Sep 15

Scott and I had a very good weekend, except for one thing, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

Saturday, we drove 2 and a half hours (each way) to meet with a woodworker to go over with him what Sandy and I are looking for.  I took several spindles, niddy-noddies in two sizes (2 yd. and a sampler one), as well as a few ideas.  Also, did anyone notice this month’s issue of Spin Off?  It’s all about spindles, so I used it to show him a Turkish spindle, different types of hooks and which ones I like best, and different spindles.  He took detailed measurements, pictures against a tape measure, and notes of what I am looking for.  You could see the cogs beginning to turn as he turned each piece over.  I could tell he was getting excited to see what he could make.  As the British would say, I am pretty chuffed at this.  I asked him for a half dozen or so spindles in the 1.1-1.4 ounce range before the next finer fair on October 25th & 26th.  He said no problem.

Yesterday, after a trip to the grocery store and to drop off some fabric for a friend, I came home and Scott and I worked in the yard for nearly 4 hours.  The weather was perfect for it and I not only got the entire acre and a half mowed (parts of which hadn’t been mowed in a month due to the rain and my teaching and work schedule), but I got several trees trimmed up as well.

When I am mowing, I hate having to duck under lower limbs and have them take my hat off my head (or try to since my new hat has a chin strap).  Also, I am tired of evergreen boughs smacking me in the face (and eyes).  So I got out my trusty saw and delimbed several trees and cut down two small trees that were growing where I didn’t want trees.  And that was my undoing.

I haven’t used my saw in a couple of years and my right arm was no longer toughened to it.  By the time I finished my shower, my right shoulder, upper arm and elbow were beginning to ache.  By bed time, they were hurting at a 12.5 on 10-point scale.  Two rounds of ibuprophen (one at 8:30 and another at 12:30), and ice under and on top of my shoulder barely made a dent, and I really didn’t sleep much until after 3:30 this morning.  Right now, it’s throbbing, but I have to work and teach today, so more ibuprophen.  It’s hard to ice it and sit at the front desk – not very professional looking.

So, let that be a lesson to me.  Either do less trees each time until I get toughened back up, or hand the saw to my strong husband and point at the limbs I want cut and I do the limb dragging rather than him.  It really sucks getting old.

Sep 12

I mentioned that Sandy is in Alaska.  Well, she’s been there for two work weeks, now, and she’s not coming back to the office until next Tuesday.  In the meantime, I’m tearing my hair out.  I am trying to get the most important, bare minimum of her job done (Payroll, check deposits, transfers, etc.) while she is gone, on top of getting my job done.  Let me tell you, it ain’t been easy!  I haven’t had a lunch break in two weeks, and the early and late hours, on top of teaching two nights this week, practically have me a walking, drooling version of myself.  Boy howdy, I am tired!

The only knitting I have done this week is cast on for a worsted weight sock on size 6 needles so I could show students how to join in the round easier than with sock yarn and size 2 needles, and about an inch on my sock, which happened last night because I was too tired to even read.  Doing K2, P2 round and round in circles was relaxing and after that inch, I slept like a log.

So, I am sorry all is quiet on the Midwestern front right now.

Sep 8

Well, I finished my first toe up sock that I like that fits me. :)


Isn’t that sterling silver thread in the yarn fun?

Since I was already beyond the heel and onto the leg of the second sock, I’ll have it done in no time and be wearing them.


Here is how Cat Bordhi’s Sweet Tomato Heel fits.  I really like it.  Very smooth.  This is with 3 wedges, but she said we could do 4 if we wanted to.  I might try that just to see the difference in the fit.  This one fits well, but, well… curiosity always was one of my weaknesses.  Still, these socks will be a nice addition to my winter wardrobe since they are predicting a winter even colder than last year’s.

I have a busy week this week.  I begin teaching a beginning sock knitting class tonight, tomorrow night is the beginning spinning class, Wednesday night is a post office run to ship out several orders, Thursday night is mowing, Friday night I’ll go out to Sandy’s and put together more items to be shipped.  Saturday is another post office run, plus I am scheduled to meet with a woodworker about getting some hand-made spindles made for us, and, sometime this week I need to get laundry done and some cleaning done.  It’s a good thing I got all of the week’s cooking done before work today.

