Saturday, August 29, 2009

Tucson Wool Festival Workshop and the Lap Rug

Karen Herhold will be teaching a nun felting workshop at the wool festival on October 17, 2009. Learn how to felt on silk in a quick workshop that will teach you the basics of felting. Cost is $25 and includes all supplies to make a hair bow,belt or skinny scarf. Questions? email or call 520-572-3758.

This batch of roving started with the colors, I found buttons that matched, and then discovered that the way I was spinning the yarn lent itself to a landscape scarf. I plan to knit this one myself.
The buttons are a cowboy motif.
The greens reflect the colors of the mountains in spring and the sage brush. I had a lot of leftover roving and was planning to do a second skein using some wild animal buttons.
The carder called and I created roving that is reminiscent of an African Safari. I have to give Shannon Orr credit for the name. I was going for wild animals at the zoo.
Shannon is an angel in disguise. She showed up in response to my cry for help on weaving the lap rug for the wool festival raffle. Virginia did about 18 inches, I did another 18 and Shannon did the rest. It is now off the loom and I will weaving in the ends - no fringe this time! It is about 60 inches long, so we will be adding freeform pieces around each of the sides. Since it is in all natural colors, I knew the yarns would all work. I am always amazed at how well such a loosely organized project can turn out. About 12 of the Freeform Spinners of Tucson have had their hands in it - either spinning or learning to warp, tie on, thread or weave. It is going to be another work of art.

To see last year's freeform shawl, check out the Tucson Wool Festival page of my website:
We wanted this to be an item that would appeal to both sexes. The Freeform Spinners are open for suggestions for a project for next year. We will start it at the wool festival next year, so it will be ready to raffle off next year. We are looking to do something different every year, so we can learn new techniques. Last year it was dyeing and spinning Shetland wool to create yarn strong enough for a warp. This year we played around with Rambouillet and Merino. All wool is not the same, as the spinners will tell you. Anyone interested in participating is welcome to jump in at any time. Some of the yarns used were drop spindled and the first yarns ever spun for some. In freeform, anything goes! We meet the first and third Saturdays of the month here at the ranch.

Friday, August 28, 2009

More Freeform Yarns

These are the three skeins that I spun from the rovings of the previous post. I am thinking of them as Tucson colors.
Above and below are the front and back of the autumn leaves skein. I might do a coiled yarn to go with it, but I have moved on to blue for now.
After the colors above, I still felt in the fall mood, so I carded up the same colors, but substituted cranberry for the green.
I am aiming for one freeform yarn every other day. I am trying to spin singles or coils to go along with the hidden treasure yarn, since they are less expensive and can stretch the more fun yarns.
I have already spun it up! It has some interesting bead combinations in it.
This roving has already been spun up into a single. I plan to spin the freeform yarn that goes with it tomorrow. It has various shades of blue and two greens, as well as "red" kid mohair. In fact, 80% of the fiber is kid mohair, so it has a lovely sheen to it. It also looks a lot different as a yarn, but it is in the wash, so I have to wait to take a picture.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Medieval Collar, Freeform Roving

The medieval collar was designed to be worn as below but, from my survey of friends and visitors, it will probably be worn as shown above. Another finished project. It was done two weeks ago, except for the tie.
The rovings shown below were all on the Elsa carder at the same time. They have also already been spun up into a freeform yarn that is hanging in the shop.
The rovings below are the beginning of my fall line. All of them were on the carder at the same time. I am finding new and different ways to combine colors. I plan to start spinning these tonight.
I spent yesterday shearing Chris' goats. He has given up on raising them. It is an all too familiar story that I am hearing. You pay more to feed than you get off the animals in terms of fiber. Since he had not gone into business yet, it was easier for him to call it quits. I won't be, so don't worry. There is something special about preparing and spinning fiber that I have grown myself.
I kept 4 of Chris' doe angora goats in hopes of being able to sell them. They were out of my buck, Samson, which he bought a few years ago. They are still kids and would make a great beginner herd. Email me at or call me at 520-572-3758, if you are interested. They will have already been shorn. I will be selling some of my goats after the wool festival. I want to keep several of the kids and it is easier to tell how their fleeces will come in, once they are past six months old.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Roving and Batt Sale, Medieval Collar and Tucson Wool Festival

To celebrate having my new Elsa Carder, I am offering all batts and roving at 20% off through noon September 12th, 2009. I am really excited about the quality of the roving and batts coming off the carder. They draft beautifully, so spinning is a dream.
These are samples of the rovings laid upon a gray batts.

