Saturday, September 29, 2012

Something's gotta give...

I know I've said it before, and there's a very good chance you're said it once or twice before, but something's gotta give on my stash; it's way out of hand.  Knowing that, you'd think that I would stop bringing in more fabric until I had used up some of what I have.  (Does any of this sound familiar to you?)

All right, so with a new quilt shop in town (after being without one--nearby, anywhere--for nearly 9 months, I haven't quite declared a moratorium on buying new fabric.  (I'll have you know that a friend and I went to a closing sale at shop 30 miles away, and I didn't buy even a scrap of fabric!)  However, having learned some Kaizen principles (small steps--very small steps) I sat down with one of my strips bins today to sort into light, medium, and dark strips for a scrap project I have in mind.  Now, a Kaizen-sized step would be get down the bin and find bags for the sorted strips.  I out-did myself and sorted the entire bin. 

I expect to be making some changes in the sorting, especially moving from the medium pile to either the light or dark, but it will do until I pull out a ruby beholder.  

The next step is cutting some muslin for the foundations, then do some stripping.  I have a picture in my mind's eye, which may or may not be how it manifests in reality.  We'll see.   I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Random block thoughts

It's not what you're probably thinking.   It isn't random thoughts about blocks, but thoughts about a random block.   As a part of a creativity exercise, with permission to just play and be silly, I decided to try something that I've been thinking about for some time--or a bit of a variation.  (I'll try the original idea some day; it just wasn't today.) 

  I pulled out the 6 books that are sitting on top of my quilting bookshelves, opened them up and pulled out a step from one of the blocks.  Truthfully it wasn't completely random because steps that are very specific to a particular block wouldn't work, but general technique steps.    I chose which one would be most appropriate for the first step, then randomly numbered the others.   And those became the instructions for building 4 blocks.

1) Make a string block (or, 4 blocks)
2) Stack them, and make 3 vertical-ish cuts; shuffle each section, and sew.  Square up
3) Cut diagonally, corner to corner, and make half-square triangles.
4) Using fold and flip method, add triangles to opposite corners
5) Sew 4 blocks together, with sashing between
6) Twist the blocks

So, I raided my bin (confession time: ONE of the bins) with strips and strings, waiting to be sorted some day (wink, wink)

and selected greens and browns to start piecing.

When I had pieced enough strips to make squares from the piecing, I squared them up to 11-1/2" (the largest that I could get out of all 4 blocks.)

After stacking them, I did the vertical-ish cuts and shuffled them so each block would have 4 different sections.

Here are completed blocks.  

I'd like to tell you that I then went on to the next step but I liked these so much that I quit!  It turns out that this is going to be a good technique for a quilt concept that has been rolling around in my head for several months now.    Maybe one day soon I'll go on with the other 4 steps.  Or maybe I'll start with plain squares, rather than strip pieced.  Or maybe I'll start with a 9-patch, or maybe....

So many ideas, so little time.....



Saturday, September 8, 2012


Today I found "my" quilt shop again.  The shop at which I worked for a dozen years, and where I did (naturally) most of my shopping closed at the end of last year.  There are several other quilt shops in the metro area but I have missed being able to run (basically) around the corner if I needed to pick something up; 40 minutes to the nearest other shop just isn't quite the same.

But a new shop opened this week, and only 5-10 minutes from my house.  It's a bright and cheerful place, with friendly staff and a variety of things to make my heart glad.  (And they have DMC floss--you'd be surprised how hard that is to find in these parts.)  It's lovely to have a shop to call "home" again--it's just a good feeling, as any quilter or knitter/crocheter knows.

So, while it's not good news for my pocketbook, it's good for my soul.  Support your Local Quilt Shop or Local Yarn Shop!!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Colorful Crochet--Doing Color Changes

I'll be doing the Patchwork Squares afghan as part of the Crochet Society's Fall CAL (Crochet ALong) and because it has so many wonderful color changing opportunities I thought I'd like to check out some methods to do the color changes easily, and with as little weaving-in of ends as possible.  I hate weaving in ends.

There are really two issues at hand:  changing colors without knotting the ends of the color together, and hiding the tails for the 2 colors at each change of color.

I found a few vids on YouTube:

Crochet Tidy Away Ends and Color Changes, from Megan E. Mills

From All Free Crochet:  How to Change Color Without Knots, right-handed

How to Change Color Without Knots, left-handed

If you're more of a text person, or want something in writing that you can print out, here are a couple of choices.

Here's a short demo/explanation:

Crochet Cabana has a thorough explanation, along with photos; it shows how to do it at the beginning of a row, and also in the middle of a row.

(And if you are also doing the Folding Fans Scarf in the CAL, the "Crochet Doctor" in that issue of Crochet Today is about color changes and color work in crochet.)

It takes a little bit of practice to work crochet around tails, but it's not difficult and, for me, it's much less discouraging than having to weave in ends.

If you find it to be not your cup of tea, here's a video from Red Heart on weaving in ends. f  It is something that you can do while sitting in front of your favorite televisions show.  For some projects, maybe your favorite show's last season or two.

Enjoy the CAL, and don't forget to post photos of your yarn choices and progress on Ravelry!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Cross-Pollenated Creativity

Today I had an "aha!" moment on a writing project, turning it into much more.  My chosen project as part of my Kaizen Muse Creativity Coach training is to write a book (or article, depending on how it all turns out) based on some of  my Dad's stories about his experiences growing up.  The first story/experience is about helping to wire the farmhouses around the town where he drew up, in 1938.  It's been evolving in my head, and had developed into an appreciative comparison of his growing-up years, without electricity, and my life, which was surrounded by electricity and conveniences therefrom.

