Friday, July 30, 2010

Sylvia's "Sylvia", Part 4...and More

For the past month, I’ve spent Thursday afternoons at “Open Knitting” at Interquilten , a local quilt and yarn store (1:00 – 4:00pm every Thursday. All are welcome!). Yesterday, in an off-handed way, I asked if the store had any “sheep fabric”. Oh, yes! Once I saw it, I could not resist. I bought all that was on the bolt, about 1 ¾ yards. I have no idea what I’ll do with it. I’m waiting for inspiration. Here it is:

I mean! Could you resist it?

As for “Sylvia”, I finished the spinning. The first skein – from from the fiber that I’d washed, combed, then carded – weighs 2.90 ounces and has 296 yards. I did manage to get a bit of a streaky effect, but not as dramatic as I’d hoped. I’m still optimistic that I’ll get a nice effect when it’s knitted up.

The second skein – from just the darkest of the extra fiber that Sylvia had washed and combed and given to me – weighs .85 ounces and has 86 yards. I plan to use it for the toes of the socks.

For both skeins, I spun the singles on my Reeves upright wheel, using the smaller of the two whorls. It was a wonderful opportunity to concentrate on the spinning needs of this most magnificently springy fiber. I then plied the yarns on my Louet S10-DT, also using the smallest whorl.

Here’s a picture of the two skeins sitting atop the sheep fabric (I think the lighter skein has much more personality than shows in this photo):

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Local Corriedale

In late May, at the peak of lilac season, I drove up to Windy Knob Farms
between Omena and Northport to buy a corriedale fleece. Although the farm itself has been around for a very long time, only recently have the current owners begun raising corriedale sheep.

The current owners, Marek and Dan:

Dan and Marek have put a huge effort into establishing a fine herd of natural colored sheep. They’ve also got a guard llama, chickens, and the most spectacular views of the best of Leelanau county. Looking east from their porch you can see lilac bushes in the foreground and Grand Traverse Bay in the background. The southward view from the farmhouse is of some beautiful cherry orchards. It is a most lovely farm. Looking east:

And they have lovely sheep with lovely fleece. I bought Lisa’s fleece. Lisa has a light-to-medium grey fleece, very nice crimp, very soft. The staple length was on the short side, 3-3 ½ inches, because they’d had her sheared earlier to avoid a “break” in the fleece. But the fiber was so very nice.

Lisa and friends on the hoof:

Here's Lisa off the hoof:

I originally planned to wash and card Lisa’s fleece myself, but I realized that I don’t have the time. So last Saturday, when I went to the Fiber Arts Festival
in Charlevoix, I took Lisa’s fleece with me and I dropped it off with Deb McDermott of Stonehedge Fiber Mill to have prepared into roving.

I look forward to spinning Lisa. And I look forward to future visits to Windy Knob Farms.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Road Trip! Road Trip!

For the past few years whenever I’ve gone to a fiber festival it has been as an instructor. In that capacity, I have had to fit my fiber shopping in between or after classes. But yesterday, I attended the Fiber Arts Festival
at Castle Farms in Charlevoix, Michigan purely as a spectator and shopper.
It’s a nice road trip from Interlochen to Charlevoix, about 70 miles. My friend Becky M and I left about 10:30am. Yesterday was a cloudy – occasionally rainy – day, but the drive was delightful. We made one stop on the way to Charlevoix at a very sweet road stop on US 31 at Birch Lake. It’s one of my all time favorite roadside rest areas. Birch Lake is a small lake, with cottages dotting the shores. Yesterday, there were a few boats hanging out at their docks. Dragonflies lazed above the calm water. Minnows darted in the shallow water near the edge of the lake. Becky picked a bit of mint from the shoreline. It would have been so easy to just hang out there all day, hypnotized and soothed by the scene.

We continued on, however, to Charlevoix. I had some specific shopping goals. I’m scheduled to teach a workshop this fall at the NYS Sheep & Wool Festival
on “Spinning & Knitting Goat Fibers”, so I was on the lookout for teaching supplies: mohair, pygora, and cashmere….and blends of these fibers with either wool or silk. I found some wonderful fibers! I got some handpainted cashmere/silk/Merino tops from Creatively Dyed Yarn, some natural brown cashmere blended with silk from River’s Edge Fiber Arts, and some pygora (both types A and B) from Great Lakes Pygora .

Here’s a picture of some of my loot:

Becky and I also ran into many fiber friends who were either vendoring or shopping: Marty F, Cindy H, Tracie H, Joan S. We ate lunch at the festival. It was a perfect day for a hotdog and fries!

So, the summer fiber festival season has begun on a good note. I look forward to more fiber road trips: Allegan, Jefferson, West Branch, Rhinebeck. Good thing I have a trust-worthy car!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sylvia's "Sylvia", Part 3

I carded the combed bits of “Sylvia” on Sunday. I ended up making four batts each weighing 0.75 oz. My first step was to separate all the small combed tops into four piles (one for each batt). I wanted to card together all the shades of grey, so I tried to put equal amounts of all the different shades of grey into each pile.

My general carding technique was this: I would take one small combed top at a time, open it up, shake it a bit to remove any twist. I then pre-drafted it lengthwise (just as if I were going to spin it – this strategy helps to make the fibers as loose as possible), and then I broke the top into two long pieces. I then put the pieces side-by-side onto the uptake table of the drum carder, opening up the fibers sideways a bit to make sure I had a thin layer of fiber. Then I would card the top onto the drum very slowly. I only made one pass on the drum carder for each batt.

For the first two batts, I selected the combed tops randomly, so that the batt was made of very thin layers of different colors of grey.

Now, my original idea was to make batts that would spin up into a nice variegated yarn. I was a little concerned that the strategy I chose for combining colors in the first two batts would result in too continous of a color of medium grey, with very little variegation.

So, for the second two batts, I changed my tune: I added the tops to the batts in order of darkest grey to lightest grey. I’m hoping this strategy will result in the variegation I have in my mind’s eye.

Here’s a picture of the four batts (the top two batts were done first using the thin-layer strategy; the bottom two batts used the from-darkest-to-lightest strategy):

I’ll spin the first two batts onto one bobbin, the second two batts onto a second bobbin, and then ply them together.

I’m a bit concerned that 3 ounces will not make quite enough yarn for a pair of socks. And I expressed this concern to Sylvia (my friend, not the wool). She graciously provided me with 3 more ounces of already combed “Sylvia” (the wool, not my friend). She did her combing with Alvin Ramer Super Mini Combs (available through
The Wheel Thing). Both Sylvia and another friend, Joan, own these combs, and they both absolutely love them.

My plan is to spin this wool directly from the tops, and not card them. I will try to keep the colors separate so I’ll end up with small amounts of solid colored yarns of various colors of grey…which I will use on the cuffs and/or heels and/or toes of the socks.

Here’s a picture of the extra fiber that Sylvia gave me:

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Sylvia's "Sylvia", Part 2

I finished combing the CVM lamb wool (“Sylvia”) on Thursday. A lovely rainbow of greys! The fiber was fairly easy to comb. If I were to do it again, however, I would be more meticulous about opening up the tips of the locks before washing the fleece. More opened tips would have made the combing even easier.

As it turned out, I lost about 50% by weight: I had started with 6 ounces of raw wool, and I ended up with 3 ounces of clean and combed wool.

Here’s a picture I took yesterday:

The next step is to create a variegated blend with my Deb’s Deluxe drum carder. I’ll let you know how it turns out!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Sylvia's "Sylvia"

My Friend Sylvia VM has a knack for finding wonderful fleeces on the internet. Last year, she reserved two 2010 fleeces from the White Barn Farm in Blanchard, Michigan. They raise CVM sheep (“California Variegated Mutant”). CVM sheep are multi-colored versions of Romeldale sheep. Romeldale wool is quite soft and entertainingly springy! It is a fun fiber to prepare, to spin, to knit, and to wear.

One fleece Sylvia got was from a sheep named Harley. The other fleece was from a lamb named “Sylvia”. The shepherd had actually named the sheep after my friend Sylvia.

