spin, spin

20140606-114808-42488826.jpgI just realized that Edelweiss kitty and I have something in common when it comes to doing something that we really don’t want to do. Having some companions helps us get through it.

For Edelweiss, she was reluctant to nurse her kittens unless someone kept her company. For me, it’s spinning. I am primarily a social spinner.

I haven’t made any progress on my hand spun since I last wrote about it. I know if I can just convince myself to sit down at the wheel, I will have a bobbin full of yarn in no time. I’ll love the yarn and be proud of it, but I just struggle to set aside the time to do it.  I missed spinning guild this week due to the weather and the arrival of some much anticipated loom parts. Without the companionship of the guild, I didn’t feel much like sitting at my wheel.

Maybe Edelweiss will sit with me while I spin?

a little math goes a long way

You’ve heard of some of my adventures with math for weavers. Like the 10 yard warp that was actually 14 yards long…or the elusive number of ends in the shawl that I’m weaving right now…168 at first count…then 156…and finally, officially…162.

And then there’s X, that weaselly little variable. I have X yards of that 14 yard warp remaining. Since I only need a small amount of it to finish the patchwork shawl, I am weaving the rest of it for the joy of making cloth, and I’ll decide what it can be when I’m done weaving it.

That absolves me of knowing precisely how much weft I need.  I need Y, more or less.

Maybe this math thing isn’t so bad when you leave the actual numbers out of it.

One thing I do know is that I need 33 yards of weft to weave 5 inches of fabric. Give or take.  More or less.

taking stock

One of the joys of unpacking is finding out what I really have. At Sparrow Hill, things were stored very haphazardly in a studio room that I seldom used, and I had the supplies for my current project in the room that I used as a working studio. Here, everything is going in the same studio.

One thing I’ve realized is that I have too much unspun fiber. I won’t buy any more until I can spin my way through what I want to keep, and give away what I no longer want. How much is too much? I have about two footlockers worth of fiber. I think I would be comfortable with one quarter of that.

My weaving yarn is in much better shape. Other than 6 cones of alpaca/silk and mohair, all of which are a bit too hairy for comfort, everything else I have is either for a handful of planned projects, or leftovers from past projects. I guess I am disciplined when it comes to buying cones of yarn, but not so good when it comes to fiber for spinning.

I need to get spinning. Here’s my priority list:

–For the Dreaming cloth I’m working on:
Loop clouds in 3-Ring Circus colorwayIMG_2675
Loop clouds in a bright purple colorwayIMG_2674
Both purchased at Rhinebeck in 2013. At least I’ve already spun and woven the first batch of this from 2012.

–For use in a throw that matches the color scheme in my library:
Tintagel Farms roving in Starry Night colorway
DSC02466Purchased at Rhinebeck in 2009

–To be combined with some other orange and yellow hand-spun for Saori clothing fabric:
18 oz. Party in a Bag from Puckerbrush Farm
DSC02467Also purchased at Rhinebeck in 2009

–For something soft and luscious:
32 oz. Creatively Dyed merino/sea silk in Ocean colorway
DSC02469Also from 2009…

That list tells a story, doesn’t it? In 2009, I was starting to think in color again, finding my way out of the white cocoon that had sheltered me after my mother’s passing. I went a bit overboard on colorful fiber, didn’t I?

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.


just weaving


Today, I am Just Weaving, letting the shuttle mesmerize me, letting go of everything. It’s warm and sunny in the Aerie, my studio in the trees. My Birmans, Edelweiss and newly-arrived Magic, are getting along like they have lived together forever, not just for one scant week. Even the Red-breasted Nuthatch is back at the feeders, after several weeks absence.

Exhale slowly and breathe in. Let the shuttle fly back and forth. This is all that there is.


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.


First threads of a Dream

And so, I began to fill in the weft. Dreaming Myself Awake has been a basket full of yarn for a long time, since a hot summer day in 2011 when I realized that a half dozen balls and skeins of leftover yarn had a purpose and a name. I know I gave away a year along the way, in service to Occupy Wall St. and in Being There for two beloved cats.  It doesn’t matter, this is the Now where the fabric takes shape.

It’s going to be an unruly fabric to photograph as a work in progress.  I am weaving a slightly gauzy fabric at 4 epc, with the warp being beat according to my mood and the needs of the thread that is in hand. The colors are nuanced, and the camera wants to make them garish and strange, with a honeyed undertone from the old maple loom.

It looks like this, kind of. Let’s say it feels like this.


Well, almost like this. The threading error down the middle has been painstakingly fixed. Usually I leave such things in place, as part of the whim of freestyle weaving.  Sometimes I create dense stripes on purpose, by doubling the sett for just a little area.  Or gauzy stripes by spreading the warp further apart.  I don’t know.  This looked too centered. It interfered with the lively purple stripe, and dragged it down into an unhealthy stasis. It had to go.

Don’t you love the heathery blue/purple/burgundy section?  It’s a balanced single that I spun from a Loop Spontaneous Spinning Cloud. These clouds spin like an absolute dream, especially because I would rather spin woolen than worsted, and create a fine, lofty yarn rather than a ‘stainless steel wire’, as Judith Mackenzie describes worsted spun yarn.

I am giddy with the joy of creating new fabric. I am keeping mum about what the finished garment will look like.  Let’s just say that you could call it a tunic or a jumper (American usage, not British), and that it will look stunning over a turtleneck and leggings.

Hand spun and hand knit

I simply had to rummage the closets and pull out all the items I wrote about yesterday. Memory is a fickle thing. There are actually four hats that I spun and knit, and there must have been a fifth one  because I know there was a white beret at one time, and the bluish-green one had escaped memory.

Berets are a good hat style for me, because I can bundle up all my waist-length hair inside.