Mar 31
A Spinning We Will Go!
icon1 basicallybenita | icon2 Work-in-progress | icon4 03 31st, 2010| icon35 Comments »

Tonight began Sandy’s and my Spinning Nights.  On the Wednesday nights we don’t go to our BASK meetings, we are bringing our spinning wheels to work and staying late to spin together for a couple of hours.

Tonight, Sandy worked on her Mahogany wool colorway from Ashland Bay, which she would like to ply with silk dyed madder red (an orangy-red) to bring out that color in the wool.  Lovely, idea!  The silk will be part of the sun dyes we will do this summer when it gets hot enough.


This is one of those blends that looks rather different spun than the fiber would lead you to believe.


I mean, you can tell it’s the same, but the colors smoothed out into a more even color and the vibrancy of it is lost.  Now imagine that single plied with a silk single dyed that red color.  What do you think?


I wound the silk samples from this weekend onto my hand (okay, I forgot to bring the ball winder), and started plying them for my notebook.  This is what I got plied tonight, before washing.  Get a load of the sheen in the silk!  Starting from the left, the top row is Yak/Tussah, Cashmere/Tussah and a fine wool/Tussah blend, bombyx silk top and tussah silk top.  The second row is: alpaca/bombyx, camel down/bombyx and a fine wool/bombyx, hankie, cap and the blue is spun straight from a dyed cocoon.  These last three are way overplied, but oh well.  The bottom three are clockwise from the top: carded tussah, carded bombyx and carded silk noil that was a royal paid to spin.

This was fun, relaxing and productive and I can’t wait until next Wednesday night.  I’m going to be doing a lot of spinning this summer, taking my spinning wheel with me whenever Scott wants to set up watercolors, when we visit family, and to the BASK meetings.  A couple of hours here and there will add up, and I can start getting some of this huge stash of fiber into something usable.

Remember, I have 4 fleeces being processed at this time, and a 4 ounce sample coming from Spunky Eclectic each month, and these small bags of colorful fluff have been adding up.  And that is on top of the closet full of fiber just waiting to see the light of day again.

And, lastly, I took this picture when I went out to my car to go to work.  The temperature was about 29 degrees and there was this frozen mist everywhere.  Shining through this mist, on the western horizon, was the full moon.


Spooky, isn’t it?  The flash caught the frozen fog just right, but you can still see the full moon.  I wasn’t sure how this would come out, but I like it!

Mar 30

Please note on the side-bar that I have another beginning weaving workshop coming up the first weekend in November.  If you or someone you know wants to learn how to weave on a four-harness loom, please feel free to contact me at the email address in the flyer.

If you aren’t comfortable in a classroom setting and want private lessons in weaving, please contact me.  Beginning in June, I am scheduling students for private weaving lessons in my home.

Also, if you know a group of people (five or less) who want to learn how to weave, I am willing to set up additional workshops to accommodate you.   It’s fun to learn new skills with your friends and this is one skill that will keep your imagination going for years and years to come.  Besides, it makes use of all those spinning skills and the yarns you have created!

What?  You don’t know how to spin?  I can fix that problem!  Email me at the address on the weaving workshop flyer and let’s get together for lessons!  I give classes and private lessons in spinning.

And if you or your club or guild would like to learn more about natural dyeing, I am available for lectures and workshops in this subject as well.  I have lectured all over central Indiana to knitting guilds, fiber shops, embroidery guilds, fiber clubs, etc.  The lecture includes an informative hand-out and lots and LOTS of samples to look over and touch.

Mar 29

My brain still feels full of information from this weekend’s silk workshop by Celia Quinn.  It is going to be a few days before the headache goes away and my brain has the chance to process all the new knowledge.

Even though today is only March 29th, for me today begins April.  Today I started the Go Red for Women 12-week program, started walking on the treadmill again (30 minutes this morning), am writing down all I eat, am planning my meals rather than winging it, and Scott and I are doing a short workout in the evenings focusing on core strength and flexibility.

