Sunday, December 29, 2013

Travis the Dog

Isn't he a cutie? A Jack Russell through and through! Our poor little guy is on 3 different medicines for seizures.  And, he has brain damage from a really bad bout that left him on a ventilator for 5 days. I look back on that sometimes and wonder if we should have let him go but I look in his eyes now and I don't think he was ready. He looks pretty lively eh?

Flyer Hooks and Art Yarn

I like to spin funky, textured yarns with fun add ins. When I first started spinning these yarns, I was spinning on Mr. Kiwi.  Mr Kiwi did not like spinning those yarns.  The problem was those little bitty hooks; everything got caught on them and it made for some seriously slow spinning. Ultimately, and when I could afford one, I bought a jumbo flyer with a sliding hook but here is how I solved at least some of the problem in the meantime:

 Instead of using each hook, just use one at a time.  Move the yarn  onto the next hook as the bobbin fills.

Using each hook just gives the yarn more chances to snag.

Of course, the yarn still gets caught but with less frequency. The yarn pictured here was spun on the Road Bug.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Jake in his new pretty......

We had to buy Jake a harness. He can slip a collar faster than anything (his neck is wider than his head). He has an appointment for his (first) annual vet checkup in the morning.  I sure hope the harness works. The poor thing hasn't had very good experiences at the vet. He went last time during an ice storm. He slipped out of his collar and it took three vet techs and my dear husband, all slipping around on the ice in the parking lot to catch him. He did not like it. I just hope tomorrow is a better experience.

He thinks he looks adorable:

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

And a coil spun.....

                                                 This is fun yarn to spin and to use. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

New Yarns

 Just put these up on Etsy. The left is alpaca from Kate's farm and the right is made from various wool.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Sad Day and Drum Carding

Yesterday, I put my little drum carder up for sale. I hope I'm not the only one that gets attached to things because I really do feel sad letting it go. I have used that carder several times a week for a couple of years. Oh well. It is time to say goodbye. I don't have the room or the money for two carders and a bad shoulder is complaining loudly every time I try to turn the crank. So, I'll get a motorized carder when the little guy sells.

A note about carding: I include this because my Wild Carder was sold as a carder for art batts but I have and do use it for everything.  Like most of us, I can only afford one of these tools. My best advice, slow down. Likes snail's pace slow on the first carding.  My first step is to pull the locks apart and then, while turning (slowly), I let the fiber catch on the main drum. This helps avoids jams. After that, I separate the batt until I can see through it and feed those pieces through the feed tray. Here again, I go super slow to avoid tangling and tearing. Remember, if you start to see neps/ noils, more runs through the carder probably won't help and may make things worse. You can however pull the neps and noils out as you spin. 

To make an art batt, I make layers. First a layer of fiber, then add ins (sari silk, mohair locks, etc.) then another layer of fiber. The layers go through the carder all together again, turning slowly and making sure I can see through the layers before I feed them through.  I like textured batts so one pass through the carder is usually enough. I use either prepared roving or top for my fiber layers or I card the fiber layer in a separate step.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Fresh Yarn

 This is core spun yarn.  There are sari silk threads, BL locks and etc., etc., etc.

Here is a two ply yarn. One ply is Blue Faced Leicester and the other is a Finn x  Romney.  I love dyeing this kind of yarn because each ply takes up dye a little differently. I might leave this one natural. Hmmmm

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Turkeys redux

They were across the street from our house this morning. You can see the young Tom puffing up; I think he wanted us to move along. I wonder if all fifteen of them will stick around all winter.................................

Friday, December 13, 2013

Alpaca Fiber

I just listed a little of Ironman's (from Great Rock Alpaca) fiber on Etsy. This is some of the prettiest alpaca fleece that I have ever seen. Take a look at the crimp in the fiber. It is super soft and when dyed, oh wow. It is seriously delicious. For more pictures

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Border Leicester: Gotta Love It.

Awwww,  just look at those eyes, those ears and that patrician nose.....what's not to love!  

 These are some locks from a fleece that I bought at the New Hampshire Sheep and Wool Festival.  You can see how glossy they are. BL takes dye beautifully.

