switching it up

One of the best parts of spinning wool is getting to experiment with all the different breeds. There are so many! These days it’s easy to get your hands on a wide variety of breeds, plus there are many great resources of information about them. I thought this fall would be a great time to introduce some new breeds into my line of hand-dyed combed top.

If you’ve been to my booth in the last year, you have seen the basket of little wool balls next to the counter. These 1 ounce balls are great for all sorts of projects, beginner spinners, and felters alike. Initially this was a Corriedale-cross, but I didn’t have much information to give when customers asked about it. This led me to switching to Cheviot, a wool with similar texture and quality.

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Another breed that has been replaced (at least for now) is the Falkland wool. While it is a very popular fiber for spinners, but I thought it was time to try something new. I had the opportunity to purchase a bump of organic Polwarth, a breed similar to Falkland and one of its contributing founders. It is incredibly soft — a characteristic that is high on the priority list for many of you. Also, I added Targhee, the first domestically grown combed top I have had the chance to purchase. I find this wool to be incredibly spongy, so it will have great elasticity and bounce. Both will be available in September at A Wool Gathering in Yellow Springs, OH.

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Interested in learning more about these new breeds? Read a bit about their history and distinguishing characteristics. The following  information has been taken from the supplier’s website.

Cheviot Wool top is a beautiful natural white color. The micron count is between 27-33 and average staple length is approximately 4 to 5 inches. The wool top is open without being slippery making it an excellent wool for beginner spinners. Cheviot is a main British wool breed. They originated in the Cheviot Hills on the border of England and Scotland. They were referred to as the Border Cheviot and are the foundation stock for the Brecknock and the North Country Cheviots. This hardy breed can withstand harsh environments and are known for being great mothers.

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Photo from North Country Cheviot Sheep Society

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Targhee is a domestically grown wool that is processed in the United States. The Targhee breed was developed at the Experimental Sheep Station in Dubois, Idaho in the mid 1900’s.  The foundation stock were ewes of Rambouillet, Corriedale, and Lincoln bloodlines bred back to Rambouillet rams.  Approximately 23/23.5 microns.

Targhees
Photo from Raisingsheep.net

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100% Certified Organic Polwarth Wool comes from the Falkland Islands. The wool was selected from two family farms on the islands and measures an incredible 22 microns. The fleeces were processed in the UK. Sheep that are raised organically are not subject to mulesing, and they are not dipped for pesticides. In addition, the number of sheep allowed to graze in any give pasture area is limited to the natural carrying capacity of the land. And as with most wool that comes from the Falklands, it is very white. Noted for its elasticity, durability it is still considered a delicate fiber with bounce and drape.

The Polwarth sheep was developed in Australia by breeding Merino rams to Lincoln/Merino ewes so the foundation stock is 75% Merino/25% Lincoln. The Polwarth sheep were developed to make a dual purpose sheep with a finer wool that would contribute a more significant portion of the ranchers income. They are a hearty breed of sheep that can be found in climates that are considered too wet or cold for Merino sheep. The Polwarth breed has both polled and horned sheep. The most common is the polled. They are a large sheep with a high yielding fleece (between 8 – 13 lb fleeces).

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Photo from New Zealand Sheepbreeders’ Association

a new way to shop

At the Shop

I have found a new home! Today I went to The Shop on Liberty Street in Hubbard, Ohio and set up a display of my items. This means you can now purchase my fibers on your own time, as long as you don’t mind coming to Hubbard. So far I have silk scarves, spindles, Eucalan, combed top, batts, and felting packs. As the summer progresses I will continue to add items.

Not only do I have this retail display, but in the back I will have a workspace for dyeing and storage for my bulkier wool. I can’t wait to get this stuff out of my house! Especially since I just ordered three more bumps (bump = approx 22 lbs). Of course the hope is that having this space will increase productivity (wasn’t that my new year’s resolution in February?), but I’m sure it will take some time to adjust.

Having this great spot will open the door to many neat things such as classes and demos, pop-up shops, and consultations. My plan is to be in the shop at least one day a week either for dyeing or spinning. However, I live just down the street, so if you are coming and want to see something specific, call ahead! I will bring additional items for your perusal. If you are having problems with your spindle or wheel, let me know! And did I mention there is also a coffee counter at the back?

