Wednesday, April 8, 2015

So what do you watch while spinning/knitting? - PARENTHOOD

Many of my friends like to listen to music or binge-watch shows on Netflix etc. while spinning and/or knitting.  I do enjoy listening to music in the background as well, but I think most people can find something they enjoy on the radio or Spotify etc, so suggestions are typically not needed, and music is so subjective, that I don't think it makes for interesting blog fodder.

I thought I would start writing about Shows/Movies that I think are worth watching.  While some shows are entertaining to pass the time,  I will only be discussing shows that have quality acting, writing and directing.  So while something like "Hart of Dixie" may be amusing, I will not recommend or discuss it, other than to say the acting is horrendous and the story lines would make Lucille Ball embarrassed!

But I digress. . . .

As of my writing this, I just finished binge-watching "Parenthood", so I am going to start with it.

Don't worry, NO SPOILERS here folks :) 

Seasons 1 - 5 are on Netflix, 1 - 4 on Amazon Prime.  For season 6, I had DVRed it as someone told me to watch it, but of course, I wanted to start from the beginning, because "that's how I roll".  

This show dealt with some weighty issues such as: adoption, illness(es), marriage issues, infidelity, money issues, drugs/alcohol, veterans and just day to day life.  It did it all with a central love of family whose patriarch "Zeek" (Craig T Nelson) devoted his life to building.   The 4 siblings where believable and characters were richly defined. The trials and tribulations of each member and how family gathered around for good and bad was touching and sometimes inspirational.  I was particularly amazed as so many leading character story-lines could be so richly developed and carried throughout the 6 seasons and not a single cast member of the "original 6" was lost.  The show represented life with so much humor and pathos while never insulting our intelligence or skirting around issues.  Great actors all around and while "Sarah's"character (Lauren Graham) annoyed me often, Ray Romano was brilliant in a non-comedic role.  All the actors, are very talented, and all, including the children, were believable and unwavering in their characters. They were true to form throughout the entire series.  

The final episode wrapped up the 6 seasons beautifully, but be warned, I have not cried that much since the final episode of M.A.S.H. and am now feeling a little melancholy that the Braverman Clan are not a part of my daily life as they were for the last 6 weeks.

You definitely need to put this show on your list of "Shows to Spin With"!  I HIGHLY recommend this show to everyone and give it

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Weaving Cloth and the wet finishing (fulling)

It is rare when a "fiber artist" actually takes time out from making things for sale to make something for him/herself or the house.  Well, I took time out last week to make a table runner for my bookcase in the 3rd floor guest bath.  The reveal of the total bathroom remodel will be post on this blog in the coming weeks, as soon as the last remaining finishing touches are completed.  :)  

This cloth was made from Debbie Bliss Fez yarn which is 85% merino and 15% camel.  It is a felt-able yarn which is what I wanted for this project.  

I chose a Navy Blue and Pale Yellow colors.  I used an Ashford 24" rigid heddle loom with a 7.5 dent reed.  The yarn is a worsted weight.  The runner came out to approx 38 inches long and 11 inches wide after fulling.  It shrank about 3/4 of an inch in width and 3+ inches in length.   I hand twisted the fringe because I wanted it to hang off the sides rather than using a hem stitch etc.  

To full the cloth, I used hot sudsy water and soaked for about 5 minutes to get it totally wet.  Then I simply scrubbed the cloth to itself longwise. Alternatively, I could have used a washboard, but I really wanted my hands to control the process.   I repeated this procedure 3 times until I got the tightness in the cloth I desired.   I wanted the colors to remain somewhat vibrant and not completely meshed with each other, but I also wanted the cloth to have some stiffness as it is a table runner, not a scarf.  Once I was done with the scrubbing, I alternated hot, cold, hot, cold baths, then squeezed (not rang) out the water and used a chamois to get even more water out and then laid it flat on my knitting blocking matts.  No pins or blocking needed.  

Here is the start (on the loom), before wet finishing (fulling), on the blocking mat, and finally on the bookcase.  