I am a planner and a list maker.  My lists have lists.  I try to plan far in advance for every contingency.  Beginning today, though, I am not going to plan past today.  I am writing my goals for one day at the beginning of that day, and am going to concentrate on that one day alone.  I am hoping this will keep me focused and from feeling overwhelmed.  This is a difficult thing to do because it is against my basic nature.

This daily list includes chores, work-related items, health and food plan, reminders, everything needed for this one day, only.  The list is long enough for one day and adding future days’ plans to my brain has become burdensome to me.  I need to focus on the “here and now” and leave tomorrow for when tomorrow arrives.

Spring is definitely here in central Indiana.  Yesterday we watched a group of male robins fighting each other and harassing a female robin at the same time.  Obviously, the female robin would just as soon not have so much male attention.  So, the robins are here!!!  Woohoo!!

The thrums and threads I tossed out a couple of weeks ago are nearly all gone – only about 10-15% remain and they won’t last long.  I still need to dig out the binoculars.  Among the colorful threads and yarns was a bit of roving that had gotten dirty and a bit felted.  Even though it was a brown color and blended in with the ground around it, it was one of the first pieces to disappear.  Someone’s babies are going to be kept warm and snug with that as a nest liner.

I saw my first mosquito this morning in my shower (and whacked the little bugger to oblivion, too).  Those things could have waited much longer before hatching out.  Celia was telling us all the things they don’t have in Alaska where she lives.  They don’t have snakes, or moths, or carpet beetles, but they have bears and lots and lots of mosquitoes.

Today is sunny and by the end of the week, we are supposed to be in the 70’s.  That is going to feel nice.  Scott and I are going to start spring cleaning this weekend and it will be nice to open the house up and sweep out the dust and dirt from the winter.  I’m looking forward to washing and hanging out blankets, quilts and comforters to dry in the sunshine.  How is spring arriving where you live and what do you do to welcome it?  Do you have a spring ritual or are you trying something new and different this year?

Mar 28

Today has been a cold and rainy day, which means that doing the silk fusion part yesterday was a good thing.

On our final day of class, we listened to more fantastic information about silk, and saw a slideshow of pictures from the silk industry in India, which was fascinating, disturbing, and awe-inspiring all at once.  The Eri silk worms are spiky, blue and are nearly as long as a man’s hands with a width of a couple of inches.  They also look rather squishy.

Then we showed off the silk fusion finished products.  What a group of talented people!  There were sheets of every color and with a wide variety of embellishments.  Here is what mine looked like – first without the flash so you can see the colors and design,


And then with the flash so you can see the luster of the fibers.


Isn’t that almost blinding?  I am going to do some sewed embellishing to it with some purple thread, then cut it up into bookmarks.  I married into a family of readers, and these bookmarks will be part of Christmas gifts this year.  I am hoping if I start early making gifts, then everyone will actually get something cool this year.  If I do this right, I believe I can get 15 bookmarks out of it.

Right after lunch we were shown how to reel silk from the simmered cocoons.  I will have to apologize to you about this.  I did not get any pictures.  I was so fascinated with the entire process, that my camera sat in my hands unused.  Sandy and I talked it over just before the end of the class and we think we will invest in some bombyx cocoons and try reeling some off for ourselves.  It really isn’t hard, and we both have the samples we reeled off for our sampler books, but we want to try reeling it, twisting it, degumming it, dyeing it and spinning it.

At this point, I can’t remember the exact order things were done.  I think most of us were on overload by this time.  This has been the most intense class I have ever attended.  Both my knowledge and skill levels increased a hundred-fold on the subject of silk.  If you ever get the chance to take a class by Celia Quinn, do it!  You will be well rewarded for your fee and effort!

One thing Celia showed us on Friday was some fabric woven using Japanese finger spun silk threads.  Today, she show showed us how to do this technique.


Really, just twisting the threads back and forth between your fingers is all there is to it, but it made a very strong thread.  They do not add in further twist to it before weaving with it either.  It seems impossible that this should hold together and was very easy to do.


