Monday, December 26, 2011

I'm Dreaming of a Sheepy Christmas

Yesterday was Christmas Day. I spent the day knitting and weaving. Perfect. I also spent some time treasuring my new sheepy possessions.

My new roommate, Joanna L., gave me the cutest finger puppet, “Mini Black Sheep” from Folkmanis Puppets. This little thing needs a name. I’ve considered several names (Frank, Oscar, June, Mabel) but nothing has stuck. Any suggestions?

The other sheepy items were presents I bought for myself. I was in Interquilten the other day and succumbed to the siren call of a sheepy fabric, Patt# Farm-C 7744 from Timeless Treasures Fabrics. I’ve got 2 yards. Don’t have a plan yet. Maybe pillowcases?

The other impulse buy was an adorable mug by Wacky Woolies. It’s perfect for my morning cup of coffee – it holds just the right amount of caffeine juice. I haven’t tried tea in it yet.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Bag To Be

My friend Becky McD. – the same friend who has crocheted so many beautiful bags for me – is going to make me another bag. A bigger one. This one’ll be sewn, not crocheted. The bits of this bag have been gathered over many years.

When I was going to school in Tucson in the late ‘80’s, I had a Dalmatian, “Taxi”. He was a true gentleman. I was crazy about him. That’s when I started collecting Dalmatian coffee cups. And I found this fabric:

Taxi died in 1995, but I still have the fabric. I also have my second Dalmatian, “Toby”. And I’m crazy about her. And I continue to gather Dalmatian-themed stuff.

Becky found this upholstery fabric for me a few years ago:

Becky’s a fabulous seamstress. She has made many beautiful bags of all sizes. I asked her if she’d make a bag for me with the Dalmatian upholstery fabric and use the dotted fabric as the lining. She said, “Of course!”

But she suggested that I weave an inkle band for the bag strap. Now, my yarn stash is primarily for knitting; I really didn’t have anything Dalmatian-y in my yarn stash that would work on my inkle loom. So I asked my weaving friends Marty F. and Carol S. if they had any cotton weaving yarns in the right colors that they might be able to spare. Marty gave me some black and white yarns; Carol gave me some blues. Here’s what I wove last week:

So, now all the parts are ready.

I’m going to knit a hat for Becky and she’s going to sew a spectacular Dalmatian bag for me. I am lucky to have such generous friends.

I wish you all friends as good as mine. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Changed My Mind

Few would disagree that angora (bunny “wool”) is among the softest fibers around. After touching angora, even cashmere can feel coarse. What’s not to love?

Well, as much as I admire the softness of angora, I have not really liked it as a fiber for spinning. Probably due to my first spinning experience with it.

When I lived in Nebraska, a fiber friend, Diann B., gave me some angora from one of her bunnies. Lovely grey fiber. Super super soft. I’d seen some of Diann’s spinning and crocheting of her fiber and admired it. I was looking forward to my first angora experience.

So, I spun some singles from the grey. At that time, I was working on a series of scarves from “energized” singles (they got published in Spin Off, Spring 2006
and again in Interweave Knit & Spin 2011), and I thought angora would be a great material for such a scarf. I mean! What could be more neck-worthy than angora?

I knitted up a swatch.

And I did not like the result. To me, it looked like a pelt. Or a dead rat. I couldn’t imagine wearing such a thing around my neck. So, I gave up on angora.

I continued to read about angora, admire its softness, hear about its warmth, respect those who raise the bunnies and love their fiber. But I had no interest in spinning it.

Moving ahead a few years. I designed and knitted a scarf & hat pair. And I used an Elsebeth Lavold yarn, “Angora” (60% angora, 20% wool, 20% polyamide). Here’s a picture of my friend Sylvia VM wearing the pair.

I sold the scarf very shortly after making the pair, but the hat has languished in my inventory for four years. I personally thought the hat was kinda cool and was surprised that it didn’t sell. This fall I decided it was time to remove it from my for-sale inventory. I thought about gifting it to someone, but since it had received so little sales interest I thought it might not be a welcome gift. So, I decided to use it myself, despite it being a bit too large for my pin head.

Epiphany! Although the hat is a little sloppy on my head, it is magnificently soft AND warm. Even in the most brisk December wind, this hat has kept my ears happy. And, I have received a surprising number of compliments on the hat since I started wearing it out and about.

So, I’ve changed my mind. I like angora, and I will spin some in 2012. And perhaps I’ll formalize the pattern for the scarf and hat.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Let It Snow

Yesterday I got new tires put on my car. I was dreading spending the money – so many other bills to pay – but it needed to be done. As I drove away from the car place (Marathon Automotive,
the absolute BEST auto repair place anywhere), I instantly knew that I’d done the right thing. Watson was a pleasure to drive.

