New Beginnings with Old Fiber

I’ve had a pillowcase of handpicked alpaca and wool fiber under my bed for a while now, just begging to be spun. It is scrumptiously clean, and smells of fabric softeners and laundry soap. Today, I took out the bag and went through the gems. The colors reminded me of days devoted to dyeing, and the textures reminded me of the different projects I had done to earn them.

Remembering the animals names as I finger through their unique textures, crimps, and colors, I recall Crimp Suzette, Enrique, Raindrop, and Angel, from Mrs. A., of Alpacas of Alagaesia, and white wool from my wool treasure experience with Mrs. W. There were gifts from a piano student Mrs. E., and Cyra, from Alpacas of the Alleghenies, whose deliciously soft white fleece took a variety of dies and shimmered in onion skin yellow and indigo blue. In these fiber experiments, I will be combining alpaca with wool, and a few specialty fibers like milk, bamboo, silk noils, and Firestar in various colors.

These are some of the keepers I brought with me on our 700+ mile move, last spring, and now I have a chance to combine colors, card beautiful cloud-like batts, and watch the yarns come together! Yippee!

Categories: Spinning | Leave a comment

Knitting Machine Gift

In the early 1990s, my family and I were enjoying a short vacation, and were staying in a hotel.  As we ate pizza together and watched TV, we saw a knitting machine demonstration that seemed fantastic. When pitted against highly-skilled knitters, this machine knitted fast and evenly.  My dad bought one for my mom, and she spent countless hours of enjoyment while making us blankets with her own hands, that we still have over 20 years later.

In late 2016, I asked to use her knitting machine on some lambswool I had died with Indigo dye from Mrs. W., my spinning teacher.  The lambswool came from her as well, and I wanted to make her a Christmas gift she would appreciate.  It all began when I started to hand knit a warm head wrap with the lambswool.  There was still plenty of wool left, so I decided to make a shawl, of the shorter variety. There were hiccups along the way, especially when almost the entire project fell off of the needles,  but all in all, it was a good project.   Like most stockinette it tended to curl at the edges, so I decided to open up the pattern by making runs in patterns, on purpose, as a kind of lacework or open work. It opened up the fabric remarkably well, and gave the shawl a nice, artistic look.  Mrs W. loved the gift set, especially since it was made from her lambs of long ago.

Categories: Fiber Dyes, Gifts, Knitting, Plant or Vegetable Dyes, Wool, Wool Dyes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thrift Store Loom Find

In February, 2016, I was perusing our local Goodwill store when I came across a fiber tool.  Could it be?  Was I really looking at a loom?  Here?  After a few adjustments, the tangled strings straightened, and the warp and weft became distinct.  Yes!  What a find!  But it was $60.  Sigh.  Oh wait, don’t I have a half off coupon?  Yes!  

And at that point, I knew it was going to come home with me.  It was a bit of a challenge to pick up where the last weaver left off, but it was more educational, and a lot less work, as I did not have to warp the loom for the first time myself.  With a lot of help from Smokey, our cat, I used a variety of leftover acrylic yarns, just as a learning experience. 

In the early part of 2017, as I begin to contemplate moving halfway across the country, I decided to offer it in a trade for a Louet S-10, in combination with three or four contractor bags full of fiber.  This loom was a good learning experience, and helped me to understand what I would appreciate in a loom that would be even more productive. There were some makeshift parts, and sticking parts, but the loom actually worked, with a bit of patience.

Categories: Spinning | Leave a comment

Spinning Jelly Beans

Sometimes, it’s great to pull some fiber out of my stash, and watch it come together on the spinning wheel.  An adult music student of mine gifted me with some alpaca and llama slivers from an older lady friend and grower.  It was so soft, and very well milled. When I had one of my dyeing days, I used Easter egg color kits to transform these fluffs into colorful slivers.  They took dye very well, and I later spun them together in a “single” experiment.  The colors remind me of jelly beans.

Categories: Alpaca, Fiber Dyes, Gifts, Spinning, Wool, Wool Dyes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Washing Raw Wool

Washing Raw Wool


Washing Raw Wool

Items that you will need…

1.       Wool

2.       A plastic bucket, sink, or tub

3.       Soap 

5.       Enough very hot water to fill the bucket a few times

An airy place to work and dry your fiber without having it trampled, tracked or blown across the yard

A muslin bag (and mesh bag will work a garment bag, a used onion bag), a plastic basket or strainer.

