May 31
Fun day of Dye Prep
icon1 basicallybenita | icon2 Work-in-progress | icon4 05 31st, 2010| icon35 Comments »

Sandy came over today and we spent the entire day getting sock yarn ready for the 28-day alum soak to premordant the yarn.  Because the skins were too small for our purposes, we had the bright idea of turning the skeins into center-pull balls for ease of handling…

…then make larger skeins from the balls.

Because we want to play around with some long areas of color mixed in with areas of “design”, we created two work areas to make really large skeins. Tying a lease stick up right to the frame of the Herald loom and clamping a 3-yard warping board to the table gave us an area of about 10 feet.  Also clamping another warping board to another table in the sewing area, gave us another run of about 10 feet.  Then we did lots of walking.

On about half of the long skeins, we wound cotton crochet thread around parts of the skins in (what we hope are) patterns to make the sock yarn more interesting by leaving areas of white.

No two skeins were tied the same way, but we wrote down descriptions of what we did so we can repeat the ones we really like.  It was a lot of fun, but rather more time consuming that we thought it would be.

Once we got that done, we measured all of the yarn while it was still dry so we could calculate the amount of alum needed.  Because we did not have a container large enough for the 10 100 grams skeins, I had to work it out so we could put three each into two containers and four into the third container.  We also skeined off and tied a skein of Kraemer sock yarn with sterling silver in it.  I am not going to premordant this skein because the dyes I am planning to use will have the mordants in the pots.

Just because the skein says it has 100 grams in it, don’t assume that it has 100 grams in it.  These skeins, for instance, had an average of 104 grams per skein.  Since I will be using 25% WOG of alum, I needed to know what the real weight is.

So, 10 skeins with an average of 104 grams equals 1040 grams multiplied by 25% gives us 260 grams of alum.  Since I am putting these into non-equal containers, I divided that by the 10 skeins, coming up with 26 grans per skein.  Three skeins in each of two containers comes up to 76 grams, which I rounded up to 80.

I love my gram scale.

The third container has four skeins in it, so 4 times 26 equals 104, which I rounded up to 105 grams.

Next you need to fill the containers with water and dissolve the alum in each.  The two on the right have the 80 grams and the one of the left has the 105 grams.

Once the alum is dissolved, you can start adding the yarn gently.

Once they are all in the container, push them down and hold them down until there are no more bubbles rising.  You need to make sure the skeins are thoroughly soaked.

Please remember to wear rubber gloves when you are working with any dye or mordant solutions.  While alum is the least toxic, it is still a good idea to err on the side of careful.

Now to wait for 28 days.  At the end of the 28 days, or on June 27th, I’ll remove the skeins and let them dry without rinsing them.  Then I’ll let them “cure” for a week and they can then be used in the natural dye pots.  All 10 of these skeins are destined for several dye pots that Sandy and I will be doing this summer.  I can’t wait to see how they turn out.

And, last, but not least, here is the plate I painted last weekend, all fired and finished.  While it’s not perfect, I am very pleased with how it turned out.  I can’t wait to go back and do another one!

I hope your holiday was as fun as mine has been.

May 30

Yesterday, Scott and I took it easy.  The hardest thing I did was spin for about three hours.

Today, on the other hand, has made up for it.  I have the library all put back together and only needs the vacuum run in it to be complete.

Also, I have worked on my studio all afternoon getting things ready for tomorrow.  Tomorrow, my friend and co-worker, Sandy, is coming over and we are going to get several projects ready for our summer of dyeing.  We are both looking forward to doing some gradation dyeing using the sun to heat the pots each day (madder and alkanet root are on the schedule). We will  be starting a 28-day, cold alum soak for pre-mordanting for the gradation dying, measuring and skeining off several batches of sock yarn for dyeing, and getting all the skeins we have of white wool and silk ready and tagged for the dye pots.  This is going to be a fun and colorful summer.

Also, we are going to play with some bottles of dye and a few white T-shirts.  Who knows what kind of mess we can make.  I have a couple of experiments to do, and if they work, this will open up a whole new level of items for the store.