So, the cross-pollenation happened today while I was watching a quilting video, and it hit me:  this is history, I'm a quilter (in addition to a writer, albeit amateur).....this is perfect for an appreciative quilt comparison, too.   I can research traditional quilt blocks that help to tell the stories of Dad's life, but also design modern, art quilts that express them, too:  representing his era, and mine.  Each informs the other.  And the book just changed and expanded, better than it would have been without that cross-pollenation.

And so, it seems to me, it is with arts.  They aren't ideated (is that a word?) or created in a vacuum, away from other arts and experiences.  Artists find inspiration in so many different places and objects and experiences, including other art forms.  Whether you consider yourself to be an artist in "just" one form, or you dabble in many, generations of artists in countless media and forms contribute to  the world's experiences, and inform everyone's artistic ventures.

When I am knitting or crocheting, the patterns and colors and textures become a part of my creative body of work and will no doubt appear, in some form, in quilting or in writing or spinning or even developing slides for presentations and classes I do for work.  When I see a painting in a gallery or on the web, my brain files away my impressions and memorable aspects.  I'll never copy that painting but a color combination, or a texture or general impression will become a part of me and my creative life.  Nature's art is a constant inspiration, and my gardening brings more to the art party.

The many wonderful friends I have made through dabbling in various arts also inform and enrich my creative life, in more ways than I could describe.   You all know what I mean.

No work of art (and whether we are making a quilt or knitting a scarf or writing a book, it IS art) is born out of nothing.    It is all of pieces of everything we see, learn, and experience.  What a glorious life we have, surrounded by inspiration, waiting to feed our creativity.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Goldilocks in My Project World

I have projects.  Lots and lots of projects, across all manner of arts and crafts--spinning, weaving, knitting, crocheting, bobbin lace, scrapbooking, and especially mini-scrapbooking.  If you are reading this there is a fair chance that you have a wealth of projects, too.

Here are some of my reasons for having so many projects; see if you own any of these, yourself:

 1)  A 2 year old has nothing on me for attention span, and I can't blame the modern, digital, soundbytes world for it.  I know that's the popular theory but I've always had a short attention span.  Apparently, I am not alone in that.

2) One of my great passions is for learning; I just like learning new things.  Once I've learned something, I've been-there-done-that and am ready for the next thing to learn.   I'm not talking about learning the macro, like "quilting" or "spinning" (though I suffer from that, too) but a particular technique, or pattern, or material.

3) I really do start out planning to finish everything but, in spite of all those good intentions I work on something for awhile and then get bored.   And get distracted.  ("Oooo!  Sparkly things!")  I suppose, if you wanted to be unkind, you could call it a lack of focus.

 I know artists who finish a project before they start a new one.  I admire them for that, I am even a tiny bit jealous and I'm happy that that works for them--but I'm afraid it just doesn't work for me. 
There are benefits to having a treasure trove of projects from which to choose--at least for me:

a)  I add to my tool kit of techniques and skills, in a shorter period of time.  Granted, I don't practice most of them enough to reach 100% perfection but, to be honest, I don't need to reach perfection in all of them.  Some of them I learn and practice enough to know how they work, or to know that it isn't a technique I want to continue.

b) Those things that I don't perfect are still tucked away in the back of my creative brain, dormant until some point at which they might raise their hands to be used in a project that hasn't even been conceived yet.  Will some things lie dormant forever?  Probably, but that's OK because the percentage of those that will be used later is much higher.

c) Even if I never use a technique or skills, as is, it's a larger repertoire for adaptation. Just one little change can make it perfect for a new project or idea. And from there, there will likely be another change....or two....  (It may end up looking nothing at all like the original.  But that's OK;  in fact, that's great!)

d) It's all part of letting creativity have its way in my brain, and through my hands.  And that is better than OK, that's what it's all about.  End products are nice, and I will always want to finish some things, but I'm coming to realize that the creative process is at least as important, if not more so, than the end product.   If your livelihood depends on end product you may have to focus more on that but why not have some fun along the way--maybe the stress of production need will be eased a bit if you feed your creative soul all along the way.   If you do need product for your business, what do you think?  How do you feed your creativity?)

e) Multiple projects "feed" off each other in my creativity.  It's true, sometimes I put something aside because it has started to bore me to tears but, even when I do that, it often finds its way back--something for my hands to work on while my creativity plays around in my head, or a different texture or skill is just what the more current project needs, or what I need for a break.

So, is this all just rationalization for a short attention span?  I used to think so, but I don't any longer.  And what about Goldilocks?    The challenge, for me, is to find the right number of projects.

If there are too many I'm in danger of being overwhelmed with all that is waiting, unfinished, for me. I  also have chosen some creative endeavors that are not inexpensive, especially if you want to use good materials.  And you almost have to use good materials because life's too short to spend a long time on a project that isn't going to acceptable in the end, right?  But I don't have an unlimited budget so too many projects means a better chance that really fine materials are languishing in a closet, and that's a shame.  (So, re-purposing of materials is important.)

If there are too few projects everything feels stunted and creative flow is blocked.  I get fidgety.  Last night I finished a knitted lace scarf and already I'm trawling around for another.  Oh, I have plenty of UFOs, of course, but I'm itching--literally (or is it twitching?) for something new.

What is "just right" for the number of projects?  I'm not sure I've found the perfect balance yet for me.  But that's OK.  :-)  I've renamed my UFOs to AFOs (Almost Finished Objects)--no matter how close to, or far from, finished they are.  They're just perfect, wherever they're at in completion terms.