“Watson” is what I’ve named my car. So I can say, “Come Watson, come! The game is afoot!” Believe me, I know that it’s incredibly arrogant to believe oneself to be Sherlock Holmes. But still…

We haven’t had much snow yet this year. Some was forecast for last night and some for this morning, but nothing yet. When it happens, I'll be ready.

Let it snow. Let it snow. Let it snow….

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Silk Purse...

…out of a silk yarn.

In 2006 I spun a cabled yarn with three of the four plies from bombyx silk top that had been dyed in blues and greens by Nancy Finn of Chasing Rainbows Dyeworks
. The fourth ply was undyed Optim, a super-stretched Merino wool that feels quite silky. I entered this yarn in the “Spin a Grand Strand” skein exhibit at Convergence when it was held in Grand Rapids. The yarn reminded me of Michigan. And I think of Michigan as being rather like a very very large terrarium. So, that’s what I titled the yarn: “Terrarium”.

And it won first place.

I had always thought the yarn would be put to its best use as a crocheted bag. But I don’t crochet … unless I have to. My very good friend Becky McD, however, can crochet. And magnificently well. So, I asked her to crochet a bag for me out of the Terrarium yarn. She made two bags:

These are not the only bags she’s crocheted for me. See?

The larger bags were gifts containing bottles of Bushmills Irish Whiskey. Becky knows me very well….

The small white bag she crocheted from some yarn that I’d inherited from my dear friend CiCi Rock when she died in 2004. So the yarn is from one great friend, and the crocheting is from another great friend. I especially treasure this bag.

The small red bag isn’t really a bag at all. The yarn was some of my handspun; an experiment that I thought had not gone well. I was going to chuck the yarn, but Becky asked me to give it to her instead. Well, of course she could have it! A few years later, I was preparing to attend a fiber retreat at a location where alcohol was not allowed. Becky and I were in a grocery store and I found some wine in cute little juice-box-like containers. She suggested I take these with me to the retreat and just cover them up. And she crocheted a juice box cover for me so that I could camouflage my illicit “grape juice”. I must say that I rather liked the yarn after she’d made this bag for me. Not so much of a failed experiment after all!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

All Things Reeves

Most of my travels to teach spinning workshops are by car. So, I usually take two wheels with me: my sturdy and reliable Louet S10-DT
and my mechanically magnificent and adorable little upright made by Rick Reeves. Here’s a picture:

I did take both wheels with me for my October road trip, first to the NYS Sheep & Wool Festival
in Rhinebeck, NY, then to the Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair in Fletcher, NC.

One of the workshops I taught at SAFF was “Plying Balanced Yarns”. And one of the participants in that workshop was Linda Martin (aka “Tropical Twister”, ). She is a big Reeves fan, and she admired my sweet little Reeves wheel. She has a couple of her own (not, however, the upright!). We oohed and cooed about the wonders of Reeves wheels.

A few weeks after meeting Linda, she sent me a present: a lovely orifice hook made by Rick Reeves. Oh, yeah! Thank you, Linda!

Linda also has an etsy site, where she sells yarn, jewelry, and the occasional Reeves orifice hook. Take a look.

Now retired from wheel making, Rick Reeves made some absolutely magnificent spinning wheels. You can see pictures of the wheels he used to make on the website, Detta’s Spindle
. Rick Reeves sold the rights to his saxony style wheel to the Schacht Spindle Company, which now makes both the 24” and the 30” saxony Schacht-Reeves wheels .

I used to have an original Reeves 24” Saxony wheel, but I didn’t use it enough so I sold it. Now, I miss it. Wish I hadn’t sold it. I look at this picture and think of what could have been … yarn-wise.

By the way, if you have an original Reeves wheel, you can still get bobbins for it from Carol Leigh’s Hillcreek Fiber Studio
. I’ve purchased several from them. I think I now have 12 bobbins for my upright. Is that enough?

One more thing: everyone who knows me knows that when I kick the bucket, my friend Sylvia VM inherits my Reeves upright wheel and all its accessories. Now it's public, now it's official. Until then (and there are no immediate plans!), I will gleefully use my Reeves wheel daily or nearly so.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


Many years ago I bought a skein of laceweight cashmere yarn after taking a 2-day workshop on Orenburg lace from Galina Khmeleva
. I had every intention of knitting an Orenburg shawl. I still have every intention of knitting an Orenburg shawl.

This yarn sat in my stash for a number of years. Then a few years back, I sold it -- needed the $ -- to my friend Molly L. Last week I was visiting her and she returned the skein to me. You see, her dog is quite the Fiber Hound….and not in a good way. He apparently loves yarn, especially high quality yarn. He got into Molly’s yarn stash and tangled up the skein of cashmere But Good!

