Jan 28

For those of you who still have dial-up, let me warn you this is going to be a picture-heavy post.

This past weekend was our annual spinning retreat at Lindenwood Retreat Center in Donaldson, Indiana.  As you can well imagine, there are several of us who live for and dream about this weekend all the rest of the year.  Basically, about 48 hours of no responsibilities and nothing more on the schedule than spin, talk, share, eat, and occasionally sleep.


This is the view from our window this year.  Too much snow to walk outside, but it was lovely to look at.


I never get tired of this dining room we have been assigned to for the last few years.  I love the brick and wood walls and view from here of part of the mother house.


This is two photos connected showing the huge, lovely room we are lucky enough to get as well as all of the spinners in our huge circle.  “Will the Circle be Unbroken” always comes to my mind when I see this group together.  We are an unbroken circle.  People may leave, new people may join, some get older and some seem to get younger, but this circle of spinning wheels that binds us all together can be best symbolized by the spinning wheel itself –  Spinning to create something beautiful and useful from raw materials, which then go one to be turned into other beautiful and useful things.  Forever changing, forever staying the same.  I love what we do.


I like this composite shot.  One of the group, and one of the group as reflected in the glass of the one wall.  Instead of Alice Through the Looking-Glass, it’s Spinning Reflections.

The main reasons we all come together are the fellowship and sharing with one another.  After that comes the fiber and the creating.


Kathy with her scrap blanket.  This was knitted using left over handspun from many projects.  Nothing is ever wasted and all can be made into something beautiful.


Kate is a designer, spinner, dyer and knitter extraordinaire.  The purse graced the cover of the Spring 2012 issue of Spin-Off Magazine and the pattern for the mittens will soon be for sale – I’ll let you know when because I want this pattern, too.


Susan’s shawl that she spun the yarn for and knitted on her trip to Estonia with Nancy Bush.


Pat’s scarf was studied very closely and the link to the pattern shared.  Isn’t it beautiful!!


Pat’s jacket was a hit as well.


Sister Nancy of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ (the convent at Lindenwood) and the sweater her mother knitted for her.  Sister Nancy joined us for spinning Friday evening and Saturday evening and we all loved having her with us.  She is spinning yarn to make another sweater like this one, only longer.


Kelly’s sweater was the inspiration for Sister Nancy’s sweater.


This triangle woven shawl won 2nd place at the Indiana State Fair.  For those of you in the Fiber Binder Club, the browns in it are the same llama as Month 4.

One of the items I chose from the door-prize table was a sweet little lamb whom I named Robbie.  He was rescued from a thrift store, given a bath and a new ribbon and brought to the retreat looking for a new home.  That new home is with me!


Robbie wanted to spin so badly.  I mean, if anyone should know wool, it should a sheep, and he loved to touch what Sister Nancy was spinning.


So, I decided to teach Robbie how to spin.  He loved the feel of the soft wool (merino in this case) as it flowed through his hooves,…


…and soon he was spinning away all on his own.

Robbie wasn’t the only mascot there this year.


Carol also adopted a new fiber friend from the door-prize table.  This wee fellow loved the vibration of the spinning wheel going around and around and wouldn’t let go.


And Kelly had a friend as well, but I believe her companion came with her.

And then there was the fiber.


We brought 8 bags of processed fleeces along with our tie-dye items and Fiber Binder Club binders.  When we left, we had 6 bags of fiber, and a couple of them were pretty depleted.  I found it interesting that everyone wanted the gray wool the most, and that bag was gone before the end of Friday night.  It was a lovely gray Corriedale from a ewe named Ashley and it is destined to become a sweater.  I think we could have sold three such bags had we had them.  Also, we sold a lot of top and roving from a Corriedale named Ukulele (brown) as well as the black Fresian we brought.  The funny this is that we sold none of the white we had brought.  For a while, all that was sold was white or dyed, but now it seems that naturally colored wool is what people want, and especially gray.  It’s a good thing that quite a bit of what we took to Zeilinger’s is gray, huh?


Susan of The Trading Post for Fiber Arts brought lots of spinning fiber as well.  Where Sandy and I sell basic wool from local shepherds, Susan sells the luxury stuff.  Cashmere, Yak/silk blends, Merino/Silk blends, and BFL/silk just to name a few.  Sandy and I bought a couple of ounces of pure cashmere to test spin.


