Sunday, February 27, 2011

Tatted Bracelet ~ I Finally Figured It Out!

It's kind of hard to photograph this black bracelet so you can see the detail, but this represents a tatting victory for me.

All the experienced tatters out there are probably saying, "Oh, come on, that's easy!" Now that I can do it too, I get to agree. It's not a hard pattern, but I guess I had some sort of mental block.

The first time I saw this pattern, I wanted to make it. I just kept getting turned around, literally. It was so frustrating. I would look at the directions and study the picture and tell myself exactly what I needed to do, and then my hands would do something different. Maddening!

Now that I have triumphed in the battle between brain and dexterity, I will say that this design is a very good exercise in getting comfortable with the direction of curving chains and reversing stitches. I can now picture the direction I need my chains to curve in and make it happen. That feels great!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My New & Improved Studio Space

Every so often, a neighbor or a friend will be visiting and ask to see my studio. I immediately feel bad for two reasons. One, it's just so cluttered and two, almost none of my handmade items are actually on display. Well, these two issues are now a thing of the past. I spent the better part of President's Day weekend overhauling my studio.

I've rearranged my studio before, even reorganized, but this time was different. This time I purged! My studio had become a storage space for a lot of stuff that I seldom use. With the goal of only keeping what I work with on a regular basis, eight bins made their way out of my studio and into storage. This freed up a lot of space and allowed me to bring up a display unit from the garage. Back in my craft show days, this triangle grid unit was always my favorite display because it holds so much in a rather small space. With the exception of my smaller jewelry items, it now holds every handmade thing I own.

I was also able to create an even roomier workspace for myself. My largest table, which used to just hold stuff, is now my desk. I have all my most important tools at my fingertips as well as my computer and entertainment devices. Gotta have my tunes!

I even cleaned out the closet and, and this is a big and, I don't have a bunch of stuff blocking the closet doors. I can actually get in and out of the closet. It's now workable storage.

I'm not sure why I'm blogging about my studio. I guess it's just out a sense of accomplishment. I can't help wanting to say, "Look what I did!" I should at least be sharing storage solutions or organizational tips or something. I guess I can point out, back in the first photo, how I organize all of my dyed roving. I have two, long card tables stacked up on top of each other. If you include the floor level, it means I have three tiers of surface area to keep my fiber bins. I use mesh laundry bags to store my roving. It's already packaged and ready for shipping by the time they go into their bags. They are sorted and kept organized by type. You know, Merino, Alpaca, Soy Silk...

I also repurposed some storage cubes. This is wear my jewelry lives as well as all of my other tools. It's amazing how many tools of the trade one can acquire.

Now my studio is not only clean, but it has an open feeling. The best part is, the next time someone asks to visit Wind Rose Fiber Studio, it will be fun. I'll be able to show them what I'm working on now as well as projects I've made that date back to my early years. I can put on some music, offer people a seat, and really enjoy sharing my creative space!

Top Whorl Drop Spindle Kit ~ Sparkling Blue & Teal

I just made another new Drop Spindle Kit. I really need to start making more of these at a time because I'm always finding myself out of stock and it would be nice for customers to have several different roving choices.

Speaking of roving, didn't this turn out beautiful? I swear I almost kept it to spin myself! It has a variegated blue Merino as well as some teal merino. Then I added some curly ecru locks I happen to have on hand. I finished it of with plenty of sparkling blue Firestar. I love how the texture of curly locks comes through and how lofty they made this roving. Whoever buys this kit, is getting some really pretty fiber to spin.

I love making these kits and I think part of the reason why is that when I bought my first drop spindle, it came with very boring fiber. Not only was the fiber boring, but it wasn't even the easiest to spin. It was super duper combed and had no texture to speak of. It wasn't until later, when I purchased nicer fiber, that I realized how good spinning can feel. I want to give new spinners the pleasure of having great feeling fiber along with pretty colors. It's just so much more fun to learn that way!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Hand Dyed Merino Roving ~ 27 Colors and Counting!