Now, I like a tangle challenge. I consider myself to be especially talented at undoing knots and snarls. So, the other day, I put the messy skein on the dining room table to tidy it up. Here’s a picture of the start:

It’s not a particularly good picture. The composition is a mess. The lighting is terrible. The table cloth is too busy to allow you to see the yarn. The color is off; the yarn is really a most lovely layered rust color, not cranberry red.

I’d show you a picture of the untangled yarn…..if I had one. I worked for about 2 hours and was able to wind up about 1/5 of the yarn. Maybe that much. Maybe. Having other chores to do, I put the rest of the tangle on top of my dresser, where I’ll be forced to see it frequently. I hope the regular reminder will motivate me to finish the untangling job. I know it’s going to take time. And patience. But I think it’ll be worth it.

I remember in the book, The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx, that each chapter started with a quote from The Ashley Book of Knots. One chapter’s quote was about untangling a rope mess. Same applies to yarn, I thought. I wish I could remember the quote.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Trunk Show Soon

The yarn shop up in Cedar, Michigan is called Wool & Honey
(fka “Inish Knits”). Melissa Kelenski is the owner. She has recently invited a number of Michigan fiber artists to participate in a trunk show at her shop over the Thanksgiving Day Weekend.

I will be one of those participating. I’ll have all my knitting patterns for sale there that weekend including:

Jog-in-the-Rib Socks
Diamond Anklet Socks
Victory Hat & Spring Break Scarf
Gradual Grace Scarf
Denim Duo Hat & Scarf
Both Sides Now Scarves
Quartet of Slip Stitch Hats
Summer Socks
Patch Pair Scarves
Dream Shawl

Three Bags Fulled
Wrist Wraps


…my most recent: “Brick Road Afghan”. It’s a very large afghan that I knitted from 3 skeins (1 pound each) of “Abundance” yarn by Briar Rose Fibers

Here’s a picture:

I will have knitted samples of all the patterns. At least, that’s my hope. I have most of them knitted, but I still need to finish 2 scarves, a hat, and 2 bags. My fingers are very busy with production knitting right now!

So, if you visit this delightful shop between Friday, November 25 through Sunday, November 27, you’re sure to find something Michigan-y and Fiber-y. Yes!

If you can't visit the shop, but you're interested in buying any of my patterns, you can contact me directly at

Friday, November 11, 2011

Family Portrait

The spinning group I’m in meets every Monday afternoon. I do my best to keep my schedule open for those get-togethers; the company is always delightful ... and so are the snacks!

I was in need of some pictures of various spinning wheels, so last Monday, I asked everyone if they’d let me take group pictures of our spinning wheels. The weather cooperated….the sun even came out (perhaps for the last time for a good while!). And here’s the family portrait that I took on that day:

Let’s see….I think I know who’s who. From left to right: Gerrie, Jenny, Ginnie, Carol, Marty, Amy, Joan, Libby. Nice family, eh?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Updates to Website - Stone Sock Fibers

At this time of year, I’m busy sending out teaching proposals for next year (and beyond). While preparing some of this year’s crop, I realized that I needed to update some information on my website
. So, for the past week I’ve been tweaking and cutting and pasting and revising and rewriting and creating. The biggest change has been to the descriptions of the workshops I offer.

I revised a few descriptions, and I created three new workshops. Here are the new ones:

Spinning With Locks (6 hours): Wool and mohair locks can be used “as is” or prepared in a variety of ways for spinning both highly textured yarns and very smooth yarns. In this workshop, we will cover a wide array of lock structures, from fine crimp to bold curls. We will play with undyed and dyed locks, we will spin yarns from the locks, we will combine locks with rovings in a variety of ways, and we will flick locks for spinning smooth, worsted-type yarns.

Spinning Super Stretchy Wools (6 hours): Some wools are especially elastic: Targhee, Cormo, Romeldale/CVM, Rambouillet, Columbia, Suffolk, Montadale, and others. In this workshop, we will work with these wools to create sproingy-boingy yarns. We will cover a variety of drafting techniques that influence the springiness of yarns; we will card and comb washed fleece of these and other wools to make the most of their elasticity; and we will explore the best uses of such wools.

Circles, Hexagons, and OctagonsorKnitting Petoskey Stone Medallions (3 hours): In this workshop we will knit a medallion that was inspired by the state stone of Michigan, the Petoskey stone. The medallions are flat circles, knitted from the center out. When a series of these medallions are crocheted together, you can change the circular shape to 4-, 5-, 6-, or more-sided pieces. We will cover a circular crochet cast-on, how to knit circularly with 2 circular needles, 2-stitch cable patterns, and crocheting medallions together. With this approach, you can make scarves, afghans, hats, pillows, and more.

