Thursday, December 19, 2013

Some new handspun yarns this week

I've finished up the Christmas gifts here at Chez Feisty. How are your projects going? Think you'll be finished in time to wrap your handmade gifts and put them under the tree? And I have photos but can't show them just yet because the recipients read this blog on Facebook.

However, I also managed to get some yarn spun this week in between visits to the garage, the hair stylist, the guild gathering--I had something going every day last week so the weekend came as a welcome respite. Before I decided to close the Etsy shop, I was working on a line of Tiffany-inspired braids. As I designed each one, I made two for sale and one for me to spin. If the color combination was ugly, neither the braid nor the yarn was going in the shop. Iris made the cut. The braids are listed but the yarn hadn't been washed and labeled before the closing sale. Here it is, although I'm not sure yet what it will become (suggestions welcome!):

I had also been working on a series of gradient batts for the shop. One of my friends has a weak spot for anything purple, as do I myself, and I came up with a teal-blue-purple-berry transition and threw in a handful of white silk noils for interest. I spun up a fat singles for him as a gift, and just finished a fine singles for myself.

I got 392 yards out of 1.8 ounces of fiber and intend it for a Moebius with an undulating stitch pattern. I'm excited to see how it turns out, so am taking it along on my Christmas travels. Moebius knitting is so relaxing and mindless for travel.

And as if that wasn't enough to keep me busy, the weather here is warming up and the contractor called Tuesday night to say that he would be here bright and early this morning. This old house still needs some work to make it energy efficient, or as energy efficient as a 101-year old house can be, and so the basement windows are being replaced by double-pane windows. No glass block down there, I like to open the windows in the summer so the breezes can blow through and help cool it down in the evenings. The window cleaners also called last night to say they'd be stopping this afternoon, so I've already taken down the plastic pine boughs along the fence so they can access the windows. So today is my day to stick near home, wrap presents and bake Grandmas Cranberry Bread.

Stay warm, enjoy the holidays and I'll see you all in the New Year!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

I have free time! And I can make stuff for ME! Just because I can!

I've been playing all week, now that I'm closing the online shop and don't need to spend so much time on that. So, here's the checklist of stuff done and in the works:

Knitted the sleeves of my friend's Tomten jacket for her son. She's become allergic to this particular wool and can't work with it for long, so I've done the sleeves and she will finish the I-cord edging and weaving in ends. I hope he likes it!

Working on Christmas gifts. Can't say what they are or who they're for, but it's something I do every year. I usually work exclusively with my handspun but sometimes commercially spun yarn is called for. And that's all I'll say about it till after the gifting.

And, this fall I handpainted 2 pounds of mixed BFL roving. I've been picking away at spinning it up for a jacket for myself (I just love jackets for spring and fall wearing, so easy to toss on and head out the door). I'm over halfway finished and have just 4 more bobbins to spin up before I'm done. Because I have 8 oz. of Blue Moon Rockin' Whorl Club handpainted top that's calling me. Very strongly. And I refuse to start that till I finish the BFL.


Geez, this is so much fun. I can't wait for the New Year when I can start on all those fabulous ideas that have been swimming round in my head for months and years. I also got the chance to attend my guild's Teach and Learn meeting yesterday. It was great to have a day with fellow fiberholics, comparing projects and discussing techniques, talking about what's next on our needles/loom/wheel. I think I'm going to like this next phase of my fiber life.....

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate, and a lovely week to everyone else.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

I think it's time for a drastic change....

“There's no need to quit until you stop enjoying yourself.”

Yep, that’s where I am right now. I’ve been waffling for a year now about closing my Etsy shop. I love making stuff, I love putting that stuff in others’ hands to spin or knit or wear. I make so much stuff that selling my overload seemed a good idea at the time (2004). But now? Sales are down for all of us retailers. And I’m spending the majority of my workday doing self-promotion or paperwork, leaving the studio work to perhaps one or two days a week. And I don’t like paperwork or office work—I did that for 40 years and happily left it behind me.

