Sunday, August 24, 2008

Spinning Class

Early Friday morning I headed up to Bath for a two day "Intensive Spinning" class at Halcyon Yarn. I felt a bit guilty taking the day off of work, but not too guilty! Upon arrival I carried my new wheel up to the classroom. Although it is not officially a portable wheel it is light and easy to transport. The classroom was well lit, and full of a variety of looms and wheels. We had each been given a generous bag of fibers that included everything from sheep to camel to silk hankies.

Our instructor was Rudy Amann, a former math teacher and school principal. Our first morning was spent learning how to use a top whorl spindle. As we practiced Rudy explained the different types of handspun wool and the methods that are used to create them. We also learned about fiber preparation. We spent the afternoon working with (fumbling with?!?) our wheels and attempting to actually spin something. After a while I found myself in "the zone", and was happily treadling away making my lumpy singles. I found Rudy to be a good teacher and he has the patience of a saint. He constantly added more information to our minds and showed us how to do Andean plying on our hand. That was good for some laughter as we all tied ourselves up with our efforts! The first example it the correct way, and the second example is wrong!
Rudy had brought along a beautiful assortment of skeins of handspun yarn for examples of what we could eventually create if we were persistant. He spoke of the competitions that are held for "Best Skein". I never knew that judging was held on both the perfection of the spun yarn as well as the way it was wound into a skein. If it isn't tied off just right it will be disqualified!!! With the bottom photo examples he explained the difference between worsted spinning style and woolen spinning style.
At the end of the first day we were all tired both in our minds and bodies. I spent a little time in the shop but avoided purchasing. I am an avid knitter, and also crochet so all the beautiful yarn, books and accessories made my credit card tremble. After browsing a bit I treated myself to a motel room to avoid the 1.5 hour drive home. I had a relaxing evening...found an Italian place to eat, then had a swim in the pool and settled in for the evening. As I watched the Olympics I pulled the bag of camel fiber out of my bag and used the spindle to make singles, then plied them using the Andean technique. Camel has very short fibers and it was hard. It's a good thing that I like thick and thin yarn in my projects! Some of the yarn in the bins at the shop made me think of penny rug patterns or a"cat's paw" pattern in a hooked rug.
On the second day we had more time to practice and Rudy assisted us when he saw we were doing something wrong. I found out that I spin "worsted style" which means I lead the twist into the drafted fibers with my orifice hand. I don't mean just happens. Rudy showed us beautiful examples of Nalbinding, which is an ancient way of forming material using a needle. Thousands of years ago people would use animal fiber and create threads or yarn, then use the nalbinding technique to make nets or garments. This is another class that Rudy teaches in the area. He is a man of many talents. I left the class knowing that I had learned a lot and realizing that I had barely touched the surface of what there is to know about spinning and fiber. It will take a lot of practice to become skilled enough to produce enough fine, consistent and smooth yarn for a pair of socks. I have total respect for spinners who can sit at the wheel and make it look so easy.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


I sometimes find that I am obsessed with textures and colors that I see in the world. I love the variations of color in simple things, and the way things feel. The grain of a piece of wood, the structure of bark, the coarse surface of a boulder. When I see something that appears to have an interesting texture I have to touch it. When I shop for clothes, I shop more by the feel of the material than the style of the outfit. Today I took a few photographs of things around our home that had interesting textures. I could also have taken pictures of garden flowers, and vegetables. We are all familiar with a smooth ripe tomato, a fuzzy peach or a bumpy ear of corn. And of course the corn silk!!!

Smooth, bumpy, soft, sharp, dry, spiny, rough, flat, knobby, weathered, furry, sticky, coarse, grainy, slimy, wet and so many other words can describe the textures that we encounter. One of the activities we do with the children is to play with cornstarch. Take a cup of cornstarch and add a cup of water...then run your fingers through it. Try to pick up the cornstarch. It can feel dry and wet at the same time, both liquid and solid.

Perhaps that is why I love working with wool. There are butter soft wools, and scratchy wools. Fluffy wools such as angora and mohair. Each wool has a different feel. I believe that other fiber artists also appreciate the "feel" of the fiber in their hands. The lanolin content of the wool will change it's structure so that it feels different. I have noticed that there are wool "snobs" who will only work with particular wools that have a feel they enjoy working with. Perhaps that is my future?

Music has texture too. Ever notice how smooth some music can sound, or loud, or coarse or soft?

