Saturday, December 31, 2011

My New Website and Retrospective Gallery

I'd like to announce that I have a new website, I wanted to have a place where I could post a permanent gallery of my retrospective work, and have a central hub for blog, store links, etc. This will remain my blog and you can access it from my webstie.

Of course a website is always a work in progress. But it's kind of fun to unfold one thing at a time. Recently I"ve been digging out photos of my earlier work. This piece (modeled by my friend Leah in Taos, NM) was one of the pieces I sold at the Santa Fe Weaving Gallery back in 1986ish. It's all knit from yarns from La Lana Wools in Taos, and I believe this was a combo of Potpouri and Moonmist Forever Random Blends  and Onion Skins on Silk. Those yarns were so gorgeous in intarsia patterns and the colors resonated with the desert with a special life that glowed there more than anywhere else. Talk about native dyes! For more retrospective work, check out my new Gallery page at lvdotcom.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Coloring Books

Nostalgia. Watch's habit forming. Heady as my mom's perfume of the same name ("The first perfume to orbit a man"), so long forgotten I can find no description of it on the internet. In fact there is a new one to replace it by somebody named Veigt.  I don't know what the new one smells like but the orignial, by Germain Monteil, was tart, sour like a green plum, with rose, lily, sandalwood, leather. Where do I remember it most? In the car, with a cigarette going and the windows rolled up within an inch of closed, in all weather (forget air conditioning). The year: 1957. The place: Los Angeles, Westside. The car: a Chrysler Windsor, white with blue interior, push button transmission (so much fun to punch, going nowhere, hands reaching up to the enormous plastic wheel), and big wings that my brother and I rode up the driveway, slippery as hanging on to ice.

That was the year I went completely insane over coloring books. I couldn't get enough. Crayons, first the 24 pack (with both parents artists there was no 8 pack except in school), then the 48 pack (oh, crack the top and sniff the virgin perfection of wax (twice the colors, twice the aroma) drink in the hues, both radiant and soft). There was orchid in that one, and periwinkle, carnation pink, cornflower blue, spring green. Then finally the 101 colors. Gad! Died and gone to heaven. But it was a rip off of sorts cuz it had multiples...five blues, two blacks, three reds. I guess if you were going to have that many colors, you were going to wear some of them to nubbins and we did.

It was in 1957 that mom took me to visit our former next door neighbors. While Gladys and Serena drank coffee and talked (booooring), Kitty and I poured over coloring books in the breakfast room flooded with afternoon light. She had a Ginny doll coloring book (cuz she also had a slew of Ginny Dolls). Kitty pronounced "Ginnydoll" like it was one word. Ginny appeared on every page in a polka dot dress, smiling like Doris Day. The polka dots were tiny, even by little kid standards, outlined in black. The lines were finer than the cheaper books I was used to. Kitty took advantage of this by carefully tracing the outline of each shape (like the dress for instance, blue this time) in heavy but flawless color, like lipstick applied by a pro, then filling in the shape with half or quarter tones of the same color. She never went outside the lines. I thought the effect was breathtaking, partly because it looked kind of three dimensional, and partly because I couldn't for the life of me do it like she did. I particularly loved the halftones and started practicing them, later to use them to build layers of colors, to mix colors by overlapping.

I also thought it was quite amazing that she had perfected such finesse at the age of 6. Hadn't it only been about 3 years since we were scribbling? Two for me. Back then we exercised our motor skills with crayons on newsprint, metal skates on sidewalks,  jumping over boxwood hedges, cutting out paper dolls. Does this take you back?

How did you color? Do you remember? Say when you were 5 or 6...first gradish. What did you love to color? How many colors did you have? Were they crayons or something else? You don't have to say the year unless you want to.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Starry Nite Scarf "Blazing Star"

 As I sit down to write, it has just started to snow. In these first few minutes of snowfall, the coin sized white flakes provide a frosty screen for a colored landscape. Tree trunks are mahogany and raisin, with a few tea colored leaves still hanging on, evergreen shades of ivy, pine and privet prevail. At the rate it's snowing, I wouldn't be surprized if most of that color disappears within the hour, leaving charcoal, evergreen and white.