Here is Sandy finger spinning and look at her hands.  She is merely pinching it together and, basically, rubbing it back and forth between her fingers.  Yup!  That’s it!

One of the last things we did today was stretch cocoons into hankies.  This is not a job for the squeamish.  The cocoons are first simmered in washing soda and soap until they collapse and then rinsed in water with vinegar added to take away the alkalinity that will harm the silk.  Using the highly alkaline solution dissolves the sericin that glues the filaments together and makes the silk softer and more workable.

Of course, these cocoons still have the pupa in them, and the first thing you have to do is find the little bugger, pop him (and the last skin he had shed (looks like pupa poop)) out, then begin stretching the cocoon out in water, like this.


Then you stick one corner over a corner of a stretcher bar or over some nails hammered into the corners of a box, stretch the next corner over and hook it, then pull down and stretch it out and hook both bottom corners to the bars.  Wet, messy and little smelly (from the wet, dead pupa), but not hard.


Here are my stretcher bars with about three cocoons stretched over it.  All I had were 12″ bars, so it stretched the cocoons pretty thinly.


This was four nails pounded into the back of a wine box.  She had a big whack of cocoons stretched on here and it looked awesome.  And, yes, that is a pupa at the top of the picture on the box.


And here is a bunch of pupa that one of my fellow students wanted me to get a picture of so she could show her daughter that she was holding bugs.

Everyone once in a while you’d hear a “EWWWW!” from someone cleaning cocoons because not all of them had gotten to the pupa stage.  Popping a firm, smooth pupa out of the cocoon was easy, but getting one that was still in worm form and that had been boiled to the point of being soggy was a bit gross.  Glad I didn’t get one.

And, now that I have had this experience, I will make a confession.  I will be buying the silk hankies that I want to use.  Period.


Also, we split apart the hankies that we dyed on Friday and Celia showed us how to stretch them out so we could spin thicker yarns from them.  You know, after spending a few years working your tail off to spin nice, fine, smooth yarns, going back to spin a thicker yarn was hard!  I see that I am going to have to make an effort of spinning thicker yarns so I don’t forget how to do it.  The singles on the right are the thicker ones (although they weren’t nearly thick enough for Celia), and the ones on the left are the purposefully thin ones from the last three layers of the hankie.  I want to ply the thins ones together and the thick ones together to see how the colors came out with the different weights.  And that is the tale I have to tell on that one.

Some of the people, as they spun their yarns from either the caps or the hankies, went ahead and plied them together and sat them up on the table with the hankie or cap so everyone could see.


Here are some of the caps with the yarns made from them.  Get a load of that shimmery one at the bottom in the middle.  Wow!


And this is one of the hankies spun into a thicker yarn.  Those colors are so intense!

As fulfilling as the past three days have been, I am one tired lady.  Teaching for three days last weekend, working and doing five days of work in four days, then attending this three-day workshop have me near the end of my energy level.  And tomorrow begins another work week.

I’m going to go to bed early tonight so I can get up and get back on the treadmill.  I am going to be very ashamed to show you my March step numbers.  This next week starts a new month and a new 12 week program.  If all goes as planned, April is going to be a very good month in several ways.

As soon as I get all the spun samples plied and cataloged, I’ll take pictures of them to show you.  This may take a week or two, though.

And for all of you who are observing Lent, only one more week to go!!!  You can do it!

Mar 27

Today’s class was busy, busy, busy from the start until the finish.

Celia started the day with lecture on the silk from eggs through cocoon, telling us statistics for everything from how many eggs in an ounce (36,000), to how much they eat over a lifetime (nearly a ton of leaves) to how they spin their cocoons.  She passed around threads with different numbers of filaments (silk thread from a single cocoon) to show us.


For instance, see that single strand over the first knuckle of my middle finger?  That is 140 filaments.  140 different cocoons of silk reeled together into one thread.