What's right for you?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Back in the saddle

Quilting has been on a back burner for me for awhile.  I can't explain the reasons, because I'm not sure, myself.  It's not that I don't have many projects running around in my head, or UFOs ALL OVER my studio, or tops waiting for my longarm--which has been sitting idle for too long now.  Perhaps it's just been a lack of energy overall lately.

(Here's a photo of some of the stacks of tops waiting to meet my longarm.  They take less room as tops than as finished quilts!  That's my story.  Can we call these AFOs--Almost Finished Objects?)

But I'm happy to say that my quilting friends have gotten me back on track. Sewing with friends has re-energized me, and remindws me that our mothers, grandmothers, great grandmothers, and further back got together regularly for "bees;"  they were social occasions for them, but I think they must have also been energizing and inspiring for them.  There's just something about sharing that quilting and sewing experience.  We still do that today, with guilds and small groups, and certainly with the online social gatherings available to us.   In fact, one of my spinning/knitting tweeps can claim some credit for this re-energzing for quilting, though she isn't a quilter.   She reminded me why I most love quilting--why I MUST do it--because it's creative and, most of all, comforting to myself and (hopefully) to those to whom they are gifted.

So, I will still be learning new things, enjoying new arts/crafts, and finding some comfort and peace in them, but quilting is still a part of the heart of me.   I don't think I could get away from it, even if I wanted to.  I'll be reporting here on all things fiber in my life--quilting, spinning, weaving, knitting, crocheting, and whatever else I might take up.

Now, down to pull 16 yards of fabric for quilt backings out of the dryer...

Saturday, August 18, 2012

A "good enough" learning experience

I'm very new to dyeing fiber, and was very lucky to really like my first endeavor.  (All of which is good, because had I not liked it I might have parted company with dyeing.   By this point in a person's life you'd think a person would have learned that it isn't possible to do everything perfectly the first time out of the gate but, no.)

The dyeing sessions after the first have been reasonably successful, aside from occasionally managing to do a tiny bit of felting in the process; the colors were good, anyway.  Until a recent experiment, in which I just mixed some colors without much of a plan.  Some of it was OK, some of it not so much.  I saturated parts of the fiber too much, and the dye ran during steaming, creating some....what would you call it, yellow-ish, green-ish,....? 

Deciding that maybe I would like it better spun than I liked the fiber, I spun and plied it and, thankfully, I like it better than I liked the fiber.  I don't LOVE it, but I don't hate it, and I can see which colors I like in the combination and which I don't especially like in the mix.

So, now I know, and that's the point of it all, right?

And at some point I'm going to have to figure out what to do with this yarn I'm spinning.

Meanwhile, back to quilting and some projects that have been sitting on the shelf.  Ideas for art quilts are springing up all over my brain.  I'm going to have to do something about that.  Soon.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Bead stash

Who knew that my past obsession with beads would serve me well now?  I needed some stitch markers, so decided to make some.  I need 24--halfway there!

They wouldn't win any ribbons for good wire wrap work, but they'll work and shouldn't catch on the yarn.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Joining up!

Thinking that it's high time I learn to "join as you go" when crocheting motifs, I have taken up "Jubilee" shawl, from Amanda Perkins.  I love the design and, really, how hard could joining as you go be?

I'm sure that it's a piece of cake for many crocheters.  I am not one of them, but I'm determined to power through it!  :-)   It's not that it's that difficult, it's just that I've been resistant to reading crochet charts.  I recently conceded, you may remember, to the value of reading knitting charts, instead of written instructions.  I was going to hold out on the crochet chart thing, though.  I gave it my best shot, I patted my self on the back when I finished the first row of 10 motifs, all joined together.

The problem is, I was looking at the general diagram for how the hexagons were arranged, not the chart, so I joined at only half the points that I should have.  Oops!

Only when I had to join a neckline, sort of half, motif did I realize that I had missed some (ok, a lot of) points on the first row.    And I might have been able to continue to do it without the chart had I not had to work in those doggone neckline motifs, but the stitches on it were different enough from the full motifs that I couldn't quite "read" and match them as the join points aren't written into the instructions.

It took me more than an hour, and a couple of false starts but I figured it--read the chart and worked the joins.  I am going to fake it on the first row (I'm a quilter; I can fake it...)

It pains me to say it, but not as much as it did to try to do it without reading the chart--I really needed to learn to read crochet charts.

Oh, dear; does this mean I am growing up in my knitting and crocheting?  Horrors!  Next they'll make me gauge....

Friday, August 3, 2012

More Lace--with Irish Eyes

Some time ago, while working on a crazy quilted vest I found a strip of thick lace in my stash.  I don't remember buying the lace myself, so it must have come from my Mom's stash of embellishments.  Only later, as I began to look into learning Irish crocheted lace did I realize that it probably was made by someone in Dad's family, who came from Ireland.  It is now a pretty precious piece of lace!

Irish lace, I discovered, is quite different from other lace, as it is usually worked around a foundation cord--hence the thickness of the lace. 

I am beginning again to delve into Irish lace, and ready to learn.  My first foray (aside from a shamrock--what else could I start with?) is actually a rose and leaves motif pattern for a pincushion.  Traditionally, the motifs and the background "lattice" would be worked separately but for this pattern the background is worked out from the rose motif, and the leaves added later.    It is also not worked around a foundation cord, but it is in the style of Irish lace.   The edging IS worked around a foundation, and added later.

Here's the rose motif for the center:

And here it is, with the lattice background. 

I have completed leaves (I like the way they're done, though it took me a couple of tries to get them to look as I wanted), and will attach them when I have blocked the main piece and tacked it to the linen pincushion form.

