Saturday, June 7, 2014

Round Barn Fiber Mill

I just found out that a dear friend from college is starting a fiber mill here:

They have been raising Jacob sheep for years.  I know Margie to be meticulous, so I am quite sure that the quality of their fiber processing will be wonderful too!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Some Videos in Review from Interweave

Lately, I have had the opportunity to watch a number of videos on spinning and weaving that I have obtained from Interweave.  As of right now, these are all available on their website.  I thought I'd review a few of my favorites for you. Just FYI, I have no affiliation with Interweave and receive no compensation from them for doing this.

Spin Art by Jacey Boggs - I got this one as a download for a very small price, thinking it would just be a small addition to my collection.  Amazingly, this has become my favorite video on spinning and weaving ever.  Jacey Boggs is so clear in explaining and showing how to make "art yarns," a term she uses with some misgivings as she explains in the video.  She takes her viewers step by step, showing them how to make a great singles yarn, racing stripes as she calls them, how to add beads, how to do autowrapping, thick and thin, corespinning, plied yarns, spiral yarns, supercoils, stacks or beehives, multiplied yarns, cables, and boucle.  One of the major strengths of her presentation is her insistence that it is best to plan ahead.  For example, if you're planning to make a singles yarn, you don't want to put as much twist in it as you do if it's going to be one ply in a two-ply yarn or almost anything else for that matter.  She shows a number of swatches that she knit from different handspun yarns, which is really helpful for seeing how the finished product will look from the different techniques that she uses.  She talked also about how important it is to learn to spin with the right amount of twist so that it isn't necessary to try to fix the twist later.  She has some strong words about this and shows an example of how setting the twist with weights is really a bit dishonest since the yarn or project won't look the same after it has been washed.  This is my go-to video when I want to see how something is done.  Also, I think the camera work in this video is better than most, which really makes it easier to see what she is doing.

How I Spin by Rita Buchanan - I love to watch and listen to Rita Buchanan.  She's so full of joy and loves to spin and weave and knit (and garden too) so much that her joy is contagious.  I had to laugh when at one point she said that she feels a little cheated when she makes a singles because that means she doesn't have the opportunity to ply the yarn--one fewer opportunity to handle and fondle it.  She even says that if she didn't spin, she'd still enjoy making puff balls.  She's definitely not focused on technical terms but prefers to call yarn fat and thin.  She focuses on many of the same techniques as Jacey Boggs, but she talks a lot about checking your twist as you go (and shows how to do that), and she talks about counting treadles and hand motions together using the analogy of music to show how to get consistent results.

Spinning Silk by Sara Lamb - For this one, shortly after I started watching it, I realized I had better take notes because there was so much information that I'd never remember it all if I didn't.  I ended up with several pages of notes about different kinds of silk and different silk preparations and which ones she prefers and why.  She showed some beautiful examples of her own woven work, which is a treat in and of itself.  One thing she talked about was how she spins silk with a lot more twist than wool, but it relaxes and shrinks when it is soaked. She also talked about how to dye silk and what she has found that goes a bit contrary to common wisdom in her own experience.

With each video, I have gained a little or a lot of knowledge and a lot of inspiration.  Above all, though, they have confirmed my opinion that spinners are some of the nicest people in the world.  I have to wonder if that's because spinning has some amazing effect on people or because they have the patience to take up such a slow and painstaking art or a little of both.  It's probably the meditative quality of spinning (and all the fiber arts for that matter) in combination with the prerequisite of patience.  

Whatever the case may be, happy spinning!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Joy from Handspun Yarn Treasury

A couple days ago, I created a treasury on Etsy to showcase other people's beautiful handspun yarn that had been used to weave, knit, or crochet unique and beautiful items.  Handwoven, hand knit, and crocheted items are always wonderful to see, but when they are made with wild and whimsical handspun yarn as well, they're just amazing.