This roving consists of 5 ounces of Kid mohair, Shetland and Firestar. Priced at $36. After September 12, it will be priced at $45.
This roving is a blend of autumn shades of wool and Firestar. Currently $19.20. After September 12, it will be priced at $24.

Roving prices vary per content: the more wool, the less expensive. If you have a color and fiber preference and email in advance, I will try to oblige. Pass the word around, since they will not be on sale again. I don't do sales - but I am so addicted to this machine, that I want to pass the fun along.

The medieval collar is finished.I have purchased a silver/black ribbon to use to draw it together at the neck and a pendant to hang from it. The pattern needs a little touch up and will be available for sale here at the shop and on etsy.
If you are coming as a vendor and want to be featured on my Tucson wool festival page - send me photos and info now.
Freeform Spinners of Tucson: The loom is tied on and Virginia and I have woven 18 inches of the lap rug. If you want to throw the shuttle - come soon. My goal is to have it done by the next meeting (1st Saturday in September), so we can start sewing on the freeform motifs. If you are knitting and crocheting pieces- hurry. I would like to have the blanket finished by the 1st weekend in October so we can use it as publicity. It is turning out very rustic and will be another lovely piece of art! Thanks for spinning!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

My New Toy!

My Elsa Carder arrived today. I paid Kyle to drive to the freight office to pick it up and take it out of the crate. I am glad that he was willing to do it. He has gotten really good at following instructions and managed to get all of the crate off with the hlep of my nephew, Drew. By the time Marc got home, we were ready to move it into the studio. Marc connected the table where the fibers fed in and I was carding immediately. I spent 45 minutes feeding it and decided to check how much was on the carder. It is not even half full. I can tell that the picker s going to speed things up. I have still not pulled the first batt off, but I can already tell that it is going to be well prepared and have a lot less VM (vegetable matter for you non fiber addicts!)
My first batt/roving is going to be all kid mohair and consists of lots of batches of colors that were floating around. The next one will be Rambouillet which has already been picked. I have been running the carder at 40% of its maximum speed and it is running at the same pace as the old one. Since it is a lot wider, I will be getting a lot more of one "dyelot" to play with. I cannot imagine doing a whole batt in one color!
I finished the medieval collar and the pattern. I need to wash and block it so the ruffles will lay properly. Then I will photograph it for the pattern and list it on etsy
I carded this batch of coiled and single with the intention of using it for "my" corset. I don't really plan to wear it. But, I decided that I want to make it in black and burgundy. One batt on the larger carder will be sufficient for the yardage that I need. So this will go in the shop. It is a lovely combo of kid mohair and merino. The coiled has 182 yard, if I remember right. I still have to count the single.
Life is so exciting right now. To add to all of this, I found out that I was accepted into the Winter 4th Avenue Street Fair. So mark your calendars for 11-13 of December , if you usually come looking for me there. All the more reason to play with fiber!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Nine Years

Above is the photo from 9 years ago. I am not sure that at this size you can pick out the changes evident in the photo below from last November. Of course, we have lost the haybarn that is on the left. A new barn is going up in the back of the arena on the right sometime during September. We decided that it makes more sense to put up animal shelter, since I use pellets and they are stored in the brick shed. I also wanted something farther from the road.
These photos only show half of our property. The photographers focused on the dwellings. We are leaving the far left end of our property undeveloped to give us a buffer zone from the road and neighbors.
The ruffle on my medieval collar is in the process of being bound off. I have figured out what I want to do for the neck. Will hopefully finish it tomorrow, so I can post pictures and publish the pattern. I will probably do a variation, since the pattern lends itself to lots of yarn and color choices. It is totally reversible. I had planned the ruffle to be stockinette, but it looks even better as reverse stockinette!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

A Medieval Collar with a Modern Twist

My last post suggested that I was going to be working on a corset. Well, I am, but I have to spin the yarn. I decided that I wanted to first try to knit a collar using one of the patterns that I bought. It is a smaller project, so can be finished quickly. Above are the two colors that I debated spinning. The pure mohair on the left was a little too pale, since I was aiming for elegant - so I went with the same mohair blended with Merino.
I decided that the main portion of the collar needed to have a textured yarn to duplicate the impression that I got from the pattern cover. It had a floral motif and I thought the coils would capture the effect.

