Someday this will be cloth

For now, it is the finest, fluffiest, whitest wool I have had the pleasure to touch. I have been flicking the locks open at each end, creating little puffs of wool that spin up into fine and lofty yarn. That’s not the beginning of the process or even the beginning of the story.

The story begins with Peaches, a Cormo sheep from Ensign Brook Farm, because it’s her fleece. It was the Champion fleece at the 2014 Southern Adirondack Fiber Festival. Since this is the first fleece I’ve processed in over 30 years, I decided to start with something both easy and complicated at the same time. This is easy because the fleece is practically perfect in all aspects, but also difficult because Cormo is a tight fleece, full of lanolin.

I have been washing the fleece a handful at a time, because I want to preserve the perfect lock structure as much as possible.

As I spin the fleece I am being careful to make thin and even yarn that should become a soft and lustrous two-ply weaving yarn. I am surprised how lustrous Cormo can be. I am even more surprised how much easier it is to spin with the Very Fast Flyer on my Lendrum spinning wheel. Wisdom has it that you know when you are ready for this flyer. I think it has something to do with hitting a frustration point with the (not so) Fast Flyer when trying to spin fine yarn.

IMG_5567I am a long way from having yarn to weave, but that’s OK. This is slow cloth, starting with a fleece and eventually creating a soft and warm shawl. This is my personal version of fleece to shawl, not the frenzied competition that creates coarse and heavy cloth, spun by committee and woven under extreme pressure. No, indeed. This is a slow and mindful journey in wool.

sheep to shawl…meep.

I am excited, and completely terrified, to be the weaver on a sheep to shawl team at an upcoming sheep and wool festival.

The excitement springs from the challenge of doing something completely new.  I’ve woven shawls before, but never by following contest rules nor under a time limit. I am also excited to be thinking about what draft to use, what way to make the interplay of warp and weft look fresh and interesting, yet not be too complicated to weave in front of curious passers by.

I’m terrified by…the challenge of doing something completely new…

Interestingly, I’m not worried about the stamina it takes to weave steadily and quickly. I’ve been in training, without realizing it, since taking Vavstuga Basics in February. We wove hard for at least eight hours a day that week, and I survived it. This is a mere three hours.


Festival season

The wheels of process turn slowly when buying a house. Maybe I am almost there. The final hurdle is Title 5, which is an extensive test of the septic system. I think I would walk away from the deal if it doesn’t pass, but it WILL pass.

While I wait for process to happen, I have been enjoying autumn in the northeast, and have gone to two fiber festivals. Mind you, I don’t need a thing when it comes to yarn, fiber to spin, or tools. But, it’s autumn and I love going to festivals.

First, there was Rhinebeck. Me and 47,000 of my closest textile arts buddies. I’m not used to crowds any more, but I still had a good time, and came home with a small bag of goodies.

  • 2 Jonathan Bosworth weaving shuttles, one in a dusky bird’s eye maple and the other in purpleheart.
  • Indigo and Black spinning clouds from Loop. The black is really black with every color under the sun, called Three Ring Circus. I buy some every year because it is always a little different from the previous year’s version.
  • An Adirondack pack basket, because I always wanted one. Several basket makers had them for sale, but Ellen Hotis made the nicest ones, in my opinion.
  • Three cones of bleached Irish linen 20/1 for weaving. I have some unbleached 40/2 from Webs that will be perfect with it.
  • If I haven’t miss-counted, this was my 25th. visit to the NY Sheep and Wool Festival. It was a perfect day and I had a wonderful time.Yesterday, I went to the Fiber Festival of New England, at the Eastern States Exposition. I didn’t have any expectations for the day. I do not like the Big E location, or their policies against outside food vendors. The festival was quite nice, for an indoor event, and I was pleased to see that there were over 200 vendors this year.

