Tag Archives: handspinning

May!

May is great month, second only to Autumn in my mind. It is a month of revitalization.Trees and perennial flowers are blooming. Gardening really gets going.  This year for us it also includes being the lucky receivers of a permaculture plan for our property that our son is developing for a class. I find permaculture hard to define. It has many different levels to it but in a general sense it means working in harmony with nature while achieving resilience by using natural patterns.  Because of his interest we have also been motivated to do some things we think about but haven’t seemed to get done. I have been inspired to finally start some perennial kale plants which is called Sea Kale. Once they are established they will come back every year. They fit into the permaculture model because they will come back over and over on their own and be a ready source of food. I am happy to see the new leaves growing.

sea kale

A perennial kale called Sea Kale

Our son gave me an elderberry plant for Mother’s Day and planted it too.

kyle plating elderberry

Elderberry Bush May 1 2016

I like to measure dramatic things like the amount of snow during a big storm and found that when he put it in on May 1st it was 23″ tall. Today it was 28″ The reason it interests me to measure it is that it will get to be 10′ tall and 8′ wide . It is a resilient bush,  won’t need help once it gets established and its berries can be eaten..

I grew up on the coast of Connecticut and for me there is nothing like water. I crave seeing it and luckily we are only 35 minutes away from towns on Buzzard’s Bay and another 10 from the Cape. But I want more of it in my life so I finally this May bought a small fountain after talking with our son about a water feature.  I can hear it (right now) from a room in the house where we sit and read, and can hear it when I am working in the backyard. A silly little thing but I like it! The plant hadn’t started growing when we placed it there but it adds to the quirkiness of it.

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Fountain

He gave his permaculture presentation of our plan last weekend in Portland Maine at the inspiring spot where he took this course and one before it. Back among old industrial buildings there is a revitalization going on that we see in many towns throughout New England in spots that have been or still are down on their luck. The setting for his workshop is in a place called the Resilience Hub. Next to it we found the Maine Library of Tools which we had to see. This is a place that lets out tools that people may need for a project but don’t want to or can’t afford to buy. Not only were there chain saws and the like but also things like large kitchen mixers. Such a good cooperative idea. I was gratified to see spinning wheels on their wish list! I didn’t expect to see that.

Since we were there we went to the waterside of course since I couldn’t leave without time there.I like to make water pictures big so I can really look into them.

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Portland Maine wharf May 2016

Of course not a day goes by in any month that I don’t do fiber related activities. As part of our Eagle Lake Fibers tiny business we took a free two hour workshop on Legal  Considerations for New Business Owners.

It was offered by another commendable organization based in MA called the Center for Women and Enterprise. They offer on-line classes as well as those that can be attended in person. Many have fees but a few are free as was this one. Lots of good information was provided. It was held in their Central Mass office in Westborough in an old -you guessed it- revitalized mill building. Lots of charm. As we were leaving we went down a hall and came upon:spinning wheel at mill

bobbin and spinning wheel at mill

Spinning Wheel and Bobbin

I of course had to gently touch it and analyze missing pieces.

 

 

 

 

As far as creating goes this month, this is a table runner that I just wove on my rigid heddle loom using a cotton warp (the threads that go up and down) and my handwashed, handdyed hand combed and handspun yarn from Romney, Kerry Hill/Border Leicester and Cotswold sheep.Not in finished form here.

table runner

Handspun wool weft and commercial cotton warp

gradient batt

Gradient Spinning Batt

I have also been trying my hand at creating gradient batts which means the color of the fiber goes from light to darker. This one has rare Wendsleydale wool, alpaca and mohair in it  and it is in our Eagle Lake Fibers Etsy shop.

 

Finally, a helpful retort found in a Portland coffee cafe and memorized:

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“I am going on a trip and I am taking…”

This post feels a bit like that childhood memory game we used to play as kids and with our own children where we add to a list of items we are taking on a trip and have to remember the ones other people said before us.

I think we used to say we were going to Africa for some reason but my trip is not so exotic but very exciting for me. I am going to Colorado to the Interweave Yarn Fest. I won’t be taking my spinning wheel because I don’t want to risk any damage to it or risk my being thrown off the plane if anyone pushed hard on it in the overhead compartment and I sought revenge. I am taking classes other than spinning.

I will be packing some dubious looking tools in my checked luggage.

combs etc for yarn fest

These are just used on wool, honest

 

Should I have the confirmation of my class in hand if questioned when security screens my luggage?

