Category Archives: spinning

Precious Materials

Last week a friend of mine asked if I wanted to join her for the monthly meeting of the Westchester (NY) weaving guild.  They were having a guest speaker; she couldn’t remember whom.  She thought he was a tapestry weaver and a member of the “New York study group.”  I wracked my brain!  I should who this man is!…..but I didn’t!

So I went.  And of course I knew him when he arrived to speak.  It was Stanley Bulbach, who also happens to be a member of the Textile Study Group of New York. I’m so glad I took advantage of the opportunity to hear Stanley speak and to see a few of his rugs in person.

Stanley Bulbach

As many people may know, Stanley spins his own yarn.  I did not know that he does this on a homemade spinning wheel that is based on a bicycle wheel he upcycled for the purpose!  He spins yarn from Lincoln fleece, which is long and lustrous, and when he wants something other than the natural colors of this fleece he turns to natural dyes for additional color.  His rugs really glow, something you cannot imagine from a photograph  They are beautiful!

I know you can’t see his rugs well in these photos, and I’m sorry about that.  Trust me that my photographic ability wouldn’t do them justice anyway.

What I want to say about his rugs is that they have a presence.  Even if I didn’t know that he’d done all the fiber preparation by hand, that he’d created the yarns by hand, that he’d woven the rug entirely by hand…. I know I would still feel the presence of something extraordinary about them. …which leads me to the title I gave this post: there is something precious in the quality of work done by hand with precious materials.
 It shows.

He also spent a good deal of his presentation on the need for textile artists to better advocate for our chosen field.  Of course we do!  I am a perfect example of someone who has not recognized this facet of working in textiles, and since I am so ill equipped to cover this subject I’ll just pass you along to Stanley’s website.

(His photographs don’t do justice to his rugs either)…

Ending the trip with a Bang!

My last few days in Maine will be spent riding out what remains of hurricane Irene when she hits these shores.  Hopefully she will be spent by the time she arrives, but everyone has to be prepared for the worst!

We are in a small island harbor called Pulpit Rock in Penobscot Bay. There is a big rock formation at the mouth of this natural harbor that does look a bit like a pulpit.  More than looking like a podium this rock is famous for having a 200+ year old osprey nest at the pinnacle of the pulpit.

Our preparations for the storm are almost complete.  We have two anchors out to keep us from swinging when the winds increase, all the sails are furled and lashed down, loose items have all been stored below.  The larder is well stocked so I intend to cook some comfort food today, perhaps an egg/veggie/cheese timbale, onion soup, and warm homemade chocolate pudding!

Chocolate Pudding from Cook's Illustrated

Thank heave there is a good internet signal because I got the chocolate pudding recipe from this month’s Cook’s Illustrated!



Also on my agenda after we have finished our storm preparations, is watching a couple of good spinning DVDs I have on board while doing some spinning! I have Margaret Stove’s “Spinning for Lace” and Judith McKenzie’s “A Spinner’s Toolbox,” both from Interweave Press!

Handpainted cotton roving "Phoenix Garden"

And in my large bin of toys I have some handpainted cotton roving from Girl Meets Spindle in a colorway called “Phoenix Garden.”  Now doesn’t this sound like a good plan for riding out a tropical storm?

So I’m hoping that wherever you are you are safe and dry, and doing something fibery on this stormy weekend.

Weaving and Spinning at Skylands Manor


skylands manor 1 My local weaving guild, the Palisades Guild of Spinners and Weavers, will be setting up a weaving/spinning/dye-ing studio at the New Jersey State Botanical Gardens that has a Tudor Revival Mansion on the property called Skylands Manor.  This opulent building was built in the 1920s out of stone that was quarried right on the property.  It is completely out of character with the image of a weaver’s studio, but that’s what we are going to create!

skylands manor 3

Here is the room that will become a fiber studio!  Like no studio any of us will ever see in real life!In any event, I will enjoy sitting in the room to weave all day on Thursday!  The open house will take place from Thursday, December 2, through Sunday, December 5, from 10am until 4pm each day.  Then there will be evening wine and cheese events as well.   Someone will be weaving at my loom each day, and others from my guild will be spinning, knitting and doing some bobbin lace! So if you are anywhere nearby, drop by!

skylands manor 4

And here is the entrance to our studio.  I’ll have the loom set up at the window near the fireplace to take advantage of natural light during the day. We are setting up tomorrow!





kithcen towels guild demo3 12.2010

This is what I’ll be weaving: kitchen towels in Monk’s Belt, which I hope to use as presents later in the month!

