Have Ewe Any Wool?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Awesome Package from my SP14 Secret Pal!

Wow! What a fabulous day!

Around lunchtime, the doorbell rang and it was the postman with a package from my secret pal! Of course, it was in the middle of the work day, so I had to set it aside and wait until later to open it. Oh, the anticipation!

Inside the package was a gorgeous turquoise burlap bag embellished with a beaded butterfly. Isn't it beautiful? I love it! It's the perfect project tote and it zips shut so I can safely tuck my wallet inside as well! No need to tote along a purse in addition to a project bag.

There were more surprises inside the bag itself. I discovered a wonderful assortment of goodies - some cookies (yum!), a small zippered bag (perfect for notions, etc.), a kit for felting some poinsettia decorations, and some gorgeous yarn. The yarn itself is extra special. My secret pal hand spun both skeins! I just love hand spun yarn! The brown yarn is natural alpaca - soooooo soft! The colored yarn, in gorgeous purples and pinks, was not only hand spun by my secret pal, but also hand dyed. How cool is that? I feel so special!

Thanks so much Secret Pal!!! The package is perfect!!!!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Flora and Fauna

"A rose by any other name..."

I love roses and rose bushes. This time of year, there's a rather large bush that's always ablaze with roses and rose buds. I love the delicate lines of the rosebuds....they're so calm and soothing!

The Weird Tree...

I'm not sure what type of tree this is, but it's rather interesting. Every year, I'm absolutely fascinated by the seed pods it produces. They produce a very pretty somewhat pink "puffed tri-fold" seed pod. It's amazing. They look like little suspended pillows that just seem to float with the breeze.

"A field of dreams..."

Everywhere I look there are fields and fields full of Golden Rod....just waiting for the natural dyer to stop by and harvest some to create beautiful yellows and golds. I dyed some roving with Golden Rod two years ago - it was beautiful! I used alum and the golden rod flowers...and finished the dyeing process with shaved ivory soap to create a rich golden yellow.

There is a fungus among us...

These two growths were fascinating and rather large. The first one was growing from the ground and looked somewhat like a wrinkled leaf until I took a closer look. The second one was forming a natural "tutu" around the trunk of a tree or perhaps it's forming one of those Grecian or Italian wall shelves......fascinating!

A little tart...

The persimmon trees are all heavily laden with their very tart fruit. The first frost isn't far away...and then these lovelies will be made instantly sweet and ready to eat!

An unexpected eco-system...

Ah...to some, this appears to be a simple park bench - a place to rest and catch your breath. However, if one were to take a closer look, a miniature eco-system would soon be discovered. Little bugs and ants scurry across the top of the bench and encounter lichens and moss growing on various parts of the bench.....or hiding in the shadows below the seat. But there's more! If you look closely, you'll discover other flora growing in a straight line from a crack in the seat. It's amazing! I didn't think there would be enough "food" wedged in the cracks to sustain flora such as this! Be sure to click on the pictures for a closer look - the plant life growing there is quite substantial.

Busy as a Bee...

Amazing...the butterfly (or is it a moth? I forget how you tell the difference!) had no qualms about joining the bee for a quick sip of nectar. And the bee didn't seem to be bothered in the least at having to share the thistle flower.

"Where the deer and the antelope play..."

This doe and fawn have been hanging out in our neighborhood for several weeks. They are beautiful creatures to watch. I suspect that these two were the culprits that chowed down on my neighbors corn just as the tassles browned late last month!

Every time I left my camera at home, these two would dance around the forest....however, if I had my camera with me, they became "stealth deer" and hid in the woods. Perhaps they're a bit camera shy? Thankfully, DH managed to catch a quick photo with his cell phone camera.

Big turtle, little turtle...

Last week, I found a rather large turtle meandering the grass next to the walking path. He was nearly as long as my sneakers! (Sorry...I didn't get a comparison shot, but he's much larger than the leaf next to him.) This morning, I found a very small turtle wandering the path. The little guy was only as big as the front of my sneaker! The patterns and colors on both of their shells was substantially different. Awesome shells on both of these guys!

I found the shell top of the little turtle to be absolutely fascinating. I loved the "brown on brown" colaration. The resultant pattern reminds me of modular knitting...perhaps a mitered square? I'm thinking that this pattern would make a fabulous project - a felted bag or a vest of some sort.

"Butterflies are free..."