Well I didn't blog very much during the second half of this week. Usually, when you don't see me posting, it's because I'm busily working on stuff. This week, the "stuff" was dyeing Merino roving. At the end of 2010 I set a big goal for myself. It's one that I haven't realized just yet. My goal is to have 40 shades of hand dyed Merino to choose from at Wind Rose.

The first step toward this goal is to actually get all 40 shades dyed and in my Merino Section at Wind Rose. This is proving to be a long process. By the end of 2010, my inventory was at an all time low, so I had a lot of dyeing to do. The weather this winter has been slowing me down. It's not that I can't dry my roving inside, but I prefer drying it in the sun. I feel that this creates a superior product. The freezing temps we've had are making trouble.

This week we had a nice warm up, so I had to take advantage of it and dye some fiber. There are quite a few new colors in the shop: Earthen Rose, Violet, Precious Peach, Gypsy Wine, Golden Brown, Turquoise, Teal and Sandy Beach. I shouldn't actually call them new. They are part of my regular inventory. It would be more appropriate to call them back in stock.

Along with all of these colors is the one I have pictured here. I'm calling this little guy Nutty. It's a variegated chestnut with soft, warm swirls of light and dark chestnut brown throughout. I'm going to be honest with you, I was going for a solid chestnut, but every so often, the roving seems to have its own opinion about how to take the dye. I was about to add this fiber to my personal stash when I changed my mind. Personally, I love variegated colors because they are so much more interesting to spin. They have more depth and are more visually appealing. If I feel this way, I figure there may be a few other spinners out there who feel the same. It's one thing to have roving with patches of white where the dye didn't take. That's not so nice, but to have light and dark shades of chestnut brown blended together, I think that's kind of pretty!

Top Whorl Drop Spindle Kit ~ Sparkling Blues

I always like to share my new drop spindle kits here on my blog. Each kit is unique because I create a new wool batt for each one. This time I blended Light Blue Merino with Dark Blue BFL and added tons of Charcoal Grey Firestar. If blue is your color, you'll love my Sparkling Blues Drop Spindle Kit!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The German East Friesian Milk Sheep

The other day when I was writing about Milk Sheep Fiber, I wanted to give you a bit more information about German dairy sheep. I was having a little trouble accessing and translating a German website I wanted to reference, but I've worked out my issues and I'm back with more about milk sheep.

The German East Friesian Milk Sheep is the best known of the Friesian breeds. As you may well guess by the name, they are originally from East Friesland. This is a territory in the northeast of Germany along the coast of the Netherlands and extending south to the Schelde River.

The East Friesian dairy sheep reach maturity early and can have their first offspring as young as 12 months. Multiple births are also common with the average being 2.25 lambs. They also have the highest recorded diary yield of any sheep breed at 500-700 kg per lactation. They are most commonly a white wool sheep and while it is not primarily what they're bred for, they produce a good amount of wool.

The East Friesian milk sheep can be found throughout Germany and are commonly used on family farms as the milk supply. In general, milk sheep products are rising in popularity. Many who have trouble tolerating cow's milk are finding sheep's milk to be a good alternative. It's even been known to have other health benefits such as a calming effect on eczema.

I've enjoyed learning about the German East Friesian milk sheep. If my husband hadn't come back from Germany with the world's largest batt of milk sheep fiber, I might never have done this research. I do love to learn and so I am glad to add this information to what I know about sheep!

Little Sheep Plushy by Sigikid

Okay, I know I have this same picture on my last post, but today I want to focus on the sheep plushy. This little guy also came back from Germany with my husband.

Maybe it's because my kids are getting older, but I wasn't familiar with the name Sigikid. I thought maybe it was a German company so I googled them. What I discovered is that they have been around for 40 years and Sigikid products are sold in Germany, France, England and the United States. I'm guessing that there are plenty of moms who are more than familiar with this brand.

Still, I thought I'd link to Sigikid today, because I really enjoyed looking around their website. They have a really cool range of products in their Cuddly Store. I love that they have a whole section of organic toys and I think their little creatures have so much personality. They have everything from cute little animals to more fanciful, make believe characters. I also really like that they carry heating cushions. I can see giving these as gifts to grown-ups. I mean really, if someone gave me this Heating Sheep, I'd be a happy kid! How fun would it be to add a heating plushy to a get well gift? Even better, how about including one in a wool lovers gift basket?

