Saturday, December 15, 2012

Some personal news and a knitting/crochet challenge

To make a long story short, I found a lump on my face this past summer. Had it removed on Oct. 17 but didn't receive the pathology report until Dec. 2, just 2 days after my brother's chemo was stopped. It was a MALT tumor, a rare type of non-Hodgkins lymphoma. I've seen the oncologist and been tested, everything looks to be clear except the margins around the tumor. Bypassing the medical technical jargon, it's not the type of tumor or surgery that would ensure that they got it all. So it looks like I'm heading for radiation therapy in the new year, barring a positive bone marrow biopsy (not likely).

Here's the thing--during my trips to chemo facilities with family members and my own recent trips, I am stunned by the friendliness, gentleness and kindness of the patients. And they are friendly, gentle and kind regardless of the type or stage of their disease. So, here’s my plan. I’m planning to make 17 chemo caps, one for each of my sessions. When I’m finished I’ll donate them to my cancer center (if my radiation oncologist has found the lady he wanted to contact) or another cancer facility in Pittsburgh. I’ll post my progress here, starting some time after the New Year since I don’t have a therapy schedule yet. If you want to make a few caps (or a lot of caps), I’d be happy to collect them and add them to my donation. Just email me for my mailing addy--carol(underscore)mcfadden(at)verizon(dot)net. However, if you want to find a facility in your own town to contribute them I’m good with that too. That way I’m not asking you good folks to spend money on postage, and the cancer patients who need something pretty and warm will still have their caps.

I just did a Ravelry search on ‘chemo caps’ and came up with 9 pages of free patterns. Since I just bought 10 skeins of various worsted yarn today--hurrah for Joanne Fabrics coupons!--that narrowed it down to 4 pages. There’s quite a few that would be good stash-busters, some cute cloches, and one do-rag that ties in the back. I tried to stick with bright but not too garish colors--burgundy, blues, grey mottled, one or two skeins of brighter happy yarns. That way the caps can be worn with a dress coat or a jeans jacket. There are also a lot of websites that give tips on type of yarn, etc for chemo caps.

I just feel that I’m lucky in the type of cancer I have/had and that there’s a cure just around the corner. So many folks do not have that, or they don’t have their own angels like I have, but they still smile at everyone in the waiting room and chemo areas and they fight a battle each day. I’m simply trying to pass around the good fortune I have. Won't you join me?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Thank you!

I want to thank all those who were there for myself and my family this past week:

To those who posted comments on my blog...
To the 7 Bluegrass artists who showed up at the funeral home and played for 2 hours...
To my SIL who allowed me to be a part of my brothers last journey...
To my nephew who drove 16 hours to be here...
To the nephews and nieces who wanted to be here but couldn't get away...
To the brother who turned around in WV and drove all the way back to be there for Paul...
To the grandnieces who sat by him and sang to him...
To the nephew and his wife who stood by him these last 2 months...
To the family friends who sent flowers, donations, food and fruit to help ease our days...
To the cyberfriends who I've never met but who were nonetheless there for me...
To anyone I missed in this list but who were equally important to us...

Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your kindness will always stay in my thoughts.

Monday, November 26, 2012

RIP Paul

Just a quick tribute to my brother Paul, who passed from this world last evening after a long and courageous battle with cancer. He was such a good guy, someone you would have been happy to know. I'll miss those long discussions over a cup or two of coffee, and the stupid way you answered your phone: "Hi! What's on. Your mind?"

My brothers L to R: Art, Ralph and Paul, c. 1950

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Celebrate Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday with a SALE!!

Celebrate Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday--Starting immediately and through midnight on Monday, Nov. 26, all items in my Etsy shop will be discounted 20% when you use coupon code Cyber2012 when checking out.

Buy fiber for your spinning friends, buy yarn for your crafting friends! And have fun shopping!

Monday, November 12, 2012

My article on carding has been published!