>Maine Fiber Artists’ Open Studios


Well, it’s another beautiful summer in Maine, and I’m so lucky to visit other amazing fiber farmers and fiber artists’ studios!

This year’s plan was a bit more involved than previous years, and it was a fun adventure!  My husband wanted to attend a rendevous for the Seven Seas Cruising Association on Islesboro so we worked out a plan to take the ferry to Lincolnville on two of the weekend mornings.  The first morning we hitchhiked partway and got a cab partway to get back to our car in Rockland.  Then, at the end of the day, I left the car at the ferry terminal so it would be handy for our second day of sightseeing.

This is the eating area of the snack bar at the ferry terminal on Islesboro.  It’s about 7am, and the fog bank is rolling away to reveal the Camden Hills and the beautiful day ahead!Maine 8.7.10 002 It took two hours from the time the ferry left ‘til we had our car, although the ferry ride was only 20 minutes!  We also got picked up hitchhiking a lot faster than when we waited for the cab in downtown Camden!

Day one of fiber sightseeing included Eolian Farm where no one was home, too bad for me!

These photos were taken outside Swans Island Blankets on Rte. 1, just outside of Lincolnville.  What a stunning 18th century farmhouse they use for their showroom! Maine 8.7.10 003We saw the looms as well as the dyeing room.

Maine 8.7.10 005

Two Sons Alpaca Farm in Damariscotta was the farm highlight of the weekend for me!  Owner Ricki Waltz was very happy to talk about her animals to us, a fascinating blend of alpaca husbandry and tales of the various personalities in her herd.  The babies were adorable and had quite distinct personalities right from the start!

Timberdoodle 2 (alas! no website!) is a lovely studio overlooking the water near Cushing.  It’s a tiny, perfectly appointed showcase of Kathryn Woodstock-Lynn’s lace spinning and knitting!  Using traditional Shetland techniques, learned from such venerated knitters as Gladys Almedro, Sharon Miller and others, she knits lace shawls and wraps of her own design.  Her spinning is exquisite and so is her dyeing!  There were two large hatboxes of yarns for sale, each with enough to make either a shawl or a scarf.  One box held natural colored yarn, the other was full of her hand dyed creations.  She blends acid dyes into a stunning array of colors.  I dearly wanted a ‘red’ but did not have the pocketbook for it this summer.  I did buy a Shetland/Oxford mix dyed an indescribable mix of pink/lavender/tan ….just a small ball that will make a lovely scarf.

Katharine CobeyWhen I entered this studio I instinctively knew that I was in the presence of an artist, and that her studio was probably going to be the highlight of all our travels this summer!  Her studio and its setting along the water is as artistic as Katharine herself.  The wall of glass that faces the water must provide an ever changing inspiration to her spinning and knitting. When I entered Katharine was reclining in an overstuffed chair with ottoman, knitting away on a current project. Her large Rio Grande ‘sitting great wheel’ was nearby, and one of the first things she did was give me a demonstration on how it works!  I’ve always wondered how one could sit and spin at a great wheel, and after seeing Rachel Brown’s simple technique which Katherine does so well, I am awestruck by what a simple feat it is to change from spinning off the spindle to winding on without stopping the wheel.  Thank heaven for Rachel Brown! Katharine made it look utterly simple, but when she encouraged me to try it I quickly learned that I’d need several hours (or days!) to get the hang of it!Maine 8.7.10 033







Part of Katharine’s studio is a showcase for some of her work.  There was a display of knitted mantles arranged in a circle and exquisitely lighted called Ritual against Homelessness.  They were beautifully moving.  There was also a wire-knitted form on the wall that was wonderful. The form itself was interesting and was greatly enhanced by its shadow.  The combination of real form and shadow were terrific together.