Anyway, I don't often plug just random companies here at Wind Rose fiber Studio, but for a company who sells cute, cuddly sheep, I had to make an exception. I have a feeling I'm not the only fiber enthusiast drawn to sheep themed toys. What studio would be complete without a few cuddly sheep?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Milk Sheep Fiber ~ My Present From Germany

For the first two weeks of February, my husband was in Germany for work. Since he had a weekend free, he was able to go visit a friend from high school, Kathy, who has settled in Uberlingen with her family. They had a wonderful time catching up and Kathy took Alan (that's my husband) to their Saturday market. One of the vendors was selling cheese and other products made from their sheep farm. Alan asked if they had any wool. The answer was yes, but not with them. Alan ended up taking a trip out to their farm to visit the milk sheep in person.

Here are a couple of pictures from his visit to Hof Schapbuch Salem-Weildorf Familie Albrecht. Beautiful! And I'd just like to say, love is... visiting a sheep farm in Uberlingen to buy your wife roving. Thanks, honey!

Now take a look at the world's largest wool batt! It's literally the size of a twin bed comforter. Alan brought it back in plastic bag that looked around 18 x 18 inches, so I was really surprised when I took it out. I quickly realized it was a wool batt and not roving, but then I just kept unfolding and unfolding. It's huge!

It has a little veggie matter, but overall it's very clean and well washed. The staple length is short, maybe an inch to an inch and a half at most and it has more of a coarse texture. I'd compare the feel to Romney fleece. My first thought was that this would be really good felting fiber. It's also feels like it would spin right up and make a good strong wool for rug weaving and other practical projects. It's not a wool that I'd want to wear next to my skin. It's just a little too scratchy for that, but that's okay. It will be fun to use my imagination and see what I can create.

So here's my milchschafe (milk sheep) fiber, all 36oz of it. Alan said they wanted to sell him two kilograms at first, but thinking of his packing situation, he asked for half. Can you imagine what over four pounds would look like? Alan probably would have gotten some raised eyebrows at the customs counter!

Let's talk about milk sheep for a minute. It's silly I guess, but when I think sheep, I think wool. I don't think milk or cheese, but some of the world's favorite cheeses come from sheep. A quick trip over to Wikipedia and I learned, "Well-known cheeses made from sheep milk include the Feta of Greece, Roquefort of France, Manchego from Spain, the Pecorino Romano (the Italian word for sheep is pecore) and Ricotta of Italy."

The same article also shared that sheep's milk is not as commonly used for drinking. It's very high in lactose, so people who are lactose sensitive would have an even harder time with sheep's milk. It's also higher in fats, solids and minerals which is why it's ideal for making cheese. Sheep don't produce a very high volume of milk so perhaps this explains some of the cost behind our imported cheese.

I also learned that organic farming is very popular in Germany. The term they use for organic is bio. The sheep on this farm have an all natural diet. I also noticed, just looking at the picture, that all of the sheep's waste has been covered with fresh dirt. It will naturally fertilize the earth and help new grasses to grow after this flock has moved on to the next pasture. That's the beauty of nature!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Megan's Headband at Wind Rose

Hi. It's fun to see how many people are enjoying the Megan's Headband Pattern. I decided to sell the one I made in the tutorial, so if you love it, you can buy it! I listed this Rainbow Megan's Headband in my shop on Etsy, but I also have an assortment of other colors in my Artfire shop. So if you'd rather not crochet your own, you can still have a Megan's Headband!

Jet Black Corriedale

I just added Jet Black Corriedale to my inventory at Wind Rose. I like to keep a true black handy at all times. Black is just one of those must have colors. I listed it in 1 ounce, 2 ounce and 4 ounce lots.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Luxurious Cultivated Silk

There is no fiber more deserving of the adjective luxurious than Cultivated Silk. It's amazingly soft with incredible shine. It's a joy to handle a fiber so delicate and soft, yet so strong and lustrous.

