Yesterday was my long awaited wool Breed Study class with Beth Smith of The Spinning Loft.
If you haven't been to Lebanon, it's worth the trip.
It's a very pretty little historic town that looked exactly like a Spring postcard.
The event was held at the Golden Lamb, Ohio's oldest inn.
That's right. I was hanging out at the same place as Charles Dickens did a century or so earlier. Except I've never called Mr. Dickens "Chas". It doesn't seem quite right that the author of some of the greatest literature ever written would go by Chas. I'll continue to call him Charles.
I knew it would be a good day as soon as I entered the lobby amd saw the large sheep above the fireplace. It was an omen of sheep things yet to come.
Class started right at 9 a.m. and we had 12 sheep breeds to get throught by 5 p.m. That's a whole lot of wool to learn about, flick, comb, card and spin in eight short hours.
Not being the world's fastest or best spinner, I soon gave up on the spinning part of the day and just concentrated on learning about preparing the various types of wool. I was not alone. Wheels and spindles were pushed aside by us mere mortals while the super spinners in the group managed to not only prep their wool, but spin it up too.
First we learned about flick carding some of the fine wools, such as Cormo.
Flick carding is very easy and goes quickly. You tap or lightly "flick" the ends of the fiber to open up the locks to prepare them for spinning. It works well on clean fleeces with little vegetable matter in them.
After working with three different fine wools, we moved on to combing the long wools.
Wensleydale may be my new favorite wool. Plus, check out what the sheep look like.
Wouldn't you love to have this sheep greet you from the pasture each and every morning. This can't possibly be a real animal.
I'm going to have to look into this.
After flicking and combing, we worked on hand carding.
This was my least favorite method of fiber prep. I kept thinking of my handy duty drum carder back at the farm and wondering why I would hand card when I could drum card.
So there will be no hand carding in my future. Only drum carding.
And finally, we then worked on the primitiave breeds which we would prep by hand, pulling apart the dual coats, leaving only the finer wool.
This is Navajo Churro wool and I am not a fan. But I have four fleeces, which for some silly reason I bought a year or so ago, and I need to process it.
Navajo Churro is a rougher wool, usually used for rugs or horse blankets. Today, I will force myself to work on my fleeces and get them the heck out of here. Maybe if I were a weaver I would appreciate the fiber more, but as a knitter, it's very coarse.
I did like working with the Shetland. It, too, has longer, coarse fiber that needs to be separated before it is spun.
But unlike the Navajo Churro, its is easy to see and pull out and then you are left with beautiful Shetland wool for making all those Shetland sweaters.
I came home with my head swimming with new-found knowledge. Today, I will spin up what I couldn't get to yesterday.
Then I think it's time to look into Wensleydale sheep.
My bags are packed, I'm ready to go -- and Stringtopia's Spring String Thing is still a month away.
Besides being a mouthful to say, the Spring String Thing is a fiber retreat in Lebanon, Ohio, April 26 - 28 for spinners, knitters, dyers and weavers.
The retreat is put on by Stringtopia, a fiber arts studio co-owned by Abby Franquemont, author of Respect the Spindle.
There are classes on backstrap weaving, preparing and spinning woolen and worsted yarns, a sock knitter's seminar, how to knit mittens, spindle techniques, dyeing and even yoga.
I've signed up for the all-day Breed Study class with Beth Smith of the Spinning Loft in Michigan.
I am going to, "Luxuriate in 12 different sheep breeds and learn how to choose the best breed for any project you have in mind." Did you hear that folks. I will lux-ur-i-ate.
For non-fiber people, that word may bring to mind images of self-indulgent, hour long baths and all-day trips to the spa.
But for me, it means I will get my hands on 12, count 'em, 12 different varieties of sheep fleece. We'll be washing locks, using handcarders and combs and then, finally, spinning all those beautiful fibers.
If you're interested in going, I'd say sign up sooner than later. I don't know what classes, if any, are still open.
I've been waiting for a class like this to come relatively close to home and in my opinion, a four hour drive is relatively close!
I will keep you posted on all the luxuriating.
Our boys have been at it. The sheep boys that is.
They've been at it growing wool . . . and let me tell you, they did an outstanding job.
The other day was like Christmas around here. The postman delivered a box of impressive alpaca yarn and this steller CVM/Romeldale roving, fresh from the mill.
I've spent the past few days sniffing, squeezing and fondling the fiber. It's a sickness, I know, but what can I say. Any fiber addict worth their weight in knitting needles or drop spindles would have done the same thing.