Potential Problems during Washing

Felting occurs when the wool is exposed to some combination of the following factors: The wool is wet, is agitated, is exposed to temperature change in water, or is exposed to an alkali ph.

Wash Water Water should be at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit for coarse wools, and at least 160 degrees for fine wools. Lower temperatures are very likely to result in some of the grease being left behind in the wool.

Hot water, very hot. You need the water to be hot enough to soften and dissolve the lanolin and other sticky oils. You won’t be scrubbing or agitating the fiber so you need the combination of very hot water and detergent to do the heavy lifting for you. It will take several “rinses” with the hot water and detergent to get your fleece clean. So if you don’t want to turn up your water heater a bit you may need to heat some water on the stove. Be prepared to heat water while your fiber is soaking in the previous bath. You don’t want it to cool off or get cold. That is very bad too.

Soaps –

I highly recommend Unicorn Fibre Scour Power.

But you can use any dish soap (Ivory, Dawn or any store brand)







Step 1.  Fill your container with HOT water, and add soap 


          How much soap do I add? This is a difficult question to answer with a hard and fast rule, so I won’t try.  In general,  I put enough detergent in the water so that it feels slick to my fingers and changes color somewhat–becomes slightly cloudy or the color of the detergent added. This can vary from a cap full to a couple of cups, depending on how much wool will be washed, how greasy it is, and how much water is being used and what type of soap you are using. 

Step 2.  Add you fiber (either in a mesh bag or without), just push it down into the water until it is totally submerged DO NOT agitate, squish or squeeze (this is the hardest part but trust me submerge and walk away) 

Let fiber soak until water starts to cool (15 to 20 mins)

Step 3. Drain dirty water through a strainer to catch the fiber you are cleaning (if using a mesh bag just set bag in sink to drain.) 




Hints and Trick I have learned over the years and find very useful

– spin extra water off in between washes and rinses, either use you washers spin cycle, some use a salad spinner, or I love my The Laundry Alternative Nina Soft Spin Dryer. 


– If you have a fleece that has alot of dirt, or has been in storage awhile, I have found that doing a pre soak with cold water helps open the fibers up and makes washing go a little quicker.

Categories: Spinning | Leave a comment

Swap of the year!

Near the end of February, 2017,  I received a response to an online post offering alpaca and wool for a Louet spinning wheel.  A lady from the Maryland region had several spinning wheels, one of which belonged to her husband.  As he was not using it anymore, it was in storage, and available for trade. This lady offered it in exchange for my fiber. As I went through my fiber, I discovered there was much more fiber then I had even thought. Between my spin a pound, get a pound trades and gifts from others, I had over three contractor size garbage bags full of fluff.  

Some of the fiber brought back wonderful memories, and it was hard to separate the fluff I was going to offer from the fluff I was going to keep. However, I was newly engaged to be married, and was looking forward to moving from Pennsylvania to Northwest Illinois, within a couple of months.  There were simply some things I would have to let go, or at least downsize.  In the end, I ended up keeping a handful of each fleece, plus some special items. It amounted to a pillow case full of fluff that would easily serve as packing material.  This offer was exactly what I was looking for, and needed.  

We decided we would each drive halfway to complete the trade.  The chosen day dawned cloudy, and damp, but the roads were clear, and everything looked good for a road trip. My mother and sister accompanied me, and we had a nice time together, driving through the mountains toward a McDonald’s just north of Harrisburg.

My customer was thrilled when she saw the huge bags of fluff, and ran her fingers through some of it with a delighted look on her face.  I was equally happy with the Louet.  She even included an extra drive band!

The reason I was looking for a Louet was because of the large orifice and flyer hooks. This particular S-10 model came withe three large bobbins, which really made my day!  No longer will I be limited to spinning fine yarns, and singles; now I will be able to spin chunky, ply, and art yarns!

Categories: Alpaca, Family, Gifts, Spinning, Spinning Wheels, Wool | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dani Ives, animal portrait needle felting artist

Categories: Spinning | Leave a comment

Self taught needle felting artist creates animal portraits with wool.

Categories: Spinning | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wool Treasure

My friend and mentor, Mrs. W., and I have been trying to set up a fiber day since early spring brought fresh breezes and hints of free time.  The summer sped by, and though every golden day was filled with good things, the visit remained a thing of the future until this week. Saturday, my sister and I finished our chores and drove over, feeling a bit tired from the week’s adventures. 