Sometime this week, I need to haul in two of my workshop looms and get them warped.  My June weaving workshop is starting early for two of the students because they cannot get the Friday of the workshop off from work.  So, I have agreed to start them on Sunday, June 6th, and then they can join the rest of the class on the 19th and not be behind.

This next Saturday, June 5th, Sandy and I will be working in the SWIFT booth at Hoosier Hills Fiber Festival.  Sandy is taking her spinning wheel, and I’m taking my table top loom to let people have some fun weaving on it.  If you are in the Indianapolis area and have nothing else to do next Saturday, come to Hoosier Hills and stop by to say “Hi!”  I’d love to see you.

May 28

I belong to an Indiana-based Guild called SWIFT, which stands for Spinners and Weavers of Indiana – Fibers and Textiles.  For four years – from May of 2006 through February, 2010, I was the newsletter editor and produced a quarterly newsletter that was anywhere from 28 to 44 pages in length.  While the work involved was really more than one person should handle, I enjoyed doing it and the contact with my fellow fiber people around the state. 

What SWIFT does is provide a place for Spinning and Weaving Guilds in the State of Indiana to have a central place where people can go to find them.  Also, we are starting a scholarship program that could send people to Midwest Weaver’s Conference and SOAR, pay for classes at local fiber fairs, and create a mentoring program that teams up experienced weavers and spinners with new ones.

As of the 2010 annual meeting in March, we voted to discontinue the use of physical newsletters that were mailed to members quarterly, with its expense and limitations, and take the whole experience to the web on our website at  Here we can provide up-to-date information, articles with color pictures (which were cost-prohibitive in the printed version), more and more diverse articles, news, events calendars, guild information, etc.  Also, it pulls people to us who might never have known about us before.  The benefits far outweigh the losses and the web is where more and more people go when they need information.  We decided it was time to join the 21st Century.

The reason for this blog post is two-fold.  First, it is to remind SWIFT members who read this blog that the website is back up and running and there are updates going up all over the site on a near daily basis.  There are several, member-only perks in the works and I am very excited about them.

The second reason is to let my readers who live here in Indiana (and surrounding states) know about SWIFT and how it serves the spinning and weaving community.  Visit the website, read what we are about, join us for all the fun and educational goodies, find a guild in your community to join.  Are you interested in learning how to spin, weave, dye, knit or do anything with fiber?  SWIFT is the place to find this information.  If you have any questions regarding SWIFT, please do not hesitate to ask.

Indiana has a large and diverse fiber arts community that has been growing by leaps and bounds for several years now.  Recently, while at a local fiber festival, I was amazed and thrilled at how many young people (high school and younger) who were excited about spinning, weaving, knitting, felting and anything that could be created with their hands out of wool, alpaca, flax, silk and other fibers.  That speaks very well for the future of our craft, and I want more than anything to pass the word around for others to get their hands busy doing something so worthwhile.  Entertainment and usefulness all wrapped up in one package!  That describes what we do, love and it describes SWIFT, too!

May 27
Spinning Update
icon1 basicallybenita | icon2 Work-in-progress | icon4 05 27th, 2010| icon37 Comments »

I actually got the chance to sit and spin Saturday evening for about 5 hours before Scott got home.  It was so nice.

I finished spinning this…

And I started spinning this….

And it is looking like this, so far.

Also, I finally got the yarn I call Blackwatch wound off onto my click reel.  This skein is around a pound in weight, and, this weekend, I’ll get the yardage for you.

It is fingering weight, and here it is as compared to a nickel.  It is as beautiful as I thought it was going to be.  And this is the absolute best yarn I have ever spun.  Usually, once it is plied and skeined off, there is still some unbalance to it, but usually not much, maybe a turn.  This baby came off the skein so perfectly balanced that I danced around and made Scott admire it.  He was duly impressed, then went back to work on the computer.  I am so proud of this yarn I want to take it out and show it to everyone I meet.