But I digress. This is a post about color, nevertheless. I just finished a new version of my Starry Nite Scarf. (pattern is available on Ravelry and Etsy). I call this one Blazing Star because (as most Starry Nites knit from handspun) this is one of a kind. The yarn in this version is heavier than the original, more of an aran weight than a dk. That means that the stars are larger, the edging wider. And since the yarn was spun long draw from the fold, the colors are completely different and the feel much cushier.

There are four colorways (well, maybe a touch of a 5th) in this scarf. All are from Three Waters Farm BFL in Gloaming, Oaks and Hickories, Indian Corn and Cinco de Mayo. I believe I have a touch of Fall Apple Redux too, or Fall Apple Redux plied with Indian Corn. But the scarf would look just as stunning without that colorway included. BTW, Three Waters Farm was just reviewed in Knittyspin's Winter 2011 Fiber Fiesta. Check it out!

The beauty of spinning long draw, taking tufts of color and spinning them in sequence, is that the color bands in the yarn are very long and the colors change gradually, almost in a painterly gradation. I really love this scarf. I also deleted the triangles that turn the neck. Those of you who already have the pattern will know what I'm talking about.
I'm offering this finished scarf for sale on Etsy, just in time for Holiday gifting. This is the first time I've ever sold a finished Starry Nite. It's a gorgeous piece, and the finishing is sublime (like my finishing usually is). But if you want to spin and knit a similar one, you can get the colors from Three Waters Farm. If you don't see them listed, just convo Mary Ann and she'll fix you up.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Little Taste

Over this week I"ll be posting a few glimpses of my new work for the Studio Tour. You can see my last post for full details about that event.

This piece is called Twist. It's part of the Full Cast show at the SAS Gallery. This show isn't fully up yet...hope the curator's OK. It seems to be a season of too much to do and not enough time to do it in, a feeling of flood, of being caught up in powerful waters beyond our control. Nevertheless I managed to get a quick snap. The darling little rock that is dangling at the top of the frame is from another piece sitting on the shelf above awaiting placement. I like this pairing, casual as it is, because the colors and textures of the handspun yarns in the wrap spring from rock, bark, trunk and lichen. The  little rock hangs suspended so that we don't forget our Gaia, prime mover.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

December 3-4, 2011 CAST/TACA Studio Tour

 It's only a week till the Studio Tour! What a quick year that was. Last year I opened my studio to visitors on the CAST/TACA Studio Tour in Sewanee along with Sharon Bandy and Jan Quarles and a good time was had by all. This year I'm going to be flying solo because my studio is so tiny and I have more work to display. Jan will be there to assist, but won't be showing this year, mainly because she put all her available time and energy into launching Fiber in the Boro (and what a great show that was!). Sharon will have her own fabulous space at St. Andrews Sewanee. BTW, Sharon has started weaving and she is a natural, so please go check out her stuff...nice! Such edges! But I digress.

This year the Studio Tour is on the weekend of December 3 and 4. You can find a printable brochure complete with map of Sewanee showing all the lovely studios here. It includes all the artists on the tour from Sewanee to Monteagle and inbetween. Also, don't miss the Full CAST Show at the St Andrews Sewanee School Gallery.
Lattice Felted Scarf
Felted Knit Saddlebag
If you come to my studio you will find an array of fine wearables and accessories, mostly knitted from handspun yarns, some felted. There will be scarves, wraps, cowl, cuffs, fingerless gloves, bags (large and small) and jackets. There will also be some handdyed sock yarn, both my AuNaturel semi solids and some multicolored handpaints.

Also, Studio Tour is always on the same weekend as Sewanee's Festival of Lessons and Carols. This immensely popular event takes place in All Saints Chapel in the quad of the University of the South. They festoon this gothic hall of stonework and stained glass with evergreens and candles and then fill the air with song and pipe organ music. So there is much to see and do on the mountain Studio Tour weekend.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday Weekend Savings

Fern Spiral Socks
Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! There is certainly so much to be thankful for. Life is good!

To show my thanks I am offering 25% off all my patterns in on Ravelry and all items in my Etsy Store today (Friday, November 25, 2011) through Sunday (November 27, 2011).

Ravelry patterns will be automatically discounted 25% at checkout. Just put the pattern in your cart to see the savings.

