Monday, December 29, 2008

My Husband's Gift (to me)

Christmas Eve is my birthday, as well as my wedding anniversary. The picture above will make sense by the end of the poem that he wrote me.


It is hard to find a gift for one's wife,
Especially when she already buys what she wants in life.
Still some things are hard to buy,
And for that I can hear her sigh.
And so I give her a room,
The better to make her bloom.
I'm speaking, of course, of the mud room being redone,
The better to make her work easier and fun.
I'll do a bunch of it myself,
But have professionals do things like the washer and shelves.
And so, lovely dear wife,
Happy Anniversary, I'm so glad you're part of my life.

Love, Marc
(published with his permission, of course)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


I have not figured out how to send replies directly or post replies to the comments, so I will answer Alan's question here. The shearer is coming and will shear for the public to watch on March 14, 2009. He will be here two other days and anyone who wants to can come watch. Just let me know, so I am prepared.

ALL of the animals will be sheared, if they have fiber. This includes llamas and alpacas. The Shetlands, that were not shorn in the fall, will have wool about 3 inches long. The others will have 4-6 inch staples. I am having them sheared in March because waiting just a few weeks can cause them to start growing their new fleeces and then their shorn fleeces look like they have second cuts. I will probably use the shorter fleeces in batts for felting. I have found Shetland to be a great felting wool. The longer ones will be for spinning. Espresso, the ram in the arena, is my oldest. His last fleece was really nice, but no longer next to the skin. I am keeping him and have bought another ram from someone in Oregon. He will arrive here with a few ewes in May 2009. I need a variety of color and need to spread the genes out.

Time for gatherings

The holidays are a good time for gathering together. I used Kristie's harp playing as an excuse to have a potluck with the Freeform Spinners of Tucson. The picture is slightly blurred, but it is the only one that really captures the afternoon.Afterwards, I was out looking at the animals. The Shetlands are so woolly now, that I can't tell whether they are pregnant or not. I have several goats that looked like they have popped overnight. They are not due till February and late in the month. No udders, so nothing is likely to happen soon. Good thing, since I am not really ready!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Wintry Arizona Sunset Shawl

The above is the current state of the freeform shawl that I have just begun. Arizona is famous for its sunsets. The summer ones have a totally different hue from the ones we get in the winter months. These are the current colors. I am debating adding white to the mixture to give it less of a dark tone.
This is the yarn wound into balls. I have already decided to take the navy blue in the bottom ball out of the plan. It is too stark compared to the rest of the colors. It is really funny, since the same color is blended into most of the batts that I am using. I am debating whether or not to add white to the mixture to give it more contrast. I think I will just have to spin some before making a final decision.
This is 10 ounces of the yarn. I have to have at least 23 ounces to finish, if not more. The skein on the left is the one that I have washed and wound into balls. The blue is definitely out. The second skein is hanging to dry.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Booth and shop photos with a personal note

Those who know me personally, know that I have retired from cooking. Kristie and Abe cooked last night and filled the kitchen counters with dishes. I told them that I was not going to do them. Marc usually empties and I fill. This was the second photo that I took of the guys doing the cleanup. Abe was a little startled.
The above and below are photos of the shop from Sunday evening. I had to quit and sit to spin. Caroline helped me get the shop back in order by opening. Now I am back to spinning for a new freeform shawl. My funky shawl sold at the street fair, as well as quite a few finished goods. Since Caroline has my inventory online, I was able to see that finished goods were almost half of my sales, the yarns were half and the rest was locks and roving. I was really happy with the fair. In these tough times, I am really grateful that I have so many repeat customers. A lot of the vendors did poorly and some lost their booths in a microburst sometime during Saturday night.

My booth on Saturday. Quite a few of the yarns on the front and the shawl at the top right sold. Incentive to make more!

Friday, December 12, 2008

4th Avenue Street Fair

I taught Caroline how to space dye using Koolaid not too long ago and she knitted a scarf on the bias. This morning I put on the buttons that I bought almost a month ago to put on it. There was a lot of interest today in the scarves, bags and shawls. Usually the yarns are the focus. It was nice to see the interest in finished items. I usually make them to show off the yarns or when I am designing new patterns. Sure wish I had more time! I love working with my yarns. I forget how good they look in natural light.

