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.

Mr. Kiwi

My first spinning wheel was a Kiwi by Ashford; and yes indeed, I do call it, um, him,  Mr. Kiwi. He is the only wheel who has a name.

My dear Aunt Polly has a wonderful fiber store (Tennessee Valley Fibers, here's the link:  ) and by chance I mentioned to her that I wanted to learn to spin. She send me a gift box full of roving and a drop spindle. To this day I think she was shocked that I stuck with it after seeing the pictures of my first feeble attempts at spinning on that spindle.  I tried, and tried....and tried, tried and tried. I spun some truly ugly yarn and never could get a pretty bit, no, not ever. And that despite the fact that I read and watched everything that I could find.  I did knit a cowl from the short bits of usable yarn and still wear it proudly.

Months passed and I kept at it. And, I started nagging asking my husband to give me a spinning wheel for some occasion or other. Well, he finally did and with Aunt Polly's advice,  he bought Mr. Kiwi. I'll never forget trying to put that wheel together. Oh man, I hadn't any experience with a spinning wheel except in the abstract and I don't have a lot of patience and there sure seemed to be a lot of parts. Between me and husband and a few pinched fingers, Mr. Kiwi was ready!

I will always believe that my time with that blasted spindle helped me because I was spinning in about two seconds. I spun thin singles, practiced plying and spun every week day for at least four hours. I was (and am) completely hooked. After about a year, I began spinning art yarns,  and bought a jumbo flyer to go with my wonderful spinning wheel.

Would I buy the same spinning wheel again knowing what I know now? You bet! Mr. Kiwi was great to learn on (the scotch tensioning is super easy to understand)  and can do about anything.  Ashford makes a high speed kit for higher twist, finer yarns and also makes the jumbo flyer.  The only thing I would change? I'd finish the wheel before assembly.  I do use Howard's "Feed-N-Wax"  which gives a nice bit of protection. Mr. Kiwi is a great travel wheel too; he fits easily into the car.  I seatbelt him in and we're off..................

The Weekend

The weekend has come and gone; thought I'd share a couple of fun things to do around here (Massachusetts) in case you are ever in the area. On Saturday, we went to a cool used bookstore that my husband had visited about twenty years ago.  The store's motto: "Books you don't need in a place you can't find". Anyway, I came home with a few good books including one that looks promising titled  Adventures in Yarn Farming by *Barbara Parry.  Ms. Parry's farm is in Shelburne, a super pretty part of the state. There are a few knitting patterns in the book and I found a sweater pattern that I might actually attempt (I hate following knitting patterns; it tries my patience to count rows, stitches, anything).   Here is a link to the bookstore in Montague:

On Sunday, we went to Moore State Park in Paxton for a walk. What a pretty place! There are trails everywhere, a lovely pond and the ruins of a village from the 18th century. I haven't ever seen so many rhododendrons and I bet they are a sight to behold in the spring. My husband took a few pictures:

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Corriedale for Carding

The Big E Fiber Festival was a couple of weeks ago.  When I go to a fiber show,  I like to get there when it opens and head straight for the fleece sale. On this trip, my goal was to get some nice mohair. Well, I didn't find any mohair that I just had to have but I did find some Corriedale. 

According to The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook* ,  "Corriedale wool has a well deserved good reputation" (pg 250). The fleece that I bought has a shorter staple and amazing crimp.  I am obsessed at the moment with hand carding rolags and woolen long draw spinning so the fleece looked perfect.

*Robson, D & Ekarius, C. (2011). The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook: North Adams, MA. Storey Publishing.

I highly recommend this book; it is pretty enough for a coffee table, has superb pictures and is full of excellent information about all kinds of fibers.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Knitted Scarf Pattern for Handspun Yarn

Sometimes I see a pattern and it just sings "knit me"!  I saw this one on Pinterest this morning and lucky me, the pattern is free on Ravelry.  

And here is  a link the the "Simple Arches Scarf" by @Megan Ellinger:

The author used handspun and it will be fun to plan the handspun I'll use to knit this scarf. Wonder whether I could double the width for a shawl? I'm thinking that an alpaca/ silk/ wool blend might give just the right amount of drape. 


Friday, November 8, 2013

Jake the Dog

This is a picture of our Jake a few months after we rescued him. Even as a puppy, he could already conjure up a host of cute little faces. We think he looks worried in this one.  Jake eats wool.....any time and any kind and he doesn't care if it is raw fleece (ugh!!) or a freshly carded rolag. Wool is good.


I adore alpaca; both the fiber and the animal. Talk about cute!!!! I often
think that they look as though someone sat down with a smile and drew a make believe creature.  The fiber is a total wow;  luscious and luxurious in loads of natural colors.

Several months ago, I was running low on alpaca so I did a little Internet research for an alpaca farm near my home. I found a farm named "Great Rock Alpacas" and gave them a call. The owner, Kate, told me a little about her farm and invited me out to visit.

Here are a few of this year's babies:

She and her husband, Jack, have a beautiful place. There really is a great (BIG) rock and there are alpaca everywhere, a few chickens that follow Kate around like puppy dogs and an adorable dog or two. Kate is a spinner so she knows what kind of fleece will make a spinner happy. She had pulled a wonderful brown few pounds of fleece just for me. It is wonderful

Of course, the more fiber the better and I was back to see Kate within a week of two for some more alpaca. Look at the staple and the crimp:

So, I made some great friends and found a source for superior alpaca fiber. Kate always has a great fleece selection so do look her up when you need some fiber or even when you need an alpaca or two of your very own.

My handspun, kettle dyed 100% alpaca yarn.

Single or Double Treadle Spinning Wheel

When I started spinning, I thought I'd do better with a double treadle spinning wheel. More like riding a bike and seemed more intuitive I thought. Well, I adore my double treadle spinning wheels but there is a certain freedom that I have found in a single treadle.

At a double treadle, I have to face the wheel; I'm tied to it in a way. Getting a good long draw for woolen spinning feels awkward to me at a DT.  Enter the single treadle.  I can angle my chair so that it is easy to get that good arm extension for long draw spinning while the rest of me stays put. And for some reason, the ST just feels more relaxing. I don't feel as though I am sitting at a desk as I do sometimes with my other wheels.

Most of the wheels commercially available these days are double treadles* so I bet there are lots of folks who haven't ever gotten to spin on a single treadle.  Find one and try it; you might be pleasantly surprised.

*The current issue of "Spinning Daily" has a great chart that lists all the wheels out there and their various attributes.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

DIY Lazy Kate

DIY Lazy Kate:

I have three spinning wheels (more about them later) and each wheel has multiple bobbins. The only lazy kate that I own only has room for two out of many (at least 12) bobbins so I've been stewing about a solution.  Not only is storage a problem but it sure would be nice to have a lazy kate that could hold more that two bobbins. I've seen folks use a shoebox and a knitting needle but I needed something a little more elegant.

So, a trip to the craft store, two pair of size 7 knitting needles and a basket later and voila:

The bobbins spin easily and the set up is heavy enough that it should work well enough for a lazy kate.   It definitely is a great storage solution for spinning wheel bobbins and all for only about six dollars!