20 West Liberty Street
Hubbard, Ohio 44425

Hours:
Tue-Fri, 8 am to 5 pm
Sat, 10 am to 4 pm

 

a new family portrait

wheels

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed that the new wheel has arrived and it is a Majacraft Aura. It came on Thursday, March 27. That morning I finally received a tracking number from the Woolery. It was being sent directly from the Majacraft workshop in New Zealand, and I hadn’t heard anything for almost four weeks. When I looked up the tracking, I discovered that it had already traveled from California to Ohio, and I spent all day Thursday watching its slow progress from Cleveland to my local office. It was agonizing! Around the end of the day, I got a notice that it wouldn’t be delivered until Friday. Unacceptable! I would be leaving early that morning to go to Pittsburgh for the festival and didn’t want to wait until Sunday night to open the box. So I called the post office to ask if I would be able to pick it up. They said yes. But they’ve done this to me before — saying on the phone that I could pick up a package, but refusing to give it to me when I get there. I got myself so worked up on the car ride over, preparing myself for a fight. But thankfully the box was waiting for me and I took it home!

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Even though I had plenty to do that afternoon (we were leaving at 8 am the following day, but luckily the car was already packed), I wasn’t going to leave that box unopened. I was able to get it put together without too much anguish. There were a few parts of the instructions that were oddly vague, but in the end I was able to get some yarn on it before having to resume my packing. From the beginning Olive had decided it was her wheel.

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When I got home from the show I continued to fiddle around with the settings. It didn’t feel great at first and I was disappointed. The treadling wasn’t as smooth as I had imagined it would be (did I mention I did not have the chance to try this wheel before I bought it?). I think I was feeling overwhelmed by the newness of it all. I chose this wheel because I wanted something that was different from the wheels I’d had in the past. Everything else had been scotch tension and this was a double drive! Why buy a new piece of equipment that is the same as what you’ve already got? So basically I got what I asked for and now I had to figure out how to use it. I read about other people’s experiences on a Ravelry forum and was able to make adjustments that helped. Feeling more confident, I decided it was time to spin in earnest.

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My first yarn off the new wheel was a 2-ply of Blue-faced Leicester locks and a mohair single. I guess I just wanted to jump right in there and see what this thing could do, so why not curly locks AND a thin yarn AND plying? I hadn’t spun locks in so long, so for just that reason I love the way the yarn turned out. I also love that the curls didn’t have anywhere to get snagged on. The sliding loop thingy is great. No more peaks and valleys created by the hooks. The delta/pig tale orifice is nice too. It’s just cool and weird. It really holds the thinner yarns in place and you can wrap around it twice to lessen the tension. Another thing I noticed (not sure if this is specific to this wheel, double drives, or random chance) and love is that the yarn packs down so tightly. I used to hate how fluffy the bulky yarns were on the bobbin. So much wasted space! I’m still working on bulky yarns. I am finding it easier to spin thinner yarns than chunky, so there is still a lot of work to be done.

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The second finished yarn was a mohair/Merino blend that I couldn’t resist buying or spinning. Such a gorgeous luster. Ugh! It was wonderful to spin on the wheel. I have never been great at spinning anything below worsted weight, and this might be a light worsted if I’m lucky. But it was enjoyable and doable. At some point I may get another whorl with higher ratios for finer spinning, but even on the highest ratio I can spin finer than I expected. It’s exciting!

Did I mention Olive has claimed the wheel?

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special projects

Every January our local SCA group hosts an evening of eating and dancing. To help pay for the site, we hold an auction. Usually the tables are piled with cast-off garb, feast gear, books, nicknacks, etc. We don’t generate a huge amount of money for those things. But one year there were several handmade items on the table, which helped to increase the money we made. For this year I suggested we do an artisans auction — all items donated must be made by hand and relevant to our group. My contribution is handspun yarn (surprise!). I have three skeins of Shetland. One is the natural fawn color and the other two constitute my first attempt at natural dyeing in many years.

