Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Got a blending board!

My DH asked what I wanted for Christmas and all that I could think of was a blending board. I suggested Brother's because of the lower price point and he got it for me....

My first effort was just all wrong and a few You Tube videos later (I enjoyed Gwen Powell's videos very much: Using a Clemes and Clemes Blending Board) I was able to make rolags easily, if not neatly. I also managed to draw blood twice so do be careful and do make sure your tetanus is up to date. Here are a few pics:

Painting the board

Pushing the fiber onto the tines with a paintbrush

Carding the fiber onto the board

Starting first rolag

First rolag off the board

Last rolag

A mess o' rolags

A word about selecting a blending board....carding cloth is expensive and I suspect that is the main reason for the price of these tools. There are only about 3 companies that manufacture carding cloth in the world so features become important. So far  I'm pleased with my selection and you can find boards that cost a lot more and a lot less. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Graniteware and Dyeing Fiber

Ever buy something, use and then wonder how you ever managed without it? Well, I'm in love with this graniteware pan that I got from Amazon: Graniteware Roaster.  It is large enough to fit a two yard hank of yarn, tall enough to hold large Mason jars and fits into the oven easily. It also works as a stovetop dye pot. In fact, it is big enough to hold a couple of mason jars along with some yarn for two dyeing techniques at one time. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Monday, December 21, 2015

Sad News

On last Friday, we had to put Travis, our dear little dog, to sleep. The poor guy had kind of a
tough life over his too short 12 years. We often referred to him as the dog with nine lives as we nursed him through each different problem. He was a sweet guy who always bounced back after each illness but this last one was just too much for him. We would never, ever, ever have let him suffer through something that he couldn't overcome and liver cancer was his last and final battle. He lost the battle but sure won the war and I count myself so lucky to have known him; he had spirit and he had spunk. I read somewhere that we only get to borrow dogs......

Sunday, December 20, 2015


Jake had a free portrait done today at PetSmart. Good boy.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Alden Amos

I'm sure most everyone has heard the sad news about Alden Amos' passing. "The New York Times" did a great write up. Here's the link: Alden Amos

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Washing Raw Wool

Washing fleece is something I really enjoy. It is one of those tasks that I put off (as evidenced by the dozen or so languishing in our former dining room) but, once I get started, it makes me very happy to take a greasy, muddy mass of wool and turn into a clean, fresh smelling, soft pile is a true joy. Spinning wool that I've processed is about my favorite thing of all things involved in preparing wool and spinning.

Everybody has a different system and mine is no better and no worse. I use water that I heat on the stove until it is steaming. I use a combination of Dawn and Ecos for the wash cycles; I use vinegar in the first rinse and clear water in the last rinse. Thus, the wool gets soaked in at least 4 times. I add a third wash if the fleece is greasy and I'll do a pre-soak in cold water for a day or two if the fleece is extra muddy.

Here are some things that I don't do. I don't agitate the wool and in fact, I try to barely handle it. I don't buy a fleece that is full of hay or other chaff. I have been through my share of those and while satisfying, are a little more trouble that I care to deal with.  Last, I don't worry. I used to fret about felting. Well, I've felted wool a time or three but the since the sheep keep growing their wool.......there's always more to be had.

To get the excess water out of the lingerie bags that hold the wool during washing, I use Alden Amos' method of swinging the bag around and around. That gets the majority of the water out then, to the basement to dry (outside in warm weather). I did invest in salad spinner and I'll report on that after I use it. Spinning wet wool in New England winter weather is anything but pleasant.

Here a picture of some pretty CVM-Romeldale that I'm washing:

If you are just starting out, I'd suggest starting with something like Romney. Their wool tends to be low in grease and is pretty forgiving stuff. (Note: grease is  aka lanolin when discussing sheep fleece.)

Monday, December 14, 2015

Leeks with Olives and Tomatoes

Here's a quick and tasty recipe for leeks:

Cut three or four leeks crosswise, salt, and fry over medium heat

until lightly brown.

Add one can black olives and crushed red pepper.

Add one large can of tomatoes, drained and crushed.

Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for about 20 minutes (until leeks are tender) and serve with rice or couscous. 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

A pound of humbug

All plied.  It is BFL (Blue Faced Leicester) and so soft:

I'll list it on Etsy in day or two.....