CVM/Romeldale sheep are a rare breed of sheep that are only found in the United States. Their wool is spongy, lofty and oh-so-soft.
We had a few fleeces processed into this wonderful roving that will beg you to spin it up.
Wool really does beg, you know. I can hear it saying, "I'd love to be a sweater."
If you can hear it too, we've just opened up an Etsy shop and will be posting our fresh-from-the-farm fiber there. Give it a look. We'll be updating on on-line shop frequently and adding much more in the coming days, but we wanted to give you first crack at the roving.
So go visit the site. If you're local and can't live with just an on-line visit, stop by the farm. We'll let you smell, squeeze and fondle the fiber in person!
This year, I have trained, and trained hard, for the Tour de Fleece, the spinning equivalent of the Tour de France.
Every day those conditioned athletes ride in the Tour de France, we spin in the Tour de Fleece. If they climb hills, we pull out something challenging. Their days of rest are our days of rest.
The Tour started yesterday and already, I'm way back in the pack.
It has nothing to do with training or conditioning. This year, I've been spinning regularly and mentally preparing for the Tour.
But on day one, I had a setback. Faulty fleece.
At a recent fiber festival, I purchased some Bluefaced Leicester roving. I've never spun this type of wool before, but I do love to knit with it. I was excited to begin.
It looks pretty enough.
But I have been deceived by a pretty face.
As soon as I began to spin, I discovered all kinds of second cuts and other short pieces.
I HATE second cuts and short pieces. We spend hours skirting our fleeces to avoid this. When spun, they make for fuzzy yarn with sticky-out pieces. And yes, sticky-out pieces is the official term. Sticky-out pieces make your yarn itchy and unattractive.
So wheel and I are going to have to go back to the starting line and begin again.
I pulled out a bit of our own alpaca roving. You can see, it is not filled with second cuts and short pieces.
I pulled the Bluefaced off the wheel and will begin with the alpaca. The Bluefaced will take a couple of turns on the drum carder to see if the second cuts will come out in the re-carding process.
I have learned my lesson. Really, really, REALLY look at any roving you buy. I think I can salvage it, but it's going to take a bit of work.
But wheel and I are seasoned professionals. Like all highly trained athletes, we will look at this little obstacle as just a bump in the road on our way to spinning gold.
We're creeping up on that time of year when the alpacas, sheep and goats are relieved of their heavy winter coats. That's right, it's almost shearing time. The time for the animals to get naked!
It's also nearing the time when area fiber shows, with freshly shown fleeces, are starting. The next big show Ohio show is the Black Swamp Spinners Guild Market Day on March 24 in Bowling Green.
That's followed by A Knitter's Fantasy in Youngstown, Blessing of the Sheep in Peninsula, the Upper Valley Fiber Fest in Troy, the Great Lakes Fiber Show in Wooster, and Woolfest in Kirtland. That just takes us to the end of May. In August, we have the Mid-Ohio Fiber Fair in Newark. Folks, that's a lot of fiber in one state!
Many spinners would like to pick out their own fleeces at these shows, but are a bit afraid. What if it isn't a good fleece?
If you're never purchased a fleece before, here are a few tips:
-- Raw fleece is fleece straight off the animal. It is not washed. Sometimes it is skirted by the farm and sometimes it isn't. Ask the seller if the fleece you are looking at is skirted. Skriting is when the extra dirty parts of the fleece are removed, second cuts are removed, and most hay or debris that sticks to the fiber is pulled out as well. Tags are also removed (to be graphic, tags are poops that hang to the fleece). Raw fleece is cheaper than skirted fleece because less work by the farmer has gone into it. Skirting can take a bit of time so the price for a skirted fleece will be higher than a raw, unskirted fleece. A washed fleece is more costly yet.
-- Ask if it is a whole fleece or a blanket. The blanket of an animal is the best fiber, usually across the top and sides of the animal. The blanket fiber is more uniform. Legs and necks of alpaca can be nice too, but not as nice as the blanket.
-- Check for soundness. Pull out a staple of fiber. Hold it between your two hands, put it near your ear and give it a tug. It should make a nice pop or ping sound. You should not hear it tear or break. Avoid a fleece that you hear breaking.
-- Check the crimp.
Crimp should be even over the entire length of the fiber. More crimp means more bounce and elasticity. Less crimp isn't necessarily bad, it just means your yarn will not have as much spring as a yarn made with a fiber with lots of crimp.