    I looked at all the gorgeous yarn and fiber, and couldn’t resist some rose fiber from Hippie Chix Fiber Art. I also got some sari silk ribbon yarn, for weaving, and a set of antler buttons from Buttons, Strings and Things. The best of all was finding a maple spinning stool from Paul Baynes, at Spunky Eclectic, and also some wool/linen top for spinning.

    This festival will never mean to me what Rhinebeck does, but it is easy to get there and the vendor selection is very good. It has earned a place in my festival calendar.

    I’ll have to tell you later what I wore to this year’s festivals. It deserves a post of its own. But first, a few photos of some pretty things.

    20131103-170112.jpg 20131103-170127.jpg
    Above, from New York Sheep and Wool Festival. Below, from Fiber Festival of New England.
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Massachusetts Sheep And Wool Festival

There were sheep, and there was wool. That’s a proper festival, right? Sheep amaze me. I seldom photograph them, but I love watching them and especially listening to them. Maybe little lambs bleat, and goats certainly do, but adult sheep have a monosylabic, emphatic BAH that sounds a lot like a person doing a bad sheep imitation.

Even in the pouring rain, it was a good festival. It’s much smaller than the NY Sheep and Wool, but somehow it is distilled to be the best parts of a festival. There were lots of vendors selling fiber tools, and there was a lot of fiber. That means less yarn and less miscellaneous stuff. That’s fine with me.

I bought tools and fiber.


Shall we start with the looms?

The tapestry loom is from Stephen Willette and he designed it so that you can warp directly onto a pair of rustic sticks and weave the tapestry in between them.

The tape loom with a small bit of weaving on it was made by Regina Britton, who is the author of Tape Loom Weaving Simplified. The tape loom is the precursor of the inkle loom, and it’s used to weave weft-faced bands.

The loom with the cheery red knobs is a vintage Bon Hop loom, and it’s a type of rigid heddle loom. I’ve wanted a rigid heddle loom for some time, but I refuse to have one with plastic parts. The Bon Hop is all wood.

The fiber is Cormo top from Foxhill Farm in Lee, MA. Cormo can be as soft as Merino but it doesn’t have that sticky candy floss feel while spinning it.

The smaller tools are some clever little things. On the left is a cone stand from Hampden Hills Alpacas

On the right is a small yarn bowl, also by Stephen Willette.

The really small stuff in the front is a wing-nut tightener from The Wheel Thing and a set of colorful cable needles. The needles were a gift from J. but I know you can get them from Hampden Hills Alpacas.

See what I mean about a small festival full of good stuff? Go next year, if you possibly can. The festival is held at the Cummington Fairgrounds and it is held on the Saturday and Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. Buy a weekend pass for $15. and leave early on Saturday so that you can go to Webs in Northampton. Then return to the festival on Sunday for more festival fun.

More about Rhinebeck — lots of spindles and finally, a ball winder

Today, I’m going to show you all the wonderful tools that I bought from Golding Fiber Tools. My first top whorl spindle was from the Goldings, so many years ago. I still use it for plying.

Did you see that pair of spindles in the cashmere/silk yesterday?  Here they are again…


In the cloisonné of two cats, silhouetted in the moonlight, I see Amber and Indigo, together again. The silver filigree is just pretty but has no deeper meaning.

IMG_2679This is the ball winder of my dreams, made of walnut and solid metal. It’s quiet and very capable, as well as beautiful beyond all measure. I waited years for this to exist. I believe that tools should be made to last for generations, and that their beauty is a seed for the creation of beautiful cloth.

IMG_2672Back to the spindles again. A silver rose. It reminds me of a house called Mt. Hope; they had lovely roses, once upon a time. It also reminds me that nothing lasts for ever, so live for the joy that is Now.

IMG_2677Yin and yang? Originally, these spindles went home with my friend J., but she said that it was my joy in them that had piqued her interest, and when I asked if she minded that I ordered an identical pair, we decided that hers should come to my studio and that she should have a cloissoné spindle that suited her better. A few years ago, I had a birds eye maple spindle that I did not love, and it went to her in a similar way of finding it’s true home.

