companion colors

Whenever I get a new idea for something, I just assume that it appeared in my head because someone else has already done it. The fear of copying keeps me from doing many things. However, I know that almost nothing we do is truly original. Should I just blaze on ahead, regardless of what may already exist in the universe?

Anyway… my latest idea came Thursday while I was trying to squeeze in some dyeing. Since the Pittsburgh Knit & Crochet Festival was more successful than I had anticipated, I am now scrambling to get more inventory ready before A Knitter’s Fantasy. Rather than dyeing for three days, I just did as much as I could in one. Along with my usual crock pots and stock pots, I also had two roasting pans in service. Usually I lay out 8 ounces and dye it all the same. Then I have two 4-ounce braids that match. This time, instead of laying them side by side, I laid one on top of the other. When they came out they weren’t the same, but they did go together nicely. And that’s when I thought, “aha! Companion colors!” You would get 8 ounces total, but you could spin them as separate yarns, ply them together, alternate, etc. One is semi-solid and the other has more variety.

I’m sure no one actually wants this, but I’ve got a few to try out and then I’ll probably keep doing it anyway (because I just do whatever I want most of the time). Even if the customers don’t care for it, I may enjoy using them myself. Or I could split them up and sell them separately. Basically it’s very low risk to try something new-ish. Why not, right?

companion colors

a finished hat

Contrary to popular belief, every now and then I make something that isn’t fingerless mittens. Sometimes I make hats! Actually, I do that rather frequently since they are also small, quick projects. In December I started a hat using a pattern by Lee Meredith called Scant. It is worked top-down without swatching, so I thought it would be perfect for my handspun!

A new hat. #handspun #leethalknits #wip #nofilter

I finished it in two days. Unfortunately, my measuring skills are not so great and it ended up too big at the brim. After having the recipient try it on, we decided I would pull out the ribbing and decrease a few rounds to bring it in. In fact, it was really easy to adjust since it was knit top-down.


I decreased a total of 12 stitches over three rounds and used a smaller needle to get the ribbing even tighter. Once I reworked it, it fit great. I think there is more volume in my hat than was originally expected according to the pattern, but the new owner of this hat is very happy with it. I love the way the colors came out. I definitely will use this pattern again!

lakeside hat

lakeside hat

the BFL

Yesterday afternoon I took photos of my Bluefaced Leicester top, Falkland top, and Lincoln roving ending with about 300 images. From there I whittled it down to 200. Since I’m finished with the BFL, I will share those first! These should be up in the shop by the end of the day.

Also, I have reached 500 posts on my blog! Seems like a lot to me.

from the fold

I’m getting bored.

One thing I’ve always said about fiber arts is that you can’t get bored since there are so many different things to do with fiber. But I must be in a rut because I am getting bored. When I first embarked on this journey, I was much more adventurous and experimental. These days I just pull out another braid of top or roving from the stash, spin it like always, and move on to the next one. I know there are so many ways to spin and so many techniques to try and I need to start exploring them before I go completely mad!

Recently I got back to spinning from the fold. The first time I saw someone do this, I was mesmerized and intimidated. Now I find it enjoyable, although sometimes it seems that I am spinning from “the mass” instead of “the fold”, as the fiber can get a little out of whack and messy. I like it because my yarn has more loft and a bit of a hairy/fuzzy quality plus I get the occasional tuft for character.

The yarn below is Bluefaced Leicester and started as 4-5 different balls of dyed roving. I would work between two or three colors at a time, then switch to a different group of colors. Because I was spinning from the fold, I pulled the roving apart into pieces the length of the staple. I folded the piece over my index finger and pulled back to draft. I probably don’t do it exactly right, but I like it better than that inch worm thing you see all the time with top. Lofty and fuzzy!

"Gypsy" Handdyed BFL, bulky weight.


This one began as handdyed Lincoln roving and was also spun from the fold. It didn’t get quite as thick ‘n thin as the BFL, but it is hairy and lofty. Probably going to end up heavy worsted weight.

summer dress
"Summer Dress" Handdyed Lincoln


skein washing: part 3

I suppose this makes Part 3 of my unintentional series on Finishing Fibers. Earlier I wrote about reskeining your yarn after you have washed it and then I gave a lengthy description of how I wash my skeins. Today I’m going to show you the difference washing a skein can make. I purposely took photos of a skein before and after washing it.