People were spinning the pretty fibers.  The 2nd from the left on the top row is Sandy’s first attempt at Navajo plying.  Yes, what you are looking at it three-ply.  Wow!


I bought a new shawl pin for my madder gradation shawl.  This pottery pin was made by fellow attendee (and Fiber Binder Club member) Shirley Wigman as was the one on Sister Nancy’s sweater.

Speaking of Sister Nancy, she works with the Moontree Studios that was showcasing some of the most beautiful pottery I have ever seen.



This is one of the pieces and if you look into the mirror beneath the piece, you can see that the underside is just as detailed as the top is.  Simply stunning.  I am in awe of her work.


This is the Oma drum made by Sister Mary.  She burned out a maple log that was cut on the convent property and stretched an elk hide across it.


This tells a bit about the Oma drum, but Sister Nancy told even more about it.  I wished I lived closer to there because their community is wonderful and holistic.  So peaceful and full of God’s love.

Now, I need to tell a little story on my new lamb, Robbie.  I think being with that thrift store crowd had a bad effect on him.  I don’t know about the other stuffed animals there, but there must have been some bad characters who taught Robbie some bad habits.  When I went to bed Saturday night, I had Robbie tucked in with the towel that Carol hand-wove for me.  When I came back into the room Sunday morning, this is what I found.


That was Susan’s bottle of Baileys and there was very little left of it.  Robbie didn’t wake back up until I got home at 4:30 last night.  So, he is now with some of my older and wiser sheep where he can have a steadying influence and they can keep an eye on him.  Thank heavens Scott and I aren’t drinkers, but I am going to have to hide the bottle of Grand Marnier that Sandy keeps at our house to “help” per prepare for long dye sessions.  She needs it far more than Robbie does.


This is my car packed to go home.  Not the fullest it has ever been, but we had an added item going home.


Can you see the chair that is in there?  A couple of people (two sisters named Nancy and Megan) brought some old shoe store chairs to see if anyone wanted them.  They are taller than normal chairs and Sandy found one that was perfect for her as a spinning chair.  So it came home with her.

It was a great weekend!

Jan 23

My dad lives near Harlingen, Texas.  For the past several years, he (with Mom) has traveled all over the southwest and northwest of the US playing bluegrass music on his 5-string banjo.  In the winter, in Harlingen, he plays about 6 days a week for different places, sometimes twice a day.  Music has been a passion of his since he was a teenager, and I grew up in a family with lots of music.  Dad can play the piano, guitar, mandolin and banjo, both tenor (4-string) and the 5-string.  His cousins play as well, and family reunions and wedding receptions were filled with music jams.

Yesterday, Dad, and the group he plays with a couple of times a month, made the local news.

If you click on the local news link, you’ll see the segment.  Dad is the banjo player and he is wearing a black cowboy hat and a dark blue shirt.  He gets a couple of close-ups and a quick solo.  Needless to say, when Dad called last night to tell us about it and how to find the segment on the internet, he was pretty excited.

I am so proud of Dad.  I do wish Mom could have enjoyed it with him, but I believe that she is clapping for him from heaven.


Jan 21

Sandy and I are gearing up for the spinning retreat, our, sort of, first show of the season.  We’ll take all of the tie-dye we have, plus lots and lots of spinning fiber for sale.

I have a lovely chocolate brown merino I am spinning up and that is what I plan to work on all weekend.  If I can finally fill the first bobbin, I’ll begin plying it with the multi-colored merino I spun off and on over the past year or so.  I have more of the multi-colored merino to spin up, too.  In fact, I am hoping I’ll get about 2 pounds of 2-play yarn out of this to weave up.  Actually, what I need is another pound of the brown merino to spin up and ply with itself in order to weave the pattern I want to weave.  Hmmm…  I need to get to spinning!

Tax season is in full swing, too.  It’s a busy time of year.

Jan 17

Have I ever mentioned that I have a private book shopper?  I do!  It’s my SIL, Missy (Scott’s sister), and she works at Half Price Books.

A year or so ago (may be longer knowing how my memory works), she found this book for me.

I have read most of this book and love the history behind the fabrics.

Well, she has done it, again.