On leaving, Katharine handed me one of her postcards which is when I realized I knew of her!  I had seen Boat with Four Figures at the Portland Museum a few years back, but didn’t realize she was the artist!  I’m thrilled to have met her!  

>Spinning Dreams…


Several years ago at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival I got to sit at a dream spinning wheel, the Wyatt  ‘Norwegian.’  I’d never had such a perfect spinning experience, and I realized right then what some of my friends must feel when they get on a five year waiting list for a Norm Hall wheel.  This was my spinning dream…

That one brief encounter with Bill Wyatt has stayed in my thoughts ever since.  I can’t say for sure when it was…four years ago, maybe?  I run the conversation through my mind sometimes….when Bill learned my origins are in Texas he caught me up on the incredible changes along the Gulf Coast over the past several decades.  He talked of his career flying with commercial airlines, and his innovations in spinning wheel design.  He was noticeably a better spinner than I was at the time!  In fact, his spinning made me vow to work on my own spinning improvement, and I have. His ‘Pegasus’ wheel was actually too fast for me, but he could spin on it effortlessly.

I’ve kept the Wyatt Wheel brochure on the book shelf with my spinning books, and I have the website bookmarked in my spinning folder.  I was so sad when I learned he was sick, not only because of his wheels, but mainly because interesting people like him are so rare.  We all need people of his creative caliber to stay with us and influence us for ages, not fleeting moments… but I only got that brief encounter with him, so I replayed it often.

This week I’ve encountered another interesting spinning wheel maker, Myles Jakubowski, who was Bill’s apprentice. He is an ‘automation engineer’ who loves woodworking and will be continuing to make Wyatt Wheels to Bill’s specifications.  Not surprisingly, Myles also has some ideas of his own and is planning to make the first wheel of his own design this winter.  I can’t wait to see it!Spinning Wyatt Wheel Myles Jakubowski

So now I’m on one of those long waiting lists!  I’m in spinning nirvana thinking about the finite time before I have my dream wheel.  And although it was the Norwegian I fell for a few years back, I have decided to get either the ‘Pegasus,’ since my spinning prowess has greatly improved over these few years, or I will seriously consider the new wheel that Myles is designing:  a castle version of the Pegasus. 

It’s wonderful to have a dream, and I’m so glad that Myles has brought my dream back to reality!

>Vacation Interrupted


All packed and nowhere to go!  It’s raining buckets here, and we thought we’d be ahead of it in Maine, but even so, arriving before the rain hits Maine doesn’t really sound appealing when we are traveling with our dog.  When we are on Pandora in rain we snuggle up down below and turn on the heat, bake some bread, or biscuits, or pie, and spend the day reading and knitting or spinning.  Having a wet dog down below, who needs to go ashore three times a day,  is much less appealing….

So today I’m using my newly found time to dye a second small skein (only 1 oz., 70 yds) in the Brazilwood pot. Yesterday’s 2 oz. skein is a wonderful color that I cannot describe well.  It’s a medium/dark shade of something between rose and terracotta.  Yes, it’s both a cool and warm shade of a complex reddish color! That’s what I love about natural dyes!  The colors are so complex I can’t find the words to properly describe them!  And monitors being what they are, I can’t even show you an accurate photo! Today’s skein will be lighter.  I could keep going with this dye bath, but I think I will discard it after this second batch. Pack rat that I am, I have saved the sawdust…

Aug. 09 029Aug. 09 034

I’m scouring my two large hanks of grey corriedale which seem to have a lot of lanolin in them.  I washed that fleece before sending it off to be processed into bumps, but oh my!  There is a lot of lanolin still in it!  I may take a skein with me to Maine to sample some lace patterns…. I’m now imagining this yarn as a lace cardigan.Aug. 09 033

This little swatch of the corrie is 6 st/in…just what I wanted! (I love using my Signature needles! I now have size 1 through 6!)


And since it’s a dark, dreary day, I will take some time today to spin the Shetland which is now my first choice for the stranded, round yoke sweater I want to make with the handpainted yarn I spun earlier this summer (the Gale Evans “grapevine”).