Etsy: please use Coupon Code BLKFR25 at checkout to redeem 25% off everything. Sale ends Sunday midnight.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Party 4 Paws

Party 4 Paws is tomorrow evening and we are all bustling about in preparation. This is Franklin County Humane Society's annual Fall Fundraiser and it's a good party! 6:00 - 8:30 PM, Saturday, November 19 at the Sewanee Inn in Sewanee, TN. Ticket price of $30 entitles you to swing up to a full bar, enjoy a fabulous buffet from the finest local restaurants,  and bid on the best silent auction we've had yet to date. There are some really fabulous items in that auction this year, such as a weekend at Three Oaks Guest House, a massage, a tarot reading, pottery and fiber art items from well-known local artisans, an auto winterization from Sewanee Auto, a cat spay or neuter, and lots of lovely Christmas items, and much much more. This year I started thinking of stuff I would want to bid on (the massage in particular, but many of the other items as well) and started asking around for these donations. Other members have been creative in their quest for auction items as well, and I am so happy to say that folks from our county and beyond have been particularly generous this year. Thanks, thanks, thanks to everyone who has helped to support FCHS and Animal Harbor!!! See you there!

Monday, October 31, 2011

F in the B

 Fiber in the Boro was a great success last Saturday. What a gorgeous day it was, too, with tons of color everywhere. Brain child of Jan Quarles of Daily Fibers and friends Darlene Dralus, and Meredith Kermicle of Knaughty Knitter in Murfreesboro worked their buns off to bring everybody a great show and it paid off. I heard nothing but positive remarks all around. The arena was well lit (how rare is that?) and warm (also rare), full of quality local and national vendors, outfitted with clean facilities. Food was delicious and very reasonable. All in all, a great time was had by all.

My corespinning class was too short. We all wanted to stay another hour, but it wasn't to be. Nevertheless, everyone had a happy time spinning beautiful fibers. We tailspun some of Kim and Jane Caulfield's cotswold locks (top photo) from Far Out Farms(that's Jane smiling in the second photo). Lisa Olsen of Alpaca Atlantic in Manchester provided us with some really luscious barely blended fiber, carded from several animals. So we had camel/cream, camel/charcoal/cream, and charcoal/silver/cream and every blend was labeled with the names of the animals from whom the fibers came. Carol Larsen of Rivers Edge Fiber Arts from Michigan (that's Carol at the Sidekick wheel in the 4th photo) provided the class with gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous purple blend of merino, tencel, banana and milk fiber plus 7 colors of dyed bamboo for our handblending. She also provided me with spindles to teach an inpromptu overflow class in beginning drop spindling! Thanks to everyone for their generous support.

 I heard we had an "agility llama" at the fair. This photo is of the only llama that came as far as I could tell, so hopefully this is the one and only "agility llama". Since I was teaching most of the day I didn't get around to the vendors as much as I would like. I spent some time in the Daily Fibers booth (photo #3) while she set up for her sold out wet felting class. She had one vivid and luscious array of fiber, my handdyed silk scarves, and handwoven scarves, handspun and fabulous photo note cards by Christina Consiglio of Blue Leaf Arts (who also took all these photos here). Darlene did a fantastic job of holding down the fort between the arena and the classroom and although she dropped her mini walkie talkie about a hundred times, it still worked by the end of the day.

Tons of people came and everything is in place for a repeat performance next year, so if you missed out last Saturday, remember us next October!

Saturday, October 01, 2011


 This one is for all you dog lovers out there. Ten years ago I was on the board of our uber-local animal rescue organization Sewanee Animal Rescue League. At that time we kept all the dogs in an alpaca barn that was maintained by volunteer labor, my own included. So many great dogs came to us then and almost every one of them got homes. There was a litter of 8 tiny fuzzy puppies that were nearly bald from mange. Pat and Anne dipped them for several weeks and nursed them back to health. One of my fellow volunteers fell in love with and adopted one of those pups while he was a student here at Sewanee and named him Merlin. Now Merlin is 10 and has been by Smith's side all this time through thick and thin and I have to say has heard a lot of awesome live music in his time as well. (Yay, kinda guy). Smith asked me recently if I would spin some of the "Merlfleece", a fiber in abundant supply, since Merlin grew into a 70 lb collie/shepherd/? mix with a full and luxurious coat. Of course I agreed and here's the yarn. The marled yarn is one ply Merlin, one ply gorgeous drum carded alpaca from Lisa Olsen, who separates her fleeces and processes them by hand. The dark skein is 100% that same alpaca. The yarn on the bobbin is 100% Merlin. Dog hair and alpaca can at times be nearly undistinguishable and both have the same drape and hand.

Smith followed my instructions and combed out all of Merlin's undercoat, keeping all the fibers neatly arranged. Then he gave Merlin his usual summer doo (a buzz cut) and saved that fiber as well. As I suspected, the shorn fibers were too slippery and coarse to be spun, but the undercoat was divine, very downy and extremely soft and warm. The few guard hairs that made their way into the mix will soon fall out with wear. The yarn is so soft and really gorgeous. And it smells very clean indeed.

I have to laugh at this because so many spinners just won't put dog hair through their fingers. I've even known spinners who really don't like animals all that much and certainly wouldn't touch a dirty one straight from the barnyard (you know who you are). But why put down the dog? They are domestic animals, much cleaner than their barnyard cousins as a rule (mine certainly is). Have you ever smelled a goat? Yet that's where we get cashmere. Camel? Peeeeyoo. How about silk? It's the saliva of a worm...come on! Handled properly and combed from the proper breed (or mix) of dog, doghair is a luxurious and super warm addition to the spinning stable. The smell? I took the skein to my spinning group last week and nobody guessed what it was until they had exhausted all other options. So Merlin, you have now been immortalized in a skein of handsome yarn. Attaboy!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Fiber in the Boro

 Fiber in the Boro is just around the corner. On October 29 we'll have a new fiber festival in Middle Tennessee thanks to Jan Quarles, Darlene Dralus and crew. It's a one day fair at the Lane Ag Center in Murfreesboro. Most of it is inside, which means no rain, no cold, no wind. Ahhhh, comfort and loads upon loads of fibery goodness. Check out their website for more info...vendors, classes, etc. In addition to some of your favorite local vendors like Daily Fibers and Far Out Farm, you'll find the spectacular Rivers Edge Fiber Arts from Michigan with all their fun blends.

I'll be teaching a corespinning and tailspinning class at Fiber in the Boro. You can sign up now by going here. We'll start with basic corespinning from beautiful layered batts, then move on to handblending for color studies and myriad variation, then how to handle fleece and spin it for maximum curl and dangle. Three hours will go pretty fast. Bring your wheel with the largest orifice and hooks/guides. Know how to spin.

 And yes, I know it's been a while since I blogged. So much has happened lately. Monk got his picture in the paper...and a big one at that...on the front page of the Metro Section of Chattanooga's Times Free Press a couple weeks ago. He was Cassy Englert's posterchild for her marvelous Chattanooga Canine Rehabilitation and Wellness . You can see it at the Times Free Press website in the Moment section. But it was a couple weeks ago, so you'll have to scroll down to past "moments". You'll see a bar of photos entitled Past Moments. Go back a couple weeks till you see a photo of a spotted red dog in an underwater treadmill. There is audio! Complete with heavy breathing.

Then (as Darlene so succinctly put it) I "cleaned up" at the Tennessee State Fair spinning competition, taking home first prize for both wheel and spindle speed spinning. Guess I got a bit giddy, cuz I went and rode the mechanical bull, albeit very very slowly. No, I wasn't drunk. Just full of myself. Loved it.

Last but not least I helped to rescue 8 cats that some heathen dumped at Greens View in Sewanee last Monday. A mama, 5 adorable six week old kittens and two beautiful 6 month old females. One of those females has a marvelous home as we speak, thanks to someone in our local spinning group. But the rest need homes. These are great cats, folks, so if you are in the middle Tennessee area and would like to give a very sweet cat a home, let me know.

Monday, July 18, 2011

One Gorgeous Skein

Mary Spanos just sent me this skein she spun from some of my fiber from Dubose in May. Mary couldn't make it to Dubose as she had planned this year, so Mary Kaiser took her my OOAK hank of "Blue Smoke" superwash bfl and this is what she spun from it. Gad zooks! Anybody want to wager a guess as to how many yards are in this skein? It's in line to become a lace stole at this point. Now I want to see the stole!