I was especially pleased to see a lot of familiar faces at the fair. It thrills me to hear that they have enjoyed using the yarns. Repeat customers tell me that I am doing the right thing. Periodically, I worry that I am working in a void. It is great to know that I am remembered and that I have brought pleasure to their lives - even if with only a skein of yarn!
The above is my "Victorian Rose Garden." I got on a green, white and desert rose color kick. I am working on a Southwestern Traditions shawl now and will use the above next, if they do not sell by the time I finish the southwestern skein. I know most people are into winter colors now, but I am already dreaming of spring - green things and new kids and lambs. This winter has been warm, but I am ready for the warm blue skies already.

Red, Orange, and Black Shawl

I forgot to measure the shawl before shipping it off to its new owner. I really love how it turned out. I ended up using more yarn than I anticipated and spinning more to finish it, but I wanted it to have texture and variation in color and it feels rich and soft.
Close up details of one section.

The shawl can be worn many ways, but I thought that the photo above captured its essence the best. The back does not have the stripes, but the stripes show off the yarns the best.
Above is the latest color way. It is blue and teal. I have two novelty yarns and a few simpler skeins to go along with them. Below is the stash that I began with.
I am going back to spinning simpler yarns, since that is what sold the best today at the street fair. The novelty yarns sell best here at the shop. Probably because the people who visit the ranch are more adventuresome? I know they are more interested in the animals and have been working with fiber longer, so maybe they are more willing to experiment.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Nuno Felting Experiments

Tor came and checked out the (Reverse) Badger doe's horn. He is coming back tomorrow to help me fix it. I let Agave's mother out of the "sick bay", so I will have somewhere to put Badger Doe. Agave and her mother raced around while I raked and fed. I can't wait until I can let more of them out. Of course, there will be more raking to do, so maybe not!
I experimented with nuno felting yesterday and today. This is a piece that I did in the workshop under dim lights. It was really dark outside, when I took this photo. The portion on the right is one side and the photo below shows the other side. I did not want to do the style that I see other people doing. I just wanted to see how much work it would take to get the fiber to stick to the silk. I was pleasantly surprised. It is a whole lot easier than wet felting a purse or a bowl. I don't like having to cut the silk - it seemed to stick to the scissors and I had a hard time getting a straight line. On the piece today, I decided not to worry about the edges and I layered both sides of the silk with fiber. My batts were a combination of kid mohair, Shetland, merino, and angelina.
All of the fiber stuck and the thin edges look really cool. I like the abstract look and think that I will end up using the silk as a base to give strength to shawls that I want to make, rather than have the silk be the focal point. I will next play around with dyeing the silk.

Above is one of the batts that I used to make the shawl above. This is the dark side. My thought is to add this embellished piece by Pat Hansen (Pat, let me know, if I messed up your last hname, so I can fix it.)

Above is the piece that I felted yesterday. Pat brought a batch of pieces that she had been sewing together to show me today. As soon as I saw this piece, I saw a match. Pat and I are going to collaborate on a few more pieces and see what happens. She took this one home to attach the embellishment.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Current project and Reverse Badger doe and Silvers

This is the project I started working on while waiting for yarn for the red shawl to dry. I am going to call it southwestern traditions, since it has southwestern motifs.
This is the yarn that I am using for the above project. It is all from my animals - Shetland, kid mohair, llama, Rambouillet, and Jacobs.
The Badger doe in the center has a horn growing too close to her head. I wrote to the CAGBA yahoo list and am posting these photos here for them. I have decided to get her horn fixed after chatting with enough other breeders to discover that she is a reverse badger and fairly rare. So many breeders are reducing their herds due to the price of feed that it is becoming worrisome.
She has been hiding under the feeder to get away from the other goats.
From left to right is a black (charcoal) angora goat, a very pale silver and a darker silver. The one in the middle had worse hair than his twin on the right, so I castrated him. Now his hair is finer. The black one on the left has the finest hair. I am keeping all three for now.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Lace weight yarn

In order to not get into a rut, I periodically spin yarns that sell well, but are not me. The above two skeins are lace weight - not my usual - and all natural colored from my animals. They include llama, Shetland, Jacob, and Rambouillet wool, as well as kid mohair. They have over 750 yards each. The one on the left has been washed. The one on the right had not been washed yet. I wanted to see how different they would look. I normally don't list yarns and prices on my blog, but thought I would do so, since I am not going to list anything else on etsy till after the 4th Avenue Street fair. They are each $82 and I will pay postage, if they are purchased off my blog.
The Bad Hair Day Rooster was moving too much for a great photo, but I loived th ecolor combination. It has a lot of the colors that are in the freeform shawl that I am currently knitting.
Marc made a new hutch for two of the rabbits this past weekend. I wanted them up off the ground and away from the chickens, who were probably abusing them. The other rabbit is in a cage of her own. I am pretty sure that she had babies already and that the chickens attacked them. Seeing them go after a grub that was under a brick was kind of scary!

