Winter Wine & Wool 2012

My first show of 2012 is in the books. The first Winter Wine and Wool at the Sandhill Crane Vineyards was on Saturday and it was a fabulous day! I was a little worried when Sassy and I got in the truck – it was gray and snowy and my heart kind of sank. I thought “everyone will stay home today and we’re driving through this mess and no one will show up”. (For the record, this is always what spins through my head on show day – I turn into Eeyore.)
What happened was so much better than I expected. It was the first time Heather has set up a Winter show. I’ve participated in the last 2 summer shows at the vineyard and they were a lot of fun and quite successful. All of the vendors were inside the big building (I think there were 10 of us) and the colors were amazing!
This is a shot of me and Andrea Morrison of Wonder Why Alpaca Farm. We were back-to-back last summer and had fun. This time we put our chairs right next to each other so we could chat without having to shout across the booths. We could tag-team customers so when I was busy, she would spin and when she was busy, I would spin.This shot was from very early in the day and people were just starting to wander in and look around.
I was a little concerned about putting the table right next to the light – I didn’t want to completely block it out. Turns out the snow threw a lot of reflection and people could see my colors just fine. I got comments about my socks, the sample hat Jillian designed and knit for me, and lots of questions about spinning. Turns out wine drinkers are a very curious group.
Best of all, I hit my goal in sales. I also got some great ideas for displaying my wares at upcoming shows.
Next up, The Winter Fleece Fair in Chelsea on February 18.

First Yarn of 2012

Again, in the quest to spin up the stash I dove in for another couple of chunks that would spin well together. 

Spunky Eclectic 80% Corriedale/20% Alpaca blend in the Cowgirl Blues colorway. I’m pretty sure someone gave this to me, because I would never have picked the colors myself. I ganked a photo that someone posted on Ravelry and this is exactly what my braid looked like. It’s essentially red, white, and blue on an amazing base. However, not my colors at all. The braid weighed 4 oz.  

Ashford Merino/Silk Sliver – Mulberry

The other bundle was a plastic bag filled with Ashford Merino/Silk Sliver (80/20) in the mulberry colorway. The label says it weighed 100 grams (3.5 oz) and I paid $11.75 for it. While I will spin 50/50 merino/silk all day long, I’m not quite sure what possessed me to buy this bag of fiber. It may have been a pick me up present at some point, but when I saw the blue mixed in with the rest, I thought, “Why??” You can see from the picture that it’s mostly a shade of purple, but has blue, red, white, and peach shot through. Both fibers were quite soft and I figured they would go well together.

2-ply

This blend spun up super fast. While I’m not partial to a lot of her colors, Spunky takes amazing care when she dyes and her braids are never compacted or over processed. Both of these were a dream to split and spin. In fact, I think I spun this (roughly) 8 oz in record time for me – about 2 days from start to finish.


The resulting yarn is lovely. Because I spun it so quickly, I didn’t have time to vary my spinning and it’s remarkably even. When I showed it to Jillian and said, why are all my blends with this technique turnout out purple. She looked at me with an incredulous look and said, “because you ALWAYS buy stuff that has purple in it!” Maybe it’s time to spin something other than this color.


fiber: 40% Corriedale/40% Merino/20% Alpaca/20% silk
weight: 6.7 oz
length: 283 yards
weight: worsted

Last Yarn of 2011

I’ve been working on a technique my friends Erica and Jillian have been encouraging me to try. Stop me if you’ve heard this one, but you take 2 different rovings/tops with at least one color in common, strip them down to about the width of your thumb and then hold them together while spinning. This creates a barber pole effect in the single that becomes dots of color when plied. 


It is amazing to me that when I search my stash I find some stuff that makes me think, “Why on earth did I buy this?!!??” Either my color sense has changed, or the fiber feels like something I don’t want to spin anymore, or someone gave it to me and I didn’t have the heart to rid myself of it.

Karaoke & Milk/Seacell/Wool fibers

Either way, I found these 2 fibers in my staff at the end of last year. 


On the left we have Karaoke in the Mermaid colorway. Karaoke comes to us from Louet and uses the leftovers from tofu production – yes, one more product made from soy. I had 4 oz and it cost me $11 for the bundle.


I don’t know if you can tell in the photo, but the fiber takes dye beautifully. It is lustrous and rich. However, the Karaoke, it clumps like nobody’s business. Stripping it will help with the clumpiness, but destroys the brilliant color by breaking it up. Since I was going to strip the fiber anyway, it was a great candidate for this technique.


The fiber on the right was dyed by Creatively Dyed Yarns (CD). This is made from 20% milk protein/20% seacell/60% wool. I found this amazingly soft, but the colors no longer spoke to me (too much white). I had 4 oz and it cost me $24. I figured the softness of this would counteract the clumpiness of the Karaoke and all the white would brighten it up. The common color is a deep purple that is a large section in the Karaoke and just random 1.5 inch bits in the CD.

First single



I split the fiber in half and set one half aside. Proceeded to strip the other half, making sure there were an equal number of nests. Then I started. Here we have the first single. Again, apologies for my camera, the left side of the photo seems to capture the colors the best. The deep green from the Karaoke really comes through in the single, although overall, I think it looks very, very purple.


I took up the half of the fiber that I had set aside, stripped it and spun it as another single. There’s no need to show you another picture the second bobbin looks remarkably like the first. Although there was a lot more white in the second half of the bundle, so it was lighter than this first single.

2-ply yarn

The resulting yarn looks like this. Excuse the blurriness, but this shows the layout of the colors the best of all the pictures I took. It is quite soft and while overall the deep colors have muted to lavender there are several pops of deeper color peeking through. It’s a serviceable yarn and I haven’t decided what to do with it yet, it my be cast into the basket with other purple yarns to become something for my Sassy, the lover of all things purple.




fiber: 50% soysilk/30% wool/20% milk protein/20% seacell
weight: 7.6 oz
length: 336 yards
weight: worsted

Couch Surfing

Jemima Rooper as Amanda Price

I spent most of the day spinning with my buddy Jillian. We frequently take a hooky day and watch movies (or television series) one after the other. Today we watched Lost in Austen and part of the new Tempest with Helen Mirren in the starring role.


I sat next to J’s daughter and we made fun of the costumes and decided which actors we liked best (Mr. Darcy) and who was the most awful character (creepy Mr. Collins and his brothers). 


It made me wish one more time, that I lived next door and didn’t have to plan so much for a lunch and movie afternoon. It was a wonderful day. I came home refreshed and ready to go back to work on Wednesday. (Okay, not so much ready as resigned.)

Book Review: “Spin Art:

Spin Art: Mastering the Craft of Spinning Textured Yarn, Jacey Boggs
originally published: November 2011
finished reading: 30 December 2011


I must admit, the first time I saw Jacey Boggs’ yarns I wasn’t impressed. As a knitter and a spinner, what use did I have for yarn with felted eyeballs in it? I figured she was a fad and that she’d blow over and disappear, leaving the field for serious spinners. I can’t tell you how wrong I was and how happy I am to have been so wrong. 


This last summer I took a 3-day class with Jacey at the prodding of a fiber friend. My mind was blown. Apparently, when she takes on a challenge, Jacey jumps in head first and completely immerses herself in the task. When she started spinning, she spent 4-6 hours a day making yarn. That’s pretty incredible for a new spinner. I’ve been spinning for almost 20 years (off and on) and she said things that made me re-evaluate what I was doing and actually do it better.


What does that have to do with this book? Let me tell you. Boggs spent so much time spinning in order to figure out what the fiber will do so that she could then make it do what SHE wanted (know the rules so you know which ones you can break). If you understand the structure of fiber and the effects of the work you’re doing, you’ll understand the resulting yarn and be able to incorporate it into your own work very precisely.


Spin Art is essentially a multi-day workshop with Jacey sitting next to you and showing you what to do. She starts you off with easily do-able yarns. Even if you’ve never tried “art yarn”, you can make these first few. Once you conquer those, you will be able to work your way through the book trying everything. The pictures are wonderful and while her descriptions may seem strange, do exactly what she says the first time through. It will all become clear, I promise.


One of my fiber challenges for 2012 is to work my way through this book. I expect to be hung up on a few once I actually get started, but I plan on spending as much time as I need to get a good, usable yarn before moving on to the next one. I have plenty of stash for this project and I plan on turning it into some incredible yarn. 