This book is part history lesson on coverlets and the ladies who wove them (Tennessee in the late 1800 for most of them), part pattern book, and part “how-to” book.  Altogether, it is a gem for someone who has been wanting to weave overshot.  In fact, the way this book explains it is the easiest to understand that I have ever seen.  Too bad it is out of print, because it is a treasure!

I pulled it into bed with me last night (it must weigh 10 pounds!) and began reading it.  Not only am I studying the pictures and the patterns, but reading about the history of the people behind them.  It makes me want to dig into my own genealogy again.  Also, it makes me want to get a loom warped up so I can try some of the patterns.  I have lots and lots of 10/2 cotton (2-ply not the singles that nearly all of the coverlets in the book has been woven with) and lots of naturally dyed Shetland yarn that would work nicely in samplers.

Oh, Lord!  I’d almost give my eye teeth to have more time to weave!  And, of course, I would get this urge at the beginning of tax season!

Jan 13

Sandy and I knew the day was coming, and we have been looking forward to it.  We have been buying fleeces, both for the Fiber Binder Club and for sale on Dyed in the Wool and at the various shows we are doing this summer, but we needed to get those fleeces processed.  Shipping this many fleeces would have been a bit cost prohibitive, so we decided to drive them up to Zeilinger Wool Company and deliver them – and make a day of it up there as well.

Kris LeMar, a wonderful and rather new friend of ours (we have purchased several Shetland fleeces from her and it is her I am teaching sock knitting), was asked if she wanted to take some of her own fleeces up there when we went.  She jumped at the chance, and we loaded up Bettie, my PT Cruiser, and headed out at 6:00 yesterday morning.

It is a nearly 5-hour drive up there, so we arrived at about 11:00.

And this sign was a welcome sight, especially to Sandy and Kris.  Let me show you why.

Sandy and Kris got to know each other very well on that long drive north .  🙂

The only reason why the passenger seat wasn’t full was so I could see out the side mirror since I had no view out the back nor could Sandy help with the passenger side of the car.  All said and done, there was about 135 pounds of raw fleeces in that car – 125.66 pounds of it for Sandy and I.  Folks, that’s a lot of dirty wool.  I did try to confine any ram fleeces to the very back so Sandy and Kris wouldn’t get asphyxiated on the trip up.

The first thing we did was get all of our fleeces sorted, organized and written up.

And, in case you were wondering, we are planning to drive back up there to pick them up.  The cost of the gasoline is far less (about half) than the shipping costs would be.  As old as Bettie is (210,000+ miles), she still gets pretty good gas mileage.

While we were there, Kathy Zeilinger gave us a tour.  Let me begin the tour by saying Kathy is one of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet.  You can tell, even after all of these years, she loves what she does.

Let’s start at the beginning – with washing the dirty fleeces that come in.

The gentleman in charge of washing the fleeces fills the tubs up with 180 degree water and adds in a commercial-strength degreaser.  Then he uses that potato fork to lift the fleeces out of the washing tubs and into crates with lots of holes in them, places them over drains in the floor and rinses the fleeces there.  Can you imagine how heavy an entire, wet fleece weighs lifting it out of the washing water?  Who needs a gym if you work here?

More of the washing room.  I drooled over that stainless-steel washing tub.  Can you imagine that as an indigo vat?  In the corner is a machine that spins out all of the water.  It’s going pretty fast here, but was slowing down.

Here is a closer look at that machine.  Like a huge washing machine, but just for spinning out the water.  I set my camera on the fastest speed in order to get this  shot, and it still shows action blur.

From there, the fleeces head upstairs to the drying room.  Each fleece is tagged when it comes in and the organization of this place amazes me.  You have to be well-organized in order to keep track of each of the thousands of fleeces they process each year.

Also, in the drying room, are their sock-knitting machines.  These machines can knit a pair of socks in 90 seconds.  Not one sock, but the entire pair in that time.  Boggles the mind!

This is a bucket of just-knitted socks standing in front of one of the knitting machines.

From there, the unfinished socks go into the next room to have the toes sewn shut.  After that, the socks get washed and are tagged and ready for sale.  Kathy said they sell lots and lots of wool socks and this part of the business is always pretty busy.

Th other 90% of the room where the socks are finished is dedicated to making quilts and comforters.  Also, batts are tacked with high-quality cotton cheese cloth all ready for duvet cover.