I am very excited to be taking an all day workshop with Esther Rogers called Wild Fiber: Getting Creative with Your Fiber Prep.  I love carding, combing and drum carding natural fibers maybe even a little more than I love spinning them so I am looking forward to learning new tricks with the tools I already have. I can’t take all my tools since some are too big, but she will have them there too.

When I go to Colorado I am taking my…..  pointy dangerous fiber combs…

I am taking some snacks with me including some from my new favorite sourdough recipe.   Any time you use the sourdough starter you have to feed it every twelve hours for a day or so to allow the yeast to revive from its  hibernation in the refrigerator. Each time you feed it flour and water you have to remove all but four ounces of the rising starter. Sourdough baking is not for the faint of heart. There are many good recipes for this put aside starter and these crackers are one of those. They keep for a week. I added a few dried herbs to them.

sourdough crackers

My first batch of sourdough crackers

When I go to Colorado I am taking my pointy dangerous fiber combs and my sourdough crackers.

I also need a knitting project for the plane and waiting time to board. I am not an especially good sitter and I am really not good at sitting and keeping my hands still. I am thinking of making the second sock for this pair of cozy slipper socks that I am making out of rare sheep breed yarn that I have spun..

knitting for yarn fest trip

First sock of an unmatched pair made from rare sheep breed wool

When I go to Colorado I am taking my pointy dangerous fiber combs, my sourdough crackers and a sock to knit.

Also exciting will be my chance to visit cousins in Colorado and Wyoming. I have never been to Wyoming and am looking forward to venturing into Longmire territory. Anyone who hasn’t seen that series needs to watch it immediately and I will leave it at that. I can’t add anything I may be taking for them here because then YOU will know, Dell. 🙂

I am feeling some separation anxiety about being away from my cat and chickens but I know they will receive very good attention and care. I am also not an extrovert by any means but I feel no shyness whatsoever about going to this large gathering where I will know no one. Spinners, and other people who love working with fiber, and love fiber animals, have instant unspoken connections. It’s a given and really nice. I am sure other groups of people who share deep interests find the same thing at their events. We need as much of that as we can get in this world.

This trip came about because last fall I told my husband that I don’t need any more “stuff” for gifts. I said I would rather have experiences than things. That statement prompted this trip as Christmas, Mother’s Day and birthday presents. I knew something was up when he asked to read my latest Spin Off magazine, an event that never happened before or since. I didn’t know it was this trip!

Looking forward to reporting from the field!

 

The Land Breakers

Currently I am reading a book, The Land Breakers, by John Ehle. It was one of the book orders I placed with my family for Christmas and luckily they complied. 🙂  The book was published in 1964 and is a novel about the first white settlers in Appalachia set in 1779.

I was reading it the other day as I rode the bike at the gym.  I came upon 2 lines on page 107 that caused me to stop breathing for a few seconds because they put into words something deep inside me that I have always known and could never find the words to explain.

I imagine most would read them here or in the book and leave scratching their heads about why this would be interesting. These words don’t describe a choice of feelings.They do describe an undeniable and good force that won’t leave some of us alone. We don’t even want it to.

“The family and the clearing and the crops and the stock and the tools were part of the same thing. The family and the place were the same thing and could not be separated one from the other.”

They describe something inside some of us since birth I think. A feeling of deep connection, working cooperatively with living things around us, that although we are part of the picture on our property,  humans are not IMG_0920 the whole picture. It is a wonderful feeling.

permaculture beginnings

Me with Boone

Not my lamb but I enjoy them when I get the chance!

cat spinning

My little sweetheart helping me spin

I still can’t explain it. It does help to explain why one of my favorite things is to be home working on things, why I only want to travel if it means spending the bulk of time with family and friends, why even on those trips I have in the back of my mind the number of days until I can get back to New England and these things.

Cape Sunset

A Cape Cod winter sunset

It just is.

wool dyed with marigolds

Dyed with my marigolds

sourdough breads

My sourdough concoctions

Project Day

Today is a day of luxury for me. I don’t have to go anywhere at all. I have the time to do whatever I want.  What do I choose to do when I get such a day? None of you who have read this blog will be surprised.  I decided to celebrate by making it a fun project day. How many already started projects can I complete? If I add some new ones will they get done?  I will list them now and check in at 1:00 and 5:00 at which time I will complete my completing projects day.