You can now find Cultivated Silk Top in 1oz, 2oz or 3oz lots at Wind Rose Fiber Studio. It has a wonderful 3" staple length for spinning and can also be needle felted. I like to offer the smaller amounts so that everyone can treat themselves to a little luxury!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Hairpin Lace Project ~ Part IV

I'm still working on my hairpin lace project. I was definitely distracted for a couple weeks with my son's birthday and my other son performing in a musical and now my husband is in Germany. It can be challenging to find time to sit and enjoy a quiet afternoon of handiwork!

When I last posted about this project, I had just ordered my Yarn B or the yarn that I'll be using to edge and assemble my strips of hairpin lace. Even though I haven't completed all of my strips yet, I have gone ahead and edged the ones I have finished.

The edging creates a series of fans or clusters which causes the strips to become wavy. They're pretty cool looking. I can't wait to see how this whole pattern is going to come together. I'll be back when I have more progress to share.

Related Posts:
Crochet Master Class ~ The Latest Addition to My Library
Let The Hairpin Lace Project Begin!
The Hairpin Lace Project Continues...
How to Begin a Strip of Hairpin Lace ~ A Photo Tutorial
The Hairpin Lace Project ~ Part Trois
The Hairpin Lace Project ~ I found Yarn B!
The Hairpin Lace Project ~ Part IV

Friday, February 4, 2011

Megan's Headband ~ Free Crochet Pattern ~ Part II

Today I'm back with Part II of Megan's Headband. I've put our Headband Diagram here where it will be handy. We will be referring to markers 1 - 19 throughout this section. Are you ready? Here we go!

The Lace

*Note - I feel I should acknowledge that I'm writing this pattern as a right handed crocheter. This pattern will work out equally well whether you work from right to left or left to right. As always, you should do what feels natural for you.
**Note - I will be referring to the stitch markers as follows: Marker #6 = M#6. Remove each stitch marker just before you work in that stitch.

Row 1: Begin with a slip knot on your hook. Join to M#6 with a single crochet (18), Chain 5, 2 double crochets in M#7 (19), Ch 5, 2 double crochets in M#8, continue on in this pattern until you reach M#14, after you work 2 double crochets in M#14, ch 4, join to M#15 with a single crochet. You should have 9 loops on your headband (20).
Row 2: Chain 4 turn, skip first loop, *2 double crochet in next loop, chain 4* 7 times, 2 double crochet in last loop, chain 3, join with single crochet to M#5. (each row should create 9 loops)

***Note - Now is a good time to sew in your beginning tail end. You can weave it right under the headband just as you did in part one.

Rows 3-9: repeat Row 2. At the end of each row, join to the next stitch marker along the headband. By the end of Row 9, all of the stitch markers will have been removed except M#1 (25)

Here are some pictures to show how the lace progresses. (21-23) show the right, top and left side of the headband after completing Row 3. (24) shows the headband after the completion of Row 6. You can see that there are still 4 stitch markers left. In photo (25) I have once again justified the picture to take on the shape of the Headband Diagram. This photo shows the headband after completing Row 9. Only M#1 remains. Photo (26) shows a front view of the headband after completing Row 9.

Row 10: Chain 3, turn, 2 double crochet in first loop, *single crochet between two double crochets from previous row, chain 1 (27), 3 double crochets in next loop* 8 times, join with slip stitch to M#1. Finish off. Weave final tail end under the headband as before.

Row 10 gives your headband a nice scalloped edge. Your headband is now complete! Here are some pictures of my finished headband:

As you can see, from the front, it just looks like a regular headband. From the side angles, it has the look of a cute kerchief. The back gives you a full view of the striking lace you just made.

I hope you enjoy this pattern. If you have any questions, I do my best to check in regularly, so feel free to leave a comment. You can also contact me through Wind Rose Fiber Studio on Etsy.