As I recall, when I first started working on Irish lace, working around a foundation cord is cumbersome, and is going to require some practice.   But while I'm working on it I can think about my trip to Ireland, meeting my third cousin, visiting the family's old homestead property, and seeing my great great grandfather's grave.   It's one more connection to that side of my family.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Lessons from a Lace Knitting Beginner

Yesterday I finished my first knitted lace--Laura Nelkin's "Skywalker" shawl, in a lavender alpaca from Frog Tree.   It's a lovely shawl, and I had the help of her Craftsy online class. (Good class, by the way.)

I've been knitting for a long time, but I tend to not gauge ("Gauge, Schmauge" is my motto) or--obviously--do any garments that required fitting.   In other words, I've done any number of spectacular afghans, scarves, etc.  (Oh, and one sock.  I really like socks and I swear I'm going to back and make the other one, and then some.)

My attention span is roughly equivalent to that of a 2 year old, but I am pretty left-brained and generally take direction well.

All of this is by way of background for lessons I can pass along to other beginning lace knitters, and perhaps a bit to designers.

1) Learning to read charts is a good idea.  Really.  I'm a librarian, so text and words have been my bread-and-butter for nearly half a century.  Most people are visual learners (I'm actually more kinesthetic) and, while I started out reading the text instructions, as I've done all my knitting life, it really is easier to keep track of where you are on a chart.

2) Better too many lifelines than too few.  I had never used lifelines before, but I can't imagine that you could do lace without them, especially if you're a beginner with lace.  Trust me on this.  Ask me how I know.

3) You can't multi-task on this one.  I know, women are really good at that and you probably all saw the woman knitting at Wimbledon but I can guarantee, without knowing exactly what she was working on, that it was not lace.   Maybe a designer can knit a relatively simple pattern of her own without paying close attention but fellow beginners, you and I cannot.   You might think you can slip in a TV show or an Olympic event, or a conversation with a friend but that's a big no.

4) Find a pattern for beginners.  Skywalker was designed specifically for beginners, for a class, and built stitches and skills as the pattern progressed.   Find some lace patterns on Ravelry (look for those that are for beginners) and take a look at them.  Does it look like a pattern that YOU could do, i.e., is it written logically and in a way that makes sense to you?   As with everything, some patterns are better for YOU than others.   When you find a designer whose designs make sense for you, get more practice by doing more than one design.  There are many terrific designers out there. Explore and have fun!  (And designers, please keep in mind that you can "recruit" beginners if you design a few patterns that beginners can handle.)

5) Use yarn that you'll enjoy working with for awhile, and will be something you'll wear or use often when you're finished.   Use a light-colored yarn, rather than a dark--it's easier to see your stitches.  Choose something that's beautiful to you; something of a similar content to what was used for the pattern sample is a pretty safe bet.

6) Lace can look, well, not like you think it should when it's on the needles.  It really becomes what it's supposed to be when it has been blocked.  If it looks less lacy than the finished sample in the pattern's photo don't be discouraged.  It will look better when it's blocked.

Here's what Skywalker looked like when it came off the needles, but before it was blocked.  It looked pretty messy when it was still on the needles, because it was all scrunched up.  (The toes are an added bonus in the photo.  I don't have a long enough attention span to give myself a pedicure.)

7) Most of all, enjoy the learning.  Lace really is beautiful and it can be relatively simple or quite complicated.    If you're a perfectionist, cut yourself some slack and let yourself enjoy learning.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Settling in for Olympics and Ravellenic Games

Today I am just back from visiting a friend in Grinnell, and from more shopping than we had anticipated we would do.  :-)   We visited 3 quilt shops--more about those projects later--and several shops in the Amanas, including the Amana Woolen Mill, where I picked up these wonderful spindles.  (Doesn't that one with the dark wood look a bit like the black sheep of the wool spindle family?)

This woolen mill is the last of the 7 mills that existed when the Amanas were the Amana Colonies, of the communal Community of True Inspiration and each village  had a mill,  kitchen etc.  Things have changed a great deal since the 'Great Change" in the late 1930s, but this mill continues.  On my way, I mentioned that I was also a weaver and they noted that I can buy cotton and wood by the pound from them.  I'll have to think about  a trip back there it check that out in more detail.

But now that the Olympics are in full swing, it's time for me to settle into some serious knitting and crocheting for the Ravellenic Games--while ideas for art quilts are dancing around in my head.  At some point I'm going to have to take some time to sketch ideas in the sketch book, lest I lose track of them.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Ready for the Games!

The Ravellenic Games are approaching, and I'm making plans for what I will be knitting/crocheting/spinning/weaving.

Just now I finished the Planet Stitch section of the Skywalker shawl, so the end is in sight!   I'm excited to be getting closer to finishing my first lace piece, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it looks off the needles and blocked.   During the course of the shawl I've learned some tips for keeping my knitting on track, and not get so far past a mistake that I can't go back and fix it.  (Which is not to say that I haven't used the lifelines more than once....)

There are some other projects that are waiting in the wings, and the challenge will be deciding which to do!  (I fear that I will end up with as many fiber UFOs as I have quilt UFOs--and that is a very frightening number!)

So, let the games begin!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Arctic Lace Luxury Yarn Club: Tour de Fleece Day Something

The "welcome aboard" package for the Arctic Lace Luxury Yarn Club arrived today!  I don't think I should show the content just yet; I don't want to have to do a spoiler alert.  :-)

I'm looking forward to the next few months of the Club; I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, I'm plugging away on my Skywalker shawl, and have purchased yarn for the KAL for yarnaddictanni's Elegance scarf.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

BFL and Lace; Tour de Fleece Day Whatever

All right, I admit that I've lost track of the days.  It was a l-o-n-g week at my day job and I didn't get much spinning or fiber work accomplished. 

