Friday, March 16, 2012

Home Fibers ~ Part I

Hello there.  It feels like a long time since my last post, but I guess it's only been a few days.  This week I'm traveling and I have given myself a little fiber mission.  I'm visiting quite a few homes on this trip, so I thought it would be fun to look for ways people incorporate fiber art in their everyday lives.

The first stop on this trip was to the home of Duane the Great.  He's my husband's grandfather, but our kids know him as Duane the Great.  (I think he approves of the title.)  I knew I would find some fiber on display in his home.  His wife Pauline did handiwork and passed it on to their children.  I wasn't disappointed because right on their kitchen table, being used as an everyday tablecloth was this lovely piece of filet crochet.  

Duane and his wife Pauline were both born in Kansas and from the stories I have been told, it was very much a part of the culture for young women to learn several forms of fiber art.  Pauline's daughter, my mother-in-law, could switch easily from knitting to crochet or embroidery.  Making things by hand seems to be in the blood.  

Pauline passed away quiet a few years ago now, but I was touched to see her wedding accessories still on display as treasured keepsakes.  You can see her pearls, white gloves and lace trimmed handkerchiefs.  My favorite piece is the tatted purse.  I don't know if she made that herself or if it was an heirloom.  It's so delicate that I suspect it may be something that was passed down to Pauline. 

It's nice to see handmade pieces being put to everyday good use whether as a tablecloth or a piece of art.  It's so much more personal than anything you could ever purchase and somehow it gives you a sense of connection.  When I touch the lace of Pauline's tablecloth, I imagine her hands forming each and every stitch.  I think about the time and care she devoted to the project and smile.

Friday, March 9, 2012

BFL/Tussah Top ~ It's New!

I have another treat to share today.  This is my idea of a luxury fiber!  This is 75/25 Bluefaced Leicester and Tussah Silk.  I love spinning BFL.  There's just something about the crimp and the feel of this wool that's so appealing to me as a spinner.  The Tussah silk blended into this top makes for incredible softness.  It also gives it a lovely shine.

Rachel Ray always wishes for "smell-o-vision".  I'm wishing for feel-o-computing.   Okay, so it's not as catchy a phrase, but I really wish you could reach out and touch this fiber!

I guess the best I can do is a close-up.  I like this blend even better than Merino/silk because it handles so well.  Of course Merino/silk is soft and pretty, but BFL/Tussah is just so spinable and the crimp in the wool gives the top a loftiness that I think is unique and special.  Can you tell I like this fiber yet?  

I linked to a 2oz listing above, but you can find it in other amounts at Wind Rose Fiber Studio

Merino/Silk Heavy Worsted Weight Yarn

I was ordering some yarn for the shop last week and I decided to indulge myself.  I selected a yarn that I personally love, so I hope shoppers at Wind Rose will love it too.  It's a single ply, heavy worsted blend of Merino/Silk.  

This yarn is 60% Merino wool and 40% cultivated silk.  It's wonderfully soft and has a gorgeous luster from the silk.  This is exactly the kind of yarn you want for a snuggly scarf or a cozy sweater.  It comes in generous 8oz, 500 yard skeins and is ready to be hand painted or dyed. 

Superwash Merino Worsted Weight Yarn

I'm playing catch-up today with a few posts to share some new products at Wind Rose.  I'm an Ashford Bay dealer, so when I ordered some of this Superwash Merino for a customer, I decided to order a little extra for the shop.  

It's a soft, 4ply yarn that comes in 8oz hanks.  Eight ounces gives you 425+ yards which is enough for many sock patterns as well as hats and scarves.  The hanks are loosely tied and prepared for dyeing or hand painting.  I love the feel of this yarn and I think it will be a nice addition. 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Handspun Baby Camel

I did a little spinning yesterday, so I thought I'd play show and tell.  I spun up an ounce of baby camel top into this 2ply yarn.  It was my first time spinning camel and I have to say I enjoyed it.  

Baby camel top is very soft and the fibers are short.  The staple length is right around an inch.  When I first sat down to spin, I began by drafting from the prepared top, but it was hard to manage.  The short, perfectly combed fibers wanted to slip off rather than be drafted in any sort of controlled way.  I feared that not only would my yarn be less even than I desired, but also a little weak with all the fibers so uniform.  

I know a lot of spinners have a very low opinion of commercial top.  I've read more than one blog whose author is passionately opposed to ever touching the stuff.  I'm not quite that hardcore and as a willful woman, I care less about what the accepted wisdom may be and more about the joy of discovery.  I say this not to delight in my own stubborn nature, rather I want you to know that my methods are just my own and I don't claim expertise.

My solution to my drafting situation was to pull off around three inches of the top at a time.  I bent the fibers in half over my index finger and I began drawing the fibers from the bend.  I have spun this way in the past when working with locks and by treating my camel top the same way, I gained all sorts of control.  The next time I sectioned off a piece of top, instead of just folding it in half, I gently rolled it into a rolag of sorts and then drew from the core.  That was even more of an improvement.  

With my new found technique, the top spun very quickly and I was sad when I had exhausted the ounce.  There is evidence in this short skein of my rocky beginning, but I don't mind.  It represents my learning process and I already have plans for this yarn.  I'm designing ornaments this year (I call it my 2012 Ornament Project) and I'm making them all out of natural handspun yarn.  I've been thinking of designs in which I want a second color, but still all natural fiber.  I think this camel will look very pretty with my Merino and Tunis yarns. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The 2012 Ornament Project ~ March

Five Point Star

Yarn of choice and appropriately sized hook, scissors, large eye needle for finishing

hdc 5 tog - half double crochet five together - *yo, insert hook behind post, yo draw up a loop* five times, yo and draw through all 11 loops on hook (see pictures 2 & 3)

Ch 5
join with sl st to 1st ch to form a ring
Row 1:  ch 2, work 10 dc into ring, skip beg ch 2, join with sl st to 1st dc
Row 2: 
(see picture 1) *ch 2, dc in next st, ch 3, hdc 5 tog around post of dc just made, ch 3, sc into next st* five times (sl st into last st after making 5th point, see picture 4)
Finish off weaving in loose ends. 

Hanging Loop
Cut a 4 to 5 inch piece of yarn.  Tie the ends together with an overhand knot.  Thread the knot end from back to front through the ch 3 space of the top point.  Pass the knot end under the loop end and pull to form a slip knot. (see pictures 5 & 6)

Pattern Note:  To create a six point star, work 12 dc in Row 1 and repeat Row 2 six times. 

*Note:  The reason I begin Row 1 with a ch 2 which I later skip over is to fill the space typically created between the first and last sts.  It would be perfectly fine to ch 3 and have that count as the first dc, dc 9 in circle and join to the top of the beg ch 3.