Our ETD is now Sunday, very early.  That means I can go to the local farmers’ market tomorrow morning.  And perhaps this evening we’ll go to a movie….

>Finishing Projects


I have been home for a little over a week, in which I’ve spent a few days with my younger son (attending the all-John Adams concert at Alice Tully Hall, seeing the Julia movie and basically relaxing!), a little time catching up with friends, and perhaps even less time attempting to finish some projects before we head back up to Maine for another couple of weeks of sailing.

Today I’m finally dyeing with the Brazilwood sawdust that I began soaking in February.  I was advised to let the sawdust soak for 6 months so this is the right time to revisit my dyepot.  I had the dye liquor covered with plastic film to prevent molding, and it seems to have worked!

My instructions (from Deb Bamford) called for heating the sawdust and soaking water together for about 30 minutes at 80C.  Alas, I inadvertently let the mixture boil, which means the color will shift to into the brown range of reds.  Frankly, the dye liquor already looked quite brown before I began heating it!  After that initial boil, I turned the heat down to a simmer and let the dye continue simmering for about 30 minutes, after which I turned off the heat.  When the dye liquor had cooled a bit I strained off the liquid into another dye pot and have saved the solids for a possible future dye.Aug. 09 024 I then put in 2 oz. of my pre-mordanted yarn (Henry’s Attic ‘’Texas,’ wool/mohair blend previously mordanted with alum and cot) which had already been wetted.  It immediately turned a medium value of dull orange.  I have been reheating the mixture more carefully now, trying not to exceed 80C, and it is now simmering at about 75C for 1/2 hour. The color on the yarn has become a deep red/brown…more red than brown! I like it very much!Aug. 09 028

The flash washed out the color quite a bit….it’s a much deeper red.  Who knows, it might be this color when rinsed, but I’m hoping for darker!

While dyeing I have also been finishing up a simple vest project that I’d like to wear in Maine on cool evenings.  It’s a vest knit entirely in stockinette from yarn that I got from DBNY (Discontinued Brand Name Yarns).  I have sewn on the zipper now and am now sewing a decorative ribbon (from LFN designs) over the zipper to add some visual interest when the vest is open.Aug. 09 020

Aug. 09 021

My dark brown/grey corriedale which I washed and sent out to be processed into bumps, and which I was spinning during out last sailing trip, is not the right color for the stranded knit sweater I have in mind for the multi-colored roving, in a colorway called “Grapevine” which I got at MDS&W from Gale Evans. Gale Evans Grapevine roving BFL  Earlier this morning I sat down to spin a little of the dark charcoal Shetland roving that I recently got from Hatchtown Farm, and it appears to be just right for the Grapevine.  I am considering doing this sweater from the Twist Collective.Aug. 09 027




I think I will use the grey/brown Corrie to make a lace cardigan sometime in the future.  It’s a dream to spin, but I will put that project aside in order to spin the Shetland for the the stranded sweater. Well, now! Aren’t I being mature?

And there was a very happy occurance in my inbox! Linda Lee has written to tell me that she will soon be dyeing my cotton sliver in her colorway “Phoenix Garden.”  I can’t wait to get back to that project!  Maybe the package will be waiting for me when I return home!Cotton spinning (1)


I’ve been thinking a lot about weaving, but not actually doing any since I returned from the Mid-Atlantic Fiber Conference in Gettysburgh, where I took a 3-day class with Jason Collingwood on 3-end block weave and shaft switching.  While I am thinking about what sampling I’d like to do on the rest of the warp from that class, I have also been thinking about future tapestries.  I have some ideas brewing….

I need to leave some time today for packing since we are leaving tomorrow morning!  I hope this weekend’s storm is the only difficult weather we experience during this sailing trip!

>April Showers


We are having more than showers today, and it seemed a good day to stay in, do some baking for the upcoming holiday weekend, and spin during the waiting times of rising and baking.

A good friend of mine gave me this wonderful roving over the weekend. I don’t know why I’m getting such lovely surprise presents this spring, but I’m enjoying all of them.

