Monday, August 26, 2013

Spinning Inspiration

In June, Miryha and I attended Black Sheep Gathering and while in Eugene, OR, we spent an afternoon/evening hanging out with our friend, Karen Kahle, of Primitive Spirit.  Her wonderful blog can be viewed here:
I was so taken with Karen's studio -- it is my dream studio.  

Surrounded by Karen's beautiful works of art and the shabby chic ambience of her studio was such a warm and inviting environment in which to sit and knit and crochet, sipping tea. If you read Karen's blog, you will see that she is an amazing rug hooking artist. 
The warm colors of Karen's studio and the colors of wool she has dyed offered me much inspiration.  I couldn't get those colors out of my mind so a couple of weeks ago, I set about painting some roving so that I, too, could spin some yarn like the ones Karen had spun and was using in her knitting. Here's what I came up with:  Fallen Leaves II and Sunset at Manzanita.

Spun on my Majacraft Rose wheel.  712 yards of two-ply fingering weight yarn, weighing 8 oz.  I can hardly wait to get this yarn on the needles.

Thanks, Karen, for your friendship and for your beautiful work that inspires.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Natural Dyeing Thursday

Continuing our Summer project, my friend Margie and I got together again to do some natural dyeing this past Thursday.  This, of course, is always experimentation, and we never quite know how things will turn out.  Margie's fibers on the left were all mordanted in alum and none of mine on the right were mordanted.  You can see a difference, as hers were much brighter and more pink.  These are some of our things hanging out to dry.

We tried Brazilwood again.  The week before, we discovered that we had mistakenly used a natural dye extract and our dyebath was over the top too strong, resulting in very dark colors, almost black -- not what we expected.  This week, we used Brazilwood sawdust and achieved plums and pinks.  

We also did a marigold dyebath that was half dried flower tops that I purchased and half from marigold flower tops I had collected from my garden and dried.  We got some nice golds, both light and dark.

Below are my Brazilwood skeins.  They are mostly superwash merino wool and were unmordanted. I think the fact that my skeins were superwash wool and Margie's were handspun wool made a difference. They were all put in an ammonia afterbath.  From top to bottom shows the strength of the dyebath as it became exhausted.  The bottom skein is an alpaca/silk laceweight yarn that turned out to be a very light silvery lilac.
These are my marigold skeins.  Mostly super wash merino wool and unmordanted.  The top two skeins were left in the dyebath for a long time so were a dark gold.  The top skein was put in an ammonia afterbath and the second skein in a copper afterbath.  The third skein was put in the dyebath for a lesser amount of time and then in the ammonia afterbath.  The fourth skein is alpaca/silk laceweight yarn and was put in last and then in the ammonia afterbath.  

Haven't quite figured out what to do next -- maybe madder root, Hopi black sunflower seeds or another type of eucalyptus.  Whatever we do, we can agree on one thing:  we're having fun.  

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Spin, Spin

Since returning from Tennessee and Oregon, I have been doing a lot of spinning. Spinning got me recentered and relaxed after two weeks+ of traveling.  These skeins are some of my July spinning.  This first one is a two-ply fingering weight.  I used a 50/50 merino/bombyx silk roving (from Red Fish Dyeworks at Convergence in Long Beach) plied with a 75/25 blueface leicester wool/tussah silk roving from Woolgatherings. This skein has 864 yards and weighs 8.3 oz.

For this next skein, I spun a batt from Inglenook Fibers that Macrina called "The Doctor". It's a two-ply fingering weight (my favorite to knit with).  I plied the Inglenook batt with one of my Capistrano Fiber Arts handpainted rovings called "Sapphire Skies", 75% blueface leicester/25% tussah silk.  This skein has 556 yards and weighs 7.0 oz.

For this skein, I used another of the Inglenook Fibers batts called "Briar Rose" and plied it with another Woolgatherings roving of 75% blueface leicester/25% tussah silk. This skein is a two-ply fingering weight and has 452 yards and weighs 5.8 oz.  