On the spinning side, I did do a bit of BFL on the wheel--some of my hand-dyed.  I'm almost halfway through that and if I would just sit down at the wheel again I could polish off at least that much!

Yesterday, as I was feeling a little "punk" I built a nest on the living room sofa and watched some Craftsy class videos.  I started with the lesson in Laura Nelkin's "Mastering Lace Shawls" appropriate to where I'm at with the Skywalker Shawl.  I was not looking forward to that particular section because I wasn't sure I understood what she was going to do with the extra wraps but as soon as I saw it (I love videos, don't you??) it was easy peasy.  The lessons moved on, I moved on, and I made more progress on the shawl than I had anticipated.   It looks positively ghastly on the needles now, as it's "stuffed" on the circulars, but here's a pic of it just before I started yesterday.

Last night I finished the "base" of the Pax shawlette.  I think I'll go back and practice the edging on my practice piece before starting it on the "real" shawlette; it has a series of short rows right next to each other, and some increases and decreases that confused me a bit when I first tried them.  We'll see how that goes!

I'll also be signing up for (or, at least following along unofficially) a KAL, starting in August.  More about that later.

Oh, oh.  I just saw that Craftsy has an online class on artisan bread making.  Now I'm hungry AND I want to take another class.  I'll be strong--I'm in the midst of an online class at work, and will soon be starting creativity coach training.   But I can still EAT artisan bread, right?  That won't take much time.  :-)

Happy spinning, knitting, crocheting, weaving, quilting, ...creating!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Plying, Dyeing, Tying....Tour de Fleece Days 8 & 9

Multiple sub-posts today:  plying BFL, dyeing Punta, and typing flax onto a hand-rigged distaff.

Yesterday was a plying day, finishing up about 400 yards of BFL from Fiber Fancy.  I'm pleased with the result--I liked the colors of the fiber, and I like it even more as a yarn; it's a sort of jewel-ish, autumn-ish sort of colorway.  (This photo is a bit deceptive; it is more autumny in tone.)   It has been soaked, and is now drying on the rack.

This morning I did a bit of dyeing, on Punta, with a citrus theme.  I didn't measure, I just mixed colors and diluted until it looked sort of right.  (It will be a very short entry in my dyeing journal!)  I'm pretty happy with it, I think.  There are a couple of spots that are muddy because I wasn't paying close enough attention to the green and orange when they were next to each other, and a little too close for comfort.  One of those spots is on an end, so if it still looks too brown when it's fully dried I can just "delete" that part of it.   I'm always surprised how different the saturation/density of color is when it is fully dry, so I'll try to remember to post a photo when it is fully dry.   My drying rack is going to be busy today!    (This is the first I've done with Punta, and I'm looking forward to spinning it, and getting some experience with yet another fiber.)

While the Punta was steaming I rigged up a make-shift distaff for spinning flax, and dressed it.  I think.  We'll see, when I start spinning--I may well have to make adjustments!

Preparing the flax for dressing.  As I was spreading it out on the towel I couldn't help but think that is probably what my hair will be like as I get older...."flaxen haired," indeed, and not in a good way.  It is definitely going to be an experience learning to spin such a long fiber--the length you see here is the length of the fiber.  When you're accustomed to a staple length of just a few inches, or an even shorter fiber with cotton, this will be...different!

For the distaff pole I'm using the handle for my push broom; the end is rounded and smooth, which I think will be a good thing--it won't catch the fibers.

Tying the fiber onto the pole; this is where I think I may need to make some changes/adjustments when I start spinning.  It's a start.


 And here it is, all dressed and attached to a camera tripod.  I used duct tape.  :-)  It isn't pretty, it isn't elegant, but it works!

Now, *I* have to get to work!

Friday, July 6, 2012

The distaff side; Tour de Fleece Day 7

Does gathering information for learning how to spin a fiber count for Tour de Fleece?  I hope so, but need to do some research, anyway.  (Have I mentioned that I'm a librarian by profession?)

In preparation for spinning flax, I've been watching more videos; this one was especially helpful for me at this point:

Margaret Tyler Spinning Flax

Now I can see that I'm going to have to dig up a distaff.  I do have a camera tripod I could use, but will have to scout out a dowel or broom handle or some sort of rigmarole for the top of the distaff. I wonder if I know any woodworkers I could con, er, talk into making something for me?

I consulted some other videos for how to dress a distaff, and then went in search of some ready-made distaffs.  (I know, and I won't buy one until I've learned whether or not I really want to spin flax, beyond the basic trial.)  Now, if I weren't already watching my budget after signing up for Donna Druchunas' Arctic Lace Luxury Yarn  Club (Hey, it's birthday and Christmas presents to myself for a few years), I might try to use this flax spinning experience to buy another Kromski wheel, this time with one that has an optional distaff attachment.  But I love my Sonata and really can't justify another wheel (sigh), so it comes down to free-standing distaffs, and there are some nice ones.  For now, however, I'm scrounging around in the garage and store room for an old broom whose handle I can saw off.

Wish me luck.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Tour de Fleece Days 5 & 6: BFL and...flax!!

Yesterday was more of the same--spinning the BFL that sort of grew on  me.  Tonight I'll likely spin another bit of BFL on my Golding drop spindle.

