the last hurrah

Since I already have the photos ready for the January reopening of the Etsy shop, I decided to go ahead and do it. I know it was scheduled for Monday, but I am meeting with my accountant, and I had the time today, so here it is! My plan to create a de-stashing shop still stands, however I do not currently have any items to list there. In a few weeks when I have been able to rebuild my inventory, I will reevaluate the situation. For now, please feel free to browse the shop!


decisions as a dyer

As a regular reader of this blog would know, I enjoy taking trips down memory lane now and then. Having a Flickr account since October 2006 (hey – seven years this month!) gives me the chance to compare earlier work to my current work. I can see how much I’ve improved — or stagnated. I can see how much more — or less — productive I am now. Either way, it’s good to remind myself of my progress.

Today I am taking a look back at my early dyeing experiences. I am sure that I had started dyeing earlier than what is available via Flickr, but I hadn’t started documenting things yet. The first photo I have of dyed locks is this one from November 6, 2006. It was Lincoln wool. I had run them through the carder and decided it looked like a potential wig… so it went on my head!

Lincoln Beehive
The next two photos are from the following spring. The first from March 9, 2007 is combed top, just a domestic wool blend. When I first got into dyeing, I would buy a pound of domestic (super cheap!) and dye 2 ounces at a time to make it last longer. Now I am buying 22 pounds at a time. What a difference.  Those colors say lanaset to me, so at that point I was already getting past the Kool-aid/Wiltons phase and into wool dyes.

nugget of joy
This photo is from March 11, 2007. It’s the wool roving I received from a fiber processing mill that lost my original fleece. To this day I am not entirely sure what the breed was, but I think I still have some of it lying around. It wasn’t the greatest stuff, but it gave me a lot of experience dyeing.


Where was I going with this?

I think it’s safe to say I should be out of my “experimental” phase by now. Sure, it’s fun to try new things now and then. Different techniques, fibers, dyes, etc. One doesn’t want to get bored. However, I have been avoiding something that almost every dyer I know can do: repeated colors. I have always claimed that I take an “unscientific approach” and I don’t record any recipes. It ruins the artistic flow. And that is true, but also I am using it as an excuse to remain casual and detached, a way to avoid being purposeful. On one hand, having repeatable colors would make my life easier in many ways. On the other hand, it could be boring.

Why not do… BOTH!? Someone (Rich first and then my dad) suggested that I have two separate collections: those that are predictable, repeatable colors, and those that are special little moments in time that will never be seen again. I’m sure many dyers take this approach, but it makes a lot of sense. I can still have the fun of “come what may”, but those shoppers who want a sweater’s worth in one color can get it. We’ll see if I can pull it off!

This week is going to be full of dyeing. With Indie Knit & Spin coming up quick and a successful event behind me, I have a serious amount of restocking to do. Planned for this week:

  • Grey Romney roving
  • White Border Leicester/Coopworth roving
  • White Cotswold locks
  • White Border Leicester/Corriedale locks
  • White Falkland top
  • White Blue-faced Leicester top
  • White Colonial wool top

Have things gotten out of hand? #wool #fleece # fiber #stash

success with the box picker

Last summer Rich and I used the plans from Minnetonka Works to make a box picker (original post & photos). In the end it was a beautiful piece, but didn’t do much to help speed up my fiber processing. It seemed that the teeth overlapped too much, or the locks I was attempting to pick were too long. They would just wrap around the teeth and then nothing would move.

poplar box picker for wool
Disappointed, but not ready to throw it on the fire, I found a home for the picker somewhere in the mess that is my wool room. I figured I would find a purpose for it eventually. And after more than a year, I finally did! In the midst of an extensive custom project, I discovered that it will work with mohair. Hooray! Believe me, hooray. I was facing hand-picking four bags of mohair locks, but decided on a whim to try out the picker. I was thrilled to find that it was functioning (seriously, who wants to spend that much time making something and then it doesn’t work??).

Possible reasons for success:

  • These are extremely clean locks, so there isn’t a drop of grease to make them sticky.
  • They are shorter than the wool locks I have tried.
  • They aren’t has dense, thick, wide (?). Not sure how to explain that.

Basically they were a bit matted and needed to be fluffed for spinning. Can you see the difference in the photo below? The locks in the basket have been picked, but those in the corner have not. They have retained the curl, but were just opened up a little.

basket of mohair locks picked with a box picker

more molly

Took another swing at washing Molly’s fleece this week. I used the bags again and I let each row overlap, tip over cut end. It actually seemed to help keep things in place better. The locks came out nice and squeaky clean. I think it helps that I’m not putting 8 lbs in the washing machine at once.

Our weather has been back and forth between wonderful and awful, but today was beautiful, so the locks went outside to dry. However, the gale force winds blew everything across the porch, so I collected them all up and took them inside. Ended up with 2 lbs in this batch. Now they are sitting in the living room to finish up drying.


bird’s nest

Today seemed like a good day to do a bit of spring cleaning, which basically consisted of “washing” all the windows.  I put the blinds up on the front window, something I haven’t done for months, looked out, and saw a bird’s nest on top of the pillar under the porch roof. It surprised me! It shouldn’t have though, since I hear birds out there all the time. The best part is that they used some of the wool I stuck in the bushes. I left it there for them, so I’m glad they put it to use.

Bird's nest under porch. Used my left over wool!

keepin’ it simple, stupid

It’s official. I will never make a living creating art yarns. It just isn’t in me. I thought after spinning for seven years, maybe I could do more than standard 2-plies and singles, but no. Yesterday I sat at my wheel, instructions on my lap, and fiber surrounding me. All that resulted was an ugly, useless mess. Nothing would stay together and it certainly wasn’t going as the book said it should. So I gave up, wandered off, and eventually came back to my wheel with something else in mind.

There is one art yarn-ish thing I know I can do. It’s fun, it’s easy, and I rarely do it. Take handfuls of lightly picked locks and spin them. Yeah, it’s that simple.

noveltiesCurly yarns spun from the lock. Summer 2008.

So that is what I did yesterday. I already had a bag full of locks ready to go. Before new locks are packaged and weighed, I sort through them, pulling out second cuts, hay, and the unruly parts. All the clean stuff gets crammed into a bag for later — maybe batts or in this case, spun as is. Since the locks have just been pulled apart by hand, there are still many little curls, which add character to the yarn. It’s not corespinning, it’s just plain old spinning with fun fiber that has lots of texture and personality.


The yarn spun up so fast and effortlessly, it helped me feel somewhat competent again. Although I couldn’t get a decent picture of it, naturally. It really looks like quite a mess here, but it is more striking in person.



a little experiment


I purchased this Border Leicester/Corriedale cross fleece last June at Woolfest. A hefty, 8.5 lbs, I washed it in the usual way: throw the whole thing into the washing machine with a bit of Power Scour, wash again, rinse, dry. Nothing special. But it was greasy and I should have been a little more attentive.


After dyeing a bit, I could see just how greasy it still was, so much so that I could hardly separate the locks after they dried. I didn’t feel good about the state they were in, so I decided to do a little experiment. I put each color in a wash bag, filled the washing machine with hot water and a few squirts of Power Scour, and gave the dyed locks a bath. After rinsing and drying, they were much easier to deal with. I’m glad that I went ahead and washed them again for a few reasons: 1) It is a better product for my customer 2) Now I know that washing the locks after dyeing does not effect the color. I have been asked in the past whether washing dyed locks would take out the color. I felt rather confident saying “no”, but now I know for sure! If you have locks that are too tacky, go ahead and give them a bath. Just be gentle so they don’t start felting.

harvest moon