Thursday, May 28, 2015

Harmony Fiber Art Festival--Shameless self-promotion

Looking for something interesting to do on Saturday, June 13? The town of Harmony is holding a series of events that day for their Spring Fest. There's a plant sale, roving musicians, food trucks, kids' activities, and more. And there will be a first-ever fiber festival!

I'm sharing a spot with my friend Sue and we've been working hard and fast to make scrumptious accessories for you. Sue specializes in handwovens while I'm the spinner/knitter, so there will be plenty of scarves, shawlettes, hats and even some handspun yarn for those who want to make it themselves. Handspun, handwoven pieces are generally one-of-a-kind or one of only a few produced by the artist, so investing in one of these pieces is a special opportunity. And handmade accessories generally are warmer and last longer than items from those big box stores. Treat yourself to a special piece of art!

You can find our booth in the Center of Harmony building, upstairs and in the middle of the room. And if you're interested in supplies for your own crafting endeavors, I'm sure you'll find something among the other booths--there's weaving, spinning, knitting, crochet supplies. There will also be demonstrations of many of these crafts to whet your appetite for getting involved. We all need something to do during those dreary winter months, right?

A sampling of what I'm bringing to the festival:

Handspun, handwoven scarves

Handspun handknit cowl

The back of the gradient shawlette
A shawlette in gradient-colored handspun

Pillbox hat knit with my handspun

A slouchy beanie that can also be worn as a regular tossle cap

A lacy tam/slouch beanie in handspun yarn

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Sweden--the Vasa Museum

Once upon a time there was this Swedish king who felt that for political reasons, he needed to flex his muscles show the world the power and might of his reign. So he commissioned a mighty ship, covered with meaningful carvings and equipped with 64 canon able to fire from the 64 gun ports along the ship's sides. It was launched on 10 August 1628 from Stockholm harbor, caught a gust of wind and heeled over but righted herself. The second gust of wind did her in, water rushing in the gun ports flooded her decks and took her down with most of the crew and guests. You can read the full story here

When we walked into the room, I stopped dead. I have never been so awe-struck over anything including the birth of my two boys. By way of explanation, my father was a master carpenter and I love wood and wood carving. This ship was covered with marvelous intricate carvings, every one of which had meaning--either of royal might or royal lineage or royal benevolence.

And the original carvings were painted!

The stern today

The stern as it would have appeared in 1628

They didn't have acrylic paints so used ground minerals and salts mixed with oils and any substances they needed to preserve the color.

They found about 15 bodies under the ship, some of the clothing, and many of the day-to-day objects needed for life aboard a ship in 1628. I discovered a glove liner that was created using nalbinding. No photo because the museum is kept on the dark side to preserve the objects, and flash photos help to speed the deterioration of those objects.

And I leave you with this..... the ship was certainly a testament to his power.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

I'm back, all refreshed and rested! And a FREE SPINNING MAGAZINE

We had a wonderful time in Sweden. We landed at Landvetter Airport on April 25 and spent the night at the hotel before we headed into Gothenburg. Spent an evening in town and met our friend Elin for a ferry ride to the southern archipelago. It was interesting enough that I forgot to take photos..... And Elin and I had months' worth of news to catch up on.

Painted glass ceiling in our 150-year old Gothenburg hotel
After lunch we were off to her sheep farm for a few days. She and Erik have a wonderful place in the countryside with a dozen or so Varmland sheep (sorry, Elin, but blogger doesn't have diacritical marks in the English text function).

We took the opportunity to visit local (western Sweden) sights, with a stop at the Boras Textile Museum. Unfortunately, we found that the Museum is a misnomer--it's really part of the design school and the only exhibits were the student end-of-term work and a Swedish designer. However, the entryway was a fascinating crochet yarn-bombing by students.

On another day, we went to a fiber mill to pick up a fleece sorting table that Elin had purchased. This is proof that no matter where you travel, fiber mill equipment is the same. And it's where I just couldn't resist some indigo-dyed fingering weight Finull yarn. There it is, on the right side of that top shelf....