And this is 360 filaments reeled together into one strand.  It’s incredible to think there can be that many in that piece.

The Eri silk moth comes from India and spins a HUGE cocoon.


Here is Sandy holding it.  Considering the Bombyx cocoon is about a quarter coin in length, this one is a monster.  The moths are those lovely big things I showed you yesterday.


Celia passed around a tussah silk cap just to show us how big the caps used to be.  Now they are about about a quarter or a fifth of that size.  This one has only been partially degummed.


Then Celia showed us how to spin from caps by using cards to hold the fiber and spread it out for easier drafting.  Some people did very well with this, as Pat here did, but I found it easier to spin using a sort of long-draw technique from the cap itself.


Another way we were shown how to spin caps was to set up a swift with a piece of cloth over it, then the cap spread over that, as a distaff, and, using both hands, pulling the silk down and spinning it.  This was set up a little tall, but we couldn’t find a surface to clamp the swift to that was the correct height, but you do need the swift above you so you can pull down on the threads.  Also, she showed us that you have to spin the silk quite a bit in order for it to have enough twist for plying.  Otherwise, the threads just fell apart.


Then, just before lunch, we got the bright idea of donning the silk caps we dyed yesterday for a group photo.  That’s me with the chubby face and glasses, third from the left on the top of the stairs.  Just above me is Sandy.  We had a lot of fun with this.  We had to do this before lunch, because we starting spinning our caps in the afternoon.

Right after lunch, though, we started our silk fusion project.


First, you lay down a piece of fiberglass screen at least twice as big as the finished piece (it will be folded over it to wet it and add the bonding medium).  On top of this we laid down two thin layers of tussah silk (combed) because it is less expensive than the dyed silk.  Each layer is laid down perpendicular to one another.


Then you lay down the colored silk thick enough to completely cover the tussah, but not too thick.


Next you add whatever embellishments you want.  This person put on some metalic threads in the same colorway as her dyed silk.  I used sequins and some cut up bits of a boucle yarn.  There was feathers used (Susan went to the chicken house and got some of her guinea hen feathers), some used bits of threads in designs, some bits of ribbon.  Everyone was very creative.  Over this, you spread a very thin layer of dyed silk, just enough to hold it in place, but not so much that you obscure the objects.


Then you fold the second half of the screen over it, wet it very thoroughly with soapy water (on both sides), then paint the bonding medium over that on both sides.  It was pretty drippy when we were done.


And here are some of them done and drying on the line outside.  Luckily the day was breezy (although rather cool), and they had dried quite a bit before it was time to go home.  Several people took theirs home to finish the drying process, and I brought a dozen or more home with me to put in my extra warm bathroom with the fan blowing on them.  They’ll all be dry by morning, no problem.

Also, throughout the day we spun more silk samples.  Today I spun silk directly from a cocoon, from an undyed hankie, from an undyed cap and from the cap I dyed (as well as a bit from Sandy’s cap that I dyed for her yesterday), from carded bombyx, carded tussah and from silk noil.


I hated the silk noil, but I think it was because it was so trashy.  I pull nearly as much vegetable matter out of it as there was silk.  Very nubby.  I can’t wait to wind off each section and ply it.  I’ve kept unspun samples of each, and I want to create sample cards when I done with it all.  Some are creating their sample cards as they go, but I’m not that fast a spinner so will wait until later to finish them.

Tomorrow is the third and last day of class.  Tomorrow we will be reeling silk from the cocoons, spinning thicker yards from the hankies we dyed yesterday, finishing the silk fusion project and, perhaps, dye some cocoons.  Sounds like another full day of learning.

Well, Prairie Home companion is on and I want to set with my sock knitting and relax some.

Mar 26

Slight change in plans in that I am taking all three days of the silk workshop and Sandy worked today.  Since she is still getting over this cold from you-know-where, she was afraid taking three days of class would be too much for her.  You know, of course, since I’m the one who gave her this cold a few weeks ago, I’m going to be paying for this for a very loooooong time.