Here is a pic of some tailspun BL that I spun it on my Aura. It is a super soft yarn when spun from the lock. A carded prep might yield a scratchy yarn like many of the longwool breeds.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Knitting with Art Yarn and Sales

I had a sale in my Etsy shop and sold out of yarn (I've since added a few things). Wow. I think something like 42 hanks of yarn are out the door. I'm excited 'cause it gives me a clean slate to start the new year.

Drying before shipping
As I was packing the last order of yarn and etc. up it occurred to me that I ought to share a tip for knitting with art yarn. I spin a goodly amount of yarn with coils/ beehives, beads and lumps and bumps. When you come to an embellishment in yarn that you want to show in your finished item, always use the opposite stitch than what is written. In other words, if the pattern says knit, purl instead and vice versa.  This will push the embellishment to the front of your work for later admiration.
All packed up

Fiber Storage

I have often wondered what people would think if they saw they amount of fiber that I have around the house.  Too much perhaps but regardless, storage is a HUGE problem. It would break my heart to lose any fiber to creatures (moths, mice...........). I have read everything that I could find about the best way to store fiber. 

Some recommend a pillow case for raw (i.e. unwashed) fiber and some folks leave the fiber in the large plastic bag that it is usually sold in.  Some add cedar or lavender. Whatever the case I do think most would say that fiber is really best stored after is has been washed. 

I'll freely admit that I don't wash all my fiber as soon as I get it home.  Usually, I'll wash about 8 ounces right away so I can enjoy my purchase immediately. The remainder has to be stored. Up until very recently, I left the fiber in the original bag and put that into one of those giant plastic totes until I was ready to use it. Thanks to a wonderful  forum on Ravelry (Fiber Prep Group), I have discovered the bucket.

They cost about three dollars at Home Depot or Lowe's and are free if you can find a restaurant that will give them away.  I have scads of white roving that needs a home; these things can hold about five pounds.

I doubt any critter can get in to one these buckets and I can store them in the cellar or even the garage. I suspect that the lanolin in the raw fiber might harden a little if left outside (it gets wicked cold here in New England) perhaps making wool harder to get clean. Only Spring will tell.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

How to Stop that Bobbin Rattle

Oooh, there is nothing worse than sitting down for some quiet spinning and having a bobbin rattling away.  When I bought the Country Craftsman, it came with one bobbin and I needed another. I located more bobbins (Detta's Spindle); I think Detta knows a woodworker who makes them for her store.

Well, the bobbin that I bought  is fine but it isn't a perfect fit.  It rattled horribly and after suffering with the noise for a week or two, I finally sat down to figure out how to stop the incessant racket. 

The solution that I came up with is simple. I stop the noise by wrapping a little length of yarn or a little fiber on the flyer shaft between the bobbin and the flyer. The fiber allows the bobbin  
to turn easily while providing a cushion between the two offending parts.  It slides off when I'm done and takes all of two seconds to do. No more rattle!

 Some luscious Border Leicester on the bobbin.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Yarn Farming

I just finished reading Adventures in Yarn Farming by @Barbara Parry. You may recognize her name;  she has another book out about dyeing fiber. I was pleased to find the book as the author is also a neighbor, well, sort of.  Ms. Parry has a farm in western Massachusetts in one of my favorite parts of the state around Shelburne. Not only a book written by a neighbor but written about my favorite topic, fiber.

As a wanna-be shepherd, I so enjoyed the book. She set it up as a tour of the farm and her work through a year. I was reminded about the huge ice storm we had here in '08 through pictures and a great description of the way the storm changed the landscape.  The author is as descriptive about other topics and enough so that I was left in awe of the 24 hour/ 365 day in and out calender that she has to keep.

She keeps two of my favorite sheep breeds, Border Leicester and Cormo along with other critters; a llama or two and some goats.  The are tons of super photos in the book and  as an added bonus, there are several really cute knitting patterns and some good instructions for dyeing fiber.

I'd highly recommend this book for anyone seriously thinking about getting their own flock and certainly for the fiber enthusiast.  Here is a link to Ms. Parry's website:

I'd love to visit her farm one day..........................

Sunday, December 1, 2013


There has been a flock of turkeys hanging around our neighborhood all summer. We have surprised one in our backyard several times (they really can fly!) and last evening, here is what we saw.....