When we saw our friend, however, and felt the sun-warmed breeze that breathed across the valley, we felt refreshed and excited for the chance to visit. The first stop on the farm was the fiber room, a small finished building beautifully painted in pastels and home to an antique carpet loom, totes of clean fiber, and essential tools. The room is well-lit and has a fresh, cheerful atmosphere.  The sheepdog lays at the foot of the loom or in the doorway with a stick in her mouth and a happy question in her eyes. We looked at the project on the loom and were invited to try weaving a heavy carpet with a white cotton warp, and a weft of plastic baling twine, the stuff that held the sheeps’ dinner together.  It is not only a creative recycling project, but also a durable carpet project that goes along quickly.  You can really experience weaving progress with baling twine!  The various shades of light blue made a cloudy effect and the royal blue added contrast.  After I wove a few lines, my sister took over and became addicted to the process.  Like spinning, there is a comfortable rhythm to the whole series of actions that soothes the mind while it exercises the body.

My friend has asked us over to see if we want some of her stored wool.  If not, it will be turned out for compost, nourishing the soil and growing beautiful vegetables and flowers on her farm. Having an idea of the labor of love that has gone into the fiber to bring it to this stage, it makes me feel queasy to think of it even touching a compost pile, and I’m eager to see what is in the box.  When several boxes are opened, and I run my fingers through the wool of Leicester, churro, Wensleydale, and several others, I feel overwhelmed with amazement.  What treasures are mine today!  While my sister weaves, we begin to pack the fiber into bags for transport.  Mrs. W. is glad to have storage space, and I feel like a fiber pirate carrying off a cargo of loot.  She mentions she hopes it will be ok with our parents at home, and I assure her they know it is coming. 

We have spent some time de-cluttering the attic this week, partly to relieve the floors. Book lovers need strong floors, which we have, but it is still disconcerting to sleep beneath a small-scale library of congress.  I mentally calculate space, and realize I’ll need to work out some extra space, but it is so worthwhile! 

The fibers glisten in the late summer afternoon sunlight, and as the dark fibers warm, they become especially soft and cozy.  The white wool speaks to me of colorful dyeing sprees on winter afternoons when the bleakness of winter seems indomitable.  It gives me a kind of satisfaction to fight the bone-crunching cold, sloppy slush, and general grayness of winter with sunny yellow, spring green, magenta, indigo, red, purple, peach, coral, and any surprising combination that happens to pop up in the fiber.  In winter, the warm kitchen comes alive with light, music, good cooking, and a colorful project going on.  It is a good place to be.
To me, a recipe for a good project begins with a person who loves to serve, fresh materials, and most of all, SURROUND SOUND!  Actually, that’s not a bad recipe for most projects.

After we loaded the wool into the car, Mrs. W. asked if we could use any tomatoes.  Her garden is quietly producing a bumper crop of delicious red heirloom tomatoes.  While we picked some, I was reminded of the time another sister asked me to come over and lend a hand while she was delivering her twins.  She too had a garden of tomatoes to deal with, but a limited amount of time and energy.  We washed the tomatoes, cut out the top area, quartered them, and chopped them quickly, skins and all, in a blender.  Then, we put the sauce into a crock pot and slowly cooked it overnight with a toothpick under the lid to allow moisture to escape.  In the morning, I added green pepper, onion, herbs, salt, and oil.  It tasted acidic, and I remembered my sister did not deal with acids well.  What could I do to decrease the acid without losing that great thick and chunky texture?  I remembered that when we maintained a pool, the chlorine would raise the acidity and we would use baking soda to counter the effect.  “Well, it is a food ingredient,” I thought, “and I’m planning to freeze it instead of canning it, so decreasing the acid really will not be a food safety problem.”  I decided to add a pinch and saw the sizzling and sputtering with satisfaction.  After stirring and waiting for the foam to go down, I tasted a bit and found the acid much reduced.  A little brown sugar finished the sauce to perfection.  My sister enjoyed the sauce with no unpleasant effects, and it was declared a success, even by my picky eating brother-in-law.

My friend was glad to hear of a quicker method for processing the crop, and we agreed that it ruined the traditional canning method forever. A professional teacher considering retirement in the next five years or so, she loves working with her farm and her students and is looking for a way to combine her skills without giving up what she loves or her income.  I suggested developing a retreat for groups of fiber enthusiasts to attend, spend time in the country, and learn the process of wool preparation from sheep to finished product.  I am sure our fiber friends from all over would enjoy the learning and fellowship, but especially those who live in big cities like Manhattan. Folks who wish for a garden and livestock, but make do with a windowbox and an angora.  I have read your posts, and know you long for a day like the one I just had.  A weekend, or half-week would be even better, right? 