Mary is a Textile Anthropologist at the University of South Alabama, working primarily in Native American textiles. You can read more about her here. She has recreated some of the clothing worn by local tribes. And she's a consumate spinner with the most amazing skill and aesthetic.

This fiber was dyed in an immersion bath. Those of you who will be in my Harrisville Class two weeks from today, we'll be working with this particular technique on this exact fiber. I love it because there is no repeat pattern...color hits entirely at random. It can be so subtle, even subtler than this, or much wilder. It's all in the hand of the dyer.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Fern Spiral Socks

Fern Spiral Socks
 I had so much fun designing fingerless gloves that I completely forgot about socks. Me? Forget about socks? Pish. Anyway, here's my new sock pattern, Fern Spiral Socks. It's a mate to my Fern Spiral Fingerless Gloves. You can buy this pattern at my Ravelry Store even if you aren't a member of Ravelry. Purchase gives you immediate access to a downloadable PDF! Cool, huh. Of course you can buy it at my Etsy Store too, but you'll have to wait for me to email you the PDF. I love the Ravelry Store.

Like my Fern Spiral and Spiraling Leaves Fingerless Gloves, the spiral pattern twists in opposite directions on each sock for a mirror image effect. This is a very fun sock to knit. I knit mine with Ashland Bay La Grande 100% superwash merino sportweight yarn. If you are a handspinner, you would shoot for a wpi of 16. Yarn buyers, look on your yarn labels for a recommended gauge in stockinette of 6 1/2 sts per inch on US 2/2.75mm. Some great yarn subs are Shi Bui Sock, Dream in Color Smooshy, anything dyed on Louet Gems or La Grande. I dyed mine with eucalyptus leaves and madder root, au naturel.
If you have tiny or narrow feet, you can knit the sock with finer yarn on US 0/2.00mm or US1/2.75mm needles. As shown, these socks fit a women's medium to large foot.

I wrote this pattern for double pointed needles because it is the best way to keep track of your lace pattern. That makes this very user friendly to those who are new to lace in the round. We like user friendly.


Fern Spiral Fingerless Gloves

A Perfect Knight

I know a lot of you have been following Zel's progress, so here's a current Zel update. Yes, she still needs a home. No, it can't be ours. But I have definitely had a good time knowing and training this gregarious and happy little dog.  Every time I have worked with a shelter or rescue dog I can't help but look for each one's particular talents. And although most dogs adopted here in Franklin County, TN end up as family animals, there is still room to put these talents to work to some degree. Zel is kind of like a knight on horseback, charging off to slay dragons. If you are familiar with the personalities represented in the tarot, you might call her the Knight of Wands. Always ready for adventure, new experiences, travel. Not your sit at home kinda gal, at least not till adventures have been had and it's time to rest up for the next one. I think she'd make a great police dog, a cadaver dog, or an agent for the DEA. She'd love the job and is definitely trainable. Nothing escapes her attention and she's learned that she's happiest as a team player, though she still needs to be reminded of such.

On the 4th of July, I took Zel to our Sewanee Mutt Show. It's one of those Andy of Mayberry type events, full of nice folks with their kids and dogs. Tiny children dress to match their pooches and parade around the ring for prizes. It's always so amazing how well behaved the dogs are at this event and I think that they actually really enjoy it. So I dressed Zel up to look her best in these lovely grandes fleurs. Zel was great both in and out of the ring. As she paraded around, children reached out to her, a sea of little hands, and she licked them all as she passed. She made quite a splash, but nobody took the plunge to take her home.

When I try to envision the perfect home for Zel, I keep coming back to one thing. She loves to play rough. This can be a good thing if you have another dog who needs a hard-playing companion. This is not such a good thing if you aren't strong enough to handle her. She needs a lot of exercise. This is a good thing if you are a runner or bicyclist (she loves to run beside my husbands mountain bike, on lead). Not so good if you want a couch potato dog for the kids to use as a pillow. When she's feeling her oats she tries to get her way by going into an alligator roll. So she'd be perfect for a closet alligator handler.

But I have to say that this girl has really made progress. Thanks to the help of Lucia Dale and her obedient pit/greyhound mix Star, we have both learned a lot about working as a team. Zel and Star have had some great play days at Lucia's house (Star likes to play rough too) and some really nice long obedient walks together. And she's been such a good girl. Thanks so much, Lucia! I've had so much to learn, since Monk has spoiled me rotten! Zel isn't the only one that needs a new bag of tricks.