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Spinning Standstill

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Has anyone else ever reached an utter and complete standstill in creativity? I have several ounces of hand carded rolags ready for spinning but just can't seem to get any spinning done. The Christmas cards are another story...................................

Sunday, November 24, 2013

First Snow

I guess winter is really, truly here. Along with the snow, we are enjoying a temperature of 18 degrees.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Yarn Winding and DIY Niddy Noddy

My first niddy noddy still gets use. It is a great little travel niddy at one yard and it collapses. I bought it a long time ago when I was trying to spin yarn on a spindle. This one came from Ebay, is hand turned and cost about $7.00 (Sorry, I looked but don't see the fellow that made it on Ebay anymore). Once I got a wheel (Mr. Kiwi), I really needed a two yard niddy. There wasn't extra money in the budget so I looked around for a DIY solution and found plans for one made of PVC. Here are the plans that I used: @

 A nice man at Home Depot cut the pipe into pieces for me and I had the whole thing put together in about two shakes of a lamb's tail. It cost under $2.00.  I have read of people drying their yarn on these as, of course, they are water proof. This one breaks down too but is a little large for travel.  I still use this one too, usually if I have just a few short yards to wind off.

Ultimately (and due to a separated shoulder) I decided that I really needed a yarn winder. A freestanding winder seemed the best solution and the only commercial one that  I really liked is made by Ashford: . This one costs about $100.00.

Well, we love old stuff and I'd seen yarn winders around so I started searching for an antique that worked. I finally found one.  It had seen some hard leg is a little short and the wood was so very dry. I'd date it around the mid to late 18th century.

The weasel almost works.  When the winder was fully functional, there was a notched mechanism that moved one notch with each full rotation of the winder. When all the notches had passed, the weasel popped  marking a set number of full rotations and thus, the total  yardage that had wound on. What a labor saver this thing is! I just move my spinning chair in front of it, put the lazy kate beside it and wind. I don't find it hard to count and it winds off super quick.  I found mine on Craigslist for under $100.00. The really refined looking ones are a few hundred. They do take up some real estate but I think they are cool looking and mine goes with the other old stuff in our old house.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

This Weekend

Leaves. Oh man, the old oak tree in our backyard dropped more this year than ever (it seemed, anyhow). Husband was at home Friday so he blew the leaves into a big pile and then we toted  them out to the street.

Here's a picture. We won!  We had more leaves than anybody else on the street. 

On Saturday, we took off on a drive to find stuff (stuff is anything from a cute town to a great view to a bunch of sheep to, well just about anything). We decided to head up to Vermont.  The first fun thing:

In Weathersfield,  VT we found this historical marker in front of an antique farmhouse.  It marks the home of William Jarvis who imported the first Merino sheep into the United States in 1811.  Here's a link for a little more information:  

On our way we spotted some goats and, of course I had to go visit.  It's hard to see but the fence behind the goats had hundreds of pheasants enclosed.

We drove through the beautiful campus of Dartmouth in Hanover, NH, stopped for a quick lunch and headed home. On the way back, we stopped at Alyson's Orchard which has to be the biggest orchard I've ever seen. It is way up on a hill and the views.............
We bought a homemade chicken pot pie (which was wonderful) and some Macoun apples, which are delicious.

On Sunday, we went back to Moore State Park to walk another path that we didn't have time to walk last weekend:

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Yarn Craft

So, if you don't knit or crochet, or even if you do, here are a few ideas to use yarn in some easy projects. Most, if not all of these projects are kid friendly and great fun on a rainy day. These ideas will also show off a small hank of handspun art yarn. Enjoy!

1. Buy several styrofoam balls from a craft store and wrap the yarn around them. Display in a bowl, large glass vase or attach Christmas tree hooks to them and use them as ornaments. (secure the yarn with glue or pins).

2. Wrap a vessel in yarn and display. Anything from tin cans to glass vases to clay pots will work; start at the bottom, tape the yarn (or glue it) and wrap. Finish at the top with a dab of white glue.

3. Substitute yarn for of ribbon to wrap gifts. Hopefully, it will get re-cycled.

4. Use yarn for your scrapbook projects; outline photos, etc. for a pretty effect.

5. Make a bowl with yarn. Rosie O'Donnell made one of these on a television show several years ago as a children's craft project.
  Inflate a balloon to a size you like;
  Place the balloon in a bowl (knot side down);
  Cut yarn into 6-12 inch pieces and soak them in a bowl of white glue;
  Place yarn in random, overlapping layers until you are pleased with the effect and then, takes some time to dry;

Pop the balloon, remove it and voila! A bowl. (You can make a "glue" from flour and water...there are lots of recipes on the internet.)