You can find descriptions of all my workshops on my website. Click Here.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Library Is Your Friend

As I kid, I spent many hours each summer at the Grace A. Dow Memorial Library in Midland, Michigan.
I’d hop on my bike and ride over there, then I’d hunt in the shelves for reading miracles. I found plenty. One summer, I spiced things up by picking books randomly. I read some weird things that summer.

When I started ballet lessons, I scoured the library for All Books Ballet. The library did not disappoint. I read several books by Agnes de Mille long before I was able to execute a grand jeté en tournant. The library was instrumental in assuring my addiction to dance and to dance history.

Further cementing my dedication to libraries, I worked at University libraries as a college student. I got to work in several departments: stacks, US government documents, microforms, periodicals, and the medical reserve desk.

Later, I was teaching college students. During my stint on the faculty of the University of Nebraska Medical Center
in the Division of Physical Therapy Education, I taught courses in “critical inquiry”: evidence-based practice, statistics, and research methods. I often told the physical therapy students, “The library is your friend!” So many resources, so much information, such wonderfully helpful librarians…..What’s not to love about libraries?

Anyway…because of my love of libraries, I was thrilled when I got a recent request from the Interlochen Public Library
to teach a single session on the basics of knitting. I would never say “no” to a public library. I would have even done it for free, but they are paying me a modest honorarium. Um, I think it’s the Friends of the Library who are actually footing the bill.

So, the session is Thursday, November 10, 6:00 to 8:00pm at the Interlochen Public Library. You can contact the IPL librarian, Janette Grice, for more information. Her email address is:

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Trip East Was a Blast...

...But I’m happy to be home!

During the NYS Sheep & Wool Festival
, I stayed at the Grand Dutchess B&B in Red Hook, just up the road a few miles from Rhinebeck. I love staying there. The festival houses a number of the workshop instructors at this charming establishment. This year, the group included Daryl Lancaster , Abby Franquemont , Donna Kay, and Andrea Wong – all absolutely delightful folks! I was, however, recovering from a cold, suffering from a very sore throat and overbearing cough, so I didn’t join in on the late evening knit and chat sessions. But! I did enjoy the conversations over the fabulously delicious breakfasts that proprietress Beth Pagano made for us – sometimes under unusual circumstances. On our first morning, the electricity went out. Beth improvised and we had a breakfast by candle light!

My classes were loads of fun, with really delightful and interesting participants. I didn’t get much of a chance to shop because of my teaching schedule, but I still managed to snag some very lovely Wensleydale locks from Crimson Shamrock
. I had met one of the owners, Lori Wall, a few years ago at the Mid Atlantic Fiber Association Conference in 2009.

One interesting sight at Rhinebeck: there was a spinner, Suzan Stapleford, demonstrating spinning on a pendulum spinning wheel. I’d only ever seen one of them once before (at the Octagon House
in Watertown, Wisconsin). Suzan’s husband built the wheel for her. I didn’t take a picture, but I did find a YouTube video of her at the wheel. Click here.

After Rhinebeck, I spent two days at my my cousin’s house near Scranton, PA. She loves fiber too. Trish now works full time for the Mid Atlantic Alpaca Association
. We did manage to have one “fiber day”, spent mostly spinning and knitting and playing with her new Hansen Mini-Spinner that she’d just purchased at Rhinebeck. I love that little thing! Here’s a picture.

Trish has an interesting Rhinebeck tradition: she gets a pedicure before going. This year, she had her toenails painted a lovely red, with special fibery images on the big toes. See? This picture is quite out of focus. I hope you can still get the idea…..

Trish has a new kitty too. It’s name is “Lucky Kitty”. Les, Trish’s husband, found the kitty under the hood of his truck – after he’d driven over 90 miles. The kitty was filthy dirty, but not injured. Lucky kitty indeed! And way too cute for words. So, here’s a picture:

After too short a visit, it was on to North Carolina. This was my first time at the Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair
, and I had fun! My classes went well. A few of the classes were quite full. My Sunday class, in contrast, only had 4 participants. That was my “Slip Stitch Knitting” workshop. You know, I really had the very best time with those four ladies. They jumped right in and played with slipping stitches this way and that way. I left that 10th-workshop-in-10-days on an inspired high. In fact, last night I had a dream about a really really cool sweater that incorporates slip stitches.

Love those knitting dreams!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Here, Then There

My move took longer that I’d planned. Isn’t that always the way! I did get some wonderful help from a number of folks: help with lifting, lugging, and storing things that won’t fit in my new location. Thanks so to: Judy, Molly, Dick, Jill, Joe, and especially to Becky!!