Besides loving to spin, I have a purpose in spinning all these large skeins.  My intent  is to  put together some pattern kits with my handspun yarn.  So, back to spinning.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Natural Dyeing Fun

After returning from my travels to Tennessee and Oregon, I immersed myself in knitting and spinning for a spell and took a breather from blogging and now I'm going to try to get back into it.  

While in Tennessee, my friend Margie and I took a natural dye workshop with Rebecca Burgess, author of "Harvesting Color" -- will hopefully blog about that later.  But, during our workshop, we resolved to inventory all of the natural dye stuffs we have accumulated over the years and then meet once a week during the summer and dye what we have.  Here are some of our "experiments" -- I say this, because it seems we sometimes do not achieve the colors that all of our natural dye books tell us we will get.

Week one:  We had two dye pots, one was snakeweed and the other tansy.  Both of these dried plant materials were obtained in New Mexico through the Espanola Valley Fiber Arts Center.  [We have also been experimenting with some printing on silk fabric -- this one went into the onion skin bath.]

Starting from the right, snakeweed on Targhee wool, two skeins of tansy on Targhee wool, and a skein of handspun alpaca/merino/silk previously dyed in indigo and overdyed in snakeweed.

Week two:   Again we had two dye pots.  One was dried yellow onion skins that I collected over several months and the other was alkanet.

Week three:   We had a dye pot of red iron bark eucalyptus collected from trees on the slope behind my yard.  We also had a dye pot of black-eyed susans, but that proved to be kind of a bust so we have nothing to show for that.  Might not have had enough flowers for that bath.

Here, from right to left:  two skeins of wool from the eucalyptus pot.  Then the very bright skeins from the yellow onion skins pot -- on silk and then two wool skeins.  And lastly, the brownish skein was from the alkanet pot.  [The fabrics are silk and then cotton on the left -- went into the eucalyptus pot.]

Last week:   We had a dye pot of brazilwood, which we concluded was way, way, way too strong because some of our skeins came out black and aubergine. We then diluted the dyebath quite a bit, but it still ended up way too strong. (We're figuring it out along the way.)  The rust brown skein was my handspun alpaca/merino/silk that had been previously dyed in indigo and overdyed in the brazilwood.  

The logwood dyebath was not as strong and we got some nice colors.

We also did more block prints and seem to be getting better at it.  These background fabrics are dupioni silk.  We finally discovered that what we thought was brazilwood and logwood sawdust turned out to be natural dye extracts, which apparently are 8 to 10 times stronger than the natural sawdust.  As I said, these are experiments and we are learning along the way. We're making a nice dent in all the "stuff" we have, though.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Checking In

Well, my bags are packed and I sent all my bedding and other things to furnish our room at Shakerag and make it comfortable.  The box arrived on Tuesday in Sewanee, TN, at the St. Andrews-Sewanee School.  Tomorrow morning, Margie and I will take off from John Wayne Airport and fly off to Atlanta.  Fingers are crossed that tropical storm Andrea will be long gone and we'll have good weather for our drive to Chattanooga where we will spend the night at a B&B at the Bluff Arts District.  We'll head up to Sewanee mid-day on Sunday for our natural dye workshop with Rebecca Burgess, author of Harvesting Color. 

I have been working hard to finish my third Sierra Aspens Capelet, taking scrupulous notes along the way so that I can finally write up the pattern.  Here's the finished project:

The handspun yarns I used, all two-ply fingering weight.

 And the rovings I used to spin the yarns.

Second from the top is "Cinco de Mayo", which is the colorway that runs through the capelet.  I plied that colorway with "Indian Paintbrush" (at the top) and used that for the body.  The blue/rust/gold of "North Woods" was plied with "Cinco de Mayo" for the lace edge.  And "Blood Orange" at the bottom was plied with "Cinco de Mayo" for the ruffled edge.  I liked the idea of having one colorway that predominates and changes depending on what it is plied with.  All of the rovings were 100% Blueface Leicester except "Indian Paintbrush" which was a blend of merino/cashmere (80/20).  And I used a US3 needle to knit this project. I ended up using about 500 yards total and spun about 1100 yards, so I actually have enough yarn to make another capelet.  Hmmm . . . . project for my trip! although I was looking forward to knitting socks.