Several months ago I wrote an article on blending fibers/fibres with a drumcarder. A friend of mine did the photo shoot and we sent it off to Yarnmaker Magazine.  I've just gotten word that the November issue is on the stand in the UK and in the mail to subscribers. I'm so happy to be a part of this magazine and to be helpful in spreading textile pursuits around the globe. It's a great magazine with tons of informative articles--check your international news stands for a copy, although I'm not sure that it reaches us here on the other side of the pond.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Best brother ever!

Our house c. 1943 One of those guys on the porch is my skinny brother!

2005--Always up to something goofy

Family reunion in '08
Fixing our cellar steps, 2008
So good to see you again yesterday, although the circumstances are not the best. Despite our differences over the years, you were always willing to see the other guy's side of the issue and consider your actions. Although sometimes you needed to be smacked with the Clue-By-Four (don't we all?). You know you are my inspiration in my own battle?

See you in two weeks.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

New/old batts and other news

I've been revisiting old colorways, revamping some to bring them up to date with new materials and/or colors, and relisting them in the shop. The most recent additions:
Eggplant batts--Merino, silk and bamboo

Onion Chutney--Merino wool and bamboo

Apples and Oranges, inspired by Cezanne--100% Merino wool
Apples and Oranges--quick and easy marbled yarn!

After a hectic summer of teaching and traveling, I promised myself that I'd be more efficient and regular at posting updates and bits of information on spinning and knitting. Life keeps laughing at my attempts to be efficient and regular. I'll be off-and-on this blog for the next few weeks as family issues take priority over my time. But I'll be making batts, spinning yarn, tackling knitting mysteries and posting when I can.

Life is short, make it count!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

What's old is new again

Despite the fact that there's plenty of inspiration around (those autumn colors were changing daily!), I decided to go back in time and rework some of the older colorways. Actually, some of them don't need any reworking as they're fine the way they were. Others need a bit of tweaking, a little different shade of a color or a different way of carding the wool for a better end product (yarn or felt). First up, finished this afternoon and originally inspired by Cezanne's still life, Apples and Oranges

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

Is everyone ready for Sandy? I have enough water set aside to make coffee in case the power goes, and enough knitting/spinning to keep me occupied. Keep yourselves safe, please.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

I haz a distaff, I haz a distaff (insert Snoopy happy dance)

I've been hunting for a free-standing distaff for at least a decade. Ebay, Etsy, Google searches, word of mouth, antique shops, begging every woodworker I met--nothing. Last year my Google-fu worked and I found Bill Hardy of Turnstyles and asked him to make a distaff in walnut. My oldest brother, who I never met because he passed away the year before I was born, planted 7 walnut trees along our driveway in 1943. Six of the trees are still there, although I no longer get the walnuts from them because the squirrels always beat me to them. Walnut is my favorite nut and my absolute favorite wood.

Bill emailed me last month to say that the distaff was finished. This weekend we drove to Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival with the express purpose of picking up the finished distaff. I immediately ran over to it in the booth and hugged it and petted it, alarming Bill's son because the distaff had a 'Sold' sign and he didn't realize I was the buyer. I am so happy with this wonderful piece of equipment. The workmanship is supurb, even Bill's choice of where to place the turnings to accent the grain, the tines of the lantern top will pop out for storage (meaning they won't be prone to breaking), and Bill included two extra tines just in case there's an accident. The whole thing unscrews for storage! I am just over-the-moon happy with this and can't wait to dress it with flax for spinning.

Full height, about 5.5 ft.
Extension removed to MY height

Extension with hand-carved screw

Base--LOOK at that wonderful grain!

We settled the deal and I left the distaff to wander the festival for a bit. When we returned, I couldn't resist playing with the spindles. Now, I'm not normally a spindler because I use my yarn for knitting and I want it FAST--spindles just don't fit the bill for my purposes. However, this little spindle was just too fine to leave all alone in the booth and so it followed me home. Along with a new pen for the Husbeast, who said it called out to him for a home.