I have had one customer that was problematic, which is a really high ratio of wonderful! But there have been many more difficult interactions with other vendors or business folk.  Back when I had my weaving business or my brick-and-mortar shop in the 70s and 80s, you only had to worry about shoplifters and outsiders; the fiber folk were ALWAYS the ones you could count on to be fair and ethical. Unfortunately, that attitude doesn’t seem to have held true. If you add to the paperwork load the fact that as a business owner I must work with unpleasant people, it’s just not fun any more.

I made the decision earlier this week that I didn’t want to deal with the downside of owning a fiber business anymore. What I WANT to do is finish my Master Knitter certification, design garments that have been living in my head for years, spin flax, spin cotton, play with weaving with handspun again, play with spinning yarn just for me. And I can't do those things as long as my time is devoted to dealing with paperwork and difficult situations. As a result, I’ll be posting ads and publicizing the closing of my Etsy shop. There will be graduated discounts as December rolls on, but I haven’t decided yet the exact timing or the exact percentage of discounts. It WILL happen in the next day or so (hey, I’m no whiz at creating ad graphics y’know?).

I will continue to write articles, design for handspun yarn and possibly teach, but the handspun yarn and spinning fiber and handspun handknit garments will go. Garments that don’t sell in the closing sale will be donated to a local shelter; yarn will be used to make a few blankets for the house; fiber will be spun up by me (finally! I get to spin my own stuff!) or gifted to friends.

I want to thank my loyal customers, you’ve been the best folks around! And my friends and family—you were the wind in my sails these past 8 years, thanks for always being there with assistance and encouragement.

Watch this space for dates/discounts, etc.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Another fun link, cat/human equivalent age

No posts over the Thanksgiving holiday as I had house guests, and just a short post today to tide us over until Thursday when I return from another trip. Husbeast and I were wondering just how old our cat would be if he were a human. He's pretty spry for being 16 years old with the beginnings of kidney disease, and we wondered if we'll be as spry when we're as old as him.

So I used this cat calculator. Oh my goodness, he's 81. I doubt I'll reach much more than that age, and this guy is still killing our throw rugs and chasing laser lights!

Hope your Thanksgiving (if you celebrate) was wonderful, have a lovely week and I'll catch up with you on Thursday.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

For your viewing pleasure, snowboarder videos!

Busy this week, traveling out of town tomorrow (not to worry--the neighbor and the security system are set to watch the house!). In lieu of a blog post, here's some exciting videos I thought you might like.

Ahhhh, glades, used to love skiing them (back when I actually had the leg muscles to take the impacts/quick turns)   

For those of you who know me, yeah, that's my kid on the board.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

If you're wondering what to knit with that skein of handspun you bought....

...I can help you with that. Once upon a time, I was developing a class of Uses for Leftover Handspun Yarn but it never really got off the ground--too little time in my schedule. And you're about to benefit from the notes I made!

Obviously, gauge and yardage are big considerations. Sometimes you'll have enough yardage for a whole item. I like to use Ravelry's data base, using the Pattern Browser function. Simply click on the attributes you know, like knitting or crochet, yardage, yarn size (DK, worsted, etc.) and see what comes up. You can fine-tune the search by selecting accessories or baby things--it's great fun to play with pattern ideas that way. Try knitting a tea cosy, perhaps even felting it for extra warmth. If you're like me, it's takes an hour or more to consume a pot of tea and having a cosy on the pot keeps it nice and hot. And your tea can keep you company while you browse more patterns on Ravelry....

Have lots of smaller skeins? I consider these design challenges; how can I combine colors and weights and yardage to make something special? (This is why I sell my Bits & Pieces sets in my Etsy shop--there are lots of creative people who need just a bit of certain colors.) Play with combinations of yarns, let them sit somewhere where you can see them daily, add a yarn/subtract a yarn each time you pass the grouping, and soon you'll have a coherent group of yarns that can be used for a garment or accessory. Try a lengthwise fringe scarf--see my Handspun Delight pattern on Ravelry, it's free for the downloading. 

Striped hats are another good use of small skeins; just use your favorite hat pattern and alternate yarns in skinny or wide stripes throughout. Both of these were made with a mixture of small skeins of handspun and commercial yarn. 

