then I plied the two singles together.

Here is a picture of the yarn. I took this picture outside too. Even with natural light, albeit grey skies light, I had to use the flash on the camera. I’ll admit that the flash washed out the colors of the yarn a bit, so I adjusted the saturation and lightness with Photoshop.

I’m delighted with the result (of the yarn; not so much the photo). The Rambouillet and Merino combine to make a very soft, very elastic yarn. And the colors can’t be beat. I had several ideas for a name for this yarn, but I decided on “Sour Grapes”.

I’ll be taking it to Interquilten
where it will be available for purchase.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Tea to Dye For

Last May, I purchased 4 ounces of Very Special combed top, 50% alpaca and 50% Cormo wool. The specialness was in part due to the award winning and dream disturbing nature of the Cormo wool (see my blog entry June 23, 2010

By the end of July, I’d spun up this lovely fiber into a skein with 472 yards that ended up weighing 3.85 ounces. See?

My plan was to then knit myself a small triangular shawl. But as much as I loved the fiber I wasn’t excited about a white shawl. Maybe I should dye the yarn? But it’s so beautiful! What to do….what to do….

This is what I did. First, I let the yarn sit in my stash for a few months, giving it time to mature and me time to debate the pros and cons of dyeing.

I mentioned my hesitation to a number of folks. To my surprise, I got the same advice from several completely independent sources: dye the yarn with tea.

Oh, yeah! But how? I asked around, and then I hunted around on the internet. Each source provided different directions. Personally, I like simple directions, so I did a test with the simplest directions I could find (essentially to just soak yarn in tea until it’s the color you like).

I found a small skein of handspun in my stash that was up for the test: an old skein, of some unnamed white wool, weighing just under 1 ounce. I had Navajo plied it; clearly one of my early attempts, because the plying (and the spinning of the singles for that matter) is pretty darn inconsistent. Perfect for sacrifice.

I boiled about 2 quarts of water, then let 8 tea bags of plain ol’ black tea steep in the water for about 20-30 minutes. In the meantime, I took my then-white sacrificial skein and soaked it in very warm, nearly hot water. When the tea had steeped for that little bit, I removed the tea bags and added the wet skein.

Oh, I started this process in the afternoon. Then I just let the yarn soak in the tea until the next morning. The “dye bath” was still very tea colored, but so was the skein. Then I rinsed the skein in cool water (same temperature as the tea water had become overnight). Then I washed the skein as I usually do in some warm water and Eucalan. Hung it up to dry. And, voilĂ ! I got a lovely skein of fawn colored yarn. I like the color. I haven’t yet dyed the alpaca/Cormo yarn, but that will happen soon. Then I can get to knitting!

Here’s the test skein.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Exotic Animals

My cousin, Trish, lives just east of Scranton, PA in the small burg of Lake Ariel. For the past two years, I’ve used my trip to the NYS Sheep & Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, NY as an excuse to visit Trish. We’ve only ever seen each other three times in our lives. Our dads were brothers (Bill and Les, both now deceased). As it happens, Trish is also a fiber fiend. Only a few years ago she taught herself to knit, then she learned to spin. Now she owns fiber (and other) animals!

She has a pleasant number of alpacas. Here are three:

Two suffolk sheep (strictly “pet”). Here’s one:

And a lovely Belgian horse, Cloe (a rescue that is also a “pet”).

Now, the aforementioned animals are not exactly “exotic”, but Trish has a friend who lives down the road who does have some exotic animals. When Trish and I drove up to her establishment, we were greeted by two camels (dromedary). Here’s one:

Then we got to visit with the zebras. I’d never seen a zebra up close before. They have beautifully refined heads, shockingly stark stripes, and eye “makeup” (at least this one did). Here’s one view.

And another.

And the most exotic of all: Bella, Trish’s yorkie. Cute!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Rhinebeck Revisited: Sheep v. Goat

Two of the workshops that I taught at Rhinebeck
this year were “Diversity of Wool” and “Spinning & Knitting Goat Fibers”. I’d taught the wool workshop many times, but this was the first time I’d done the goat fibers workshop. I spent months collecting just the right mohair, cashmere, and pygora supplies and quite awhile composing the notes to accompany the workshop.

