Posts tagged ‘fiber’
Don’t you love fall! There’s a hint of crispness in the air, and a cooler front breezing through, so it’s coming! Another harbinger of fall — it’s festival season! I’ve got a busy fall schedule, which starts tomorrow. Here’s where you’ll find me:
Sept. 11 – Ballston Arts & Crafts Market off Glebe Road in Arlington VA, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. A general, juried outdoor crafts festival in a lovely setting on a square downtown.
Sept. 18/19 – It’s Worldwide Spin in Public Day! I’m hoping to spend some time as a member of the Blue Ridge Spinner’s & Weaver’s Guild spinning at The Bluemont Fair. The guild has had a tent at this event for years, demonstrating a whole range of fiber crafts and selling handmade items (lots of lovely handwovens especially). This is a full-fledged fair, with all kinds of activites for all ages – located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains less than an hour outside DC.
Sept. 25/26 – It’s the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival in Berryville VA! One of my favorite festivals, in a lovely setting. I’ll be returning as a vendor this year with a double-sized booth, for twice the space to display hand-dyed yarns and spinning fiber, handspun yarns, wheels and tools, felting kits, etc. This festival has been growing by leaps and bounds (but still isn’t overwhelmingly big). My booth will be in the ‘Arts & Crafts” building, spaces 7 and 8 (most of this event is under cover, so come rain or shine). Don’t miss this one if you can get there!
Oct. 2/3 – Another good one! The Fall Fiber Festival at Montpelier, in rural VA just north of Charlottesville. This outdoor festival is on the lawns of the Montpelier Estate, and features sheep dog trials as well as animal and fiber displays. Look for me in one of the big white tents.
Oct. 9/10 – The Festival of Leaves, Front Royal VA. I have only to step outside my studio doors to be right at the heart of this event, sponsored by the Warren Heritage Society (located across the street). This is a general festival, with lots of music and vendors of all kinds, including a special ‘Heritage Village’ featuring traditional crafts on the grounds of the Heritage Society. I’ll be by my studio, spinning and vending under my own tent (or in my studio should the weather turn bad).
Oct. 16 – I’ll be at the The Capital Region Etsy Street Team’s 1st Annual Falling for Handmade Craft Fair in Bohrer Park, Gaithersburg MD, which will feature 50 Local Etsy Artistians joining together In Real Life to showcase and sell their handmade products (a great time to start your Christmas shopping – there should be something for everyone, even pets!).
And finally, the last of the ‘Fall’ shows, and the biggest –
I’ll be at the Southeast Animal Fiber Fair (SAFF) in Asheville, NC, on October 22,23 and 24th for one of the largest festivals on the east coast. Somewhere in the maze of animals and vendors, you can find me in the ‘sales arena,’ booth 15 (which is located in one of the four corners of the building). I’m getting excited just thinking of this one!
After all this, I’m taking a weekend off to re-group! (and go trick-or-treating) Then it will be time to start Holiday shows…
First there was the Fall Fiber Festival at Montpelier.
Then I had a spot in the traditional handcrafts section at the ‘Festival of Leaves’ in downtown Front Royal – mostly I was there to demonstrate and only took a small part of my inventory, but I did sell some things, and got to meet a lot of local people, both other knitter/crafters, and some people who had never seen spinning before!
Next, it was to the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival in Berryville – I love this show! Indoors, nice people, great attendance, but not too crazy. Lots of people took the opportunity to test drive one of the Spinolution wheels.
The highlight for me was when Barbara D, a brand new spinner who tested a Mach II at Montpelier then ordered one came to my booth to show off her first skeins of handspun - and they’re gorgeous!
Barbara gives credit to the wheel, which she said is so easy to understand and spin on — but I know natural talent has something to do with it too! Congrat, Barbara, on some lovely handpun (I’m sure there are baskets-ful sitting around your house by now!)
That’s it for 2009 as far as wool festivals are concerned, but I’m only mid-way through shows this season.
Next up — the DC Craft Mafia ‘Holiday Heist’ at the Soundry in Arlington, VA on November 21st. I’m really excited about this one – it’s a juried show, with an ‘urban vibe.” I was really excited to be selected to participate – I’ll be focusing more on handspun and finished items, though I’ll still have some spinning fiber along, for anyone who wants to stop by for a fiber fix.
The Saturday after Thanksgiving, I’m considering hosting a Spin & Knit-In at my house. Maybe with some warm cider, a few cookies, wheels to test and yarns/fibers to fondle as we sit around and work on Christmas knitting. Does that sound fun? If you’re nearby and would like an invite, please send me a note.
Soon after than, look for me at the ‘Downtown Holiday Shop & Stroll’ in Silver Spring Maryland on December 5th, another juried show, this one outside, so I’ll need to be wearing as well as selling my woolies!
Last, but not least by any means, is the ‘Handmade Holiday Boutique’ in downtown Front Royal. This is in my hometown, and I’m one of the organizers. It is being held in the Blue Ridge Arts Council gallery on Main Street, and is also a juried show, for quality handcrafts of all kinds (made by the vendor – no imports, resells, etc). Vendor applications are still being accepted through November 16th, so if you know of someone who may wish to participate, please let them know! Contact me with an e-mail address and I’ll get an application to you right away. Oh, and mark your calendars for these events, and come see me! If you can’t make it, you can always shop online! My etsy shop is stocked and ready!
Spring break this week, so I had a chance to make a quick trip down the road to show them the llamas at Shenandoah Homeplace Suri Llamas in Luray, Virginia. For the last year, I’ve been helping the owner of this lovely and historic homestead, retired Airforce General Chet Taylor, with marketing fiber and yarn from his pedigreed animals. I enjoyed getting out to see his farm (and the cleanest, neatest most organized barn you can imagine). The children got a chance to get up close and personal to the animals, who were very gentle and even a bit shy. My youngest first called them camels, and he wasn’t far off, as llamas, alpacas and camels are all related (in the camelid family). The highlight for them, though, may a have playing in the hayloft!
The first batch of llama fleece was sent off to a small mill for processing into five natural undyed shades of lovely, dehaired luxury yarn shown in these pictures. Some was made into roving which I have both spun by hand and sold to other spinners. While more fiber is heading to the mill and roving is currently sold out, there are still skeins of the yarn in three of the colors available, and on sale in my shop http://www.wildhare.etsy.com. Just look in the Shenandoah Llama section ( it may be several months before the new batch is back from the mill).
Llama is lustrous and silky with lots of drape, which makes it great for lace knitting, scarves and shawls. The natural colors also go well together in fair-isle designs. And it’s so meaningful to work with fiber from small farms where you know the animals are well tended and free to enjoy green pastures like those at Shenandoah Homeplace Suri Llamas.
The lovely fiber is only a small part of it for dedicated llama breeders. To read more about these pedigreed animals and the farm on which they live (and which is in the National Registry of Historic Places), please visit their web site: http://web.me.com/shenhomeplacellamas/Shenandoah_Homeplace_Suri_Llamas/Welcome.html
Last weekend I was a vendor at the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival in Berryville, Virginia. My first time as a fiber vendor — it was a blast! Debbie White of Forevermore Farm (whose wool rovings I carry on my etsy shop) was with me, and we made a great team. Despite torrential rain on Saturday, the show went really well. Here are some pictures of our booth:
Some of everything sold — handspun yarn, roving, spinning wheels, earrings, buttons, handpainted yarns, finished items, even lambskins and cat beds crocheted from felted roving that Debbie brought. I did a lot of dyeing in preparation for the show, and have lots of new rovings and yarns that I will be listing in my etsy shop this week. I wrote patterns for two scarves, each of which could be made with one skein of my two new millspun hand-dyed yarns that I gave away with any yarn purchase. I’ll continue this offer with yarns in my etsy shop. The Kromski Sonata and Fidelis wheels (which were used and my personal wheels) are sold, but I have a brand new Mach 1 ready to go — it would look great under someone’s Christmas tree!
That’s just some of them – the rest are in my store. Check them out!
Oh, and if you have an idea for a fibery button that you don’t see here, let me know. If I like it well enough to design and add to the collection, I’ll send you a button or magnet in that design, free! Just send your e-mail, with contact info, to email@example.com.
Back in June I was out in a rural area, and spied a very interesting and beautiful plant growing wild by the side of the road:
I didn’t know what it was, but I liked it (and the butterflies seemed to too), so I took some pictures and sent inquires off to a few Virginia agriculture/native plants people, all of whom were nice enough to respond that I had stumbled upon common milkweed, a native perrenial plant and favored food of Monarch butterflies. A little more research, and I discovered that native Americans used to make cord from the baste (stem) fibers, and use the fluff that forms in the seedpods as insulation. This same fluff was used to fill life jackets during WWI, and there is a budding milkweed industry in the midwest. Wow! But the main thing I thought was — I bet I can spin what’s going to develop in those pods!