When we weren’t shopping, we enjoyed the warm day, admired many people’s handmade finery, ate Artichokes French, and had the best apple crisp at the 4H booth. The secret to good apple crisp is using a variety of apples, some sweet and some tart, some soft and some firm.

Ten days later, Hurricane Sandy blew in and changed everything.



From Rhinebeck to refugee

January is a third gone, and I am just getting around to posting the highlights from last October’s NY Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck. You can blame Hurricane Sandy for that. I am still a refugee of sorts, because my place of work took a direct hit from the hurricane and we are nowhere close to moving back in. I work from home and I spend a few days a week in a temporary office across the river. It’s a situation to be endured, and I’d rather focus on hand spun and home made.

Rhinebeck 2012 deserves to be remembered, because it was a wonderful day, filled with fiber and fun. We have found a rhythm that works, visiting two or three “must see” vendors, and then poking around at our leisure. Actually, this is how my mother and I used to do it. I think it comes naturally when you become familiar with the festival.

My must see vendors are Loop and Golding Fiber Tools.

Let’s start with the fiber:

1 lb. of Three Ring Circus from Loop. This is one of my favorite color blends, so I bought it again this year. It’s black with Everything Else in it.


1 lb. of Smitten from Loop doesn’t have me totally smitten, but it will do for the plainer sections of Dreaming Myself Awake. I wish it had more neps and noils for texture.


4 oz. of cashmere/silk from Spirit Trail Fiberworks. This type of fiber is out of character for me, but the color is magnificently shaded and the cashmere ensures that the yarn is soft and very lofty. I’m going to need some plain accessories to go with the high-impact fabrics I weave.  As you can see, I’m using drop spindles with this fiber, which is still my best way to spin a fine, even yarn.


Hopefully this fiber, and the small backlog I have from past years, will keep me busy through 2013. I know there are other festivals, and I know I could always shop on Etsy for some beautiful art yarn batts, but I generally don’t. It would weaken the mystique of Rhinebeck.


Back to basics

This year’s visit to the NY Sheep and Wool festival was a return to the basics.  Years ago, before online communities like Ravelry created such a whirl of anticipation before the event, the NYS&W was just my annual shopping trip for spinning and weaving.

My shopping list was very short this year. I have not kept up on spinning the fiber I bought the past two years, so I decided to pretend that all my unspun fiber was new and exciting and not buy any more.

  • Pewter buttons for a knitted shrug
  • A Kathryn Alexander knitting project
  • Something new and different

And that’s exactly what I bought.

Spiral pewter buttons from the Rams Horn


The Doo Dad Scarf from Kathryn Alexander

Micro Kate from Golding Fiber Tools. Isn’t that new and different?  It’s a lazy kate for plying spindle spun yarns.

I also bought some Harmony Wood double pointed needles as an extra little treat. They are not artisan made like the products above, so I’ll just mention them and move on.

Yes, I am still weaving the Misted Hills Coat. I wove the better part of a yard today, and maybe, just maybe, I might finish the weaving this week.

I have also been spinning all that wonderful fiber from years past, starting with these Loop Spontaneous Spinning Clouds that I spun yesterday.

Fiber Festival in review

OK, don’t ask how I got so sidetracked yesterday. I underestimated how long it takes to add pictures and links to a blog entry. Let’s get back to my experiences at the Fiber Festival of New England. As much as I enjoyed the NY Sheep and Wool festival last month, I wanted to spend more time among creative people.  I assure you I didn’t need any more batts to spin, but I wanted some. I have fallen in love with the spontaneous fibery goodness from Steph Gorin of Loop. Remember those Baby Cakes that I bought at Rhinebeck?  I’m nearly done spinning them and I still wanted more Loop-iness.

