Apr 27

Beginning yesterday, we have had Judith McKenzie here teaching a workshop with our own local spinning and knitting maven, Kate Larson.

It is Sandy’s turn to take a class, but, last night, Judith gave a talk about judging and choosing fleeces and those who were not in the class were invited to join come to listen and learn.  Needless to say, I was there.


This is a sweet Jacob fleece that Judith loved and reviewed very thoroughly.  We got to think of Jacobs in a different light, that as lawn ornaments in English manor gardens where they liked having exotic animals grazing to add interest, and how hard it is to shear Jacob sheep, especially the ones with 4 or 6 horns.  I had never thought of having to be careful of those horns sticking out 3 feet and not getting impaled on them while shearing the animal.


This is a primitive Shetland fleece, incidentally one of my favorite types of fleeces.  The soft, downy undercoat can be worn next to the skin, and the wiry outer-coat weaves up into beautiful, long-wearing fabric.  The next time I get a dual-coated Shetland, I am going to separate the two coats and spin up the outer coat for something woven.


Like this.  This plaid was worsted spun and woven from naturally colored Shetland outer coat and was quite lovely to look at.  Personally, I would love a skirt and vest from this fabric.  I could wear it the rest of my life and pass it down to another generation when I was done with it.


One of the things we all love so much about Judith is her knowledge and enthusiasm for wool.  And she imparts that knowledge freely.  We learned about rueing lines on fleeces, copper deficiency and how it affects the fleece, scurs and how ugly that can get, and why some animals should be eaten and not used to produce wool.  Sandy and I know more on how to judge fleeces, although a lot of what we have been doing has been right, thank heavens.  The more we learn, though, the better we will be.  What I’d really like to do though is to take some kind of wool judging and classing workshops and classes so that I can learn even more.  And I’m pretty sure Sandy will be right there along side me learning as well.

Now, let’s talk about Kate Larson.  Several years ago, at the first spinning and knitting workshop I ever took with Judith McKenzie and Nancy Bush, Judith told me and a couple of other people to keep an eye on Kate; that Kate was destined to be on the the “great” spinners.  And Judith was right.  Not only does Kate spin beautiful yarn, she is an exquisite hand at knitting and designing knitwear.  As I show you the following pictures, you will recognize several items that you have seen in many magazines like Spin-Off and Interweave Knits.


This purse, for example was on the front of a recent issue of Spin-Off magazine.


Kate’s color sense is always spot-on.  She knows how to blend and match colors in ways I would never have thought – and it works!


And guess what!  She samples and makes swatches all the time.  I have seen her produce a swatch in an evening after classes (like at SOAR) and the next thing you know, that swatch, or one with a slight alteration in it to better fit her design, is a hat or a mitten or a sweater.


And speaking of sweaters!  I have seen her wear this one quite often and it amazes me every time.


Again, I am in awe of her talent and skill.

If you get the chance to take a class taught by Kate Larson, please take it.  I love teaching and am good at it, but Kate is better by far.  I have been lucky enough to learn from her myself and always come away with a better understanding of what it is I want to do.

Apr 22

A big box arrived via UPS this morning and it bulged at the sides.  I was pretty sure I knew what it was, but seeing the return address confirmed it – Fleeces!!!


This are two Perendale/Cheviot cross fleeces that we are going to have processed and test spin.  But the first glance at it made me smile.


Look at that  nice, white cut end.  Look at that soft crimp.  It feels springy.  It is strong.  The first handful had very little vegetation in it and no second cuts.  If the weather cooperates this weekend, I’ll pull them out of the shipping box and get them skirted and bagged up for a trip north for processing.  At that point, I’ll know more about them other that what my first glance hints to me.   I may have to wash a handful of it just to play with it because I’m not sure I can wait until this fall.  If this washes as white as I think it should, and spins as well as I think it should, then maybe I’ll let you know where it came from.

Or maybe I’ll just tell her to send me the rest of them. 

Apr 21

The weather in parts of Indiana has been pretty brutal lately.  Parts of the state got 4-6 inches of rain Thursday and Thursday night and the flooding has been really bad.  Boone and Tipton Counties northwest of Indianapolis have been particularly hard hit, but they aren’t the only areas to suffer flooding.  Driving southwest of Indianapolis to Greencastle, Indiana, on I-70, I saw fields flooded like I have never seen before.  I was able to take some pictures on the way back to Indianapolis Friday late afternoon, and again Saturday morning going back to The Fiber Event.