Day 13: Knitty

Do you read the Knitty blog? Do you know what Knitty is? Let’s start there. It’s the longest running ezine for knitters. Free patterns, wonderful columns, and a great review of all things fiber. My friend Amy is the founding editor and my friend Jillian is the editor of KnittySpin (Knitty’s sister publication) and the glue that keeps it all together.
There’s also a Knitty blog where Amy, Jillian, and Kate (editorial assistant) take turns posting about their fiber adventures and today, Jillian wrote about me. Go read the post here. It’s true, every word. 
Frequently I get a text or a phone call that starts with “Do you want to…”. I’ve said for years that there are 2 people I would willingly go anywhere they asked and pretty much do anything they asked me to do – Jillian is one of them. So it’s no surprise that I would have the missing pieces of her stash. 
When I got the text from her, I knew exactly where the bag of fiber was – I could picture it on my shelf in the fiber room. It was pretty gratifying to walk into that room on Saturday, see the bag, and actually lay my hands on it within a minute of walking into the room. Also, there’s the superhero aspect of it…

One more story about how we are fiber symbiosis at its best. We were at The Spinning Loft on Saturday and were piling up bunches of fiber for consideration. She threw a gorgeous hank at me, but I decided it didn’t work with what I had going and set it aside. She picked it up and put it in her own pile. Anyone want to take bets that at some future point I will be looking for “something” to finish off a project I have going and she’s going to say, “Wait a minute…” and come up with that hank?

Day 8: Superwash Wool

As a spinner, it’s important to try new fibers. In the beginning, a lot of us want to “wait until I’m good” before trying exotic (read: expensive) things. We don’t want to ruin our good stuff because our yarn is lumpy or drifts apart or just doesn’t look the way we want it to. There were lots of expensive things I avoided, but other things too – like superwash.

Sarah on merino superwash

Superwash is a treatment that sort of glues down the scales of wool so it won’t shrink. You can put superwash treated wool into the washing machine and dryer and it will look just as good when you pull it out as when you put it in. The fiber tends to be a little flyaway, slicker than untreated wool, and has a hand to it that while you know it’s wool, it feels different. I avoided anything with superwash on the label as a new spinner. I didn’t like how it felt and didn’t like the resulting yarn.

It wasn’t until I started dyeing it for sale that I actually tried it myself. Surprisingly, I like it now. I think the slickness of it put me off in the beginning. I couldn’t control it very well and blamed it on the fiber instead of my inexperienced fingers.

Henriette on merino superwash

And here’s the thing…superwash soaks up dye like nobody’s business. You splash dye on superwash and you can almost hear a slurping sound. When I’m cold-pouring, I try to get the same amount of dye on each bundle of fiber. With untreated wool, you can push the color around a little and have it soak in. With superwash, you better be sure of where you’re putting the color – because it isn’t going to move!

The colors are intense and my superwash fibers usually have bits of white in the top/roving. I used to just keep putting more dye on to get all the white gone, but now I actually like the bits. It’s soothing to see them coming up when I’m at the wheel and they’re a nice contrast to the intensity of the colors.

Superwash is also very kind to beginning dyers. You can cook it a little longer than you should or let it boil in a pot and it’s not going to be a total waste. I try to be very careful when a dyepot is on the stove or my little propane kitchen is working away on the deck. But you know, life sometimes happens – the phone rings or the dog gets sprayed by a skunk and you have to deal with it before you can get back to the pots. Superwash is forgiving and it’s saved me on a couple of occasions.

One last thing, it’s cheap. Seriously, you can get some great colors on fabulous fibers out there and they won’t break the bank.

Day 5: Immersion Dyeing

Orange luxury pack

In August of this year my friend Lynne Vogel was teaching a color/spin/dye workshop at Harrisville Designs in New Hampshire. If you’re a knitter, you should have heard of Harrisville. They do the yummy yarns in the Vivian Hoxbro kits and they do a bunch of other amazing yarns for knitting and weaving (tweeds – mmmm!!).

Harrisville has a giant classroom space as well as room for dyeing. So a couple of years ago Lynne started teaching there and let me tell you, the students are a little rabid. She’s had some of the same people coming for more than 5 years to her workshops. I’m sure it has something to do with her style of teaching and what she teaches, but that’s pretty amazing no matter who you are.

Yellow BFL & Merino pack

This year the class only had about 10 people. We had a chance to split the group into 2 groups and in addition to the color pour technique that I first learned from Lynne, we got to try immersion dyeing. I like to think of it as stone soup dyeing. Essentially, you throw a color in a cold pot and heat it up. You can add the fiber while the pot is cold or wait till it’s warmed up a little and then throw it in. Different colors will strike at different temperatures and superwash soaks up dye like nobody’s business. So you get some amazing results with this combination.