She is attracted to the idea, and has been told by her Amish farm helper that if she started a fiber processing venture, several local people would be interested in working to make it come together. It is exciting to contemplate, don’t you think?  I am interested in hearing your thoughts, questions, and concerns, but especially your experiences. 

When I was a member of a New York quilt guild, several members would take a week or weekend to go to a campground and return, having made an entire quilt while away. They came back aglow with ideas, techniques, contacts, and information to share with the rest of the group.  I began to notice that often, those with specialized, highly developed skills do much of their work alone.  They learn to deal with the quiet, and maybe the skills are a way of helping with unavoidable loneness.

Finding fellow fiber enthusiasts next door is uncommon, and the internet, while very helpful for obtaining supplies, ideas, patterns, pictures, and just about everything else, comes up short in the area of actual friendships and the essential, elusive joy of being in the presence of someone who understands. Someone who wants to join minds and handiwork in the amazing process of becoming a team.  The best kind of team feels the anxiety of new beginnings and acceptance, the patient plodding for improvement, and the joy of success mixed with plans for further development.  Could that happen for us in central Pennsylvania?  What do you think?

Categories: Fiber Dyes, Gifts, Spinning, Spinning Wheels, Weaving, Wool, Wool Dyes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Alpacas of the Alleghenies: Dreams of Spring

I first discovered Alpacas of the Alleghenies in June of 2014, after completing the Alpacas of Alagasia project.  I saw some really cool Icelandic sheep on the Spin a Pound, Get a Pound Facebook site, but it went really fast.  Well, I’m not really experienced in de-hairing and I hear it’s pretty labor intense, so maybe it worked out for the best.  Then, Chris Reachard directed me to Alpacas of the Alleghenies and some lovely alpaca fleeces.  Of course, it’s tough to get a word in when such beautiful fleeces are on the line, but Mary worked with me and showed me pictures of an irresistible white and gold fleece.

6/26, 12:23pm

Alpacas Of the Alleghenies

Hi Julia –

Since you liked Zeus’ fleece I posted another white fleece today. It is gorgeous – Both Zeus and Cyra are Quecha Verticase offspring so their fleece is very similar – I regret I am not better at capturing the crimp in our fleeces. Let me know if you are interested. Thanks, Mary.

6/28, 8:47pm


Hello Mary,

6/28, 8:57pm


Your fleece looks so soft and clean! Do you have any specific needs or any particular time allowance? I like to spin for a hobby, and I can work quickly, but I prefer to take my time and enjoy the process, so I like to avoid pressing deadlines. I spin on a traditional wheel, with small flyer hooks, which produces a smaller yarn. Plying is not a very nice option for me, because I have to wind the bobbin by hand. I can do hand wrapped balls or skeins. Please let me know if you would like to have the fleece done 100% alpaca, or if I can blend in different things for an artsy effect. Also, please let me know if you would like me to separate the lighter from the golden bits. My spinning blog is:, if you would like to see some of my past projects. My most recent spinning project is for Leann Alexander, which I posted to Facebook, but not yet to my blog. I like to take on one person’s fleece at a time, so it’s not overwhelming. Would you be ok with shipping the fiber to me? I would pay shipping of the finished half back to you. Would you be ok with a 50/50 split? Thanks, Julia Race

6/28, 8:58pm


I’m not always connected to the internet, so please do not feel insulted if I don’t reply right away. I’m not trying to avoid anyone, I just tend to check the email a few times a week! Thank you so much for getting back with me, and sharing pictures of your lovely fleece.

6/29, 8:19am

Alpacas Of the Alleghenies

I enjoyed your pictures of what is hidden in a piano! We have ours tuned often so fortunately the most he finds are pens and pencils that have rolled in. If you would kindly send me your address, I will mail the fleece out in the morning. Thanks so much! Best, Mary

6/30, 9:21am


Hello Mary, My address is—Thank you so much! I can hardly wait until the fleece arrives! Julia

6/30, 9:45am

Alpacas Of the Alleghenies

Thanks Julia – I will get it in the mail this afternoon or tomorrow morning. Have a great day – Mary

7/1, 6:32pm


Thank you, Mary! I’ll look forward to your package. Julia

  • July 2, 2014

7/2, 5:08pm


I received your package today and began to wash it. I love the beautiful shine, texture, and crimp. The gold and white colors look elegant together. It will make such a good product!