What about using those smaller lengths in a widthwise sampler scarf? Knit or crochet in a stitch you haven't used before until the yarn is finished, maybe do a few rows with a shorter length, then start a new stitch with a longer length. It will stretch your stitch knowledge and creativity. What about a diagonal scarf with stripes of different handspun yarn? Knot the ends at the edge and let them hang out for a touch of funkiness.

Making a solid color plain cardigan and want to punch it up a little? Pick up the neck and front edges with a single row of handspun in a pleasing color, then continue with the solid color. You could also add a row of the same handspun just above the cuff ribbing. Use your handspun to duplicate-stitch a little motif on that sweater and you've created a special piece that no one--NO ONE--else will be able to make.

It may be yarn and we all may be making garments, but that doesn't mean yarn can't be used like paint or colored pencils to create masterpieces. Try using some handspun in these ways; let your mind and skills take you some place special. Handspun yarn can push your creativity to new levels!

And please feel free to post photos of your work here, I'd love to see what you're doing. 



Friday, November 8, 2013

Why use handspun yarn?

I had a customer ask how to care for one of my handspun handknit hats, thinking it would be difficult to care for wool. And I realized that not everyone has been immersed in wool for 37 years like me, and may not realize the advantages of naturally-grown, naturally-processed fibers. So I'm climbing up on my soapbox and giving a lecture on why natural fibers and handspun yarn are very good for you.

1.  That difficult-to-wash thing? Nope, not at all. It takes the same amount of time for me to handwash woolens as it does for my machine to go through a load--40 minutes give or take a few minutes. You throw all your laundry in the machine, add detergent/soap, select the cycle and walk away.The machine beeps when it's done. For woolens, you choose an appropriate-size container (sink, basin or bathtub) for the items, fill with warm-to-the-touch water, add a wool wash product or a good shampoo (I like shampoo for colored hair as it tends to safeguard the color in dyed woolens), push the items down into the soapy water and walk away for 30 minutes. Then you gently squeeze the items a couple of times to release the dirt, squeeze out excess water, empty the container. Refill it with warm water, immerse the items, squeeze gently a few times to rinse, squeeze out excess water, roll in a towel and lay flat somewhere (a waterproof place like the top of your dryer or a drying rack), and walk away. Hint: Don't lay your woolens where your pets can find them or you'll be picking dog/cat hair off your precious woolens. That's Kitty Mercury's favorite trick, sleeping on a drying sweater.

And, I really only wash my sweaters once a year, before I store them for the summer. That's probably because I have so many that each one isn't worn enough to get really dirty.

2. Wool and most animal fibers are better for the environment than acrylic. This is not to say that acrylic yarns should disappear, because they have many uses. But animal fibers are renewable whereas petroleum is not. Animal fibers will biodegrade in our landfills (or around my fruit trees where I use leftovers as mulch);  acrylic and plastics will remain for perhaps a thousand years.

3. When my handspun handknits are no longer serviceable as sweaters/hats/mitts, I can recycle them. Mostly I throw them in the washer and felt them, which means the cat gets a new snuggly cat bed or the living room has new coasters on the end tables. Make coffee sleeves, sew the felt together for a scarf or new mittens/hat, let the kids cut them out and glue them to bulletin boards in their rooms, cut felt Christmas tree ornaments, etc.

4. Wool isn't necessarily itchy. My personal feeling is that this urban myth came about from WWII when the soldiers were given blankets made of "shoddy" wool--wool that had been sourced from wool rags that were mechanically torn into shreds, respun, rewoven and felted into blankets. We had a couple of those blankets when I was a kid and they were nasty nasty nasty! If you're really allergic, with the sneezing and itchy eyes, there's not much you can do. But not all sheep are the same, some breeds grow tough rug wool while others grow spongy soft stuff that you can wear next to the skin. Those who want a soft wool should look for Merino, Rambouillet, Corriedale and other wools that are known to be soft. Handspinners source their wool from local growers or from mills that realize handspinners will only buy/spin the soft stuff.And this is why all my skeins are marked with the sheep breed (if known) so you can buy with confidence that it will be a soft yarn or a yarn suitable for outerwear.

5.  The most important criteria for me? I can have whatever color, whatever texture, whatever size yarn I want. And when I make it into a garment, no one--NO ONE--will have the same garment. Because every spinner is working with her hands and heart and brain, and those hands/heart/brain will make design decisions that are different in some way from mine. My friends, using the exact same raw materials, will spin differently and knit or crochet or weave or felt something completely different from my work. Handspun, handcrafted items are one of a kind (OOAK) and should be treasured, cared for, used, reused, and used up. It's one of the reasons we have few surviving textiles--they were hand made with a lot of work and love and were considered too precious to toss away.

Buy handspun yarn, work with handspun yarn, support the creative folks who have chosen to design and produce lovely yarn and lovely hand made things--they are giving you their heart and soul.

And that's the end of the lecture. Hope you enjoyed it!

Friday, November 1, 2013

A little holiday down south....

I have all good intentions to post weekly but stuff gets in the way. Like the 5 pumpkins from my garden that needed to be processed and frozen (anyone want pumpkin muffins?), the huge tomato harvest that also needed to be frozen, and the last-minute article that had to be written to meet deadline. Little things like that.

Then I ran away from home, flying down south to get some sunshine and excellent seafood. Since Husbeast has been working in Louisiana for the past 2 years, I have become addicted to grilled oysters and mango daiquiries. We usually head for the French Market early on Saturday, grab breakfast at a local bakery/eatery, then head for the market to see what's new. This week the satsumas were around so we had to have a bag of those, and we found a few things to give to family at the holidays. Then there's lunch.....J's Seafood is directly across from Organic Banana. Yes!! Grilled oysters and a fresh mango daiquiri, while Husbeast prefers to experiment with different daiquiri flavors--I believe it was coconut lime this time?

The downside of the visits to Husbeast is that there's only one car so if I want to go shopping I have to ferry him back and forth to work on the construction site (he's an engineer and it's a very large steel operation they're building). This is the drive to the construction trailer. That's not swamp grass, that's sugar cane ready to be burned, cut, chopped and trucked to the processor.

Entering the site
Some truck trailers and bulldozers for size comparison

That large brown mound is processed cane. A VERY strong molasses smell hits you right about now.

Egrets hanging out around the cane.
The final turn toward the trailers, and it's a sugar cane tunnel!

On Saturday, we took a drive over the causeway that crosses Lake Ponchartrain. I've flown into NOLA over the lake a dozen times but never crossed the causeway. It reminds me of Westdyke in Holland, sans the grazing sheep on the sides of the dyke. The causeway has pelicans hunting the waters, but I couldn't stop to get a photo so you'll have to use your imagination.

There are sailboats out there somewhere....

And a couple of 'bumps' in the roadway so ships can pass under.

After a stop at the local yarn shop, McNeedles, we found lunch at the Abita Brew Pub. Abbey Ale is delish!

Followed by a Sunday brunch with sweet potato pancakes, seafood omelet and bottomless mimosas! Not saying how many empty bottles left our table, but we were certainly happy when we left.

I am relaxed and rested and brimming with new creativity. Amazing what a week of wonderful seafood and good company can do for a person's outlook on life. I am a lucky lady!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Cleaning up/cleaning out, and a little contest

It's getting colder here and I've got the urge to finally go through my stash. We had to move it all out of the studio so some work could be done two winters ago. By the time the work was finished, it was just too nice to spend more time inside than necessary so I put off the organizing. And then I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, had surgery, buried my favorite brother, ran away for the holidays, had radiation therapy and viola! it was spring again.

In the process of organizing, I found some acrylic yarn leftover from projects or abandoned and forgotten. I don't have grandkids, the nieces/nephews are raising their own kids, the grandnieces/grandnephews are teenagers so there's no knitting of acrylic kids' things. I don't make afghans and don't know anyone who does. So I'm shipping a box (a BIG box!) of yarn to my SIL's SIL in Connecticut. I know Heidi will put the yarn to good use, she's just a whiz at crocheting the cutest stuff. Without a pattern! She's incredible and I know the yarn will have a happy home.