-- Check for second cuts. Second cuts are when the shearer backs up the blades as he or she is shearing and goes over the same area twice. It gives you tiny (under an inch) lengths of fiber that are not desirable for spinning and, if spun into the yarn, will make your fiber itchy and fuzzy looking. A raw fleece that has not been skirted can very well have second cuts. A skirted fleece should not have many, if any at all. A good shearer won't have a lot of second cuts in a fleece and those that are there will have been skirted out.
-- Check that the tips (uncut end) are strong. Try to strip off the tip with your fingers. If a large portion of it breaks off easily, avoid that fleece.
With those hints in mind, you are now ready to hit the fiber show tour.
That'll Do Farm will shear in later April or early May. After that time, we will have some beautiful alpaca, mohair and Romeldale/CVM fleeces for sale. We will also be at Blessing of the Sheep and the Mid-Ohio Fiber Fair, as part of the Ohio Natural Fiber Network's booth.
Come on out. We'll be happy to talk fiber to you and show off our beautiful fleeces.
After last year's Tour de Fleece, I thought my spinning wheel and I had reached an understanding. He would spin much nicer yarn if I would spend more time with him.
Like any great relationship, wheel and I have been through some tough times. Some ups and downs. Good days and bad.
But I was not prepared for the backlash from wheel when I sat down to spin after several short months away from him. He, apparently, was taking my vow to spin more seriously.
Look at the chunky, uneven yarn he spun when I first sat back down with him.
Shame, wheel, shame.
But I am taking the high road on this issue. I told wheel that we're calling this yarn "Art Yarn" -- I convinced wheel that I indended it to be underspun, overspun, thick and thin. This is how I designed this yarn, I said. I told him I was expressing my artsy, playful, creative side and he kindly assisted in the endeavor. I then thanked him for going along with my experiment.
Wheel bought that line hook, line and bobbin becasue he shaped right up and spun this colorful roving
into this pretty yarn.
I think Wheel and I are back on track.
He appreciates the time I'm spending with him and I appreciate the yarn he is giving me in return.
That'll Do Farm was awash with spinners yesterday. Lee Ann King from Midwest Fiber Company came to the farm to teach several more advanced techniques, such as spinning with beads, Andean plying and Navajo plying.
Everyone came eager to learn. So eager in fact that the room was quiet. Quiet with concentration.
But soon bobbins were flying and there were those Aha! moments where the techniques made sense.
Within no time, there were beads spun onto yarn.
Navajo plying was accomplished.
Sticky wheels were oiled. Bling, in the form of iridescent Angelina, was spun into yarn. Yarn was wound off bobbins.
And all was right with the world.
Perhaps the day was best summed up by Jan's shirt:
Carpe Lanam -- Seize the Wool.
Technically speaking, this is alpaca fiber and not wool. But what the heck. Carpe Alpaca sounds like you're out in the pasture grabbing alpacas around the neck, so we're going with Carpe Lanam. Much more of a ring to it.
The farm will be offering many more fiber- and garden-related classes in the coming months. Be sure to check the calendar page often for updates.
We want everyone to be able to Carpe Lanam and Carpe Solum (seize the soil).
Calling all spinners. Mark your calendars for Saturday, February 4th.
Lee Ann King from Midwest Fiber Company is coming to That'll Do Farm to teach a few new techniques to advance your spinning skills.
The class is from 1 - 4 p.m. and is $30 per person.
You must already know how to spin and ply and have your own wheel.
Lee Ann will teach how to Navajo ply and explain the advantages of plying this way. She'll also teach you how to ply from a wound ball and (this is the part I'm most excited about) how to add beads to your yarn.
But that's not all. You'll also learn how to spin and ply short samples using your wrist.
But it's not all fun and games. You do have pre-class homework. Please bring two bobbins partially full and don't forget your wheel.
You will go home a spinning diva!
Registration is required, along with your payment, and class is limited to eight people.
Just when you thought the holiday party season was over, I'm here to tell you you've been missing one of the bigger holidays. One certainly worth celebrating. The one; the only -- Saint Distaff's Day, also known as Rock (or Roc) Day.
How do you plan to celebrate?
What -- you say you've never heard of Saint Distaff's Day. Have you been living under a Roc? (really bad pun intended -- sorry.)
I'll admit to not knowing about Rock Day until a few years ago. Until I became a spinner. This is, after all, a holiday dedicated to the fine art of spinning.