What you are looking at here was taken Friday.  The deep divide between the interstate sides in this area are completely filled with water, and beyond the other side of the interstate, there is water as far as the eye can see.  Folks, this is not a lake you are seeing, but farm fields, and the water was deep enough that there were little whitecaps as the wind blew across it.  Mill Creek, as one example, was completely out of it banks and there was no way that small creek could handle that amount of water.




And it went on for miles.  I spoke with a shepherd friend yesterday (Robin who owns the East Fresians that is part of the Fiber Binder Club) and she told about a gentleman trying to get to her house Friday to pick up some of her ewes that she had for sale, and he kept running into roads blocked with water and kept calling her to find another way to her house.  He was supposed to be there at noon, and it was 6:30 before he could get there.


By the time we left the Fiber Event around 4 yesterday (Saturday) afternoon, the flooding had started to recede, and some of the fields were starting to look like fields once again, but there was still lots and lots of standing water everywhere.


It is understood, that no matter how nice the weather is before or after, the weekend of The Fiber Event will have rain, cold temperatures and, probably, snow.  Thursday was around 80 degrees, and it was in the 30’s on Friday.  Yesterday, the sun came out and it was in the 30’s and 40’s.  Still cold, though.  We woke up yesterday morning to see snow laying on the ground in sheltered areas.  One thing that will never bore you in Indiana is the weather, that is for sure!


Now to get to the main subject of this blog post – The Fiber Event!


This is a very well run fiber show and there are vendors from all over.  Also, there are lots of people selling raw fleeces, which is like a drug to some of us hand spinners.  In fact, our friend, Robin Jones of Knuckle-Heads Farm as mentioned above, has 75 sheep and has already sold all of her fleeces.  Besides East Fresian, she has Lincolns, too.  Ruth and Alison of Westfield Woolies brought their absolutely wonderful Cormo, Border Leicester and cross fleeces as well as some Cormo top and they were selling things left and right.  If anyone wants a lovely Cormo fleece that will wash up to be bright white and as soft as can be, get in touch with Ruth and say you want Jack’s fleece if it is still available.  If Sandy and I hadn’t already spent our allotment of fleece money for the day and didn’t have dibs on everything she is taking to the state fair this year, Jack’s fleece would have come home with us.  It is everything you want in a Cormo fleece.


Friday, I bought a 6 lb Romeldale fleece (black) for the Fiber Binder Club.  When I walked past Cascade Farm’s booth (they always bring lots of lovely fleeces), this particular fleece caught my eye.  Lovely, fine crimp, deep black, and very strong, it yelled out my name and I bought it for the Fiber Binder Club.  You members have something to look forward in this, let me tell you!!!


While at the fair, I ran into lots and lots of people I know and got and gave lots and lots of hugs.  One person I really enjoyed running into was Liz, whom I taught to spin a couple of years ago.  Since then, she has quit her job, moved to Bloomington and is studying archeology and anthropology with an emphasis in prehistoric textiles. I am a little green with envy on that, because I find that subject very fascinating and I cannot wait to hear more about what she has learned.


She and a friend with her mentioned seeing a fleece they thought was special, and they lead me to Cascade Farm’s booth to show me a gorgeous, shiny, silver-gray Border Leicester fleece.  She wanted my opinion on it, so I tested it for strength, checked it for vegetation (none), second cuts (none), and the consistency of the fleece (perfect).  The price was very good, so I told her she ought to get it.  Since she is now on a student’s budget, it was a hard decision for her, but I told her I would help her wash it and show her how to flick open the locks and spin it and she caved.




Here she is with her prize.  Look at that fleece!  And, yes, Liz is talking, but that is pretty normal, and she and I don’t shut up when we get around one another.  I can hardly wait to show get her going with this fleece.


Also, on Friday afternoon, I met up with Sara Dunham of Punkin’s Patch and picked up Graham’s fleece.  That big BFL boy makes a beautiful fleece and I have it ear-marked for the Fiber Binder Club as well.  It’s just too pretty not to share it.


Another fleece I came home with is a newly developing breed called Dor Galen, which is a cross between Horned Dorset and Scottish Blackface.  Dave and Loraine Haxton are developing this breed and the fleece I have is a yearling fleece from their third generation.  It is going to be a pleasure to wash it up and test spin.  Also, I want to test it in knitting, weaving and see how it takes color.  And what does Dor Galen stand for?  Well, it is Elvish for Green Acres.  I love it and it cracked me up!!!


