Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Why I make every effort to stand behind my work; pattern clarifications

I think most of us folks "of a certain age" can agree that customer service at big-name companies in the US has become scarce, if not completely extinct. On Feb. 4, 2006 hubster bought me a set of Godinger silver salt and pepper shakers for our anniversary. (The Steelers also won the Super Bowl the next day but I don't think it was intended as part of my anniversary present.) The set was part of my 'good china' used only on holidays and important dinners. I used the set that Easter. Took it out for Christmas 2006 to find that there was white crust on the side of the salt shaker, but I cleaned it and used it. Next time I wanted to use it for Easter 2007, it was again encrusted and the top was fused to the body by crust. Looked up the company online so I could ask them how to clean it and avoid the same experience in future--no address, no contact info as they are wholesale only. Six months later they now have email, which I used and to which I never received a reply. Couldn't use them for Christmas 2008 either, so sat down yesterday to search out a phone number which is now included on the website. First time, I went round and round the digital menu and finally left a message. Got tired of waiting for a return call and phoned again, only to be told that I shouldn't keep salt in the salt shaker (???). Then I'm transferred to 3 other people, none of whom "work in that department", including the supervisor (Mr. Torn) who got rather nasty with me and sent me back to his assistant, who tells me to contact the Mississippi plantation where the set was purchased. This is a direct quote from their website:
"The Godinger motto is, "customer first". Our aim is to focus on the unique demands of every customer, and to aggressively fulfill those needs. Our excellent customer service is what allows us to retain and grow our loyal customer base."

Really? In what alternative universe are you known for your customer service? Not here, not in my house right now. All I wanted to know was how to clean off the salt shaker so I could use it and learn how to care for it in the future. Godinger Silver is a lesson to me in how I will never treat a customer of mine. I may not be able to solve your problem, but at least I won't tell you that it's not my department and shove you off onto someone else.

All of which leads me to an small announcement. If you have purchased a copy of my Red Dog Redux Shawl pattern, please be aware that I've made some small changes to make the lace pattern easier to follow. If you're interested in receiving the clarifications, please contact me at feistywoman AT verizon DOT net.

Thank you all for being wonderful customers, wonderful friends and loving family this past year. May all your needs be met and may you enjoy good health, good friends and much love in the coming year.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Turning the page

The holidays are a few days away and I'm pushing myself to finish knitting the gifts I want to give friends and family. Obviously I can't post photos as that would be giving away the surprise, but I promise to try to get them up after Christmas.

Last month, I decided that I really needed to concentrate my efforts if I was going to complete the COE-Handspinning work for Level I. While in the Netherlands last year I did much of the research, but still have several in-depth research presentations to finish. Although I've done some of the spinning, I really need to start producing finished sample skeins to complete the 40 that are required. These are not projects that I can pick up and work on for 20-30 minutes but need my full attention. And all of it needs to be packaged in a certain way and sent off for the examination in October 2009. So this is my New Years resolution--I'll be devoting much less time to my Etsy shop and saleable items and spending several hours each day finishing up the research and samples for the examination. I'll still be teaching at the shop because I so enjoy enabling others, but I need to buckle down and get this done. I've already learned so much and refreshed my memory of spinning basics by doing the research. I'll be blogging about the work as it gets done and putting up photos, because I think this learning experience could benefit many of the spinners I know.

For those who observe the holiday (and those who don't, too!), I wish for you lots of yarn and fiber in your stocking, many happy hours of knitting, good health, and the love of those around you.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Last chance! and...What WAS I thinking?

The sale in my Etsy shop ends Tuesday morning. This is your last chance to pick up yarn for making gifts at 10-20% off, fiber to spin into gift sock yarn or gift socks at 10% off, and handspun/handknit scarves at 30% off. Don't wait till the last minute to buy, as I rarely repeat myself.

New addition to the shop today--It's Only Natural neckwarmer and mitts set:

And early tomorrow I'll be posting this handspun/commercial wool scarf:

This August I worked a shift at my CSA in exchange for $30 worth of produce. Silly me figured that it it's free I should take a bunch of apples and cabbage. The apples came home in September and I made tons of applesauce, apple butter and dried apples (great in hot oatmeal!). In early October I picked up a case of cabbage and we shredded and packed it in 2 crocks to ferment into saurkraut. (I'm of German descent and there's nothing better than a good wurst, potatoes and homemade kraut with a cold beer.) Last weekend the kraut was done and we proceeded to can it. I had 12 quart jars left and figured that was plenty--HA! After all 12 were packed solid, I still had 2/3 of the last crock left! We packed the rest into every plastic freezer bag we had. We figured we had a total of 24 quarts of saurkraut. Yep, 24 quarts! So we started calling friends and family to rescue us. We've managed to give away enough to ease our storage problem, but I've got saurkraut enough for the next 2 years. We have decided that 50# of cabbage was....ummm.....just a tad too much saurkraut. What WAS I thinking?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Holiday Sale! Come fill up your stockings with fiber goodies!