This poor monarch flew very slow and a very limited distance. Apparently, the chilly weather was a little much for this lovely specimen. Barely able to fly, this poor little guy slowly moved from sunny spot to sunny spot. Each time the monarch changed branches, it flew further and with a bit more vigor as it absorbed much needed warmth from the sun. By this time next week, it may be too cold to encounter any of these lovely creatures...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Bluemont Fair

This past weekend was the Bluemont Fair. One of the guilds I belong to, "Blue Ridge Spinners and Weavers", had a booth there. The weather was absolutely perfect - not too hot, not too cold.

Everyone had a great time as you can see from these pictures. You also get a taste of the fabulous items our guild members have created. Christmas is just around the corner and we had some fabulous items for sale - hand spun and hand dyed yarns, hand knit scarves, and variety of hand woven items from bookmarks through elegant wraps. If you missed all the goodies at this fair, you definitely need to check out the booth at the Long Branch Balloon and Wine Festival (October 16th-18th) or the following week at the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival (October 24th and 25th).

Linda and Felicia were our very organized and very dedicated co-coordinators for this event. They did a fabulous job! Everyone that worked this weekend had a great time.

Linda and Karen, two of my fellow spinners,were both in rather silly moods! Their enthusiasm was absolutely infectious and I think we spent most of the afternoon laughing! I was having such a great time that I stayed for the entire day even though I'd only signed up for the morning!

Several guild members and I had volunteered to demo spinning. We taught a number of those attending how to spin. Here, you can see Karen teaching a couple of interested girls the basic process. Several walked away with a coveted piece of yarn they'd spun themselves.

We finished weaving an alpaca shawl during the fair as well. Beth wove on Saturday, and Sandy (shown here) completed weaving the shawl on Sunday. Several of us spun the weft for the shawl and all the alpaca came from Dail's alpacas. The completed shawl was raffled off and all the proceeds went to the Women's Shelter. This was definitely a community project!

I took a quick break from the spinning demos and helping with the booth to take a quick spin around the festival and do some shopping. I found some fabulous treasures and keepsakes - including a festive fall apron, some fresh green peppers, and an antique black felt hat. My most highly prized purchases were several handcrafted items from our booth - some for me, and some as special gifts for family and friends. The photo on the left shows just a few of the items I purchased...I can't show the ones I bought as gifts, for obvious reasons!

I also purchased some wonderful mugs from Earthen Arts Pottery. The leaf imprints on these are fascinating. The leaves are pressed into the mugs before firing. The firing process burns off the actual leaf leaving just the impression. The artist then paints the impression and coats it with a clear layer and fires it again. I just love these mugs! By the way, these are the larger mugs - holding approximately 15 oz. which is perfect for tea! (Many thanks to Linda for steering to this booth!)

Of course, no fair or fiber festival would be complete without the gratuitous fiber animal photo. I believe that the one llama even held the pose specifically for a photo shoot!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Wahoo! Today is; "World Wide Spin in Public Day" and "International Talk Like a Pirate Day"

Today should be a very fun day for everyone - if you're a spinner, you can celebrate "World Wide Spin in Public Day" and if not, you can always join in "International Talk Like a Pirate Day".

"World Wide Spin in Public Day" is always on the 3rd Saturday of September. It's a great way to celebrate spinning....and this year, they've suggested extending the celebration so it can be any time from Sept. 18 through 20th - making it the entire weekend. If you need ideas on how to celebrate, check out the WWSIP website.

"International Talk Like a Pirate Day" is a great way to exercise your creativity and have a lot of fun in the process. This "holiday" occurs on September 19th every yearn. If you're at a loss as to how to celebrate, check out the official website to see how people have celebrated in the past - Talk Like a Pirate Day.

I'm celebrating both "holidays" today. I'll be wearing my "Yaaaaarn" T-shirt and sipping coffee out of my Aaaargh! mug. I'll probably try my hand at a little "pirate speak" as well.

On the spinning front, I'll be spinning with my brand new "Turkish Delight Drop Spindle" that was lovingly handcrafted by Ed Jenkins in Oregon. It's a wonderful little spindle that can even fit in your pocket. It's perfect for toting along anywhere! Ed and his wife Wanda were wonderful to deal with - I ordered my spindle on the 10th of September (after checking to see what woods would be available) and received it on the 18th - just in time for "World Wide Spin in Public Day"! I felt that "World Wide Spin in Public Day" would be the perfect venue to take my new spindle for a spin!

