On Saturday our first in-person fiber festival goes live! Yes, it’s in-person. The show is Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival. It’s at the Clark County fairgrounds. You can find out more information here.
I’m super excited so see people and to be in the presence of unbridled creativity!
I’m nervous because we haven’t set up the booth in 2 years…will we remember? Will it actually be better?
I’m a little scared too. Will people wear masks and be safe? How can we provide a safe place for our customers?
So many emotions!
I know you must be feeling these things too. I also hope you are feeling excite to touch all the yarn and see all the colors.
We are in the Arts and Crafts Building. We are right by the front door. To keep us and you safe, we will be wearing our masks. We will be bringing a fan so there is more air circulation and less opportunity for the virus to transmit. The festival is from 10-5 on Saturday and 10-4 on Sunday.
Please do come out for a beautiful fall day! It’s supposed to be just gorgeous weather that day. I’m want this weekend to be a real celebration! Be sure to stop by and show us anything you’ve made with our yarn or fiber. We love seeing all your fantastic creativity on display!!
It’s just days away until Summer is over. And it’s time to be gathering some of the best dye plants in our area. This past weekend, Bill and I headed out to find Goldenrod. It is an amazing dye plant. It grows wild all along the roadways here in Maryland. And we were lucky to find some that had been spared from mowing and herbicides that are used along roads to keep the weeds at bay. They were in full delightful bloom.
My plan is to separate the blooms from the leaves and woody stem. The stems will go into the compost pile. The leaves will be dried and frozen for later dye sessions throughout the winter. The flowers will be made into a dye pot this week.
Here’s what I will be doing…. I will cover the blooms with water (at a neutral pH). In fact I may put my rain barrel back in service, since we should be getting some rain this week. I will slowly raise the temperature of the flower water mixture, careful not to boil it. I will keep the water just below the simmer. Then I will set it aside and let it cool. Once cool I will remove the flowers.
When it’s time to dye, I will presoak my scoured and mordanted wool and then add it to the dye pot. A good rule of thumb is to have equal weights of fresh flowers and dry wool. This will give you a nice shade. I will begin to raise the heat of my dye pot and again keep it under the simmer for 1 hour. I will check it to see if I want to leave the wool in overnight, or just stop there.
Then I can make a determination if there is leftover dye (exhaust) that I can use to dye more yarn in a soft, more muted color. I’m super excited to get started!!
I have been on a quest, a quest for us to really, really love and honor the yarn we have for several years now. If you have been following my podcast or blogs or newsletter, you know this already.
But, it bears repeating, because I am still feeling the shame. And we are starting to have the opportunity for in-person shows. I want you to delight in the festivals. I want you to feel the pull of creating something new. That’s the best feeling right? It is for me.
So in order to do that you must banish the word….stash. I’ve spoken to many of you in person about ejecting this word and concept from your vocabulary. When I hear people talking about their stash it is not out of pride. I don’t hear “You should see my stash! It is lovely.” More often I hear, “I can’t buy anything until I use my stash.” It is said in a kind of Eeyore voice. It is said with shame. Let’s banish that word! Let’s trash the shame!
I propose that we all use the word, “collection” instead. You are the curator. It is your collection. Each skein and ball that is in your collection was lovingly acquired. Some with a specific project in mind and others just thrilled you with color or texture or softness. I know that when we change our language, we change our outlook or attitude about the yarn that we have collected. We will be able to see those threads in a different light. We may even go through them and realize, “Hey! I’ve grown out of using this yarn, or this color!” Those parts of your collection can be donated or gifted. You have the power to make the choices, after all it is YOUR collection. And you are the curator. That’s the job of a curator, right?
So, let’s make the commitment to value our collections, to explore them anew and discover what you love about them and which ones need to find a new home. Let’s find some new ways of using what we have and making room to buy new skeins to augment your collection. If you would like to explore your collection in an organized way, you can listen to Season 2 of my podcast. Click here to find the Season 2 Episodes or subscribe on Apple iTunes, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts. I walk you through all the steps that I believe will help you organize your collection. I take you through these steps so that you don’t get overwhelmed.
And now is the right time to start this. Our first in-person show in the Mid-Atlantic is Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival and that is a mere 2 weeks away. So change your vocabulary and change your mindset. Really REVEL in your collection. And see what you need to make your collection more complete.