This roving is from Linda Lee, known as exclusivelylindalee on etsy. It’s cotton, and I have not spun cotton since a very futile attempt once as a new spinner! Since I could only spin worsted back in those early days I could not spin the cotton I’d bought. I think I got rid of it in a guild raffle. Fast forward about a decade, and I am having a wonderful time with this beautifully painted roving, which is called “Phoenix Garden” colorway.

Cotton spinning (1)My, that decade sure flew by quickly! I have visions of a woven project with this yarn….just have to find appropriate warp, as I’d like to leave this yarn a singles so I don’t have to plan the color sequence in plying.cotton spinning 002

>Summer Vacation

>When I left for this year’s vacation I had visions of writing blog entries, even without photos, to share all the experiences right as they occurred. Didn’t happen! My time on the computer was terribly limited, and even though the ever present urge was there, I did realize it was better to enjoy the great outdoors!

For over a decade now our summer vacation has been sailing in Maine. We’ve spent most of that time in the Penobscot Bay area. This year we started a bit west of that, in Booth Bay. We’ll be back in early September for two more weeks of sailing, and we may take time then to better explore Casco Bay.

This year’s trip was the coldest we’ve experienced, and it rained every day except two! And when I say rain I mean torrents some of the time. It’s not easy being on boat in the rain. No matter how big the boat is (and while ours is not huge it has grown somewhat over the past 30 years) rain makes everything feel damp….clothing, bedclothes, the upholstered settees in the main cabin….all damp…and cold!

I brought three knitting projects, some beautifully dyed mohair top for spindling, and my smallest copper pipe loom set up with a four-selvedge warp for trying a little Pre-Columbian historical study. I did not weave at all. We spent long days sailing, and I can only weave at anchor. I did spend a lot of time knitting, so I was able to complete the cute Minnowknits Scallopini sweater for my niece. Photos to follow soon, I hope! I spent maybe 20 minutes, total, spinning. Still, I could not have gone sailing without the potential for working on these projects. I left the pipe loom and weaving yarns on the boat for when we return in September. Surely, I’ll be more successful then….

Almost every morning I drew for a while, and I did a lot of thinking about weaving and thinking about a design for a Hudson River tapestry to commemorate the quadricentennial.

The highlight of the trip was stumbling on an acquaintance from New Jersey who brings his wife’s horses and a carriage even (!) to Mt. Desert each year. He invited us to go for a carriage ride! The carriage is a beautiful piece of workmanship, hand made by Amish craftsmen in Pennnsylvania. It looked like a carriage straight out of Jane Austen, and I need to find the appropriate name for this kind of vehicle. It was a beautiful day (no rain!), and we drove through the the Rockefeller carriage trails to Long Lake where we stopped for lunch near a scenic view with a boat house. I still can’t believe it really happened.
(Well, checking Wikipedia leads me to call this a Phaeton, although Jane Austen speaks of curricles and gigs as her choice of sleek, light carriages with two wheels pulled by two horses. I need to do more checking.)

To get to Maine, my husband did a Category 2 Ocean race called the Lobster Run with a crew of seven. He spent about eight months getting our boat ready for this kind of race, and he was happily repaid with a wonderful second place trophy! Our older son was one of the crew.

Now that we’re back home, we have a little over one week to get ready for that same son’s wedding. I’m in a constant state of happy excitement now! For over a year now the wedding has been something that has required planning, discussion, dreaming, but actually it didn’t feel REAL… it’s about to be a reality!


>Stash….I’ve read a lot of things about stash over the 30 years I’ve been collecting mine, and a few people have given me stash advice in person. I was out walking one day this week when stash advice began to replay in my head. I want to record some of those ideas before they go underground again for another decade or so!