In preparation for holiday shopping and gift-making, I’ll be having a sale in my Feistywoman Designs Etsy shop. Starting the morning of November 27 through the morning of December 2, most items in my etsy shop will be marked down 10%, 20% and 30%. I carry handspun yarn, spinning fiber and completed garments so you have quite an opportunity to find something for all the folks on your shopping list. As always, there’s free domestic (continental US) shipping on orders over $50.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Six Hands: The yarn is finished and heading to the next artisan

I finished spinning and plying late on Saturday, washed the yarn on Sunday and let it dry while watching the Steelers football game. I will not comment on the game except to say that I'm happy we won and that perhaps the NFL should insist on more extensive training for the officiating department--which is MUCH nicer language than I used during the actual game!

The yarn is firm due to the nice tight spin and ply, yet soft and supple due to the Merino/alpaca fibers. Just the right yarn for a long-wearing yet soft garment. The yarn is being forwarded to Dottie at http://www.ccdzs.blogspot.com/ Let's see what her creative mind and talented hands can do with this yarn.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Six hands: It may LOOK easy to make yarn, but….

…getting it right is sometimes it’s a royal PITA. Here's the first bobbin of luscious alpaca spun up on my Reeves double-treadle chair wheel.

I’d planned to use some of my own combed top with the Whirligig Yarns dyed alpaca, and I chose the wrong colors for it! Well, not the ‘wrong’ colors as there really ARE no wrong colors, but the wrong colors for the end product I was trying to achieve. Here’s the waaay too bright yarn—

And here’s the waaay too bright yarn being stripped off the spinning wheel bobbin so it can be un-plied and respun onto the bobbin. It's a good thing that the cats had gone outside to climb the apple tree--they think I do these things just for their amusement.

And then I had to spin another color that would be closer to what I wanted and ply the alpaca with it. It took me the better part of an entire day to unply, respin, spin and re-ply the yarn. The first successful skein is finished, so it’s onward to spinning the second skein the next few days, washing both of them to remove spinning and hand oils and give the alpaca a little ‘bloom’, and then they go onward to the next craftsperson. Check back to see what happens….

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Six hands make a project

I’m a member of the Fiber Arts Street Team on Etsy.com—we call ourselves Etsy FAST for short, and it’s also the tag we use for the Etsy search engine so we can find each others’ work. We encourage, advise, and support each other in our creative paths and the team includes artists in most fiber mediums. Spinning, knitting, crochet, weaving, felting and embroidery are techniques that pop to mind although I’m sure I’ve left out a bunch of others (blame it on low caffeine levels today). We have monthly ‘challenges’ where we choose a topic meant to inspire us to create something that defines or describes that topic. We’ve done the Olympics, heroes, harvest, candy and others. Decembers challenge is teamwork, meaning we’ll do a piece using materials from another team member. Since I’m primarily a spinner I wanted to take it a step beyond simply spinning fiber from another member and suggested that some members could form a trio (or more) and work on a project. And I thought it would be fun to watch my trio progress toward the final goal, so I’m putting up pix of the fiber I’m working with. I stumbled onto this combed top at Whirlygig Yarns while wandering around the team sites and I managed to resist it for about….oh, 2 days maybe? It arrived home on Thursday and I couldn’t wait to get my hands into it. It’s 3.7 oz. of huacaya alpaca dyed in a soft rainbow of colors.

I’ve just started spinning it, and it’s just lovely to work with. The colors when spun up are clear and change frequently and the color changes are subtle which is just perfect for the end use. I’ll be combining this with some of my own fiber and will hopefully get about 600-700 yards of sportweight yarn. I’ll be posting photos of the yarn being spun and the final plied and washed yarn. And at some point we should be seeing the finished product. I already know where the yarn is going and she’s a wonderful artist, but you’ll have to wait to see what she does with my yarn!

And on another topic completely, Pitt tromped all over Louisville yesterday, Penn State was beaten by Iowa (snort, chuckle), and the Steelers are set to beat the Colts today at 4:15 EST. Life is good…..