For some reason, I felt really at home in this room.  Racks of fabric, quilt frames, quilts on the walls, lots of natural lighting…  Yes, I really liked this room and could have happily moved in and gotten to work.

Other services Zeilinger’s does is washing wool-filled comforters and taking old wool filling out, re-fluffing it and making new covers for them.  She said you can save about 60% by having old comforters redone this way.

From there, we’ll head back downstairs.


This is the carding room where they make the roving and batts.  The machine at the far right is the oldest.  It was built in 1895.  The one closest to us is the “baby” having been built in 1933.  They sure made machines to last back then, and they are very well cared for and maintained. Only white wool is processed in this building.  Colored wool has a different building, but we didn’t get to tour that building because the machines were being serviced and she didn’t want to disturb the technicians.  I can’t say I blame her.  These machines look like they would take concentration to work on.

In a different building, they make the yarn for the socks and for people who want their fleeces pre-spun into yarn for them.

There is a lot happening in this room.  The wool in the bags are waiting their turn at being turned into yarn.

The carder here turns the wool into very thin layers of batting.

This thin batting, in turn, gets separated up into the thin belts, which feds the thin strips into the machine.

This machine “rubs” the thin strips together into pencil roving, which is wound onto huge bobbins.

These huge bobbins, in fact.  Each bobbin hold the pencil roving for one customer, so there is no mixing things up.  Like I said, these people are organized!

From there, the pencil roving goes over to be spun into singles.  This machine does that and places the singles onto the giant spools.

Here is a close up of partially filled spools of singles.

The singles are then coned, and

send to another machine that plies two singles together.  There is another machine beyond this one for three-ply yarns.

Once the yarn has been plied, then the spools are sent into a steamer to set the twist.

The yarn not being turned into socks is then skeined up on this yarn winder and made ready to either send to the customer or go out into the shop for sale.

And that is a quick tour of the place.  We found it all fascinating.  Knowing what all our fleeces will go through before they come home to us has made us very appreciative of what these people do.  It is all rather labor intensive, but so necessary to us smaller users of spinning fibers.

After we left Zeilinger’s, we went to a restaurant recommended by Kathy Zeilinger.

I can see why she loves this place.  The food was wonderful – especially their soup of the day, lentil with sweet sausage.  Really hit the spot because we were all pretty hungry when we left.

And who can go to Frankenmuth without visiting Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland.  I finally found the nativity set that I have been looking for, but it was beyond my price range for the time being.  Maybe I can save my money up and get it when Sandy and I return to pick up the processed fleeces.

And here we are, all tired and hungry after our long day.  The nice manager at the Cracker Barrel just down the road offered to take our picture together and we thanked him for it.  As you can see, we made sure Kris fit in with the theme of the day.

It was a very long day, starting at 6 AM and ended at midnight when we dropped Kris off to where her car was parked for the day.  It was nearly 1 AM before I got to bed, but it was so worth it.  We all learned so much about how our raw fleeces get turned into the pretty top and roving we sell.  Can’t wait to get them back!!

Jan 11

I don’t want to jinx anything, but I think Sandy, another friend, Kris, and I are taking a road trip tomorrow.  The only hints I’ll give are: It’s about 5 hours north of here and it involves wool.

Don’t worry, I’ll make sure the camera is fully charged.  This is going to be fun!

Jan 9

Last night was the monthly class I teach at Starstruck Cat Studios in Greenwood.  I had three students last night and we had a lot of fun.

Let’s start with Debbie.  Debbie has been in my class fro several months now, spinning on a drop spindle.  Well, her husband bought her a spinning wheel for Christmas, an Ashford Kiwi, and she brought it in last night.  I sat down with it, did some tweaking on it, oiled it up really well, and got her going.  I started her with drafting and feeding the single into the wheel.  Learning to “let go” of the yarn and let the wheel wind it onto the bobbin took a little concentration on her part, so I sat at her feet and did the treadling part with my hands so she could concentrate on her own hands.  Then, once she was feeling more comfortable about that, I had her place her feet on the treadles, but not actually treadle yet.  I wanted her to get the rhythm of treadling while still concentrating on her hands.  Once she felt comfortable with that, I told her to begin treadling.  I still kept my hands on the treadles for a while, helping when her feet faltered, but soon, she was off on her own.