I wonder when I’ll get to read my new book?


And, no I didn’t color coordinate my bookmark with the book cover on purpose, but it was interesting that it worked out that way.  Seriously, it was the first one I grabbed out of the mug I store my bookmarks in.  Cool, eh?  I haven’t even started it yet, but I’ll let you know what I think of it when I am done.

Oh, yes! I found another Ellery Queen book for my collection that I didn’t have.  Woohoo!!!  They are very hard to find, and about the only place I can find them is an antique mall.  And for only $3 for a hardback, too!

I can’t wait for Sandy to get back from Alaska.  Trying to get the bare minimum of her job done and keep up with my own at the office is really not fun.  That and I want to see her pictures and hear all about her trip.


Sep 4

I think my favorite part of knitting a sock is turning the heel.  Not only because it (usually) marks the half-way point, but they are so much fun.  On top-down socks, I love the Dutch heel best with the heel flap.  The squareness of the Dutch heel fits the way my own heels are shaped best and they fit me nicely.  But, as I have been learning toe-up socks, I have fallen in love with Cat Bordhi’s Sweet Tomato Heel.


Just look at that nice, rounded heel.  And it fits very well.  I’ve tried other short-row heels before and I have hated them.  I have found that they aren’t enough to cup my heel well and they just work their way down into the shoe until the sock is all bunchy under the arch of my foot.  Hate that!!!

This one, though doesn’t do that and I love it.  And, on top of that, the pattern is very easy to memorize, which is a bonus in my opinion.

both socks

I like to knit both socks at the same time so that when I am done, I am done.  The yarn is by Kraemer and has a strand of sterling silver in it giving it a sparkle.  Sandy has been calling these my Disco Socks.  Just wait until she sees the purple ones I am going to knit.  They will make Donnie Osmond jealous.

What is your favorite heel?

Sep 3

My Labor Day weekend was three days labor and one day rest. One of the days, I had to go into the office to get caught up on some stuff, and two of the days I worked on cleaning my studio and moving the natural dye supplies from one closet to my studio, freeing that closet (under the stairs) for all of the various con and fiber show equipment. It’s so nice to have a place to put it all besides the living room.

The best part, though, was getting everything (and I do mean everything) out of the master bathroom, which hereto has been used as a storage closet for various office and paper supplies, fleeces, storage containers not in use and a 4-drawer, lateral filing cabinet that I rescued years ago. Scott has wanted this particular beast up in his studio for a loooong time, now (we had intended to move it up there last year when I was originally fixing up my studio but got sidetracked by my MIL’s head-first dive down her stairs in the middle of the night). So we just moved it.

Of course “just moved it” sounds reasonably easy, but let me tell you it was anything but easy. Getting it to the stairs was the only easy part since we could just put it on our rolling cart, but it was just too heavy for us to slide it up the stairs (carpeted). Even with both of us shoving, it just would not budge. We had hoped to get it up there without having to remove the drawers considering how old the thing was. Simply put, we were afraid we’d end up tearing the thing up and rendering it useless for what he wanted it for, but we had no choice. We pulled the drawers out, popped them out of their sockets and moved each part up separately. The main cabinet was still pretty heavy, but not so heavy we couldn’t do it. We were heaving, sweaty messes (well Scott was sweaty – I don’t sweat) but it was up there. It took a minute to figure out how to put the drawers back, but we did and I swear the thing works better than ever.

Now that the master bath is empty, I am going to scrub it down and paint the walls. The main purpose for this room will be fleece and fiber storage (with new shelving units along the long wall) and a natural dye studio. I am really excited to have a place to do my natural dyeing with an exhaust fan and have the ability to dye in all types of weather since I won’t be dependent on having to be out of doors most of the time.

Once I get it in a more ready condition, I’ll get pictures of it for you.

Last night, I got home, mowed the front half of the yard (about an acre), cooked two meals for Scott for the rest of the week, did two loads of laundry and got the dishwasher going. Poor Scott had to close at work, which meant not getting home until 10:30, so I had the place to myself – except for the cats.

While I was mowing the largest part of the yard, I had one of the most amazing experiences. This late in the season, there are a lot of moths, grasshoppers, and various other insect life hiding in the taller grass. As I made each pass, they would fly up into the air to get out of the way of my tractor. I was pretty into my own thoughts until something whizzed past my head and I looked up. All around me, flying this way and that, making mad dives and swooshing through the air were swallows and I realized the were grabbing up the bugs that were flying up from the grass. Then I looked more and saw dozens of dragonflies doing the same thing! They were having quite a buffet. I have never been a part of something like that before and it was so neat!

Sandy called from Anchorage last night. Today is the day she gets to visit the Musk Ox Farm in Palmer. I am very happy for her getting to do this. She’s promised lots of pictures.

Aug 27
First Toe Up Socks done
icon1 basicallybenita | icon2 Work-in-progress | icon4 08 27th, 2014| icon34 Comments »

1st toe up socks

This is Sandy wearing the first ever, toe-up socks I have ever knitted that I liked.  Look at them closely.  The one on the left was started with 6 cast on stitches and the one on the right with 8 cast on stitches.  Otherwise, both used size 2 needles.  Odd, really, how different the patterning on the foot looks.  Still, she can tell which is for which foot when she wears them. :)

The colors in this picture are pretty close to actual, and I love them.  I may have to get another skein from Gynx Yarn (her “Fairy” colorway on the strong sock base) since I had really wanted socks out of this color.  Next time, I won’t knit the foot so long so I can keep them.

Next time they will be worn by her will be in Alaska at the Musk Ox Farm in Palmer.  Cool!!

Aug 22

At Wednesday night’s spinning class, the advanced students concentrated on spinning from locks, both by just flicking open the ends and spinning straight from the lock, and spinning from the fold.

spinning multicolored locks

Here’s Pat’s results from spinning some multi-colored Romney locks, some white Teeswater locks and some colored mohair locks.  Fun!

brendas tails

Brenda did the same, but then wanted to add some tails to her plying.  Her wheel’s orifice is pretty small, so getting the tails to go through took some manipulation on our part while she plied, but she’s pretty happy with her first experiment.  The next time we do a spin-in at the shop, I’m going to loan her my Lendrum with the plying flyer and bobbin and she’s going to have a couple of singles prepared for more yarn of this type.  Her goal is to knit a hat with this yarn for fun.

washing 1st skein

Heather, a beginning student whose schedule doesn’t let her come to the Beginning class, learned to ply on the wheel last night.  Here is her first skein soaking.

And do you think she likes her new yarn?

heather's baby

I think so, too.

Aug 21

Before we go on, let me introduce you to my fellow judge.

2 judges

That’s me on the left and Jessica Madsen on the right.  It was a complete joy working with Jessica.  She and I fell into a quick rapport and we got the job done smoothly.  I hope I get to work with her again in the future.

Okay, back to the competition.  Rather than do each portion broken down by the order things happened, I am going to break this down by team until we get to the time to announce the winners and the auction.

silent spinners surgery

Here are the Silent Spinners with their scarf off of the loom and getting the finishing touches done to it before turning it in for judging.

finished silent spinners scarf

This is an up-close and personal look at their finished scarf.  Isn’t it beautiful?

Jessica with Silent Spinners scarf

And it looks wonderful worn as well.  These young ladies should be very proud of their scarf.

wonder wheels surgery

Next is the Wonder Wheels finishing their scarf.

finished wonder wheels scarf

And a close-up of their scarf.  I love the indigo warp on this.  Nice colors!

Jessica with wonder wheels scarf

And here is how it looks on.  Very pretty.

ladybugs surgery

And the Lady-Bugs finishing up their scarf.  This always reminds me of surgeons working on a patient.

finished ladybug scarf

And I think their patient came out very well, don’t you think?