I also found some books that are duplicates. How did I forget I had these books and go forward with buying a second copy? I dunno. Maybe my library is too big or I'm suffering from the post-menopausal stupids. Either way, yinz reap the benefits. I'm going to think up several challenges or games and give a book as prize. We'll start with Compendium of Finishing Techniques, Naomi McEneely (Interweave Press, 2003), original price was $29.95, spiral bound. Apparently, folks think it's valuable as Amazon has used copies listed for $29.98 and new ones for <gasp> $116.40!! This isn't a duplicate copy but I thought I'd need it and so bought it. Turns out, I have all that information in other books I own so it's just taking up space on the bookshelf.

What do you need to do? I want more Likes on my Facebook page. I want to hit 200 Likes. Go to the page, click the Like button, and PM me with your name. On October 31, I'll put all the names in a hat and let one of the neighborhood Trick-or-Treaters pull a name on Halloween night. Once I get in touch via return PM and have your mailing addy, I'll ship the book to you for your enjoyment. No worries, I'm not building a mailing list from this (unless you WANT to be added to a mailing list, in which case just let me know).

Here's a quick pic of the cover and Contents page. My apologies if it's not large enough, but you should be able to click on the photo to enlarge it. Leave a comment if you think I need to elaborate on the contents and I'll be happy to type them out if necessary.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

A new item up for sale--knitting kits with my own handspun yarn and my designs!

Breaking News!

I've just loaded my first two knitting kits in the Etsy shop. Last week I finally got the Three Rivers Kerchief pattern test-knit and posted on the site, today I'm adding my handspun yarn to the pattern so you can easily combine the right yarn with the pattern.

I have plans to continue with simple yet fun kits, adding my Elemental Earwarmer and Elemental Mitts (this is the pattern that appeared in the most recent Yarnmaker magazine) designs paired with appropriate yarn. If you have a color preference and I have the fiber, let me know and I can spin up something just for you in any of the three designs.

Yes, that's the same yarn in both designs; one was shot in a light box and the other was shot outdoors. I never noticed the difference until just now.

And the reason these kits haven't been listed until now? The garden is making me nuts. In addition to a ton of tomatoes (spaghetti sauce, chili, tomato soup and 8 qts in the freezer and there's still a peck of them left) and red raspberries, I have had 7 Cushaw pumpkins. Gave one to the neighbor, three more aren't quite mature and I'm not sure if I can use them, one has grown on top of the black raspberry bird netting and I need Husbeast to reach it. The biggest one is reachable but the vine is still alive so it's not ready to pick yet. This baby is HUGE, will probably make at least four pies.

That's a section of newspaper it's sitting on and almost totally obscuring!
That's the news from Chez Feisty. I'm heading for the coffee pot, I need fuel to continue the To Do List.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

I have an article in the upcoming Yarnmaker Magazine, #16! and a mini-holiday in Upstate New York

Now that the magazine has gone to the printers, I can let it be known that I've written an article on making rolags on a blending board. I had a blast playing with my board and spinning up the results. It was so much fun spinning woolen yarn quickly that I also designed a set of warm fingerless mitts to accompany the article. I made the mitts in the Bleeding Hearts colorway but decided I liked the idea of using the four elements as color inspiration, so have four rolag colorways available--Earth, Air, Water and Fire. Taking it one step further, I have a matching earwarmer pattern in the shop, and it will shortly appear in my Ravelry shop. The Elemental Earwarmer takes about an ounce of rolags, and the Elemental Mitts require about 1-1/2 ounces. It's a quick spin and a quick knit for holiday gifts!

This past weekend we drove up to the Fingerlakes Fiber Festival. I like to hit this festival every 2-3 years because it's good to see old friends and new fibers and equipment. We also took the bikes and went riding from our historic B&B (Adams Basin Inn) to the next town to get a cup of coffee, just 5 miles each way into beautiful Brockport. On the way back to Pittsburgh, we stopped for two days in Letchworth Park--so peaceful to spend two days without wi-fi or phones. These are views of the Middle Falls:

Our second day, we decided to take one of the hikes. It starts at the Council grounds where Mary Jemeson's cabin is located and ends at the Upper Falls. Join me for the trip:

We stayed at the Wild Iris on the park property. It was the country home of William P. Letchworth (1823-1910) and much of the interior reflects his taste. The food in the restaurant attached to the Wild Iris was wonderful! Such a lovely mini-vacation, we're planning a return trip.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Another non-topical, quick post

A quick summation of the past week, no photos as I've been very busy running around:

1.  Grand Opening of the new handmade gift shop in Latrobe, Willow Mist Boutique, is tomorrow. I'll be there with some hot hot salsa and am excited to meet folks from the area.

