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Saturday, March 2, 2013

Hi everyone.  I have been long absent from this blog and have had a couple of people write and ask..."are you dead?"

Nope.  I can sum up the reason I've been away from my crafts in three words.


First, frozen shoulder.  If you've ever had one you  know it is worse than childbirth and lasts for YEARS.  It may be that I spun too much and too long.  Who  knows?  Anyway, it has kept me from spinning for quite a while and has caused me a huge  amount of pain.  It has also kept an army of doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors, massage therapists and pharmacists employed.  It is mostly better.  Mostly.  And I have avoided surgery.

Second, tennis elbow.  And I do not play tennis.  This keeps me from weaving (waaa) and knitting.  Seriously.  Who knew there was a joint thing that would make even KNITTING painful?  I'm working on it.

Third.  Three hand surgeries.  Yeah.  Three.

It turns out that once I hit fifty my tendons rebelled.  My orthopedic surgeon said, "Some people just have crappy tendons."  That's me.

My loom is quiet for now.  My spinning wheels are quiet.  My yarn is waiting.  It has been hard, and depressing, a really difficult time for me to face my limitations and aging and all that goes with it.  I am VERY hopeful that I will be able to go back to it all, but it will have to be at a different, less driven pace (no more speed demon).

So I'm taking voice lessons.  And I have a new puppy.  And my joints are healing but it's slow!

I still have my Etsy store, I am still a dealer of fiber goodies.  I have a LOT of fiber to sell (e-mail me if you need fuzzy stuff) but I'm keeping my stock of equipment low so if you need equipment in a hurry, I am not your girl.  If you're not in a hurry, I'd love to help!

Spin on!  Weave on!  But do take care of your body first of all.

If it makes you ache, take a break.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Holiday Gifts - Wheels and a Loom!

I have three really nice items in stock that I'm needing to move out before inventory.  Do you know anyone who is in the market for a lovely little spinning wheel or portable loom?

The Louet Victoria Folding Travel Wheel is on sale for $665 ($100 off retail) plus $10.99 FedEx shipping, and I will include two extra bobbins (for a total of 5).  It comes with full warranty and a Lazy Kate.  This is the oak version, see my previous post for photos.

Ladybug!  I've got one LB in the box, ready to fly to her new home.  Regular price is $575 but I will let this one go for $524 plus $12.99 FedEx shipping.  It comes with three bobbins, an orifice hook and both belts for double drive and scotch tension drive.  A WONDERFUL, sturdy little wheel that can do anything the big ones can do.

Schacht FLIP LOOM, 15" Package.  This includes the FLIP 15 loom, THREE reeds (5, 10, 12 dent) shuttles, pickup stick, warping pegs, table clamps, Flip Trap (cloth tray at the front) and the wonderful trestle stand that makes the loom portable from room to room or out on your sunny porch.  The total for this package is regularly $522 (I include some other free goodies as well).  Your price - $439 plus $14.99 FedEx shipping.  This is a perfect loom for handspinners as there is very little loom waste.  See photos - I've got handspun as warp so you can see what it looks like warped.

E-mail me if you have questions!  Thanks for looking. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Schacht Sidekick and Louet Victoria, Side By Side

I recently became a Louet dealer and one of my first purchases was an Oak Victoria.  Two weeks prior to receiving it I'd set up my first Schacht Sidekick, so I was fairly new to both wheels and decided to do a comparison.  Here are my findings.

Price Range - both wheels retail at just under $800 so in price they are very similar.  Better prices may be found than suggested retail. 

What's in the box?  The Sidekick comes with three bobbins,  a fast and a medium speed whorl (4 ratios total) an orifice hook and a wide carry strap that snaps onto the back of the wheel.
The Victoria comes with three bobbins and a Lazy Kate.  The strap is permanently attached at the top and is used mainly to carry it from location to location.  There is a padded bag with a shoulder strap that costs another $150, slightly less if you buy them together.

Weight:  The Sidekick is definitely hefty, weighing in at 13 pounds, and the Victoria is a lightweight, lighter even than the Majacraft Little Gem.  Total weight is 8 pounds.