The spindle is very light weight - perfect for spinning lace weight yarn. My friend Elizabeth had one and it spun like a dream! It's both a high quality tool and a work of art. The drop spindle arrived swaddled in bright yellow tissue paper secured by a nice length of roving - just so you have something to start spinning with! Inside, it was wrapped in a light and airy silk hankie what came with instructions on how to spin the silk. How awesome is that!

I don't plan to keep my celebration of spinning to just the one day. Just like the organizers recommended....I'll continue it through the weekend. Tomorrow is the Bluemont Festival and I'll be demonstrating spinning at the festival in the morning. The weather is supposed to be perfect, so it should be a lot of fun.

How are you going to celebrate?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Dorset Buttons

On Ravelry, in the Monthly Adventures group, we learned how to make Dorset Buttons through a tutorial provided by one of our members. It was a great learning experience and we all had loads of fun. These buttons were fascinating to make. The variety of buttons and styles is just phenomenal! In fact, it was so much fun that I'm sharing this with the members of my knitting guild - it's a great companion project for both knitters and crocheters!

I'm quite thrilled with the idea of creating custom buttons. Buttons can be made as the "perfect match" for a knitted sweater or bag. No worries about finding the right shade of red or purple to match my yarn - instead, I can just create my own buttons using the same yarn as I did for the project itself! The possibilities are endless - especially when you embellish with findings, beads, or embroidery floss. Check out the history of the Dorset Button here: Dorset Button History

I did buy a book as well, "50 Heirloom Buttons to Make" - I had to pay a pretty penny for a used copy that was originally from a library as it's an out of print book. I even wrote to the publisher, Taunton Press, to see if they'd consider reprinting it. They told me they had no plans to reprint the book and suggested I try Amazon. I paid nearly 2 1/2 times the cover price to get this book, but it's well worth it. What a fabulous resource!

On to the details of the buttons. The "base" of these buttons are the plastic "bone" rings for curtains which come in a variety of sizes. I've started with the 1 1/8 inch size for my initial attempts. If you're interested in trying your hand at these, there are some great on-line tutorials available, like the ones from Dorset Buttons and CraftyStylish.

I'm just getting started with these, so all of my attempts are rather basic - nothing very fancy. There are others that have crafted some fabulous buttons and decorations, like KnitYoga's Halloween button and Old Time Bicycle decoration - her creations are absolutely awesome!

I made 9 buttons total. My absolute favorite is the sunflower - I really like how that button came out. Three of them are shown here without the added embellisments - the turquoise and black button, the white button, and the pink button - the remaining buttons I've considered finished as is.

Each button was unique. I tried different methods and different colors to try to perfect my technique. Caution - these are definitely addictive!

Multi-colored button created from turquoise, pink, and purple using embroidery floss.

Sunflower crafted out of yellow, green, and brown embroidery floss.

Ribbon yarn button designed with a ribbon yarn embellished with little splotches of metallic gold. I think this button would be perfect for a purse or bag.

Turquoise and black button - before and after embellishment. I made this from left-over sock yarn that had a silver thread running through it. I then embellished it with a long bead between each "spoke".

Pink unembellished dorset button. I used pink Cascade 220 for this one. It makes a much thicker button that works up very fast.

White button - before and after embellishment. This was done with baby weight yarn and shows much more definition. I embellished it with beads between each "spoke" and decorated the center with a dragonfly finding.

The two purple dorsets were made with some left over sock yarn as well. The darker one was done solely with the sock yarn. I used the darker part of the sock yarn for the outer rim, and then the lighter shades of the same yarn for the center. In the second button, I used a lavender embroidery floss for the center to "brighten it up a bit" so it wasn't so dark.

My final button was my attempt at making a watermelon Dorset button. It came out OK, but not quite as I'd envisioned. First off, the white was initially too thin....but when I added another row, it seemed too thick. Also, I had hoped to add beads for the watermelon seeds, but they seemed to be too big and make the button look unbalanced. Therefore, I decided to embellish it with embroidery floss to make the buttons.

I selected my best efforts as the ones for my swap partner. This should provide a nice variety of buttons. I hope she enjoys them!

These buttons are definitely something I will do again - once you start, it's hard to put them down! Perhaps I'll make some matching sets next time?