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.