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.


Hand spun and home made

What if…I could spin enough fiber into yarn, and then weave and sew, or knit, most of my clothing and household textiles…

If not today, then soon. Spinning the yarn is the weakest part of the plan. I’m not that fast at spinning fine, plain yarn. Weaving and sewing don’t daunt me.

Since my time is still constrained by work for a few more years, it is going to be a slow transition. Weaving and sewing first, then more and more hand spun. I don’t know if I will ever choose to spin cotton and linen for towels or curtains, but I certainly will weave them.

What do I have so far?

Hand spun and home made:
–three berets

Some hand spun and home made:
–table runner

Home made with purchased yarn
–table runner
–two tote bags
–three pairs of socks
–fingerless gloves
–two shawls
–countless scarves

I can see that I need skirts and tunics. Good. My current weaving project is fabric for a tunic. There’s a fair bit of hand spun in it.

Getting caught up with myself

I have been spinning a lot of soft, multi-hued yarn over the past few months.  Most of it was from fiber I bought two or three years ago.  It sat unspun because I was busy doing other things, like spinning project yarn, and weaving. My reward for finishing the project yarn for Dreaming Myself Awake was a chance to spin some totally random fiber called Party in a Bag, from Puckerbrush Farm. And it looks like this…

Going off in odd directions

I’m still spinning thick and thin yarn out of muddy colors, and I have no idea what I will do with it.  My original idea was that it would become part of Dreaming Myself Awake, restful colors between brighter dreams.  I don’t think so. These are not meant to be lucid dreams, set against the background of a greyish-green winter. These are dreams so vivid and self-contained that they linger into wakefulness, that they become real.

That’s the way I see it today.  Tomorrow may be different, because I am changeable like that. Until I sit down at the loom and commit the threads into cloth, everything is subject to change. The muddy thick and thin may speak to me, may have a reason to return.

I just bought two pounds of black walnut dye, and I don’t even like the color brown. I am hoping to figure out how to dye fabric in a splotchy, streaky way, maybe sponging the dye on, or cramming too much fabric into a pot and pouring on the dye. I don’t know where this is headed, but I feel the need to follow it and explore it.

Some mornings, I dump my spent tea leaves on a piece of cloth and let them dry together.

Since I steep my leaves twice, there’s not much dye left in them.

Over time, the cloth takes on a soft and subtle color.


This morning, I sprinkled some of the ground black walnut hulls next to the tea. Hmmm…

If I were home now, I would have bags full of all sorts of weeds and leaves thatI I could use to make color on fabric.

I am also thinking about rust again…