Tag Archives: hand spinning

Always New Experiences

I started spinning wool on a spinning wheel 20 years ago. I knew 3 spinners- the person who was spinning at a Heifer International Festival in Rutland MA who I didn’t previously know but whom I went up to and asked who could teach me, my teacher who was the person she directed me to, and me. There were so many exciting things to learn.

Both my individual spinning world and the international spinning world have expanded rapidly since then. But I still have so many new experiences with it and there are more skills to learn. It is all so much fun. It is a good hobby also in that when spinners meet for the first time there is a bond of kindred spirits because the rest of the world doesn’t understand us and we don’t care. 🙂

This fall gave me three new opportunities. As part of our fiber business, Eagle Lake Fibers, we were able to teach a five week hands on class covering all the steps that it takes to create yarn from sheep to shawl. We taught 8 eager learners at the adult education program called Assabet After Dark at Assabet Valley Regional Technical School in Marlborough MA. We have been asked to present it again next fall and will also do a two week workshop in April that focuses only on carding and combing. Some of our students this fall told us they will take that also and it will be fun to see them again.


Part of the fun is getting the chance to comb fiber on scary tools. Only this minute did I realize I can see half of my cat on the floor.

Then here at Auntie Zaza’s Fiberworks in North Easton three women asked if they could be taught the drop spindle. I have always preferred the spinning wheel to the drop spindle so teaching it at Assabet and in North Easton prompted me to tighten up those skills. I find myself kind of attached to my little drop spindle now. Who knew that could happen?

Another more unusual request came to the yarn shop this time in the form of a woman wanting her dear departed husky’s fur spun. I had never spun much dog but figured at this point I can figure out how to spin anything. Those skills were tested because the fibers were about an inch and a half long and full of guard hairs. Huskys, like many dogs and the more primitive sheep are dual coated with soft short warm fur against their skin and outer guard hairs that are longer, coarse and wiry to keep the rain, snow and cold away from their skin.

I washed it so no, it no longer smelled like a wet dog, and was able to keep at the spinning of it because I loved a dog, a sheltie, for 15 years.


Spirit our sweet sheltie and Growlbert our alpha cat whose motto seemed to be that what Growlbert wants Growlbert gets. They both came with those names which was good because we tend to be abysmal at naming our pets. They both lived to ripe old ages but not long enough for me.

After it was spun she asked if I would take it, and a skein someone else spun a few years  ago (who wisely spun only the longer fibers) and knit something that she could wear over her shoulders.  Having something made from his fur was very meaningful for her. I find that the veil between this world and the next seems thinner the older I grow and although our dog died 8 years ago I still feel her presence with me. As I do my grandparents. I don’t have an explanation of how I  feel this but I just know I do and that is comfort enough.


Husky scarf and detail of paw pattern.

So, after 20 years the opportunities to have new fresh spinning experiences keep finding me. There is never a lack of spinning and spinning related  things to do. I am so fortunate to have a passion in my life which gives me so much enjoyment. This picture of my fiber room that I took today belies my statements that I don’t like clutter or the chaos of too many things in my house. You won’t find either in most of the rooms. Except here. Chaos is just so much fun here. fiber-on-new-table-nov-2017



Fiber and Family Trip

Our trip to Colorado and Wyoming was full of fiber and family which is perfect in my mind. This is the trip that Steve masterminded after I told him last fall that I don’t need more “things” for gifts. I have more than enough stuff and would prefer experiences.

He got on the ball by looking in one of my Spin Off magazines and at Christmas proposed that we take a trip to Colorado and Wyoming as my gifts for 2016. The timing was centered around Interweave’s Yarn Fest in Loveland CO and our children joined us for parts of the trip.

The day he and I arrived we went first to Boulder so that I could visit Shuttles, Spindles and Skeins. I have always wanted to go there because it is run by Maggie Casey who is well known through her workshops and DVDs, and her partner. I knew it would have many spinning and weaving items as well as yarn and I wasn’t disappointed. After browsing extensively and finding a few treasures to take home I walked deeper into the second room, turned a corner and stopped with a small gasp when I saw:

wheels in boulder

Spinning wheels for classes at Shuttles Spindles & Skeins

These wheels are used for teaching in a huge classroom. I was among my own people. 🙂

The next day I took a day long class on Fiber Prep with Esther Rogers, another well know spinning teacher. I enjoy Fiber Prep as much as and maybe a tiny bit more than spinning. I knew that she would give tips on creative out of the box ways to use fiber prep tools and I wasn’t disappointed. I learned different ways to use the drum carder and blending board to create unique fibers to spin. One fun thing she did was to literally cram as much diverse fiber onto one little drum carder with long teeth as she could to produce art rolags. Art means the rolags will have many textures from different fibers and will be colorful. The yarn spun from them will have those characteristics too. It won’t be a smooth predictable yarn.

esther's art batt

Filling the drum carder super full









art rolags CO

Art rolags by Esther Rogers








One night we had dinner with cousins from Denver. We were able to meet my cousin’s young grandson for the first time and figured he would be my third cousin but our sons first cousin once removed following genealogy terms. All we will probably retain is that he’s a cousin. A very nice cousin.

Then on to Laramie Wyoming to visit another cousin (first 🙂 ) I was so lucky to be able to visit her in part because we share some family heirlooms. Our Burnham grandmother was a Nebraska farm wife during the depression and was a very talented quilter. We did not know her as she died in 1944.  Here is Dell’s quilt:dell's quilt


Here is my quilt:

my quilt

My quilt from my grandmother Burnham. The lighting isn’t so good.

I took individual pictures of many of the squares on Dell’s so I can find the common fabrics. Here is one of hers:

quilt square

Quilt square from Dell’s quilt

Here is one of mine with the same flower material. Mine is more faded.

rose pattern like dells


She also gave me a bowl that had belonged to our grandmother. It says Western Stoneware Co. on the bottom and is quite heavy. I couldn’t resist getting some of my sourdough starter going in it the very day we returned home.

Nebraska bowl with sourdough

Grandmother Burnham’s bowl with my sourdough starter

Then, just to show how bizarre life can be, Dell took us to this monument:

ames monument

Ames monument Laramie WY

Steve had told her that the shovels used to dig the original railroad were made in our town at the Ames Shovel Factory which is now condos. She said there was a monument to the 2 Ames brothers who we knew in addition to providing shovels were also in charge of completing the intercontinental railroad at the behest of President Lincoln. We had no idea the monument existed. Several town buildings including the high school and library  in our town were named for the Ames family and their historic homes are now parks and we know their history well. So, we found ourselves sort of in the middle of nowhere (I say that fondly) looking at a picture of North Easton MA containing a building we recognized. ames plaque WY

C me Dell WY

My son Christopher, myself, and my cousin at Ames Monument in WY

At the end I was ready to get back to my cat and chickens. I missed seeing their little faces every day even though I knew they were being thoroughly spoiled by a neighbor.

We were blessed with a wonderful trip.




















“Use What You Have and You Will Never Be Without”

That’s an old expression that came to mind yesterday morning as I was finishing my herb garden. Gardening brings several of my favorite activities together: planting and growing of course,  chickens who contribute aged bedding and manure for fertilizer and soil amendments and even wool leftover from combing which I use for mulch. I also use grass clippings. The last three are just sitting around with no other purpose so I feel good about using them rather than wasting. Rather than spending money on materials that do the same thing.

Even I don’t want wool showing in the garden so I cover it with grass clippings. Wool will protect and takes a long time to break down and I will have to replace the grass clippings before I need more wool.  We don’t lack for grass clippings on this acre. In the front of the  picture you can see the layer of wool on the left. It is covered by grass on the right. It was supposed to get hot today- to me 78 degrees feels a bit too hot- so I was out early as can be seen by the shadows.


Mulching with wool under grass clippings


Discovery of  something or other

Does anyone know what this is? I don’t. We have a collection of items found on the property by the previous owners and some we and the chickens have dug up- hand forged nails, small bottles, broken pottery- and I just dug this up in the herb garden. It looks like a spoon but the bent handle has slots which a spoon would not have. Back in the 1830s-not that this is likely that old- when the house was built and for a very long time afterwards people weren’t putting their trash out for the town haulers to pick up.  🙂  They were burning it and burying it. They had much less waste from packaging and other things than we have. Since this was behind the barn it could have fallen off of something too.

We also have a large two person saw, and an old oil lantern that were used here. I enjoy thinking about the people being right here where I am, using those things. Our fireplace has a metal arm that swings out to hold a cooking pot or an iron.


Swinging arm original to fireplace for irons and pots.

We have a couple of those irons. They are so heavy! The women must have developed arthritis and all kinds of other problems with their shoulders and arms after hefting those things. Unless they were like me and avoid ironing at all costs. They didn’t really have that choice though.

Thinking about all these items and activities happening here long ago makes the expression in my title come even more alive. I like it because it gets my creative juices flowing. What can I do to complete an activity and not have to buy much, or maybe anything? What can I use or create from things that I have already? That expression likely came about long ago from people who did not have the material wealth to buy whatever they needed. Or a Walmart nearby to sell it to them. We have many more options and often they come in handy. But do we need to always use those kinds of options?  Or can we be more creative and less wasteful?

chicks July 10

Chicks almost two months old July 2014. Thanks for the picture Laura!

I know I will be wasteful with certain things such as my chickens. I am sure that the chickens kept here long ago in the same hen house we now use were eaten once they stopped laying eggs. It makes sense. But in 2015 I don’t need to eat them in order to survive. So I guess I pick and choose my wastefulness! But look how cute and goofy they were ten months ago.  Who could eat this even now that they are full grown? People more sensible and practical than me, people who were  masters at surviving by using what they already had at their disposal, that is who. We can only marvel and sometimes learn.


No one is eating you!

And be grateful we don’t have to iron with hot 8 pound irons.

Next week back to wool and sheep! There has been a lot of dyeing here today.


About half of the dyeing I did today. The rest is still cooling.










On Getting Our Hands Dirty

The other day I was in the car listening to an interview on one of Boston’s PBS stations with a man who was discussing the value that people put on objects they have created or put together themselves. He was using IKEA furniture as an example while stating that people who don’t make furniture feel pride over putting an IKEA chair together. He commented that few people in our society see tangible evidence at the end of the day of the work they have done. They have been doing work on the computer, or pushing papers, or both but have no object to show for it. He believes that we are programmed to want to see something tangible that we have created.

That was thought provoking for me because part of the joy I find in all of my fiber activities is that I have created something. Something I had to give thought to, envision,  and then I had to do something with my hands so that it came about. While intellectually I know that a lot of people in this world don’t care to create things, anything, most of the people I choose to spend time with outside of work do and that can skew my viewpoint. They aren’t all huge animal lovers and obsessed with fiber like I am, but they do things with their hands. Things that are slow, things that take time, things that make us forget time because we are so absorbed in them.

On Saturday I went to a place where hundreds of my kindred spirits who thrive on making things with their hands congregated. The 106th Connecticut Sheep, Wool and Fiber Festival. Here are some images from it.

lamb in sweater

Lamb in Sweater

big fleece

Gigantic fleece

Doesn’t get much cuter than a  tiny lamb in a sweater on a chilly morning. Normally a lamb wouldn’t be away from its mother at this age but her mother was unable to feed her so her owners are giving her bottles until she is old enough to no longer need them.

This fleece had just been sheared from

a Dorset sheep on the other end of the spectrum, one that weighed around 250 pounds. The shearer was a woman who probably weighed half of that. She is very experienced so she knows the very specific techniques and positions to use so that she can keep the sheep relaxed and docile and allow her to shear it.

I have never wanted to shear but I sure do like getting the fleece right off the sheep, getting rid of dirty parts and then using my hands and imagination to go through all the absorbing steps to get it to the point where it can become a sweater…maybe for a tiny lamb, who knows?

Just A Few More Thoughts on Peace and Spinning

Today my spinning sister Lori, who has her own inspiring blog at walkingwool.blogspot.com,  sent information about Ghandi and spinning in a comment to my blog about creating our own peace. I knew that Ghandi spun cotton on a charkha. A charkha is a unique type of wheel that spins very fast which is what is required to spin the short cotton fibers. I knew he said everyone should spin at least a half hour a day because of the inner peace it provides and he advocated that people in India spin as a form of rebellion against England. If they could create their own cloth they would not be dependent upon England for these goods. Women did this in America before and during the Revolution to reduce dependence on England. (I am not picking on England 🙂  I have been there twice and remember the first time I arrived feeling that I had come home. I love it.) It is just history.