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Ugly Yarn Day

No, I'm not declaring a new holiday (although I wish I'd been away from my studio today). After spinning all week and making lovely yarns, I've just had a very long Ugly Yarn Day. The first yarn was a 4 oz ball that I'd traded for on etsy. It's a nice green with a little mustardy yellow peeking out of the center, and I thought I'd do an Art Yarn with it by adding glitter and some felted nuggets. Had about an ounce spun when the mustardy bits started, and I discovered that they were really clots of short fibers, balls of dirt--really just seemed to be sweepings from the barn floor if I'm honest about it. See the mustard lump sticking up? There's a whole big clot of it right beneath the arrow.

Well, I finished the yarn and am in a quandry about what to do with it. See all those slubby bits? Do I go ahead and ply this yarn with an evenly spun yarn and hope it looks like a 'effect'? What happens if it gets huge pills when it's knitted up? There is no way I'm wasting my felted nuggets on this yarn--they will be added to another yarn that deserves it.....

Yarn No. 2 was a lovely 4 oz. ball of dark green and orange that I bought at a festival this summer. I thought I'd ply it with a lovely heathery brown that's been aging in the stash. Again, near the center I ran into a section where the orange was replaced by yellow. I spun on, figuring that the color change wasn't that bad and plying would soften it. You'd think, after all these years of spinning (30+), that I'd know better. See where the orange ends and then begins again several yards later? Aarrgghh!

I'm leaving my studio and wheels alone for the night. Maybe Rumpelstiltskin will come in the dark hours and fix everything for me. Ya think?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Home again, an incredible autumn vacation!

We arrived home Saturday night with new bikes and a head full of colorful memories. Our thanks to Nelson and Andrea at the Old Clark Inn for another lovely experience (and help with the busted bicycle).

New bikes--All ready to hit the bike trail Monday morning, and my front tire begins to peel off the rim. We find out the hard way that only Schwinn tires will fit their bikes, there are NO OTHER tires that will fit and there are NO dealers in the entire state. So we went bicycle shopping and bought 2 new bikes from Free Spirit Adventures in Caldwell. Amazing how many improvements have been made to bicycles since I purchased mine in 1990. They actually have comfortable seats now!

Cass Scenic RR--Since we couldn't ride on Monday we
headed to Cass to see the sights as it had been closed for the season last time we visited. Took a ride up the mountain on the Shay engine (not your usual steam locomotive) and visited the museum to see what this old company logging was like in its hayday.

Greenbriar River Trail--Not the most well-known bike trail (which is why we like it), this is a well-maintained trail for bikers, joggers and horseback riders. It's 76 miles long and we did over half that distance. Photos show hubby and I on the north end of Sharps Hill Tunnel. We'd have mid-morning coffee each day at Dirtbean Hale, pack a lunch and head out on the trail.

Highland Scenic Road--We drove the section that's Rte 150 from the Cranberry Mountain Nature Center to the intersection with Rte 219 near Elk River. I'll let the photos speak for the drive....

Fog rising from the valley on Saturday morning--

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Vacation again!

We're off to the wilds of West Virginia for a little peace and quiet and bicycling on an old railroad line. The guard cats (and Guardian Security) are in charge of the house while we're away. We'll be in Marlinton, WV at the Clark Hotel if anyone is in the area. It's a lovely B&B in a great little town. Last time we were there, the hotel owner clued us in to the chimney swifts and their sundown behavior--it was awesome to watch. Stay tunes to this channel for news and photos when we return......

Monday, September 29, 2008

Revision on one of my patterns

I spent the day rewriting one of my older patterns, which meant dragging out my notes and knitting up the item (it's an earwarmer, so not a huge job). If any of you have my Ergonomic Earwarmer pattern, be aware that there's an update that's much easier to read and to follow. It looks like this:

If you've purchased this patten from me, please get in touch and I'll be happy to send you a revised copy. I can be reached at carol (underscore) mcfadden (at) verizon (dot) net--replace the words in parentheses with the appropriate symbols. In the meantime I'll be going through my records for customers who bought this pattern and sending them a new one.

On another front, I've been busy spinning up the recent purchases and posting some of my new sock fiber on etsy. The most recent additions are American Beauty (looks just like the rose when spun up) and Sweet Peas......