7/3, 9:36pm

Alpacas Of the Alleghenies

Thank you for the kind words about the fleece. Have a safe and happy 4th of July. Mary

7/10, 8:56am


Your fleece is clean and has been drying on racks for a few days, so it’s almost ready for the carder! Yay!

7/10, 4:29pm

Alpacas Of the Alleghenies

Thanks – I love the yarn you made with the pink and fawn. I’ll be anxious to see our fleece finished!

10/28, 10:59am

Alpacas Of the Alleghenies

Hi Julia,

Hi Julia, Hope you are doing well. I am just checking on the progress of the fleece/yarn. Best, Mary


In July 2014, a major event happened in my family and I was glad we had not established a deadline.  I began to study for my commercial driver’s license in preparation for school bus driving in August.  Between the classes, practice, paperwork, clearances, and tests, along with piano lessons and tunings, time went pretty fast.  When school began in August, free time was a thing of the past.  My fingers ached to spin the luscious fiber waiting for me, but it took a while to get used to the new 4:00 A.M. wake-up time.

In the fall, while using a wool picker on some fiber that had started to felt during the dyeing process, I had a little accident that damaged my left hand.  It took a while to heal, especially the fingernail.  It was kind of irritating to work with fiber at that time, because the chipped nail caught on everything.  Superglue was a big help until the nail grew out to the end of the finger.

Not desiring a repeat, I began to search for hand protection.  A local machine shop owner recommended Kevlar gloves.  When I wrote to the Memphis Safety Company for suggestions, they sent me two complimentary pair of safety gloves.  Unfortunately, they did not suit my particular puncture-proof needs, although they were very good gloves.  I decided to try Blue Hawk welding gloves, and found just what I needed.  It happened that I did not catch my hand in the wool picker again, but I felt safer with the heavy leather around my fingers, and the soft fleece lining felt great.  When I introduced them to my dad and saw his eyes light up when he put them on, I knew they were meant for him.  He loved them!  Well, it’s a good thing Lowe’s is close by.  My mechanic brothers really appreciated the Kevlar gloves from Memphis Safety Company.  They made great presents!

My big opportunity for spinning came around Christmas, when the clean, and partially carded fiber began to call to me with increased volume.  Finally, I began combining the shining alpaca with purple silk, pink milk fiber, teal Firestar, purple and silver metallic fiber, green bamboo fiber, and extra pieces of yellow, blue, and purple crochet fibers.  I also combined some alpaca, dyed yellow with onion skins and blue alpaca, dyed with indigo.  The batts took on a shimmering rainbow look as the cloudy white melted the colors into pastel tints.

The main problem was I was running out of both blue and yellow. This called for a dyeing day.  Finally, one Sunday after church, I got the opportunity to do some major dyeing.  It was a day to remember!  What fun I had combining colors, coming up with unexpected combinations, and experimenting with natural dyes!My sister and I worked together to produce shades of indigo, green, purple, yellow, and pink from indigo dye, Easter egg dye, and onion skins. I also tried madder, but I did not have a recipe and it did not take. I did not really care for the toasted wood smell of the madder, and rinsed it with vinegar water.
A very interesting happened when I was dyeing gray wool with a green vinegar based dye. It turned a lovely purple marble color, even as it was rinsing green dye out. I still do not understand that reaction and was not able to duplicate it with the other half of the wool and another vinegar dye.

After the fiber was clean and dry once more, we went back to the carder and spinning wheel.  The colors reminded me of spring, which is what I really wanted to see outside, but we had a long, cold winter going on, and the only hint of crocus I could see was in the colors of my batts.

By the end of our school holiday, over half of the fiber was in the single ply yarn stage, first on the niddy noddy and then on the skeinwinder.

In February, I upgraded to a phone that does internet and good pictures, so I’m now able to communicate better. Thanks Mary for your amazing patience!  After school stopped (in mid-June due to the amount of snow days our area had), I spun the remaining fiber and shipped it off to Mary.

  • 6/29, 9:00am

    Hi Julia, This is Mary, Alpacas of the Alleghenies. I am just checking in on Cyra’s fleece and how soon it will be completed? Kindly let me know when I can be expecting it. Thanks so much, