Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Current Sewing Projects

Tumbling blocks quilt pattern, in a vintage color way called "Betty Dear", although I don't remember the  name of the fabric company that puts it out. I purchased the fabric as a jelly roll, but it did not have a good range of values, so I had to go out and purchase some additional lights and darks to round out the selection. This will become a small bag.
The next photo shows a beautiful complementary color scheme of blues and yellows, in a reproduction Civil War cottons designed by Jo Morton of Andover Fabrics. I cannot wait to try some civilwar era patchwork quilting projects with this. 

July 2014 Handspinning Samples

LThese handspun yarns were created with Ashland Bay Corriedale Top and Cheviot Top. Both tops were blended on my Ashford blending board, with various blends, ranging from dyed wool top, dyed mohair, and Sari silk ribbons that had been cut into flecks and added directly onto the blending board. Some samples were core spun using fine sewing thread in coordinating colors, and/or blended with bits of dyed silk noil. Some plied, some singles.....this was so much fun, and a serendipitous creative venture! It was a spontaneous mixing of colors and textures that yielded terrific results! I will probably use these yarns for Saori weaving, or maybe some fine knitting--the yarn is well suited to scarves or shawlettes.  I am thinking of a linen stitch, perhaps, that would show off all the color gradations, but there are many other options I could try!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Romney Lamb Fleece 2!

Here is the lambs fleece, after scouring. An unwashed lock is on the far left for comparison. The washed locks are in the middle, and the flicked  (combed) locks are on the right. I will be spinning these worsted style, to get good stitch definition, probably something in a sport weight size...I will spin up some samples, and see what ideas they suggest. As spinners we are so lucky because we can design the yarns we want for the intended end use. Sometimes you see a fleece, and immediately know what you would like to create with it, based on its characteristics. Other times, you buy a fleec just because, and you start experimenting with its possibilities, before coming up with an idea. At this point in the creative process, now that I have a sense of what the washed fiber feels like, looks like, and how it behaves, I am thinking about scarves and hats....it has great springiness, bounce and elasticity, due to the crimp in the locks, and it is next to the skin soft, perfect for scarf wearing. A worsted prep will give me great stitch definition, perfect for color work, or knit and purl patterning, which is probably what I would like to do with my knitting. The characteristics of the fleece suggest certain paths to follow in the planning of the end product. I love all the possibilities at my fingertips!

Romney Lamb Fleece...(finally!)

This fleece was purchased a year and a half ago, at the New England Fiber Festival in Springfield, Mass. And I have finally worked my way through a long list of fleeces awaiting scouring, to finish up with this lovely Romney Lamb fleece. It has beautiful, consistent crimping, the locks are very well maintained, and the fleece is a fairly consistent length throughout. I decided to sort it by whiteness/brightness and fineness. Even though it is fairly consistent throughout, I came up with 3 grades as you can see in the photo. The finest, cleanest wool is on the far right, the courser and dirtier (more yellow) is on the far left. The bag in the middle is the fullest, and although a bit more yellow than the prime wool, it is still very soft and fine. My guess is that it will wash up fine, but it may be a bit more on the creamy side, whereas the prime wool will be a bit more on the white side. This fleece is a very clean one to start with, no VM, and no dirt. My guess is that is was a covered fleece, although it did not say so on the label. The weight is 3.5 pounds, and I paid $30 for it. A steal, if you ask me! The white tulle in the photo is for scouring. I will wash this fleece and maintain the lock structure by layering the fleece pieces in between layers of tulle netting, and tying the bundle with string to keep the butt ends all lined up. I will be spinning worsted style, so this is the prep routing I will follow. You can see the washed fleece in the next post.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

More from NH Sheep and Wool!

Here are photos of the things I found at the Festival in NH...from Ellen's Half Pint Farm in Norwich, VT, a beaded lace shawl knit and pattern in a soft springtime color way....pinks, greens, lavenders, grays and yellows, with dark pink seed beads, and a very interesting book on knitting beaded jewelry and other small items. Can't wait to get this one started.
The next photo is a beautiful dyed BFL 4 oz. hank of wool top for spinning from "Friends in Fiber" in free, eggplant, turquoise and mustard....
AAnd some dyed BFL roving 4oz. Each, for spinning from Painted Knoll Farm in New Hampton, NH. This is very silky feeling, and would make beautiful shawlette a in a lace pattern. The colors are very rich.

NH Sheep and Wool 2

A few more photos of the show booths....one barn was the "Alpaca Fest"--I bought a beautiful true black 4 pound fleece for $35, us skirted....can't wait to get it cleaned up and ready to use for blending with other fibers.....