I do thoroughly enjoy the preparation stage of teaching. It’s during this preparation that a teacher really clarifies in her own mind what exactly is important about the topic in question. For this workshop, I got to come to terms with goat fibers, play with various ways to spin them, and remind myself what’s wonderful about knitting them. Because I was teaching this workshop during the same week as the wool workshop, I pondered on the similarities and differences between sheep fibers and goat fibers. This notion struck me:

Goat fibers are like bookends around sheep fibers.

Here’s what I mean: Wools range from soft and fine (e.g., merino) to coarse and strong (e.g., lincoln). The finer fibers tend to be less lustrous, the thicker fibers are more lustrous. And there’s plenty of variation along the continuum. I think of goat fibers as the outside extremes – the bookends – of these characteristics. For example, mohair from an adult angora goat is typically very strong, highly lustrous, and not particularly soft: rather like an extreme version of the longwools (cotswold, wensleydale, teeswater). On the other end of the spectrum is cashmere or pygora types B or C: very fine, very soft, not much luster; outside the range of merino.

Some of the mohair that I got for this workshop was from Sara Healy. Sara was the workshop coordinator at Rhinebeck, and she happens to raise angora goats. Her business name is Buckwheat Bridge Angoras
. In advance of my trip I ordered some raw mohair, some washed locks, some mohair top, and some mohair/wool roving. When I arrived at the fairgrounds, Sara took me to her van (she was also vendoring at the festival), and got out the huge bag of mohair supplies for me. She had to dig a bit for the mohair/wool roving. While she was hunting for it, she said, “I hope blue is ok…” Then she pulled out a pound of the loveliest roving of 50% kid mohair and 50% cormo wool. The colors were fantastic!

I used about 4 ounces during the workshop, and took the remaining 12 ounces home with me. I got around to spinning a simple two-ply yarn from the roving last week. The colors reminded me of many of the beautiful lakes in this area. So, I named the yarn “Crystal Lake”, after one of the largest and prettiest lakes in Benzie county.

Here’s a picture of the yarn:

And you can see a picture of Crystal Lake if you click here.

To give wool “equal time”, here’s a picture of some of the samples that I have workshop participants examine in the Diversity of Wool class (In this shot, you can see samples of coopworth, cvm, finn, merino, and wensleydale.):

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thick Singles

I spent last weekend at the inaugural Fall Fiber Retreat near Boyne Falls, Michigan. The retreat, nicely organized by Pip Jones and colleagues, was held at the Lake Louise Camp & Retreat Center . The lodge there is delightfully comfortable, with a good sized main room containing the requisite large fireplace. There is nothing nicer than a blazing fire on a raw and wet November evening!

On Saturday afternoon, I taught “Variations on Long Draw”. In this workshop, participants get to spin from various carded preparations, including mill carded rovings, hand carded rolags, and drum carded batts. We play with different styles of long draw and different thicknesses of the spun yarns. I especially like covering techniques for spinning thick, soft, Lopi-style singles: yarns that have just enough twist not to fall apart, but not so much twist that they bias when knitted.

I personally love spinning these yarns. They provide nearly instant gratification. You can fill a bobbin in no time, and with no plying to do, you’ve got a usable yarn right away! (Well, I do wash them first.)

I’ve had the chance to teach this “variations” workshop at several venues this year: Midwest Masters 2010
in Wisconsin (see my blog entry on Emily’s Rolags ), the NYS Sheep & Wool Festival at Rhinebeck, The Gathering 2010 in Vermont, and last weekend at the Fall Fiber Retreat.

It’s always nice to hear from students who come away with a new appreciation for spinning thick yarns. I recently got an email from one such student, Marjorie Marker, who took the workshop at Rhinebeck. Here’s her email:

“Hi Amy, I just wanted to thank you for the great long draw class. It really helped me to make stable singles. I was sitting right across from you next to the lady with the lendrum with the duct-tape. Here’s some pictures of my first attempt using some coopworth from Maple Ridge Stock Farm. Hope to see you next year.”

Here’s a picture that Marjorie sent me of her spinning success:

By the way, she got the coopworth wool from Maple Row Stock Farm, a wonderful Michigan business run by Deb and Bob Cline (517-741-7434). They do have delightful rovings. I have 2 balls of romney roving sitting on my desk right now.

And here’s a picture of the Lendrum spinning wheel that Marjorie mentioned. Would you believe that both rubber links between treadles and footmen broke during the workshop?! Duct tape to the rescue!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Silk Hankies at The Gathering

I’ve been doing more and more teaching these days. And the more I teach spinning workshops, the more fiber supplies I must buy. There are several advantages to this need to buy: I can keep up with current fiber supply trends and current costs; I get to see a regular turn-over of content in my fiber inventory; and I get to know vendors who are good fiber sources (and sometimes not-so-good fiber sources). I also get to share source information with others.

My recent participation in The Gathering 2010
in Vermont included more than teaching workshops. I also got to shop. I mean, I had to shop.

There were perhaps a dozen vendors at the retreat. My plan was to carefully peruse each booth for supplies I will need for upcoming teaching events. I’m always on the look-out for such things as good carded rovings, washed locks, down fibers, and silk hankies.

When I entered the room where the vendors were set up, my eyes were immediately drawn to the first booth on the right: Robin Russo’s The Spinning Studio (802-222-9240). Robin had two enormous boxes of brilliantly dyed silk hankies right up front. Wow! I shuffled through the first box, grabbing about 6 bags of various colors of silk hankies. I was afraid of losing control, so I stopped grabbing and paid for the hankies in hand.

I was very pleased with that purchase. I’m scheduled to teach my “Spinning with Silk Hankies” workshop twice in early 2011: first for the Manasota Weavers Guild in Sarasota Florida in March, and then at the Duluth Art Institute in Duluth, Minnesota in April. (See my website for specific dates and contact information.)

I then found a wonderful source of cashmere: Norma Bromley, who had been the workshop coordinator for The Gathering, raises cashmere-producing goats. Her business name is Boreas Farm Cashmere. I bought 1 ounce of a lovely brown cashmere, and 2 ounces of cashmere blended with silk. Norma doesn’t have an internet presence, but you can contact her by email,

My next stop among the vendors was at Vermont Grand View Farm. They raise Romney sheep and Angora goats. I bought 8 ounces of white Romney roving, and 8 ounces of grey Romney/mohair roving. Both are delightfully pleasant and easy to spin.

With my requisite shopping done, I returned to my room. That night I had second thoughts about all those silk hankies. They were so beautiful, and the price was right. I really, really should have bought some more….

So, the next day, I promptly went back to the vendors and snagged several more bags of silk hankies. In all, I purchased over 11 ounces of silk hankies. That may not sound like much, but silk hankies go a long way. Here’s a picture of my purchase triumph:

These hankies will be added to my current stash that includes wonderful silk hankies from two of my favorite sources of fiber for spinning: Bonkers Handmade Originals
and River’s Edge Fiber Arts.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Travels with Letty

Last weekend I had the great good fortune to teach at The Gathering 2010, a biennial fiber retreat sponsored by the Northeast Handspinners Association. The event was held at a delightful ski resort, Mt. Snow, near West Dover, Vermont.

I also had the great good fortune to travel with another instructor from Michigan, Letty Klein. Along with Ann Brown, she is the author of The Shepherd’s Rug. Letty raises Karakul sheep (see her website and blog) and she creates fabulous braided rugs from roving. It was a true pleasure to spend the weekend with her. We were in my trusty Subaru for two days on the way to Vermont, we roomed together at the retreat, and we travelled together for two more days back home. Letty is a nice, nice lady, with loads of knowledge about sheep and fleeces. Not only has she taught her braided rug techniques throughout the country, but she has also been the sheep and fleece judge at numerous fiber festivals.

Spending time with her has made me even more inspired to try her rug braiding technique. I’ve got a few bins full of shetland rovings that are not all that nice for spinning, but now I’m convinced they’ll work well for rugs.

Letty gave me a good close up look at some of her rugs. The one I wanted to take home was a beautiful rug made from natural colored wensleydale wool. Lovely!

Both Letty and I taught Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I was teaching spinning workshops and Letty was teaching rug braiding. And we both travelled with the supplies we needed for these workshops. Needless to say, my car was on the full side. The view out the rear window was somewhat compromised on the way to Vermont, but I had a clear view on the way home.

We travelled through Canada (Port Huron, MI to Niagara Falls, NY). This was the second time this year I’ve used my “enhanced” drivers license to cross the USA-Canada border. Despite having a vehicle jam packed with fiber, we had no customs trouble crossing the border.

It was a great trip with great company. Thanks, Letty!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wild Wind

A month has passed since my last blog entry. I’ve been busy. After the Northern Michigan Lamb & Wool Festival, I scrambled to prepare for my workshops at the NYS Sheep & Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, NY. That trip – which was great! – has come and gone. I will be writing more later about the Rhinebeck trip, but today I’m posting about the weather…

The upper midwest has been beset by crazy wind. Wild wind. Ill wind. Here, in Benzie County, Michigan, the wind and rain started about mid-day yesterday. Averaging about 30 – 40 mph, there are gusts up to 60 or so mph. I’m not surprised by the strength of the wind, but by its persistence. It was windy all last night. My dog, Toby, did not sleep well. It was windy this morning.

I walked Toby early this morning, as usual. What was not usual, however, was a new dog on the road. I knew my neighbors had a dog because I have heard it barking. It has a fearsome bark. The young son (maybe 8 years old?) was walking the dog on a leash. Toby, too, was on a leash. They were approaching Toby and me. Let me emphasize that Toby is a sweet dog who gets along well with almost all dogs. As we got closer, I asked, “Is your dog friendly?” Before the youngster could answer, his dog pulled the leash out of his hand. The dog barrelled toward Toby and managed to get in several severe bites before I could step on his leash to stop him.

I quickly took Toby home, examined the wounds, and called the vet’s office. We made the trip to the clinic. Toby’s wounds were treated. For the next two weeks I need to apply Betadine and give her antibiotics to prevent infection. Toby is not happy.

I stopped by the neighbor’s house on the way home from the vet. She was most apologetic, insisted the dog would be better regulated, and paid my vet bill. All is good.

I think the wind is in part responsible.

I don’t want to show you pictures of Toby in her current condition, but here’s a picture that was taken of her about six years ago. Isn’t she the cutest dog ever?

It is still windy. I’m staying indoors.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fiber is Soft. Metal is Not.

One of the reasons I like working with fiber is that it is soft. Even the most coarse of wools is softer than many substances around us. And, to me, soft means “safe”. I’m unlikely to hurt myself with yarn.

Metal, on the other hand, is something I need to be cautious around. Knowing this, before I started working regularly with hand cards and hand combs, I got a tetanus shot. Good thing, too, because I regularly get poked by those tines. So I’m clumsy. So sue me…

Well, I may be metal and wire phobic, but I’m happy to report that other spinners and fiber artists are not. Meet Kathi Pecor. She took a couple of my classes at the Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival earlier this month. In one of those classes, we played with core-spinning (wrapping fiber around a core yarn). She then took core spinning outside the box. In an email, she told me, “…I applied what I learned to something I saw on the internet-core-spinning with wire as the core. I used 24g wire and some wild glitzy stuff I carded and just spun away-the hardest part is that the stuff doesn't wind up on the bobbin-you have to do it by hand-which isn't all that bad….”

Here’s the picture she sent me.

I asked her what she planned to do with this fiber-wrapped wire. She replied that it might find a place in jewely or book binding. How cool is that! For more, visit her blog.

Over this last weekend, I met another fiber artist who is combining metal and fiber. Her name is Emily Wohlscheid. Her business name is Bricolage Studios. She was a vendor at the Northern Michigan Lamb & Wool Festival
. I was quite intrigued by her jewelry and her orifice hooks. The orifice hooks had tiny bits of fiber encased in plexiglass (I think) and copper. Charming! She has a few examples in her etsy store and she discusses her art work on her blog . Take a look.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Page 32

Two wraps-per-inch events have recently collided in my universe. Perhaps not of astronomical proportions, but noteworthy to me none the less.

At the recent Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival
I helped one of the other instructors, Nancy Shroyer, by giving her rides between the motel and the fairgrounds. Nancy is the owner of Nancy’s Knit Knacks , and she makes marvelously ingenious and useful tools for spinners and knitters. On the last day of the festival, she gave me a handful of her wraps-per-inch tools, hoping that I could use them in my teaching. What a sweet gesture. And, yes, I certainly can use them!

After she gave them to me, I sheepishly said, “I have to warn you….” I told her about an article I’d written that was on the verge of being published in Spin Off magazine
about the wraps-per-inch measurement. In the article, I presented evidence that the WPI measurement is lacking “reliability” (from a research methods point of view). I didn’t want Nancy to think I was utterly opposed to the measurement or that I didn’t like her lovely tools. She responded with grace and equanimity.