Yesterday, Sandy and I saw the fleeces being readied for judging and we saw a couple of fleeces that we were interested in.  One was a lovely gray Romney with a great sheen on it and a nice, even crimp structure.  Sandy also fell in love with a carmel-colored Shetland lamb fleece and we both drooled over a bright-white Shetland fleece.  The judge introduced herself (she usually judges at NAILE (North American International Livestock Exposition) in Lousiville, Kentucky)) so getting her to judge here was great!


judging romney


She went over each fleece carefully and here she is judging the Romney I wanted.  Not all of the fleeces were for sale, but this Romney was.


Sandy and I watched her judge all of the fleeces, taking in what she said about them all, and learning as much as we could.  At this point, Sandy and I are pretty good judges of the breeds we know best, but there are many more breeds out there we haven’t come in contact with, yet, and the more we learn, the better at buying we will be.


2nd place Romney


In the end, the three fleeces we liked all came in second place (I liked the Romney that came in first, but it wasn’t the color I was looking for) and


judging sheet romney


the Romney I liked came in a close second with 55 out of 60 possible points awarded to it.  It was owned by 3L&S Farms, and is from a ewe called Blackout.  So, I went to their booth and bought it from them.  We dropped it off at Ohio Valley Fiber Mill while we were there for processing and will pick it up at the Kentucky Sheep & Fiber Festival next month.  We usually send all of our stuff to Zeilinger’s, but we wanted to see what Ohio Valley could do with it for comparison.


The Shetland lamb fleece that Sandy wanted was going to listed for bidding to be sold to the highest bidder, so Sandy didn’t feel she wanted to deal with that, and the bright-white Shetland fleece wasn’t for sale.


When Sandy and I left the fair for the day and were driving back to I-70 to head back to Indianapolis, we saw this:




This is in front of City Hall and we had to get pictures of it and check it out.  It is a combination of knitting and crocheting and the rainbow of colors were awesome!







I loved how they worked around the shaped of the trucks of this magnolia tree.


night stockings


And they left their calling card.  What fun!!!


Our next show is the Kentucky Sheep & Fiber Festival on May 18th and 19th and we will be there as vendors.  As much fun as these things are, I am really looking forward to it.


Apr 19
Short Road Trip X 2
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This afternoon, I am driving down to The Fiber Event in Greencastle, Indiana, to meet up with Sara (aka thecrazysheeplady) to get Graham’s fleece from her.  I fell in love with that boy when Sandy and I were down there, and having his fleece means I have a bit of him in my life permanently.  I don’t know, yet, what I am going to do with his fleece, but I am pretty sure it will mean several natural dye pots over some fires and lots of color.  Maybe a rainbow sweater, or a woven bit of fabric to make something from.  We’ll see what it tells me it wants to become.

Tomorrow, Sandy and I will be back at The Fiber Event, and we plan to arrive at 10:00.  We will be looking for fleeces for The Fiber Binder Club, and will be taking around some of my spinning students to discuss fleeces in view of purchasing with them.  At least tomorrow is promising to be sunny, if still a cool 53 degrees.  I can handle the temps, but will love that sunshine.

If you see Sandy and I running around (we will be wearing T-shirts with our Dyed in the Wool logo on them), please come up and say hello.  We’d love to meet you.

Apr 17

I am doing some colorwork sock designs.  The designs call for either 4 or 5 colors (most 4, but 1, so far, has 5).  I realize this may seem like a lot of yarn to buy, but you should have enough to make two pairs with some yarn left over.  Also, some of the designs share colors, so you can use left overs for a different pair of socks.

Does this seem reasonable to you?

Also, I am considering creating mittens and/or glove patterns in the same series to match the socks, and this would use up the extra yarn, too.  In fact, I believe you could easily get a pair of gloves and a pair of socks out of the four 50 gram skeins.  Would this make it even more attractive to you as the knitter?

What about hats to match?

Designing these, working out the math, and playing around with colors have been very interesting to me, and the opportunity to do even more would be great, so it’s not like a “Gee, I have to…” but more like a “Cool, I get to…” type of thing.  In fact, my brain is finding it pretty enjoyable.  I work with numbers all day, but the math behind the designs is different (and do not contain the terms “debit” or “credit”) and I find it stimulating and relaxing at the same time.

So, what I am asking you is this.  Would you like matching patterns for socks, gloves/mittens and hats?  What about scarves?  Would weaving in all those ends make it too tedious?  I know how I feel about things, but I do not consider myself to be normal in the least, so I am turning to you to help me decide how far I should go.

What do you think?