So… it’s September, and I return to that little stand of milkweed. I was so excited to find that it was still there — no road crews had sheared it down, nor had anything else disturbed the pods, which were now fully grown. I found one that was dry and cracked it open:
Isn’t that BEAUTIFUL! Yes! I want some of that! So I picked what pods I could reach from the edge of the road, and brought them home to finish drying. The outer hulls were turning yellow and felt hollow and light, so I figured it was time to get them before something happened to them. Here’s my harvest:
Just enough to experiment with — but think of all those seeds! I’m sure I’ll be able to find a corner of my yard to plant in milkweed for future years. Right now, those pods are in my dehydrator drying. I’ve done some more searching, and sources recommend mixing the fluff (or “silk”) in the pod with wool for spinning, but apparently the fibers in the stem (baste) are longer and can be spun on their own once the stems are “retted” either naturally or by boiling in a lye/water solution(?!). I might have to try that sometime too. But for now, take a peek at my pods as they head off to dry… and keep watch for a future post about what I do with the fluff!
A ball of roving, some jars of dye, a spinning wheel … so many possible endings! My last post showed some turquoise laceweight yarn that I spun from roving that I dyed. Today, I’m going to talk about a different yarn that I spun that started with the very same roving, but with very different results.
As it came to me, the roving was white. I dyed it up in four or five different batches, in different colors. There was the turquoise, a plumy/pinky batch, one the colors of autumn leaves, and another that I did in chocolate and kiwi green. Here are pictures of the roving drying outside:
St. Francis watches over the turquoise, while the other rovings play on the monkey bars.
One of the batches I got particulary experimental with, resulting in roving that looks like this:
Some of the colors seem a bit odd together… it doesn’t make you go “yummy, gotta have it” when you first take a peak. But sometimes with handpainted rovings, those little bits of incongruous colors create just the right touch of spice in the finished yarn. I spun this roving one ply thick and thin, one ply “regular” medium thick, then wound the thick spots into loose coils when I plied it. All those jumbled colors actually played nicely together in the finished yarn:
Below is a picture of some of the roving from that batch with the finished yarn. See how those colors get blended and mingled when spun up together? Handpainted roving does that — so a subtly-painted roving (like my turquoise from the previous post) will look almost like a solid, and bolder colored rovings will level out (some even become muddy, especially if the colors are primarily complementary pairs like red/green, orange/blue). Here’s that picture:
So there you have it. Two very different yarns from two different dye batches, but spun from the same fiber. In the last post, 2 1/2 ounces spun into 460 yards of laceweight. In this post, 2 1/2 ounces spun into 98 yards of novelty coil yarn. Like I said at the beginning, so many possible endings!
Over the last few days I’ve been spinning up a few ounces of wool from roving that I dyed turquoise with touches of indigo and brown. For the fun and challenge of it, I decided to spin fine, aiming for a yarn that would meet the criteria for the Fall Fiber Festival’s laceweight handspun category.(http://www.fallfiberfestival.org).
Here is my yarn:
It’s two ply, with 460 yards in the skein, and weighs about 2 1/2 ounces. I spun it on my Schacht Matchless, equipped with the high speed whorl and bobbin. It’s not perfect yarn, and I might be able to spin even finer if I put my mind to it, but I wanted a yarn I would be willing to knit with, and much finer than this, it gets hard for me to see what I’m doing! Also, I didn’t want to completely loose the color variations in the roving.
You don’t have to have high-speed attachments or years and years of spinning experience to spin yarn that could be considered “laceweight” (which is, after all, a category that includes everything from frog hair to just under fingering weight!). But it does take a while. The thinner your yarn, the more twist it needs to hold together. To get more twist, you either use a high ratio, or treadle faster and reduce the pull-in, so the fiber you are drafting has enough time to get sufficient twist before being wound onto the bobbin. Fine singles take a lot of twist, and can also fool you sometimes, in that they can have just enough twist to wind on the bobbin, but fall apart later while being plied. So the first thing to do for spinning a fine singles is to set up with the highest ratio you have available, and figure out how fast you have to treadle, and how little draw you need, to get the yarn to spin with sufficient twist and wind on the bobbin with ease.