2.  Trying to pull the last bits together for the handspun knitting kits I want to offer in my shop. Why doesn't yarn dry as quickly when you need it NOW?

3.  Waiting to get the asbestos report (it's negative for asbestos) from the asbestos company so we can close on the in-laws house without problems. Hopefully, it will come in tomorrow's mail and that's one thing off the To Do List.

4.  I've finally gotten everything straightened out with our water well. We have hard water (no surprise for this area) about which we decided to do nothing, but there's a good bit of manganese and TSDs in the water. So filters were installed on Wednesday, after I spent Tuesday evening moving all the stuff in the basement so we'd have access to the space for the filters.

5.  Electric fencing installed around the garden late last week. Since the groundhog can't dig down under the fencing (it extends 4" underground but the animal DID once find a corner of the cyclone fence that they managed to bend enough to squeeze in), he/she started squeezing through the 1" space between the gate and fence. When we blocked THAT entrance, he/she started climbing over the 10' fence, dining on my plants, then going into panic mode and trying to dig out under the fence before they figured out that they needed to climb over the fence again to exit. This uprooted and killed several plants near the fencing. I waited to see if the electric fence was effective, as the groundhog hits the garden about every 4 days, but I need a good rain to tamp down the surrounding dirt so I can see if there's new digging. We did see him on Sunday afternoon, dining on grass in the back yard, but he's learned to run like he's on fire when he sees us because we have been known to fire a paintball gun at him. After the rain storm this week there's been no evidence of digging, no evidence of any plants being "trimmed" by the rotten little devil. Apparently, 6,000 volts is enough to discourage him...

6.  The car is certified to be in good shape for the next year. I have come to the conclusion that being stuck in garage waiting rooms with a tv that has no remote nearby is some type of devious torture inflicted on customers by disgruntled mechanics. There are several morning shows that I hope to never see or hear about ever again.

7.  Lovely cool nights are headed our way! I love love love sleeping with the windows open and have been known to open them on the warmer winter nights. Spring and fall are my absolute favorite months.

And I'm off to the studio for the afternoon, making rolags for a shop update. Have a great week and may The Force be with you!      (Yeah, I know it's a dated saying, but I'M dated, so there!)

Friday, September 6, 2013

Walking with my family

I try to get out twice a week for a nice long walk with the neighbor. We chat, investigate peoples flowers and shrubs from the roadway to see what's blooming today, compare notes on their blooms vs. our blooms, notice new cars, boats, kids toys, and wish a good morning to several others who also walk in the morning. The neighbor, who has lived here for 40 years, knows that my family has been here for 170 years and she enjoys any comments I make on the way things were before the "new houses" were built in the l960s. Lately, my neighbor hasn't been able to accompany me since she's a bit under the weather, so I took my phone with me in case I would need assistance (ya just never know when a wild deer will jump into your path or a Canada geese will fly over and do what Canada geese do so well!). And I decided to document my walk as I have always considered it a privilege to walk the same roads that my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and all their friends--except the roads were farm paths between the fields back then.

Once we leave the housing development that was built around my family home, we walk out Wallace Road--named for the gentlemen farmer/holistic physician that operated a large greenhouse/farm complex on the land the development now occupies. We make a left and enter the territory once called Cabbage Hill because it was settled by German farmers who grew vegetables and fruit for the Pittsburgh market. Winding through the hilly streets, we come to the end of Meinert Street which overlooks the Allegheny River--across the river is Lawrenceville and a lot of those buildings down there used to be steel mills. And yes, I'm related to the Meinerts 3 generations back.

Moving along, we cross a road and are presented with the Newland house, right on the corner of Newland Lane (yes, I'm related to the Newlands too!). The house once had a lovely front porch and I remember spending hours playing games and dressing dollies with my cousin Judy. Personally, I don't think the current owners did the house any justice by removing the porch and inserting that silly window on the landing.