So,  I know I am tempting the fates when I claim I will complete these things and so far the fates have:

  1. caused the dishwasher to start pouring water into it rather than spraying and washing. I have stopped it and will deal with it later which means Steve will deal with it later. 🙂   Washing those dishes by hand after 5 today doesn’t bother me. Had it been the clothes washer that would have been different. I don’t want to scrub clothes on a washboard like Loretta Lynn’s mother. I will listen to many of her songs as I do these things. More on LL later.

2) suddenly only letting me enter items on this blog post from the top. hmmm. I will not be pushed off my path to fix it right now!

hemming project

Pippi precariously trying to join in my every activity as usual. Yes, I pulled her off right away. No cats were harmed in the writing of this blog. This is material my friend gave me that was woven on historic looms in an old textile mill in Lowell MA. I want to use it as a table cover and don’t have a sewing machine so will hem it by hand. It has only sat around for 2 years waiting to be completed!

Only the bread and the wool washing have to be completed once I start and I am doing this for fun. No pressures or deadlines. Once I finish this post I will be off and running. I have 7 hours. Except for time to eat lunch and 45 minutes to put my feet up, eat some cookies and drink tea, and read. I am not driven enough to forgo caffeine and chocolate. Ever.

On my list are:

alpaca and BFL to spin

Alpaca and Bluefaced Leicester Locks whose fleeces I washed and dyed. I’d like to start spinning them today.

bobbin for teaching

Get everything in order for the class we are teaching on Sunday including hoping this newly glued bobbin will cooperate.

Finn and silk yarn to ply

Finish chain plying this Finn and silk yarn

 

sourdough to knead

Make this sourdough sponge into bread. I started it last night because I add no yeast and it needs more time to rise. It rises by using the yeast it collects from the air. Aren’t those bubbles great considering the magic?

 

Wensleydale to wash

Wash this gorgeous Wensleydale wool from Ramona (the sheep, not her owner)

January Joys

Here are some things that I am enjoying and appreciating as January  so quickly draws to a close.

Luxurious home made soap given to me by a friend. These are way beyond anything I have made or probably could make.

soap

Luxurious hand made soap

A gorgeous winter sunset we happened upon as we left Tractor Supply with chicken feed.

Jan sunset

January sunset in Taunton MA

 

The fun of getting ready to teach our second workshop this month which means our second opportunity early in 2016 to get unsuspecting people addicted to spinning and fiber. Sure, they know they are coming to an introductory spinning workshop. They don’t know it is about to captivate them and take over their lives.

tools fibers for Jan workshop

Let the magic begin!

Sourdough bread taking over my kitchen since I can’t stop making it. Talk about magic!

sourdough breads

Sourdough waffles, rolls, bread and bubbling yeasty smelling starter to make more.

The cutest sheep hat in the world made just for me.

sheep hat

Ewes and lambs

A typically nervy cat. She has learned that  she isn’t to eat our food as we eat it much as she wants to. But apparently she isn’t against pushing the boundaries with my water and this time getting away with it using the element of quiet surprise. Of course she has a bowl of her own! What she is doing maybe isn’t a joy but the amusement, companionship and love she provides is.

cat drinking my water

Thankfully we have a dishwasher.

Here is hoping everyone has many of their own joys this month.

 

Slooow Wool and Slooow Bread

This is a cozy time of year around here. We’ve only had a little snow so far and I don’t usually need a jacket when I go out to quickly  get the mail or  to check on the chickens. But on cold days we get to experience that gratification that comes from going from the cold into a warm house. Making a hot beverage. It’s nice.

I have been gravitating to hibernating activities this week. Hibernation time is never fast and feels so right when it arrives.

First, I am making some sourdough starter. It is magic to mix some flour and water and within a few hours find it bubbling with yeast. What I am told is that there is wild yeast in the air that will join it. We can’t see it or smell it or taste it but it is there waiting for some flour and water to come along.

sourdough starter

Sourdough Starter Keeping Warm. It will be covered.

For a few days I will take away half of the starter that is there each day and add more flour and water. In time I will make tangy sourdough bread with it. In the meantime I can throw what is removed each day into other baked food to add flavor and texture. Yesterday I threw it willy nilly into  banana bread I was making and suffered no repercussions. One day it will be in waffles. My next sourdough adventure will be a new one. I will dry what I remove that day as a way to preserve it. There are claims it can keep up to a year or more dried and quickly be alive again. I guess that is why the early settlers used it so much.

But for now my little concoction is living quietly on top of the tv. Not so I can keep an eye on it like a helicopter parent but because the box is warm and yeast likes warm. I wasn’t about to put a heating pad under it or even keep it in the oven with the light on which is recommended if you keep your house below 68 degrees which we do. Finding something that already gives off warmth is best I think.

From a more colorful perspective I decided to dye wool with marigolds and onion skins that I have been letting dry for probably two years now.  I do both chemical and natural dyeing and decide what to do based on my inclination at the time. Natural dyeing with plants begins with soaking them for several hours in tap water so that they can give out their dye. Isn’t it pretty at this stage?

 

marigold and onion skins soaking before dyed

Marigolds and Onion Skins Soaking Before Their Hot Bath

This dye is very strong willed. Some of it comes out even in the cold soaking water. I can dye more than one set of fibers in the same warm dye bath because the dye doesn’t get used up quickly. The jar on the left is dye that came out in the cold soaking and the dye on the right is from the hot dye bath. I diluted the dye from the hot bath when I used it.

 

I simmered the botanicals for an hour, took them out, added my fiber and love the results. Some of this fiber was light gray initially before its golden bath, most fiber was in the first bath, but others in the second and third baths because the dye just kept hanging around. The blue/yellow/green one that sticks out so much was an experiment. I sprinkled a little of a chemical dye that is blue on top of the bath to get the variety.

The appeal to me is not to spin miles of yellow yarn but instead to use it with other colors for colorful spinning  batts and unique yarn. The only problem is that I have to let it dry overnight. I have trouble not touching it and pulling it apart a little to see how it will spin or how the dye permeated it. It would felt if I did that and right now I don’t want felt.

wool dyed with marigolds

Kerry Hill, Cotswold, Bluefaced Leicester, Leicester Longwool Cross and Gulf Coast wool

So, this a calm time when slow projects, that cost very little money because you use what you already have, are fun to pursue. I have really only just begun both of these activities because in time there will be bread to bake and colorful fibers to combine at my whim. In time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s All About the Solstice

I have never understand the hoopla around a new year arriving on Jan. 1. It is just another date on the calendar to me.

What does attract and motivate me are the solstices. As I have mentioned before, in the winter the snow and cold don’t bother me and I am happy to put up with them because I love New England and I don’t want to live anywhere else. But I don’t like the early darkness.  I look forward to the winter solstice, the day with the least light, almost as much as a former co-worker did when she said it is better than Christmas.  After that it will get lighter. I have coping strategies which help.  One of our rooms gets the last light of the day and beautiful sunsets.

pink sunset

Gentle pink sunset today

 

The morning sun floods our kitchen so I work there when I can be home then. I am not the only one who uses morning sunshine for contentment.

cat in winter sun

A warm Pippi dozing

Ancient people kept track of time passing by the phases of the moon and notching wood. They knew when to celebrate the solstice and the light that was chasing away darkness. Even more ancient people must have felt they needed to stay in favor with a god so that the light would increase. I would do both if I was around then! Can’t be too sure.  I wouldn’t forget to do the notching chore if it was mine in fact I would demand to be the one who made the notches so I would know it was accurate. If I wasn’t allowed to do it I would keep my own record secretly. Furtively. Stealthily.

Some people must have used the darkness as a time to spin by the fire. Thank God for electricity and central heating in 2016. I can do those things whenever I want. I am back in a batt making frenzy and have pulled out the fiber I put away before Christmas to make the house neater. It does distract from darkness. Here are the makings and some results:

locks for batts

A creative mess

 

batt

Loveliness that rises out of the mess

We have 2 workshops coming up to teach this month so getting ready to create new addicts- giving free stuff first really does help- also dispels darkness.

The chickens are happy to stay out a little longer too. They are back to laying after the molting ended. Sometimes in winter we literally get up before the chickens and find them still perched up high and looking at us with the “what are you doing here so early?” look in their eyes. Yes, chickens have  moods too.

chickens in winter

Chickens ready for winter with a snow fence and the cord from the electric water heater

I am looking at the FEDCO catalog and dreaming about spring planting. We have an excellent farmers market a mile away that comes twice a week during the growing season so I am idly thinking about planting asparagus and a perennial kale and getting the rest there. We have no snow so I could put down newspapers covered by a tarp to kill the grass in the areas needed. But at the moment just winter day dreaming is fun.

I am reading these three books I received for Christmas. Actually I told the givers to get them for me so I suppose I sort of ordered them.

books

Books for any momentary whim

So, the days are slowly getting longer. I do like to feed the wild birds, light candles, and can appreciate not needing to go out and weed but instead can read or spin. I do like to settle in with these activities for awhile. Since I know the darkness won’t last.