My love of texture can also apply to my friendships with people. after all, texture is about the essence of something...the character that it has. My closest friends are quite different from each other and all have textures within their lives that compliment me. Their texture might be rough or smooth, and relationships might be bumpy or fluid. I just love the character and texture of the things we encounter each day whether it be an object, music, food or a good friend.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Bit's of Wool contest

Just a quick note this morning! Since I entered the blogging world a short time ago I have found that many bloggers have contests. They are always fun to check out and I have discovered some great blogs by finding them through other blogs. My internet friend Trudy will be giving away a sweet penny rug kit that she designed. She is just so clever and generous! All you have to do to enter is leave her a comment on the penny rug post.Check out her "Bits of Wool" site at:
Have a great day!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

My spinning wheel is here!

After many months of chatting with internet friends and doing homework about spinning wheels, I made my choice. Last week I ordered a Kromski Minstrel from Copper Moose in Vermont. Several days ago a package arrived that contained a bobbin and some nice fleece. The wheel would arrive from North Carolina. Yesterday the UPS man arrived with a big box. It's here..."some assembly required"!!! The Kromski's said that it should take only an hour.

So this morning I opened the box and laid out all the pieces so I could look at them and determine what they were. Being new at this, I don't have the correct vocabulary fully memorized. The package contained (so the directions stated) wheel pegs, tension screw, support rod, footman, brake band, treadles, bobbin kate and lots of other parts. Now they were kind enough to supply written directions, as well as a video. The problem arose later when they contradicted each other. They were also assuming that I had some knowledge of what I was doing. Never assume!!!

I started with step one and assembled the legs on the wheel frame unit. This has to be done while the unit is upside down. I thought it went well until I flipped it back over and...crap...I was supposed to attach the treadles. So I undid step 1 and started over. I flipped the wheel frame over, and used one hand to support it while also holding the leg in the hole and pounding it with a rubber mallet. At the same time I was inserting the (floppy) treadles and supporting rod into the leg posts. They didn't tell me I needed 5 hands for this step!!! I got the legs and treadles on correctly, and proceeded to attach the wheel, and the footmen that go vertically behind the treadles. Not a problem. I ran some parrifin wax on the leather parts so they wouldn't squeak.

The package came with three long strings, and I assumed that one of them was the drive band...but which one? And how do you put it on? I assumed you would have to knot the end to form the circle...but where? I set them aside to figure out later.

Then I began setting up the "Mother of All". There is a reason why they call it that. I caught myself saying "Mother #&*$#*!!!" several times, although usually I refrain from swearing. All parts in this area must be placed in the correct direction or you have to re-do the process. I was able to complete it without breaking anything. I went on the internet and found clear pictures of drive bands on wheels. I set them up and they seem good.

I finally completed all the steps and tried the treadles. They worked smoothly and soundlessly. I oiled it where the directions told me I should. I had learned that the seat should be about 19" tall, and found the perfect antique claw & ball seat that I had gotten at auction a few years ago. I am signed up for the "Intensive Spinning" class at Halcyon Yarns in Bath beginning Friday. I am looking forward to proudly taking my new wheel and learning all about the proper way to spin. Life is Good!!!! Now I have to wash dishes, do laundry and all the other little daily chores that we all must do before we can play with our new toys and wool.

Thursday, August 7, 2008


As you can see I've been playing with the background on my blog and learning more about how I can personalize my page. I think these colors are more suitable for my tastes.

Have you ever had a favorite photograph? This is one of mine that I thought I'd share. It is a picture of my Mother when she was a teen in the 1940's. I have always thought it was a special scene, and I love her dress and almost bare feet. Rather risky in a pasture as you never know what you might encounter! Mom passed away in the 1970's, and I'm lucky that I have some special momento's with which to remember her. If you ever want to see a close up of any photo on my blog you should be able to simply click on the image.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

UFO Challenge

UFO's in the crafting world are Un-Finished Objects. I'm so relieved that I am not the only one who has them! This challenge just came up on the Wool Snippets group, and the challenge is to completely finish a rug hooking project by the end of this year. In other words...focus!!! That is NOT something that I am good at! This challenge is just the thing I need to get me to finish one of the projects that have been in my trunk. So last night I began pulling out my UFO's. Progress on each of these projects usually stopped because I hit a wall with my level of experience. I needed advice to continue, but didn't have it available. I have only been rug hooking for a short time and want it all! Gacks! Which to choose for my project!?! Please help me out and leave a comment for me!

This Padula rug was started last year and is my first attempt to create my own design. It is 19" X 38". I had never used monks cloth before and found it to be soft on the hands, but very stretchy. I stopped working on this for several reasons. The primary reason is that I'm not sure if I should leave the tongues on the edge. I had planned to do the inner row of tongues in darker colors from the rug, and the outer row in darker colors from the rug. I was going to surround each tongue with a thin row of the dark eggplant that I dyed. I don't like it! Another reason that I haven't gone back to this project is that I can't seem to find the background wool that I had! I think I overdyed it for another project! What to do!?!