Height:  Folded down, the Sidekick measures 21.5 x 15 x 8.5"   The Victoria fold down to 19 x 12 x 5.5"

Ease of takedown:  Here is where the Victoria wins hands down.  There are only a few, intuitive steps to folding and unfolding this little wheel.  It took me longer to get it out of its shipping box than it did to set it up for spinning.

Even after multiple tries it took me more than twice as long to fold and unfold the Sidekick.  I had to refer to the instructions over and over.  This is really embarrassing in front of customers!  (Don't ask me how I know) so I determined to memorize and practice.  That's my point.  With the Victoria I didn't have to practice.

Treadling:  The treadling on the Sidekick is much like the treadling on the Ladybug, set at scotch tension.  The treadles are really big - nice if you have long, or large feet!  Compared to the Victoria I would call the treadling a bit heavy - it required more effort to sustain.

The Victoria's treadling was surprisingly easy.   The treadles are quite small which might be a problem for larger spinners.  Both are scotch tension, flyer-led spinning wheels.

Spinning:  Schacht lovers will feel right at home with a Sidekick.  It feels like a Schacht! Because the flyer and bobbins are the same as those on the LB and the Matchless, the spinning experience is much the same.  Somewhat heavy treadling, finely adjustable takeup, standard yarn hooks to deal with.

The Victoria has sliding hooks on either arm of the flyer, which some people love and other hate but shouldn't be a deal-breaker.  Both systems do what they are supposed to do and I suspect that a lot of wheel makers are moving to sliding hooks because it is cheaper and faster to put together.  It was easy treadling and fast, smooth spinning.

The Carpet Test:  To me, this is really important.  Most wheels will work really well on a level, smooth floor.  But how do they work in real life, on carpet or on a rug?  For carpet spinning, the Victoria won hands down.  The reason is the placement of the back feet.  (See photo below).  The Sidekick's back feet are very close together and on carpet, this acted like a single foot.  The result was that the wheel rocked back and forth.  The Victoria, as lightweight as it was (and at first I thought that was going to be a minus) was as stable on carpet as on the bare floor.

I filled a bobbin with each wheel.  The Sidekick bobbin holds more yarn.  I spun fast, slow, long draw, you name it.  Here are my final conclusions.

SIDEKICK PROS:  Extremely sturdy wheel, made to last, compatible parts with other Schacht wheels.  Maple will not easily scratch or dent.  Will appeal to those who own and love their Matchless or LadyBug.  Definitely a member of the Schacht family!  The wheel is available without flyer and bobbins for those who already own Schacht wheels.  This reduces the price by $120, definitely a bargain!

SIDEKICK CONS: Heavy.  13 pounds carried on one's shoulder is a lot.  Complicated folding with many steps, levers, screws, parts that can get lost.  Did not pass my carpet test.

VICTORIA PROS: Extremely lightweight.  Brainless fold-up and take-down.  Oak is basically unscratchable.  Passed the carpet test.

CONS: To be really portable you need the carry bag, which adds almost $150 to the price.  Small bobbins, not compatible with larger Louet wheels, but are compatible with the Julia. Small treadles, an issue for some people.  (I have size 9 feet, it didn't bother me.)

I hope this is helpful.  And I hope you all know these are my personal opinions and conclusions.  Ask questions if you have them!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Inkle Pattern Drafts - Free!

A couple of months ago I bought an inkle loom.  I inkled for several weeks and concluded that...I don't enjoy inkle weaving very much.  I made some wonderful bands and they are decorating my weaving room.  I sold the inkle loom to another weaver who was THRILLED to get it, so the story has a good ending.

While I was inkling I created some inkle drafts in color.  Here they are, free, free, free for anyone who wants to use them.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Smart Phones and Spinning Wheels

My blog is now enabled for mobile viewing.

And, I've got two LadyBug Spinning wheels in stock, brand new and ready to ship.  They are priced to sell, so if you've been hankering after a LadyBug, or have questions, send me an e-mail.  My phone is very smart - I can get your e-mail no matter where I am...even when I'm fishing.


Contrary to rumors, I am not Blog AWOL.  I have just been very busy!  My son got married...that meant I had to weave a bunch of towels as table centerpieces and giveaways at the rehearsal dinner.