Here's the treasury:

What's your favorite?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Coupon

Merry Christmas, everyone!  I have so many pictures waiting on my camera to share from all the fiber fun, but for now I will limit myself to one short comment:

For the 12 Days of Christmas, I'm offering free shipping for any purchases over $15 on my shop that are shipped within the United States.  The coupon code is "12DAYS" for the 12 Days of Christmas.  The coupon is good through the feast of the Epiphany on January 6th.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Revamped Etsy Shop

This is just a quick post to let everyone know that I have revamped my Etsy shop.  I'm now sorting all my yarns by weight rather than handspun versus hand-dyed millspun yarn.  My goal is to make it easy for knitters, crocheters, and weavers to easily find the kind of yarn they need for a project they are planning.

I also just took several favorite yarns off Etsy.  I'm going to be weaving a nursing poncho for myself as I have a baby due in a few months.  I'm still in the planning stages, which always takes me awhile, but here's what I'm thinking.  I want it to be very lightweight so it can be worn year around.  I'll definitely be using some solid purple laceweight lamb's wool yarn.  I'm also going to use this laceweight bamboo and superwash wool blend that I dyed:

Monet's Waterlilies
It's called Monet's Waterlilies, and the yarn is an incredibly light laceweight at about 32 wraps per inch.  The purple laceweight is close at 28 wraps.  I don't have a picture of it handy, but when we were in Maine a couple years ago, I bought a whole bunch of mill ends of this same yarn.  It's very soft, and I've used it as the warp for several scarves, and it has behaves very nicely.

Here's my dilemma:  I'm a little concerned that I won't have quite enough of Monet's Waterlilies to complete the project.  I calculate that I need 954 yards of warp, and since I'll be doing plain weave on my rigid heddle, I should need very close to that amount in weft.  However, I have 962 yards of Monet's Waterlilies, which is a little close for comfort, especially with this fine laceweight yarn.  Therefore I have decided to add a third yarn to both the warp and weft that's I'll be using somewhere between every 12th and 24th warp and every 12th and 24th weft, thus making squares of a thicker yarn.  I'm trying to decide between these 2 yarns for those squares:



I like the Primavera better.  It's a soft mohair boucle that is DK weight, and Monet's Waterlilies has all those colors in it.  However, I'm afraid the boucle might take over the whole piece, and since the colors are a little deeper it might all be a little too much.  The Sapphires yarn, which is a very soft alpaca, would be a safer choice for sure and less likely to be too prominent within the entire woven piece.  However, well, it's not like me to go with the safer choice.  Still, I want this to be a piece I can wear for years, and I've had a few occasions when I've added one too many elements to something I'm weaving and regretted it.

Oh--in case you're wondering the reason I want to use this yarn in both the warp and the weft is that this particular poncho is made with two 38" long pieces that are put together side to side, so the vertical axis on one will be the horizontal axis on the other when I'm all done.

What do you think?  Which one should I go with? 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Making Gelato

I decided that for once I would take photos of all the steps of spinning while I was working on "Gelato," my latest yarn.  Because I'm expecting a baby, I decided that it would be better safe than sorry and I'd take a 9-month hiatus from dyeing.  I know that lots of people do dye yarn while pregnant, and I'm probably just being overly protective, but better safe than sorry.  That means I'm not really starting at the beginning.  I'm not starting with a fleece that I wash and clean and dye.  I'm really starting in the middle.

I bought a variety of mostly autumn-colored merino top made by Ashland Bay.  Next, my 11-year-old daughter and I spent a long time deciding which luscious colors to spin first.  We decided on a combination that looked like all the wonderful fruit-colored gelato from a gelateria here:

One of the things I've always noticed is that the colors look brighter before being spun, and the colors look softer after spinning them together.

Next, we took some time to weigh out the colors so that the finished skein would be a standard 3.5 ounce/100 gram skein.  In addition to the merino top, I added some gorgeous soft white silk.

