Have Ewe Any Wool?

Thursday, May 31, 2012


Wahoo!  Sandy, one of my fellow Blue Ridge Spinners and Weavers, thought it would be a great idea to weave something special for Beth…the founder and former president of our group.  It’s also a special anniversary of the group – we’re officially 10 years old!

The project Sandy came up with was to craft valances for Beth’s new weaving and fiber arts studio.  I felt honored to have the chance to help weave.  Thankfully, the weave was a plain weave – very fine linen and linen/cotton in a lace pattern that’s done by the warp rather than by fancy treadling.  (This is important as I really haven’t done any weaving on a “real loom”!   I’ve only worked on triangle looms and rigid heddle looms.)  Since the threads were so thin, you had to weave slowly…making sure that the weft threads didn’t “catch'” on the warp threads – slow was the perfect speed for me!!!

Sandy had warped a loom and had setup a schedule of times so we could each come to her lovely home and weave in her studio…overlooking rolling hills, an alpaca farm, and a horse farm.   The actual weaving took place in early April for me.   Several others from Blue Ridge Spinners and Weavers wove both before and after  I did.   It was definitely a group project.

me_weaving_april_7_2012The valence edges were finished by Chantal and presented to Beth at the BRSWG end-of-year potluck.  Unfortunately, I had to miss the presentation as I was working.   However, I had been able to contribute to the creation!  I felt so honored that Sandy was willing to take the time to tutor essentially a “non-weaver” on the finer points of weaving lace.   It took me nearly 3 hours, but I did a measurable amount!   I wove a full 12 inches!  Wahoo!!!!   AND…the best thing is that it was on the same type of loom that I have at home– now I just have to get it warped and start weaving – I KNOW I can do it!!!!

The pattern itself was beautiful.   I was intrigued by the idea that the patterning was in the warp, rather than the treadling.   I have so much to learn! 

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The entire time I was weaving, I got to look out at the beautiful countryside.   What a fabulous way to spend a Saturday morning – weaving in the peace and solitude of the country.

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Friday, May 25, 2012

Tape Looms and Sun Dyed Wool

alice_tape_loom_4alice_tape_loom_6Check out Alice’s new tape loom – isn’t it gorgeous?   I LOVE the woodwork on it…especially the gooseneck “catches”.  It’s definitely a work of art!   (A tape loom is definitely on my list of “must haves” – I fell in love with them at the Lancaster Spinners and Weavers winter retreat.)

I finally decided that my sun-dyed wool was done and ready to be rinsed.   (Actually, it was done a couple of days ago, but I didn’t have the time to rinse it and lay it out for drying until today!)  I looks like all the dye has been exhausted.   The trick will be to drain it while leaving the wool in tact…to minimize the chance that I’ll felt it!   

IMG_3489my_sun_dye_8I decided to do it the easy way.  Since these are mason jars, the lid is in two parts…the seal and the ring.   I removed the lids, topped the jar with a bit of cheesecloth and then put just the ring on.   I then inverted the jars to drain out the vinegar water.


IMG_3492Next, I filled wash tubs with soapy water, removed the wool from the jars, and gave them a good bath.   I then put the wool through several rinses to remove the soap and any excess dye.  

I put the wool into lingerie bags and gave it a quick spin in the washing machine to spin out most of the water.  Finally, I laid the roving out on a screen to dry.   It’s gorgeous!   I love how some of the dye fractured a bit to produce some red-purple and blues in addition to the purple color that I’d selected.    (I had used both bright purple and purple dye – no real measuring…just “guesstimating” the amounts based on the amount of wool in each jar.)

I love Spring – there are so many animals and so many gorgeous flowers…..and it’s not so horribly hot!  I found this little guy wandering about the neighborhood when I took Sandy on her walk this evening.   This young deer definitely didn’t feel threatened by humans….or dogs.

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AND….I finally got a good shot of the rose by my front door.   I think the coral colored rose is my favorite – the depth of the color is just gorgeous!


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Foothills Spinners and Weavers End-of-Year Picnic

Wow!  What a fantastic time we had!  The end-of-year picnic was held at Sue's - a gorgeous place out in the country - far from the crowded DC suburbs!   The weather was absolutely perfect and the location was gorgeous! 

