Monday, February 28, 2011

Odds 'N Ends

Listening to the Wailin Jennys and watching the snow fall outside. What more can a spinner need for inspiration!? Just thought I'd post a few things I've been working on over the past week or so. Nothing fancy as I'm still learning and very much a beginner. But I had fun with each of these projects. Each made with yarn I spun so that makes them a bit more special to me.

Knitting my first pair of gloves. It's fun! I'm using some old handspun wool that I've had laying around forever. So it's some early spun wool and far from balanced! I've knit mittens before but I've never ventured into the world of fingers. I think I'll give each finger a different color, just for fun.

A simple scarf. Garter stitch so it was a good take with me project. I knit this mostly driving to and back from Boston. Well I didn't do the driving. It's a bunch of different fibers, Finn Sheep's wool (my personal favorite wool), alpaca, llama, and other wools that I can't remember. I was just using up naturalish left overs.

Believe it or not I finished knitting this vest over 2 years ago! But I couldn't find the deer antler buttons that I wanted to use for it. I finally found the buttons! So I sewed on the buttons and blocked the vest. Nothing fancy for sure but I like it. It's a Shetland/Finn wool blend. If I were to do it again I'd knit it tighter on smaller needles. The buttons came from an antler I found in the woods. A fellow spinner had her husband cut it up and make buttons out of it. Love it!
Here's a close up of the buttons:

That's it for now. Happy spinning and knitting!

Angora...Heaven Spun!

Cute Angora Rabbit

Snow day today! I'm going to spend part of the day working some angora into some of the Maine Island Sheep fleece that I've been carding. I'm carding and spinning this full fleece for a sweater I will knit. The process so far has been a lot of fun. The other day as I was spinning I decided that when I finally do knit this sweater I want to knit a wool/angora band around the bottom edge and sleeves. That means I need to spin a few skeins of an wool/angora blend. To do that I need to card some angora into some wool. I just think a few bands of this blend will feel nice and look pretty. Angora makes a nice "halo" of fluff. I won't put it up by my neck. Don't need extra warm fluff there! I considered blending angora throughout the entire sweater but it'll make the sweater way too hot. Angora is a lot warmer than wool. Great for hat, scarf, or gloves/mittens... but a bit too warm for a sweater, at least for me it is.

While searching how to card angora I found a great website. It's got some great basic information on just about everything regarding spinning including quite a few video clips. I enjoyed the clips on the different spinning and plying techniques. There was a bit about using a drum carder, which is what I was looking for when I stumbled onto this site.

Harvesting and spinning angora fiber. I had mixed feelings while I watched this harvesting but I know from friends who have rabbits that if you didn't harvest angora's fiber the rabbit would get sick. Something that helps me as I watch. I must say this woman is quite a spinner! Beautiful job and on a very basic wheel.
**Scroll down to see this video clip.

That's it for now. Off to card, spin, and knit. I may even order some seeds for some dye plants. I was going to make this an indigo blue sweater but have decided to go for more colors. Much more on that at a later date. For now, carding, spinning, and knitting sounds like a pretty fun day to me!

Drive carefully if you're on the road today and if you're home, happy spinning and knitting!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Qiviut -"kiv-ee-ute"

Ever since I was a kid I have loved the imagery of "The Far North". The desolate beauty of snow covered tundra and the wild animals that live there. While the Boreal Forests and Rocky Mountains of central and western Canada are the furthest North I've been I still dream of visiting Northern Canada and Alaska. When I get to northern Canada my goal will be to see, up close and personal, polar bear, Ursus maritimus. Hudson Bay is where I will go.

But when I get to Alaska, one of the first places I will go is to the Palmer Musk Ox Farm. I'll post their website home page's description because it says it so beautifully: "The non-profit Musk Ox Farm is dedicated to the domestication of the musk ox (Ovibos moschatus), an Ice Age mammal that once roamed the earth alongside saber tooth tigers and woolly mammoths.
Known to native Alaskans as “Oomingmak”, which means “The Bearded One”, this once-endangered animal produces an annual harvest of qiviut, the finest wool in the world."

You can visit their website here: They also share some nice natural history about the musk ox here:

Then I will go to Anchorage to visit the Alaskan Qiviut Cooperative. This is a cooperative of Native Alaskan, mostly women, who make the most beautiful hand knit items from this delectable fiber. Qiviut, which comes from the underbelly of these ginormous creatures and happens to be so soft and warm. Some say the softest and warmest fiber known on Earth. I'll second that! I don't know about you but I like to fantasize about what it would look like to gather this luscious fiber. I visualize people scampering up to the unsuspecting giants, grab a hand full of fiber from their belly, and run fast as heck away. Only to repeat the whole process countless times! But in reality the way this fiber is harvested is that folks go around the Palmer Farm (and maybe other musk ox farms)in spring and gather fiber left behind on bushes near where these creatures shed.