Related Posts:
Megan's Headband ~ Free Crochet Pattern Coming!
Megan's Headband ~ Free Crochet Pattern ~ Part I

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Megan's Headband ~ Free Crochet Pattern ~ Part I

I'll be writing my Megan's Headband pattern in two parts. Today we'll start with Part I

Covering the Headband

For this project you will need:

One fabric covered headband - I prefer fabric covered for this project because it keeps the stitches from sliding. I like to look for ones about 1" wide, but that's just my preference. The width can vary.

Medium weight yarn - I'll be using Lion Brand's Incredible in Rainbow. This pattern is the perfect application for a ribbon yarn, but anything you have on hand is fine. 80 to 85 yards should be more than enough. (It's been a while since I've made my headband so I can't remember exactly how much and the amount will also vary depending on the yarn itself.) It's nice to pick a yarn that compliments or matches the color of your headband because the ends will be left uncovered. Of course this part of the headband is behind the ears, so you don't have to worry too much.

Crochet hook size H(8)/5.00 mm, scissors, needle for sewing in tail ends.

It's time to begin. Click on the individual photos to see a larger image.

Step 1: Begin with a slip knot on the hook (1)
Step 2: Hold the tail end of the yarn against the back of the headband. Hold the working yarn so that it is behind the headband. (2) With your hook in front of the headband, yarn over and pull through the slip knot on your hook. There should be about 1/4" of headband left showing. Make sure this joining stitch is snug and that there is no risk of it slipping off the headband. The yarn has now been joined to the headband. (3)
Step 3: Now it's time to begin single crochet wrapping the headband. To create a single crochet around the headband, move the crochet hook to the back side and yarn over (4), then draw the hook back to the front side, yarn over and draw through both loops on hook (5). The first single crochet has been made.
Step 4: Continue on in this fashion covering the tail end as you go. (6)

*Note - If you are using ribbon like I am, allow the ribbon to overlap so as to completely cover the headband. If you are using yarn, slide your stitches close together to hide the headband.
**Note - Your stitches should be tight enough to hold the yarn securely in place around the headband, but not so tight that you will have trouble working into your single crochets in Part II. It's a good idea to test your single crochets and make sure you can get your hook through them.

Step 5: Once 3 inches of the headband has been covered, trim off any excess tail end (7), continue covering the headband (8)

***Note - This pattern works best with at least 57 single crochet stitches covering the headband. It's fine to have more (my ribbon turns out to 74 sts), but you don't want less. If yours is turning have to have fewer than 57 stitches, you may want to switch to a lighter weight yarn or a smaller crochet hook.

Step 6: When you are 1/4" from the other end of the headband, finish off by cutting your yarn and drawing it through the loop on your hook (9, 10), thread a needle with the remaining tail end and draw through two or three inches on the back side of the headband, trim off excess (11).

The headband has now been completely wrapped and covered (12). View of single crochet edge (13). View of top (14).

Preparing for Part II

It's time to prepare your headband for Part II. I created this Headband Diagram to assist you. In Part II, we will be making the lace. We will be working into 19 stitches on the single crochet wrapped headband.

Lay your headband down in front of you with the single crochet edge facing up. The open end of the headband should be at the top. Now your headband resembles the one in the Headband Diagram.

We will be placing 19 stitch markers, evenly spaced, around the headband. You can use safety pins. I have chosen to use 19 short pieces of pink yarn.

Start by placing stitch markers 1,19 and 10 (15). 1 and 19 should be placed in the second to last stitch on either end of the headband (16). Marker 10 should be centered at the top of the headband (15). You can eyeball your marker placement or count your stitches for a more mathematical approach.

Next fill in stitch markers 2 - 9 and 11 - 18. My headband has 74 single crochets. It worked out perfectly to skip three single crochets between each marker. I didn't plan this by the way, so don't worry if yours doesn't work out exactly. As long as you have 19 stitch markers evenly spaced around your headband, you're going to be just fine (17)!

Okay, that's it for today. I'll be back tomorrow with Part II, the instructions for the lace.

Related Posts:
Megan's Headband ~ Free Crochet Pattern Coming!
Megan's Headband ~ Free Crochet Pattern ~ Part II