Gift Idea

How about a hand made yarn bowl filled with a skein of luxury farm fresh yarn?  Take a look at these beautiful combinations for inspiration…

For those who like colors….

 

and those who like natural colors….

Skeins can be wound into center pull balls for knitting or rug hooking convenience at no charge, just ask!

Wendy Kastan’s yarn bowls can be found on her website WendyClay.com She also makes beautiful buttons.

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Chair Seats – Cats Who’ve Owned Me Series – 4

This chair seat is called “Cleaning Up” and features Sandy taking a bath.  The design is based on my photos of him.  I’m still experimenting with different colors and textures of yarn to find the best for picturing a cat. This time I used white and tan yarn and hooked the stripes explicitly.

I used my homespun and millspun hand dyed yarns, all of which are wool/ mohair blends (details).  The backing is 100% cotton Monk’s Cloth.  I used 13×13 epi cloth.

The wildflower patches are millspun yarns that were hand painted after the yarn was spun.  The background fields were done with yarns that were kettle dyed before spinning.

Back of Chair Seat

Sandy

Front of Chair Seat
Before Finishing

 Learnings

Good contrast in the colors chosen and work with scissors after hooking to arrange the lines as hooked makes the details much clearer.  Sandy’s face shows clearly on the back of the chair seat but still needs some work on the front side.  Since the colors are so close in value, it is hard to see his face details unless the lighting is bright.

I liked the look here of generic blobs of color versus trying to hook detailed flowers or grasses.

Yarns Used

Info on the yarns used is given below.  The picture links to the full description and creation details for the yarn where available.

 Wildflower Patches in Background: Coreopsis Yarn  Coreopsis – hand dyed (after spinning) 2 ply millspun – 50/50 mohair/wool.   This yarn is shades of yellow with sections of yellow and white designed to stripe.
Mardi Gras Millspun Yarn Mardi Gras – hand dyed (after spinning) 2 ply millspun – 50/50 mohair/wool.
Wildflower Meadow Millspun Yarn Wildflower Meadows- hand dyed (after spinning) 2 ply millspun – 50/50 mohair/wool.
Iris Millspun Yarn Iris – hand dyed (after spinning) 2 ply millspun – 50/50 mohair/wool. The same yarn was also used for the edging.
Gravel Path: Yarn Dark Grey DK 2Ply Millspun 68% Mohair 32% Shetland, Blue Faced Leciester Wool - By the Pound Natural Dark Grey  and Light Grey DK 2Ply Millspun 68% Mohair 32% Shetland, Blue Faced Leicester Wool.
Yarn Sport White Millspun 2 Ply 59% Mohair 31% Shetland Wool - Sold by the Pound I used natural DWF white mohair/ wool yarn for the rocks along the gravel path (same yarn as for Sandy’s body). Sport White Millspun 2 Ply 59% Mohair 31% Shetland Wool.
Background Fields: Pearl Green kettle hand dyed (before carding) millspun.
Forest Dreams hand dyed (before carding) millspun. Designed to look like a forest at a distance for use in weaving and rug hooking.
Aquatics hand dyed (before carding) millspun. Designed to look like pond water for use in weaving and rug hooking.
Green with Envy hand dyed (before carding) millspun.
  Sandy: Yarn Sport White Millspun 2 Ply 59% Mohair 31% Shetland Wool - Sold by the Pound I used natural DWF white mohair/ wool yarn for most of Sandy’s body. Sport White Millspun 2 Ply 59% Mohair 31% Shetland Wool.
Yarn Tan 3Ply Millspun 50% Adult Mohair 50% Shetland Wool 2.5 Oz Skeins Tan DWF mohair/ wool millspun was used for Sandy’s stripes.  3Ply Millspun 50% Adult Mohair 50% Shetland Wool 2.5 Oz Skeins
  Edging: Iris Millspun Yarn Iris – Hand Dyed (After Spinning) Millspun.  The same yarn was also used for wildflower patches in the background.
 Lettering:  A small amount of hand spun, turkey baster hand dyed roving (white with small amounts of orange and blue) was used.