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The view was breathtaking....countryside backed by the mountains in the background.   It really doesn't get any better than this!



Sue's hubby grilled burgers and hot dogs and we all brought a dish to share.   We had a fabulous feast.   We spent a bit of time under the gorgeous trees....the weather was absolutely perfect!   Gentle breezes...low humidity...and not too hot!   It was the perfect weather for spinning the day away.

sue_wheel_3Of course we did more than just eat!   We checked out the great wheel that was donated to the group by one of our members.   It's gorgeous!    It will take a little work, but is definitely worth it - it spins beautifully and just needs a bit of tweaking here...some shoring up there....and a general clean-up.  

The rest of the time, when not spinning, or knitting, we spent learning various dyeing techniques.    The first technique was with some light reactive dye – we did “resist dyeing”.   We painted a color onto a bookmark, but you couldn't really see the color...it just looked wet.  You had to "guess where you left off with one color and then start the second color.

Once the bookmark was painted,  we laid buttons, leaves, twigs, etc on top of the dye-wetted bookmarks to "block" the light from hitting those areas.   Finally, we put the bookmark on a screen in the sun and watched the colors develop.   It was amazing!    All the covered area remained white...while the exposed areas gradually produced their expected colors.   It was amazing!









Everyone's creation was different....I just love how they all turned out!   For mine (above right), I "blocked" the light with a frond of leaves on the first one and with individual leaves on the second one.   I just love how the heart-shaped leaves look!

Next, we all tried sun-dyeing.   We did one of two techniques:

  • We took some fleece, yarn or roving and stuffed it into a mason jar, added boiling water, sprinkled some Cushing's dye on the top, and then added vinegar.   We then "stabbed" down into the jar to move the dye down.


  • We took some fleece, laid it on the table, spritzed it with water, sprinkled some Cushing's dye on top, rolled it up and stuffed it down into a mason jar, added boiling water, and then some vinegar. 



Next, we put the lids on our "dye jars" and set them in the sun.    The goal was to keep them in the sun until the dye is exhausted...then rinse it well and dry it....but that will take a while and the results will be in another post.  I started with 8 oz. of white Montiedale (left) and stuffed it into two large mason jars with some purple dye.



Others stayed busy dyeing sock blanks or sock yarn.   Don't you just love all these colors?




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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Frying Pan Park

Once again, Jo and I demo'd spinning and weaving for the Spring Farm Days at Kidwell Farm - part of Frying Pan Park. It was a LOT of fun. We both really enjoy showing kids (and adults!) all the fun you can have with just a bit of fiber...a wheel...and a loom.

The kids love the "hands-on"...and are amazed that it all came from sheep or alpacas. They also really love having little samples of what they'd spun to take home with them. I just love all the animals...fiber and otherwise.

This park is my "piece of the country" in the middle of the suburbs...and this small festival is something I truly look forward to every year.     I just LOVE all the animals....fiber bearing or otherwise.  

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival – Day 2 – Sheep to Shawl Competition

Today started with the “Sheep to Shawl” competition which began at 8 am.   Since it was a bit wet out, they moved the sheep shearing to inside one of the barns…that made it a bit difficult to photograph, but I did manage to get a few shots.





















Just before the shearing, all the teams were putting the finishing touches on their setups….checking their warps….laying out their tools….and oiling their wheels.  

kool_jamz_2 And now, the team.  First up, the Kool Jamz – these kids are competing against the adults this year!   Go team!!!!  Last year, they competed as Jrs. and had a rigid heddle loom.   This year, they have a better loom and are ready to show everyone what they can do!









Next up - Aloha Fiber Friends.










And next – Friends Thru Fiber (the first shawl I ever bid on was one of theirs….it had purple in it…of course!  And, I had the winning bid!)











Next up, the Butler Peddlers.  They have a great display of the colors they plan to use for their project. 










There were even pirates – check out this team – The Black Purl.









And here we have Baa Baa Black Sheep…

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I didn’t get a full shot of this team’s name….argh!   It’s Cloverhill Spinners…or something similar!










I took several action shots of the various competitors as the progressed through the competition. 
































My favorite shot is this one…I never thought of power tools as being a spinner’s helper, but it definitely works!    She can fill the bobbins up in no time!


Off the loom and finishing them off…..









And finally, the parade of the finished shawls….