The first set of towels was a red/pink gamp.  These towels represented the harmony that can happen in a good marriage. 

The second set of towels were made by using all the scraps from all of the cotlin towels I've made, both for the bridal shower and for the rehearsal dinner.  I made random stripes in the warp and then wove in a twill using mercerized cotton for the weft.

These were the "scrap" towels, and they represented the times in life when everything is going wrong and we feel like all we are getting are the scraps of life - the scraps of our spouse's attention, time, love - or when we feel like we have nothing to give but scraps.  Scraps are still beautiful and useful.  Even the difficult times can be woven together by our Good God. 

The rehearsal dinner was a great success and I gave away a dozen towels. 

Then I had to make something for my nephew's wedding gift.  I made fine linen napkins in a Swedish lace pattern.  I made four of them all white, and one of them with natural linen weft, just to see how it looked.

Whew.  No more weddings for a while!

Our spring/early summer was a whirlwind.  So in July we did a lot of this.

That is me with a largemouth bass.  He was not too happy about the photo and swam away with an angry flip of his fishy tail.

We've got a week at home (weaving, family visits, hot weather) and then a couple more camping trips before school starts, Hubby goes back to the grind, I mean classroom, and the weather is cooler for MORE FIBER ACTIVITIES!

Next weaving project - bamboo towels. 

Stay cool!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

No Sheep Shawl - Camel, Alpaca, Cashmere and Silk

I thought I'd end up knitting with my handspun cashmere laceweight but I was wrong.  I had almost 2200 yds of handspun baby camel/alpaca/silk (my own blend) stuffed away in a plastic bag with no purpose in life, and it had high enough twist to use as warp.  I found a Huck Lace draft I liked, did my calculations, and measured the warp.

Then I sized the warp with Good Old Rabbit Skin Glue, let it dry overnight, and warped my loom.

Halfway through dressing the loom I just had to take a photo of the sheer orderliness of it all.  I had no idea I could get excited about the fiddly, perfectionist activity of dressing a loom.  It is nice to discover unknown things about oneself!

The weaving itself was quick.  I only had two delays.  First, I ran out of weft yarn when I was 14" from the end.  Oops.  I guess my calculations were off.  So much for my newly discovered inner perfectionist.  Fortunately I had more of the fiber on hand so I spun another 400 yds of the cashmere and left it to set on the bobbin while I went on a cruise with my daughter.  That was the other delay.  Here I am, not spinning or weaving.  And yes, it is a full-body swim suit.  You can buy one here if you hate sunburn and naked legs as much as I do.

 When I returned the cashmere was ready to ply.  Once the yarn was finished I got back to weaving, and it took only an hour or so to finish. Because of the rabbit skin sizing, the piece of cloth was a little on the stiff side.  I reminded myself that sizing rinses out.  That kept me from panicking.  Who wants a STIFF cashmere shawl?

I tied all the fringe and trimmed it.  Then I soaked the shawl in hot water with a little Woolite, spun off the water, rolled it in a towel, and laid it flat to dry.

The sizing washed out.  The shawl is To Die For soft.  I am please with the results and now I need an entire new outfit to wear with it.

1. I love rabbit skin sizing even more than ever.  I broke exactly NO warp ends during weaving.
2. Make enough weft to start with.  Plan to use more than calculated.
3. Huck usually has a plain weave selvedge.  I did make a plain weave selvedge but I doubled the last four ends and did NOT like the results.  I will just use PLAIN plain weave next time.
4. I tend to stretch my left selvedge.  Next time I will probably weight the last two selvedges separately.
5.  The most painful thing about weaving with handspun is all the loom waste.  It was VERY PAINFUL to cut the thrums from the loom at the end.
6. There is a reason cashmere is so expensive.  This is THE softest garment I have ever owned.
7. There is a reason most weavers buy commercial yarn.  Spinning the fiber adds weeks of time to a project.
8.  There is a reason some of us are crazy enough to spin some of our weaving yarn.  S-A-T-I-S-F-A-C-T-I-O-N.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Twill Towels - Cotton/Linen Adventure

More towels!  This time I made them as a bridal shower gift.  I used fibers that were new to me and a twill threading (M & W) that was also new to me.  