A ball of roving was soaked in water for an hour, then injected with colors using a turkey baster, heated to boiling for 30 minutes to set the colors, then washed before hand spinning.

 

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Chair Seats – Cats Who’ve Owned Me Series – 3

This chair seat is called “Rori Shows Her Belly” and shows Rori on a rug in a typical “scratch my belly” pose.  The design is based on one of my photos of her.

I used my homespun and millspun hand dyed yarns, all of which are wool/ mohair blends (details).  The backing is 100% cotton 13×13 epi Monk’s Cloth.

The rug Rori is laying on is made of 4 different green millspun yarns.

Back of Chair Seat

Rori and Sandy

Front of Chair Seat
Before Finishing

 Learnings

Details came out better with the more enlarged size of the cat.  Also, contrast is key to making small details visible.  The 13×13 epi Monk’s cloth worked much better than the looser version designed for embroidery.

Yarns Used

Info on the yarns used is given below.  The picture links to the full description and creation details for the yarn where available.

Rug: Pearl Green kettle hand dyed (before carding) millspun.
Forest Dreams hand dyed (before carding) millspun. Designed to look like a forest at a distance for use in weaving and rug hooking.
Aquatics hand dyed (before carding) millspun. Designed to look like pond water for use in weaving and rug hooking.
Green with Envy hand dyed (before carding) millspun.
 Rori:   Since natural black isn’t readily available in mohair (black mohair is  dark grey at best) I bought a skein of  Brown Sheep’s Lamb’s Pride Worsted Onyx from Alpaca Direct as they had the best price when I was shopping.  It is a USA made 15% mohair/ 85% wool single ply yarn.
Yarn Sport White Millspun 2 Ply 59% Mohair 31% Shetland Wool - Sold by the Pound I also used mill spun natural DWF white mohair/ wool yarn for Rori’s tummy patches. Sport White Millspun 2 Ply 59% Mohair 31% Shetland Wool.
Coreopsis Yarn Eyes: Coreopsis hand dyed (after spinning) millspun. This yarn is shades of yellow with sections of yellow and white designed to stripe. I used a small amount from a section of yellows.
Yarn Dark Grey DK 2Ply Millspun 68% Mohair 32% Shetland, Blue Faced Leciester Wool - By the Pound A small amount of  Natural Dark Grey DK 2Ply Millspun 68% Mohair 32% Shetland, Blue Faced Leicester Wool was used to create depth around the chin line and between the toes.
  Edging: Iris Millspun Yarn Iris – Hand Dyed (After Spinning) Millspun
 Lettering:  Ooops!  Forgot it on this one so  embroidered on the back.

 

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North Jersey Fiber Arts Festival 2016

Had a great time at the North Jersey Fiber Arts Festival in Ridgewood this week. I met so many interesting and kind people (vendors and attendees!).  Here’s a pic of my setup thanks to Wendy “Clay” who does gorgeous clay buttons and yarn bowls!

 

Dancing Waters Farm Booth at NJFAF 2016 Ridgewood NJ

Dancing Waters Farm at NJFAF 2016 Ridgewood, NJ

I got to show quite a few youngsters (and their parents) how to make yarn starting from a sheep/ goat haircut.   Lots of felters and a few hand spinners attended.  Weather was gloomy outside but we were pretty lively inside the building!

 

Chair Seats – Cats Who’ve Owned Me Series – 2

This chair seat is called “Nap Time” and features Sandy and Rori napping against the night sky.  The design is based on my photos of the two napping on my bed.  I’m experimenting with different colors and textures of yarn to find the best for picturing the cats.

I used my homespun and millspun hand dyed yarns, all of which are wool/ mohair blends (details).  The backing is 100% cotton Monk’s Cloth.  I used 8×8 epi cloth since I’d already washed the fabric and drawn the design on this cloth found in my stash.  The next chair seat will use the new 13 epi cloth I ordered as it is designed for rug hooking and should make the hooking go more quickly and efficiently.