Wool has a bit of a bad rap. So many people tell me they can’t wear wool because they are allergic or it is itchy. Yes there are some itchy wools that shouldn’t be worn next to your skin. But there are many wool yarns that are soft to the touch and make fabric with lovely drape and softness. The trick is to understand the difference and choose the best wool for your project. In my opinion, it is totally worth the time and trouble to find a wool yarn that works for you and for the think you want to make. Even my itchiest mohair wool blend sweater loses it’s itch factor when I wear a cotton turtleneck underneath and I get the benefit of beauty, comfort, warmth and durability.
Wool is a totally renewable, sustainable fiber. It grows back year after year. Our sheep are mostly grass fed as well. So I’m not feeding them grain or other processed feed. This is a big part of regenerative agriculture. The sheep and goats eat down our grass and as they do they also fertilize the ground.
Processing wool does not have to have a large carbon or chemical footprint. Cleaning takes hot water and some soap. The rest of the processing (carding and spinning) can be done totally by hand, but even if it is processed at a mill, there is just electricity used in most cases. One of the mills that I use is even going solar. So even less electricity from traditional coal fired plants is being used.
Superwash wool has the least “itchiness”. It has been highly processed to remove the scales on the individual fibers. Tha means that it also has the highest environmental impact. I do like to use superwash wools for socks, knowing that it is a little less ecologically friendly. And knowing that the care and use of those socks will be easier.
Wool is biodegradable. In fact, it can be used as an excellent nitrogen source for mulching. Some shepherds use the skirtings (dirtier wool from the bellies and legs) as mulch for their gardens or orchards. You can also put it into your compost pile to add valuable nitrogen to your soil in your gardens.
Wool is flame resistant so it naturally defends against fire. When exposed to a flame, the fibers extinguish themselves. This can’t be said for manufactured fibers that contain plastics.
Wool is a great insulator. Some new “green” homes are using wool as insulation. As insulation, wool wicks moisture away from the home and reduces the presence of mold and bacteria. It also acts as a filter for odors in a home. This insulator property is also why wool socks, undergarments and sweaters are worn by hikers and other alpine enthusiasts. Even when you sweat the wool moves it away from your body and keeps you cooler. As outerwear, wool keeps you warm in the winter by insulating and cool in the summer by being breathable. It wicks away moisture from your body, so the moisture is evaporated. It also repels water since the outer layer of the fiber is hydrophobic.
For garments, wool is very easy to care for. Of course you shouldn’t put it in the washer and dryer, but handwashing and air drying is all you need to do. Most stains are easy to remove either with soap and water. It is highly durable so it is a smart investment for your wardrobe.
Do you love wool? Why or why not? Post a comment to share your thoughts on wool.
What are you planning to knit for the fall? Socks? A shawl? A sweater? Something smaller like a hat or mittens?
These farm yarns are perfect for all of those garments. We have colors that are great for all your needs, whether that’s a young one who loves pink or camouflage or if you are trying to match your wardrobe. We have farm yarns that are fingering weight (Trasna Light), worsted (Livily) (Polypay and Fibershed Polypay) and DK (Trasna). We just got a sport weight back from the mill, so that is coming up before the fall shows!! We also have mohair yarns that are mostly natural color right now. So head on over to the shop here and choose the Farm Yarn tab to see it all!
“I’m just learning, so I’m going to use cheap yarn/roving until I know what I’m doing. I don’t want to waste it.”
I hear those words all the time in classes and during fiber festivals. I even said it myself when I was learning how to knit socks. Before I had the yarn business, I wanted to knit socks, everyone was doing it. So I went to one of those big box craft stores and bought some acrylic yarn and needles and the pamphlet-like book “My first socks” or something like that.
I knit and knit and knit. I was just about to the heel, when I met Ellen. We roomed together at a SOAR retreat in 2007. She saw my very large and unwearable sock and said, “You need to get good sock yarn. That yarn will just not do.” So at the vendor booths the next day I bought a skein of really teeny sock yarn. I was totally scared. I had to buy smaller (#1) double pointed needles, too. Ellen shepherded me through the casting on of 62 stitches and making the K2P1 ribbing. But that was as far as I got that weekend.
At home I again reached the heel. Ellen coached me over the phone and I was able to get through the instructions for the short rows of the heel. I could pick up the stitches easily and finish up that first sock. I cast on the other sock and soon completed that sock.
What I learned was that Ellen was right. The socks turned out so well. I was kept engaged because the hand dyed colors kept changing through the socks. Yes, making those socks was more enjoyable. The colors were better. The end product was actually wearable, not 6 sizes too big.
