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 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 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, 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 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!