I obviously can't use this UFO quilt for the rug hooking project. But I began this years ago and really need to finish it. Most of the blocks are completed but there is still a lot of hand stitching that needs to be done. The batik colors are beautiful.

I began this rug last fall when I took Susan Feller's class on Fractur's at the Hooked In the Mountains show in Vermont. It is 24" X 36". It was a huge challenge for me to create this design, but I like it. The side borders were adapted (copied? borrowed?) from a design by Debbie St. Germain (Woolen Sails). The class was three days, and I spent the first day figuring out my design. I spent half of the second day learning how to tranfer a design onto the background, and the rest of the time hooking. I stopped working on this because I had also started another rug at the same time and the busy holidays were approaching. It needs some tweaking and re-hooking in areas, such as the leg of the deer that doesn't look connected. I dyed all the wools and like the way they started to hook into the design.

This large "white on white" wool penny rug can't count for the challenge either. But it deserved finishing! It is 30" point to point on the long side. All I need to do is sew the completed top pennies to the background and finish the edge. I think I'll put this one in the basket next to my chair in the living room so I can work on it in the evening while hubby watches TV.

The wool in this rug was my first attempt at dying wool. The pattern was given to me by another rug hooker, and I do not know who the designer is. It was something she said she would never get around to making. Someone else showed me the rug on the cover of rug hooking magazine hooked by Gail Dufresne. I love sunflowers, so dyed the wool and started it. I used wool yarn for the center of the flowers. I have learned so much since I started this. One thing I can do now that I could not do then is hide the woolie tails! (Thanks Gene!).

This is our Turket Street rug that I designed. It is 36" X 26". It shows our little red Cape home, as well as our barn and the stone wall. The house was built in 1772, and the barn in the early 1800's. This was started for several reasons. I wanted to create our wonderful property on a rug. I had attended Deanne's workshop and wanted to play with textures, yarn and wool strips to show our fields and the sky in her style of artful hooking. The challenges in this rug "kicked my butt" and that is why I put it away for awhile. I don't like the way the windows look. The driveway is flat and needs to recede in the distance. The boulders in the wall are...I don't know...just not right. How do I make them look like a wall instead of looking as if they are laying flat on the ground? I think I need to learn a lot more before I continue on this rug. But perhaps if I choose it for the challenge I will learn as I go? After seeing some of these UFO's on the computer screen I am getting a different perspective on each of them. Now I just have to figure out which one to finish. And of course I didn't even mention my Old Glory eagle rug on this post!!!

Friday, August 1, 2008

An Award!!!

My Goodness! I got a wonderful honor from my internet friend Trudy! It's the "Blogger Award", and it makes me smile to know that she thought of me. Trudy has so many talents, and seems to have a wonderful family who keep her busy all the time. She doesn't know that her encouraging words over the months that I have known her have been both motivating and inspiring to me. I'm sure that I am not the only one whom she had held under her inspiring wing. Thank you Trudy!
My chosen winners of the prestigious BLOGGER AWARD are (drumroll please!):
Heidi Wulfraat:
Debbie St. Germain:
Brenda Gervais:
Gene Shepherd:
Deanne Fitzpatrick: (scroll way, way down for her diary)
Honorable Mention: Linda Repasky

Now, the rules for accepting the award are pretty straightforward:
1.The winner may put this logo on her blog!
2.Post a link to the person who gave you the award!
3.Nominate 5 of your favorite blogs and post their links!
4.Leave a message for them on their blog! So, here goes:

Trudy at Bits of Wool awarded me this honour. I am being challenged to make these links "clickable", so if you need to please go to my links area on the right to access them easily. Now, I have chosen my favourite blogs.....and it was hard!!!

1. Heidi Wulfraat's blog at London Wul Fiber Arts in New Brunswick. I met Heidi at Deanne Fitzpatrick's symposium last fall and envied many aspects of the life she has chosen. She has a farm full of wooly critters and her blog posts often remind me of a James Herriot novel with her tales about her life with the animals and the care involved. I am not surprised that she has a bit of a veterinary background. She spins the most glorious textured yarns that you have to touch to appreciate. Her dye pots always seem full and her variegated wool colors curl my toes with pleasure!

2. With Thy Needle and Thread. Brenda Gervais uses the most wonderful subdued colors and creates beautiful patterns for rug hooking, punchneedle and stitchery. I find her blog to be a relaxing tour of the rural country and gardens, and it helps me gain insight into her inspirations. She is one of my favorite designers for punchneedle.