What am I going to do with it?  I am going to put it up for sale in my shop.   EEEEK!!!  I know!  I really loved spinning this, and if I were to keep it, I know what I’d do with it, but there might be someone out there who wants it even more than I do, so there you are.  It should be up by the end of this weekend.

As for the shop, here is a bit of an update.  I’ll have the rest of the pictures back up tomorrow night.  When my store crashed, it crashed but good.  And this was a good thing!  Really!  Scott ignored how the instructions said was the best way to set it up and set it up in a manner that is both easier to update and view for the customer.  We both win with this one, folks!!

Back to the spinning news.

This yarn is a single and is nearly 8 ounces.  The fiber above it is what I plan to spin to ply it with.  Originally, I had intended to use this as a single, but it really doesn’t want to become what I wanted it to become, and it is winning.  There ain’t nuthin’ worse that pouting yarn.  The fiber that is above it is that wonderful brown Corriedale that Sandy got back from processing back in February.  I bought 8 ounces from her.

I hope to get to spin on tonight night, since Thursday is my designated night of rest.  Then more this weekend after working on the house and getting a couple of looms prepped for the upcoming workshop.  It’s nice to be busy creatively.

May 26

Looky at what came back from being processed!!!

This represents two fleeces from the Corriedale ram named Ulf.  The 2007 fleece is barely darker than the 2008 fleece, but this picture represents both.  Unless you see them side by side, you cannot tell a difference between them.


Ulf’s fleece is lovely, fine  and a light silvery color.  This will be wonderful to spun up for sweaters, scarves, plied with silk for socks, whatever you need fine wool for.  Let me tell you, this is a nice fiber!  I wanted to crawl into the unprocessed fleece and it is much nicer washed.  Also, this should dye very well, which you will get to see more about this summer.  The crimp on these fleeces was very fine, too, as you can see by this picture I took before I sent it off.

This fleece is from a Columbia/Corriedale/Romney X Shetland sheep and is a medium grade and a medium gray in color.  This would be great for sweaters, mittens, vests, and outerwear that needs to be stronger for wear and tear.  Also, the crimp of this is such that it would be an excellent roving on which a beginning spinner can learn.  Also, even though it is a medium gray in color, I think it would be lovely dyed with cochineal, madder, indigo, logwood, alkanet or any color that is darker in value than medium gray.


This fleece is also from a Columbia/Corriedale/Romney X Shetland sheep (a ewe), but it is softer than the one above.  I think it would make a great gansey or fisherman’s sweater as well as mittens and socks.  It is a lovely ivory in color and should take dye very well.  Again, this will be tested this summer.


This last fleece actually belongs to my friend, Sandy, and is from the same cross of sheep as the two above, but this one shows its Shetland side more.  It is a medium would make great yarn for weaving coats, outerwear, vests, mittens, etc.   It, also, should dye very well and its light gray tones should give richer colors than just plain white or cream.  Needless to say, I will be testing its dyeability this summer as well.


Sandy and I have put several bundles of each up in my store, in 4 ounce lots.  And here is what we are offering to you.  If you are interested in any of these fibers for spinning or felting, all you need to do is mail me a SASE and I will send a bit o’the fluff to you so you see what it looks and feels like.  I know I love touching the fiber to make sure it is what I want before purchasing and that is so hard over the internet.  Here’s your chance to touch it.  Email me and I will send you my mailing address to send the SASE to for the sample.  If you want three or four different fiber samples, put two stamps on the SASE.

May 25

I have had so much happen lately, it’s going to take a few days to tell it all.  I wanted to start telling you over the weekend, but our internet computer is starting to wimp out on us (okay, it IS over 10 years old) and just bringing up Photoshop took nearly 5 minutes.  I gave up and let Scott do his magic, but by the time he got the old beast running half-way decent, it was past my bedtime.

Let me start with what happened on Saturday and combine it with a Colors of May post.