(That's me in my traditional spinning outfit -- a little something I wear every time I spin.)
A Distaff is a tool used to hold unspun fibers, keeping them untangled and at the ready for spinning. A distaff was also called a rock for reasons I have yet to discover.
If push comes to shove, I'd have to admit that Saint Distaff's Day isn't really a holiday at all. Hundreds of years ago, in many European cultures, Rock Day was the day after the feast of the Epiphany -- or the first day after the 12 days of Christmas. It was the day women took up their household work again after the Christmas holidays.
Women of all classes spun, usually in the evening after their daily chores were done. It was important work and Distaff Day was a big deal. So big, in fact, that 17th century English poet Robert Herrick wrote a poem about it:
Partly work and partly play
You must on St. Distaffs Day:
From the plough soon free your team;
Then cane home and fother them:
If the maids a-spinning go,
Burn the flax and fire the tow.
Bring in pails of water then,
Let the maids bewash the men.
Give St. Distaff' all the right:
Then bid Christmas sport good night,
And next morrow every one
To his own vocation.'
Many modern spinners still celebrate Rock Day -- although now it's an excuse to get together and spin and not a day to resume work. I know we will still have clothes to wear even if I don't spin the fiber and then knit, crochet or weave it into cloth. At the rate I spin, knit, etc..., the entire family would be dressed more like the Flintstones than like the spinner pictured above. Thank goodness we now spin more for fun and less for necessity.
So how and where do you plan to celebrate St. Distaff's Day?
I plan to spin the day away with the Medina Spinning & Weaving Guild as the guest of a fiber loving friend.
I think I'll leave my pilgrim attire at home.
Today is the day. The mere thought of today has had me shaking in my sneakers.
For today, you see, is Challenge Day on the Tour de Fleece.
Today, I have to spin something hard, something that really challenges me. It's going to be an uphill-all-the-way kind of day, I know that already.
So I thought I'd pull out the big guns to help me through the challenge. I brought out the Strauch Fiber Equipment's Finest Drum Carder -- the flagship model, which produces fuller, loftier roving with less fly away fiber . . . at least that's the advertising wording that sold me!
I had some brown and tan alpaca roving, plus some white Merino/silk/mohair that I wanted to blend together and Mr. Strauch Drum Carder was just the guy to do it.
He did a wonderful job.
But now I have to do my part in this challenge. I have to spin this super fine roving into something lacey and fine and delicate -- all words that do not describe any work I've ever done, nor, come to think of it, do they describe me. I'm in trouble here folks, real trouble.
Plus I'm told that alpaca is hard to spin. So far, I've only spun nice stick-together sheep's wool but haven't ventured into alpaca because of the fear factor. But today, I'm facing my fears.
By golly, I'm going to spin alpaca!
It's going to be uphill all the way. Wish us luck.
There comes a time when every athlete hears the words he or she dreads. The words that mean the athlete has pushed it too hard, did not rest properly between workouts, and wasn't in the kind of shape needed for the long haul.
Wheel heard those words yesterday. Words that made his heart cry.
Over Use Injury.
After a solid two weeks of spinning hard to do well in the demanding Tour de Fleece, Wheel was tired. And sore.
Wheel needed a Sports Massage.
All the worries of two weeks on the Tour began to melt away.
Stress became a thing of the past.
Trouble spots and tension around the bobbin area melted away.
And then Wheel was back in the saddle and able to spin some Bluefaced Leicester from Briar Rose Fibers.
Plus, Wheel was mentally relieved to be spinning something other than a green/purple/blue mix.
Wheel's trainer likes, no, make that LOVES, chunky green/purple/blue mixes, so Wheel has been spinning nothing but that.
Lots of green/purple/blue mixes.
Earlier in the tour, Wheel's trainer made him spin the yarn for this little hat that the trainer then knit up. Surprise, surprise -- it, too, is in the green/purple/blue color palette.
And while Wheel didn't spin this Briar Rose yarn for a sweater work-in-progress,
it is still in the trainer's green/purple/blue range of colors and Wheel is getting tired of looking at it.
So Wheel has moved on to reds. He's healthy. He's relaxed. He's ready to conquer the rest of the Tour.
Spin on Wheel. Spin on.
It's been a hot and grueling tour so far. But Wheel and I are giving it our all, trying to keep up with the veteran spinners.
The main thing is for Wheel to stay hydrated.