New Hampshire State Sheep and Wool Festival

What a great day at the Festival! A nice, mid-sized show, lots of vendors, plenty of parking, and food available. Not much in the healthy foods choices--only one vendor with chicken and veggie wraps, and the line was a mile long! The rest were burgers, fried dough and cheese steak subs. No matter, the weather held, it poured rain all the way up, stopped while we were at the fair, and poured all the way home. Lucky for us! I took photos of a few booths, here is one....I liked the New England look--antique country pieces and knitted items with a dyed in the wool look, muted country colors in a natural tonality. Wooly Beers sells hand dyed yarns, rug hooking and needle punch supplies and kits, knitted goods and yarn/patterns. Like the barn board backing, and the country furnishings! 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Mystery Roving

Well, I've been saving this mystery roving that I bought at a wool festival, and decided to spin it up Sunday afternoon. It has a nice progression of colors throughout the whole roving, and you can see two bobbins of it here. My plan was to slightly over spin the singles, then ply it with some silk thread. That was a disaster. The silk obscured the lovely subtle color shift and made it look like coned yarn from a bargain bin, that nobody wanted!!  I hope I can find a solution. Maybe I will try some finer thread in a better color, and try some core spinning. I'll post the results ASAP....                               

Monday, March 3, 2014

Winter Color Palette

It is March 3. Dreary, overcast, bone chilling wind, and the temperature can't be 20 degrees. I felt a touch of the winter blahs this morning, and to ward off having them get any worse, I jumped in the car and took a ride. As dreary as it is this time of year in New England, I looked around at the world that lay before me as I drove along, and I noticed some subtle, beautiful colors in a wonderful range of tints and tones. When I returned home, I pulled out my deck of Color-Aid papers, and put together this winter palette. Perhaps a handwoven table runner, or a scarf or shawl. Or, maybe a small art quilt. Hand dyed, handspun woolen yarns knit up into a cowl, or a pair of mittens would be nice, too. The possibilities are endless.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Mohair Locks Dyeing 2

Completed mohair dyeing session! This fiber is so lustrous, and takes the dyes so well. Can't wait to spin it up. Lots of possibilities!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Mohair Locks Dyeing

In about 30 minutes, I dyed these mohair locks. I think they will look beautiful blended with other fibers, such as Border Leicester, on the blending board. I would like to create a pair of wristers, and a shawlette with these fibers. The mohair has taken the dye very well. I used a low water immersion dye bath on the stovetop with a 9x13 metal pan on 2 burners. A bit of citric acid was mixed into the dye stock, then poured over the simmering water and mohair mixture in the pan. Once the dyes strike, or attach to the fiber, the water runs clear. This occurs around 160 degrees, at a simmer. The fiber was soaked in a couple tablespoons of Synthrapol, before placing it into the dye pan. I have all my dye stocks premixed and stored in the basement in a plastic tub, with all the dye equipment as well, so that I can dye at a moments notice, and all my materials are "grab and go". I think organization is key, when you don't have a dedicated dyeing workshop! The greens are very intense, and will lighten up considerably when I blend the with the white Border Leicester wool fleece I have in mind. The resulting yarn will be a soft pastel variegated. Can't wait to try it!

Lace Shawl Progress

Here I am inserting a life line, so that if I make a mistake further on, I can rip back to the life line to find my place, and continue. This is a humbling experience, but I am learning a lot about how to read my knitting, so that I don't make mistakes so often. The other big thing I have found, is that you need to count your stitches to be sure you are on track. Stitch markers have become my best friend! I hope I can be considered an expert knitter after the project! At least, proficient! With lace, anyway! I am finding that there are so many techniques and ways of knitting as there are cultures in the world. I want to learn as many as I can! This is a lace shawl project, my first.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Inspiration on the Road

We just purchased a Rockwood Mini Lite camper. I have been longing to hit the road, take in the sights, and commune with nature. Time for a little balance in life. We work so hard, restoring our 18th century home--there are ALWAYS big projects to do around here. Teaching elementary school is very demanding (as much as I love it).....SO, this camper will serve a very important purpose....aside from fun, recreation and relaxation when we need to recharge and regroup, I will have the added bonus of getting that needed artistic inspiration to fill my creative well. I'm already planning ways to pack along my art materials, spinning wheel (my Ashford Traveller Wheel is the perfect size for a camper) and other  textile projects. The great thing about the camper, is that I can create on the road, I don't have all of the demands of home awaiting my attention! 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Mohair Progress!

Here is the freshly made skein of mohair/wool! It is a roughly 65/35 blend. The skein appears darker than the rolag. The photos show the charged carder, the attenuated rolag, and the rolag, before it was removed from the carder. I decided to roll the rolag off the carder, from left to right, maintaining the direction of the fibers so they would orient vertically in the rolag. This gave me a more consistent backwards draw, for woolen spinning of this yarn. It is a joy to spin. The black Romney wool is very soft, and takes some of the itchiness of the mohair away. I will knit up some samples, patterns that are light and open would be best to show off the halo in the yarn, and produce a lightweight finished product. The yarn is about 10 wraps per inch, spun Z, plied S, and about 8 twists per inch..it approximates a worsted weight yarn.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Mohair and Wool Ideas......