But the big news is the arrival of the two 8-oz stricks of flax that arrived today.  Learning to spin this is my main Tour de Fleece goal.  As I recall, it involves having a bowl of water handy, which could be a challenge to my coordination and dexterity!  I love to learn new things, however, especially related to all things fiber, so I'm looking forward to it!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Tour de Fleece Day 4: Digging up

While waiting a few days before plying the BFL I finished spinning on Day 2, I decided to start spinning 8 oz. of BFL that I dyed awhile ago.  I buried it away in a bin because I thought that I didn't like it much--it didn't turn out as I had envisioned it.   But on the off chance that it would look different (better) when spun and plied, I dug it out again.  And discovered that I liked it better than I remembered I had.  Now, it's not my favorite and I didn't say, "Wow!" when it came out of the bin, but I did dig around it a few times because I rather liked it, and it couldn't be what I was looking for because I didn't like the fiber for which I was looking.  When I finally realized that was it, I did say, "Oh!  Hmm."

And here's how it's looking as I spin it up.  It's going to take awhile, as I'm spinning a finer single than I usually do, so I hope I like it in the end!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Tour de Fleece Day 3: Giving cotton a spin on the wheel

One of my goals--for some time now--has been to do some cotton spinning on the wheel.  I learned how to spin cotton on a supported spindle (listen to me, talking as if I'm an expert at spinning cotton on anything!), but believed it would be easier and faster on a wheel.

So I tried it.  And:  not so much.

No, I didn't spend a long time practicing it, but remember that I have some experience on a spindle.  ;-)   So, I knew to be sure to put enough twist into, to let the supply just rest in my hand, and able to judge that short staple length.   And I could do it--even a pretty darn thin single, which is what I wanted to to.  (I'm a quilter at heart, and this whole spinning thing started with wanting to experience what our foremothers would have had to go through in order to get fabric for  a quilt.  It would have been quite awhile ago and my actual ancestors would have been more likely to do linen than cotton, but ...there you have it.)

If I could slow down the take-up even more on the wheel I would like it better, and feel that I have more control over it.   I don't do much in the way of long draw, and I suppose cotton might lend itself to long draw--except that you have to make sure there's enough twist in it.  I did play around a bit with pinching the thumb and index finger of my draft hand to act as a gauge that would let through just the right amount of fiber as the wheel did the drafting.  That actually has some promise.

So, perhaps I'll give it some more practice on another day.  I'd like to get a charka one day and try spinning cotton on it.  For today, though, I think I learned what I wanted to learn as my goal.

Oh, and here's a bit of it 2-plied:

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Tour de Fleece, Days 1 & 2

The TdF spinning has begun!  I didn't have a chance to post yesterday's pic and report, but yesterday's and today's spinning activity were the same, so this is more efficient, anyway.  :-)

Today I finished spinning the singles for Blue-Faced Leicester from Fiber Fancy, for a total of 8 oz on two bobbins.  I'm going to let this second bobbin rest for a few days before I do the plying--but I confess that I can't wait to see what it looks like plied.  This is the first I have spun with the Woolee Winder and it "feels" different in the spinning; I just hope the spinning has been good enough.  ;-)  The play of the color in the plied yarn should be fun!

I would do more spinning today, but my drafting wrist is telling me that it's time to give it a rest.  My new-ish spinning stool has done wonders for my back, though--it doesn't ache as it used to.   It does need a bit of cushion for the derierre, however.  The trick will be to make something that will still take advantage of the contouring of the seat.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Tour de Fleece (de Flax?)

Today is the beginning of the Tour de France, which means it's also the start of the Tour de Fleece, during which participants try to spin every day of the tour.  I certainly won't be short of materials to spin!

On the challenge day (July 18 this year--the most challenging day for the cyclists) I will plan to spin flax.  (See my earlier post for explanation of why I've chosen that.)   That will give me some time to locate and procure some flax--beyond the sample that I have.

As I've been researching some history of flax spinning, I learned that in early years some of the flax might have been spun just by "rolling" lengths on the spinner's leg.  As I don't have enough in the sample to spin on the wheel, I decided to give the leg-rolling a try.  It works, but I wouldn't want to spin enough flax to make linen cloth this way!  (Pictured are a single and a 2-ply, rolled/spun on my leg.) It seems to be a pretty sturdy thread, so I'd feel reasonably comfortable using it as warp on some fabric.

So, I think my ultimate goal of the Tour de Fleece would be to spin enough to weave just a small piece of linen, on which I might do some hand embroidery--something to honor my foremothers.
In the meantime, however, I'll be finishing up with spinning some BFL, then dig in my stash and pull out something else.  Part of the adventure will be discovering all that fiber that I've stashed and forgotten that I have.  I think there's some camel in there somewhere....

Flax, though...

The quilter in me wants to learn how to spin cotton. (Did I mention that one of these days I'm going to try growing some cotton?  THAT could be an entire blog itself, trying to grow cotton in Iowa!)

I wrote earlier that I started to learn spinning because of quilting.  But I also wanted to honor my foremothers, who likely did some spinning.  My father's ancestors are all from Ireland, and my mother's all from Germany.   Neither brings cotton to mind, does it?

It seemed likely that my Irish ancestors would have spun flax into linen.  I didn't have much knowledge about spinning in Germany, however, so I went to do a bit of research.  (I'm a librarian; what can I say?)   And what did I find?

"The earliest known record of a flyer wheel appears in the form of a picture from southern Germany, dated from 1475-1480, and shows flax spinning."  (A history and evolution of quilting, by Lady Siobhan nic Dhuinnshleibhe;    Accessed 6-29-2012)

Yep.  Flax. Looks like I need to find more flax. (I have just a sample.)  

 I don't think I'll grow and process it for spinning, though--I've read about and seen that process and I'm not sure I have it in me! 
(An old-ish video from Canada briefly shows the process; videos on YouTube from the Hermitage in Pennsylvania give you a better, if longer, idea of the process.)

 But I have an even greater respect for ancestors and what they needed to go through to be clothed.  Amazing.