Pat Slaven recently wrote a very poignant essay about stash, inspired by the death of two good friends. She was somewhat involved in dealing with the stashes left behind by both these women. In one case she was invited to view the friend’s quilting stash in order to pick some fabrics to make a quilt for the 6 year old son of the deceased woman. Are you getting misty yet? She tried not to influence the young boy, but she did hope that he would choose fabrics that would still speak to him as he grew and matured into a young man, and beyond, as this quilt would hopefully stay with him for many years. Pat was relieved that he did choose fabrics that were not specifically for very young boys. The poignant part of this story is that Pat discovered that her friend never seemed to have used any of these fabrics. There were no quilted projects in progress, no finished projects anywhere in the house, and no one remembers ever seeing her sew. There was only her stash. Her friends and family can only speculate what this stash meant to her. Was she going to learn to sew? Was she just interested in collecting interesting fabrics? Who knows, but her stash remained hidden in various closets in the house, complete with sales receipts.

Many years ago, in a weaving class with Daryl Lancaster, she admonished all of us to enjoy our shopping experiences. She said, “Shop to shop, buy what appeals to you! Then weave from your stash!” This has been my motto for many years, ever since I first heard Daryl say it! I shop with such abandon! I buy things that call out to me, and boy do things sing to me. The problem now is that I have opportunities to buy (and do buy) at a faster rate than I can weave. I now have some serious space considerations, and no hope of catching up if I continue to have SEX (Stash Enhancement eXperiences) at this rate! My studio looks like a warehouse, and it’s often difficult to access my looms, much less my stash. I do weave from my stash, but the effort it takes to get things out and examine my stash is often competely overwhelming. Sometimes I have to take a month’s break before I can face going back into my studio to put some of that stash away. It’s too hard. There’s too much of it, it doesn’t fit neatly on my shelves (in plastic bins, and in anything else that will contain it) anymore. Trying to find things has become a herculean endeavor, and I am not strong enough for the task! I now have my spinning stash in one bedroom, my knitting stash in another, and all of my weaving stash overfilling my basement studio.

This leads me to a bit of advice I heard recently on a podcast I enjoy: “Cast On” by Brenda Dayne. As part of her New Year’s ritual each year she goes through her stash and reorganizes it. She had some fantastic ideas, especially for anyone whose stash is still moderately sized. She calls her yearly process the “Airing of the Stash.” She gets it all out for viewing. Yarns that will make complete projects she bags together, and when she has several complete projects bagged she places them all together in large vacuum bags and proceeds to vacuum them into a small concise size, which can be stored and easily viewed. You go, Brenda!

It gets even more interesting after this. With the rest of her stash, which consists of small batches of yarns that appealed to her when she bought them, she begins grouping them into possible projects. She looks at color and texture and decides what yarns look good together. These also get vacuum bagged together, after being collected into various possible project groups. What a feat of decision making and courage! She makes it sound like this possibly takes place during ONE day, maybe a couple of days. I may remember this wrong, but I’ve pictured this more random stash spread out on a bed! I’m thinking of my random stash taking up every horizontal surface in every room in my house, and me playing a horrific memory game (oh, where is that lovely aubergine mohair that would go so well with this celery green alpaca? Did I see it in the dining room or the basement?) Ha! After 30 years, I think my stash has become a behemoth, a monster, a nightmare.

But, to get back on track with Brenda Dayne’s idea: Here’s one awesome benefit of doing this. At least once a year you see your stash. It rekindles the ideas you had when you bought each thing, which perhaps will get you started on a new project, and/or motivate you to finish current projects in order to start something new. And better yet, now that you’ve seen your stash, when you are out shopping and some wonderful little tidbit leaps out at you, you can make an intelligent decision on whether you really need it or not! How great is that? I might be panting over some incredible blend of color and luxury fiber, but perhaps I won’t buy it knowing that I have something equally wonderful waiting for my attention at home.

This idea of “viewing your stash” at least once a year is a terrific idea. I just can’t figure out how to do it! I’m not sure I can share photos of my own personal stash here, for two reasons. The first and biggest reason is that it won’t all fit in one picture, or even two. It might fit in a photo album! The second reason is that I’m a bit shy about this. It would be like showing the dark side of my addiction. It’s not pretty!

Well, okay, here’s one picture (what’s a blog entry without a picture?). I think this is about 1/4 of my linen stash for weaving, with some other stuff in the background. I swear not all of my stash is this messy….really!