I started with three pots on the stove. One had alum, one had copper, and one had madder root. While the madder was simmering, I mordanted the yarn along with some fiber. I put one skein of yarn and a braid of roving in with the madder. In the alum pot, I dumped some turmeric and brazilwood. Since there was extra space in the pot I tossed in an old dish towel. After removing the yarn, I dyed a piece of linen fabric. The copper pot got logwood extract and then later I threw in some tin. Nothing exploded and I didn’t pass out, so I think it was okay.

The yarn dyed the best, but what a mess! I rinsed the skeins so many times and still it seemed like the water wouldn’t run clear. And despite straining, I ended up with all these fine pieces of plant matter in the yarn. When I reskeined them, I ended up with a dust pile underneath the swift. But overall they turned out better than I had expected. And you cannot deny the power of natural light in photos!

From front to back: madder root on alum, turmeric & brazilwood on alum, logwood on copper. #Shetland #wool #dyeing #plantdyes #handspun #handspunstagram #yarn
Madder root, turmeric + brazilwood, logwood

festival follow-up

I feel inclined to do a follow-up post about the YSU Summer Festival of the Arts. Just before we went, I was so very excited. However, when I got home that enthusiasm had waned considerably. First, the good parts. Our booth looked awesome! Amber and I worked very well together (by my estimation) and I think it showed. Since we both use each other’s products, we can talk about them with confidence. Her items went on the table since it was the most stable item in the tent, and I was able to test out my clothesline display along with all my new signs and photos (that I am quite sure no one noticed).

Summer Festival of the Arts
Saturday started out hot and it stayed that way all day. Everyone who came into the tent let us know that it was hot in there (which of course we knew) and eventually we lifted the side walls to get some breeze. It did help, but nothing can stop the sun when it is determined to bake you alive inside a polyester bag. Overall the traffic was slow, but we remained optimistic.

Summer Festival of the Arts
Sunday presented new problems. Instead of blistering heat, we had WIND! and RAIN! and wind and rain together! When I arrived Sunday morning, I found that my shelves had been knocked over, so I set them back up. While I was out visiting, they fell over again. It would become a reoccurring drama throughout the day. “Oh, don’t mind me. I’m just standing in front of this shelf so it doesn’t fall over.”

Summer Festival of the Arts
Eventually when the rain came in earnest, we had a serious problem. The roof was sagging at the corners allowing water to pool and then fall straight through onto my goods. Luckily wool is water repellent, so nothing was seriously damaged, even the tags remained whole. But two hours before closing, I was ready to call it quits. Thankfully the table with Amber’s items was safe, so we moved it out to the edge of the tent and soldiered on. By the end of the event our excitement had literally been dampened. However, we experienced a harrowing adventure together and came out stronger on the other side!

Summer Festival of the Arts

summer ’14 hat collection

Let me clarify – these are not “summer” hats. These are most definitely cold time hats. But I made them for the Summer Festival of the Arts this weekend in hopes of encouraging wool purchases during July. Hats are more of an accessory, right? People wear them all the time… right? Honestly, I don’t care at this point. I’m loading up the car today. We’re selling tomorrow, so if my merchandise is wrong, it’s too late now.

Regardless, I had a blast making these hats. I ended up with a whole pile of super chunky yarn, most of which were my corespinning experiments. I knew they were too thick for mitts and perhaps a little too coarse for neckwear, but I thought they could work in hats. Combining them, in my typical way, with neutrals, each hat contains a funky yarn full of different fibers and a nice natural shade of wool or alpaca. Now I have some good examples of what you can make with a 40 yard skein of corespun super bulk! Even though I have a lot of experience knitting hats, I had never really gone from brain rather than patterns. This was also a good exercise in hat shapes and learning how many stitches to cast on. For each hat I kept casting on fewer and fewer (some ended up pretty big) until I was down to about 40 or 50 stitches.

hatcollection

 

dryer balls: an exploration

Several years ago I heard whispers on the wind about felted wool dryer balls. And I thought, “eh, I’ve got loads of wool. I can felt. Let’s do this.” I didn’t read any tutorials or even research why people were using these things. I just made some. It was an excuse to stop buying dryer sheets, which I didn’t want to buy anyway. The first generation was not very dense, but I didn’t know that was a problem, so I just used them. Basically I just wadded a bunch of wool into a ball, put it in a stocking, and washed it. I guess they worked?