Does the adage about neat desks and empty minds apply to fiber art studios as well?  I hope so!

After that, we took the drum carder to the kitchen so we could be in the midst of everyone.  That's something I love about spinning and weaving--I can do it right in the midst of my big family and all the activity that goes on.

My drum carder makes batts of about 1 ounce each, so I knew I would have to make 4 batts to spin 3.5 ounces.  My daughter and I took each color and divided it into equal lengths and then started lining them up in order on the counter--spice, begonia, yellow, chartreuse, silk, spice, begonia, yellow, chartreuse, silk, etc.  Then we took turns loading the carder, turning the crank, and using a handy dog brush to smooth down the fiber.  Here's the drum carder with 1 layer of each color:

And here it is after we took off the skein:

I didn't think to take a picture of this, but my favorite method for taking batts off the drum carder is to use a long nail to separate the circle of the batt and then use 2 chop sticks, one on each side of the batt.  I roll them together to take it off.  That seems to get more of the batt of the carder than other methods I've tried.You can see here how the colors still look quite bright but not as bright as they did before they were blended together.  I just carded each batt once, by the way.

After carding everything, I got to start my favorite part--spinning:

From the picture, it looks like I use a long draw, but in fact I just held my hand out so the yarn would be more visible.  I actually use a short backward draw most of the time.  You can just see my Lendrum wheel a little bit in the picture and lots of feet.  I think we were all watching a movie while I was spinning.  Much of my yarn is bulky and thick and thin and, well, artsy.  With this one, I decided to spin it fine to see if I still remembered how and even so that the colors rather than the texture would be the focus.

After I finished spinning, I couldn't decide whether to ply it or not, so I used my umbrella skeiner to skein it so I could decide.  I had originally planned to ply it, so I added extra twist to untwist while plying, but once it was done I liked it as a single ply.  Here it is on the umbrella skeiner:

After I took it off the umbrella skeiner, I saw that it did in fact have too much twist to make a good single.  You can never have a completely balanced single-ply yarn, but it's possible to come close.  This wasn't it, so I went back to the original plan of plying it.  I used my ball winder to take unskein it here:

And then I plied it:

I'm glad I did, though the single was nice too.  Since I know exactly how much of each color I used, I may recreate it as a single someday.  To ply from a center-pull ball, you just take both ends of the ball.  The advantage compared to using 2 different bobbins is that you always end up using all the yarn. 

Here it is back on the umbrella skeiner again.  I make a square knot where the 2 ends meet, and then I break off the excess beyond that to make a couple loose ties around the yarn.  I used to use acrylic yarn for this instead of "wasting" any of my handspun, but the pictures look a lot nicer when the ties are made of the same yarn.

Last but not least, I wash the yarn using Dawn detergent.  Since it's merino and can felt, I am careful not to agitate the yarn too much, but it's not that easy to felt.  I use hot water for this--as hot as I can stand, and let it sit for about 30 minutes to really soak it.  After that, I use clean water of the same temperature to rinse it until the water is clear.

After that, I hang it out to dry.  I have a long nail into each post of our back porch to hang yarn from to dry outside.  Since we live in Arizona and rainy days are pretty rare, this is easy to do.  Following the thoughts of Jaycee Boggs of Spin Art, I do not weight my yarn.  That way, it doesn't change twist after it's been knit or crocheted.  What you see is truly what you get, and the yarn was nicely balanced after I plied it.

Here are our chickens and ducks who came to see if I had brought them a treat.  They were disappointed when it was a skein of yarn and not a banana or zucchini.  :-)

And here is the finished yarn:

I just listed it in my Etsy shop along with some more pictures here: 
Gelato at

If you have any questions about the process or comments, I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Free shipping!

This is just a quick little note to let you know that I'm offering free shipping to anyone in the U.S. between now and the end of June when you purchase something for $20 or more at my etsy shop at

If you're looking for something special that you don't see there, I do custom work too.