Friday, June 29, 2012

The start of it all

Originally, I began this journey to learn how to spin cotton.  I planned to go back to school for a Master's Degree in quilt history (from University of Nebraska) and for a thesis project thought it would be interesting to go through the making of a quilt from the VERY beginning--spinning the cotton thread, weaving the fabric (weaving has long fascinated me), and making a quilt with it.  All right, it was going to be a small quilt!  That plan is on hold, at least for now, but the journey is still on.

Thus far I have spun cotton only on supported spindles, and that is taking a lot of practice!  I learned, finally, that you really do just barely hold the cotton store--I knew it intellectually, but until I felt the difference when I finally let loose of my grip I didn't really KNOW it.   I've been watching cotton spinners on videos on DVD and YouTube, trying to absorb information about their process and rhythm.  I'm learning that finding the rhythm is very important; sometimes I'm in rhythm and sometimes I just am not.  At all.

I would like to try some cotton spinning on the wheel, and on a chakra.  But for now I am content to be in search of my spindle cotton rhythm.  I'm almost there, I think!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Collaborative Quilting

A longtime friend and I are collaborating on a series of quilts. (It will probably be two series but that's another story.)   He's a mapmaker and we want a quilt (or two or three or...) that is a fair representation of topo and drainage maps--and whatever other sort of map we decide we like. 

However, we (well, I think it's "we") also want to so at least a couple quilts that are more abstract or artistic renditions of maps.

As we were talking about earlier this week, taking a look at some maps and images, it was fun to ask each other questions about our part in it, how best to represent features and which ones we wanted to include in the quilts.   I found myself saying more than once, while I was asking questions  "I guess that's why you're a mapmaker and I'm a quilter!  Trust me, the more I am learning about mapmaking the more I'm knowing how much I DON'T know about mapmaking! 

Of course, being a quilter, I had to go fabric shopping and take him along to make sure I was getting correct color schemes.   Note that we are also working on a plan to make some geology-inspired quilts, too.

Did you recognize that as a rationalization for the all the fabric you see here, from our shopping?  I was afraid to add up the yardage.

I've started working on a sample/practice piece in the artistic/abstract vein, and that is where I'm learning how little I know about mapmaking, as I'm trying to draft some contour lines onto fabric. I understand the concept  of contour lines and what they represent but I confess that when faced with drawing them on a piece of patterned fabric, well, I have some questions for my mapmaking friend.

Stay tuned.   I, for one, as interested in how this is all going to turn out!!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Plan B...or is it C??

Yes, I'll confess it, I'm now on Plan C--or it may be Plan D by now.  This is my fourth yarn for the Pax shawlette CAL, if you count my "practice" piece.   The bamboo was too slippery, and the beautiful hand-dyed, mint-colored yarn from Knitwit is too...slippery, too.  That's the only way to describe it; the stitches just slide around and it's difficult for me to find the proper posts and bars to pick up.  No doubt more experienced knitters wouldn't have trouble but I had been fighting it and getting more and more tense as I progressed so I finally threw in the towel.  This is supposed to be fun, right?

Now, it is absolutely not the beauty or quality of the yarn, just the quality of the knitter!!  I will be saving the yarns from Plans B and C for other projects.

So, I'm back to using the baby alpaca that i used on the interminable sweater that I recently finished knitting.  It's a little heavier weight and I could perhaps use a larger crochet hook with it, but I'm going to see how this works out.  It is SO much easier to crochet and I'm having fun with the pattern again.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Pax revisited

Feeling more comfortable with the Pax shawlette pattern after working on a practice piece, and some beautiful hand-dyed baby alpaca yarn arrived from Knitwit Originals, so I am embarking on another Pax.

This yarn is quite different from the "practice" yarn and it is taking some getting used to. (Read:  the inconsistencies in my knitting and the mistakes are much more noticeable.  This will keep me on my toes!)

I love the minty green color, and who can argue with baby alpaca?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Brewing/Steeping still...

I'm working on the art piece, bit by bit.  We haven't come to a common understanding of how we're going to converse, but I've not doubt the piece will have its say at some point!   At the moment I'm adding beads as the spirit moves me. 

I can see the piece in my head, of course, but the chances that it will end up looking that way are pretty slim.  I may need to pick up some spinning or knitting while waiting for the conversation to start.  I can be patient.  Maybe.  Sort of.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Somthing's brewing...

A new art quilt is in the works.  I'd tell you what I have in mind, but quilts always have a mind of their own, especially these artsy kinds of things.  And what I have in my head doesn't always work out as I planned, or I figure out a different--hopefully better--way to do things. (In case you didn't catch the subtle note of "well, that didn't work out so well, let's go to Plan B" in there--ask me how I know that things go that way!).

So, here's a hint--any ideas about what I'm doing?  No, they aren't ties.....although....hmmm.  That gets some ideas moving....
(I have moved further on this and I'll post some more photos as it progresses. )

Sigh.  When I couldn't sleep this morning (being of a certain age), I planned out another project or two.   I will sketch them out, along with my notes, fully aware that they're going to have the final say in how they go!  But with another project (or two, or three, or...) running around in my head, demanding attention, it takes more discipline for me to focus on a WIP.   Have I mentioned that I have the attention span of a 2 year old?

When did I lose control of my life?  ;-)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Back to the Spindle

I learned to spin on a spindle but was very glad to be able to switch to a wheel after a short time because I found the spindle cumbersome to use:  it didn't spin for very long, and trying to coordinate learning to draft while trying to figure out the "physics" of the spindle was frustrating.  I managed it, but I wasn't very happy with the results.