I love that sheep, don't you? He was a very-much-appreciated gift from a good friend who understands me only too well. Speaking of sheep, I'd also like to report that No. 55 (the speed-limit sheep from the mattress company commercials) is quite happily hanging out with his kin here at my house. Thanks, guys!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

I just LOVE fiber shopping....

We just returned from Finger Lakes Fiber Arts Festival. It was our chance to leave the work behind and just go have a good time in upstate New York. Talked with wonderful fiber folks like Maggie Alexander of Maggie's Farm, Bob from Winderwood Farm (look for him on eBay and Etsy) and Jonathan Bosworth who worked his little miracle on my Journey Wheel and with whom we solved the world's problems during a couple of discussions. We also went wine shoppping as we always do when in the region. We picked up a really nice Concord grape wine and a couple of ice wines which I ADORE for sipping after a nice dinner. Saturday night we stopped at the local Tops grocery store, bought some lovely cheese, olives, veggies and a multigrain bagguette to go with the wine. We had quite the picnic in our room, munching Brie/bread/olives, sipping good wine and reading our respective books. It was just the break we both needed.

And now for the good stuff. Some dyed BFL from High Bid Farm (no website but you can find them if you do a search):

The photo just doesn't do it justice, it's much richer than this shows, but what more can you do with the lighting in a motel room?
The always-incredible dyed fiber from Winderwood:

And from Spinners Hill, some combed top and complimentary-colored pouffy fiber (okay, so the technical term is carded cloud, but 'pouffy fiber' sounds exactly like the fiber feels):

I haven't included the fiber I bought this morning, cause there just isn't space for all those photos--once it's spun up I'll do the photography. Trust me, it's luscious! I guess I'm gonna be busy the next couple of weeks. Hopefully most of these will be appearing in the etsy store--except for the Purple Pouffy Fiber, which is mine, Mine, MINE! (I may allow Martha to pet it but, IT'S MINE!)
Many thanks to the Genessee Valley Handspinners Guild who do all the work of organizing this lovely festival.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Someone remind me that I shouldn't work weekends?

Between teaching, working on Mom's house, family obligations and working on my business, I'm bushed today. Saturday I had 2 students for spinning, which I love teaching. It's all about that "aha moment" when they realize that twisting loose fiber makes YARN--what a revelation, and what fun to see that spark in someone's eyes!

Then we were off to northern parts to take our nephew to the bookstore and the ice cream shop for his birthday presents. Unfortunately, he's recovering from a nasty cold and had developed a bit of a fever by the time we left the bookstore so we took him home. Fortunately, he was entranced with his 2 books on sports cars and motorcycles, both of which have wheels (who knew that books on vehicles were now driveable?). I have to admit, the sports car book was something I pushed for--once upon a time there was a sports car rally near the LYS where I teach, and as I drove to class I followed a Ferrari F430 Spider and was beside a Shelby Cobra remake. When I arrived at the LYS I had to sit and spin for 10 minutes to calm down enough to teach. What I really wanted to do was follow the cars to the rally! I wonder why our youngest son owns 2 models of these:

(EDIT: I cannot get this photo to rotate back to it's original orientation and Blogger is no help at all. You'll just have to turn your 'puters sidewise to view son's 1992 MR2)

and was sent to college on condition that he buy me a purple 350Z when he got a job?

Sunday was for working at the other house shoveling mulch around the fruit trees that are left after the deer onslaught, watching football (Go Steelers!), and shooting the items to go in my store this week while shooing away the cats. Y'see, when it's near Dinnertime At The Cat Ranch the boys are merciless in letting us know that they are starving and need sustenance. It's a whole process involving pitiful meows, rubbing against the camera tripod, and pointed stares directed our way. Then hubster appeared at the door and they went after HIM.....

"We saw you, yeah, we did! Open the darn door NOW!"

"And I'm gonna be the first cat in the door--don't get in my way Mercury, or it's curtains for ya!"

And now I am, on Monday, incredibly tired and dragging my butt around the house, trying to be effective and productive.....oh well.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Handspun Delight Scarf pattern

Handspun Delight Scarf by Feistywoman Designs©
(Beginning Knitting Skills)
In this scarf, you have the opportunity to use up those little bits of handspun yarn to create a unique, reversible and easy scarf.

Finished Size: Approximately 4" wide and 72" long
Yarn: approximately 100 yds each of 4 different Worsted weight yarns at 12 wpi. Mark them as Colors A, B, C and D. I like to use a variegated yarn, a textured yarn, and two solid color yarns.
Gauge: 4 sts & 9 rows/inch in Garter Stitch.
Check your gauge before beginning, although exact gauge isn’t necessary in a scarf.
Needles: 40" US #8 & 9 (5 & 5.5mm) or size needed to obtain gauge and/or make a fabric YOU like.