Here's Zel's Petfinder Page if you'd like to learn more about her.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Something Primal

Spinning fibers into yarn is one of the most ancient crafts. In these days of easy access to anything and everything we don't often put a lot of thought to our first ancestors, who developed this craft before the written word. Yesterday as I was spinning, I wandered back in time to try to imagine how the first thread, yarn, rope was spun.

Usually the first image I get is that of someone rolling hairs against a surface and discovering twist. I guess this is because I have a dog, and I perform this motion on a daily basis. I've even make short lengths of yarn for dog owners from their pets fur in this manner, usually at dog parks where I never have a spindle handy. But there are other ways to discover the strength of twist. Have you ever broken off a twig of something like mulberry or maple and had the bast fibers in the bark hang up on you? You start twisting and twisting to break the stem and it just gets stronger and stronger. I even picked a long blade of Johnson grass last weekend as a makeshift leash for Monk when we found ourselves at the 4th of July street dance without a regular leash. That's one tough grass, but it's tougher when twisted. And imagine being the first to pull on a silk cocoon to find that, unlike spider webs, the fibers didn't break. How did that happen? Did one fall from a tree into a cooking vat and start to expand? Stew spoiled, most beautiful fiber in the world discovered.

All this is fascinating in its own right, but what really impressed me was the fact that before twist was discovered, clothing and binding came from the hides of animals (paper too). Imagine how many animals were spared when humans found other sources of food and clothing. This very discovery was the beginning of conscious civilization. No wonder spinning, knitting and other fiber arts bring us back to our core, help us be present, centered, help us feel like we're really accomplishing something tangible.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Harrisville: August 1-5, 2011

Just want to get the word out that there are still some openings in my Harrisville Designs "Dye, Spin, Knit" workshop August 1-5. This is a rare opportunity due to this slower than slow year for us all. This class is usually full in December with a waiting list. But this is a different kind of year. If you've wanted to join us and haven't been able to get in these past years, give it a try. Call the Weaving Center at 603 827-3996 to make your reservation.

This year we're going to have the opportunity to do a little immersion dyeing. In past years we haven't been able to swing this, but I think we can do it this year because I will have the marvelous assistance of Jan Quarles who has been in this class as a participant for all but one of my 5 years. We'll also work a little bit with fleece this year...a touch of curly fleece, the kind that makes great tailspun and curly lock-spun yarns. They are amazing dyed both in immersion and by direct application, so you'll get to try something new in addition to discovering and experimenting with many ways to use handpainted rovings in your spinning.

It's a one of a kind experience too. Great company, laid back atmos, historical setting, great food. And long uninterrupted hours of fiber play. mmmmmmmmmmmm. Remember that this is mainly a spinning and dyeing class. You should know how to spin and be comfortable spinning a stable yarn on either a spindle or wheel. You don't need a lick of dye experience. You'll get that when you come. Knitting is just an adjunct to yarn if you are a weaver or crocheter, hooker or felter, you can get a lot out of this class and even try your yarns and fibers in your favorite medium. I like to think of my class as having enough structure to keep you going but not so much to hold you back:-).


Monday, May 23, 2011

Salad Days

The Upper Room sits above the Entrance. Ever seen a Dvane before?

So many of the women that staggered through the portal of the Alfred Dvane Bell Library and climbed the stairs to the Upper Room for Hands On Color: Fiber Salad this past weekend were coming off a particularly bad week. At least half the class had had trial after trial. But as soon as they set up their wheels and started spinning with like-minded women, the Be-Here-Now-ness of the moment took hold and all that hectic started to melt away. Gandhi was on to something and we all knew it. Everyone went home with new or resurrected skills. I love to hear "I thought I couldn't do that but I can." We had poets, alpaca owners, dog lovers, teachers, family members, birthday girls, two Janets and a Jan, and two Marys (almost had three) and a playwright come comedienne. It was a great mix, funny, comfortable.