Recently I bought a Golding spindle.  I confess that I bought it mostly because it's beautiful but I was happily surprised when I actually tried it for spinning; it was well balanced and heavier than my beginning spindle, and I swear that it would spin forever if I let it go!  So, I'm back to doing some spinning on drop spindle.   It's taking me a little while to coordinate my hands and pinch at just the right point while I"m drafting, but it's a much more enjoyable process with this spindle--it's beautiful while it's working so well!

When I've spun enough that I want to wind off, because the balance changes, I am winding it onto my weaving shuttle bobbins.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Pax in progress

I finished the knitting on the Origami sweater, and have made a good start on the Pax scarfette for the CAL.    The Tunisian crochet is not entirely new to me, but very nearly!  I have been grateful for the CAL, as I got a key tip from a fellow CAL-er--it made the whole thing much easier and nicer looking!  I certainly recommend CALs (Crochet A-Longs) and Ravelry, in general.

 I'm just a little past halfway on the first part. (Picture this as a sort of "base" onto which some lacework is added.

 This is my "practice" piece but I've decided to go ahead and finish it, or at least take it to the point at which the next chart starts.  I had ordered some bamboo lace-weight for this project and I gave it a try, but it's really to slippery--too difficult for me to find the bars to pick up.  Maybe I'll give it another go at some point, but I'm happy to be getting some experience and increasing comfort level with the stitch and pattern.

I was a little loose on the chaining, I think, and this isn't the softest yarn around (especially with the sequins in it!) so I will have to wear it with a turtleneck but I think that will be all right.  

And I'm enjoying it, which is the whole point of it, right?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A promise is a promise, but..

I vowed that I wouldn't start a new knitting or crochet project until I finished the Origami sweater, but it is taking me a LONG time to finish it.  (I have a short attention span!)

Today I joined the CAL with Crochet Crafters & Artisans on Ravelry, making Aoibhe N's "Pax" scarfette.   I am joining the CAL a couple of weeks into it, and I still have a bit left on Origami, but I don't consider it cheating on my vow to order the yarn for the next project, or practicing Tunisian crochet.  :-)   I have done just a bit of Tunisian, and loved it, so I'm looking forward to this new project.

Ravelry is such a wonderful community for fiber and yarn artists!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

New Spinning Toys

I've been enjoying some new toys,, for my spinning--thanks to a bit of "mad money" from my brother.  (Thanks, Mike!)  A new spinning stool has been a great relief for my back, as I'm sitting with good support for the derriere, and at the proper height.

My favorite new...tool is a Woolee Winder.  I was even able to buy some extra bobbins so I'll be less likely to find myself in a bobbin bind!

  The bobbins are smaller than my standard Kromski bobbins, but because it winds so much more efficiently than I do when I have control over moving the singles on the flyer, it still holds the same amount of fiber/singles on a bobbin.

The photo shows 4 oz. of singles, hand-dyed BFL from Fiber Fancy.  (Love her fibers!!)  I have another 4 oz. to spin, the plan to do a 2-ply yarn.  I have no idea what I'll do with the yarn, but that's not really the point, is it? 

Friday, April 6, 2012

Spun and plied...

And here is Celtic Heart, spun and plied. (2 ply)  I like it.  I don't have any plans for it, and may just leave it as is, to just "be."  It would be rather like framing a business' first dollar earned.  :-)

As I was spinning the singles I noticed that in some spots the fibers just weren't drafting as BFL should, and concluded that I must have felted it a bit in the process of dyeing.  I've pondered that, and think I avoided it in the next batch of dyeing that I did. (Pictures will follow in another post, when I can show the dyed fiber with the yarn, which I will be plying tonight.)

Overall, I love it! 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Braids of First Fiber Dyeing Project

And here are the two (2 oz each) braids of "Celtic Heart," all dry and ready to spin!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Dyeing Adventure Continued

For my first hand-painted fiber I decided to do a colorway inspired by the Irish landscape--not the 40 shades of green, but green grass and trees, the deep brownish/black of peat and rocks, some golden browns, and natural creams and tans.   I sat down and figured out what I thought would be reasonable proportions in mixing the colors I was aiming for, tamped down the "I want to do it perfectly NOW" persona, and dove into the experiment.  The notebook turned out to be quite handy for notes as I go.

First, I put two sections of BFL (2 oz. each) to soak in warm water with a bit of Synthropol.

Then I set about mixing the colors:  2 shades of green, a golden tan (well, that was what I was aiming for), and a deep brown-black.

The soaked fiber is laid out on top of plastic wrap, ready to be painted, using the dye colors and stencil brushes.

The first 2 oz section painted.  It doesn't have enough light and unpainted areas, so plan to leave more "natural" in the second section.  The "golden tan" I had planned is much darker than imagined but... I like it!

The painted section is wrapped and rolled up in the plastic wrap, ready to go to the steamer--after I finish painting the second section.  The brown-black (which I actually mixed using purple) isn't QUITE what I had planned in my head, but it's all right.

Second section painted--better, but will probably wish that I had left even more natural, and done more with lighter tones.  We'll see what happens in the steamer.

And, because I like a couple of the colors and want to have some record of what the formulas produced (and because I have some dye left over), I use some small bits of Romney to do some samples.

They all go into the steamer, their own personal sauna.

When they come out and cool, I unwrap them.  The aqua I used to mix one of the greens has not absorbed--though every other color has absorbed completely.   The blue-green has migrated into the other green more than I would have liked, but for a first try I'm fairly happy with it.  (And the brown/purple/black is absolutely PERFECT!)   Next time I would mix more yellow with the first green, so there is more contrast between the two greens.

Now they wait to dry.  I could hardly wait to unwrap them--how will I wait until they dry to spin them???