The sorting table in action that evening.

On Saturday, we had scheduled two workshops and nearly filled the room with students. There are fewer spinners in Sweden than here so many of these ladies drove a good distance to get to the farm. I taught a class on different drafting methods in the morning, and we had a breeds tasting class in the afternoon. Lunch was something special--although I've hiked through stinging nettle and know that it is a medicinal herb/supplement, I never knew you could eat it. It makes a wonderful soup, especially when served with fresh whole grain bread, butter and Brie cheese. My students were so easy to teach and I am grateful for the opportunity to learn so much about spinning in Sweden. Traveling is always such an educational experience and I love meeting and learning from other cultures.

L to R--Isabella, Sandy, Linda and Elin

Elin and Ulla, who quickly grabbed the spots near the fireplace

Sweden is a beautiful country (when the sun is shining), and the people we met were helpful and friendly. Since it was spring, I couldn't resist the wildflowers popping up alongside the farm lane.

More on our travels next week.

And a plug for PLY Magazine, which is a treasure of spinning and fiber knowledge published by Jacey Boggs. Each issue is themed, covering that issue's topic in depth with articles written by leading spinners and many no-so-famous-but-knowledgeable spinners. In an effort to introduce the magazine to more US spinners, Jacey is offering a free issue--the June issue, no strings attached--to anyone who signs up on the website. Remember, this is for new readers in the US only.
Go here and input the code: NEWEYES. You'll have to be quick as the free issue will be coming out in the next few weeks, but PLY Magazine is SO worth it!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Latest projects

I have been extremely busy these past weeks. I had a second article for Yarnmaker magazine to get to the publisher which entailed completing and assessing several projects. Then there's the upcoming trip to Sweden and all those workshop details to be ironed out--kudos to the Swedish tax office and customs office for prompt consideration of the situation!

I'm now working on another article for PLY magazine, spinning and weaving my little fingers into stiffness. Actually, the arthritis foundation says that keeping your hands and fingers active and warm will stave off a lot of the arthritis symptoms. So there's yet another benefit to doing fiber work!

And, just to make sure I don't get TOO much sleep, there's the Harmony Fiber Arts Festival coming up on June 13. I'm sharing a space with another spinner/weaver who does similar-but-different items. We'll have handspun and handwoven accessories, and I may be persuaded to bring along some of my stash of yarn and/or blending fibers for the folks who play with fibers in some manner.

Along those lines, I'm working up several shawlettes using the softest wool yarn from Canon Hand Dyes and several Shetland lace patterns. Each shawl is one-of-a-kind and will sit well on your shoulders because there's just the hint of a curve to them. When it gets blustery, just use it as a scarf and wrap snugly around your neck.

White with charcoal smudges

A close-up of the white shawlette

On the blocking board. This is a much deeper blue than the camera captured, with the same charcoal smudges as the white shawlette

On the needles. A deep buttery yellow with orange smudges, reminds me of the daffodils in my yard

Friday, March 27, 2015

Spinning class in Sweden are here!

I'm heading to Sweden in late April to see the country and spend time with friends. I'm also offering two spinning classes on May 2 at my friends sheep farm. We're planning to have a very busy and fun day playing with techniques and hard-to-find wools. I'm really looking forward to meeting new spinners, and especially to meeting the new lambs that are arriving daily.

(For my English-speaking friends, fika is coffee and cookies--chocolate chip and Oreo cookies specifically!).

Expand Your Drafting Skills for Spinners
When you learned to spin, you drew out your wool in a certain way. And you are probably still using the same drafting technique. Did you know that there are several ways to handle your wool when spinning? In this class you will learn the best way to spin a combed top for making worsted yarns for long-wearing garments, and how to spin rolags and clouds for making woolen yarns to use for warm mittens and hats. This workshop will cover 5 different drafting techniques.

8:30-10:00am                After a brief introduction we start learning two worsted drafting techniques.