Food on Friday evening, originally started as "light fare" and turned into a sumptuous repast thanks to Darlene's legendary Rhubarb Orange tart coupled with Christina's Kalamata Olive dip, Jan's jalapeno cornbread, an array of homemade pimento cheeses, homemade goats cheese, focaccia, fresh veggies and Bonnie's Sangria, we were stuffed and happily so. Someone opened Chocolate Lovers Wine for dessert, shortcut to red wine and chocolate layer cake. And there was amazing Chocolate Chip Biscotti, just in case there wasn't enough chocolate.

On Saturday we all set to work with enthusiasm. After lunch we had awesome cake to celebrate Janet K's birthday. And kept spinning and spinning. Most of us threw caution to the winds and ate more carbs in two days than we do all year. But sometimes you just have to do it.
my workstation...a little of everything
So thanks to everyone who came to join in the fun and thanks especially to Jan Q for her marvelous assistance, both organizing and during the event. Special thanks to Darlene and Christina for helping clean up after the fact. Now that's dedication.

For more photos of the event, go to my Facebook Gallery. 

Pat's skein with squares cut from felted knitting
Bonnie's stash

Sharon's Buddha Batt skein

Monday, May 16, 2011

Fiber Salad!

fiber salad yarn: a little of everything
Here's an assortment of the yarns we'll be spinning this weekend in my workshop Hands On Color: Fiber Salad! at Dubose Conference Center in Monteagle, TN. A good time will be had by all! See you all soon!
For more photos, click here.

silk bows and fleece

big beads: tricolor lampwork bead by DH James 

fleece sandwich

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Dirty Dream

I really admire writers who can take a laundry list of items or events and jigsaw them into flawless written composition. It takes a certain talent for organization, one I feel I seriously lack. I am a collector, a beachcomber, a frigate bird, bringing home all sorts of brick-a-brack that just sits in a clutter. I need one of those cavernous pantries to house all the found antique bottles, bird bones, marbles that are worlds unto themselves. You know the kind…a huge walk in closet with multiple rooms lined with deep, white, painted shelves smelling of clean and fresh. There was such a place in Ozma of Oz in the Nome King’s palace, a room full of stunning ornaments. Of course all these ornaments had once been people (or, as in fairy stories, all sorts of beings from a living sawhorse to a stick figure with a fresh pumpkin for a head who had to keep carving new ones before the old one rotted, sprinkling it just in time with the powder of life). Each member of Dorothy’s party would go in to extricate their friends by chosing the right ornament, only to fail and be turned into ornaments themselves, Ozma included. Only Dorothy managed to break the code of who was who (evidently the Nome King had a sense of humor about his transformations) and free all her friends. I certainly don’t expect my ornaments to suddenly come alive when touched and leap off the shelves to do the dishes (would that they could). But I would certainly settle for room and enough “Martha Stewart” to arrange my found objects. And then I had this dream.

Deep in the caverns of my mind, it seems, I am hard at work arranging. But it isn’t the beautiful stuff. It’s the garbage. To whit, in this dream I found myself standing beside an enormous, cavernous dumpster, curiously about the size of my studio (a converted Model A garage), tiny by studio standards, huge by dumpster ones.

For some crazy, dream induced reason I had thought this dumpster to be perfectly good storage space and had spent some time filling with all the sheep’s fleece I had washed and dyed for my upcoming workshop only to find to my extreme dismay that there was a dead animal, a wet one at that, lying in a muddy sludge on the bottom of a pile of all that good stuff I’d already put in. How did it get there? Wasn’t my work, no sirree Betty. Now I had the added problem of getting the body out of there and fast, but the walls of the dumpster were some 15 feet high and I had no ladder (I had been lobbing my stuff in over the side). People walked by as they will do in dreams. I told each one about this problem, but no one seemed at all interested. In this apathetic environment of passing men wearing overcoats and dour expressions, somehow I had to fix this myself, so I paid a visit to a gypsy seer who only grinned at me like the Cheshire Cat and told me I needed to…and I woke up. Damn.