Yep, it was a good weekend!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Spring Flower Fever has struck!

I've been overjoyed at the spring flowers everywhere. Perhaps it's because the deer ate my hibiscus buds just before they bloomed, and 'trimmed' my rhododendroms severely this winter, but I NEED some color and scent this spring. My Easter azaleas (Husbeast and sons know that I love spring flowers and buy me some each Easter) are in the ground and have survived several frost warnings. A good friend brought me a bunch of blue hibiscus yesterday to cheer me after the deer damage to my own. And the one flower the deer don't seem to like for dinner are the wood violets that cover large portions of our lawn. So I went a little crazy in the studio last week and tried to reproduce some of my favorites, although I'm not quite sure how to mimic hibiscus flowers. Here's my results, available in my Etsy shop:

Wood Violets



And the thick 'n thin yarn spun from one of the batts, which will also appear in my Etsy shop as soon as I print a label with weight, suggested needle size, etc.

Azaleas yarn

And don't forget the Great Lakes Fiber Show in Wooster, OH. Tomorrow, April 30, is the last day to sign up for workshops and there are some great classes this year.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Guild exhibit at Shaler Library during the month of May; Reminder to register for classes at Waynesburg Festival

The Butler Spinners and Weavers Guild is hosting a display of textiles at the Shaler Library on Mt. Royal Blvd. My friend and I are hanging the show and did a mock-up of the display this past week. Folks, there are some lovely pieces in the show. Our guild is full of talented people. I'm entering 3 pieces but have only photographed one, the handspun handknit linen market bag. It's a small bag but I'm sure I can fill it up at the yarn store (like I need more yarn?).

With apologies to my guildmates, here's a few shots of other pieces.....

This is going to be a great show!

And I wanted to remind folks that this is the first year classes are being offered at the Waynesburg Sheep and Fiber Festival in mid-May. There are some great knitting, spinning, crochet classes being offered for first-time crafters and this is a great opportunity to learn a new skill! Yep, I'm the spinning teacher and I'm looking forward to meeting some wonderful new spinners that weekend.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Fractal spinning the easy way!

I was reading some Ravelry posts about spinning handpainted or dyed roving and noticed discussions about fractal spinning. This is a method of dividing the roving so that the colors and spun in differing lengths. Usually the roving is split in half and the first half is spun up. The second have is split into 2 or 4 or however many you want strips and spun up. These two differently spun singles are then plied--the lengths of color will not match each other, giving a richer color distribution throughout the plied yarn. And I realized that two of my sock batts would make fractal yarn! I came up with this concept because I was tired of the blended and/or striped sock batts I'd been making (yes, I spin up my new ideas and knit socks for myself before I put the batts up for sale). If you pull these batts into strips and spin them in order or Z-strip them for spinning, you will create the same fractal effect as handpainted roving. And my batts contain purple, which is ALWAYS a good idea!


Saturday, March 31, 2012

Oh, it just hasn't been a good week to finish my vest....

Our spinning and weaving guild is celebrating our 30th anniversary this year, and the first of several displays will be mounted in May at my local library. I've been trying to knit a simple vest from the Winter 2011 Spin Off magazine with my handspun. This was my starting yarn:

Cherry Divinity yarn

I needed 2 accent colors and choose a deep red heather top and a charcoal heather top, spun the yarns and started knitting. Ran out of the charcoal. I knew I needed another entire skein as the charcoal would also be used for the neckband, and so I spun up a bobbin early in the week, plied and washed it, and started knitting again.
The vest back

I've now run out of the deep red yarn--just 3" from being finished with the 60 stitches on underarm portion of the back of the vest! Ack! Drat! Dagnabbit! sigh.....

Not nearly enough yarn there.....

So it's back to the wheel today, wash the yarn tonight and hopefully continue the knitting tomorrow. It's so frustrating when I keep running into problems on such a simple project, but I suppose it's my own fault for not guestimating my yarn requirements correctly. Live and learn.....

