Friday, December 25, 2009

merry christmas to all and a fiber time tonight

Hello Everyone!

Here is what I got for Christmas from my lovely daughter. She took some pictures of my handspun and had them developed and put them in frames from dollarama! I think they look lovely...
My fibre studio (aka basement tv room) is growing bigger every day.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

how soujourner truth became free

A pretty ferocious woman, all 5'11" of her. She was born as Isabella Baumfree in late 1790's in Swartekill, New York on Round Out Creek near where it joins the Wallkill River in Ultster County. A stone's throw from Rhinebeck.

Soujourner Truth ... She was a famous American abolitionist and a champion of women's rights. Her most famous speech is Ain't I a Woman? Here is her fibre story and how she freed herself as an indentured slave. Ulster County was known as a wool producing region, but this reputation rested more on the mediocrity of it's wheat than the wonderfulness of its wool. Her task to freedom was to spin 100 lbs of wool for her owner, Mr. Dumont, in order to become free. She was an excellent spinner and this task only took her 4 to 6 months. Her work as a slave came to an end in November or December of 1826.

I have been thinking about how this relates to me, with my nice basement spinning room, my new spinning chair, my fibre club subscriptions and my high tech wheel. She was an early femnist wanting to free herself from the chores of spinning and lower level of mindless work that spinning represented. Now, almost 200 years later, I am using the same activity that she wanted to get free from, to relax at the end of a hectic day. I now feel the pressure to spin my fleece, which lays in three bags in my basement but life has got in the way. I have too many emails to answer, too many knitting blogs to peruse every day, too much driving around Toronto to do my job in 12 different libraries, too many loads of laundry and too many other distractions. My husband says she wouldn't let watching tv shows like MadMen or Six Feet Under re-runs stand in her way. I think of Soujourner focusing on her spinning after a full day of her slavery chores and I feel not worthy, diminished in a way. But I am also inspired. If she can do it, so can I.

Monday, October 26, 2009

ewetopia aka rhinebeck

Rhinebeck. That is what we fibre addicted people call the place. It is much more than that. The New York State Sheep and Wool Festival -- mecca!

Other people have written about it more eloquently than I, and certainly taken more and better pictures. A few impressions for you -- the line up for the deep fried artichokes that stretched a couple of hundred people long, the wool that my husband spun while I took a class, the class that I took called "Kitchen Sink Yarns" with the substitute teacher named Beth from The Spinning Loft who stepped in when Janel Laidman was sick, the hundreds of vendors. It was all a bit overwhelming, to tell you the truth.

I had some lovely conversations with the vendors and bought some amazing fibre. Everyone was carrying their fibre that they purchased in a special basket. That same special basket that I bought on sale at Pier One for $7.99. If only I had known, I would have brought mine as well. Mine is above as I cannot get it to copy below...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

how smudge become a hat

Here is my latest pet hair spinning project. A lovely cat named Smudge. He is the cat of Dave, the boyfriend of my friend Dawna. Nice picture Dave -- love the black and white photo! Dawna wanted to crochet Dave a hat so I told her I'd be happy to spin some cat hair for her. This was my first attempt at spinning cat hair and I must say, I liked it. It is much softer than the dog hair that I did and I think that it will be something wearable and not scratchy.

When I got the bag of hair, it turned out that it was quite grey and not black like the cat. Apparently Smudge has a grey belly and that is where all of the hair comes from. He sheds a lot so it didn't take too much time. I like to think of Dave brushing out all of the hair and how nice it is for them to bond over that activity.

I ended up with something that I quite liked. Two ply that I hope will knit up as bulky. I have asked Dawna to give me a picture of Dave wearing the hat, so I hope that I can show it to you soon.

I thought that I was going to have to blend it with a lot of black romney wool that I want to spin but it turns out that was not necessary. It is a nice grey and black concoction that I hope will keep Dave warm in January!