10:00-10:30am              Fika and a chance to stretch your tired hands

10:30-12:00pm              We will work on three woolen drafting techniques.

Limited to 5 students who know how to spin on a wheel or spindle. The teacher will be providing clean colored wool and a pair of handcards. If you have handcards or a blending board, feel free to bring them to class. A spinning wheel or spindle in working order is required; you may want to bring a spare drive band, oil for the wheel, extra bobbins, a niddy noddy or nostepinde for storing yarn.

Date:           May 2, 2015

Time:           8:30am-12:00pm

Location:      Ulvsbo, Sjuntorp

Cost:           885 SEK

Sheep Breed Tasting for Spinners

Looking at online shops to buy a fleece and don’t know what you’ll be getting? Visiting a fiber festival or local farm and puzzled by the selection of wool available? You should have a working knowledge of how to choose the proper wool for your project, and be comfortable spinning it into the best yarn for the job. This workshop will cover 6 breeds from several categories of wool—English Leicester* (longwool), Debouillet* (fine wool), California Red* (medium wool), Black Welsh Mountain lamb* (coarse wool), Icelandic (double-coated) and Suffolk (Down)—and give tips on the best uses for each type.
*Conservation breeds, meaning that the number of sheep has dropped below an acceptable limit.
1:00-2:30pm                  After a brief introduction we start sampling the first three breeds.

2:30-3:00pm                  Fika and a chance to stretch your tired hands

3:00-4:30pm                  We work on the last three breeds.

Limited to 5 students who know how to spin on a wheel or spindle. The teacher will be providing clean fleece, one pair of handcards and one pair of minicombs. If you have handcards or wool combs, feel free to bring them to class. A spinning wheel or spindle in working order is required; you may want to bring a spare drive band, oil for the wheel, extra bobbins, a niddy noddy or nostepinde for storing yarn.

Date:           May 2, 2015

Time:           1:00pm to 4:30pm

Location:     Ulvsbo, Sjuntorp

Cost:           1,050 SEK

Preregistration and payment is required—register for BOTH workshops at the same time and receive a 10% discount on the total cost! Invoicing and payments will be through Paypal, where you can use your credit card if you want. Contact Carol at carol_mcfadden (at) for registration or if you have any questions about the workshop. For questions about the workshop location, contact Elin Dahllov at [elin (at)].


About The Instructor  

Carol McFadden of Feistywoman Designs is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. Having learned embroidery, knitting and crochet at Grandma’s knee when she was six years old, she has never been very far from fiber no matter what job she’s held. Carol learned weaving and spinning almost 40 years ago, holds a University degree in Studio Art, co-owned a weaving shop, became a production weaver for a bit, co-chaired a conference fashion show, has earned awards for her spinning and weaving, taught fiber classes, sold her handwovens commercially, and sold handknit accessories, handspun yarn and fiber in an Etsy shop. She has several patterns on Ravelry as Feistywoman Designs, does a bit of writing and designing for Yarnmaker and PLY magazines. But her focus these days is on following my creative muse, playing with color and fiber, and enabling others to do the same.


Monday, March 16, 2015

Not really a blog post, but....

I'm traveling again and was on the road Thursday-Saturday. Sunday was a hike in the woods and relaxing with Husbeast. So here I am on Monday morning, caffeinated, exercised and writing my little fingers off (I have a magazine article due soon).

This is what I drove through in West Virginia--almost the entire length of the state--on Thursday morning. These were the better stretches, I didn't dare try to hold my phone in the dense fog areas.

Saturday evening we hit the local nursery for some supplies, then went to dinner with a couple who are good friends. Sunday, after the hike at Crowder Mountain, we got our hands in the dirt and filled the window boxes and planters with color. It must be spring if Husbeast and I have to dig in dirt?

Till next week...... be good, spin a bunch of yarn and knit till you drop!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Getting ready for Sweden and Hats! Hats! Hats!