This is what the pattern calls the front. I changed the size as I knitted, because I thought it looked too small and the neck hole was a lot tighter than one I would wear. I had exactly 100 yards of the coiled yarn and pretty much knitted the back until I ran out of yarn. I have 9 inches left.
This is the back of the collar, but I decided that it is more fun to have something that can be worn more than one way. As I started knitting the back, I realized that I could modify the pattern and it work out nicely.
I picked up stitches along the bottom edge and I am now knitting a ruffle. I have 720 stitches on my needle right now. It is taking an eternity to knit/purl from one end to the other and I have broken my rule of never stopping in the middle of a row. It is taking almost 45 minutes to knit one row! Unreal.
I will be adding something to the top of the neck edge. I have mentally designed it, but will wait till I have actually added it before saying what it will be. I tend to improvise and what I am planning tonight might not be what I do tomorrow.
The corset is going to be shades of blue with the softest kid mohair and a little Merino. It will also feature coiled yarn.
The bunnies are enjoying being inside. The does are fighting over the little box. I am not sure what they do during the night, but they are pretty tidy during the day. I come back to a mess in the morning that fills my Ironman twice and takes an hour to clean up.
Tomorrow I am going to start my day earlier trying to beat the heat. I have two goats to shear and a few to move around. Baby season is over and rutting season is already here!
By the way, we have officially lived in our house 9 years as of today. The longest I had ever lived anywhere before was in North Carolina - 5 1/2 years. I plan to post aerial photos tomorrow showing what the place looked like shortly after we bought it and how it looked last November when the last photo was taken. Lots of changes and more are on the way, since the haybarn is gone and will be replaced by a barn in the arena sometime in September.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Path of Inspiration

I used to wonder how painters and composers came up with their ideas. I finally figured out that it came to them in bits and pieces and that there is no magical "aha"moment in which the whole composition appears in its entirety.

I thought I would share with you how I came up with my next project - which is still in my head and on the carder.

A week ago, I went into a store has has gorgeous clothes - ranging from simple Mexican style dresses in cotton to elaborate ball gowns. What caught my eye as I walked in was a burgundy/black corset hanging on the rack right at the front door. If it had not been REALLY expensive, I would have bought it on the spot. Never mind the fact that I don't think I would have the nerve to wear it. It is certainly not appropriate for ranch life and my social life, sad to say, is extremely limited! Anyhow, the corset sat in the back of my mind as a very interesting piece of wearable art.
Last night I went to Barnes and Nobles and was talking to my friend, Judy, about ideas for a scarf that I am working on. We decided to hit the magazines and then go to a fabric shop. My idea was to buy a pattern that I could knit to in order to have the scarf fit a certain size.
I have found the knitting magazines to be stifling - always the same styles and yarns, so I check out art, quilt, and altered clothing magazines for ideas on new and different ways to use my fiber. The corset idea was still in my head, so my eye was caught by the current Belle Armoire magazine. They had issued a corset design challenge and there were some stunning corsets featured. Talk about serendipity! There was a knitted one - only OK - one with a crochet corsage on a black background (my favorite) and then a few really funky ones with quilting and surface embellishment. I really needed to hit the fabric store for patterns!
Flipping through pattern books, we were looking for the scarf/collar idea I had (never found the pattern for that) and hit upon some really interesting corset patterns - the one in Simplicity is designed as a "green" pattern, white the ones in Butterwick were based on historical themes. If you look closely at the photo above, you will be able to see the ones that I bought. I instantly had an image in my head on how I can design yarns that will give the effect of the ruffles and edges very simply. I also saw them in natural classic colors, which is why - as soon as I got home - I started carding black kid mohair. It is actually a shade of charcoal, since there is no such thing as black mohair. By the first shearing at six months the kids, who are born with pure black hair have to shades of gray. The carder photo below has a first fleece on it. I am experimenting with adding a pure black Merino to it to see if I can capture the shade that I see in my head.
I will keep you posted on my progress. I have to finish my southwestern freeform vest, while I am spinning for a corset!
As an after thought, looking at one of the patterns that I bought, I came up with an idea that will solve my scarf problem. The beads were purchased as the final embellishment on a felted landscape. Can you see them as the flowers of an ocotillo?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Freeform spinning class