I begged Sylvia (my friend) to sell me a bit of “Sylvia” (the lamb’s fleece). She consented to parting with 6 ounces. This was a couple months ago. On Saturday, the weather was perfect for washing fleece: sunny, breezy, and low humidity.

So that’s what I did: I washed my 6 ounces of “Sylvia”. First I put the wool into a mesh bag. I washed the wool using two 5-gallon buckets: One pre-soak in plain water (about 30 minutes); one wash with regular Dawn dishsoap (about 15 minutes), one rinse with water and a glug of vinegar (about 20 minutes), and another rinse with just water (about 20 minutes). I used very hot water for each step (about 2 gallons of the hottest tap water plus a kettle full of boiling water). And I put a lid on the bucket to keep the water and wool hot. After the last rinse, I spun the fiber out in the washing machine. Then I put the fiber on a sweater drying rack with a fan on it (on low). The fiber was perfectly dry the following morning.

I couldn’t keep my hands off “Sylvia”. Now, “Sylvia” is made up of many colors of grey. I mulled over whether to separate the colors or to blend them. I decided to do both! First, I separated the clean wool into 4 piles: very dark charcoal, medium charcoal, medium grey, light grey.

On Sunday (yesterday), I started hand combing the wool, using my Valkyrie 2 pitch hand combs. I started with the darkest charcoal. After I hand comb all the clean wool, I plan to roughly blend the colors on my drum carder. I want to ultimately spin some sock yarn that will be a variegation of “Sylvia” and her greys. Then, I’ll knit a pair of socks: for Sylvia!

Here’s a picture showing the washed wool and the bit that I hand combed yesterday.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I-Cord Wrist Wraps ~ Free Knitting Pattern

I know it’s hot out now, but it’ll be January before you know it. During the winter months, I set the thermostat at a cool 60degF during the day (saves energy and money). For comfort during those months, I wear long underwear. And I use “wrist wraps” to keep my hands warm when working at the computer or when reading in bed at night.

Last year, in preparation for a workshop that I was teaching on I-cords, I created a pattern for wrist wraps that incorporate I-cords on all edges and 2 different I-cord buttonholes.

I’d like to share that pattern with you. You can go to my website,, and download a pdf file of the pattern from the website homepage.

Two wonderful things about this pattern: First, it doesn’t take much yarn, so it’s a nice opportunity to use a nicer (er, more expensive) yarn. Second, this pattern is a terrific opportunity to scrounge through your button stash and find just the right buttons. If you’re anything like me, you’ve got one or two special buttons that have been calling out for the right project. Use them on these wrist wraps!

I’ve knitted four pairs of these things. They’re a great little gift…..even if you’re giving them to yourself! Here’s a picture of the first pair of wrist wraps that I knitted (my friend, Sylvia VM is the model).

Monday, July 5, 2010

Spinning & Weaving Association ~ SWA

I consider myself to be a fiber arts “professional”. Because I respect and value the fiber arts, I see it as my professional responsibility to belong to appropriate professional organizations. That is why I became an Associate Member of the Spinning and Weaving Association in 2005.

My membership has given me the opportunity to network with others in the larger fiber arts community. I worked for a time on the SWA education committee, getting to know (by phone conferences) folks such as Jane Patrick (Schacht Spindle), Irene Schmoller (Cotton Clouds), Liz Gipson (now at Schacht Spindle), Amy Clarke-Moore (Interweave Press), and many others.

Because of my involvement in the education committee, I was asked to become the “administrative coordinator” for SWA. In that capacity, I collect and format information that is then posted on the SWA website. Much of that information is intended to provide the general public with information about spinning and weaving. For example, I maintain and regularly update a list of festivals across the US (and some in Canada). This list includes fiber arts festivals, weaving conferences, and major knitting/crochet events. The events on this list are organized by state, making it easy to find fiber events near you.

The SWA website also contains a list of SWA members who teach spinning and weaving (also organized by state).

You can also find a list of SWA retail members (also organized by state); as well as a list of SWA wholesale members.

So, take a look at the SWA website. Perhaps you will find new and wonderful sources of supplies and fiber events. Perhaps you will be inspired to become a member of SWA. Perhaps you will be prompted to get back to your spinning wheel or your loom or your knitting needles…..