A few days after I returned from that trip, my copy of the Fall 2010 issue of Spin Off appeared in my mailbox. My article is on page 32. I structured the article on the standard format for a scientific paper: introduction, methods, results, and discussion. What do you think?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sheeeep! Sheeeep!

I got home late last night from my trip to Jefferson, WI for the Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival . It was a terrific trip. The highlight was after the festival: my stay overnight Sunday at the home of Carol and Paul Wagner. They own and run Hidden Valley Farm & Woolen Mill.

We three left Jefferson on Sunday (after a good dinner at a local Mexican restaurant) at about 7:30pm. It was a three-vehicle caravan. Carol was in the lead with the truck and trailer, then came Paul with the van and camper, and I brought up the tail in my trusty Subaru. We arrived at their farm at about 9:30pm. I was exhausted, but I imagine that both Carol and Paul were more so! The sky was clear and the Milky Way was visible. Ah!

After a night of sleeping deeply, I got up to fresh coffee, eggs, bacon and toast. Yum! I wandered around the near surrounds of their old farmhouse (which had earlier belonged to Paul’s parents) and took pictures.

Carol and Paul showed me the workings of their fiber mill: washing machines (old ringer types), drying racks, picker, post-picker room (that’s what I call it; I don’t know the official name), roving carder, quilting batt carder. All were awesome machines. The building that served as the retail store was a fabulous space. I walked up the stairs and promptly asked if I could move in. They have so many wonderful ways of displaying their wares. I especially loved the “cabinet” that had once been a paper press.

Then Carol took me to the sheep pastures. They raise Coopworth sheep. First off, we visited the lambs (now weaned). There were over 150 of them! Cute cute cute! And Frenchy, the guard llama, was right in the mix. Paul arrived and asked Carol and me to help move the lambs to the next pasture (they rotate pastures frequently). Those lambs did not cooperate! Carol and I tried to chase them around; I was next to useless. Finally they figured out which way to go. Hey, they’re young, like teenagers. No wonder they don’t want to follow directions!

Next, we went to the pasture with the ewes. When Carol and I drove up, they pretty much ignored us. When Paul arrived he said, “Hey, Amy, watch this.” He cupped his hands around his mouth and hollered, “Sheeeep! Sheeeep!” As a group, all the sheep (many more than I could count) swept down the hillside toward Paul, hoping, I’m sure, that he would have something wonderful for them. It was a sight!

The rams were in a third location. They were not at all interested in visiting with us. They were too busy eating some luscious clover.

After we had a delightful lunch of ground mutton burgers, Carol and Paul bid me adieu with some peppers, squash, and eggplant from their garden and a hefty chunk of lamb/pork summer sausage. I drove off to Manitowoc to catch the ferry to my side (the “good” side) of Lake Michigan.

Rich! I tell you I’m rich to know such wonderful people. This past week could not have ended better. Thanks, Carol. Thanks, Paul.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Treats for Teachers

An apple for the teacher. A sweet, kind gift to show gratitude and admiration.

I sometimes get “apples” from students in my workshops. It always surprises me. It always delights me. And it makes me think I must be doing something right!

One such gift I received recently was a charming piggy bank. Not just any piggy bank! This one is meant for fiber fiends. One of the folks who was in my beginning spinning workshop at the Michigan Fiber Festival gave it to me. I was so stunned by the gesture that I failed to note who exactly gave it to me. (How rude!) If anyone reading this blog knows the culprit, tell me. I really must send her a proper thank-you.

I began putting coins in this fountain right away. When it’s full, I will spend the money on something fibery, of course, and completely for myself.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Rare Threads

I just met with Sylvia Walworth in Traverse City to deliver my wall hanging, “Petosegay – Sunbeams of Promise” (see my blog entry June 30, 2010
). She is one of the organizers of the upcoming fiber arts show, “Rare Threads – Eclectic Meanderings”.

This juried show will be held at the Jordan River Arts Council building in East Jordan, Michigan. There is an opening reception Sunday, October 3, 1-4pm. The show then runs October 3 through November 12, 2010.

In conjunction with this show, the Jordan River Arts Council
is sponsoring a number of fiber arts workshops. Topics include batik, shibori, porcupine quillwork, beading, knitting, and others. You can check their website for details on these workshops.