This is a well organized tour. Officials are right there, handing out Gatorade when the going gets tough. Even though we're rookies, with support like this, Wheel and I will continue to spin on.
Day 6 brought the completion of two bobbins of Mountain Colors "Wilderness" roving. Tonight, I ply!
Earlier in the tour I finished some un-named roving and am now knitting it up into a hat.
However, I have figured out I'm a blue/green/purple kinda gal.
I MUST change color paletts! I have some wonderful Briar Rose red that I will spin next. My goal is to finish the tour with more than one color!
Happy post-July 4th.
The farm hosted a small holiday party yesterday for about 75 or so family and friends. That sure makes it hard to get back at it today. So we sort-of eased back into the work week.
Farmer Gal had a little heart-to-heart chat with Dewey while Mr. Big listened in.
Bug and Dottie Biscotti enjoyed a spirited game of chase.
And slowly, oh so slowly, we moved out to the gardens to pull weeds.
I did not abandon Wheel or the Tour de Fleece. We were up early to do a bit of spinning -- some nice Bluefaced Leicester top from Mountain Colors in the "Wilderness" colorway. I couldn't pass up a color called Wilderness. It had my name written all over it.
On Sunday, I finished up some other spinning for the Tour.
Certainly not the most even yarn in the entire world, but I like it. I think it is begging to be knit into a pair of fingerless mitts.
But not today. Today feels like a Monday and fingerless gloves are way too ambitious for a Monday.
Happy Independence Day America.
I hope you are all enjoying a picnic with family and friends today, followed by fireworks.
Wheel and I have been busy spinning our little hearts out in the Tour de Fleece.
After a brief spin this morning, Wheel is going to be kicking back and enjoying the holiday.
I hope you will be doing the same.
Welcome July! I don't know how you got here already, but you are here and we welcome you. July means fireworks, ice cream, cheesy beach reads, fresh-off-the-vine tomatoes and corn-on-the-cob. It's a good month.
July also means the Tour de Fleece, where spinners across the county commit to a demanding schedule of spinning each and every day of the Tour de France.
My roving is ready to roll. The bobbins are empty in anticipation. The drum carder is on stand-by in case more roving is needed.
And Wheel, well, Wheel is on its way to the starting line.
Wheel, being a new wheel, wasn't exactly sure where to go but luckily there were signs along the way. So now Wheel is at the line, carbo-loading, waiting for the Grand Start tomorrow morning.
It's going to be a punishing month, but Wheel and I are conditioned athletes. We can handle the challenge.
I'm in training folks. This is serious business.
Throughout my life, I've "dabbled" in various sports. Tennis, hiking, cycling, skiing -- I enjoy them all. But I've never trained for anything like the adventure on which I am about to embark.
I have entered the grueling, month-long Tour de Fleece. And no, I did NOT mean to say Tour de France. That's for light weights (and I mean that literally. Those guys are skinny!). This is something at which Lance, seasoned pro that he is, would shutter.
This is the Tour de Fleece and I am on the Ravelry team Super Fleece. Our lofty goal is to spin (on a spinning wheel, not a bicycle) every day the cyclists are spinning their little legs off in France. They spin, we spin. Simple.
The Tour starts July 2 and runs through July 24th -- same as that silly little French cycling tour. We have days of rest just like they do (July 11th and the 18th). And on their hill climbing days, we have to spin something challenging.
You can understand why I am in training. Nobody wants to be embarrassed at the Tour. I will keep you updated on my daily progress. But right now, I've got to work on my upper-wheel strength, which should help with my endurance.
A couple more reps and I should be in fine shape for the starting gun on July 2nd!
For those silly few of you in the non-knitting world, there is a wonderful on-line site called Ravelry. Ravelry is "a place for knitters, crocheters, designers, spinners, weavers and dyers to keep track of their yarn, tools, project and pattern information, and look to others for ideas and inspiration."
But in reality, Ravelry is so much more than that. I've met some of the most interesting and fascinating people through Ravelry. I've met my peeps. And this week was no exception.
Doreen from Goldfish Love Fibers in Minneapolis was visiting Ohio this past month and needed a fiber fix. (This is a perfectly normal statement for fellow fiber addicts, but it may sound a bit odd to non-addicts!) She found That'll Do Farm through Ravelry and came out for our Sit-N-Spin night.
Well, well, well -- it turns out Ms. Goldfish Love is quite the spinner. In fact, she's a professional. She spins and dyes for a living, selling her beautiful projects through Etsy and at her local farmers markets.