Since that time, I tell my students and customers to use the “good stuff”. It is like having great china and only using it for “special” occasions. Start taking out that silver and china and use it! Don’t save it for “later” and then never, ever use it. Enjoy what you have! Don’t deprive yourself until you are a better knitter or crocheter or spinner. Use it today!
Because if you don’t and continue use the wrong yarn or roving, you may just give up before you get to be a better knitter (spinner or crocheter). You think the problem is you, when really the problem is the cheap stuff that can be harder to use or doesn’t feel good in your hands or just isn’t very pretty. That kind of reasoning becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. And you will think to yourself, thank goodness, I didn’t use the good stuff when I had no business even trying to learn to ____ (fill in the blank with spin, knit, crochet). So pull out that beautiful yarn, buy that gorgeous roving and USE IT!!
I never thought I was an artist when I was growing up. I was told that I couldn’t draw, and I guess I thought that drawing is what made you an artist. And it became a self-fulfilling prophecy because the artistic abilities I do have weren’t nourished. I found and read the Artist’s Way in 1992 when my life took a total shift away from an abusive situation to one where I was the one in control of my life. It’s funny to say that now, because there are so many days when I don’t feel like I’m in control. But I do get decide what I am doing on any given day. I do decide if I’m dyeing, what I’m dyeing, if I’m designing and if I’m learning.
Anyway, back to the Artist’s Way. I did morning pages for probably 2 years straight. I did them religiously. And they did help me find myself and my inner artist again. They helped me figure out my feelings and what my next steps were. I really like to write, but sometimes I decided not to write daily.
Along with daily morning pages, Julia Cameron you must commit to go on an Artist Date once a week. Man, I had such a hard time doing that. What to do? Where to go? I would go to the LA County Art Museum, duh. That’s a no brainer. I went to farmer’s markets. I went to funky shopping districts, like Main Street in Santa Monica, Melrose Ave., or Brentwood area in LA. I went to great bookstores like the Bodhi Tree (where I even went to a book reading by Cameron) or even to the nearby library to just look at magazines. But they felt disjointed and weird. I never really felt filled up by them, something wasn’t quite right.
I stopped doing the morning pages after I went back to teaching full time. In the summers, I would dabble in the pages, but it wasn’t really lasting or nurturing for me. Now that I am a full-time artist, I have developed the habit of morning pages. Writing them helps me to build my daily intention. It is helping me become a better writer just by the shear practice of writing. To get back to that practice of writing every day, I joined 750words.com. This website is a community where you can write your morning pages, digitally. It reminds you if you forget and it is a place where you can put in searchable words to find your thoughts later.
Back to artist’s dates, they continue to be hard for me. And with these pandemic times, going out and venturing in public just hasn’t been reality for me. Pre-pandemic, we would take trips to DC or to Longwood Gardens to be a fun day away from the farm as part of a staycation when Bill was off from work. Every time I step into the Longwood visitor center, I begin to feel like this is an artist date. I see amazing still lives, colors and closeups that could make beautiful photographs. With each view of flowers, the water scapes, and tree houses with their almost art deco look, I get filled up inside. We stroll through the large greenhouse with its orchid room and green wall and delightful children’s garden. I take so many photos.
We usually plan to eat lunch at 1906 Restaurant. Lunch is always artistically and physically filling. Each course is unusual and so, so good. It is a great place to take a rest, cool down and reflect.
When we leave, we were full of new inspiration and new motivation. We will definitely go back to Longwood for seasonal artist dates when we feel safer within this covid pandemic. Click here for information about the gardens.
Incorporating these 2 practices: writing morning pages and taking artist dates are so integral in integrating my dye work, my creativity, and my intention for the day.
I have so many baskets and vases filled with little bits of yarn leftover from this project or that one. Do you have those too? I bet you do.
What to do with them? Here’s a video that highlights one way that you might want to bring those bits back into a useful life.
Those bits can be used to make scrappy socks or a strippy sweater or a granny square afghan or a jelly roll knitted blanket. I think they would even be fun to use in an entrelac project.
When you have your bits organized by color and by weight, you are ready to just pick it up and make something that you will love. This is all part of the push to use our resources wisely. Happy Making!!
I just created a page on the website that is the place to find lots of free stuff. All through the past 2 years and really probably the whole 16 years I’ve been in business, I’ve written and recorded lots of educational content. I have printables and links to the videos of tips of the week. There are book guides too.