Then I found out they were supposed to be very hard and solid so they could bounce around in your dryer. Eventually I made another batch. This time I used yarn as the inside to give it more weight. It was a lot easier to pack the yarn tight rather than the roving. Plus it gave me a chance to do something with all of those odd little bits of yarn I have hanging around the house. I made a small ball of yarn, wrapped it in roving, wrapped more yarn around, more roving, etc. The second generation balls were larger and less squishy. However, the outside got smooshed up when I crammed them into the nylon stocking for felting.

1st & 2nd generation dryer balls

So, for the third batch I decided to do some pre-felting. I started with a tight ball of yarn and then covered it in roving. Using my 6-point needle felter, I tacked down the outside wool. This kept everything in place nicely and they came out so smooth and pretty. I’m sure they’ll end up covered in pills after one or two uses, but they will look deceptively pleasant in the bowl at the farmer’s market.

Balls pre-felted
Balls after an initial needle felting. The inside is a tightly wound ball of yarn with handdyed wool roving around the outside. In some cases I placed all of the roving around the outside, covering it entirely before needle felting. Those ones had a more interesting swirling color pattern. Others I tacked down each piece as I laid them down.

Balls ready for felting
Balls have been placed in a nylon stocking. I purchased knee-highs from the drug store for 50 cents a pair. I was able to get 4 to 5 balls in each stocking.

Dryer balls ready to go
The balls are finished! These went through two wash cycles. I reshaped them before throwing them into the dryer. They came out slightly damp, so now they are air drying. The best looking ones yet.

PS. I just listed them for sale. Click it.

 

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

progress in pictures

Thanks to Instagram, I am now documenting everything down to the last insignificant moment of my day. I baked muffins? Photo! New shoes? Photo! Cute kitty pose? Photo! Project in the house? Photo! Spinning yarn? Photo! It may get a little dull sometimes, but the up side is that when I am in the midst of a knitting project, there are many more process shots.

I finally finished the Age of Brass & Steam Kerchief using approximately 250 yards of handspun Shetland wool and size 8 needles. For each section I used a different color of yarn. The pattern was so easy and quick. Although my measurements didn’t come out quite as the pattern suggested, it’s much wider than any other shawl/kerchief I’ve made. I didn’t make any adjustments, just followed the instructions as is.

Three shades of #Shetland. #handspun #wool #yarn

Shetland triangle shawl. #nodyes #WIP #handspun

Shetland triangle blocking. #shawl #FO #handspun #handknit #natural

In action.

snapshots around the studio

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And by “studio” I mean my kitchen.

Over the past two years I’ve gotten myself into quite a rhythm. On average I get out my dyeing and carding equipment once a month. I spend one week dyeing and the next week carding. That usually leaves me one week to get everything labeled and packed to go to my next show. When it comes to dyeing, I still don’t have any recipes. I tried to do color cards, but when I went back to repeat those colors, they came out differently. Oh well. That means I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing and not worry about it too much. One of a kind (sort of) it is! By the way, I just found out that this “OOAK” thing everyone uses to describe their work stands for “one of a kind”. Huh!

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Anyway, I can’t go beyond three days of dyeing otherwise I get so bored and mentally dried up that I just pour black on everything and walk away. Day three is usually my least productive day, however this week it was my most productive. On Wednesday I had a haircut at noon, so I couldn’t get started until after that. And the first day I usually get started late because I have to get out all the pots and dyes.

My goals were quite manageable:

  1. 4 lbs of Merino for Margaret
  2. 4 lbs of Shetland roving
  3. Winnie’s fleece (approx. 3-4 lbs)
  4. Odds and ends for carding if I feel like it

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With two crock pots, three stock pots, and two roasting pans, I was able to get all of that and a little more done in two afternoons and one day. Today I have the pleasure of cleaning up the kitchen. But the living room also needs to be vacuumed, so I think it will just end up being a full on cleaning day while I wait for the fiber to dry.

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