The workshop is being taught by Celia Quinn and this is going to be very comprehensive.  She started off the day talking about several of the items she brought with her for us to see.


This is Celia saying, “Let’s see, where do I start?”  She brought a ton of stuff from the eggs to the finished projects.


Let us begin at the beginning of the entire thing, the moth.  This is the Bombyx (Mulberry) silk moth (male and female?), the eggs, the cocoons.


This is the Eri Silk Moth, eggs and cocoon.  As much as I normally hate moths (the kind that eat wool, really), I have to admit this baby is beautiful!!  And it is about 4-5 inches across – not a little miller by any stretch!


And here is a set of the first two plus two others – The Muga and the Tussah.  Are these all of them?  I didn’t ask that question, but I will tomorrow.


One thing Celia told us was that silk worms all from the same batch, who eat all the same stuff, will spin different colored cocoons from pink, to yellow to white.  This is just the “glue” that holds them together and this will wash out, although I believe she said the strongly yellow ones might be more of a cream color than pure white.


This is a three-ply silk spun on a charkha and was knitted on 00000 size knitting needles.  The entire size of this is about 8″ X 10″.  After reading Franklin Habit’s blog for so long, I think he would be giddy to see this.


This is Japanese finger-spun silk that was then woven into this piece of fabric.  The size of this is about 4″ X 6″ and the threads in it make sewing thread look like chunky weight.  We will get to learn how to do this this weekend.


The lacy piece on the left is handspun silk that was then knitted into lacy lingerie, the striped shirt weighs about 6 ounces and took over 500 hours from spinning to dyeing to weaving to sewing to make, the sweater on the right also weighs about 6 ounces and is a blend of silk and something else that I can’t remember.  The purple bag on the right is a purse that any flapper from the 20’s would be proud to carry.


This is a journal cover made from two layers of plain tussah silk and one layer of dyed silk using silk fusion.  We picked out our colors today and will  begin working on these tomorrow.


Then we each got a silk hankie and a silk cap to dye today.  I got to dye two because I had to dye Sandy’s so she can have it all ready to go for spinning tomorrow.  This is the silk hankie I dyed for me.


And this is the one I dyed for Sandy.  Really, Sandy is much better at this sort of thing and she would have done a better job.  I’m too careful with colors and she is way more experimental with it.


My cap – and yes I know the pretty design will go bye-bye when I spin it, but I couldn’t help but play a bit.


And Sandy’s cap.


And lots of other caps all drying on my new antique drying rack.  Handy tool, that!

Another thing Celia did was start to hand out bags with sample fibers and blends to spin.  There were Bombyx and Tussah top, silk blended with fine wool, yak, camel, cashmere, and alpaca.  Then there was carded Bombyx, Tussah and a really noily bit that I haven’t spun yet.


Here is my spinning for the day.  Get a load of the sheen!  The pink areas are separating wool used to divide the individual samples so I can ply the right areas together later.  I have spun silk and luxury fibers like this before when I took Patsy Z’s class, and you know, I still HATE yak even if it is blended with something nice like silk.

I found I like spinning Tussah better than Bombyx silk, and I LOVE the cashmere and silk blend.  Very nice stuff.

Tomorrow we get to reel off silk from cocoons and do the silk fusion project.  I am enjoying this class very much and can’t wait for tomorrow.  Now I have to go and dig out some fun stuff to layer into my silk fusion fabric.

Mar 24

My being sick so much for about 6 weeks (two bouts of that nasty head cold) completely killed the momentum I had built up with the walking.  On top of that, I have plateaued once again on the weight loss.  Time to kick start this thing back into action.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before on here, but I suffer from a heredity weak heart muscle.  Both my grandfathers had their first heart attacks in their 30’s and I was 39 when I had my own “cardiac event.”  With this I now have unstable angina, which means I can have an angina attack without cause or reason.  So, now I’m a statistic.