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


Ever seen that pretty striped wool top called Humbug? I scored a pound of it and started wondering why it was called Humbug? Here's a picture of the wool:

So, I did a little (very little) research and here's a pic of a British peppermint candy called....Humbug:

And, I think that I found the answer

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Resource: Patterns for Art Yarns

I love spinning art yarn! These can be called textured or novelty yarns but whatever you call them, they are fun. I've been asked a few times  how these yarns can be used. In addition to a prior blog post (Yarn Craft), I've collected a few patterns that work well:

1 .One Piece Magic Cardigan by Lynn M. Wilson

2. High Flying Kite Art Yarn Shawl by Anna Clark

3. Ozark Handspun makes some delicious yarn; they also have patterns: Ozark Mountain Handspun Patterns

And don't forget the easy stuff like a dropped stitch scarf. Co 9 or 12 stitches with size 13 needles ( or larger). 1st row and all odd no. rows: "ko, yo to end". 2nd row and all even rows: "ko, drop the "yarn over" from the previous row, to end". The texture of the yarn will make this scarf very special.  

Monday, September 28, 2015

Taming the Beast

or how I came to love my Schacht-Reeves. The Schacht -Reeves is my dream wheel (well, one of them, anyway). So, I saved my pennies and bought one last year. I just couldn't love the wheel!  No matter what I did, I just couldn't get it to spin like I thought it should. Specifically, I like spinning long draw and I just couldn't seem to get the takeup strong enough to provide resistance for long draw. I like a grabby wheel for long draw and the SR was just too gentle. I tried both DD and ST. No luck and I had intended the SR to be a production wheel!

So, the drive band search began . I usually spin DD on my other wheels so I started by stringing different double drive bands.  I tried both thick and thin butchers' twine, crochet thread, hemp, cotton, candle wick, etc., no luck. So, I decided to work with the wheel in ST and tried a single loop of the candle wick for the drive band. Viola! Worked like a champ. 

There's a moral to this story. If your wheel isn't performing the way that you need it too, change the drive band. If that doesn't work, change the brake band and don't give up. 


Generally, a thicker band is for a thicker yarn and a thicker band will be grabbier. (more surface area). Also, drive/ brake bands wear out. Yep, even the fishing line types and stretchy types. Pollutants and sunlight wear these down even though they don't stretch out in the way that a cotton band will.

Don't be afraid to have several drive bands at the ready. I've read of folks who keep three or four at the ready.

What about the brake band? I've decided to ditch the spring that came with the wheel and try a rubber band and some festive looking butchers' twine in the hopes that the rubber band will allow for more fine tuning. I'll give it a go when I finish what I spinning. I'm also going to keep looking for a material that will work for DD.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Are there spinning rules?

Are there? By rules, I mean things that must be done (or should never, ever be done). I have thought about this a lot. One example? Well, I don't  believe in weighting yarn intended for knitting while they dry. Setting the twist doesn't require weights and that fiber, once wet is likely to bias and might ruin someone's garment. So, for me, it's a rule; I never put a weight on my yarns while they dry....if they have too much twist, I either run the yarn back through on my e-spinner or I set it aside for weaving.

I'd love some thoughts from others. Does anything go? Are there rules?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Carding wool: Is there a magic bullet?

I process a lot of raw wool for spinning and I really enjoy it. After the wool is scoured and dried, it can carded (by hand or machine) or combed. Clearly, there isn't a way to speed up combing wool by hand except for loads of practice. Are drum carders a different story?

After I'd been spinning for a while, I invested in a drum carder in the hopes it would speed things up. I was doing a lot of art yarn spinning at the time so I bought an Ashford Wild Carder. It worked well. With its super long teeth, it easily held 30 gms of fiber. I was surprised at how long it took me to get a batt (or six) finished so it seemed time to upgrade to an electric carder.

Between research and budget I chose an electric Fancy Kitty. What a treat, no more turning the handle! But, it still took me the better part of a morning to get six batts done. In the meantime, I'd been hanging out at my friend Lisa's house a bit. Lisa has the best of everything; she's been spinning forever and has acquired  a whole lot of tools along her journey. She has about 5  carders including an electric Louet and a Pat Green Supercard and she can't get fiber carded any more quickly than I.