This 2-ply yarn is 100% Bluefaced Leicester wool, spun on my Kromski Sonata. I washed it using my standard methods as noted in the above post. Can you see the differences? I think the plies lay together more evenly after washing. They have more fluff and bounce. The skein appears more balanced, even though it may not have been initially.

lake house
Skein before washing.
lake house
Skein before washing.
lake house
Skein after washing.
lake house
Skein after washing.

So, have I finally proven to you that finishing your yarn can make a difference? Next time you are washing skeins, take note of the before and after. It may be subtle, but it is a transformation!

And you can check out the latest issue of my newsletter. If you aren’t receiving it in your mailbox, sign up here to get it.

shop update!

I used to be good at getting photos of my yarn taken before they’d disappear from the house. Now, not so much. Also, I haven’t actually added yarn to the Etsy shop in months. I realized I could kill two birds with one stone if I just start photographing my yarn again. And now I have handspun yarn in the shop again!

waves of grain
"Waves of Grain", Blue-faced Leicester
"Regenerate", Alpaca/Cormo/Tunis blend



One of the Ravelry groups I am a member of is all about vending at fiber festivals. It’s been interesting discussing various issues with other dyers/spinners who 1) produce large quantities of product and 2)  drag it around to events trying to convince people to buy it. One of the best threads dealt with bad experiences. It’s nice to know I’m not the only person who has had rude people saying stupid things in my booth. There has also been discussions about displays (that’s how I heard about Woodland Marketing and those new shelves), payment methods, logos/branding, transportation/storage, and other things. One person asked about reskeining, and I found out I am in the minority when it comes to said task. I reskein all of my yarn after washing. Sometimes the strands stick together or they get tangled and disheveled. My mental state is just more calm if I reskein. However, I do not dye massive quantities of yarn for resale (or any at all), so I am working with just a few skeins at a time. I suppose if I was dealing with oodles of yarn, I might change my tune.

Just for kicks I took photos of my latest yarns to see if there was a noticeable difference before and after reskeining. I’m guessing that no one will be able to tell anything happened, and I suppose that’s ok with me. I know that the BFL singles yarn was massively stuck to itself before I sent it around the niddy noddy for a second time. Or that the Shropshire had shrunk a significant amount.

It’ll be my little secret. And my personal satisfaction.

just washed
before reskeining...
after reskeining.

another box!

Yep, the boxes just keep coming. And this time it was an impulse buy.

I recently joined a group on Ravelry called Fleece Market. It’s a place where farmers can sell their fleeces and people like me, who just loiter around the farms but don’t actually do anything with sheep, can buy fleeces. Even though I prefer to see, smell, squeeze, and ponder my fiber before purchasing, I thought this might a good way to get ahold of some breeds I haven’t been able to find around here. And without a whole lot of thought, I “popped” on a 5 lb white BFL cross from Iowa. The fleece belongs to Sophie, who has a rather complex lineage it seems. Her mom is 1/2 Romney, 1/2 Corridale and her dad is 3/4 BFL, 1/4 Merino. Phew! Pretty exciting, eh? I was planning on dyeing this weekend, so I’ll wash some up to see how it looks clean. From what I have already seen, I think it’s going to be a good one.

olive is laying on me while i type this

A-M-M = Always making mittens.  Or at least I should be.  I’m finding it a challenge to maintain my 40 hours of real work and continue to forge ahead with my own business.  I am trying to get out there more – I created a Facebook page for Gwen Erin Natural Fibers, so feel free to pop over and “like” it, or whatever they’re calling it these days.  I’ve also decided that whatever items are listed on Etsy won’t go to shows.  That way I don’t have to close the shop for every show and make sure to remove items that sell afterward.  One less thing to stress over.

My mom found this lovely wooden hand model for me when she was down in Florida.  It’s great for taking photos – much easier than trying to take a picture of my own hand.  It’s wearing my latest pair of fingerless mittens.  Contents include handdyed commercial wool and handdyed/handspun BFL.  I tried three different stitch patterns before settling into these vertical stripes.  All that stranding certainly makes them very thick and warm.

new mitts on new hand

vertical stripes

shawl is done

Actually, it has been for a week.  And I just didn’t get around to letting you know until now.  I washed and blocked it last weekend.  I used the blocking mat and T-pins from KnitPicks.  The puzzle pieces worked really well.  I just made a shape that matched the shawl!

blocked shawl

It looks pretty large, but it isn’t.  And so I’m not entirely sure how to wear it.  Considering I don’t have anything like this in my wardrobe already, I have no prior experience.  It doesn’t really wrap around, so I think it’s just going to sit on my shoulders as shawls tend to do.

blocked shawl