Monday, July 25, 2011

New Yarns, Freeform Vest, and a Sunset

I am always being asked for yarn similar to those in my southwestern vest, so I spun up just enough to make one. The colors are close, but will never be an exact match, since my dye lots and blending change each time. They are gorgeous and tempt me, but I have hung them in the shop.

I have put the dog hair on hold (more than halfway done), so I can spin up a few new yarns for the Pasadena show. I will be spending all day tomorrow loading the truck and organizing, since I have scheduled a few workshops. The blue one at the bottom is a freeform yarn that is mostly kid mohair and both types of alpaca. I discovered today the red kid mohair and the white Suri are a beautiful silky blend - next to the skin of course. I have carded up superbatts of each of the colors, so I can play around with them during the lulls.

The photograph does not do the colors justice. The vest is almost done - it would have been, if animal emergencies had not eaten up my time this past week. I plan to take it to Pasadena, since it shows off my yarns and a comparison can be made between my handspun and commercial yarns in the same project. Mine wins, of course!

One front side.

The other front.

A lovely sunset - we did not get rain - but everyone else did!

I am heading out early Wednesday morning to the Pasadena Bead and Design Show. If you live near there, come visit, and bring something to show and tell.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Notes from the Withers Ranch in Tucson

I just sent this out to my email list, so if you did not receive it and would like to be added to my list, please email me. Contact info is at the bottom.

An added note - last two lambs for the year were born yesterday. Two Moorit Shetland rams.


This has been a quiet summer in terms of business, but very exciting in other ways. I did a show in Albuquerque at the end of May that caused me to look in other directions for my inspiration and I took a trip to Del Mar for the White and Colored Angora Goats Shows that reaffirmed my love for the angora goats.

My first love is spinning yarns, but I have come to realize that what sets me apart from other spinners and designers is the fact that I raise my own animals and have cottage industry sized equipment that lets me express my color sense when dyeing and carding my fibers. I control the quality of what I sell and produce – so it is always my responsibility to ensure that what I sell is the best. I was incredibly excited to discover that my goats have among the finest fibers available.

My friend, Scott of Southwest Acres, borrowed 20 of my goats and entered them at the Del Mar shows. I took the opportunity to go visit my son and watch the judging. It is hot here in Arizona, so my goats are always going to be smaller than those of cooler regions. The other breeders were all from California and can breed to have kids born whenever they chose. I have to wait for it to cool down sufficiently for the buck’s semen to be viable. I am lucky to have babies born in January. My first kids were born February 29 and most were born in April. Despite the fact that my kids were two to three months younger than the other contestants, my whites won pretty much everything - my yearling herd sire won Supreme Champion. In the colored competition, my goats took first or second. If they did not take first, the judge always mentioned that he preferred their fineness, but that they needed a little more growth. I do not plan to artificially inseminate to compete and I won’t be showing my animals, unless Scott wants to do it again next year or at some other venue. It is very exciting to know that I can recognize quality and can hold my own against breeders who provided my original stock.

Due to feed expenses constantly rising, I have decided to focus on the animals that produce the best and most fiber. This means that I will be seriously downsizing my Shetland herd and focusing more on the Merino sheep. I bought two Merinos while I was at Del Mar - a new white ram and a lovely Moorit ewe. I have ordered a black ewe that will arrive sometime next month. They are already friendly and eating out of my hand.

I will be at the Pasadena Gem and Bead Show from July 27-31, 2011, so the shop will be closed. I have applied to a few other shows, so it is always smart to call ahead, if you have a long drive. My website and blog will keep you current on my whereabouts.

The Tucson Wool Festival will be Saturday, October 22, 2011 from 9-3. Due to inclement weather this past spring, we are adding Sunday as a rain date. Not all vendors will be able to stay the extra day so, if you are just wanting to shop, do come on Saturday. The animals have to be sheared and I plan to keep as many dry as possible, so there will be shearing on Saturday, even if it does rain.

New Products:

I am now carrying size 35 needles that are 32 inches long that are perfect for knitting a rug or landscape. They are a great way to use up roving or yarns that are not so nice. Come see what I have been doing with them.