If no one else has any opinions, I am going to continue what I am doing and see how far I can take it.  Wish me luck!


Apr 16

Last night was the first night of my newest class on beginning sock knitting.  Of course, the hardest part of sock knitting is getting started, especially if you haven’t worked much (or at all) with double-point needles, and, for three of them, learning a new cast on slowed them down a bit.  But by the end of the evening, one was working on the leg of her first sock, and the other three were close to getting their cuff finished.

Like the last class, their homework is to get through the heel flap by next Monday night.  I think they’ll do just fine.  They’re far enough along to be in the easier to knit part.

Cheryl guess right on the projects I have been designing – they are socks, but like no socks you have ever seen before.  This is a series of socks, and there will be seven in this series in total.  I have the designs for three out of the seven complete, two are in the works, and two are in the “thinking it through” stage.  I am having so much fun with these.  And wish me luck.  I’m going to try to get them published.

Apr 15
Last Day!!
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After today, the only taxes I have to worry about are my own.  One more K-1 to receive and I don’t have to think about them at all for another 9 months.

Lord, please just get me through the rest of the day so I can have the pleasure of teaching tonight.


Apr 14

I have been working on secret projects over here.  One is completely done and ready to go, but I can’t show it to you, yet.

Another one has been test knit by me, but not by anyone else.  It’ll be sent off in a bit (once I get the pattern finalized) to my test knitter.

A third is about to begin the test knit stage by me tomorrow or Tuesday. It depends on how tomorrow goes (April 15th, you know – that’s tax return deadline day for those of you outside the US), and I will be teaching tomorrow night.

Let’s just say, I am really enjoying what I am designing, and keeping secrets is very hard on me – I want to show you guys so bad – but I can’t.

I can only give you a hint – A journey begins with a single step.

But, I believe you are going to love the journey!!!

Apr 10

Last night was the spinning class I teach on a monthly basis and I had five students, including two new ones.  One of my semi-regular students couldn’t get off work in time, which is too bad because I have a Crosspatch Creations batt for her to try.  This particular student isn’t interested in smooth, fine yarns, instead she is interested in spinning more arty yarns with lots of texture.  Crosspatch Creations’ batts are the perfect next step for her, I believe.

Let’s start with the first new student to arrive last night.


This is Tammy.  She started with a spindle, but she is interested in getting a wheel eventually.  She picked up spinning pretty quickly, and left with nearly half a pound of wool (part from me and part from what she bought at the store).  Before she left, I think she must have said “See you next week!” because the next thing I hear is “I have to wait a whole month?”

Actually, she is one of the people who are meeting up with Sandy and I in Greencastle on the 20th and we will help her pick out more fiber to spin.


This second new student is Stephanie from the sock knitting class – and, yes, she is barefooted.  Actually, she is working on the mate to the sock she finished in class, but it isn’t done, yet.

This is the first time I have had the chance to work with a Babe spinning wheel, and I had to do some figuring out on it.  For one, the brake is completely different than anything I have ever seen before.  I guess you can call it a sort of Scotch tension, but it is a leather thong that fits over the orifice tube and has velcro on each end with velcro on the mother-of-all to affix it to.  The tighter you need the break, the tighter you pull the leather thong down onto the orifice tube.  Different, but it seemed to work just fine.

Look at Stephanie’s technique.  I think she wants to be a long-draw spinner.  I’m going to keep an eye on her and I’ll bet you dollars to donuts she picks up long-draw quickly.  I had another student like that a few years a go.  She struggled with worsted and semi-worsted techniques, but the minute I showed her long-draw, she went to town.


Let’s talk about Caeli next.  Here she is Navajo plying what she has been spinning.  Take a close look at her socks.  Yes, those are her sock knitting class socks all done.  Someone must have said something about stealing them because I heard her say “Just try to take them from me.”

Once she got her plying done, I showed her how to do long-draw.  She wants to spin up enough fluffier yarn for a sweater vest and I brought her some BFL to use after she perfected her technique on lesser stuff.  By the end of the evening, she was getting the hang of long-draw.


Next is Brenda.  She was not able to come to the last sock class, so I sat down with her and gave her the instructions for doing the toe and finishing her sock off.  Also, she knows how to Navajo ply just fine on her spindle, but couldn’t figure out how to start it on her wheel, so we got her going on that.  Then we realized that we needed to redo the drive bands on her wheel.