You will be knitting the scarf longways, making knots at the end/beginning of each row to form the fringe. To do this when the next row uses the same color, simply make a loop about twice the length of the desired fringe (8-1/2" loop for 4" fringe), make an overhand knot snug up against the knitting, and continue back with the working yarn. To do this when the next row uses a new color, cut the yarn to the desired length (4-1/4" for 4" fringe), tie a knot with this strand and the end of the new yarn.
The bind-off leaves one lonely strand of yarn–you may leave this end as is, or add it to the last knot, making that knot a 3-strand one.

Row/Color Sequence:
Cast On and Rows 1 to4--A
Row 5--B
Rows 6 to 8--C
Rows 9 to 13--D
Row 14–A
Rows 15 to 17--B
Rows 18 to 22--C
Row 23--D
Rows 24 to 26–A
Rows 27 to 31–B
Row 32–C
Rows 33, 34 and Bind Off–D

With larger needles and Color A, cast on 250 stitches. Turn work, switch to smaller needles, pull out a loop for the fringe, make the knot and knit back across the row. Turn. Pull out a fringe loop, make a knot, and knit back. Continue in this manner, making knots either with the same yarn or the new yarn, and following the Row/Color Sequence chart. When you complete Row 34, switch back to the larger needles for the bind off. Cut the fringe loops if you want or leave them as is. Hand wash the scarf, lay flat to dry (Garter Stitch will stretch lengthwise if you hang it), and give the scarf to someone you love. Better yet, give it to someone you like and make them your new best friend!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Sewing up stuff and sneak peak

I've been making scarves for the last week or so, and having a
blast choosing color combinations for these. All I have left to do
is add the appliques and finishing touchs, stitch my labels in and photograph them for the shop. These are just too much fun to knit and I think I'm addicted! This is today's pile of scarves to be finished--->

And this is the original scarf I designed last year to use up scraps
and sale bin skeins--->

I was too lazy last week to type out the free scarf pattern mostly because the table showing what color to use on which row just won't format for the blog. Hopefully, this week I'll have the time to sit down and reformat the pattern so it can be uploaded here and be easy to access. What I really, really need is someone to be my office manager/IT administrator so I can spend more time creating fiber and yarn and garments!

Speaking of creating fiber, here's a sneak peak of the
wool/nylon/bamboo sock batts I've been working on lately.
They should be up in the shop in a few weeks. This colorway is Morning Glories, one of the 10 colorways in my Posy Toes Bamboo line of sock batts. I've spun up several of these and they spin like buttah! And we all know how good bamboo is for our feet and for the environment! Now I just need to decide how many of the spun skeins will go to Natural Stitches for sale, and how many will stay with me--it's like selling my babies, y'know what I mean?

I also have a neckwarmer pattern in the works but it's still in it's embryonic stage. Very easy to knit up, very elegant to wear, and different from other neckwarmer patterns I've seen. I'm pretty excited about it. As they say in the advertising industry, watch this space for future developments......

Monday, August 25, 2008

In a designing type of mood

Lately I’ve been in Design Mode and have been writing up a couple of patterns that were rattling around in my head. The first was a scarf I did last year to use up some handspun and some coordinating balls from a sale bin. I had to test-knit another couple of scarves in order to remember what I did--making sense of those little bits of paper with scribbled notes was NOT easy! And I decided that it was a great little design, and just too simple for me to justify actually charging cash-money for it. So the scarf pattern, Handspun Delight, is now available as a free pattern in pdf format (meaning you will need Adobe Acrobat or some other pdf program to read/print it). Please contact me for a copy by leaving a comment containing your email address (this website does not support downloadable pdf’s). I will not publish your comment unless you give permission, but will forward the pattern via email ASAP.

The second pattern, a neckwarmer, should be ready for publication in a few weeks. I still need to finish knitting the first one, have it test-knitted and write up the pattern. And somewhere in there I’m supposed to restock my Etsy shop……

Not that I’m complaining. I love what I do, and I usually end up working 7 days a week just because I like what I do. Sometimes I have to remind myself that there is a life outside of fiber, y’know?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Spinning Sock Yarn--Twist and Ply

While 2-ply yarns is just fine for socks, you may want to consider 3-ply, Navaho ply (3-ply the easy way), or a cabled 4-ply yarn for you socks. 3- and 4-ply cabled yarns appear to make longer-wearing socks, but of course are thicker and can be more work to produce. You must decide for yourself what you want, but you should always ply sock yarn to make it stronger and even out the inevitable variations in thickness we find in handspun yarns.

You should also keep in mind that the amount of twist required in the singles yarn is affected by the amount of twist that will be subtracted when you ply. 2-ply yarn needs more twist, as the tight plying required for sock yarn will subtract twist from the singles; 3-ply requires less twist as there are three strands of singles being twisted in the opposite direction and thus less twist is subtracted from each individual singles. Cabled 4-ply is a yarn that takes some thought and experimentation to come out perfectly balanced—this is one that requires experimentation and note-taking, but is well worth the effort.

Some pros and cons of the different plying techniques:

Advantages: Quickest path to finished sock yarn
Disadvantages: Can wear faster than other techniques

Navaho ply
Advantages: Great way to preserve the striping in variegated singles
Quickest way to get 3-ply yarn
Disadvantages: Little bumps can irritate sensitive feet
Requires finer singles and more yardage than a 2-ply of similar thickness

Advantages: Avoids the little bumps of Navaho ply
Allows use of 3 different (in color/texture/content) singles if desired
Disadvantages: Requires 3 bobbins/cops of yarn, all approximately the same yardage

Cabled 4-ply
Advantages: The longest-wearing socks
Allows for many effects with any combination of singles being different in color/content/texture
Disadvantages: Takes the longest to spin a finished, with 3 steps involved (4 singles, then two 2-ply, then one 4-ply

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Spinning yarn for socks 2--consistent weight yarn

Once your fiber is ready to spin, you need to decide what yarn weight you want to spin. Fingering is the commercial standard for sock yarn, but you’re in charge of your yarn now, so DK, Sport or Worsted are all possible. Fingering weight makes something you can wear in your Birkies or to the gym, DK and Sport are good for hiking socks, and Worsted is great for work socks and bed socks. A good way to ensure that you spin a consistent size is to tie a few inches of commercial yarn to the front of your wheel or near where you spindle, so you can easily glance at it to remind yourself of the size you want. Remember that the commercial yarn is plied, so you’re aiming to spin to the size of the singles that make up the finished yarn.

Sample, sample, sample till you achieve the weight you want, and make short notes on how you made each sample (number of treadles, length of yarn drafted till wind-on, etc). For spindlers, you can lay the spun yarn on a piece of paper and draw a line to represent the twist angle, which will give an indication of the amount of twist you inserted in that particular length of yarn. Immediately after spinning a length of yarn, let it twist back on itself in a 2- or 3-ply—this is what your finished yarn will look like. When your sample is the yarn you want for your socks, simply continue to duplicate the steps in the notes you took for that sample, and check your yarn weight occasionally be letting it double back on itself and comparing it to the commercial yarn. By keeping notes and checking your spinning, you can interrupt your spinning and pick it up again later and still be consistent. Keep in mind that sock yarn needs a little more twist and a tighter ply than usual garment yarns because socks take quite a bit more wear and tear. More on this next time….

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Sadness and hatred

I'm battling sadness today and have been trying to deal with this since last evening. I come from a big family, you know the kind of family folks used to have to help with the work around the farm and deal with the higher mortality rate in those days. Mom actually lost 3 of her 9 children before I was even born! And we have our share of family spats. Except my family likes to deal with their differences by announcing "I'll never speak to xxxx again!" which I think is an absolutely silly way to deal with things. How will you resolve your differences if you don't speak to someone? How will you even let them know what p*ssed you off in the first place? I mean, I thought that kind of behavior was left behind in 6th grade, know what I'm sayin?

Anyway, I took the opportunity to visit one of the estranged relatives who is "never going to speak to" his mom or siblings again. But I'm the aunt and figured since I didn't have anything to do with the spat and didn't even know what caused it, it'd be okay to visit and invite them over for dinner this weekend. Rang the doorbell twice--no answer so I figured it was broken and I knocked, causing the dog to go nuts--but I heard voices calming the dog and saw someone look out the curtain. Knocked a second time and announced myself, since they hadn't seen me in a couple of years. Their college-age daughter comes out, closing the door behind her, and announces that they are not interested in coming to see me and in fact don't want to see me at all. I ask what I've done to them, and the girl says she doesn't even know me, doesn't want to know me and wants me to leave. What kind of person sends their kid to the door to do their dirty work? Last time I saw this girl, she was about 5 and here she stands sending so much venom my way that it was overwhelming.

I'm not religious, but I do believe in being kind and behaving well. How, and why, do you teach a child to hate someone they don't even know. This girl and her sister have grown up not knowing their grandmother or 4 aunts/uncles, 5 great-aunts/uncles, 30+ cousins and multitudes of second cousins. Because their father is angry at his mother. And their mother is angry with him. It's just so sad that two people and their anger can ruin the childhood of two once-lovely girls. And what will those girls teach their children (if they can find someone who wants to share a life of anger and hatred with them)? Wow. Just......Wow.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Spinning yarn for socks 1--prepare your fiber

I've had several requests to write something on spinning sock yarn. This will be the first in a series of three lectures (ramblings?) about how I construct my sock yarn--YMMV.

Once you've chosen your fiber for socks (you can't go wrong with Posy Toes Sock Fiber), the key to spinning fine yarns like sock yarn is to use a thin fiber source. Meaning, if you're using top or roving (wool that comes in long ropes) it's best to split these lengthwise into strips about the size of your little finger or finer. I typically split top into 8 strips and roving into 4-6 strips. If you've got batts like my Posy Toes batts, you can make strips or roll them into really big rolags (see below for handling rolags).

Next, you'll need to pre-draft or attenuate the strips. Hold the end of a strip in two hands, making sure that your hands are further apart than the staple length of the fiber. In other words, if your individual wool fibers average 3" long, your hands should be 4" or more apart. Gently pull the strip in one direction so the fibers begin to slide past each other. You'll notice that the strip is slightly fluffier and less compressed--that's exactly what we want! Continue working your way from one end of the strip to the other. You can leave your attenuated strip in a heap on the floor and spin from that or, especially if you have feline pets, you can roll it in a ball and keep it in a basket or your lap while you spin.

If you're using rolags made from batts or from handcarding, simple take one between your hands and start stretching it out. Work from one end to the other, and if it's still not thin enough for your likeing work back to the other end. Carded batts take several passes until they're thin enough for sock yarn.

Once your fiber is prepared, there's nothing left to do but spin it up. More about deciding the yarn grist (thickness), twist and plying in future posts.......

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Yarn sale! Yarn sale!

YARN SALE!! Can you believe I've been on Etsy for only a year? Seems like it's been longer, but then again I had to put the shop on hiatus when we were transferred out of the States for 3 months. Anyway, to celebrate my first anniversary on Etsy, I'm having a yarn sale. I have put all 19 handspun yarns on sale, many of them are multiple skeins and will have enough yarn for an entire project! All yarns are marked 10%, 15% or 20% off. In addition, I'm offering free shipping within the US on orders over $50--your shipping costs will be refunded via Paypal as soon as I receive payment. Sale will end on August 8.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Last years travels, Handwoven magazine and gardening

Hubby and I were transferred to the Netherlands last September and stayed for 3 months. We were joined in November by DS #2 and his SO. This is us hanging out on a windmill platform just south of Amsterdam. On my "Bucket List" I have now added a ride on a windmill wing--once a year, you can pay the miller to strap you into a harness and rotate you with a stop at the top to admire the view, upside down of course. DS and I want to go back and try it out--ya only live once and may as well make it worthwhile!

We met many amazing Dutch folks (the bakery with their evil caramel cakes

and the fish store owners who would cook reheatable meals were favorites in our neighborhood). And I hooked up with a group of local spinners. They were also accomplished weavers and knitters and I thought US folks should have an introduction to these amazing people. I've been working on a travel article for several months now, and have gotten confirmation from Interweave Press that it will appear in the upcoming issue of Handwoven Magazine. I'm honored to be able to introduce you to Annie and Ineke--you should know that the Dutch are just as bad at enabling fiber purchases as anyone else. This is the spinning fiber I bought at the annual retreat.

On another topic, we've just spent the weekend working at our other house where I grew up and which needs a bit of renovation before we can move in. We're hosting a family reunion there in 2 weeks and want to have the garden in some sort of shape by then. Last year it looked like this...