I have a complete set of elastic yarns for core spinning, as well as a small selection of metallic threads. If they prove to be of interest, I will stock an entire line. I am using both types to create art yarns.


August 13, 2011 10 a.m-1 p.m. Pin Weaving $45 for the instruction, a foam pad, needle and warp and an additional $20, if you do not bring your own stash.

August 16, 2011 10 a.m-1 p.m. Crazy/Abstract Lace $45 for the instruction and 10% off any yarn you buy that day.

August 20, 2011 10 a.m-1 p.m. Nuno Felting $50-70 includes the use of my felting kits to make a scarf or shawl.

September 1, 2011 10 a.m-1 p.m. Freeform Knit and Crochet $45 for the instruction and 10% off any yarn you buy that day.

September 10, 2011 10 a.m-1 p.m. Nuno felting $50-70 includes the use of my felting kits to make a scarf or shawl.

Freeform Spinning Group – Learn to drop spindle or just hang out – August 6, September 3, and September 17.

Private classes may be scheduled by calling 520-572-3758 or emailing

For a continuous update on events at the ranch and online items for sale, check out my blog: and etsy shop:

Kathy Withers


Thursday, July 7, 2011

So many projects

I started knitting this landscape two months ago. I am back to working on it in between sessions of spinning dog hair (no picture of that since it is white and not spectacular!) I am using size 35 needles that are 32 inches long and using 12 strands of either a single or a two ply that is between fingering and sport weight. I now have the needles available for sale in the shop. They are $52 plus postage, if you do not live locally. It is a great way to use up yarn. This is going to be a wall hanging. The next one I do will be a rug - the idea is to use up the roving and yarns that are not next to the skin in an artistic manner. I have challenged myself to spin the yarn colors required for a specific design to see how well I can follow it. I am pleased with how it is turning out.

Mounds and a Shetland in the arena are both pretty close to delivering. Mound has definite udders and her backside looks loose. I can't believe that she could just be fat. Her shape is too off!

I have almost finished a freeform vest from the yarns that I bought in Del Mar. I spun eight skeins of my own yarn to go with it and decided to just use four of them, since I don't need them all. The other night I pinned the pieces to the pattern that I had modified. Good thing I did because some of the pieces just barely fit. Now I am filling in the rest. I decided to wait to publish a photo once it is complete. Probably by the end of the weekend. It is an addictive project, since is is laid out on my table and I walk by it every time I get up. I made sure that I picked colors that I love, so I would be sure to finish it!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Elasticity and Color

The yarns above were all spun from the batt below. Changing the color of the core yarn seriously affects the final look and so does the texture. Starting at the far right - the batt was pulled in strips so both the top and the bottom were represented equally. It was coiled over a pink cotton. The super coil immediately to the left was spun from just the pink part of the batt. The third from the right was spun with strips of the batt with both colors being equally represented again, but the core thread was a teal. The textured yarn at the left is a single from just the blue, knotted over a yellow core thread and then plied to a blue thread. The knots did not stay where I wanted them, so I plied with the blue. Turned out quite interesting.
Below are two skeins that show how different fibers behave. The skein on the right is 100% kid mohair off Dainty- one of the red kids from last year that got bottle fed. I love the deep chocolate color. Most of the red goats tend to have paler mohair.

The skein on the left is the same red kid mohair with white kid mohair dyed red and white Merino. In the wash, the 100% kid mohair kept its original length. It is best suited for shawls or items not requiring elasticity. The blend with the Merino shrunk. When knitting, the yarn will stretch back out. Anything made from this skein of yarn will require blocking.

A Shetland ram was born yesterday evening. No photo till I am sure that he will make it. Too depressing otherwise. He was a lot larger than other lambs born this year and his mother had a hard time pushing him out. He feels nice and sturdy. Due to the heat, I am supplementing him with a bottle. We have seen him drinking off mom. Mom bellowed for hours after his delivery, so we put them in a pen in the barn and closed the doors to give them a chance to bond - and to cut down on the noise. Talk about loud! I am told that I am overly sensitive, but .......