Jessica with ladybugs scarf

This one is one of my favorites because of the colors.  Happy!

messy pirates

Next is the Pirates of the Treadle.  As they worked, their area got messier and messier.  One of the boys later told me that their wool for spinning was full of VM and was slightly felted from being washed and they were just tossing aside the stuff they couldn’t use so as not to waste time with it.  I did not get a picture of their scarf just off the loom as I was already into the judging process by the time they finished the weaving portion.

finished pirates scarf

This is their finished scarf, though.  A very nice, masculine design and I love the coreopsis-dyed stripe down the middle.

finished dream team shawl

Again, the Dream Team removed their shawl from their loom while we were judging, so I did not get that picture taken, but here it is all finished.

reformed pirate

I think our reformed Pirate is enjoying himself very much.

And the last, but not least Adult team:

serendipity removing from loom

Removing it from the loom.

serendipity surgery

Finishing it up.

finished serendipity shawl

And its close-up.  Absolutely beautiful!  John said the pattern is a 6-thread herringbone.

final scarves

All of the youth team scarves in a row, ready for the auction.

finished shawls

And the two adult team shawls ready for auction.

So who won?

winning silent spinners

For the youth teams, it was the Silent Spinners!  And this is a much better picture of the green satin PJ’s from Sue’s grandmother.  I’m sorry that not all of the team members are included in this picture because they were all very happy with their win.

owner serendipity shawl

And for the adult team – Serendipity.  By the way, the wool came from her sheep and she won the bidding at the auction, so it is all hers.  Lucky lady!

And how much did everything earn at the auction?

1st Place Youth Team – The Silent Spinners – $375.00

2nd Place Youth Team – The Lady-Bugs of the Wheel – $350.00

3rd Place Youth Team – Wonder Wheels – $300.00

4th Place Youth Team – Pirates of the Treadle – $150.00

All of the proceeds from the Youth Teams’ winnings goes back into the program at Conner Prairie for next year.

1st Place Adult Team – Serendipity – $550.00!  Awesome!!

2nd Place Adult Team – The Dream Team – $375.00

It was a wonderful day and I have enjoyed my last fours years judging this competition.  Everyone involved was just amazing.

Aug 20

Because I took so many pictures that are just too interesting not to share, I am splitting this into two posts like usual.  Today is the set up, and tomorrow will be the win portion.

Let’s start with the teams:

Youth teams – there were four of them, and they all were from Conner Prairie.  Once again, Sue Payne’s mentorship paid dividends, but in more ways than one as you will see later.

Team 1:

Silent Spinners team

The Silent Spinners.  Each member of the team chose a silent screen actress to become and their costumes were amazing.  Two of the costumes have a real history behind them as they originally belonged to Sue Payne’s grandmother.  One I failed to get a good picture of (the green satin PJs worn by the weaver), but the other…

Sues dress

Isn’t this dress stunning?  Printed crepe with black Spanish lace.  The young lady wearing it loved it and I can tell she was going to hate giving it up at the end of the event.  And it fits her like it was made for her.

Wonder Wheels Team

The second team was the Wonder Wheels based on characters from Alice in Wonderland.  And yes, the Red Queen was wearing a real hoop skirt while spinning.  Awesome!

Lady Bugs Team

The third team was the Lady-Bugs of the Wheel and, even though you can’t see it, one of the spinners even had a Ladybug spinning wheel from Schacht.

Lady Bugs Sample Scarves

I really loved their practice scarves, especially the one on the far right, which they used as the basis for their competition scarf as you will see.

Pirates Team

Of course, no competition would be complete without the infamous Pirates of the Treadle, the all boys team.

Pirates Sample Scarves

And their sample scarves.  I really like that right one with its indigo stripe down the middle.

Now, I’ll introduce the two adult teams.  The first team is a very special one and everyone was so glad they were there.  This is where Sue Payne’s previous mentorship comes in – all of the team members are former Conner Prairie Youth Team members.

Dream Team team

The Dream Team.  The young man is a former Pirate, so the girls obviously managed to civilize him. :)

Serendipity team

The other adult team was Serendipity with John Salamone as the weaver.