I'll be teaching two workshops in Sweden this spring--one on different drafting techniques and one breeds tasting. I've been researching and writing the handouts off-and-on for a month! For the breeds tasting, I'm taking six different breeds, 2 oz. samples of each, for the students to play with. I have spent a good part of today packaging up the six breeds, labeling them, printing out the handouts, tucking in some labels and ribbon for identifying each spun sample--and stuffing all that in big plastic Ziploc bags so each student has a nice packet. For the drafting class I need to prepare rolags, batts and clouds and grab some combed top for each student. But that will happen another day. Then there's the cards, combs and flick carders to pack. Oh! and the chocolate chip cookies I'm taking for fika (coffee break). Hopefully, my host and hostess won't get into the cookies before class (you know you want to!). There has been a lot of other prep work on the part of my hostess and myself, little things like deciding which day and time is best for classes and arranging lunch and registration details. It's been a while since I've done workshops and it has slipped my mind how much prep work they require, but it reminds me to appreciate all those teachers who took the time to prepare materials and themselves for a class, ship equipment for students to use, provide the best of supplies for us to use, and take care of the myriad little things. Thank you!

In my spare time--HaHa!--I've been raiding my handspun stash and knitting hats while I binge-watch British TV series. As an aside, watching these shows is awful if you're a knitter because I want All. The. Sweaters!

These are the wool/silk/alpaca/whatever beanies:

Wool pillbox hats:

And three hats that can be worn as slouchy hats or turn up the brim and wear as a tossle cap:

There's still a TON of handspun yarn in the studio, so I'm sure more hats are in my future as long as the British costume dramas continue. Season 5 of Downton Abbey just arrived in my mailbox  <squee>.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Obsessed with scarves!

This winter I seem to be obsessed with weaving scarves on my rigid heddle loom. Probably because I'm just a bit stumped on a certain segment of assembling my new 8H loom. Or maybe I just need some instant gratification. Whatever it is, I've been cranking them out in between travel and writing and designing.

The first was from a gradient batt I had lying around. I just wanted to see what it would look like woven up.

Then I got into the bags of striped rolags I'd made on my blending board. There was enough of some colors to do two scarves, so I spun up enough matching colors blended with Angelina glitter to weave two scarves--same but different.

Then there was this really nice dyed top from Blue Moon Fiber's Rockin' Whorl Club, a nice Polwarth that only Tina can work such magic on. While winding the warp, I glanced into a corner of my studio and spotted a small pile of mohair knitting yarn (lots of corners, lots of little piles of things). One of them was a perfect match to the warp yarn. I had enough of the warp left to weave one scarf, so sat down and spun a matching mulberry for the second scarf.

This has been such a fun adventure. I've got a few more scarves in the works, one with beads! I can't wait to see how that one works up. Now if I could just find the time to do something creative with those fringes......

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Blending Fibers With a Drumcarder, Part 3 of 3

Last time I talked about the process of making a fiber 'sandwich' on your drumcarder, as published in Yarnmaker magazine back in 2012. This week we discuss a few odds and ends. And I apologize for the lack of pictures; there's a whole disc full of them and at least four that accompanied this section. However, the disc seems to be corrupt and I can't open anything including the photos from the first two sections. :(
If you are working with large amounts that need to be blended uniformly, you’ll need a bit more space, more time and a way to keep helpful pets out of the carding area (yes, I have a curious cat). Weigh, divide and prepare all your fibers. At this point, you should know how many total batts you’ll be making based on the total weight of your fiber and the amount your carder will hold. Remember that number. Let’s say I need to make 16 batts, each weighing 28 grams. Once I’ve made the first layered batt, I divide it into 16 strips and each strip is the beginning of a new pile. The second layered batt is also pulled into 16 strips and added to the 16 piles. Continue in this manner until you have 16 piles, each with a strip of fiber from the 16 layered batts. If there were any discrepancies in the amount of fiber in the layered batts (angelina and the fine exotic fibers are difficult to weigh because they are feather-light), this process should distribute the fibers more evenly. You now attenuate and recard the 16 piles into 16 new batts. Repeat this process as many times as necessary to achieve the blend you want.