I purchased a small and really inexpensive adult mohair fleece in the grease this past spring at the NH Sheep and Wool festival. It was rather matted, but I thought, for the price, it would be an experimental project. what could one do with adult mohair? Let's find out! I had serious doubts about my decision to "waste" $20 on this mess, but I forged forward, sorted through it, threw out a fair amount of it, too...many second cuts....I thought that I, personally, would be embarrassed to put a fleece like this up for sale with my name as the shepherd, but oh, well! I washed the remainder of what was salvageable, let it dry, and began to card some of it. It carded up beautifully. So lustrous, and soft. Not exceptionally fine, as a kid mohair fleece would be, but nevertheless, perhaps it could be put to some good use. Spun up a sample of the mohair, and washed it to full it a bit. It looked nice, and lustrous, but boy, was it scratchy against the skin. No scarves from this, I thought. Then I tried various percentages of blends with a soft black Romney fleece I had in storage....I settled on the 25 percent wool/75 percent mohair blend. Tis gave me the silvery color I wanted, and some of the softness of wool, with the luster of the mohair, and this sample was a little nicer next to the skin. A good washing left the sample softer, and with a lovely halo from the mohair. You can see the rolags and yarn sample below. I will be sampling it out with knitting needles and post the results soon! Perhaps a gossamer loosely knit cardigan, or an open work shawlette....mittens?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

New Lendrum Very Fast Flyer

Here is a photo of my first attempts to spin up some organic upland cotton. After some fiddling and struggling to recall the muscle memory and techniques I learned at a cotton spinning seminar that I took last year, I did find the "sweet spot" for producing a very fine cotton yarn with just enough twist for plying. A loose hold on the fiber supply, and a point of twist backward draw seemed to work best. I set the drive band on the second to the largest whorl. Had to practice treading speed to get a yarn that would hold together well. The yarn had a tendency to either under twist or over twist. I had to fine tune the take up and the treading speed. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

So Many Projects, So Little Time!

It is time to make a master list of all of the UFOs in my studio, and tucked into corners of many of the rooms in our home! I uncovered some of them when I was organizing the studio for my sons visit home during the holidays. The studio shared space as a bedroom, and a gift wrapping station! Now that 2014 is here, I am cleaning the studio, and organizing things.....at least 8 in progress knitting projects, handspinning wool and yarn samples had to go into the attic in newly marked plastic tubs, to make room in the studio for me to sit at the sewing machines! And, my cutting table has been a catch all for weeks....so, now I will begin the task of catalogueing these projects and putting them on deck for finishing. Alas, there are 6 or 8 new primitive stitchery projects I am ready to begin...so many projects, so little time! Here are just a few....


The studio currently occupies our sons' old bedroom! Both of our boys are on their own, and the spare room is now seeing a new use, when not being used as a bedroom! It is a little bit tight, I cannot fit all of my floor looms in here, and my tapestry loom is still in the attic awaiting a space! But, I cannot complain, I feel fortunate to have at least a room to house all of the art supplies and textile materials that I have. I need to use the weather to my advantage, washing wool fleeces and doing large scale dyeing in the warm months out of doors. The winter is my time to create the projects with the materials I prepare during the spring, summer and fall, outdoors. There is not a spare inch of space in this room that I have not utilized. Two good books that I used to help me set up this studio area are "Dream Sewing Spaces" by Lynnette Raney Black...and "Organizing Your Craft Space" by Jo Packham. Both help you lay out the area you have to work with, and show options for supply storage, and efficient operating layouts to help you save steps and time!

Thrift Store Finds

A recent trip to the local thrift store yielded some great finds. I am collecting used wool blazers, skirts and slacks to recycle the fabric for colonial wool appliqué and rug hooking. I found 8 100 percent wool blazers for $4 each! What a find. I spent  a couple of hours taking them apart, and washing the resulting fabric pieces in the washer and dryer to slightly shrink and fluff them. Then I put a few scraps into the dye pot with a little black and orange dye (I used my Greener Shades dye stock and a little citric acid). After a 15 minute simmer, they came out toned down, and the colors look very nice together. Over dyeing them this way marries the colors, and unifies the finished work, in addition to giving them that aged, antiqued appeal. You can see the before and after dyeing below.

Punch Needle Primitives

After a fun day fabric shop hopping with my sister and my mother, I became inspired to dig out my punch needle supplies and create a primitive sheep, in progress here. We visited a shop in Boxboro, Mass. Called "The Quilted Crow". It is probably the nicest shop of its type I have been to! There are lots and lots of beautiful cotton reproduction quilting fabrics to choose from, and dyed wool fabrics for the penny rug and wool appliqué lovers out there, as well as rug hookers, and beautiful samples of primitive punch needle work. This shop has kits and supplies for all of these colonial/primitive folk crafts. Once I finish this sheep, I will be working on a punch needle pattern that I purchased at The Quilted Crow, called "Tree Farm" (PN249, by Brenda Gervais at "With Thy Needle and Thread"). It is shown below. This pattern calls for  Valdani thread, and I am substituting DMC cotton. There is no chart online for the color substitutions, so I am using my best judgement and looking at the cover photo to approximate the colors. I may use some walnut crystals to overdue it when I finish, if I feel the colors need to be toned at all. We shall see! I also purchased a wool appliqué kit, for a candle mat. Lots of things to keep busy over the winter months!