Serendipity yarn1

I loved that they brought skeins of hand-spun yarns to show off.

Serendipity yarn3

They were all so beautiful, but…

Serendipity yarn2

… I really love that left-hand skein spun by Mary Van Hook.  She said she had three total.  Hmmm…

Just to give you a teaser of what is coming tomorrow, I’ll give you a sneak peek of their scarves/shawls.

Silent Spinner 1st glance

The Silent Spinners – you can see a glimpse of the green, satin PJ’s that once belonged to Sue Payne’s grandmother here.

Wonder Wheels 1st glance

Wonder Wheels

Lady Bugs 1st Glance

Lady-Bugs – Isn’t that pattern with its colors just delightful?

Pirates 1st glance

Pirates – a nice and masculine scarf.

Dream Team 1st glance

The Dream Team from underneath.  She had just advanced the loom and there wasn’t enough on top to give you a good look at it.

Serendipity 1st glance

And Serendipity’s.

Tomorrow, I’ll pick up where the team take them from the looms through the auction process.  Same bat time, same bat channel.

Aug 18

I can tell that, over time, my focus on what I look at and purchase at fiber fairs has changed. Until a couple of years ago, I was all about yarn, books and spinning fiber for myself. Now? It’s all about the animals and their fleeces.

We had reserved three fleeces from Moonshadow Farm, and ended up purchasing another CVM from them because it was just too pretty to pass up (Thank you Sandy for spotting it). These were dropped off at Ohio Valley for processing:


Romney/Corriedale cross.  It has a really nice luster to it.


Pure CVM



I had taken up four other fleeces (2 Clun Forest to be processed separately and 2 Cheviot/Perendale crosses to be processed together) and those had already been dropped off when we picked up seven bags of processed fiber to take back home. Those that we picked up were: a sweet gray alpaca, Cotswold, BFL, Babydoll Southdowns. White Horned Dorset (2 bags) and a very rare black Horned Dorset.

Why is the black Horned Dorset so rare? Well, technically, there are no colored Horned Dorsets. This ewe, named Marley, was born to a mother who was white, a father who was white and whose twin sister was white. Either sometime way back in the past a sneaky ram got into the flock who was not a Horned Dorset, or there is a color mutation that developed to produce Marley. Either way, while Marley is registered, none of her lambs can be even if they are born white. Too bad, because, as a hand spinner, I much prefer natural colored fleeces. I’ll get pictures of these fibers taken tonight and up into the shop in the next couple of days.

So, while we were there, we looked a fleeces and animals searching for just the right ones to add to our selection of those for sale. We did purchase other fleeces, but the animals were too much for my camera. Take a look!

sweet shetland ram

The closest one to the camera and I became good friends.  I reached through and gently rubbed him under his chin and on the side of his face and his tail went 90 mph.  He was such a sweetie and look at those lovely horns and his pretty face.

another shetland ram

Another nice looking Shetland ram.  Doesn’t it look like he had just finished some chocolate ice cream?

icelandic ram

This Icelandic ram has a wonderful fleece on him.  Really, I would love to have his next shearing – and I have a picture of the farm sign he is from, too, so I might get my wish.

magnificent horns

And doesn’t he have such a noble head?

two pretty pygoras

When we got to the tents where the fiber animals were, the Pygora show was going on.  I apologize for the yellowy tint to these shots, but it was a yellow-striped tent over head.  I loved these two and they posed so nicely for me.

pygora goat1

Another sweet, light-gray Pygora.  Just look at the fiber!

pygora kid

And this kid was just as pretty.

sweet pygora

This one was getting ready to go into the show ring.  Sandy fell in love with its upright, tufty tail.  It almost looks like someone pinned a feather to its butt.

Type C Pygors

The very first Type C Pygora I have ever seen.  The owner and I talked for several minutes and she told me that this goat tested as cashmere.  It was so soft!!

big scary world

And, folks, it’s a scary world out there for a wee kid.

So, we had a wonderful time at the Michigan Fiber Festival this year. Keep your fingers crossed and say a few prayers that we will be selected to vend there next year. That would be wonderful!

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