6. Glue yarn around an inexpensive frame or mirror.

7. Tie some yarn into little bows and glue to plain note cards or invitations.

8. Use as a necklace for a special pendant.

9. Glue or sew yarn to a pillow in shapes, borders, etc. with fabric glue (white glue will work but is less flexible).

10.. Braid some yarn or just use some lengths and make some fun hair accessories; a bobby pin will easily hold the braid in place.

11. Wrap some yarn around wire hangers; good way to recycle those hangers and so much easier on clothes! The yarn can also be crocheted around the hanger.

12. Make a sachet; wind some yarn into a ball and add lavender oil (or cedar, cinnamon, or, well anything).

13. Frame it! Draw an outline of something fun,  glue yarn along the outline. Then, work towards the center with rows or circles of yarn.  

14. Glue yarn to plain curtain tie backs or curtains or pillows (just follow the hem for a nice straight line) with fabric glue.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Learning to Spin

After I retired, I mentioned wanting to learn to spin to Aunt Polly. Well, low and behold, she had taken up spinning! So, my first resource...... Aunt Polly lives 1000 miles away so I was pretty well on my own except for phone and picture consults with her.

So, can you learn to spin on your own? Sure, I did it. Below, are links to some of the sites with information that helped me.

1. "The Joy of Handspinning" is the first site that I visited. I highly recommend this site. There are loads of short and to the point videos on a host of topics.

2. I started with a spindle and there is a You Tube video by the wonderful @Abby Franquemont: "Introduction to Spinning" . Here is a link to part one and do watch all of her videos; good stuff.

3. New Voyager Trading is a distibutor for Kromski and their website has a number of articles and videos about spinning:

4 " Spinning Daily" ( I subscribe to this site and they have load of free pamphlets to download. Good stuff.

5. "Knitty" is another website that has good information. It is an emag and along with knitting, they have articles on spinning.

6. I looked at every single spinning manufacturer's website. Most of them have some spinning instructions and/or trouble shooting guides.

7. Dharma Trading Co ( has some great information about dyeing wool.

8. "Spin Off" magazine is a subscription but worth getting at least a single issue. Back issues are available through Interweave Press or Spin Off.  (they and "Spinning Daily" are all part of Interweave Press, publishers of all kinds of craft magazines and etc.)

9. A general search on You Tube for spinning videos. I watched as many as I could find.

10. Ditto for a a general internet search.

11. Ravelry.  Join up! I didn't know about this site until a  couple of years ago. There are a number of spinner's groups and lots of people on line willing to help with issues right on the spot.

This list is by no means all inclusive and since I started spinning, more sites and articles are out there.  I couldn't really afford any books when I started so the internet was a boon. If possible, I do think a group or individual lesson is a very good thing (I had my very first lesson a couple of months ago).  You will hear a lot of differing opinions out there. My advice? Listen well and select what works best for you....spinning is supposed to be fun.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Spinning Lesson

My first real spinning student! Okay, I'll admit I'm a little nervous about this teaching thing. Perhaps I'm being silly; I've taught all kinds of people all kinds of things during my many, many  years as a Registered Nurse (I'm retired now). So, what is it about spinning? For me,  I think it is the problem of trying to put sensations into words. I read somewhere that in order to draft fiber,  you need to hold the fiber as you would a fragile baby bird. That's an excellent analogy; I understood that when I read it.  But, how do I explain that little feeling, the timing, the perfection when both hands are working together to make pretty yarn?  I wonder how they teach surgical residents to make their first  incision ....just press lightly with that razor sharp scalpel?????.....  I'll admit that I tried to teach husband to spin and failed. I still don't know whether it was me or he that didn't do well but I do know that he can't spin a lick and I'm mighty glad I'm not teaching surgery


Okay, lesson over. I had fun and hope I've made a good friend. The spinning, well, I don't think she's gonna give up!!! (Kidding, I saw that "AH HA" moment and a few yards of pretty yarn make it onto that bobbin.) Will I offer lessons formally? We'll see...............