Anybody who shows up at the farm in a hand knit and dyed sweater, knowing which animal made each stripe is o.k. in my book.
Ms. Goldfish was showing us how to spin this hand dyed silk cap . Silk caps are made from cultivated cocoons that have been stretched over a frame. Each is made up of many layers, each layer being one cacoon.
I personally was lusting over these art yarns. These were spun in the locks. Some were mohair and some were Bluefaced Leicester lamb locks. The skein on the left was spun with buttons added. I wish my photography skills matched Ms. Goldfish's spinning skills because you really need to see how utterly cool this yarn was!
Then I sat down to my spinning and reality smacked me upside the head.
This is the roving from Midwest Fiber Company. I'm getting better, but I sure am a long way away from the art yarns I saw unfolding before my very eyes!
And so I practice.
Ms. Goldfish Love will soon be on her way back to Minnesota. But I am hoping that the spinning gods align and on her next visit to Ohio she can teach a class at the farm.
In the meantime, I will practice, practice, practice.
It's raining today. It's a raw type of day. Tonight, it will snow.
All of this makes me very happy.
No, I haven't lost my mind. The weather is forcing me to stay indoors.
And what's a gal supposed to do when forced indoors on a Spring-ish day but spin.
Lee Ann King from Midwest Fiber Company gave me this beautiful roving. She took pity on me when she discovered I signed up for a spinning challenge. This is my practice roving before I attempt to spin the wool/silk/mohair blend I have for the challenge.
So far, I've practiced looking at it.
This afternoon, I shall practice spinning it. I'm a little afraid to start because it's so gosh darn purty I hate to mess it up by spinning it poorly. But I'm goin' in! I will post the results, warts and all.
I know I am not the only fiber obsessed person out there. For you fellow addicts, Newark, Ohio is home to a new fiber festival called the Mid-Ohio Fiber Fair . It will take place on August 20 & 21.
That'll Do Farm, along with several other farms that are members of the Ohio Natural Fiber Network, will be showcasing it's yarn, rovings, fleeces and fiber art. Mark the days on your calendar now so nothing, and I mean nothing, will get in your way of attending this festival. It's all indoors, so rain and rotten, stinkin' heat won't be able to stop you. It promises to be a great weekend.
But now, on this cold and rainy day, I must bite the bullet and start spinning my beautiful roving. I am willing it to turn out stunning. Wish me luck.
Frequently, I don't look before I leap -- not one of my better qualities.
In fact, this little personality quirk of mine often gets me into trouble. And I'm afraid I've gone and done it again.
It all started innocently enough at a spinning guild meeting. Now, you may be asking yourself, how much trouble can one human get into at a local spinning guild meeting?
The answer, for a new spinner like myself, is quite a bit.
The guild called it . . . "A Challenge" And I fell hook, line and sinker.
The idea is for guild members to bring 4 ounces of a mystery item, like yarn or roving, in a brown paper bag and pick up another mystery bag in its place. At the November meeting, we are to bring back the item and return it to whoever's name was on the inside of the bag. But we're to bring it back in it's completed form.
I picked up a bag for a spinner. I've been spinning for about a month -- what was I thinking! Why didn't I pick up the knitter's bag? I've been knitting for a hundred years. Knitting would have been easy. But no, I took the "Challenge" call literally and chose a spinners bag.
This beautiful merino, silk, kid mohair mix was inside.
I'm a Brand New Spinner -- again -- what was I thinking!!!!!
Do I ply it, do I dye it (this is starting to sound like a Dr. Seuss story)
Maybe I'll take a page from Scarlet's book and think about it tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after that.
All you spinners out there -- I'm open to suggestions!
Do you remember when you were younger and could do one thing for hours on end, never getting bored, never wanting to do anything else? Maybe you and your friends played Monopoly on the picnic table under the Weeping Willow every day for an entire Summer, like we did.
Or perhaps you were obsessed with four square, or hide-n-seek, or riding your bike around the entire neighborhood -- all things I did every single day at certain times in my life.
Well, apparently, you don't outgrow that. At least I haven't. Maybe you normal people have, but I'm still stuck in those pre-teen years when you felt like you had to "consume" a subject.
My current "subject" is spinning, knitting and dyeing. To be fair, I've been obsessed with knitting for a long time and don't show any signs of outgrowing it. But spinning and dyeing are two new arrivals on the scene and it looks like they are going to stay awhile, too.
