Thursday, May 30, 2013

Pink! Lots of it and in different tones

A friend of mine asked if I'd be interested in doing up some special batts for her. You see, her brother is marrying a lady who just loves pink, she wants to spin and knit a special shawl for the bride and she doesn't have the equipment or raw materials to blend what she wants. Of course I'll do it for her. Purple is my favorite color of all time, but pink ranks right up there with purple.

I decided that Merino wool, silk and cashmere would make the perfect warm-yet-airy luxury blend. The first blend was a bit, ummm.....Pepto Bismol?

Pepto Bismol on the left, adjusted color on the right
So I added some darker colors to tone it down and shipped the batts off to my friend. There were two batts left over (I always start with more fiber than I need when I'm working on special orders) and I just had to play with them. I have a ball of dyed mohair that I've been wanting to use in a woven scarf and this seemed the perfect opportunity to see what I could do. I blended warm tones with one batt and cool tones with the other. I will spin each separately and use them with the mohair for warp. I don't yet know what I'll use for weft, but if the yarns sit there long enough they usually tell me what they want to be paired with.

Cool color on left, mohair in middle, warm color on right

And just to make life more interesting while I'm working on a magazine submission, I started a Wingspan with a ball of Zauberball I had sitting around (see? told you that yarn speaks to me when it wants to be made up into something!). It was great car knitting when we took a drive north for a bike trip last weekend. We'll see how soon it gets finished, since I'm only working on it when I'm bored with the magazine piece or when I'm riding in the car.

And that's what I did with MY week, how about you? What's on the wheel, what's on the needles? Or are you trying to get your gardening finished between storms and heat waves, like the rest of us?

Friday, May 24, 2013

Spindle Spinning classes at the festival, photo session

Phew! What a long weekend it was, but so much fun. The Waynesburg Sheep and Fiber Festival took place last weekend and I was tapped for judging the fiber competition in addition to teaching Spindle Spinning both days. Lots of great entries in the competition and we were stumped several times on which entry should take the blue ribbon in a category. If you make something (or many somethings) this coming year, you should consider entering them in the festival. Entry fee is just a few dollars and everyone loves to see and be inspired by the creations. It's one of the ways we can keep our fiber skills alive, by showing off and inspiring others to learn our craft(s).

For example, we had absolutely no advance signups for my spindle classes but past experience told us that I'd get a few students at the festival. I had two students on Saturday but once the Fleece to Shawl competition started, the class registration skyrocketed. I'm so happy to have hatched all those new spinners, whether they spin for pleasure or because they have sheep and want to know everything about the process.

Once I caught up with the dishes, laundry, orders and emails I was able to meet with my photographer for a photo session. Can't say specifically why we did this, but watch this space for upcoming news! At any rate, we lucked into a cloudy day on Thursday--just right for photography. Unless the sun keeps moving and the shadows move in the opposite direction and you have to keep dragging the picnic table into the shade to avoid 'burn out spots' on the pictures. We see those gorgeous photos of models wearing the latest fashion in romantic settings and think it's a wonderful sexy life to wear the clothes and travel to faraway places, but it's also a lot of work getting those shots! Much more work than I do since I'm just a small operation and don't usually use live models or romantic settings. I think we wasted an hour on capturing one particular shot that I wanted--nothing seemed to show what we wanted in exactly the way we wanted. But I always learn a little more about what makes a photo interesting in terms of content, lighting and balance. Here's a taste of what we did:

Friday, May 17, 2013

Grownup coloring books

Recently I was showing my handspun yarn to some friends, and one of them mentioned that they thought I dyed all the colors. And I realized that a many end users (you yarnies know who you are) don’t realize the numerous  techniques used to achieve colored yarn. So here comes the mini-lesson:

Animal (wool, alpaca, cashmere, angora, mohair, etc), plant (linen, cotton, hemp, etc) and manmade fibers (rayon, nylon) can have the dye applied either before the spinning process or afterwards. The phrase “dyed in the wool” comes from the act of dyeing the fiber before it’s spun into yarn; there are a lot of everyday terms and phrases that were birthed by the textile industry.