I will be teaching my freeform spinning class on Tuesday, August, 18, 2009, from 10-3. $100 covers the cost of instruction and all of your spinning supplies. A basic knowledge of spinning is required. If you can spin a single and ply reasonably well, you will get a lot out of this class. It is designed to help you think outside the box and unleash your creativity. You will be exposed to lots of techniques and textures that will give your yarns that "Aha!" experience. Class is limited to 4. email me at to sign up, or call me at 520-572-3758.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Bunny Plucking

Having the bunnies in the studio is a nice change. I was afraid that it would get really messy, but they have been really good about using the litter boxes filled with corn cob. I started out with an old mattress cover on the floor thinking that it would save me some work cleaning up pellets. Well, all that did was encourage the rabbits to urinate everywhere and cause the place to smell. With the rabbits inside, it is also a lot easier to keep track of what they are up to. Lindt started grooming herself this morning and managed to felt the wool growing on her back. You can see a really black patch behind her ears. This is the undercoat that she exposed, while removing the mature fibers. I was not planning on plucking her, since I am fairly certain that she is pregnant and I caused her to lose her babies one time by picking her up. Since I had visions of her getting wool block from all of the licking, I put it on my to do list for this afternoon.
Here are the three ounces I got off her. I plan to card them without blending other fibers in and spinning it tomorrow. She looked a lot blacker than the fibers are because the tips are black while the inner portion varies from white to gray. It is the darkest angora that I have ever plucked. Lindt looks very puny without her wool, but she was quite content to sit on a padded chair, while I pulled out the loose fiber. She already has a white undercoat, but I put a blanket over her cage, so she won't get sick from the air conditioner draft. She was a lot perkier after her plucking.

There are always a few people who want to know, if it hurts them to be plucked. The answer is no - if you do it properly. The fiber needs to come out easily or it is not ready. Also, it helps to pull only from the tips. Then you are only getting the mature hairs and leaving the new growth. If you use scissors, you are more likely to cut the rabbit. They do not do well with stress, so I only use scissors to cut off badly matted pieces. I have had friends helping me pluck this year, so I am keeping up with the plucking.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Bunny Solutions

I spun the above skein of kid mohair yesterday. Spinning mohair requires a light touch. Kid mohair needs to be spun without a lot of twist, if you want to keep it as a single and have it be soft enough to wear next to the skin. There is always the temptation to put extra twist in, but it
then can feel like rope - unless you ply it. I no longer ply kid mohair, because I charge by the weight of the fiber and it becomes heavy, more expensive, and you get half the yardage. The advantage of the plied yarn evens out the twist for a beginning spinner, but otherwise is not worth the extra work. I bought Lindt a new cage today, so she can stay in the studio until it cools down or she has had her babies. I brought the rest of the bunnies into the studio this afternoon and will probably keep them in for a few weeks. It will mean more cleaning, but I found one of the rabbits looking overly stressed this morning and decided that I really did not want to lose another due to the heat.
I tried the iced bottles - but they don't stay cool more than an hour. They actually got hotter than the water in their bowls. I finally remembered this afternoon that we were letting the rabbits run on the ground last year, which is why they did not get so hot. They were digging tunnels and just going deeper to get cooler. I had to put them in cages after I discovered that they had dug a tunnel over 15 feet long under the entire pen and that they had come out outside the fenced area. They had just escaped when I discovered them out last year, so I did not lose them, but it was a close call.
I decided to start spinning some of my angora stockpile. I have a lot in the studio refrigerator and really need to sell some of it, so the rabbits can pay their way. The yarns below are angora rabbit and the beginning of my collection. The grays and whites are natural colored. Now is a good time to stop in and see the bunnies (unless you have allergies) and maybe buy some angora?
I have been spinning blues the last few days. I currently have slate blue kid mohair on my wheel. The blues below were spun yesterday. I plan to do a freeform yarn in autumn shades next. I have already pulled the fibers. I need to find a few more novelties to go in it.