Ghandi spinning cotton on a charkha

Here is the information Lori sent:

Regarding peace and spinning, remember how Gandhi felt about that combination . . . “Charkha is the symbol of the nation’s prosperity and therefore freedom. It is a symbol not of commercial war but of commercial peace. It bears not a message of ill-will towards the nations of the earth but of goodwill and self-help. It will not need the protection of a navy threatening a world’s peace and exploiting its resources, but it needs the religious determination of millions to spin their yarn in their own homes as today they cook their food in their own homes. I may deserve the curse of posterity for many mistakes of omission and commission, but I am confident of earning its blessings for suggesting a revival of the Charkha. I stake my all on it. For every revolution of the wheel spins peace, goodwill and love. And with all that, inasmuch as the loss of it brought about India’s slavery, its voluntary revival with all its implications must mean India’s freedom.” (Young India,8-12-1921)

His ideas are so beautiful and powerful. I felt emotional when I read the line “For every revolution of the wheel spins peace, goodwill and love.” As I have said before, I think every spinner feels this each time he/she spins. It may be inner peace, or greater, but we feel it.

This particularly resonates with me as I sit here watching the Boston Marathon on tv. I  don’t need to comment specifically about the horror of the bombing two years ago, or the recent trial, but instead am thinking about two images that brought me some peace in the wake of it. First was seeing on tv that very soon after the Marathon there was a baseball game played by the Yankees, the arch enemy of the Boston Red Sox. I truly don’t understand the extent to which some fans on both sides take their dislike of each other. At this game, and it still chokes me up a bit, the Yankee fans started singing Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond. For some other reason I don’t understand, that song has  become the song of the Red Sox and is sung at every game. For Yankees fans to show that form of unique support when Boston was reeling was a surprise and felt wonderful.

Secondly was the end of the Marathon last year. TV coverage went off at 4:00 and I was watching because a friend, who was stopped the year before one mile before the finish line, was running to complete it for his first time. I didn’t think I would pick him out but had to watch. What we saw was wave after wave after wave of runners approaching the finish line in the sunlight. Again I feel choked up as I remember thinking  “This is the way it is supposed to be.” It is supposed to be a fun, traditional event. It is supposed to be an event that parents can take children and feel safe to cheer on runners and watch for their family members and friends cross the line after 6 hours (!) of running.  Last year it was again and I believe will be the same this year.

Tahkli Spindle for Spinning Cotto

Tahkli Spindle for Spinning Cotton


Coincidentally, although I know people who don’t think anything is a coincidence and maybe this isn’t, a few days ago purchase I made from The Woolery http://www.woolery.com,  a wonderful spinning and weaving store, arrived. I have been thinking about spinning cotton, and have dyed some that I threw in when dyeing lace for the ring bearer’s pillow for a friend’s daughter’s wedding over a year ago. When I read up on spinning cotton I realized that my wheel would not spin quickly enough which is why Ghandi used a charka which can . Cotton can also be spun on a drop spindle that twirls quickly so I decided to get one. My tahkli spindle arrived with a little bowl in which it will sit as I spin. It weighs half an ounce and is 7″ long.

Cotton to spin

Cotton to spin

I want to spin and then weave the cotton into dishcloths.

Of course first I have to learn to card and spin cotton and how to use this spindle, but I guess the signs point to my learning it now.  I will start today. My challenge will be to feel peaceful as I practice with it and fail and fail at first until I get it down.  I guess this is part of persistence towards peace on any level even this teeny.

I didn’t plan to be quite so somber for this week’s post but it felt right as I wrote so I will leave with some pictures of lambs frolicking. Who can’t smile and feel good when they see crazy lamb behavior.

Frolicking sheep

Frolicking lambs - if only!

Or even just lambs sitting and looking darling.

I’ll go card cotton but cotton bolls just aren’t as cute as lambs no matter what the bolls are doing.