I got a very good deal on some WEBS 8/2 Cotlin (50% cotton, 50% linen) so I bought about a dozen cones in various colors.  I also had some cones of BORGS "Bomullin" which is the same fiber content but made in Sweden.  I thought I'd make towels from both and compare.

I used 8/2 mercerized cotton for the warp and sett it at 24 ends per inch, as for twill.  I had a cone each of white and natural so I wound them together and figured no one would be able to tell.  I was right about that!

I planned for six towels, 22 x 38 on the loom with a 1 inch hem of 10/2 white cotton at each end.  I also left myself some room to goof off at the end and I'm glad I did because I made a nice discovery.  More about that later.

First I wove the brick red towels.  This was the Swedish cotlin.  Here are the close ups.

Hurts  my eyes....

Next I wove two green towels using a second treadling and making them different by adding a horizontal stripe to one.
Because the person I made these for loves green, I made the third pair with olive green and brown.  I used a third treadling and varied it with wide stripes.

I had my six towels and still had about a yard of warp to play with, so I used the third treadling but switched to a thick and thin mercerized cotton flake.  It is quite a lot heavier and has specks of other colors in it.  The main color is dark mauve.
This one wasn't the full length of the other towels but is a nice "shorty" towel for personal use.

What I learned:

The Swedish cotton/linen was far superior to the WEBS.  It also costs twice as much, so if I were making a VERY VERY special project I'd be tempted to use only the Swedish.  The hand of the final cloth was crisper (like linen) and it didn't make any fuzz while I wove.  It also didn't need any ironing right out of the dryer.  The WEBS cotton/linen is softer and fuzzier.  I imagine it will not wear as well over time but the price could not be beat so I'm not unhappy with the purchase and have a lot more of it for other projects.

I learned that I have a hard time keeping track of even the simplest treadling sequences.  If my mind wanders, I mess up.  So, I assign a note of the scale to each treadle and sing a little song while I weave.  It's boring, and the words are the numbers of the treadles, but it WORKED FOR ME. 

I also learned not to freak out if the weaving doesn't look like the picture in the book.  I sleyed  the reed 3 threads to a dent.  This created little tracks in the cloth and at first I thought I'd threaded the whole thing wrong.  Nope.  After I washed the towels they were perfect.

Finally, I learned that I REALLY like the cotton flake towel!  The dense sett of the warp made for a nice, firm fabric.  It's heavy but not at all stiff.  It would make a wonderful bath towel!  If I hadn't left myself room to experiment I probably would not have discovered this - usually cotton flake is woven at 10-12 epi. 

The hemmed and finished towels are 19 x 34.5.  I am beginning to understand why towel weaving is so addicting.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Spinning Dog Fur: A Poodle Adventure

Meet Carl, the 80-pound standard poodle.  Before I learned to spin he was just a great, big, furry, lovable, happy pal.  Once I started spinning I began to eye him in a new way.

All those lovely black curls...

Tightwad that I am, I decided not to let Carl's coat end up in the groomer's wastebasket.

My first attempt at harvesting his coat was disaster, but I learned something important.  Wash dog first.  THEN clip.  I assumed I could treat a poodle coat like a fleece.  I clipped the dog and washed the fur very, very gently in shampoo.  It turned into a mass of black felt.  I salvaged less than half an ounce, spun a tiny ball of 2-ply, sent it to Spin-Off and got it pictured in the fall 2009 issue, but that was it.

Last spring I was ready.  I washed the dog FIRST.  Let him dry.  Combed out the tangles.  Then I clipped off the best parts of his coat - like a sheep's fleece, that was the neck, back, sides, and rump.  I didn't bother with the rest.  I took him to the groomer looking like an advertisement for mange and carried on with my fiber fun.

Despite how soft my dog feels when I pet him, his fur was somewhat wiry.  The crimp is open.  Because he is middle-aged there are now a lot of white hairs mixed in.  So I decided to blend the dog fur with natural black merino.  I carded up four big batts.