And when I'm not spinning, or knitting, or dyeing, I'm reading about it.
This was last night's read. I got it at my local library and I am a very happy camper I did not purchase it. I don't think I'm hip enough, or cool enough or what-ever-the-new-word-of-the-day is enough to appreciate it properly. I'm still too new a spinner to dabble in unusual yarns. At this stage of the game, I just want my yarn to look like yarn.
I did learn a lot, however, and I'm glad I read it. For those of you that are interested in spinning unusual things (like paper and other recycled things), give it a try. The photography is beautiful and she has clear drawings showing the principles of adding things into the yarn as you are spinning.
This book I love.
I've read it from cover-to-cover -- twice. It has lots of how-to pictures and at my stage of the spinning game, I need a lot of how-to pictures. I'm working up to the dyeing part of the book.
Next on my current reading list is this book:
It includes clear instructions and pictures on how to "personalize your craft with organic colors from acorns, blackberries, coffee, and other everyday ingredients."
I have acorns, blackberries, coffee and other everyday ingredients.
I want to personalize my craft.
So you can see why this book had to come home with me. Now all I need is nice weather so I can skip through the farm gathering acorns and blackberries. Coffee is an easy find. No skipping required.
And finally, the last book in my fiber obsession world is this one:
Knitter Extraordinaire Stacey brought a copy with her to a recent knitting night. Having a stash of sock yarn that has yet to be turned into socks, I thought it highly appropriate that I march up to the library and check it out for myself. KE Stacey was right. It is a good book.
In fact, she was so right that all you knitters need to check back in the next day or two for a fun little contest we're going to have surrounding this book.
As long as I'm obsessed with all things fiber, I might as well bring you along too!
Like a dog with a bone. That's me and learning to spin.
I spent Sunday afternoonn at the spinning wheel with some beautiful alpaca roving from silver Lining.
She's a lovely girl and her roving is a very dark grey.
I was going to make usable yarn if it took me all day -- and it just about did.
As many of you know, I'm new to spinning. So far, the spinning wheel has been winning the war, but I am improving ever so slightly and no longer spin rope-like yarn.
Yesterday was going to be the day I willed myself to spin something attractive. (You may have figured out that I am also slightly stubborn. I prefer to think of myself as "strong willed" or "determined" -- sounds much better than stubborn!)
So with determination (stubbornness) and concentration (deeply furrowed brow), I sat down to spin. The spinning stars were aligned and my spinning was actually not bad.
I filled two bobbins and loaded up the Lazy Kate for plying them together.
After the yarn was plyed, I wound it on the Knittty Noddy to skein it. (Lazy Kate. Knitty Noddy -- you gotta love these words!)
Then it was time for the yarn's warm bath to set the twist.
After it was bathed, rinsed and bathed two more times, I hung it to dry. And guess what?
This morning I had actual yarn of which I am not ashamed!
There it is. Thirty yards of "not bad."
I love, love, LOVE the process of spinning. I've also decided that practice spinning is over. It's time to get down to real spinning and then knitting something from what I've spun.
My brow is furrowed deeper than ever now.
It is sad, but true. Sheep, and all their little fiber buddies, are driving me bonkers.
Oh sure, they look innocent enough here, grazing on a hillside.
But their kind is evil. They grow this beautiful wool that crazy humans like me feel the need to knit with, and now that I'm learning to spin, to spin with also. And it's this spinning part that has me thinking all fiber animals are evil.
Sure, sure, they give us beautiful fleece.
I mean, just look at that stunning fleece on Mick, the alpaca. It makes me weep tears of joy at the beauty and softness of it all.
And then I start to spin and I weep other kinds of tears. Tears of anger. Tears of frustration. Tears of why-the-heck-am-I-torturing-myself-like-this kind of tears.
The top yarn in this picture was the first yarn I ever spun.
The bottom yarn was the second yarn I ever spun. No improvement there. In fact, I think I got worse. I'm sure some evil sheep is laughing somewhere, thinking I got what was coming to me for making her go through the indignity of a shearing.
But no laughing sheep is going to make a laughing-stock out of me. Nope. I switched to alpaca fiber.
That's it there, on the right. It's actually much better than my first two attempts -- really.
I'm hoping to sit myself down this weekend and have another go at the wheel. I've mentally prepared myself to take my time and not get frustrated. My yarn is not pretty yet because I'm new at this and it will come in time -- that's all. And I'm reminding myself that neither the fiber nor the fiber animals are evil.