When she first brought in her wheel, we had quickly got her going just by using some 8/4 rug warp for the two drive bands.  But they had been put on with the flyer too high and there was little room for adding tension to the break drive band, so this is her plying together two strands of rug warp (we decided that if we were going to replace the old ones, we might as well make sure the new ones would last her a good long time).  We cranked the level of the flyer down to very close to the bottom and installed her new drive bands.  The trouble of not being able to get enough tension on it to pull in the yarn while plying with a half-full bobbin of fuller is now eliminated.

Also, she brought in the binder of her samples from singles, 2-ply, three-ply and cabled yarns from the merino she has been spinning.  I should have taken a picture of them, because they were so lovely.  I think she is ready to spin for a real project, so, at Greencastle, I am going to get her enough fiber for her to spin and make a sweater vest.  Since she is meeting us down there, I’ll have her pick out the color she likes best.

And now…


Let’s talk about Debbie.  The whole reason she has wanted to learn to spin was so she could spin her Pomeranian dogs’ shed fur into yarn and knit it into either a scarf or a lace shawl.  Well, last night, she got to start spinning the fur.  Her dogs are identical in color, cream with a touch of a peachy-tan, and it is going to make lovely yarn.  As you can see by the picture, she is thrilled to be spinning this fiber.


And very fine yarn, too.  Her spinning is just beautiful.  Even, consistent… just beautiful.


And she finished her first sock!  The second sock has been started and she is taking it with her on a trip so she can knit it on the plane.  She loves how it feels and fits.


And this is the whole gang.

With half an hour left of class, I pulled out a bag of baggies full of wool – each one with either a different breed, or a different color of a breed.  I sat on the floor between them and we discussed different properties of different breeds, starting with the coarsest in my collection (a black East Fresian) to the softest (the 2012 Indiana State Fair Reserve Champion Cormo).  We discussed down wools, crimp structure, coarseness or fineness of fibers, long wools (I have some Teeswater with a staple length of nearly a foot as well as some lovely Lincoln), combed top versus roving, and end uses for the different types of fiber.  I know I bombarded them with a lot of information, but hearing it once will make it seem familiar when they hear more of the same, and I believe most of them will be meeting up with Sandy and I in Greencastle so we can take them around and show them different raw fleeces as well as processed fiber.

Eventually, they are going to be buying fleeces and spinning-ready fibers on their own, and they need to understand what they are looking at before they spend their money.  As a spinning instructor, I believe it is my job to help them with this as much as possible.  Not only should I teach them spinning, plying and all of that, but what to spin and for what reason or they will never been truly satisfied with what they are spinning.  If they love what they are doing and what they make with their hand-spun yarns, then spinning will be a part of their lives for a good long time.  And isn’t that the point of teaching?


Apr 6


This morning, I had the opportunity to speak to the Crochet Guild here in Indianapolis about one of my favorite topics – The trip of creating from the raw fiber to having finished products.  I began with a raw fleece, discussing choosing the proper wool for the intended job, to skirting the fleece, washing it and preparing it for spinning.

alpaca merino

I took the group through spinning,

fun stuff


b talking 1

tools and techniques,

bright vest

then moved them into dyeing the fiber.  Mostly I discussed natural dyes, since that is where my knowledge base lies.


Then I moved them through what you can do with the yarn that has been created and why you really want to spin your own yarn whenever possible.  I talked to them about the Fiber Binder Club and let them compare how 20 different wool fibers feel – everything from East Fresian, which is great for rugs and hard-wearing mittens, to Cormo so soft you’d wrap a newborn in something made from it.  Having them touch the fibers and see what all you can do with it really made members thing of fiber and yarn in different ways.

I had a very good group today.  They were very attentive and asked some really good questions that help me focus some of my discussion on what they were mostly interested in hearing.  I told them about Dye Day, and I hope most of them get to come.  The chance to experiment and play with pots of color is something everyone should do.

I also demonstrated spinning with the spindle and answered all their questions about that.  I told them that I teach a monthly spinning class at Starstruck Cat Studio in Greenwood, but that I would love to be able to teach on the north side since Greenwood was nearly an hour drive and I’d like to have more students learning to spin.  And, it looks like this may become a reality.  The president of the local chapter has offered to open up her home to a monthly class beginning later this summer.  I know several people who would like to learn to spin and this will give them a better opportunity.


I would like to thank Heather for taking the pictures for me – you really helped me a lot.  And I would love to thank the Crochet Guild for inviting me to discuss what is my life’s passion.  I teased them that I had a clock on the table  to help me keep track of the time I had been talking or by the time I had exhausted my favorite subject, they’d all my skeletons with cobwebs hanging off of them.  What a fun group!

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