My biggest consolation for having to drive carload after carload is that this is a most beautiful time of year. I got to watch the colors come alive along Reynolds Road. Spectacular!

I am quickly falling in love with the village of Lake Ann. My dog and I are getting to know the best walks. The closest walk is up an old country road with the quaintest farm, not more than ¼ mile from my front door. Here are a few pics:

Now it’s time to hit the road again. I’m headed to Rhinebeck for the NYS Sheep & Wool Festival.
I teach Thursday through Sunday. After that, I drive to North Carolina for the Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair in Fletcher (just south of Ashville). I’m teaching three days there. All in all, I’m teaching 10 workshops with only 1 repeated. My car will be FULL!

But I get to see autumn colors all the way. Nice!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Movin' to L.A.

Lake Ann, that is. Lake Ann, Michigan
. Right now, I have an Interlochen address, although I live in Benzie County. Sometime over the next couple weeks, I’ll be completely moved to Lake Ann. From Inland Township to Almira Township.

I’m moving because I’ve lost my house due to foreclosure. I was one of those folks who bought a house at the height of the real estate market. Then the bottom fell out. And I haven’t been able to develop the income I’d hoped for. Despite having made a significant downpayment, I now owe more on the house than it is worth. I’ve pursued several avenues of recourse, but nothing has worked. This is a very common story.

So it’s time to move on. Start over. I’ll be sharing a house with a nice lady in Lake Ann. The biggest psychological hurdle was giving up the gardens that I’ve spent years developing. I’ve gotten over that one. At least I’ll be able to garden in my new place.

I may have to take a break from blogging for a couple weeks. I’ll get back to it as soon as I can. And I’ll update my website when the move is complete.

Here’s lookin’ toward the future. Cheers!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Part 3: Excellent Fiber

Nice plaque! It was awarded for the ”Grand Champion Fleece Overall” (i.e., “best in show”) at this year’s Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival.

This year, Letty Klein
was the judge. She had somewhere between 120 and 130 fleeces to judge. That doesn’t include the Shetland fleeces; they were judged separately.

There were three fleece divisions, each with multiple classes. I emailed Letty to ask about the judging process. Here’s what she had to say:

“The Coopworth fleece won the white coarse division, then beat out a nice but kind of dingy Cormo to be Champion White fleece. For Supreme fleece overall, I had the white Coopworth, a stunning natural colored Bluefaced Leicester, and they brought over the Champion Shetland fleece to judge. Since this was the first time I had seen the black Shetland fleece, I looked it over closely. I was very surprised to find that the tips came off very easily. I tried in several areas, all the tips were tender. The audience groaned when I showed them. So, that left the Coop and BFL. I then asked the audience for a vote - more voted for the BFL. I said OK, but lets take a closer look at both of them. I showed examples and talked about the character, consistancy and handle - and talked both them and myself into selecting the Coop!”

Who knew that fleece judging could be so suspenseful! I was on the edge of my seat just reading Letty’s description!

Here’s the kicker: That winning Coopworth fleece came from Carol Wagner of Hidden Valley Farm & Fiber Mill!
I have always known that she has wonderful fabulous can’t-be-beat Coopworth wool. Now there’s confirmation!

Needless to say, Hidden Valley is my go-to source for Coopworth wool.

There are other vendors at WSWF who I consider go-to sources:

I always get my Cormo wool from Jill Johnson at Riverwinds Farm.
This year in her booth, she also had some fabulous Bluefaced Leicester wool. I bought some combed top and some dyed locks. Mmmmm…..

BrambleWool Farm
is my go-to source for Shetland wool. Julie Guilette had rovings, tops, and Shetland blends in her booth. By Sunday afternoon, her booth was nearly empty!

I have also in the past bought lovely a Shetland-Mohair blend combed top from Psalm 23 Farm
at WSWF. It is yummy!

This year, I ran into Neil Kentner several times at the festival. He’s from Mason, Michigan and he raises Wensleydale sheep at his farm, Wynsmoor Manor (sorry, no website). He has also been fleece judge at WSWF in the past. So, he knows fleeces. I snagged a pound of lovely washed Wensleydale fleece from him this year (from a sheep named “Beulah”). I suspect that may become an annual tradition!

Anyway, WSWF is an event that is guaranteed to offer magnificent fiber for handspinners. If you haven’t attended this event, do consider going in the future. It’s worth it!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Part 2: Excellent Shopping

Books, tools, and treats for myself. The shopping was excellent. This is one of my favorite places to shop. There were about 150 vendors. This year I went with an actual shopping list. And I got pretty much all that I was looking for….and, of course, more!