Friday, November 28, 2008

SpinOff Magazine

There was a write up by a local guild member on the different fiber related businesses/breeders/artists in the southwestern Arizona area. I got my magazine this afternoon and was saving it for later and did not even open it, until Linda, a friend in Washington state, mentioned that she saw the photo of my yarn, thought of me, and realized from the write up that it was mine. Glad she did mention it. It would have gotten buried in a pile, since I am on a spinning binge. I am really excited about it. I will have to buy my friend, Tor, a copy, since he was also listed and had a photo in the article. I hauled the Tucson guild out there the other year to check out his Rambouillet's. The photo was taken by a guild member that day. He will probably laugh about it, but I think it is rather cool.

I have felting in the morning and am too excited to sleep. I can't go spin - then I will start watching another series on and never get to bed!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Current projects

I designed this hat during the crochet tune up class last Friday. I wrote the pattern and decided to create a scarf to go with it. Since I ran out of yarn, I sewed the ends together to make a mock moebius. Not even 24 inches of yarn left! I will be writing out the pattern and selling it and the finished items on etsy. They are great beginner projects.
I have almost finished the red, orange, and black shawl. Hope to get it done before Saturday. In the meantime, I have started spinning for another shawl, that I hope to have started, if not finished by the 4th Avenue Street Fair. I have to have something that shows how the yarn can be worked up. I am using all natural colors of wool, mohair and llamas. I plan to name it for something southwestern, since the motifs follow that theme. I might call it something to do with Kokopelli, since one of the buttons is a black one. I will sleep on it.
Parley could be pregnant, since her teats are larger and her attitude is nastier. What I have read online says that the milk comes in after delivery. I think that might not always be the case.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Animal Curiosities

I brought the bunnies over to the workshop to pluck with a friend and decided to keep two of them over here for a while. They love to sit in the corn cobs. Cadbury (the male on the right) is pretty tame. I put them together to breed on Saturday and am writing this to keep track of the dates. Parsley, my French angora rabbit is still over with the chickens in a pen. She has teats. I suspect that she has already had the babies and something happened to them. She has never had babies before and she is 4 years old, so I don't think that she is still pregnant. I could always be wrong, so I put her in a cage for a while.
Helen and her husband came on Saturday to learn how to drop spindle and to pick up the shawl that she won from the raffle at the Tucson Wool Festival. I was relieved to discover that she was not tall or big - we ran out of yarn, so I had to call it quits! They are her colors and she promises that she will wear it. It looks good on her.

This Jacob ram is turning out to be as destructive as his father. If he were not so stunning, he would be gone. He does the prancing that the llamas do, when he sees me coming with dinner. Too funny. Wish I could catch him in mid air. Once I get close enough for a photo, he usually quits. Digital cameras have too much of a lag time.
Hazelnut and Poppy are the tamest of the Shetland ewes in the arena. They are hungry enough when I come out that they meet me at the gate. They have lovely fleeces.
The red, orange, and black shawl is 3/4 of the way done. It is spectacular. I had to spin another skein and I will be back on it again tomorrow.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


My company, B-4-2, at Ft. Gordon, Georgia in 1982.
A student from the University of Arizona has been interviewing me for a school project. Today we went looking for pictures of me from when I was in the military. I cannot believe that this was almost 30 years ago! It seems like only a short while ago. I was giving up command of a signal company and scheduled to attend the Signal Officer Advanced Course (SOAC) in the Army. I met Marc in that course just a month later. We were married three months later.

It is interesting how different experiences in life prepare you for things that you end up doing later. I had a company of 500 Army students studying all sorts of telecommunications equipment. Besides learning how to manage people and supervise four barracks (great preparation for running an apartment complex - which I have never take advantage of!), I learned how to talk to large groups. Someone asked me a few nights ago whether I would be nervous speaking for the Tucson Handweavers and Spinners guild on Wednesday. Since I have done lots of public speaking and on subjects that I dearly love, it is not as hard as one would think. The only time I worry is when I know that the audience is critical or unfriendly. I am always prepared for technical difficulties - computers do have gremlins and always know when you NEED them to work. I can always talk with a skein of yarn in hand!
Now I am thinking of digging out more old pictures to share. My kids never believe my stories of my time in the Army. I always tell people that the rules and regulations that I was forced to follow then turned me into the freeform rebel that I am now.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Midnight Cowboy Novelty Yarn

I posted on November 6, the fiber and novelties for a yarn that has already been in the shop two weeks. This is a southwestern skein with cowboy and horse motifs. I listed it on etsy, since someone at the Tucson Celtic festival was interested in seeing one.