I'd known about Pat Green's carders forever and I really wanted one. I could have afforded a manual one but thought I'd be happier with an electric. When a Deb's Delicate Deluxe came up for sale for a great price so I grabbed it even though it was manual. Guess what? I can card up six batts on the Pat Green as fast as I can on my electric carder!

I might mention that I also have a pair of hand cards. Spinning rolags is the best and I love long draw spinning. I need way more practice with them but it is really nice to be able to sit on the sofa with hand cards and a basket of clean wool to card. Folks skilled at making rolags can probably beat a drum carder at getting wool ready to spin.

In summary: in my experience, carding is a slow process and the carder itself probably plays only a small role in how quickly wool can be turned into batts. The type of fiber and the quality of the fiber matter more than does the specific carder. That's not to say that some carders aren't better than others but you do have to go through the same motions with every carder. So, I don't think that there really isn't a magic bullet  (carder).

What make a carder better? I think a higher ratio between drum and licker in helps. Gearing on manual carders that makes the handle easy to turn is a help. The tpi (teeth per inch) matters too. 120 tpi is going to a pain to use with coarse wool and merino will need extra passes with 42 tpi.  Personally, I think that having two drum carders is a good setup; one coarse and one fine.

I never put more that about an ounce of fiber on either carder; I find that adding more results in a compacted batt that doesn't draft as easily as a thinner batt. The two minutes needed to remove the batt is worth the improvement in spinning experience.  Also, GIGO (garbage in-garbage out) applies to carding. Try to card fiber with a lot of second cuts, you'll get a batt full of nepps and noils. Same for chaff; a carder won't clean fiber. Yes, the licker in will grab some of the second cuts and chaff but not all. When shopping for a carder, I recommend getting a lower tpi than you think you need because you can always run the fiber through twice and you'll have more versatility in carding coarser fiber.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Been spinning

Here are a couple of hanks that I finished this week:

I'm so excited about these! This is one full pound of Corriedale.....enough for a sweater (a smallish sweater anyway):

And we finally made it to the beach:

Friday, September 11, 2015

Here's a cool knitting calculator:

And it's free:

What a handy thing. Ever needed to increase across a bunch of stitches? Check out the Knitulator!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

So, you don't like spinning from batts.....

There are lots of reasons to spin from top as opposed to batts; not the least of which is one gives a woolen and the other, a worsted yarn.  If you don't like spinning batts because of all the joins, there's an easy way to turn a batt into a sort of roving.

All you have to do is tear the batt along its length until about an inch or so from the end. Then, tear the batt from the same end along its length again. Repeat until the batt is gone and you're left with something like this:

Here's a breakdown:

Note: this might not work well with a really directional fiber that's been carded into a really directional batt (all the scales on the individual fiber are facing the same way). You could get a batt like that if all the fiber was fed in one direction, say shorn end first. Directional fiber can be sort of hard to draft if you try to draft against the grain, so to speak.

Monday, July 13, 2015


Questions are a good thing, right? Well, since the advent of Facebook and the like, we can ask our fellow man anything and, more likely than not, get a lot of answers from a lot of people. I follow several groups on Facebook and on Ravelry (a site devoted to fiber) and there are lots of questions and lots of answers on both sites.

So, why is this a problem? Well, I think it is a problem on several levels. First, I have always believed that the more research that I do before I ask a question, the better my question will be and the more likely that I'll understand the answer. This served me well in my career as a Legal Nurse Consultant where I was often confronted with complex medical issues and had to find an expert to address the issue, potentially in court. If I understood a little more, I had a much easier time grasping the answers and even better, knowing when the answer that I was getting was just wrong.

That leads me to the second problem in failing to research before asking; not all who answer are right. I see this a whole lot in the forums on Ravelry and on Facebook. Folks ask a question and they get a lot of uninformed answers. When I first started spinning, I couldn't understand ratios as they apply to spinning wheels. A total mental block actually and I could have asked a million times and wouldn't have understood the answer. So, instead of asking I just kept spinning and kept reading. I read something spinning related every day; it is habit now and I learn something new all the time. I like to listen to other spinners too. I learn a lot that way as well.