My one real indulgence – just for myself – not related at all to business – but I love them: Earrings by Jenny the Potter.
A few years ago, I bought one of her mugs. Last year, some earrings. This year, some more earrings. Who could resist green sheep?
The other non-tool, non-fiber, non-business related purchase was a canvas bag. Now, I’ve got loads of canvas bags. And I use ‘em. I always have a stack of them in the passenger seat of my car, so I can quick grab them for grocery shopping or whatever shopping. But do I really need another bag? Well, no….but! I saw Cheryl Stegert (see yesterday’s blog entry) carrying one around, and I was compelled. You see, the bag is the Festival bag, sold by Ewesful Gifts
(they sell all sorts of sheepy-related paraphernalia ). And this is the 10th year for the Festival. That’s a meaningful milestone. Besides, the bag is green (Can you tell that green is my favorite color?) and fabulously big. I was able to put a goodly amount of my purchases in it. Worth it, don’t you think?

Now, most of my purchases were purposeful and intended to help with my fiber work. I got two books, one on knitting, one on weaving.

As I’ve begun my foray into the world of rigid heddle weaving, many folks have encouraged me to get the book by Jane Patrick, The Weaver’s Idea Book. I found a copy of it at the Mielke’s Fiber Arts booth.

I was also on the lookout for Ann Budd’s latest, Sock Knitting Master Class. Ann is the editor of this compilation of fantastic and fantastical patterns by many of the best sock designers. I found a copy at Susan McFarland’s booth (Susan’s Fiber Shop
). A quick perusal convinced me that this book is a must-have for any sock knitter. By the way, I’ve been visiting Ann’s blog lately and she is in the process of knitting every single sock in this book, presenting these sock knitting adventures on her blog.

Besides books, I got a few tools too. I do a fair amount of hand combing, and I usually just pull the top off the combs. I thought I should give a diz a try. So, I got one at Susan’s McFarland’s booth. I think it’s made from some type of plastic, but I like its looks, and I like that it comes with a hook for snagging the first bit of fiber off the combs.

Cheryl Stegert is responsible for prompting me to buy a tahkli spindle. Now, I've already got a good tahkli at home. I didn't really need another one, but this one was made using a Sacagawea dollar coin as the whorl. I could not resist. I bought it at Mielke's Fiber Arts...and they make them.
I also came by a great niddy noddy. Nancy Shroyer
(see yesterday’s blog entry) gave me one of her fabulous travelling niddy noddies as a thank you for driving her around at the Festival. What a sweet thank you! I am thrilled. It’s so nice to have portable, functional, and beautiful spinning tools!

As you might imagine, I did purchase my fair share of fiber at the Festival. I will talk about things “fibery” in the next blog entry….Stay tuned….

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Part 1: Excellent Classes

I got home late Monday night from my trip to the Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival. What a wonderful time I had!
I’m going to blog about my Wisconsin adventures over the next three blog entries. Today, I’ll concentrate on classes: Students and Teachers.

I taught all three days of the Festival. All the workshop participants were alert, enthusiastic, ernest, adventurous, appreciative, and just really really pleasant people. That’s the way it has always been at this event. I just love teaching workshops there.

I got a chance to chat with a few of the other instructors at length. Most especially, I got to spend time with Nancy Shroyer of Nancy’s Knit Knacks.
She had flown in from North Carolina and was without a car. So I gave her rides to and from the hotel where we were staying. She is a delightful person, as well as an ingenious fiber tool designer and a wonderful teacher.

On Thursday night Nancy and I joined Letty Klein
for dinner at Highway Harry’s in Johnson Creek. Letty was scheduled to teach a rug braiding class on Friday, judge the fleece competition on Saturday, and give a presentation on Sunday. I had met her last year when we travelled together to the Northeast Handspinners Association “The Gathering” in Vermont (see my blog entry November 11, 2010). It was very good to see her again. It reminds me that I haven’t started the braided rug that I planned to make from some Shetland roving….

On Friday morning I had breakfast with Cheryl Stegert. I had first met Cheryl in Neenah Wisconsin at Midwest Masters 2010. She often teaches classes at Yarns by Design in Neenah.
We chatted about knitting and spinning and weaving. We bumped into each other several times during the Festival, and I “blame” her for some of my purchases (I’ll explain in my next blog entry).

I did stop in on Carol Rhoades’s classroom to say howdy. In past years, we have taught in the same building, but this year we did not, so we didn’t have much time to catch up, but it was nice to see her. Carol is the technical editor for Spin Off magazine
, and she helped neaten up my article on my 3X3=10 shawl (Fall 2011 issue). Thanks Carol!!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor of Love

Today is Labor Day. As with most of you, I’ve tried my hand at many forms of work. These days, I work at what I love: fiber arts. I spend most of my days spinning, knitting, teaching, preparing to teach, writing, and contemplating the wonders of fiber. I am lucky that way. Not everyone can do the work they really really want to do.