3. Deanne Fitzpatrick. Deanne has more of a journal or diary, but perhaps we can encourage her to start a blog. Attending Deanne's symposium last year enabled me to understand that every one of us has a creative thread within us. Her speakers encouraged us to experiment and to not be afraid to try new things in order to find our niche. That was an important lesson for me, and her blog is both a teaching tool for design as well as an affirmation that daydreaming about our loves and lives is wonderful. It's just amazing what you can learn about yourself on a walk along the ocean or with a cuppa tea. Thank you Deanne...for allowing me to relax and create without worrying too much about criticism for not following "the rules".

4. Debbie St. Germain (Woolen Sails). I consider Debbie another internet friend and we have a lot in common including our enjoyment of kayaking, nature and the fiber arts. She is an incredibly creative person and I enjoy reading her blog posts to see what she has been working on. She has created wonderful booklets containing patterns with themes such as Halloween designs and fractur designs. Be sure to check out the links on her blog to see what she is currrently selling for patterns as they are great designs for both punchneedle and rug hooking.

5. Gene Shepherd. One of the first books that I purchased was the Rug Hooker's Bible, and it taught me the basics that I needed to know as I picked up my hook for the first time. As I progress I continue to refer to that book as a teaching tool. Gene has a wonderful way with words and I enjoy the lessons, information and wonderful photo's that are found on his blog. I have learned a lot from him and he is another of my inspiring teachers on the internet.

Honorable Mention: Linda Repasky (Woolen Whimsies). I could not leave Linda out because she is one of the best teachers that I know, but I do not believe she has a blog. Perhaps this will encourage her to start one. She should! We are both members of the Primitive Punchneedle group, and she is able to answer every question that comes to the group clearly and patiently. I have met up with her several times and she is a genuinely nice and caring person who is constantly giving of herself to others. Her words are always positive, and that is so important to someone like myself who wants honesty but fears rejection. She is able to put the negative into a positive and guide me toward my goals. Thanks Linda...for all you do for your wooly friends! Hugs!

I've Been Busy!

Sorry about not posting for awhile. I took a much needed vacation and visited my family in South Carolina for a week. I have the most loving family anyone could want, and know that I am very lucky. My Dad and stepmother married in the 70's a few years after my Mom passed away from breast cancer. She had three very young children (I had graduated college) and we have always had a good friendship. Her children are grown with families of their own and I'm sure I will share a bit more about them in the future. My Dad, who is also my closest buddy, has been sick with cancer. I went to help him celebrate his 80th birthday, and we had a great visit as usual. I would love to see him more but he lives 1200 miles from me. This photo was taken of us a couple years ago at my stepbrother's wedding.

While absent from my blog I attended a Kathy Mattea concert with my friend Laura Lee. We both love Kathy's voice, and if you aren't familiar with her music please check out her website and listen to a few of her tunes. Her new "Coal" album is good, and sends a message about stripmining and it's rape ot the countryside. She comes from a family of miners and knows well the environmental and health issues that coal mining can bring, as well as it's importance to our society. I prefer her older music and could listen to her album "Roses" for hours. The concert was held at the LL Bean complex in Freeport, and was free! You bring your own lawn chairs and we enjoyed sitting outside in perfect weather while happily stitching on our projects. Kathy is great about chatting with people after the show and she's a warm and funny woman. Here is a photo of us that Laura took.

I almost forgot that prior to the show Laura and I went to Halcyon Yarn in Bath to touch all their luscious yarns. I played on the spinning wheels a bit and signed up for their "Intensive Spinning" class in a few weeks. I am very intent to learn spinning as I have tried it and really enjoyed it. I really shouldn't start a new hobby as I already have about 10 of them! And I won't mention all my UFO's!!! Well, maybe I should as it might get me to finish them! Anyway, it was a nice vacation week but quite busy!

Upon my return I found our Tiggy cat to be even skinnier than she usually is. She has always been a tiny cat but something was wrong! She's 21 years old but has always been very healthy. That evening she didn't come in at dusk as usual, but returned the next morning. She was terribly weak and I knew she was at the end of her life. Her purr usually sounds like a lawnmower and there was no purr left in her. I was crying so hard while I held her. I made a vet appointment but feared she wouldn't make it the 4 hours. She did, and the vet kept her overnight as she was dehydrated. She was still in a bad way the next day. I couldn't afford to keep her there, so they showed me how to give her an IV twice a day, and antibiotics. They thought she had parasites in her stomach and that's why she had stopped eating and drinking. Ever give a cat an IV? It's quite an experience, but it worked! For the past week she has been getting stronger every day, and is back to her usual self...including that wonderful purr! She is alive and well, and eating and drinking. I have been keeping her inside, but tomorrow I'll let her go out for a few hours. Both of our cats have full run of our house and can go in and out as they please (when a human will open the door for them!). I am so relieved that she's better! Her blood tests showed that she's quite healthy (heart, liver, kidney's, teeth etc.) and the vet said that if she got through this she might have a couple more years in her. I certainly hope so!