Finally, before you run off to play with your new fiber, CLEAN YOUR DRUMCARDER. Trust me, if you don’t do it now you WILL forget. And the next time you use it, those leftover fibers on the drums will adhere to your next batt. They will be unsightly, annoying and frustrating--if not impossible--to remove from the new batt. Follow the recommendations of your drumcarder manufacturer for cleaning. Mine came with a flicker that I use to clean the large drum; my small drum rarely needs a cleaning. Simply hold the flicker against the drum with the wires of the card cloth in the same direction and rotate the drum slowly. Repeat across the entire surface until the drum is clean. In a pinch I’ve also used a single hand card or a stiff scrub brush to clean the drum(s).

Your explorations in blending will become something to share with your spinning friends. You could form a study group within your guild to see what blends the members will come up with and how each person will spin and use the same blend. Spinning should always be fun, and exploring different fibers and blends is an endless journey.



Thursday, February 12, 2015

Blending fibers with a drumcarder, Part 2 of 3

Last time I talked about choosing your fiber and preparing it for the carding process, as published in Yarnmaker magazine back in 2012. This week we start the actual process.

Finally, Step Three is the carding process. If you want to repeat your fiber blend with consistency, you will need to weigh out the fibers for each batt and make note of the amounts used. Postal scales work well for this and can be purchased at reasonable prices. I like to work in sets of four or eight batts and divide the fiber into four or eight piles after weighing. Once weighed (or not weighed if you’re feeling free-spriited!), you should prepare the fiber for carding by attenuating, fluffing or picking as dictated by whether you have top, clouds or roving, or clean dry fleece. You should have more of one fiber than the others—this is your base fiber. We’ll be making a fiber “sandwich”, so we need top, bottom and dividing layers of base fiber. Working with one batts-worth at a time, divide the base fiber into one more section of base fiber than you have blending fiber. In other words, when I blend Merino/angelina/silk noil, I divide the Merino into thirds because the angelina and silk noil are my blending fibers and the Merino is my base.

28 g of Merino top split into 3 strips, Firestar and silk noil ready for the carder.

Once everything is weighed, prepared and divided, you can start building your batt. In my Merino/angelina/silk noil example, I start with one third of the Merino, feeding it slowly and evenly into the drumcarder, making sure it feeds evenly on the drum covering it from edge to edge.

Feeding the first Merino top into the drumcarder

Leave about 1.25 cm of the drum edge clear, otherwise fibers will tend to wrap around the axle of the large drum. Next, I feed in the attenuated Firestar or fluffed-up angelina so that it’s also spread evenly on the drum.

Adding the Firestar

This is followed by another third of Merino,

Carding the second layer of Merino top

 ...the fluffed-up silk noil,

Adding silk noil

 ...and the final third of Merino.

Carding the final layer of Merino top

 You now have a batt with layers of fiber, which can be spun as-is for a textured effect or recarded for a more blended, smoother batt and yarn.
To recard, remove the batt from your carder and split lengthwise into appropriate strips.

Splitting the batt

 My carder only holds about 48 grams (1.7 oz.) of fiber, so I split into fourths. If your batts are larger, you’ll need to divide into more strips. Each strip should be easy to handle and easy to attenuate. Once divided, attenuate each strip

Attenuating the four strips from the split batt

and feed evenly into your drumcarder as before. You can repeat this stripping and recarding as many times as necessary to achieve the blend you like.
You can see the blobs of silk noil in this strip.

Re-carding the batt onto the large drum

Yes, I have a howling wolf on my studio wall!
I usually find that two recardings works well on my Strauch Finest carder, but drumcarders differ and you need to observe how yours handles each blend.
Next time, I'll talk about how to deal with large quantities of fiber that needs to be evenly blended throughout several batts.