The flip side of my labor of love is that it requires that I live on a financial shoe-string. I have simplified and downsized a lot over the past few years. I will likely continue to do so. I’m not complaining: I find it satisfying, not constraining. (Hey! That rhymes!)

Last week I “labored” on what I think is an adorable pair of wrist warmers. Last year, I had spun a yarn that I describe as an “intermittent wrap yarn”. It’s a two-ply yarn where one ply intermittently wraps around the other ply. The wraps alternate between the two plies. In her book, The Essentials of Yarn Design for Handspinners, Mabel Ross labeled this type of yarn “Cloud” yarn. It doesn’t look particularly cloud-like to me, but what’s in a name (“A rose by any other name….”)?

This particular yarn was made from two rovings that I’d purchased from Hidden Valley Farm & Woolen Mill
; one of the rovings was 80% Coopworth wool and 20% mohair; the other roving was 80% coopworth and 20% silk. Here’s a picture of the yarn. To try to show you the “wraps”, I wound the yarn around a piece of paper and then took a not-very-good picture of it on my flat bed scanner.

I recently swatched the skein, using a slip-stitch idea that Jacey Boggs
had briefly mentioned in her wonderful article on “cocoon” yarns for Spin-Off (Spring 2011, pp44-47). “…work up to the cocoon, then slip as many stitches as it takes to make up the length of the cocoon – usually two to four – then continue knitting. The result here is a cocoon stretched over the top of your stitches – visually stimulating and incredibly unique.”

I loved the result when I applied it to my intermittent wraps. With only 1 skein (3.25 oz, 104 yards), I was limited in what I could make with my yarn. I decided on wrist wraps. I used the skeleton of a mitten idea from Ann Budd’s
The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns.

I’m keepin’ these babies for myself. I can hardly wait for cold weather!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Marl? Comin' Right Up!

Look what arrived in yesterday’s mail.

See that blurb in the upper right hand corner? That’s my article about my shawl “3 X 3 = 10”. It was originally scheduled to be published in Spin Off last spring, but the editors moved it to the fall issue. It’s good to see it in print!

Here are a few of my photos of the shawl, taken in February 2010 (as explanation of the snow in the background). My friend, Vivienne K is the model:

And here is a picture of the 10 yarns that I spun for the shawl (again with snow in the background):

I do like marl yarns. I like spinning them, and I like knitting with them. And I’ll be teaching “Spinning Marl Yarns” a couple times in the near future. Next week, I’m headed to the Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival in Jefferson, Wisconsin. I’ll be teaching the marl workshop on Sunday, September 11.

And in October, I’m headed to Rhinebeck, New York to teach workshops at the NYS Sheep & Wool Festival.
I’ll be teaching the marl workshop there on Saturday, October 15.

Care to join me?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Bond. "Kyne" Bond.

In July, when I drove up to Charlevoix for the Fiber Arts Festival, I had a very important purchase in mind: a Bond fleece.

According to both The Fleece and Fiber Source Book (D Robson and C Ekarius) and In Sheep’s Clothing (N Fournier and J Fournier), the Bond breed arose around the turn of the 20th century in Australia from a cross between Lincoln and Merino sheep: a very nice combo, resulting in a soft and springy wool with a long staple length.

The back story: Last year at the Charlevoix show I visited the booth of Big Hand Farm.

They had a few dozen of the loveliest, cleanest fleeces. I spied and admired a few brown fleeces, I wrote a note to myself with the names of the sheep from which these fleeces had come, and I wandered away from the booth. About a half hour later, I decided to go back to the booth and buy one of those fleeces. But they were all already sold!

So, over the intervening year, I plotted and planned to get to that booth right away this year and buy one of those fleeces. As soon as I arrived at the festival, I made a beeline for their booth, and quickly picked a lovely fleece from a sheep named “Kyne”. I was smitten. The fleece was darn big: 8.6 pounds. The locks were a good length, about 5 inches, and had a nice tight french-fry-crinkle-cut shape to the crimp.

I did not drive home with this fleece. Instead, I took it over to Deb McDermott’s booth, Stonehedge Fiber Mill,
and dropped it off with her. Last week I got the fleece-turned-roving. “Kyne” is kinda nice, don’t you think?

I spun up a bit of the roving. Yum! It’s too bad that the picture can’t tell you how soft and elastic this wool and its yarn are.

Then, I took a pinch and combed it. One pass on my Valkerie double pitch combs. Even more yum!