Will check in again at the end of June.  After my trip to Tennessee for Shakerag, I will be off to Eugene, OR, to attend Black Sheep Gathering.  After two weeks on the road, I plan on settling down for a month or so before my next trip. Hope everyone is having a great Summer!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Spinning for Knitting

I have finished the edging on the capelet that I am currently knitting.  The capelet is my original design -- the Sierra Aspens Capelet, so . . . . I am hoping to complete the pattern and offer it for sale in my Etsy shop . . . some . . . time . . . soon.  Of course, I've been saying this for quite a while. I figure I better write up the pattern or I just have to stop wearing the the various capelets I've made with my handspun yarns.

I am keeping very accurate records this time. The first skein I spun for this project was a combination of my "Cinco de Mayo" and  "Northwoods" colorways.  Both of those were BFL.  This second skein for the body of the capelet is a combination (plied together) of "Cinco de Mayo" in BFL and an 80%/20% merino/cashmere blend in "Indian Paint Brush". I'm trying to keep one colorway -- "Cinco de Mayo" -- running through the entire project and plying that with other colorways.  It's a fun project and it will be interesting to see how the colors play off of each other.  

Knitting needles are poised and I've got the first season of "Call the Midwife" ready to go.

Oh, and BTW, I managed to score some Inglenook Fibers batts when Macrina did an update on Etsy last week.  I couldn't believe it.  The first few I bought were gone by the time I went to pay for them.  Went right back to Inglenook's store and started clicking on batts. I felt like a little fishy in a tank full of sharks having a feeding frenzy.  WOW! That's all I can say.  But, of course, when they arrive in the mail, it's pretty obvious why they are so popular.  They're just the best.  

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Keepin' Busy

For the past week or so, I have been doing quite a bit of dyeing, trying to restock my Etsy shop.  My supplies of rovings and other items was dwindling, the cupboards were starting to look bare, so I kicked it into high gear and spent some time out in my hot studio.  Thankfully, the weather has cooled down a bit.   Lots of new rovings in my Etsy store now.  

I'm still treadling away every day, too.  Spinning is such a calming and centering activity. This skein was spun using one of my handpainted rovings in merino/cashmere (80/20) called "Olive Branch" that I plied with one of Miryha's Blarney Yarns Polwarth rovings in "Sour Apple II".  Two-ply fingering weight, 442 yards, 3.9 oz.  

Another relaxing activity is knitting, which I try to do a bit of every day.  Here I'm using the handspun skein that was in my last post:  "Cinco de Mayo" plied with "North Woods". This is the edging of a shrug that I'm knitting.  
And finally, this morning, I dragged out the bins of eco printed fabrics that I have dyed and been accumulating.  Out came my scissors and rotary cutter and pieces were flying all over the place -- no plan, just snip, snip and cut, cut.  Then I started piecing some of the odd shapes  together. Like a jigsaw puzzle.  I don't know where this is going but . . . it's a shame to just let all those beautiful leaf prints sit around in plastic . . . and . . . I got some of those ideas swimming in my head down onto the table.  Whew!  That frees up the clutter in my head.  
Back to having fun!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Heat Wave

We have been having an early heat wave here in Southern California.  Oppressively hot for the past three days -- high 90's and low 100's. I am so over it.  Brings back memories of last Fall.  It makes it very hard for me to work out in my sunroom studio.  So, I continue to hunker down inside where it's cooler and treadle away.  I finished spinning and plying the Blueface Leicester rovings that I was working on.  I plied my colorways "North Woods" and "Cinco de Mayo" together.  I am quite happy with the outcome and have an idea for a project.  394 yards, 3.8 oz. 