I designed Starry Nights roving with various blues, purple and black with bits of yellow to look like the night sky in weaving and rug hooking.  This “rug” used a lot of it as I went with a fairly simple background so the one skein I had spun was not enough!  Had to stop and spin another skein when I was nearly finished.  Oh well, it means I’ll have some ready for another fiber project.

Nap Time - Chair Seat

“Nap Time” in progress. Moon, sky and part of Sandy shown.

 

Starry Nights Roving

Starry Nights roving and 1 ply on bobbin.

 

“Nap Time” Completed

Back Side Showing Closeup of Modified Cat Faces

Sandy and Rori

Sandy and Rori – the cats being depicted

Closeup of Cat Faces on Right Side Before Re-hooking

Learnings

For this size “rug” (roughly 16″ x 14″), the subjects need to fill the space as much as possible for any detail to show and look right.  I’m trying to find an easier way to enlarge my drawings than redrawing from scratch based on a grid.  I looked at buying on overhead projector or enlarger but they are fairly expensive and my scanner/ copier doesn’t enlarge.  Still working on this.

Cats aren’t brown, but orange isn’t right either.  I may have to design a roving or yarn that will give me the greyed orange with cream stripes that says tiger cat to me. In the first chair seat I used tweed yarn and it gave a nice random tan and white color to the cat.  In this one I used a hand spun with random brown and white color changes.  The way the colors fell gave a stripe to Sandy’s back and mostly brown elsewhere.  With some planning I could create stripes where they are wanted but it would take a bit of work.

Black is also tough to re-create as mohair isn’t really black except in new born kids, it turns to grey, so it would have to be dyed to get that color.  Additionally, shades of black would be needed to allow any details of the cat to be seen.  The size of the rug makes the addition of whiskers pointless – they would either not be visible or take up a disproportional amount of space versus the rest of the body.  The eyes were an issue too because of their proper size in relation to the entire body.  Since the smallest object that can be hooked is 3 punches with the needle, that fixes the eye size in relation to the rest of the design.  In this case the eyes seem too big for the body.

On to Chair Seat number 3!

Yarns Used

Info on the yarns used is given below.  The picture links to the full description and creation details for the yarn where available.

Sky: Starry Nights Roving Starry Nights hand dyed (before carding) roving. Designed to look like the night sky (variegated blues, purples, black and bits of yellow) for use in weaving and rug hooking.
 Moon: Coreopsis Yarn  Coreopsis hand dyed (after spinning) millspun.  This yarn is shades of yellow with sections of yellow and white designed to stripe.  I used a small amount from a section of yellows.
 Cats: Brown and white random color hand spun skein from a (stash) roving grab bag for Sandy.

Since natural black isn’t readily available in mohair, I bought a skein of  Brown Sheep’s Lamb’s Pride Worsted Onyx from Alpaca Direct as they had the best price when I was shopping.  It is a USA made 15% mohair/ 85% wool single ply yarn.  I used this yarn for the black cat (Rori).

Yarn Sport White Millspun 2 Ply 59% Mohair 31% Shetland Wool - Sold by the Pound I also used a mall amount hand spun natural DWF white mohair/ wool yarn for Rori’s white paws and stomach patches. Sport White Millspun 2 Ply 59% Mohair 31% Shetland Wool.
Yarn Dark Grey DK 2Ply Millspun 68% Mohair 32% Shetland, Blue Faced Leciester Wool - By the Pound A small amount of  Natural Dark Grey DK 2Ply Millspun 68% Mohair 32% Shetland, Blue Faced Leicester Wool was used to create depth in Rori, around the chin line and the inside of the ears.
  Edging: Iris Millspun Yarn Iris – Hand Dyed (After Spinning) Millspun
 Lettering:  A small amount of hand spun, turkey baster hand dyed roving (white with small amounts of orange and blue) was used.

A ball of roving was soaked in water for an hour, then injected with colors using a turkey baster, heated to boiling for 30 minutes to set the colors, then washed before hand spinning.

 

 

 

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Chair Seats – Cats Who’ve Owned Me Series – 1

Since I can’t take the afternoon heat lately, I’ve been working (finally) on a set of chair seats in honor of cats who have owned me.  The first one (described in this post) is Sandy and Rori looking out the window.  I used my homespun and millspun hand dyed yarns, all of which are wool/ mohair blends (details).  The backing is 100% cotton Monk’s Cloth.