Scott and fellow comic book artist, Paul McCall, drive up to Ft. Wayne to attend Summit City Comic Con for the day.  They both had tables in Artists Alley and both did quite well.  This is Summit City’s first year and Scott said they had it set up far nicer then anything he’s seen before. 

While the cat’s away, the mice will play!  Instead of spending the day cleaning on my studio, I played!  With the whole day to myself and not having to worry about what Scott would enjoy (or not enjoy as the case may be) doing, I gave some serious thought as to what I wanted to do.  And it quickly became this!


This particular Kiln Creations is in Noblesville, Indiana, which is only 15 minutes from home.  I have wanted to paint a plate since I heard about it, and Saturday was the day!  Elizabeth, the lady running the place for the day was really nice and we chatted about weaving, gardening, dye plants and Neil Gaiman books while I carefully tried to recreate my logo on a piece of bisqueware.  Luckily, pencil marks disappear when the plate is fired.


I am really pleased with what I did.  I am no painter – shoot, I can barely draw and my art tool of choice is Photoshop – but I think I did a good job for a beginner.  This took about 2 hours to do, and I had so much fun I can hardly wait to do it again.  I think the hardest part is waiting the week for the plate to be fired to see what it looks like done.  The purple and green should be much darker then in the photo and I’ll be curious as to how the sheep will turn out.  Personally, I am really proud of my shuttle!


After I had finished painting, I was hungry (it was 3:30 and I had had breakfast at 6 that morning), so I went to a little shop called Alexander’s, which is also on the square in Noblesville.  They are really known as an ice cream shop, but I got a nice chef salad, then splurged for two pieces of South Bend Chocolate butter toffee covered with milk chocolate.  Yum!!!

From there, I decided I needed to walk off a bit of the candy, so I walked around the square and took pictures of the flowers.


The roses were absolutely beautiful!


The courthouse looked lovely all drenched with sunlight.

 And then I saw something I had never seen before….


 A tree wearing fishnet.  I’m sure it is being shunned by all of the older trees for its “unbecoming” attire, but it stood there proudly, showing off its modern glory.  What do those older trees know about tree-fashion anyway?

When I got home, I walked around the yard and took other pictures of flowers.  Remember this bush that I wacked the heck out of and said that if I had killed it I wasn’t going to be heartbroken?


Well, obviously not only did I not kill it, but it is thriving!!!


It even has flowers on it, which the humming birds will be thankful for.  Of course, I still don’t know what this bush is called.


 And then there are my peony bushes.  I have three different varieties.  First to bloom was this delicately colored white with a slight pink blush to it. 


The second is this wonderful, frothy pink.  It reminds me of a girl’s first prom dress and I think this one is called Strawberry Sherbet (if I am wrong, please correct me on this).  I love this particular variety.

The third one has not bloomed, yet, but it should any day now that we have lots of sunshine and hot, muggy temps.  It will be a deep wine red.

I think these are called Sweet William, but I am not for sure.  Again, please correct me if I am wrong here. 


My purple spirea is blooming, also, and these bushes have grown a lot since last year.  For some reason they have decided to double in size, which is great!

At my office are these sweet little pansies.  I just love the wee money faces on pansies.

That’s it for today!  If you are having the same type of hot (mid to upper 80’s) and muggy weather we are having, try to stay cool.  Also, think of me tonight while I ride around on my tractor mowing my grass for the first time in two weeks tonight.  With all the rain last week, there was no chance to mow it during the week.

May 19

As of right now, I have only two available slots left for the Beginning Weaving Class I am teaching at the Trading Post for Fiber Arts in Pendleton, Indiana on June 18-20.  If you are interested, please contact asap as this class is nearly full. (quick update – only one spot left in this class – 5/20/10)

May 18
Diet Update
icon1 basicallybenita | icon2 Diet and Fitness | icon4 05 18th, 2010| icon37 Comments »

Scott and I have been trying to follow the Eating Clean way of eating (although last week’s vacation didn’t count).  We love the food, the cooking is easy and I have lots of room for experimentation (only one complete failure so far – even I couldn’t eat it and I should be nicknamed “Mikey”!)

So, I thought that since we are supposed to eat lots of fruits and vegetables, I would buy some different things to try out.  This week, I saw that my local grocery store had apple-pears on sale, so I bought two.

As you can see, they are shaped like an apple, look like a pear, and are advertised to have a flavor that combines the two.  Now, I love apples, and I LOVE pears, so I thought this would be a great thing to try.

Boy, was I wrong.  Either the ones I got (and yes, I ate both of them – one yesterday and one today – because I wanted to make sure of what I found) were picked at the wrong time or something went seriously wrong with this batch.  The flavor is not unlike eating textured, slightly crunchy water.  Not even a bit of salt could bring out any flavor in these.  Bleh!  Since I am being careful of my portions, I feel cheated because I wasted approximately 100 calories and have absolutely no satisfaction.

Has anyone else tried these?  If so, what did you think?  Did I just get fruit from a tree that should be cut down and used to warm someone this next winter, or is this how they are supposed to taste?

In a world where so many of us are going back to eating “real” food, flavor is very important.  Heirloom tomatoes taste so much better than the pithy red ones at the grocery store.  Grass-fed beef has more flavor and yogurt made from organic milk from grass-fed cows is heavenly (I love Trader’s Point Creamery).  To waste money and time on something that has no flavor when I could have had something that satisfies both my body and my taste buds should not even be an option.

Other news – I have weighed 163.4 pounds for three weeks, now. (Updated note: 5/19/10 I weighed 161.6!!)  So, my eating basically whatever sounded good last week, coupled with my working my butt off shoveling stone, planting stuff, moving furniture and lugging an umpteen-million bags of books to Half-Price Books didn’t hurt me any.  I know my pants are getting baggier, so I’m losing inches.  Surely all that stone that got spread out with a shovel grew me some arm muscles, right?

I bought the companion cookbook to Tosca Reno’s Eating Clean and I have been trying things out of it.  Would any of you be interested in hearing my opinions on the recipes in this book?  I have tried a couple of them, and will be trying more over the next several weeks.

This week, I’m back to walking every morning and paying close attention to what I am eating.  Since Easter Sunday, I’ve only had sugar twice – once was half a piece of cheesecake at Bravo’s and the other was two pieces of chocolate (one with caramel and one with coconut crème) from Abbott’s on our anniversary.  I don’t want to eat processed sugar at all, but a treat on a 25th anniversary was excusable in my book.

I really want to lose about 5 pounds a month.  If I can do this the rest of this year, I can get down to the place my cardio doctor wants me by the end of the year.  One thing I do know is that I need to kick the exercising up a notch.  Still trying to figure out where to add this into my schedule, though.  I have weights in my car (one-pounders) that I plan to use while walking with my walking buddy here at work (as soon as I no longer need to be holding an umbrella) and I am looking at purchasing a weight vest to use on the treadmill and while I’m working around the house.

So, that is where I stand at the moment.

May 16

My vacation is over.


Today, we drove down to southern Indiana to visit with my parents who are up from Texas for the next week.  After this, they’ll be heading to Branson, Missouri, to manage a campground through October, then it’s back to Texas for them.

The further south you drive in the state of Indiana the hillier it is, the more forests there are, and the poorer it gets.  There are lots of farms, but, unlike central Indiana, a well-off farmer is a rare thing, indeed.  Still it was a beautiful drive.  The tress are all leafed out and it is a very verdant and lush place.

I drove past the 7-acre farm that I lived on from the age of 8 until I graduated from high school.  The current house there replaced the old farmhouse that burned down when I was 13.  The people who own the place, now, graduated from high school with my younger brother and they have done wonders to the place.  Oddly, it seemed smaller than I remembered.

It’s hard to believe I have to set my alarm for 5:00 in the morning when I’ve slept in until at least 7:00 every day for the past nine days.   And I am going to miss Scott very much.  The more time I spend with him, the more time I want to spend with him and I like him more every day.  If any of you are contemplating getting married, let this quarter-century married person give you one piece of advice – marry your best friend.  Life will be lots more fun than otherwise.