Garden is finished! August 4, 2008

We've taken down the old deer fence, cleaned out all the dead plants and numerous butterfly bushes, lifted the walking stones, laid down a weed barrier and are in the process of covering it with pine/black walnut mulch made from trimming the trees on the property. We'll then re-lay the stones and put up another deer fence. My arms and back hurt from all that shoveling, but next year and all future gardening years will be much easier once this work is done. I'm really looking forward to eating all those fresh organic veggies and fruits.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Return from vacation and His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Family in Connecticut are doing as well as can be expected with summer colds and other stuff going on. My brother knew us and knew our son and was making jokes—all good signs! Our nephews girls (4 and 2 years old) came over from Manchester Center to visit and I was treated to a manicure as only little girls can do. Rather than fight over doing my manicure, we decided they should take turns painting each finger. My left hand was lavendar and my right hand was pink, and all 10 nails had glitter applied on top of the color. Thank goodness SIL had a big bottle of polish remover and lots of cotton balls! I'm knitting purple/red/pink striped socks for SIL to thank her for her hospitality and her polish remover; photos will appear on Ravelry as soon as I get the chance to take them.

We left CT early, and dropped our son at his place in Manhattan. Then we headed for Allentown where we had tickets to see His Holiness the Dalai Lama at Lehigh University (hubbys alma mater). He gave a 90-minute talk on Generating a Good Heart and was given 2 standing ovations before he even opened his mouth to speak. I have no words to describe how I felt or how the entire lecture hall felt—there were no coughs, no cell phones ringing, no undercurrent of chitter-chatter. Just silence and rapt attention to his words and thoughts and laughter at his jokes. He brought the house down when asked what he would choose to do if he hadn't been chosen as the Dalai Lama--he would have chosen to be an engineer which is what Lehigh is famous for! I find myself hearing his echo in my head every time I’m anxious or starting to stress out or thinking that someone is a jerk. He has a very clear, peaceful and serene outlook on life. If you’d like to hear his entire lecture (or even download it), Lehigh has it online here http://www3.lehigh.edu/dalailama/multimedia.html

I’m off to get some work done. Everything seems to have piled up while I was gone—imagine that!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Pleased as punch; vacationland

I am happy to announce that my sock fiber has been used in a new sock designed by mensabuttercup (see http://www.buttercupia.blogspot.com/, June 29 post on Cucumber Falls Socks). That's my Silver Ferns colorway there, yep it is! She is such a talented spinner--her yarn was spun fine enough that she could Navaho ply it (which makes a 3-ply yarn while conserving the color striping) and have enough to knit a pair of socks. My hat's off to you for a fine job, and the sock pattern ain't too shabby either.

I've been working on spinning each of my Posy Toes colors just because I want to see them for myself and play with different methods of handling the colors. So far I've done Lisianthus

followed by Gloriosa
and the first one I finished and then knit into a sock, Lunaria.

Only 7 more to spin, then on to the Posy Toes Bamboo colorways. I'll be introducing these in my Etsy store as soon as I have at least half of them prepared and photographed. I'll be chained to my wheel for months!


I will be heading out for a weeks' vacation to see my brothers family in another state. Originally we'd planned to spend the week with my brother at his house because he's not in good health. But he was admitted to a home 3 weeks ago, so I suppose I'll be visiting him there once or twice and spending more time with his wife, children and grandchildren. It sucks to watch one of your favorite siblings get old....

I should be back posting sometime after July 14 or 15. In the meantime, the cats (and our son) will be on guard duty around here, making sure that no breaks in to steal my stash.

Monday, June 30, 2008

House renovation progress, help with Dutch pattern?

We were at the other house this weekend (as we do every weekend until it's in move-in condition) and the attic project is almost finished. It's to be my new studio, with lots of storage space behind the knee walls and my own air conditioner/heater. Here's a few before-and-now photos:

It's just a little lighter and airier now, isn't it? Can't wait to get my wheels and fiber moved in there. The space in the last photo is where I'll be putting my antique loom once I get it out of storage, cleaned up and set up. There will be track lighting with both indoor and outdoor fixtures so I can work in the best light possible. I'm so excited to se this project nearing completion!

On another subject, does anyone speak both knitting and Dutch? I'm in dire need of someone to translate a book for me. While living in Noord Holland last autumn, I bought the latest Filati Mens Sweaters booklet from a friends shop in Hoorn. It's full of wonderful timeless-yet-sophisticated mens sweaters. We thought it would be no problem to have Filati send us the English version, but then we discovered once I returned home to the US that they were discontinuing the English version with this issue. In February I gave the book to my Pittsburgh Dutch friend who has translated 3 of the patterns. She emailed me yesterday that she will be too busy to complete the translation (about 6 more patterns if I remember correctly). Is there anyone who can finish the translation for me? The patterns themselves are only about 1/2 page long in the book, which comes to about one page as a Word document. Help.....