We started with superwash (no chance of felting if we got lazy about watching the pot). Once the dye stock gets to almost boiling, you take it off and let it sit, covered, for about 20 minutes. This gives the dye time to exhaust and also cool off a little. When I’m at home, I let them sit until they cool off enough so I can stick my hands in. I have some of those giant heat proof gloves, but in my haste, I’ve messed up a lot of fiber by being too quick to get my hands in there and the fiber out. If you can wait, do, the fiber will thank you.

Usually, the dye exhausts into the fibers. Sometimes you get left overs. This is where it’s fun. At first, I was trying to completely exhaust so I could start again with a new color. After a while, I figured it was more fun to just throw a little more dye in and see what came about. Then I started experimenting with other fibers.

Red luxury pack

When I came home, the Hub helped me set up a little propane dye kitchen and I went a little wild. It occurred to me that I could do sample packs of fibers. A lot of times new spinners are hesitant to buy something they’ve never spun before (they don’t want to “ruin” it). I put together packets of luxury fibers so that people could try little bits to see if they liked it enough to buy more. It’s been a lot of fun. You never know what’s going to come out.

The luxury packs have 1 ounce each of merino superwash, merino (50)/bamboo (50), merino (70)/seacell (30), and merino (50)/tencel (50). The BFL/Merino pack has 1 ounce each of bluefaced leicester (BFL), BFL superwash, merino, and merino superwash. There’s also a 50 yard skein of wool, the light colors are merino from Australia and the dark colors are Michigan grown and processed wool.

Four ounces of something is enough to play. I’ve spun all the fibers as singles and then plied different singles together. My plan is to take one of the packs and spin and ply every combination to see what I come out with. Then I have to work on some sort of pattern so people know what to do with the yarns they’ve spun. Again, 4 oz is enough to make a cute pair of fingerless mitts, cuffs for a special sweater, or even a simple shawlette. My problem is deciding which pack to experiment with – I love all of them.

Next Month

I am crazy. I signed up for the December blog every day thingie on BlogHer. I’ve signed up as a crafty blogger, so I’m thinking about things I can do on a daily basis and post them on my blog.

  1. I haven’t gone back to my Artist Trading Cards since that Sunday that I worked with Lisa. I think I may have enough cards to be able to do one/day or at least a couple of weeks worth.
  2. I have a couple of spinning projects that I’m tackling right now. Those might be good interspersed with the ATC days.
  3. I have a billion knitting projects that are stalled in one phase or another. Some of them need to be ripped (at least 2 lace shawls that I’ve made mistakes in and it would be better just to start over), some of them just need a couple of things to call them finished (a sweater that only needs one cuff to be done, buttons put on another sweater, second sock, trim on a hat for Little Big Man), some need major work (Christmas stocking, socks for my mother).

I think I just made myself of list of things that need to be done, are crafty, and can be blog posts. Yay me!

Erica/Jillian Yarn

My friend Erica makes the best yarn. She has a great color sense and blends colors on the fly. She puts things together that I never would, and they look fabulous. My friend Jillian set out to do what Erica does. She watched Erica spin and watched how she put colors together and figured out a way to explain it to me so I could do it too.

I have a stash of fiber that’s so special to me that I can’t bring myself to spin it. It’s called the Box of Love ™. I knew that to try this technique, I had to spin something I really, really loved – so into the BoL I went. My friend Lynne Vogel doesn’t dye too much anymore, so her braids are almost sacred. They make gorgeous yarn, but they’re so precious that I’ve had a hard time parting with them. I had 3 oz each of Blue Jean Baby and an unnamed green colorway in 75% BFL and 25% tussah silk – dreamy. I knew these were the ones.

Lynne Vogel Ltd – Blue Jean Baby

Lynne Vogel Ltd – unnamed greens

You pick 2 colorways that have at least one color in common. It’s kind of hard to see (because my camera is dying) but there’s an ice blue that is common to both of these. Then the trick is to strip the top down and hold a piece of each colorway while spinning. I spun a pretty thin single, knowing that I would ply it. The picture of the single below is blurry, but you get a good idea of the way the colors blend together almost giving a barber pole effect in a single.

Blurry single still on the bobbin

When you ply the 2 singles together the colors blend and swirl like an Impressionist painting (gorgeous even though I say it myself).

2-ply in the skein after washing

end weight: 5.9 oz
wpi: 12
fiber: 75% blue faced leicester/25% tussah silk