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Article about my batts in Yarnmaker magazine!

Well, I can finally stop keeping secrets! The latest issue of Yarnmaker, a spinning magazine published in the UK, contains an article about my batts entitled "Beautiful Batts and Husky Hats". Elizabeth Lovick, who is a wonderful designer/spinner, purchased some of my Siberian Husky blend batts, spun them up and knitted a great hat. I've known for some time that the article was coming but couldn't say anything until press time. I'm just so excited about this! And now I must go card more batts......

Friday, March 23, 2012

Getting ready for classes

It's officially Spring! Nice weather means that I can dry my yarn and dyed articles outside where they dry much faster and there's little chance that the cat will 'help' by pulling wet skeins off the drying rack. I typically don't dye much because I just don't like the mess, but I also can't resist making colors. So I end up doing some dyeing once or twice each year.

Since I wanted to show my students at the Great Lakes Fiber Festival a few fun things, I'd purchased a few little bags of fibers I didn't have in stock, including tencel and cotton nepps . Monday was the perfect day for dyeing them. The tencel presented no problems as it wetted out quickly and absorbed the dye nicely. Since the cotton nepps were still floating in the soda ash soak (even with the addition of Synthrapol) I let them soak for another day. On Tuesday most of the nepps were wetted through so I decided to go ahead with dyeing even though the dry nepps wouldn't absorb any color. I let them sit in the dye until last night to make sure that the color took on the little cotton bits. The cotton is still sitting on the drying rack but the dyes are exactly the same color as the tencel so I haven't bothered with photos.
Clumps of tencel, which become individual tiny balls of tencel once they dry completely.
Since I was already making a mess of the laundry area with dyes and chemicals, I decided to dye the wool/cotton yarn I'd spun years ago. My expectation was that the cotton clumps in the yarn would take the color while the wool would remain it's natural color or become tinted with the dyes. Imagine my surprise when the wool also accepted the fiber-reactive dye! I've rinsed the yarn till the water ran clear, but the wool still retains the dye to a stronger degree than I'd expected.

Fiber, it's all a learning experience and so much fun to explore!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Another long gap in posts, but I'm back again

Phew! I've been dealing with family medical issues, renovation on in-laws house so we can sell it, lining up my teaching schedule and working with our guild to celebrate our 30th anniversary--where did the time go?

1. Family is all well now, and my neck is feeling much better after many visits to the chiropractor's office. A note to my friends--pay attention to neck injuries, they can lead to arthritis or worse later on.
2. Renovation on my studio is finished, renovation to in-laws' house is almost finished, yah!
3. TEACHING COMMITMENTS 2012: I'll be teaching Spindle Spinning at the Waynesburg (PA) Sheep and Fiber Festival, May 19 & 20. On May 26 & 27 I'll be in Wooster, OH at the Great Lakes Fiber Show. Saturday's class is Spinning Textured Yarns, and on Sunday I'll be teaching Spinning Knob (Knot) and Slub Yarns.
4. The Butler Spinners and Weavers Guild has 3-4 shows lined up in different venues during 2012, and one lecture planned for the fall. The first show will be held at the Shaler Library during the month of May. The remaining shows/lecture plans aren't completed yet, but stay tuned. Folks in the Pittsburgh & Butler areas might want to set aside Oct. 20 for something special.

And of course I haven't gotten my pieces for the May show finished. I had enough main color for the Color Blocks Vest in Spin Off, Winter 2011 but needed to spin up the accent yarns I wanted to use. Here's a shot of all 3 yarns and another of the swatch to test color sequence.