I’m thrilled that my wall hanging was accepted to this show, and I do look forward to seeing all the other wonderful fiber art on exhibit.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Wisconsin Sheep & Wool

Next week I’ll be travelling to Jefferson, Wisconsin for the Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival
. This’ll be my third year teaching at this delightful event. I can hardly wait!

For one thing, I get to travel by ferry (“The SS Badger
) across Lake Michigan. What a treat to be on that inland sea for 4 peaceful hours. A perfect opportunity to knit!

Then, I get to teach workshops for all three days of the festival. My workshop, “Plying Balanced Yarns” filled rather quickly. The other three workshops still have spaces available. I’m especially looking forward to my workshop, “Spinning with Commercial Yarns” in which we play with re-spinning commerical yarns and various crazy ways of combining handspun singles and commercial yarns. Here’s a picture of some of the stuff we’ll do:

I like that this festival has a very strong emphasis on agriculture. The “lambing barn” and the “hall of breeds” are both wonders for visitors. In addition to the large selection of fiber arts vendors, there are many agricultural vendors. You really get the connection between those who raise the animals and those who use their fiber.

On the cover of the festival’s magazine this year is a print by Joan Arnold . I love her work. A few years ago, I bought a print of her piece, “The Gathering”. I’d love someday to get an original. I will certainly spend some time at her booth admiring her art….and maybe purchasing some!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

These are a Few of my Favorite Things

Inspiration hit….with the help of some fiber friends. A month ago, I bought not quite 2 yards of a cotton fabric with a sheepy print (see my blog entry July 30
). At the time of purchase I was without any idea as to what to do with the fabric. A few days later my friend, Gladys S., suggested making an apron.

Brilliant! I love aprons. And just recently my friend, Marty F., offered to make me an apron. The stars were aligned in my favor! I gave the fabric to Marty and she promptly made me two aprons.

It didn’t take me long to get it dirty. I made a peach pie on Sunday. The peaches this year have been especially delicious. This was my second peach pie of the season. I shared the pie with friends.

My friend, Sylvia VM., took a picture of me in one of my sheep aprons, holding my fabulous pie, standing next to my adorable dog, Toby.

A new apron, fresh pie, my dog….all in the company of some wonderful fiber friends. These are a few of my favorite things.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Events Updates

I love to go to fiber events, whether I am teaching classes, taking classes or just fiber hunting. On my website, I list the upcoming fiber events where I’ll be teaching. Today I just made a couple of additions to that list. Some of these events are brand new, some I’ve attended before and thoroughly enjoyed!

Here are the new additions to my events list:

I’m teaching a “Learn to Knit” class at Interquilten,
a quilt shop in Interlochen, Michigan. Classes are on three consecutive Wednesdays (September 8, 15, and 22, 2010), 6-7pm. Contact the store to register.

The “First Annual Fall Fiber Retreat”. This is a weekend event scheduled for November 19 – 21, 2010 at the Lake Louise Methodist Camp near Boyne Falls, Michigan. Pippa Jones is organizing this new event. She’s asked me to teach “Variations on Long Draw” and “I-Cord Edges and More!” You can contact Pippa via email,

My friend, Carol Wagner (of Hidden Valley Farm and Woolen Mill
), asked me to participate in the “Winter Weekend Warmup” in Greenbay, Wisconsin, February 4-6, 2011. I believe that knitting socks will be the event theme. We haven’t decided yet what exactly I’ll be teaching. Contact Carol for more information,

One event that is not yet on my list is another visit to the Manasota Weavers Guild in Sarasota, Florida. The workshops will either be in December 2010 or March 2011. I was there this year in February and had a swell time! I’ll post details as I learn them.

The workshops that I’ll be teaching at the Duluth Art Institute
(April 30, May 1, 2011) have been decided upon: “Spinning with Commercial Yarns”, “Plying for Texture”, and “Spinning with Silk Hankies”. I taught at the DAI in late April 2009. Not surprising for Duluth, Minnesota at that time of year, we had a snow storm! Other than that, it was a most wonderful experience and I do look forward to returning to that event. You can call the DAI business office to register, (218) 733-7560.

For a list of these events (with contact information) and others I’ll be attending, take a look at the events schedule page of my website

No matter where you find your fiber fun, I hope you make the most out of it!