I’ve got 5 pounds and 12 ounces of this lovely roving. Kyne is sure to keep me happy for a good long time.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Norwood Loom for Sale

My friend, Judy McLaughlin, spends her summers near here in Beulah, Michigan. She spends her winters in Duluth, Minnesota. No kidding!

She has two looms, both identical, one in Duluth and one in Beulah. And, she’s decided to sell her loom in Beulah. She has had this loom for 10 or 15 years and has not found time to weave on it as much as she’d like. Here are the loom specifics that she has provided:

“NORWOOD FLOOR LOOM, 36" wide with a 30" reed. Cherry wood. Includes a bench, but nothing else. The going rate on line seems to be $600, but I'm open for negotiating. Contact me personally ( if you would like more info, photos emailed to you, or to come look at it.”

Here is a picture of the loom:

Please contact Judy directly with any questions.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Clean Combs for Addey

In early August, the Benzie area spinners visited the Crystal Lake Alpaca Farm.
Chris and David Nelson are the owners. (David Nelson, by the way, is the DVM at Platte Lake Veterinary Clinic who sees my dog, Toby.) Chris gave us the grand tour. Their spread is most impressive, and they have some very beautiful animals. Here’s one of the many pictures that I took:

At the end of the tour, Chris showed us some lovely fleeces. I was immediately attracted to a light fawn fleece that seemed to have a hint of pink about it. The fleece was from an alpaca named “Addey” (short for Crystal Adelaide). Although my photography doesn’t do it justice, here’s a picture of the fleece:

I bought 4 ounces. Yum-EEE! This fleece was quite clean, with very little vegetative matter. Another spinner who also bought some of this fleece was planning to spin it without washing. Well, I decided to wash my 4 ounces….

….Which I did a few days ago. I used some hot tap water with just a bit of added boiling water (not as hot as when I wash Merino). One wash with some Orvus paste, one rinse with a glug of vinegar, and one plain rinse later, I had the loveliest clean alpaca.

Now, I could just pick the fleece open to prepare it for spinning, but I decided to comb it. So I got out my combs. I have a pair of Valkerie 2-pitch combs that I’ve used for years, but only on wool. This would be my first attempt at hand combing alpaca.

I charged the combs and then tried to make a pass or two through the fiber. I quickly realized that my combs were on the tacky side – apparently the tines were coated with a bit of remnant lanolin from a previous combing endeavor.

I had to clean my combs. For the first time. My initial thought was to use rubbing alcohol. It worked ok, but it was a slow process: putting the alcohol on a rag and then trying to wipe every surface of every tine without injuring myself!

My second thought was to use WD 40. So, on the second comb, I sprayed some WD 40 on the tines (outdoors, mind you!). After letting the combs sit there for awhile, I put some clean white wool on the combs and pulled the fiber through to remove the excess WD 40.

Both methods worked fine. The WD 40 was faster, but it was a bit smelly (to my very sensitive nose). I’d love to hear from other folks about their efforts to clean combs. Comments, anyone?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Lots of Locks to Love

I had a wonderful time at the Michigan Fiber Festival. My workshops were pretty well filled….and all with delightful participants!

And I had a chance to do some shopping. Most of my shopping is geared toward replenishing my supplies for teaching. This year I was on the look-out for various types of locks because I’m devising a new workshop on spinning with locks.

There were plenty of locks to be had!

First I got some locks of Lincoln wool, dyed shades of purple. Love the shine! I got these locks from Victoria Station. Victoria Brackney is located in Howell, Michigan.

My next lock purchase was from MoonsShadow Farm. They’re located in Chisholm, Minnesota. They had a wall of yearling mohair locks dyed in all sorts of colors, so you could mix ‘n match. That’s what I did. Pretty colors! More shine!

Then I managed to snag some locks of Wensleydale wool, dyed by Chris Roosien of Briar Rose Fibers. Love her color sense!

All these yummy locks will be joining my growing stash of locks.

For example, I bought some kid mohair locks from River’s Edge Fiber Arts (check out their Facebook page)
at the Midwest Weavers Conference in June. Carol had loads of intense colors. These are just some of the colors I got.

And last year, I’d bought some kid mohair locks from Elizabeth Koeppen, here in the Grand Traverse region. These are from natural colored angora goats and are dyed a pale and subtle combination of purples and yellows. Rather mysterious and metallic looking.

Also last fall, I bought some adult mohair locks from Marie Glenn in La Cygne, Kansas (by way of the Yahoo Spin Sales List
). These locks are undyed, and from natural colored angora goats. Very nice!

It may seem that now I have plenty of locks to play with, but I know I’ll be getting more locks when I go to next month’s Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival
. In the meantime, I’ll be experimenting with the many ways locks can be used in spinning. What fun!