By the way, I choose the title of this blog post because it reminded me of a children's book I like. "How Smudge Came" is the title of an award winning children's book by Nan Gregory about a girl named Cindy who secretly adopts a puppy. She has Down's Syndrome and lives in a group home and wants to keep Smudge but the beauracracy of the group home will not let her and he gets whisked off to the animal shelter. I don't want to tell you everything in case you want to read the book, but Cindy's love for Smudge ends up winning out. I will leave it to you to read the book and not shed a tear!

Friday, September 4, 2009

a ravelry tale

I had an adventure on Ravelry that is still evolving. For those of you who are non-knitters, this is a social networking sight for us fibre obsessed people -- kind of like facebook but with less spam, annoying quizzes and tons of practical information to help you complete your fibre projects.

The adventure started out when I tried to help someone -- after all, who doesn't like to do that? Someone I had never even met, only spoken to online -- a very nice lady named Sasha who runs fibre tours to Peru from her company called Puchka Peru. I am taking one of these tours in late April of 2010. She had never heard of Ravelry, so I told her about it and that it would be a good advertising place for her. When she said that she was technology challenged, I thought it would be super easy to put something together from the electronic samples of her advertising that she sent me. Was I wrong, wrong, wrong.

For starters, the ads are self serve and then there is the matter of getting the pixel measurements just right so they can fit into the pages where people look. I had to read what seemed like a lot of information and wasn't sure that I understood. I created something that looked like this....

I really thought that it would work. I wrong, yet again. For starters, I didn't realize that I was supposed to create an ad that was taller than it was wider. I was trying to create a "notebook" ad and I created a "banner" ad. Uh oh.

Then there was the matter of the pixels. It was supposed to be a certain size, 140 pixels wide x 200 pixels high. I am not a big technology person so that was a bit of a mystery to me. Anyway, this ad was the wrong size and the very nice person at Ravelry told me should could not read the ad. She kindly suggested that I try the Designer Group for some much needed assistance. I must say that the whole art of internet design is something I take for granted. Those ads that you click on when you are surfing the net need to be created by someone, right? It turns out my someone was a very nice person named Susana from Portugal who re-worked the ad and made it fit...
Oh Susana. Thank you for that....

Talk about the global village -- first person from Victoria, British Columbia wants to create an ad but cannot, she is assisted by second person in Oshawa, Ontario, and when second person cannot create ad, she gets help from third person in Sintra, Portugal, so the ad can be placed on a website that resides in Portland, Oregon owned by three other persons. WOW!

Now all I have to do is sit back and wait for people to click on the ad. I hope they will click through too!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

fibre fiction and non fiction

For those of you lucky people who have some time to read this summer, here are a couple of fibre-y reads for you....

On the fiction front....One of the best (ok, well there are not too many of them when it comes down to it) books about the creation of a fibre item is called The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracey Chevalier. She's a great writer who also did the wonderful Girl With a Pearl Earring later made into a movie with Colin Firth playing Vermeer. I leave it up to you whether that was a good casting call or not. Here is a quote from Amazon… ” She yokes her limpid, quietly enthralling storytelling to the six Lady and the Unicorn tapestries that hang in the Museum of the Middle Ages in Paris.” I have also seen this Tapestry at the Cloisters in New York City and it is breathtaking. There is tons of interesting stuff all about the production and spinning of the fibre and the competition that went on between people who produced the wool. And a mushy love story too...

On the non-fiction front ...I am reading the The Age of Homespun by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, a Pulitzer prize winning history writer. It is one of those books where common household items are taken and analyzed and we learn more about the social history surrounding the items.

This book has many objects and interesting stories for us fibre addicted folks -- fascinating things like spinning wheels, niddy noddys and an unfinished sock for a civil war soldier. Some of the women who spin were also early feminists and the meetings organized by New England's "daughters of liberty" became front-page news, taking a place of honor in spaces typically reserved for more male news as the British Parliament's effort to tax the colonies provoked boycotts of British items and woolen goods. Highly recommended.

Friday, July 24, 2009

dog bowl -- no water allowed

So I have still not carded any of my fleece but does it count that I carded dog fur? Coton du Tulear, to be exact. The Coton du Tulear is an adorable white ball of fluff from Madagascar and my friend has two of them, Bailey and Cleo. I got a bag of their hair in May and have been rather busy getting it organized.