I designed Blue Skies yarn with variegated blues and a bit of white here and there to look like the sky in weaving and rug hooking.  Similarly I designed Forest Dreams with primarily greens and a bit of blue to be used in weaving and rug hooking for broad expanses of trees or a forest with just a hint of sky poking through.  Here it is used for carpeting or a reflection of the outside grass.

 

View from the House Chair Seat

“View from the House” Chair Seat

View From the House Chair Seat - Closeup of Sky, Clouds and Bird

Closeup of Sky, Clouds and Bird

View from the House Chair Seat - Closeup of Grass and Edging

Closeup of Grass and Edging

 Learnings

For this size “rug” (roughly 16″ x 14″), not much detail will show.  Next in the series will  be designed with less detail and the lettering will be made larger to show more clearly.

The Monk’s Cloth used was found hiding in my fabric stash (price was right!), but since it was 8×8 epi it was difficult to use for rug hooking.  The design came out but it took more time and yarn than it should have because the yarn did not always stick into the fabric evenly.  It was also hard to get the tension correct.  After some searching I located 12-13 epi cotton Monk’s Cloth and ordered some for the rest of the series.  The best price I found was from Earth Guild at $14/ yard (60 inch wide).  The 8epi cloth was $4/ yard!  It was not easy to find the right epi cloth because most web sites don’t list epi in the description.

Yarns Used

Info on the yarns used is given below.  The picture links to the full description and creation details for the yarn where available.

Sky: Sky Blue Millspun Yarn  Sky Blue Hand Dyed (After Spinning) Millspun. Designed to look like sky with variegated blues for use in weaving and rug hooking.
 Grass:  Forest Dreams  Forest Dreams Hand Dyed (Before Spinning) Millspun. Designed to look like trees/ forest with variegated green and a touch of blue for use in weaving and rug hooking.
 Cats:  Yarn Worsted Tan White Tweed 2Ply Millspun 68% Mohair 32% Wool - Sold by the Pound Tan White Tweed (for Sandy) Natural Color Millspun.
Since natural black isn’t readily available in mohair (black mohair is  dark grey at best) I bought a skein of  Brown Sheep’s Lamb’s Pride Worsted Onyx from Alpaca Direct as they had the best price when I was shopping.  It is a USA made 15% mohair/ 85% wool single ply yarn.  I used this yarn for the black cat (Rori).
Clouds: Yarn Sport White Millspun 2 Ply 59% Mohair 31% Shetland Wool - Sold by the Pound Small amount hand spun natural DWF white mohair/ wool yarn. Sport White Millspun 2 Ply 59% Mohair 31% Shetland Wool.
 Edging: Iris Millspun Yarn  Iris – Hand Dyed (After Spinning) Millspun
 Birds: Yarn Dark Grey DK 2Ply Millspun 68% Mohair 32% Shetland, Blue Faced Leciester Wool - By the Pound  Natural Dark Grey DK 2Ply Millspun 68% Mohair 32% Shetland, Blue Faced Leicester Wool
 Lettering and Cloud Outlining:  Small amount of hand spun, turkey baster hand dyed roving (white with small amounts of orange and blue).  A ball of roving was soaked in water for an hour, then injected with colors using a turkey baster, heated to boiling for 30 minutes to set the colors, then washed before hand spinning.

 

 

 

 

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Weaving Samplers

I’ve been weaving some samplers to explore techniques.  Since my working looms are rigid heddle looms (a Mirrix tapestry loom and an Inkle loom) I’m focusing on using only two sheds.  More intricate things can be done on these simple looms by adding pickup sticks but my poor vision makes me prone to threading mistakes so I’m working on getting the most out of simple methods.   The sampler below explores color and weave.  The patterns that can be created are nearly endless and use plain weave!  The trick is in threading the warp with a color sequence and then following the same for the weft.