So, plans were made and I awakened in the pre-dawn hours to converge upon the festival with two friends.  There are only two things that will get me out of bed before dawn: a good hike or a fiber festival. We misplaced one friend for a few hours due to problems with Amtrak’s ticket machines on her end. I can’t believe that she had to miss the train because their ticket machines wouldn’t work.

This is the Mallery Complex at the Eastern States Exposition grounds.  It’s a spiffy fairgrounds, but it’s located in a very industrial part of Springfield, MA.  I suppose the town grew up around the fairgrounds, whose oldest parts date to 1916.

The taxi dropped us off right here, but there was parking right nearby for those who drove to the festival.

Once inside, we were greeted by sheep and alpacas in tidy pens, and lots of booths featuring alpaca yarn and fiber. Alpaca are soft but hairy beasts. It’s not my favorite fiber to spin and weave. Getting all the hair out seems impossible.

There was a small fleece sale in the same room, but I resisted the urge to buy a whole, unprocessed fleece.  As one of my friends remarked, “It has poo in it!” Some of the fleece did have manure tags in them. I don’t have the facility to process a fleece in my studio, and I am reluctant to send it out for commercial processing, which seems to make even the softest wool harsh. With some regret, I had to leave the fleeces for others to enjoy.

There was also a demonstration of shearing. I am always in awe of the skill of shearers, who can hold the sheep still and take off the coat in one unbroken fleece.

These sheep are waiting their turn at shearing. Baa!

On to the main vendor room. It was good to be indoors on a cool day, but it was also good to have a view of the sky through the skylights of the building. It was bright and enough of a modern barn that it didn’t feel isolated from nature. I do prefer the picturesque and rustic setting of the NY Sheep and wool festival buildings, but this was acceptable.  At least it wasn’t urban, stuffy and unpleasant like the Stitches East marketplace.

I had to laugh at the sign that read, “No livestock in the main aisle.”

There were plenty of festival goers in the main aisle and in all the side aisles. It wasn’t insanely crowded, but there were lots of people enjoying the festival.

I didn’t see many people wearing handwoven and hand knit garments. I guess there were a lot of first-timers who didn’t know that wearing and commenting on beautiful handcrafted clothing is a huge part of the fun. I wore the Misted Hills scarf, and answered a few questions about hand-weaving. I’m very comfortable wearing my own designs. Over the years, I have developed a personal style that moves in it’s own direction, regardless of the fashion industry. Scarves area a big part of my style, all year round.

There was yarn, there was fiber, there were supplies for making felt. There were bobbin lace demos, rug hooking demos, rug twining demos, a few weavers, and a few spinners. Hats, beads, knitting needles and dyes. It was a good selection of New England’s best.

This is what I bought:

  • Spontaneous Spinning Clouds from Loop, in Eggplant, Three Ring Circus, and The Devil Made Me Do It. I love her color names. These clouds are well named, because they are feather light blends of several breeds of wool, mohair, angelina, and noils.
  • An Ed Jenkins Turkish Delight spindle, in Tulipwood. That’s the star-fishy looking item below the red fiber.
  • A wooden bowl for my supported spindle. Both the spindle and the bowl were from Spunky Eclectic.
  • Three sets of glove needles. Those are hard to find. They are short double-pointed needles. I don’t recall where I got the Addi needles. (Hello, vendors! Be sure to have your name on your receipts or include a business card.) The bamboo set was from Nightingale Fibers.
  • An unnamed Spontaneous Spinning Batt from Loop, in shades of green and yellow.

The Inaugural Fiber Festival of New England

There’s a new fiber festival on the circuit, and it made a great first impression with me.  It’s a two day festival, November 6 and 7. If you are in the Springfield, MA area, RUN over to the Big E fairgrounds right now.  They are open until 3PM today.  JUST. GO. NOW. You won’t regret it. I”ll tell everyone else all more about it in a minute. You are still here?  GO!