I have decided to change the direction of the 10,000 Step Club in one way.  While I am still very much interested in helping people lose weight and overcome obesity and the myriad of health problems associated with that, I am going to use my own experiences and steer this club more toward helping prevent or overcome heart disease.  Of course, one way to help prevent heart disease is through exercise and healthy eating.

The American Heart Association has set up a website called Go for Red for Women.  It is free to join.  On it is a 12-week program to help you work toward living a healthier lifestyle, and I have signed up for it and will be starting it next Monday morning.  My #1 goal is to lose 1 pound per week over this 12 weeks, which will get me off the plains and back to walking down into the valley.  By the end of the summer, I want to have to start looking for size 10 pants.

Also, you can take a quiz that will help evaluate your chances of developing heart disease or having a heart attack.  Take it.  I did, and even though I have already had a history of heart problems, I found out some valuable information that I plan to work on.


Here I am at my 10 pounds of weight loss so far this year, and please notice I am wearing red.  This is to announce my commitment to helping me and other women not be more heart statistics.  This June, I am scheduled to have a nuclear stress test, and I will talk more about that when the time comes.  If my doctor’s office is willing, I will ask them to photograph my own procedure so I can share it with you.

I will be adding a new 10,000 Step Club T-shirt design, one with the person wearing a red shirt.  This is the one I plan to wear.

Mar 23

Remember me telling you about Sandra Rude asking permission to use that photograph I took in February with the snow plastered up the side of my pine trees?  Well, the warp she is winding on now will be the one where she weaves this photo into a tapestry.  Check out how she has manipulated the photo in Photoshop to get it to where she can weave it.

Needless to say, I am very honored to have a photo of mine turned into a work of art like this.  If you don’t read her blog regularly, you should, but nevertheless, I will be posting here links to her blog posts where she shows the weaving of it and when it is finished.  I don’t think I’ve been this thrilled since the first issue of Johnny Saturn was in my hands.  I love our fiber arts community!!!

Mar 22
I learned something new today!
icon1 basicallybenita | icon2 Did you Know? | icon4 03 22nd, 2010| icon33 Comments »

Scott and I have a saying that if you learn something new, you get to live another day.  I get to live another day!

You’ve heard of the term “Luddite” as someone who is anti-technology, right?

Well, did you know the first Luddites were weavers?  Check out this article!

And, according to the article, they weren’t against technology at all, but against unfairness.  Well, in that case, count me in as a Luddite!

Mar 21

It has been a very fun and productive weekend.  Both of my students were joys with which to work, and both of them finished their projects in good time.


Clearly Roberta is tickled pink with her scarf.  After this picture was taken, she and I sat down and braided her fringe so she can put it in the washing machine straight away to full it and finish it.


And this is Denise and her scarf.  Denise was able to weave hers on her 24″ LeClerc Nilus that she got as a Christmas gift.


Roberta and Denise showing off their new found skills.  Raven, Denise’s daughter, came for the day and her mom bought her a drop spindle and some roving.  Susan got Raven started with spinning, and I continued working with her while her mom knotted her fringe.  She was picking it up pretty quickly and was already getting some smooth, thin singles by the time they left to go home.  Raven did not want to leave.  Both will be attending the BASK meetings once school has let out for the summer.  Raven and Denise have an agreement with one another already – Raven gets time with her mom’s loom, and Denise gets time with her daughter’s spindle.  Ahhh…  Two more fiber-newbies.  I love it!!!

And while my students wove, I spun and finished the navy blue merino I was spinning.  Now I get to ply it with the green wool.  It’s early enough, I may get started tonight on it.  All said and done, I should have nearly a pound of this yarn.

And, tomorrow it is back to the real world.  This next weekend is a silk spinning and dyeing class and I need to pull together the supplies I’m providing for it.  Again, it is at Susan’s shop.  I have to miss the first day of it because it is Sandy’s turn to have the Friday off for a class, but I’ll join in on Saturday.  Susan has agreed to do what I need to do on Friday for me so I won’t be behind.

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