 

Color and Weave Sampler

Color and Weave Sampler in Progress

I used green and white 100% wool mill ends at 10 ends per inch (epi).  The warp was threaded as follows (left to right in photo):

20 ends white, 1 green 1 white 10 times (20 ends total), 2 green 2 white 5 times (20 ends total), 1 green 2 white 7 times (21 ends total), 1 green 3 white 5 times (20 ends).  I also added 2 warp rows of green on each end for a selvage.

The weft followed the same pattern:

20 picks white,

20 picks total of 1 white and 1 green alternating,

20 picks total of 2 green followed by 2 white alternating,

21 picks total of 1 green followed by 2 white,

20 picks total of 1 green followed by 3 white.

This produces 25 blocks of patterns (5 wide x 5 high).

Initially I had a difficult time getting a good shed but after about 4 inches of weaving it finally started behaving.  Wool is ‘sticky’ so it is tricky to use with a small epi in both warp and weft.  Also, the green was not as strong as I would have liked so it was difficult to get good even tension across the warp.  I made a few mistakes (!) but it will make a great reference for future weavings.  I finished it using twisted fringes, the first time I have ever used this method.  I bought a very economical fringe twister from Fiber Artist Supply.  It made the job go quickly and it would have been difficult for me to do by hand due to my arthritis.

Color and Weave Sampler Off the Loom

Color and Weave Sampler Off the Loom

 

In order to use up the rest of the warp on the loom (ie- not waste all that yarn and effort!) I created a Ghiordes knotted mini rug using BFL, Coopworth and Shetland fleece locks.

Ghordes Knotted Sampler Rug

Ghiordes Knotted Mini Rug

It is done with all natural colors and so luxurious feeling.  The length of the locks was quite different so the pile length varies.  I did some trimming to remove “split ends” as I went along.  The edges have 2 plain weave selvedges to keep the rug laying flat and there are 4 plain weave rows between knots of the shorter BFL and shetland locks (~2 inches), 8 plain weave rows between the much longer coopworth locks (~6 inches).  The most time intensive part of the project selecting evenly sized locks from the fleece and organizing them to be pulled up quickly while weaving.  I’ll definitely do more of these on a larger scale.  Just need to develop a design.  One more item for the to do list!

Early Spring Fiber Projects

I’ve managed a few fiber projects in recent weeks around all the spring time farm work.  I’ve been making inkles over the winter and this week did two from 100% Dancing Waters Farm yarn (70% mohair and 30% wool).  The draft is the same for both as they were both done with the same threading, but I used white for the weft of one and black for the weft of the other.  The difference is only in the edge, as the last two threads are black.  I prefer the solid black edge, but the white ticking version along the edge is pretty too and the difference in appearance between the two is not huge.  Using a tweed for the center section gives it a gentler look. Will go for greater contrast on my next project for comparison.

 

DWF Yarn Inkles

DWF Yarn Inkles

 

Another project was spinning a variegated fleece purchased at the 2013 Garden State Sheep Breeders Fleece Show and Sale.  It is a black and white fleece, and the color of some of the locks change from white to black along the lock.  According to the sheep’s owner, the color change along the lock reverses from year to year.  I thought this would be perfect for hand spinning from the lock as the beautiful natural variegation would end up a uniform grey if it were carded into roving.

Kiss's Variegated Fleece (Cheviot)

Kiss’s Variegated Fleece (Cheviot)

Unfortunately the white sections of the locks where too short (~0.25-0.33 inches) to give me as much color separation as I had hoped.  Also many of the locks had a fair amount of weather damage on the ends (tippy).   This meant pre-drafting before I spun the locks versus spinning right from the locks after washing.  Since there was less color separation than I had hoped, the fiber was not consistently even and there was some VM in the fiber, I went for a thinner single and then plied it versus going with a fat singles or  a Navajo ply (ie- versus preserving the color changes in the single)

Kiss's Variegated Fleece Handspun 2 Ply

Kiss’s Variegated Fleece Handspun Into 2 Ply Yarn

So…it did not turn out as I had imagined but it is still a pretty skein.  Most of the rest of the fleece is a gorgeous pale steel grey and I look forward to spinning the rest of it.  My plan is to use this skein in a tapestry rug, thinking it has perfect color variations for a cat outline but it would be good for a sheep too!