I'm off to work in the coolness of the morning.  The weather report promises high 70's and low 80's today.  Fingers are crossed.  

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day!

Well, I would be remiss if I didn't wish all of my wonderful women friends a Happy Mother's Day.  It seems that the women I hang with are all some of the best moms I have ever known and have raised to adulthood some great young people; some of my friends still have little ones and they are also doing a great job.  This is the beautiful succulent arrangement one of my sons and his girlfriend made for me for M's Day.  My other son and his girlfriend gave me a cool stand for my iPad mini when I'm following a downloaded recipe. 

So I have been in a spinning mode lately.  Once Miryha and I decided we were just going to relax and enjoy Black Sheep Gathering this year, rather than have a booth, oh my gosh, it opened up a whole new concept of extra time on my hands.  That meant time to weave, knit, felt and spin. I have been treadling away and having so much fun -- spinning some of those rovings I have been eyeing, especially the stash of batts from Inglenook Fibers that I am sad to say is now dwindling.  These two skeins were spun using two of Macrina's batts called "Rosie O'Grady" that I plied with my rovings of Polwarth/Silk called "Mon Amie".  One skein has 482 yards, and weighs 4.7 oz. and the other skeins has 662 yards and weighs 6.3 oz.   1,144 yards of pure delight.  

Here's another skein I have recently spun using a roving I randomly dyed in merino/yak/silk that I plied with one of my Blueface Leicester/Silk rovings in "Sargasso Sea".  This skein has 330 yards and weighs 2.9 oz.  
This skein in a combination of one of my Polwarth/Silk rovings in the "Queen of Hearts" colorway, plied with one of Miryha's Blarney Yarn Polwarth rovings called "Sour Apples".  344 yards, 3.5 oz.

And finally, I had the time to card and spin the fleece I purchased at the Taos Wool Festival a couple of years ago.  The fleece was from Myrtle Dow of Black Pines Ranch in Colorado and was a 75% Wensleydale and 25% "surprise".  The fleece was mostly cream colored but had some areas of oatmeal.  I have three skeins:  412 yards, 5.8 oz.; 390 yards, 5.3 oz., and 448 yards, 5.8 oz.    1,250 yards, and I actually still have 5 oz. left to spin.  
All of these skeins are fingering weight yarns (my favorite to knit with) and were spun on my Majacraft Rose wheel.  

I'm currently spinning two of my Blueface Leicester rovings, which I plan to ply together. Those are "Cinco de Mayo"  (yes, dyed on that day) and "Northwoods".  It will be fun to see what they look like plied -- the beauty and surprise of plying two different colorways together.  

We've got hot, hot weather today so I plan on a long Mother's Day walk down at the beach.  In a few weeks, I'll be off to Sewanee, TN, with my friend, Margie, to take a weeklong Shakerag workshop on natural dyeing with Rebecca Burgess, author of Harvesting Color.  I can hardly wait to have my annual Shakerag experience and to share it with my friend.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Spinning Wheel Finds A New Home

Yesterday, my friend Margie and I drove down to San Diego to hang with our spinning peeps down there.  This is such a great group of women that it is so worth the drive. Sitting around spinning on our wheels, telling stories, sharing projects, planning future workshops (with Judith M.) -- how great that we have these friends to commune with. We always have a vegetarian potluck lunch and we're all such good cooks that every time, it ends up being quite a treat.
Here we have spinach pie, spinach salad with mint and strawberries, yummy fruits, orange, lemon and macadamia nut scones, and to top it off, lentil stew on top of garlic rice.  Not sure it gets too much better than that.  

So, I have a little story. This past week, for some reason I thought I should go onto Craigslist just to look around.  I almost never do this because I have never found anything of interest there. But I typed in "spinning wheel" and to my surprise, up popped an ad for a spinning wheel located 5 minutes from my house. Imagine that!  Okay, so now, what do I do?  Well, of course, I had to go look at it out of curiosity.  Then the next day, I took a friend to look at it a second time.  It had a couple problems that needed fixing.  I need another spinning wheel like I need a hole in the head, but you know, when did "need" ever enter the equation?