Spin on! Knit on!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Constraints and Creativity

On Sunday, August 1, 2010, I started three knitting projects: a pair of socks, a shawl, and an afghan. Well, I finished knitting the afghan just before the Michigan Fiber Festival, and Tuesday I finished weaving in the yarn ends. (I’m still mulling over the cuff edge of the socks, and I’ve knitted about 15 inches on the shawl.)

The afghan is knitted from some brushed mohair yarns that have been in my stash for awhile. I used five colors: light purple, an orangey red, a raspberry red, a gold, and the fifth color is really 4 very thin brushed kid mohair yarns held together and knitted as one (orange, dark purple, lilac, and brown) that created a sort of “raisin” color. The other yarns are either “La Gran” or La Gran-like.

The construction is simple: garter stitch edges, with the body of the afghan knitted in the classic “feather and fan” pattern (multiples of 18 sts):

Row 1: knit
Row 2: purl
Row 3: *K2tog three times, (yo, k1) six times, K2tog three times*, rep from * to *.
Row 4: purl

I created “stripes” of color, with each stripe equal to one 4-row repeat of the feather and fan.

Here’s where the constraints come in. My first constraint: how much of each color was available. I had 10 skeins of the light purple, but only 1-3 skeins of the other colors. So, the light purple is the “background” or main color and I needed to be conservative on how much gold to use (only 1 skein).

My second constraint was self-imposed. I decided to maintain a color sequence of the non-main colors: A) orangey red, B) raisin, C) gold, then D) raspberry red.

I love the challenge of creating something new and interesting within constraints. I allowed myself to play with how many stripes and how thick the stripes could be. Knitting this afghan reminded me of my days long ago as a dance student at the University of Utah. We had composition & improvisation classes nearly every semester for four years. This afghan was like a slow growing improvisation within the color constraints that I had.

I found myself thinking really no more than 4 or 5 stripes in advance. I allowed myself to “go with the flow”, yet maintain the color sequence. Here’s the stripe order, with the main color (light purple) identified as “O” and the other colors identified by their letters as listed above. There are five “repeats” of the sequence of colors (A,B,C,D), but each “repeat” varies with the amount of “O” interspersed and how much of each color I used:


I rather like the regimented-to-irregular composition that resulted. Here’s a picture of the stripe sequence of the afghan:

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Photos from Michigan Fiber Festival 2010

Five full days at the Michigan Fiber Festival!

When I arrived on Wednesday, I took a picture of the gate to the Allegan County Fairgrounds.

Wednesday afternoon, I taught a class on I-cords. In this class, we knit a sample version of a wrist wrap pattern that incorporates I-cords on all edges. One workshop participant had her daughter with her. The daughter was quite taken by one pair of wrist wraps that I’d brought as samples. You can find a free copy of the wrist wrap pattern as a pdf file on my website.

On Friday, a photographer from the Kalamazoo Gazette took pictures at the festival, including some pictures of me teaching beginning spinning. I insisted that his photos make me look 20 pounds thinner. That didn’t happen. Take a look.

Friday was also the day that the vendors open for business. I promptly went to Carol Wagner’s booth, Hidden Valley Farm and Woolen Mill. With Carol was her friend and Spinner Extraordinaire, Laurie Boyer. Laurie spins the most amazing art yarns. One of the yarns she had for sale this year incorporated q-tips! Can you believe it?! Her most stunning yarn this year was a skein of yarn that had been wrapped multiple times and then had cut-aways. Spooky but spectacular! I covet her yarns.

A close up:

The many steps:

Saturday morning I took a class from Galina Khmeleva, “Handspinning Orenburg Style”. Great class. I am taking to heart her advice of practicing at least 15 minutes a day. She says it’ll take about 2 weeks of this daily practice to develop some proficiency. Hmmm….

I had time to visit the barns on Saturday afternoon. Pygora goats were the featured fiber animal at this year’s festival. They are really really cute. Here’s a picture that shows off the beautiful coat of a couple pygora goats from Great Lakes Pygora .

I stayed with the pygora theme on Sunday, taking Patsy Zawistoski’s class, “Positively Pygora”. Another great class! We got a good look at all three types of pygora fleeces.

Type A (rather like kid mohair)

Type B (more like cashmere)

Type C (even more like cashmere, but way more guard hair)

Sunday afternoon, there was a new event at the festival: a sheep costume parade. I got one picture and then the batteries in my camera died.

Next year, next year….