I am quite please with the results. . . what do you think? 

Left to Right 1. On the loom, 2. Before fulling 3. On the blocking matt
Bottom Finished piece in place

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Alpaca Micron Grade Ranges and Best Uses

I am often asked as a skirter/sorter/grader on what is the best use for a particular micron count.  Here are the ranges I sort/grade into and their best use.   

The human eye can only see about a 2 micron difference, so of course this is a guide and the more you sort, the better you become at sorting. The key is to have batches of fiber of no more than 3 micron difference or more than 1/2 inch difference in staple length for the best yarn.   

This is my chart that I developed over the years and is pretty typical of commercial grading.   Please DO NOT copy the chart.  You may link to the post or refer to it for personal use.  

I made a cheat sheet years ago by starting with OFDA tested fiber in different microns and have that sheet with the representative fiber sitting next to me as a guide when I grade.   

Fiber that has a lot of guard hair that is markedly different than the primaries in micron is batched differently and not mixed with the pure grades.  

Grade Name AFD (Microns) Use
1 Ultra Fine (Royal Baby) less than 20 Next to skin items, gentle use
2 Super Fine (Baby) 20-22.9 Gentle use items – shawls and baby items
3 Fine 23-25.9 Most versatile grade - pretty much anything wearable
4 Medium 26-28.9 Socks, throws, outerwear and felt
5 Intermediate 29-32 Quilt Batting, duvets, outerwear and felt
6 Robust greater than 32 Batting, insulation and rugs

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Open House at the Farm Saturday October 18th, 2014 11am-4pm

Announcing our first open house of the holiday season! 
Saturday October 18th, 2014 11am - 4pm

Sebastian really hopes you will join us! 
New inventory is rolling in daily from the mill, our co-ops and of course being made by hand on the farm.   So it's time to jumpstart your holiday shopping as there are only 72 shopping days left until Christmas.

For those of you that cannot make it to Rhinebeck this weekend, why not spend the day with us? Bring your knitting/spinning/crocheting and hang out and craft in our "Spinners Circle".

Browse the new inventory:

  • Farm roving fresh from the mill
  • Hand painted and kettle dyed fiber 
  • Spinning/Felting Batts
  • Art Batts
  • Farm yarn fresh from the mill
  • Hand Spun Yarn fresh off the wheel
  • Gloves, hats, scarves, socks 
  • Dryer balls
  • Felted soap
And MUCH more!

Meet an Alpaca !  (See pics at

See the space and layout for the new store and fiber studio

See a spinning demo

Sign up for spinning or knitting classes starting in November

Learn more about raising alpacas by asking alpaca related questions, fencing, barn layout etc 

And MORE! 

  • Mention this blog post to get 10% off your purchase*
  • Can't make it on Saturday? Well pop on over to our online store and take 10% off *using coupon code OPEN10 - new inventory is being posted to the website all week - so check back often! 

*Excludes: Virtual Adoptions, Dyes, Blending Boards, Clubs and Animal Purchases

Thursday, August 7, 2014

FIBER FAQs ---- Fiber Prep - What does it all mean ? top, roving, rolags, clouds

Chapter 1 - Fiber Prep 

As a long time spinner and fiber producer (alpaca), wool and other fibers buyer and working with many mills and working with and selling commercial yarns over the past 12 years, I get many questions on terms commonly used in the fiber world.  I can see why they are confusing and many used interchangeably (incorrectly). So to help "demystify" spinning and yarn, I am going to try to pull all these terms together into one blog post.

I also started and own the largest and original spin for trade group on Facebook "Spin a Pound, Get a Pound™".  Based on question we receive daily in the group and privately, I think this will help a lot of the newer members, especially the growers in communicating with their spinners.  I co-mod this group with a great bunch of wonderful ladies who make me smile each day and who make running the group fun and manageable.  If you are a grower of fiber or a spinner, come join us!

This will be ongoing as there are tons of topics to discuss.

So onto today's topic ----- Fiber Preparations 
  • Top - top whether commercially prepared or hand prepared aligns the fibers in one direction.  This prep allows for a more dense yarn/fabric and is good for hard wearing items like socks.  Combing fiber also removes any residual shorts, neps, noils and VM.  For hand preparation, combs or comb/hackle preparation and then dizzing the fiber off of the combs or spinning is all referred to as top.  Commercial top is what is most often used for hand-painted braids that all spinners go crazy over.  Commercial top holds together well and stands up to wetting, dyeing etc.  For hand prepped top, it is best to dye the fiber prior to combing.  Top does produce more waste than any other prep method, but it is a superior, consistent preparation.  Spinning from top is the only way to produce a true worsted yarn. 

    Braided commercially prepared top -  undyed (left), dyed in my Rainbow colorway (right)
  • Roving - often confused and used interchangeably with the term "top".  Roving is fiber that is pin drafted (commercial) off the carder or dizzed off (hand prep) a drum carder.  Most small farmers have roving made rather than top because there are only a few mills in the US that comb fiber into top.  Also, the weight requirements for a batch are out of reach of many smaller fiber producers, and because of the waste while making top, the cost per ounce for top prep increases dramatically over roving.  Most of the smaller mills in the US are simply not equipped to produce top as it is a separate machine, so if you are buying mill prepped fiber for a small farm, more often than not it is roving.  When a small fiber producer is selling top, they make sure to label it as such. 
    Roving (Romney wool) in a ball)

    The same roving (Romney) spread to
    show the definition.  Fibers are not all
    aligned like top
  • Batts - a batt is simply fiber pulled off the carder in one piece whether commercially prepped or hand prepped by a hand spinner.  Batts are a popular and sought after fiber prep because tons of color, texture and different fiber can be used.  Batts can be smooth or textured.  They can be layered or well blended.  The can be plain or crazy.  Batts by far is the most fun for me to prepare.  Because each spinner spins a batt differently (rips strips, rolls, dizzed etc) exact batts given to different spinners can produce wildly differing results.
    Sand and Sea™ Batt Jelly Rolled
    Witch's Apprentice ™ Batt rolled (left)
    and jelly rolled (right) 

    Maleficent™ Spinning Batt laying flat

  • Rolags (punis) - rolags are produced in one of 3 methods.  Hand cards, blending board or pulled in pieces off a drum carder (rather than the entire batt). This prep is the traditional way to spin a true woolen yarn using the long draw method. 
Fiber on a Blending Board - (rolag prep)
Rolags ready to spin
  • Clouds - clouds are picked but not carded or combed fiber.  Handfuls are held by the spinner and drawn from the hand.  Totally a fun way to spin and very common with fibers like loose cashmere or angora bunny.  Depending on the fiber and amount of openness to the lock, this can produce a lumpy bumpy are yarn or a smooth yarn.  
  • From the lock - spinning from the lock is a method similar to cloud spinning.  Locks of fiber are flicked to open them and done one lock at a time.  This is often done with very fine fiber like sharlee merino when over prepping can cause neps and noils, but is also used for those spinners who do not have combs, hand cards or a drum carder.  This is also popular with spinners who like to spin in the grease. 
  • From the fold - whether spinning from a lock or top, the fiber is folded over a finger and is drawn from the middle.  This allows more air to be trapped than spinning from a lock or top in line.  Trapping air allows for a more lofty yarn.  Spinning from the fold can also be done with top or roving. 
  • Flicking a lock - using a flicker brush, dog brush or even a hand card, flicking open the lock prepares it either to spin directly or to get ready for carding.  This is most often done for tight or dirty tip fleece.  Swing or box pickers can also open locks to prepare them for carding, but for very fine fibers, pickers can be too aggressive and cause neps and noils and flicking is preferred.  Once the lock is flicked it can then be spun "from the lock" or "from the fold" or go on to further preparations. 
Next Time - Worsted vs Woolen (woollen) and what does semi-worsted mean ?