When I make my batts and handspun yarns, I use fibers that are already dyed and blend them to achieve my colorways. It would take a good deal of my time to dye the 55+ colors that I use, not to mention waiting until the weather cooperates so I could dry all that fiber in the outdoors. And since I’m my only employee, I have to pay myself for the time it takes to create my batts and yarns. Purchasing ready-dyed fibers in bulk saves me time and saves my customers money—actually I doubt that I’d be able to sell anything if I had to add dyeing time to the equation, it would be prohibitively expensive! And there’s always that color that just isn’t quite right, that red that isn’t blue enough or orange enough. Having 55 colors to play with means I can throw some blue or orange fiber into the red to achieve the exact tone that I want. My Buttermoon and Geranium batts were made that way and some of the others have a bit of blending in them before I make a striped or marbled batt for spinning.

I DO play with the dyes a little, though. There are times when I want a handpainted roving RIGHT NOW or I can’t find just the right roving in any of the online shops I visit. That’s when the dye pots come out and I end up with dyed roving dripping all over my basement or porch. It’s all tied in with my pursuit of the right colors that will match the pretty picture in my mind. I usually hit it right on the nose (but I will admit to having a decent number of “closet pieces” that will become cat beds or never see the light of day!).

It’s all just my little Box of Crayons, where I can blend and match and play to my hearts content. I grew out of using coloring books (Mom could never keep me supplied with enough of them), and I decided that I didn’t like cleaning out the brushes after a painting session, but I never lost my love of color and the joy of blending and playing with it.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

It's spring, and I'm in the garden and yard every day!!

No fiber chat this week, I've been busy with the outdoors and exploring my new blending board. I'm close to  coming up with some colorways for the board, and hope to have something in the shop next week. But this week I'll bore you to tears with my gardening chat.

We had 9 trees taken out last fall and the Caterpillar tractor they used to remove the logs tore up the lawn a bit. They were very careful but that much weight on tires with large treads will do damage. So we've spent the last 3 weeks (with the help of DS #1) hauling 3 cubic yards of topsoil around the lawn, spreading it, raking it smooth, seeding it and laying down some straw to keep it in place so it would sprout. One set of tread marks washed out and had to be redone with log "stairs" to keep the rain from washing it out again. No photos, but it was a lot of work.

At the same time, I've been trying to get the garden ready for the year. Something vicious bloomed last year (looks like mullein but isn't) and cast its seeds all over the garden. I've pulled 10 drywall buckets of the dang things out of the garden. And the chickweed! Ugh!'s all finished, the first planting of peas and the asparagus have sprouted and I'm a happy woman.

The yard has been filled with wild violets--my favorite flower. I had warned the arborist that if he wiped out my violets with his Cat, I'd hunt him down and make him replant them everywhere! But he's safe, only a small part of the yard hasn't bloomed and I know the violets will spread over that patch next year.

And I leave you with the view from my kitchen porch, where I sip my coffee every morning when it's warm enough. This is the sight that greeted me this morning. Life is good at Chez Feisty. Geez, I just love spring!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

I'm back again!

I'm back, hopefully without interruption this time. By way of explanation, the last 4 years have been ... difficult. I oversaw the renovation of my family home and the moving into same, helped take care of both in-laws in their last days, helped take care of one brother, buried him and two other brothers, had a parotidectomy (surgical removal of my left parotid gland) which was consequently diagnosed as a non-Hodgkins lymphoma, and went through radiation therapy. I thought I was handling things well, but it turns out I was slowly getting burned out. So I've taken a few months away from my online shop and hibernated a bit; did a lot of gardening (dirt makes me happy!); did a lot of knitting with my handspun; did a lot of thinking and rethinking.

And I'm back and ready to roll. I've reorganized both my Etsy shops. Feistywoman Designs will now carry knitted garments made from my handspun yarns, knitting patterns, and kits. Feistywoman Handspun is where you'll find the yarns, along with spinning batts, knitting patterns and kits. The kits are still a work-in-progress but I'm slowly updating photos and uploading items to the shops. Check the shops or my Facebook page for updates.

I've also ramped up my teaching. Lisa and I have come up with a good selection of classes, both spinning and knitting, at Darn Yarns Needles and Threads in Harmony, PA. Just stop in or drop her a line to request the class lineup, we'd love to enable you! I'm also teaching the spindle spinning classes at the Waynesburg Wool Festival, two classes a day for the weekend so there's plenty of choices to fit your schedule. I thought long and hard about teaching at the Finger Lakes Festival since I love it, but I think I'm already overcommitted for this year.

My goodness, that's a lot of links for one post, isn't it?

There's a few things in the works that have to remain secret for now, but I'll keep you posted.