And that is the third benefit to researching before asking. You need to find out who the experts really are. As a Legal Nurse Consultant, I accomplished that by reading the relevant literature, noting who wrote seminal papers, book chapter or whatever on the topic at hand and I called them first. The same holds true in the fiber world. There are experts out there and I'd rather get an answer from them than an opinion from non-expert.

 No, there aren't spinning police or knitting police or any other kind of fiber police who tell us that things must be done a certain way, and yes, questions really are great. But, I believe that to get the best information, you need to do some homework yourself so you can ask the right question from the proper source. Even better, you'll be better equipped to differentiate between good and bad information and opinion and fact.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

1st Annual Vermont Fleece Sale

The Vermont Sheep and Wool Association held the first fleece sale last weekend. I (and the DH) had fun! First, Randolph, VT seems like a great town and has made the short list for our retirement. There are fiber people there and there's even a fiber mill there owned by a super nice young man!! What more? Mountains! Farms! A cool little town center. Close to Montpelier. 

Anyway, the sale was held in an old red schoolhouse on the campus of Vermont Technical College. There weren't a ton of fleeces but more than enough to have fun picking out a couple that I didn't need. And the prices were amazing; the Border Leicester was only $19.00. Best, 90% of the sales go back to the farmer. I'll be there next year. And, yes, I forgot to take pictures when I was there but here is the fleece eye candy (the white is BL and the gray, Romney).:

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Using Art Yarn

In addition to spinning fine yarn, I do love to spin art or novelty yarns. I understand that a lot of folks don't use the fun and funky art yarns because they are at a loss as to how/ where to use them. One of my favorite blogs "Fibery Goodness" posted about this very topic this morning: But what do you do with it? Do take a look 'cause there are so many ways to use chunky, bulky yarns. Here's a pattern that I'm knitting now: High Flying Kit Art Yarn Shawl.

Art yarn is great featured as an accent.  For example, find a simple scarf or cowl pattern and a yarn that coordinates with your art yarn. Just add a row or two here and there and you'll have a unique piece. If you weave, a row or two of art yarn is great fun. You can even use an art yarn as a floating weft. How about crocheting (with fine crochet thread) a fringed yarn to collars or cuffs? A row or two of art yarn would be fun as an addition to the body of a hat. There are loads of way to use the stuff and it surely can add some dash to a lot of different projects.

Friday, June 19, 2015

It bears repeating....

Yesterday, I answered a question that someone had posted about a spinning wheel on Facebook. Someone had found a wheel for a song and wanted to know whether it was worth buying. Short answer? No. Long answer: the wheel was one of those Canadian SWSO's (spinning wheel shaped objects) that shows up pretty often. I'm NOT an expert but I did recognize the wheel. Anyway, I thought it might be worth trying to pull together some resources that I've enjoyed about buying a used, vintage or antique wheel.

First, my two cents. If you are one of those folks (like me) that enjoy the aesthetics of a wheel and need to like the look of the thing, don't buy one that doesn't appeal to you. You probably won't use it. Second, I believe you can learn to spin on an antique. People learned to spin on those wheels when they were new and you learn on one now. I'm not saying that it will be as easy as some of the "beginner" wheels out there but it can be done. Next, I strongly recommend against buying an old wheel that needs parts. Sure, you might be able to find a wheelwright to make an extra bobbin (about $60.00) but a flyer- bobbin assembly is usually specific to an old wheel and will cost about $250.00 to replace. Last and most importantly, do your homework. Read everything. Learn the anatomy of a spinning wheel; learn the terms, the abbreviations, join a guild, visit a shop that sells wheels, join a Ravelry group, a Facebook group, find a local spinner who can help......just study and learn. A wheel is a pretty big investment and worth every effort in picking one that is right for you and actually spins.