But until I go I have to settle for purchasing my qiviut at a local fiber fair. And that's what I did. This week I will take breaks from carding and spinning Maine Island Sheep fleece to continue de-hairing my qiviut. De-hairing is tedious to say the least. This is when the long guard hairs are removed by hand from the luscious downy fiber. I'm about 1/2 way done and hope to finish the rest this week. Ambitious! So we'll see how far I get. My goal was to make a "nachaq". This word means hat or hood in the Eskimo language. It is also known as a "smokering", I'm not sure why but I suspect it has something to do with the lovely smokey brown color. It is seamless and scarf like that can be worn around your neck or head. It's lacy, warm, and soft! But in reality I don't think my 1 ounce will be enough so I may instead make a nice neck warmer or scarf. Here's a pic of the qiviut before being de-haired:

Now back to my new spinning wheel that I am loving very much!
Happy spinning and knitting!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Schact LadyBug Spinning Wheel

My New Schact LadyBug Spinning Wheel

Spinning fiber is just one of the most fun things to do. The amazing variety of fibers allows you to just keep finding and trying new ones. And their properties! Some are so soft, some have a marvelous sheen, some so elastic while others aren't. But it's the softness I enjoy the most. Common for spinners I'm sure. The funny thing is I've been spinning for almost 10 years and today I'm feeling like I'm experiencing this for the first time!

Several things have occurred to allow this feeling. Several weeks ago a close friend of mine allowed me to borrow and than barter for her Louet Drum Carder. Here's my drum carder:

I love using this carder. So much so that I traded my gorgeous antique Canadian Production Spinning wheel for it. The drum carder allowed me to begin carding some Maine Island Fleece that I've had for two years! I bought the fleece from the Common Ground Fair 2 years ago. I washed it when I purchased it and it's been waiting for carding all this time! Then a week ago I went to Halcyon Yarn and took a spinning workshop with Joli Greene. She is a great spinning instructor! I went with a friend. This is my friend Lesley playing her banjo at our Outdoor Pizza Oven spin last summer:

The workshop was wonderful. I learned that I underspin just about everything! My instructor, Joli, taught me a few simple techniques to correct that bad old habit of mine. Here is her website: (What a talented lady!) I also learned to loosen the tension all the way before I begin to spin and then S-L-O-W-L-Y increase it to just the point it gently pulls on the fiber I'm spinning. Genius! I also learned to consider the project before spinning. Buying fleece and fiber with a project in mind. I must admit that I like this idea. I have usually bought a little fiber here and a little fleece there. Spin them up and now I have tons of single skeins of yarn. Not much good for a big project. There are only so many hats one can have after all! But the most important thing I learned was when Joli said...."You don't like your wheel very much do you?" I was quite surprised by her observation because she was right on. I never have liked my wheel. I had a Lendrum. Many women in my spinning group have Lendrums and love them. I never have. It's funny how some can love a spinning wheel and you don't. I always felt like I must be doing something wrong. Anyway, she had me try out all the spinning wheels at the shop and I fell in love with the Schacht LadyBug. She said,"Sell your wheel and get the one you like." Novel idea! Sometimes it just takes another viewpoint to point out the obvious. That lead me to the third and most important thing to lead to my renewed interest in spinning.

Yesterday I woke up and decided to sell my Lendrum and an old Ashford I've had. I contacted a friend, Lesley :), and we went up to Newport to the annual Maine Registry Spin-In. Joli told us that there would be lots of spinners there and if there was a place to sell a wheel that was it. She was right again! I sold both my Lendrum and Ashford the first hour I was there. So Lesley and I hopped into the car and drove down to Halcyon Yarns in Bath and I bought my wonderful LadyBug.

When I first saw this wheel I was not impressed! That, what I thought then, godawful red plastic drive wheel. But when I sat down and started to spin...oh my gosh! I fell in love. It spins like butta! It's small enough and light enough to take to spinning groups. Not as portable for traveling like my Lendrum but the balance, stability, and ease of use make up for the lack of portability. Another cool thing, (gimmick actually)is that every LadyBug wheel has a tiny little ladybug on it. So you have to look for it. Mine is on the base so I can look at it as I spin :) Ahhhhh, cute!

When we got back to Lesley's we put the wheel together and started spinning. I was not going to be disappointed! The next morning I figured out how to put the Lazy Kate on and so now it's complete. I had a hard time getting the rod collars on. But when I loosened the little screw on each rod collar they both went on simple. I didn't see the little screws on them last night. They are really tiny but they are there. Putting the Lazy Kate on was a bit tricky but I got it and it is now holding two bobbins. I've read online that some people don't like the Lazy Kate. I love it. At first it takes a bit getting use to because it's in front of you rather than over to the side or behind you. But with a little shift in holding and feeding the singles it works great. Definitely glad I got it. Here is a nice, short YouTube review of the wheel.

Wondering about this wheel? Don't take my word for it read this too:

Here is my first skein of Maine Island Sheep carded on my drum carder and spun and plied on my new Lady Bug spinning wheel!

So this is the beginning of my new phase of spinning yarns for projects.