But . . . . this wheel was very pretty, made from beautiful wood, and there was an interesting story connected with it.  It kept calling to me.  Well, I guess by this point, it's no surprise, I brought it home with me today.  The problems had been fixed, so . . . .  Here are some pictures and then I'll tell the story about the wheel.

The table was made with a beautiful marled piece of wood -- Oregon myrtlewood, I think -- but it could be a combination of woods.

I think this might be called a Norwegian type wheel with a double table and it has a
22 1/2 inch wheel.  It is a single treadle and works as double drive. 

A view of the back of the wheel with the footman that attaches to the treadle.
The woman from whom I bought this wheel said she bought it from the actual 92-year-old man who made the wheel when she was in Oregon.  She had purchased two of his wheels but couldn't remember his name.  I thought maybe he might have signed the wheel, so we turned the wheel over and it said:

Joe Jorgensen, No. 437.  The other wheel she kept was No. 438.  I was told that she and her husband visited Mr. Jorgensen at his farm in Oregon and bought these two wheels.  He told them that they were the last two wheels he would probably ever make.  She bought them for decorative purposes and never spun on either of them.  There was yarn on the bobbin, and she said that the maker had spun the yarn, showing her how to spin, but she couldn't remember how to do it.  So, it could be possible that I am the second person to spin on this wheel besides Mr. Jorgensen.  She said that the wheels she bought from him were made from Oregon myrtlewood.  She also said that the cotton twine drive band was the original put on by the maker.  

Because it was really soiled and stiff, I put another drive band on the wheel, the same weight cotton twine.  I took off the flyer and the bobbin and cleaned it really well and oiled everything, polished with Howards, and I put some cream on the leathers.  I had success in spinning on the wheel this afternoon.  This was my main concern with buying an older wheel -- I want to spin on it, not just have it for decoration.

I am going to try to do a little research and see if I can learn a little more about Mr. Joe Jorgensen, the wheel maker from Oregon.  It's quite fun to spin on a wheel that has a story and some history to it.  If anyone knows anything about Mr. Jorgensen, who I've learned was from Grants Pass, and his spinning wheels, please email me at  

Monday, April 15, 2013

Finished weaving

Upon returning from a short trip up to Portland, OR, yesterday, I finished the shawl I had been weaving.  I actually finished it a week ago, but had to twist the fringe (about 32 twisted fringes on each end).  This is woven of 100% silk and I used a fancy point twill pattern.  I used three different colored silk yarns in the warp and a dark plum weft.

The finished dimensions are 7 1/2 " wide and 70" in length.  It was really great to get my loom out again.  I had not woven anything for at least a couple of years and had forgotten how much I enjoyed weaving.  I warped my loom for two shawls so I'm going to get back to the second one.  Because of the colors I'm using in the weft, the second shawl should look quite a bit different.  

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Happy Mail Day

When the postman arrived today with a big priority mail box, I was quite excited because it contained the fleece I purchased a few days ago from Point of View Farm in Upstate New York. POV raises purebred registered heritage Finnsheep.  Of course, since I have a good portion of Finnish in my blood, I feel a kinship and just had to get one of their fleeces.  Upon opening the box, I found a beautiful, crimpy, fleece.  

This is a 2.29 lb. fleece, a very manageable size, heavily skirted, with barely any VM in it.  It comes from a ewe lamb and will be snow white after it is washed. 

I am sure many of my friends just can't understand what is so appealing about raw, sheepy smelling fleece, but my spinner friends . . . . . well, they totally understand.  It just doesn't get any better than a greasy, crimpy, freshly shorn lamb fleece.  

Point of View Farm's fleeces can be viewed here: 
Point of View Farm fleeces

That's all for today, busy weaving on my scarves and spinning Wensleydale from Myrtle Dow of Black Pines Sheep in Colorado.