Here's a list with a few resources. This list is certainly not all inclusive and isn't in any particular order:

1. Abby Franquemont is a great teacher and a lifelong spinner:

2. This video by Abby is a must watch:

3.      of-antique-spinning-wheels/

4. This is link to a great group on Ravelry. These are nice folks with loads of knowledge that they are happy to share:

5. Another great group on Ravelry; this one specific to CPW's (Canadian Production Wheel):

6.  And still another great Ravelry group:

7. Here's a list of spinning guilds by state:                

8. A list of fiber events. There are wheels to see and people to meet:

9. Amelia Garopoli is another long time spinner with a great blog; "Ask the Bellwether":               wheel.html#.VYPc8vlViko

Lastly, don't forget the library. There are tons of books on spinning and even if your library doesn't have the one you want, they can probably get it on loan from another library. The bottom line? Do your homework and you'll stand a much better chance of getting a great wheel.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Tools that I love....

Yep, it usually looks about like this when I'm working.
DH asked me this morning which of the spinning things that litter our home is my favorite. I had to think about that. Alot. Spinning wheels didn't count so that did narrow things down but not by much. I defined "favorite" by most useful and here's the list that I came up with:

1. Drum carders (Pat Green/ Fancy Kitty)It is so much easier to drum card than to hand card. My old hands just aren't up to much hand carding.

2. Reel winder (antique);
Like my hands, my shoulder doesn't work like it used to so a niddy noddy was tough. The old reel cost very little and I wouldn't trade it for anything. I just count the rotations because the weasel isn't reliable.

3. Spool rack (Leclerc);
All those bobbins have a home! The rack holds all of them with room for more. It is a dream to use for plying as a sort of kate and the bobbin winder attaches to the top.

4 Bobbin winder and styrene spools (Fiber Artists' Supply and Leclerc);
You really do get a better yarn if you wind a single off the bobbin and onto a spool before plying. These two sure do make the job faster.

5. Pat Green flicker brush;
Cleaning a drum carder is just one of those jobs where you gotta do it and it isn't any fun; this brush helps.

6. Umbrella swift (Stanwood);
Makes unwinding a skein a breeze; nothing tangles and so much easier than a chair back.

7. Ball winder (Royal);
Better than I can make and a whole lot tidier to use yarn prepared into a cake than something I wound into a ball.

These are the tools that I use all the time and would hate to live without. As I look at the list, I suppose the reason that they make the list is that they are labor savers.  I got along without each item in the list for a long time and accomplished the same tasks but having them around surely does make the job of getting yarn made a whole lot easier.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Drive Bands

My dream wheel was always a 30 inch Schacht Reeves in cherry. After a lot of saving, a got one about a year ago. It is a thing of beauty but we just didn't click; my CPW was just way more fun for me because it has a more aggressive take up.  I was complaining about it and my friend, Lisa, suggested I change the drive band. Well, first, wishing I'd thought of that myself, I started trying different material the second that I could. I tried hemp first. The hemp is the kind that is used for stringing jewelry and it was perfect; nice and grabby and gave me the take up that I like. Big problem? Noisy. Really. Noisy. And, I really can't stand a noisy wheel.

Next, I tried some candle wick (size 2/0). Pretty good but too thick for the wheel. So, off to order something thinner from Amazon and retie the original drive band. I ran a candle over the band which helped a ton.  Now, I wait for Amazon to deliver a thinner candle wick.

Tying a drive band is a pain but it really isn't that hard.  Here's how I do it:

1. Cut a 6 yard length of material (this is plenty for most wheels and leaves plenty to tie). If you know the length needed, cut to size and add 6 or so extra inches for the knot.

2. Tear off a couple of pieces (an inch or so) of masking tape and put them someplace handy so you can get them easily,

3. Remove the flyer/ bobbin assembly. Move the MOA as close to the wheel as it will go,

4. Wrap the end of the band around an upright twice so you'll  have two big loops,

5. Tie the two ends of the band very loosely,

6. Pull the band into two equal loops,

7. Loosely tape the loops to the drive wheel in a couple of places,

8. Get the flyer/ bobbin assembly back on the wheel and make sure the drive band goes over the assembly,

9. Untie the loose knot and pull until the drive band is tight over the whorls (the tape should fall off easily),

10. Tie a square knot and ta da!

I use a tiny drop of white glue on the knot and let it dry completely before trimming the ends. You can run the knot and/ or band with candle wax or beeswax now that it is on the wheel, should you desire.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Moore State Park: Part II

I posted some pictures of this pretty park a couple of years ago. Those were taken in the fall of November, 21013. Here are several from this Spring:

The park is in Paxton, MA.