I don't remember why, but for some reason I had to set aside the project at this stage.  I laid the batts carefully over the back of an old sofa in the basement and decided to get back to it when I had time.  Fast forward to this fall.  When I went to finish the carding, half the fiber had felted, JUST from the summer heat and humidity of my basement.  I have never had t his happen, not even to rabbit angora.  I threw the matted junk away and re-carded what was left.  I carded it three times.

Here is what I ended up with - poodle/merino roving.

It was NOT easy to spin!  I swear the fiber WANTS to felt.  It felted when I looked at it.  It felted as I spun.   It was hard drafting but finally I finished the yarn - 400 yds of two-ply, just in time for our Fiber Guild meeting.  I skeined it and made it into a yarn twist.  That was less than two weeks ago.

Today I took the UNTOUCHED skein out of the closet.  The strands are felting together.  Can't blame humidity this time of year - it is dry, dry dry.

What I learned:
1. My dog's fur is great for felting.
2. I don't love spinning dog fur.
3. There is a reason sheep are the primary fleece animal in the world

I probably will not be spinning any more of Carl's fur.  But someone is going to get a dandy pair of felted slippers or mittens, courtesy of the family canine.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

It's Official! Side-Kick Prices

I just got the news from Schacht - here are the prices on their new travel wheel, the Side Kick.

The Sidekick package (full wheel, bobbins, etc) is $785.

And here is some GREAT news for those who already own a Lady Bug or Matchless - The Side Kick is available without whorls, bobbins or a flyer for $665.  If you are happy to share parts between your wheels, you can get this fantastic travel wheel for a considerable savings!

The Bulky Flyer kit is an additional $260.

I am taking pre-orders.  $200 down will reserve your place in line.  Don't wait!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Spinning With Cashmere

In 2008 I traveled to China with my daughter's college choir.   While we were touring a cashmere factory I got our translator to ask the manager of the factory if I could buy just a little unspun fiber.  I (and the translator) had to ask three times.  "No," said the manager when he finally understood.  We don't sell such a thing."  He pointed to the showroom where they sold everything from rugs to sweaters to little stuffed kittens.  He couldn't understand why any sane person would want the fluff.  I think he felt a little insulted, too.  He was real frowny.

SO since I couldn't get even a pinch of cashmere in China, I bought some here.  And guess where it came from?  Yep.  China.  Mongolia, to be exact.  The following is an account of this spinning adventure.

I bought 8 ounces of cream colored cashmere top and when it arrived I just stuck my hand in the bag and touched it.  It almost felt like touching NOTHING at all.  I fluffed the top a bit and started to spin - using the fastest ratio on my Souped up Suzie.  I wanted as many yards as possible - spinning pure gold.  To make it go even farther, I planned to ply with a fine silk thread.

I found it was difficult to keep a very even draft - lots of little slubs.  The fiber was fine but not slippery, and the top was fairly compacted.  Had I been spinning on a drop spindle I would have had more consistency, but I was in a hurry this time.

I finally settled on a long draw spinning from a hunk of the top torn off and folded in half.  I didn't fold it OVER my finger, I just folded and spun from the point of the fold.  I was able to spin fast and fairly evenly.

By the time I had two full Majacraft lace bobbins I was sick of looking at cashmere.  I still had to ply.  I figured I'd had enough.  I let it sit for a week to set the twist then plied it with silk thread.

Final counts:  4.6 ounces of silk-plied cashmere is 1693 yds.  In other words, 368 yds/oz.  You can see in the close up that the strands are not perfect - some are fluffier than others!  The overall feel of the yarn is soft, soft, soft and very cushy. 

Knitted into lace it will have a lustrous drape and will weigh next to nothing.  I haven't decided if I will knit or weave it.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Side Kick - Price and Pre-Ordering

Schacht has not finalized the price on the Side Kick travel wheel yet, but rumor has it that it will retail for around $800.  The wheels will start shipping in May, but NOW is the time to get on the list if you want to be first in line.  They already have a growing number of pre-paid customers.

For $200 down I will pre-order your wheel.  Pre-orders need to be placed by the end of Feb but a queue is already forming so the sooner we get your wheel ordered, the sooner you will get it after the wheels start shipping.