The first bowl is pictured above -- a nice felted thing that is soft and angelic looking with a bit of a halo from the dog hair that surrounds it. I like it.

I am also making another bowl but it isn't making me too happy -- it is stripes of dog fur and left over lopi wool from my yarn stash -- quite a concoction. I am shuddering of it as I write as I fear it is rather ugly and a true crafting disaster. What was I thinking? It reminds me of the hat that Henry Fonda wore in "On Golden Pond". Yikes.

I am planning on embroidering the dog names on it so it will look less like a hat. Pictures to follow soon. Or maybe not!

Postscript: I finished embroidering the bowl...I would have to say it's got an "Ugly Pretty" aesthetic..

Oh well, perhaps I am being too hard on myself. How many people can say that they have a bowl, let alone two bowls from their dog fur... I learned a lot doing it. It is not any fun spinning dog hair that has come from a groomers with the guard hair and undercoat left in it. The bowls are still shedding...and I am not sure when that will stop.

Friday, June 26, 2009

the cat and the carder

I STILL have not gotten around to carding! I know that I should be doing it or I am never going to be able to spin my fleece and make the sweater but life (and tons of other projects) seems to be getting in the way. New socks have been started that are proving hard to put down, called Hypnosis, and spinning of assorted other fibres seems to be taking up a lot of time.

Then there is Daisy. She is a stray cat who has adoped us. She was abandoned at the garden centre where my daughter works and seems to like to sleep beside the carder in the garage. My guess is that she is about six months old and she is in heat as she spends most of her time walking around the house and crying to get out at all hours of the day or night. What ungodly noises a cat in heat can make. When my daughter and I are we are bored we try and make up a game to see what words from the English language her yowling sounds like -- hello, door and argon are some of the words she has said so far -- or maybe we are just going crazy with the constant noise and these are the voices in our heads.

We have an appointment to get her spayed next week.

The dogs are ok with her. Stewie growls as she walks by but I don't think he'd do anything terrible and Penny just rolls over on her back into her favorite submission pose when she walks by. I didn't really want to take on another animal as I think that two dogs are plenty, but my daughter has assured me that when she goes back to university in the fall, Daisy is going with her. I sure hope so...

Oh well, so that is my excuse for not carding for today; cannot disturb Daisy as she is "settling in". She is actually a very nice cat and is quite affectionate and doesn't bite or scratch when she isn't yowling. SIGH!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

gather all ye fibre friends

Yesterday was Worldwide Knit in Public Day and it is held the second Saturday of June to encourage all of us fibre addicted people to get together and spread the word.

I was at my Local Yarn Store in Whitby -- Kniterary -- instead of knitting in public I choose to spin. We also brought non-perishable food items and put a square on the tree in the back of the store as a record of our participation. Thanks to Martina and Vicky for a lovely afternoon. Two other people brought their spinning wheels and their were also a number of drop spindles in action. Now that is something I'd like to master but haven't gotten around to yet...

I am currently spinning some lovely falklands wool from The Sweet Sheep called Harrumph. Upon the advice of another spinner, Heidi, I am going to try and make some socks with it.

I don't look happy here but I am ... just concentrating...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

of montreal

I haven’t been able to work on my fleece all week but hope to get started on carding it soon. Every time I walk in my laundry room, I see it and I start to feel rather guilty. My lack of work on the fleece was because I went to Montreal this weekend for the Canadian Library Association Conference. It was a quick trip with only two full days there. I wasn’t really a part of the conference but I was asked to introduce a session about the Canadian Federation of Municipalites work in post tsunami Indonesia and Sri Lanka. It was a very interesting session and I am putting a link to the blogs written by Dawna and Katherine who went to Indonesia and Laura who went to Sri Lanka to help re-build two libraries in those countries. Talk about life changing experiences for them.