Across the road is the reservoir that was built in 1913 on land taken from several farmers, my family included. The City of Pittsburgh decided they needed a water supply, and that it should be on the less developed north side of town. So they grabbed the land by Eminent Domain and threw 3 farm families off their land with very little compensation. Somewhere, there's a Pittsburgh Sun Telegraph article on the less-than-honest deal with a photo of my grandmother in long skirt, puffy blouse and washerwoman hairdo, standing on her front porch surrounded by little kids. The tiniest boy is my 3-year-old father.

West side of reservoir, from Newland Lane
East side of reservoir in 1913, from Koehler Street

On the far left side of the 1913 photo is Friday Road (no idea who Mr. Friday was) and many of those houses are still there.

Because the folks on Cabbage Hill were close-knit, the Newlands offered a piece of land to my family and the house was placed on logs and rolled across the street to it's present location.

The Geist house, current location sans front porch

Where the Geist house used to sit. On the right is the
 north side of the reservoir

Leaving the older section of Cabbage Hill, we return to Wallace Lane where we find visitors to the condo that sits where my mailbox was located back in 1955. I love what this lady does with her flower pots each year--she always finds coordinating flowers for the pots and somehow avoids having the local deer mow them flat. FYI, those are not deer statues in the background but one of the does with this year's fawn. I have a doe that visits my yard with her twins. She's also bold as brass and won't leave when I yell at her, they've become accustomed to treating my yard as their private meadow.

So we retrace our steps, up the slow grade on what used to be a dirt farm road between the Wallace greenhouses and their mansion, to the second house that the Wallace family built in 1911 for a brother and his family. It looks a bit different than it did in 1955.....

So, that's my weekly walk circuit, through the old farmlands and visiting with the ghosts of long-gone relatives. But that legacy of farmers who are close to the land explains my need to dig in the dirt and raise my own fruits and vegetables. And my love of making yarn, designing my own garments and then making them come to life is a direct result of the many needlewomen who passed their skills down to me. Hopefully, I've made them proud.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Sheep to Shawl demonstration at the Indiana County Fair

Discussing how we'll proceed with the demo
As I mentioned on my Facebook page, we spent last evening in Indiana at the fairgrounds. We were asked to do a Sheep-to-Shawl demonstration. For those who aren't familiar with this type of competition/demonstration, there is a team of 3 spinners, 1 sheep shearer, and 1 weaver. The loom is pre-warped with the wool yarns but that's the only preparation allowed. Once the shearer starts working with the sheep, the rest of the team may not participate till the shears are turned off and the shearer throws her arms in the air to show that she's finished. Then the team moves in, going through the newly shorn fleece for dirty bits and taking the best of the wool. All 4 start to flick the wood to remove grass and hay and open it up for spinning. Once there's enough to start, all 3 spinners hit their wheels at top speed while the weaver continues to prepare wool for the spinners. When one of the spinners has a full bobbin she winds her yarn off onto a weaving bobbin and hands it to the weaver, who begins to create the cloth for the shawl. When the weaving is finished, all team members pitch in to help the weaver remove the finished shawl from the loom and present it to the public (or the judges if it's a competition). And all of this must be finished in under 2.5 hours! In a competition, there are a set number of points that can be earned in several categories--shearing, spinning, weaving, overall appearance of the team, difficulty of the woven pattern, and length/width criteria for the finished shawl. But this was a demonstration, meant for the enjoyment of the crowd while the Lead Line competition was taking place. We love educating folks in the process of wool-to-garment, love answering questions and discussing how our equipment works, why sheep need to be shorn for their health, and why we each have chosen this particular path of creativity. It's great fun for all involved!

Shearing begins

Are we done yet?

We start preparing the wool for spinning

Spinning begins while the weaver prepares wool

The weaver explaining how the loom and pattern work

Working away at the shawl weaving

My biggest regret is that I did not snap a photo of the completed shawl (Wini? Will you take a photo and send it?). At was late by the time we finished and my brain decided not to work after 9pm. However, the shawl was won by a lovely lady whose tartan exactly matched the colors in the shawl. And half of the auction price goes right back to the Indiana Fair for future development of their wool program. We hope to do this again next year, perhaps as a real competition if local teams can be persuaded to join us.