We had to place her wheel against a wall because the slickness of the floor made her spinning wheel scoot away from her at every push on the treadles.  I told her to go to Target or someplace like that to get those little rubberized mats that people put in the dish cabinets and to sit the wheel on that so it won’t walk away from her.  But, you can see from the photo above, that she accomplished quite a bit for her first night spinning on a wheel.  And her enthusiasm is so infectious.  She was practically dancing when the class was over.

Caeli, my oldest and youngest student (she’s been with me since the beginning of these classes) worked more on her Polworth/angora bunny blended yarn.  We had to do a little tweaking on her wheel, mostly adding oil to it.  I showed her where she was starting to cause wear on the bobbin shaft where the metal was rubbing on metal.  Also, I explained to her and Debbie the “grooves” on the wheel and the flyer and how adjusting the drive band on these can change the ratios of spinning and the results of each.  Caeli had been given homework the last class, which she said she got done, but she misplaced the sheets and would bring them next time.  But look at that lovely yarn on the bobbin.  The blending of the angora with the fine wool is going to make a lovely scarf.  I can hardly wait to see it because that angora is going to give a sweet halo to the yarn.

The third student was Brenda.  Brenda has been with me nearly as long as Caeli.  She did bring her homework with her.  She had three out of the four parts done, but hadn’t had enough of the same wool to complete the fourth one, so I sent her home with more of it, plus about 4 ounces of a sweet merino for her to work with.

Sample and swatch with singles.

Sample and swatch with a two-ply yarn.

and Sample and swatch with a three-ply (Navajo ply).

The three samples taught so much.  The swatch knit with singles was light and airy – perfect for something lacy.  The 2-ply would make a great sweater and the three-ply would make a good sweater-coat.  Brenda said she was surprised at how heavy a fabric the three-ply was.

And I have to admit, I enjoy watching Brenda spin.  She has a graceful fluidity of motion that is just beautiful.  Her yarn is fine and consistent and will knit up into something beautiful.  I’d really like to see Brenda spin up enough for a sweater vest, one where she plans out the pattern, knits swatches to find what works for stitch definition and calculate how many yards she will need.    We discussed this last night and she seemed to be open to the idea.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed.


Jan 8
icon1 basicallybenita | icon2 A Little of This, A Little of That | icon4 01 8th, 2013| icon3No Comments »


I’d like to know the answer to that question, myself.  🙂

Jan 7

It’s year-end again, and you know what that means?  Lots and lots of extra hours at the office.  In fact, I put in 9.5 hours on Saturday, and I still have a great, wonkin’ stack of stuff to catch up on.

I do have some fun stuff coming up, but for right now, I’ll be over here with the Excel spreadsheets…

Jan 2
I came this close…
icon1 basicallybenita | icon2 Work-in-progress | icon4 01 2nd, 2013| icon33 Comments »

Yesterday, being a bonus day off work and the beginning of the new year, I was determined to do no work.  I just wanted to do something I have been wanting to do but hadn’t had the time.  That was get my loom threaded at a minimum, and the warp wound on and ready to weave if I could.

I still had 300 ends to thread, so I sat down and began.  After each 100 end bout, I stopped, checked to make sure I had no threading errors, and tied them in a slip knot to protect what was done once I was sure it was correct.

When I got the last bout done, and had the reed all full, I started checking the last 100 ends.

Let’s see, they should start with 2-1-2-3-4-3-2-1…

Instead, they started with 2-1-1-2-2.  Nowhere in my threading do 2 harness 1’s go together, or 2 harness 2’s.  So the last 98 ends of this bout need to be pulled, recrossed, and rethreaded.  At that point, I decided that I was neither in the mood to do this, nor did I have enough good light left from the day to see it all properly to rethread it.

Tonight, after I get off work, and take a load of movies to Half Price Books to sell, I’ll get the 98 threads pulled and recrossed.  I’m going to use one of my 3-yard warping boards to help me preserve my cross.  It will be tomorrow night before I can rethread those 98 ends, but once they are done, I can ask Scott’s assistance to get the 10 yard warp wound into place.  I’m going to try something different this time.  I am going to use lease sticks in front of the reed to help smooth the 10/2 ends while I wind on.  This is unmercerized cotton, and sticky enough to create lots of tangles if we aren’t careful.

So, how did you spend your New Year’s Day?

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