I did have an opportunity to visit one very nice wool store called À La Tricoteuse . There is a complete list of at least ten wool stores in Montreal found here, but I didn’t have time to visit them all. That is for another trip! I ended up starting out walking to the wool store from my hotel because MapQuest said that it was approximately 2 kilometres but I ended up walking more like 5 which took me a lot longer than I thought.

A light rain was coming down during my walk and I arrived at the store soaking wet at a quarter to five with the store closing in 15 minutes. The store was in a lovely part of Montreal, just north of the Latin Quarter and it was a very unassuming storefront painted in dark tones. I entered the store which was quite light inside even for a rainy day and very simply organized with all of the wool on big cubby holes in the wall. No stray balls of wool floating around here or baskets overflowing with handspun. I did see a madam sewing at a table in the corner of the store and she glaced up at me as I came in but continued on sewing. She had that certain French je ne said quois and was dressed all in black which made her match the formality of the store. I told her that I was looking for some sock yarn and started babbling on about being from Ontario and wanting some souvenirs for my afghan and she smiled and I guess she realized I was a serious customer. She pointed to a large whole section of sock yarn set up in the centre of the store arranged by color. I ended up buying quite a few balls of yarn for my sock yarn afghan as I want to add some bright solid colors in pink, yellow and orange to the rest of the striped sections. I also bought a large ball of blue yarn which has some aloe vera in it for my sore feet. $99 dollars worth of sock yarn. Yee gods!

I also finished my zig zag sock and knitted about 10 more squares for the afghan on the trip. All in all a very productive time with lots of good knitting karma. I like Montreal!

Friday, May 22, 2009

happy birthday vicky

There seems to be a bit of a misconception about Queen Victoria's Birthday. It is actually today, May 24th, and she was born in 1819 and lived to the ripe old age of 82 in 1901.

Queen Victoria was a big fan of knitted Shetland Lace and she knit herself. I stole this quote from the Yarn Harlot's page a day calendar. Sorry Stephanie, I didn't think you'd mind) and she took it from the New York Times, dated December 25th, 1898. It describes the sorts of Christmas gifts given by the Queen:

"There are comfortable woollen goods, sometimes made by the Queen's own hands, for she is fond of a little plain knittting. She uses large bone needles and double Berlin wool. It amuses her to make comforters and cuffs ready for Christmas presents, but it is only special favorites witin the roay family circle or among old retainers who are honored with these gifts."

Something else important to know about Queen Victoria is that she supported the knitting of socks by hand. Just before her birth was a time of huge labour unrest in England with the Luddites smashing sock knitting machines as a protest against low wages and rising prices and it would be interesting to see exactly how she felt about it all. I shall find out some more as I go along....

One interesting item that I did find out is that black and white silk stockings with hand crafted ornaments which belonged to Queen Victoria were sold in September of 2008 at an auction in Derby, England for 8,000 pounds (nearly 10,000 euros) by the Ruddington Framework Knitters` Museum from Nottingham.

Nice Socks!

three bags full

Well, it took me three days and I used the equivalent of 150 lingere bags and 30 runs of my hot water soak cycle and about 3/4 of a bottle of the Soak wash, but the fleece is done and smells great. Three lovely bags full. I split it up into the black parts and have two grey bags full. Now I just have to begin carding.

It is very interesting to me, this whole endeavor and how much time and money I have spent doing it myself. I checked the Wellington Fibre Mills fibre processing page. They only charge $1 per pound for each wash so I could have saved myself a lot of water and time by sending the fleece to them. It probably would have been about $20 to have it washed and it took me the better part of three days. But I wouldn't have had a chance to get my hands on all of the greasy fleecy goodness and its farmyard smell and I love that part about it.

The carding part will probably be even more discouraging as Wellington Fibres says they could card it for $9 a lb. So that means $45 for it all to be carded. I figure it is going to take me about 10 to 20 hours to card it. Say I get paid $25 an hour at my job, that means it would cost from $250 to $500 if I was getting paid my regular wages to card it. That makes no sense.