Snooty about their fiber, yes, but evil, well . . . no.
I'm hooked on spinning yarn. I will freely admit that I love, love, LOVE spinning.
Here's the rub: I'm really bad at it. About as bad as you can get. But I love it anyway. And so I practice.
I'd like to tell you I'm improving by leaps and bounds. Yes, I'd really like to tell you that. But it would be a lie.
I have more than my share of yarn slubs. According to the dictionary, a slub is "a lump in yarn or fabric, often made intentionally to give a knobbly effect." It's that darn word "intentionally" that's throwing me here.
Fiber is not going to beat me, by George. If spiders and silkworms can make beautiful, even threads, so can I!
And so I practice. I read countless books about spinning. I dream about spinning. I spend a lot of waking hours thinking about spinning.
One day soon, you are going to see right here, in beautiful living color photographs, that I can make yarn. To paraphrase one of my favorite book heroines, "With God as my witness, I will never have unintentional slubs again!"
I'm back from my weekend of summer camp in beautiful western North Carolina.
I'm wondering why I came back.
There: sunny and 65 degrees.
Here: Snow, rain, sleet, ice and 20 degrees.
There: somebody else cooked and cleaned up.
Here: I'm cooking, and worse than that, I have to clean up, too.
Again, somebody explain why I came back????
The John C. Campbell Folk School has a friend for life in me. A wonderful setting, great people, and the exciting craft subject of spinning wool into yarn.
I made actual yarn.
Those of you who know yarn, don't look too closely. It's thick enough that I can use it to anchor large ships out at sea, but it's my first yarn and I like it. It has that real "homespun" look to it. Let's pretend that's the look I was going for.
Lorri Helms, our instructor, showed us how to ply yarn. This came to me much quicker than spinning. Maybe I should hire myself out as a professional plyer. Surely there's big bucks in that!
Lorri also showed us how to use the drum carder, turning cleaned, washed fiber into roving.
One word of advice: Watch Your Fingers!! The teeth on this machine are not afraid to bite.
On our last day at camp, we had "Show-N-Tell" from all the crafts that were being taught that weekend. After seeing the work of the others, I think I am an underachiever.
The wood turning class turned out bowls like this in a weekend. Just think, in one weekend they went from never having turned a piece of wood in their lives to this. That's amazing to me.
The basket people did it, too.
As did the woodcarvers.
All of these were beginning classes. Not classes for people who've done this before. I can't imagine going from a piece of plain old wood to a carved face in one weekend. Maybe I could do it if they allowed for abstract art and thought stick figures were really cool!
The potters were there the entire week. I don't feel so bad about their skills. After all, they had seven whole days to create these pieces. I'm sure I could do this in seven days.
Honest. Would I lie to you?!
The main reason I went to the Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival last weekend was to take a wool combing class. The fact that I love Vermont, especially in the fall, was a great big old bonus.
The class was held in the Tunbridge Town Hall, right up the hill from the festival.
The building practically screamed "quaint" and "charming." I knew the minute I saw it that I was going to love the class. Illogical, I know, but still true.
The class was taught by Patty Blomgren.
Patty has been a spinner, weaver and fiber artist for more than 25 years. For the past five years, she was the master spinner at the Green Mountain Spinnery in Putney -- home of some of the prettiest commercial yarn around.
She was an excellent teacher and the combing bug has bitten me big time. It's very theraputic. Like brushing out knots in your hair and making everything nice and smooth.
Combing is a method of preparing the wool for spinning.
First you start by loading one of your combs with fiber.
This happens to be exactly how my hair looks in the morning, but that's another issue.
It's then simply a matter of combing the fiber from one comb to the other -- repeatedly. Talk about your mindless stress relievers. Unless, that is, you wack yourself on the hand with one of the really sharp combs, then stress and its friend pain come flying right back in.
Once the fibers are aligned, the are taken off the combs and are ready for spinning. At this point, the fiber is called combed top.
Patty also showed us how you can blend colors with a hackle.
Color blending is something I'm really going to have to work at. I think some people are born with an eye for creating pleasing color combinations, and some (me!) are not.
Tonight, I'm going to sit down and write a letter to Santa. I'm going to explain that I've been relatively good this year and I absolutely need a hackle and a set of English combs. We'll see what he has to say.
P.S. -- You still have time to enter the Cashmre/Silk yarn give-away. See Tuesday's post for details.