While I was at the wheel, I decided to ply the linen I'd spun during Penn's Colony festival back in September. I ended up with 110 yards, just enough to knit a Farmer's Market Bag (pattern on Ravelry, can't find it on the web)

Outside light source

Inside light source

Monday, February 13, 2012

Quick post

I've been out of town for over a week and then spent another week trying to catch up on stuff! This is a quick post to say I'm still here, and want to share this video that DS #1 sent me this morning. Giving you a link because either: a) Blogger doesn't like to embed videos, or b) I really am no good whatsoever at embedding videos.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Christmas knitting--all done! (Warning--some adult content)

As the saying goes, better late than never. When we went to the Dutchess County Sheep & Wool Festival (Rhinebeck) this fall, our son drove over from Connecticutt and spent the afternoon with us. Being surrounded by yarn and sheep and stuff, he finally began to understand what the frenzy is all about. He got caught up in the festival, bought a skein of sock yarn for me to knit socks for him (which will be finished in the future), and asked if I could make a vest for him because he's frequently chilly at work. Who can turn down a request like that? I'd taken his measurements earlier in the year, we corresponded for a few weeks about color and fit, I ordered the yarn and away I went. The first one didn't work out well (more on that in a future blog) and so, at the beginning of December I ordered more yarn and knitted frantically to make my Christmas deadline. It was finished up to the armholes on Christmas Day, he tried it on and approved of the color/fit. It took me another 2 weeks to finish the top half and knit the armhole and neck trim and ship it off to him--but it's DONE! Here he is on Jan. 11 wearing his new vest at work.

(Yes, son, you're on my blog!)

In the meantime, I seem to have established a pattern with DS#2 who is an avid snowboarder. He once asked me if I could duplicate a bearded toque he'd seen on the slopes. Thanks to a kind designer on Ravelry, I could oblige him. It's now turned into a tradition--I find a funky hat pattern and knit it up, he wears the hat for the snowboarding season. This year I decided to out-do myself and use the Fornicating Deer graph, plugged into the Danish Ear Flap Hat in Hats On!  The hat was also my way of working through the news that my brother's cancer had reappeared--with each stitch I sent a little message to the cancer. And here's the hat, fuzzy because none of us could stop laughing!

(And so are YOU, Little Bear!)

All the yarns used in these garments had to be machine-washable. Because my boys "don't DO hand washing". Ah well, at least they appreciate my skills.

So, that's the story of MY holiday knitting. How did the rest of you do? Did you finish in time? Did the recipient(s) love your work?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

New studio for 2012

Facing south, July 2007
Above is the attic as I knew it while growing up here. Yep, that's coal dust all over every rafter and floorboard! Getting the Christmas decorations from the attic back then meant bundling up in warm clothes and washing the coal dust off when you left. We thought it was really cool when we got natural gas heat piped all the way back here to this old farmhouse.

During renovation, May 2008, with the original insulation.

October 2008, almost finished.

July 2009: All finished (you can see the collar ties near the ceiling) and in the middle of unpacking.
Well, it's not actually a new studio but a newly remodeled studio. The workman who originally finished the attic in 2008 left out a very important step, and the ceiling developed a black mold in the peak of the roof. Not the unhealthy dangerous kind, but a potentially damaging mold if we left it alone. So we had the ceiling ripped out, new foam insulation blown in, new dry wall put up, and then we painted it. The ceiling has been lowered to the collar ties, which will allow for air movement above the ties and serve as extra insurance against any mold ever forming again.

Nov. 2011: Everything clean & bright. Wheels, fiber & the rest of the weaving equipment now live there happily!
But the studio is now brighter with the lowered ceiling which allows the lighting to bounce downwards into my workspace instead of being absorbed by the high ceiling. I added a few more track lights to areas that needed it. When we moved here in 2009, all the boxes for the studio were dumped up there willy-nilly. It took me weeks to put things back together, decide how I wanted the room configured and unpack the boxes. Once I'd worked there for 2 years I began to realize that the layout could be improved so I could work more efficiently. In the process of moving back into the studio after the mold removal and remodeling, I had the opportunity to rearrange the work space, re-think my storage options, consolidate most of the stash, and give away those things I will never use again (my guild members were appreciative!). It's so much more efficient and livable now, I love it up there!