Another fun project was making coasters out of DWF roving.  I did a needle felted sheep coaster (70% mohair, 30% wool):

 

Sheep Coaster From DWF Roving

Sheep Coaster From DWF Roving

As well as hand braiding three colors of roving, then stitching them together.  Next I needle felted one, wet felted another for comparison.  I much preferred the needle felted version.

Coaster from DWF Roving

Coaster from DWF Roving

 

I’ve gotten my tapestry loom warped and my drawings taped up behind the warps, ready to go.  Now to select my background colors and get started!

Adding Heddles to Tapestry Loom

Adding Heddles to Tapestry Loom

Arctic Air Returns and Thoughts on “Natural” Dying

After 9 hours of snow shoveling I’m ready to sit at the computer and rest!

In between snowstorms I boiled a big batch of black walnuts I collected in the yard during the Fall.   After collecting the nuts the outer shell has to be removed as that is the only part used for dying.  I use a hammer to crack the outer shell, then peel the shell away and dump then into a pillow case and tie it closed.  Next I fill a big pot holding the pillow case full of walnut shells with water and boil for about an hour to make the walnut liquor used for dying.   Since the walnut shells are in a pillow case, the walnut shells are self filtered, I just have to pull the pillow case out of the pot for a clean, filtered walnut liquor.  I then boiled the filtered walnut liquor with about 2 pounds of mohair locks for another hour, then washed them in an old washer.   Washing wool or mohair is really just a series of rinses since you can’t agitate the fiber – unless you want felt!

So if you add up the time to dye 2 pounds of mohair it is at least 3 hours (~an hour to collect the walnuts,  another to crack them, starting the fire, filling the pots, pouring the liquor off and starting a new pot about 30 minutes, and another 30 minutes for washing – most of the time is not continuous, but requires constant checking to see how things are going).  2 pounds of mohair is about all that fits in a big 16 quart pot, so it’s the largest batch I can reasonably do.  Wool has a much greater volume for the same weight as mohair so much less wool will fit in the same sized pot as mohair.  A lot of labor for such a small amount of fiber!

I love dying with walnuts because I have lots of black walnut trees so the out of pocket is cost is excellent (free!) and it requires only one step (boiling to extract the dye) and no mordant (pretreating with another chemical to ensure permanence of the dye) is required as is the case for most “natural” dyes.

Walnut Dyed Mohair Locks Jan 2014 IMG_6398

Black Walnut Dyed Mohair Locks

I often have customers ask me if I dye with natural or chemical dyes.  How to answer?  All dyes, even those derived from natural sources (vs commercially produced industrial chemical dyestuffs) are still chemicals, and there is no way to dye without using a chemical.  Dying is the chemical process of fiber reacting with a chemical (or mix) to alter it’s observed color.  And naturally derived chemicals are not necessarily  safer than commercially produced chemicals either.  Many natural dyes require mordanting (pretreating) with chromium which is very toxic.  Alum can be used as a mordant and it is much safer but it also produces a different effect on the final color than chromium.  Even with black walnuts which can be used without a mordant,  it is well known that black walnuts contain a chemical that suppresses plant growth.  Thus walnuts have a toxic effect on other plants.  Evolutionarily it improves the odds of the walnut growing into a great tree, but at the expense of other plants that might be trying to grow in the same general area.   I heartily agree with philosophy of minimizing impacts to the environment, but which path to choose is not always a straight forward nor clear decision.

Related is the broader concept of ‘nature’, which can be beautiful and soul filling but is also quite brutal and does not think nor care what is destroyed vs saved.  Many people are so far removed from nature that they do not realize how thin an edge life walks and how little impact people have in the short run.   I am reminded of this constantly as it is so  difficult to keep my animals safe and in good health.  It is so hard to survive in nature that I find it amazing that any wildlife exists as sadly I lose animals despite continuous intervention.

Jessie and James in the Snow IMG_6490

Jessie and James