I am 3/4 of the way done with the Red, Orange, and Black Freeform Shawl. It is turning out to be gorgeous. I will post pictures as soon as it is finished. I plan to start another before the 4th Avenue Street Fair. It will be in shades of brown with southwestern motifs. I have already designed it in my head. Now comes the tough part - execution!

Things are always happening around here. Last week we had a pipe burst out in the animal area - so my time was eaten up by hauling a hose around to fill buckets, which the animals then proceeded to dump. Not too bright, if you ask me. I also had Agave's mother break a horn while her head was stuck in the fence of a male pen. She was looking for love in all of the wrong places and the guys let her know! She is on the mend, but needed to get locked up till she has healed.

You can also tell that the temperatures have cooled - the animals are eating way more than last month.

Tucson Wool Festival Freeform Shawl

The interesting thing about this shawl is that it has what I call a summer side and another that is a winter side. Depending on how it is worn, you are set for the season. Helen will be picking up the shawl on the 22nd of November. The above is the fall/winter side.
This is the spring/summer side.
The spring side again.
The spinning group, that meets here on the first and third Saturday of the month, have agreed to make a new item to raffle off next year. We are staying with the freeform theme and will be making a lap blanket. We will keep you posted on its progress. The idea is to have the blanket ready to show off when we start publicity for the festival next year. During the festival itself, our demonstration will be the raffle item for the following year.
This year's fiber is going to include Rambouillet, Merino and mohair. It is going to be in natural colors, in hopes of appealing to guys as well as gals.
If you are a spinner, knitter, crocheter, weaver, or any other type of do-er, that would like to contribute to the shawl in some way, try to attend one of the Saturday meetings. I am donating the fiber and the first batches will be distributed on December 6, 2008.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

New projects

The above is the batch of stash that I grabbed for a new freeform yarn. I have already spun the main skein skein and have started on a skein to complement it. The gray mohair is the Badger Doe's first fleece. It i really soft and gave me some gorgeous shades with the black and copper. This is the freeform shawl that I started two weeks ago. I now have an incentive to finish it quickly. Someone bought it today and trusted me enough to give me a deposit for it. I was so excited that I worked three hours on it this evening. I still have the raffle shawl to finish, so I will be splitting my time between them and spinning. Have to restock my pegs to stay within my comfort zone.

The Freeform group met this afternoon. The group is growing and getting more adventuresome. I heard that Prudence Mapstone is going to be in Phoenix in January. She is giving a one day class on Freeform. Anyone who is interested, should check it out.

The Open Studio Tours is this weekend, so I will sit in the workshop AKA garage and knit. A few friends are going to come and keep me company. It is always more fun to have others to hang out with me.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Tucson Celtic Festival

The above is a shot of my booth. Instead of the traditional 10x10 foot space, we were given 25x25 feet. It was great to be able to spread out.
From left: Shannon, Holly, and Alan are posing with the Headless Wonder. She is wearing the freeform shawl that we raffled off at the Tucson Wool Festival. I still have a little more embellishing to do.
I tried to do my share of demonstrating, since I had been asked to do it for the festival. The loom is warped with the Lindsay tartan. I have taken artistic license and used more subtle shades of the colors, since I don't like bold reds. Alan was demonstrating the drum carder. People were really interested in the process of creating fiber. We taught several people to drop spindle and hope they will come join us at the ranch for the spin ins. The group is really friendly.
An entry about the Celtic festival needs to include at least one photo of the bagpipe! I have to admit that the bagpipe music was lovely, but I liked it best when the drummers were included. There is just something about that beat.

Another view of the demonstrators. Caroline is on the wheel. Shannon was in traditional garb - which she gave up after a few hours. It was too hot. Holly gave me the evil eye, because I interrupted her count.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

More Tucson Wool Festival Photos

I discovered that I do not have many photos from with customers in them. Did anyone take photos that they are willing to share? Most of the ones I have were taken before I started giving tours, so there were only a trickle of customers. All of my volunteers got busy and the camera was put away.
One of Amy's dolls. She sells the patterns for it.
Sara was showing off her toys to Heidi as she finished setting up her table.
Trish was putting the finishing touches on her table. Amy was already ready.
Leslie was holding a sweater from her fiber. I did not get a chance to get the story on that one.
Shannon stopped off in the shop to chat, while she was demonstrating drop spindling. The gold that she is spinning ended up in the freeform shawl.