As the waking haze of this stinky mélange of images began to clear, I realized that I had put my day in the dumpster. Literally. Since I live on a college campus and it being graduation week and all, large dumpsters made their annual return to four of the local dormitories, the best of the lot having been parked across the street from our house in full and tantalizing view. I’ve found so many great things over there in years past. Lamps (working), a perfectly good microwave that now lives at Harrisville Designs for use in my dye classes, a cooler on wheels in which I cart soaking fiber out to my dye table, a perfectly good green vinyl ladies’ sized armchair that only needed a little upholstery job and a large under-the-bed bin with a tiny crack in the lid. A piece of duck tape later and it was ready to house you name it. I drooled at the possibility of this year’s score only to find garbage in there…garbage! My disappointment took its first opportunity to leap into dream world.

Naturally, the first item slated for “discard: was the photo a friend had emailed of a “strange critter, please identify”.  As I recognized the poor expired animal as a raccoon who had met an untimely drowning, I wondered what in twenty heavens I was going to do with this memory burn. Next in line was, you guessed it, the brown sludge. I had been busy washing greasy fleece for said workshop, squeezing gallon after gallon of brown liquid from curly locks down the drain, singing a mantra of “washing soda, washing soda”, trying to keep the wool from following the sludge down the rabbit hole. My studio was so full of damp fleece that it looked like a sheep’s whorehouse. And I had been lobbing damp fleece onto a screen door I’d installed on the rafters as a drying rack. In contrast, I had also dyed beautiful habotai silk yardage that hung like dancing maidens from the rafters. Thanks, hubby, for pointing out that a preference for dyeing silk over fleece was a no-brainer. (Boy, would I like to see your sweet freckled hands in a vat of fresh lanolin and pasture perfume.) Beneath the silk lay my tarot deck in a handmade silk bag, beckoning me back from all the hot and harried hair washing to resume my recently renewed interest in its lively archetypal characters, a respite I looked forward to like Sisyphus looked forward to the end of his travail. Next to the tarot bag lay a skein of wildly autowrapped yarn I had dubbed “Cheshire Cat” because of the spiralling stripes’ resemblance to his ringed tail. Evidently it had made friends with the cards in my absence.

I have to say I was proud of my brain. Now if I could only coax it into arranging inspirations instead of detritus, I’d be in business!

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Far Out Farms, Cornersville, TN

My fave cotswold ramlamb
Well, I couldn't go to Maryland Sheep and Wool this yearso I drove over to Kim Caulfield's Far Out Farms for a play day on her giant carder Friday. It's a beautiful drive through rolling green hills of Southern Tennessee. Kim, Robbie (one of her 6 great pyrenees dogs), and several sheep met me at the gate. Ewes with new lambs dotted the fields and inner yards like white flowers. Before getting down to work we admired a newly dyed fleece, checked out a 30 minute old lamb, and ran the gauntlet of her other dogs, and trundled more wet fleece down for a fresh dyepot. To my great joy, her top dog Nora came up for a pet. Soon she was nudging me for more love. Great thing (sorry) about Pyrs is that you don't have to lean over to pet them. This is quite an honor, one I certainly won't take lightly.

Once the dyepot (or should I say was big enough to hold an entire cotswold fleece) was going, Kim demonstrated some simple carding of picked romney fleece that she'd dyed in various shades of muted iris purples and lavenders, a color not unlike the natural dye logwood. She laid the colors out at random. Once we'd carded half the fleece, we laid some opened white kid mohair locks on one side of the fleece on the feed belt. The resulting roving was subtle and shiny, very elegant.

the kill switch
this is what it looked like freshly picked
For our second run we shot a grey romney fleece and some turquoise and royal blue mohair locks through her picker...another respectable machine. It would literally inhale fiber off the feed tray and shoot it into an enclosed room the size of a decent closet. I really wished I could have found a place to put my camera (just my phone, dang it) so we could see the fiber exploding out of the picker.

Capt Kim at thehelm

Fiber going in.

See the above video to watch carded fiber coming out.

This yarn sample is one ply corespun spiral plied on a fine worsted single from the same roving. It's fluffy and light and very soft. You'd never know it was romney by the feel of it.
carded and freshly spun

Of course I had to buy fleece. I was looking for some nice locks for curly spun yarns, so she showed me some of her shorter fleeces which are really great for this purpose. These samples show romney and cotswold spun in the grease. The romney is curly spun, and the cotswold is a moderately spaced tailspun. I washed them in Power Scour after skeining and they came out clean, sweet smelling and very soft indeed.
tailspun samples: romney left and cotswold right, both spun in the grease.