You should also pay attention to the fiber you are using, and how it is prepared. While shorter staple lengths are ideally spun fine, if you’re new to spinning lace weight yarns, it will be easier to draft and get good results with a medium-long fiber. Likewise, stay away from slippery fibers to begin with, and make sure your prepared fiber is smooth and free of neps. I used an ordinary, relatively soft but not slippery all wool roving and found it easy to work with. To make drafting go smoothly, I first separated it into smaller, pencil-sized lengthwise strips, like this:
Then I began to spin. You have to train yourself to go slow, and to draft only a few inches at a time and allow plenty of twist to build up before you let the yarn wind on. Check your newly spun singles from time to time to make sure you’re keeping a consistent rhythm (let them ply back on themselves before going through the orifice. ) Here you can see my drafting zone:
And that’s how it’s done… slowly, patiently. Relax. unwind. You’ll get there… just don’t forget to move the yarn on your flyer hooks regularly so it winds on your bobbin evenly (’cause it can really be a problem to unwind if you don’t). For two-ply, you can spin half your fiber on two different bobbin, or do it the hard way and spin it all on one, like I did. You’ll notice there’s still some room on the bobbin when I stopped spinning last night:
That’s because plied yarn always takes up more space than singles, and I wanted to make sure I could get the two-ply back on this bobbin. After I took this picture, I wound the yarn into a center-pull ball on my yarn winder, tied the two ends together, and called it a day.
Today I plied. If you’ve never plied from both ends of a center pull ball, practice with thicker yarn before you try it with lace, as the singles yarn is energized (i.e., has a lot of twist in it), and you have to keep on top of it to avoid making a kinky tangled mess. But that’s how I did it (I like not having any orphan singles left on a bobbin, and I’ve plied this way for years). Here is the full bobbin of two-ply:
See how it’s fuller than the singles? Same fiber, same bobbin, just more air space in yarn that has been plied. So when I was done I wound it into a skein and soaked it in warm water to set the twist. Here is a close-up picture of the yarn with a penny so you can get an idea of the scale:
And that’s it – my “laceweight” yarn. Though with less than 500 yards, I’m not sure what I’m going to be able to knit with it. I’ll have to check yardage on lace shawl patterns and see what I can come up with. But first I’m sending this skein in for the fiber festival!
Back last spring, a mutual friend introduced me to a man raising a small herd of llamas in Shenandoah county who was interested in turning their fiber into yarn. I’ve been helping him with the process, and just today, the resulting yarn has been added to my etsy shop! (link to the right). There are five colors (all natural, no dye) all spun to a light DK weight. Most llamas have a “double coat” with longer, coarser guard hairs mixed with their otherwise heavenly soft downy coat, so before spinning, we had the mill “de-hair” the fiber so only the soft stuff ends up in the yarn.
Llama fiber is not crimpy like wool (nor is it oily). It is lustrous and silky-feeling, and insulates wonderfully (I’ve heard that it’s warmer than wool). It’s a great fiber for lace knitting and items like shawls and scarves, because it drapes beautifully. Can’t you see an icelandic or “old shale” lace stole in these colors! This range would be great for fair isle knitting too…
Here are some pictures for you:
My ten-year old daughter can chain crochet, and has been supplying everyone with bracelets and necklaces. She hasn’t caught on to other stitches yet, but has been itching to make something more. “Isn’t there ANYTHING I can make with chain crochet!” she implored. “Can’t I make a bunch of long chains and connect them some way and maybe make a scarf?” So she said – and I though, hey, why not? I played around with the idea, and came up with this:
I changed colors every row (the yarn is Knitpicks “Palette”) and chained the fringe too. I put it in the washing machine and attempted to felt it, but it didn’t change that much, just got fuzzier. My daughter loved it, and wanted to claim it, but I my purpose in doing it was to get HER excited about making her own! It took a while, but a few days ago she wanted to crochet, and I had a sample ball of a pretty space-dyed merino/silk yarn in “her” colors, and so with a bit of help from me, her own “Plain Chain” scarf is almost complete:
She’s a lefty… she doesn’t make her stitches the same way I do… but now she will soon have a scarf that she made herself! I’m encouraged that the fiber bug will bite! Oh, and while we are on the subject of passing our love of fiber on to our children, I’d like to show off my thirteen-year old son’s first knitting:
Just a few rows in, and he’s already knitting steady! I was so happy… and he learned in just a few minutes. Of course, he was a captive audience at the time (hospital waiting room) and has since focused his attention back on mastering the art of chainmaille, but don’t you love a teen male who’s not afraid to knit!! He saw a glimpse of the screen as I was uploading this picture, and said to make sure to mention that his name is William!