And now, for some handspun yarn.....

Okay, I think it is time for a little yarn! Yesterday, I straightened the house and picked up the detritus. I can't work when there is a mess and I have my first ever student coming over today for spinning lessons.  More than one good reason to clean.

Here is some kettle dyed alpaca from my friend Kate's farm (Great Rock Alpacas) I know this alpaca personally; his name is Ironman and he has wonderful fleece.

Initially, I was going hand card the fiber but carding  muddied the colors more than I liked.

So, I  hand picked the fiber (just pick it up and pull the locks apart; after picking on the right) and spin from the cloud of alpaca.  I think a fuzzy, shaggy, slubby yarn will show off the colors and the natural sheen of the fiber. Also, alpaca spun this way kind of helps fill in the gaps around stitches and makes for a denser appearing fabric. 

                                                 Here is the yarn on the bobbin.

 Then on the yarn winder.

                                                         And drying in the window.

What would I make with this handspun yarn? Well, there is enough for a hat or cowl or scarf (140 yards of bulky weight) and the yarn is next to the skin soft.  I might use it as weaving weft or perhaps use some for the cuff and collar on a sweater.  It would make a wonderful edging for a baby blanket too.  It will knit up into a tweedy looking fabric.  I know it will go to someone who knows exactly what to make.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Country Craftsman Spinning Wheel

I must admit that I am drawn to Saxony style spinning wheels. There was a Saxony in my bedroom when I was girl, maybe that's the reason. Also, a super fast wheel (like a Saxony style)  is just plain fun to use.  Well, spinning wheels are expensive and some of the current Saxony style wheels are among the most expensive wheels out there. There are also some amazing handmade wheels that are really expensive and have waiting lists of up to several years. One day, I am going to own one of those wheels. In the interim, I have found a way to satisfy both my aesthetic and the functionality of the Saxony for a reasonable sum. 

The Country Craftsman spinning wheel was built in Littleton, MA, near my home. It has been out of production since 2003 so it is not an antique thus parts are fairly readily available. I got mine from the delightful Jen at @Lupine Blossom Fiber Arts in Center Sandwich, NH. She sells wheels and other spinning and weaving stuff on consignment (and has a great yarn/ fiber shop in one of the prettiest places in all of New England) and is super knowledgeable.  Here is a link to her shop:  I have seen them selling for $50.00 all the way to $500.00. Craigslist has one show up fairly often around New England and there is a group on Ravelry dedicated to these wheels (

Some history:

"From 1969 to 1971, Jerome Rooney made spinning wheels for display. He was not aware that people were spinning and that there was a market for dependable, functioning wheels. Upon learning of this, he visited the Museum of American Textile History, North Andover, MA. The curator of the museum provided Rooney the opportunity to see their large collection of spinning wheels, many of which were in storage. One wheel in particular, a 1700#700;s Saxony flax wheel, caught his eye. After much measuring, comparing, and design work, the Country Craftsman spinning wheel was born. It was a beautiful, smooth, and responsive wheel, and a joy to spin on. It excelled in producing medium to very fine yarn.
Joseph Franzek started working with Rooney in Sept, 1972. When Rooney retired in 1982, Franzek took over his business. The Country Craftsman was built and distributed by Joseph Franzek, and his wife Cindy, until about 2003, when they decided to retire from custom woodworking."
Here is a picture of mine:

This was taken as I started using some Howard's Restor-A-Finish (great stuff!).  There is a small separation in the drive wheel but the wheel is true and the separation doesn't cause any problems.  It came with just one bobbin but Detta's Spindle still carries them ( ) so I was able to get another bobbin easily.

Here is a single ply alpaca that I spun last week. The wheel spins like a dream and I am seriously enjoying spinning on it.  As an added bonus, the original distaff is intact so one day I'll have a go at spinning flax.  I really am enjoying the freedom of movement that I feel with a single treadle too. My goal? Spin 1000 yards of sock weight yarn. Now, the only thing holding me back is deciding on the perfect fiber. 

Mr. Ant is Dead

And Jake the dog has killed him.

He's had this stupid blue anteater since he was a puppy.  Now I must bury Mr. Ant before Jake finds the yummy squeaker.

 I think Jake is very sad now.