May 14

The amount of work Scott and I accomplished yesterday has to be seen to be believed, but we kicked some serious cleaning and organizing butt. Since we got that all done, I was able to start setting up my new sewing area this morning.

The first piece of the puzzle includes a bookcase, an antique secretary referred to in the family as “Bob the Ghost” (long and rather spooky story), my 1945 White sewing machine in the dark table, and some thinking. I have all of Bob the Ghost with his lower shelf, upper shelf (currently occupied by some inanimate friends), large drawer and interior desk portion with all its slots and cubbies to organize, and I have two shelves of the bookcase to clean out and stuff in it to put away (these two shelves will hold the fabric and supplies of “current” projects). These will come as I continue to work on this area. This all happened yesterday as we removed the terrible conglomeration of stuff that was here, which included a heavy, quarter-sawn oak love seat.

Then this morning, I started off with a rug for my chair to roll over and a 48″ X 30″ table that will be a work area for whatever I am working on.

Right now, I think the bottom shelf of Bob the Ghost will be reserved to house my sewing machine when I need the table space to cut out fabric.

Next, I brought my 8 foot long table down from the attic (Scott helped me get it down the stairs and set up – it weighs a ton!) and put it into place.  This table has been in use off and on for many years as a sewing table.

In fact, this next picture will show you why I continue to go back to this table, although you can see it in the above picture, too, if you look at the long edge of the top closest to the camera.

Many years ago, when I volunteered as a costume maker for Conner Prairie, I taped down this measuring tape to help me measure out lengths of fabric for skirts or for bias tape for piping or for whatever I needed it.  It has been a very handy little item over the years for quilts and such, too.

Of course, once you get the tables into place, then it is time to think about where you want your equipment.

I like the idea of my sewing machine being near the corner of the “L” shape so I can use the side table to hold supplies and pieces as I sew.  I knew I wanted my steam press close to the weaving studio so I can use it both to steam finished woven products as well as to press seams open for quilts and clothing that I will be making.

To help you understand where this area is, immediately to the right of these pictures is my weaving studio, which makes this area very handy for all my creative needs.

One thing a sewing room needs is storage drawers for tools and such.

I really need to reorganize what is in these to better fit my new space, but that will give me something to look forward to after work during the upcoming weeks.  In fact, I still have a LOT of tools and supplies upstairs in my room that will need to be brought down and put away.  At this point, the fabric is staying put in my room.  I really enjoy waking up each morning and looking at all the colors, designs and patterns.

I don’t have a chair, yet, for this area, but that’s okay.  I know something will turn up when I need it.  For right now, I’ll just use a kitchen chair while I get everything organized and into place.

It’s not nearly done, but with the infrastructure in place, the rest can be done as I find time to work on it.  I have a list of about 7 projects that all needed this area in order to be done.  Now, I can start to work on that checklist.

At this point, I would love your opinion on something.  Since this sewing area is rather out in the open (I was standing in the kitchen part when I took these pictures), do you think I need to make a table skirt to go around the outside of the L-shaped space?  The only reason I am thinking about it is that it would look nicer from the kitchen area.  Otherwise, the storage drawers and electrical outlets are visible.  Does this bother you?  Making a table skirt wouldn’t be hard.  If I were to make one, I’d probably make it the same reddish brown as the floors in these areas so that it would blend in.  Would that look okay?  Or maybe a dark red or navy blue?

Tomorrow, we have a wedding to go to in the afternoon and we plan to get the library finished in the morning (and a huge load going to Half-Price Books to sell after the wedding).  Sunday, we are visiting with my parents who are up here in Indiana for another week before heading to Branson, Missouri, to manage a campground for the next few months.

Tonight, I’m going to celebrate by sitting at my spinning wheel and finishing that 8 ounce roving of blues, greens and browns.  Then I can get the twist set on both it (I’m leaving this as a single for weaving purposes) and the blue and green yarn I plied a while back.

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