I guess fibre processing places must have all kinds of super fast machines that make all of the washing, carding and spinning a snap. I still want to do it all myself, just for the sake of it...I want to be a purist though from a time and economic stand point it really makes no sense.

Let the carding begin....

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

washing day - do NOT agitate.

Today I am going to start to wash the fleece. It is the Victoria Day Long Weekend and I hope that it won't take more than three days to wash 5 lbs of fleece.

For some reason, no one in my family seems to keen on helping me wash a giant bag of smelly wool. "It's so gross, mom", said my darling daughter. "Yuk, you are crazy", said my lovely sister. Oh well. That's their problem if they don't want to commune with nature.

Here are the fleece washing instructions I got from Donna, my fibre mentor and spinning teacher:

Take small amount of fleece and lay gently in your lingerie bags. Put hot water in your washer and use the small load setting. Set about 5 (Sorry, Donna, I used 10 bags at a time out of laziness) of your little bags in the water and pat them down gently do not agitate. Close lid to keep heat in and leave for about 45 min. Then turn to spin cycle and spin out. Remove and see if they are clean looking, if not repeat--use liquid soap--When ready to rinse put hot water in again and leave for abot 15 min then spin out as before. Lay fleece on a towel to dry.

Lingerie bags are purchased from Dollarama at 2 for $1. I also decided to use palmolive detergent as it will cut the grease well. I am going to use Soak for the second rinse. They have a new scent called "Celebration" and it is some kind of wonderful. It is nice because you don't need to wash it out and it smells fresh fresh fresh... now my fleece will smell like a walk on a country road. Ba ha ha.

Even though I love the smell of the fleece and all of its farmyard goodness, I guess it is time for it to smell like something else.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

karma police

I have been thinking about Ghandi a lot lately. I went into one of the libraries I work in and started to read about his spinning obsession.

When he was in prison, he spent a lot of time spinning. He believed that the way for India to escape British Colonialism was to learn to spin cotton and make their own fibre.

I think he was really onto something here. If we spent more time spinning, which is so meditative and calming, there would be less time for violence, drugs, rampant consumerism and all of the other ills that seem to befall us.

There seems to be so much violence in the world, so much unhapiness and longing for other things. Spinning really teaches you to live in the moment while you are doing it.

Here is a Ghandism that I like:

I believe that the yarn we spin is capable of mending the broken warp and woof of our life.

I feel like when I am spinning a lot of my cares do disappear and I feel connected to something else, to nature, so another power different than myself and that is a good feeling.

For more things he said about his chakra or spinning wheel, visit

I am getting my fleece tonight and am quite excited about it

Thursday, April 30, 2009

project fleece

Welcome to anyone who stumbles across my blog. I hope you enjoy my musings about sheep and spinning.

It is hard to buy a fleece. At least, for me it was. I have been trying to purchase one since January and it is now the last day of April. I am a new spinner and had the idea, as so many new spinners do, that I should buy a fleece and process it from scratch. Little did I realize that that was going to be rather a time consuming endeavour. Like everything, getting your hands on a fleece is all about "knowing the right people".

I tried a local farmer approximately 45 miles north of me and after three emails, a visit down to the Green Barn Farmers Market in Toronto in which said farmer told me to call her and we could set up something, and no response from the first voicemail and two additional phone calls, I was getting very discouraged. A knitting friend even enquired at the Market for me and she was told by the farmer's "Communications Person" that the said farmer was too busy to call someone like me who was only trying to buy a fleece. So much for trying to support local people! I guess I am sounding bitter and I don't mean to be but I had hoped to buy a local fleece but they did not seem to want to sell it to me. I had to go further afield. SO I have decided to get a fleece from Orillia from someone my spinning teacher has recommended.

This has led me to some interesting questions. Why it is so hard to buck the status quo and make something from local products instead of going to the GAP or Walmart? Why are we encouraged to shop local and then it proves to be so hard? I don't mean to slam the aforementioned farmer, but if they are too busy to deal with me, how do we set things up so they are not?

BIG SIGH. I still don't have the fleece yet but I will soon...I hope!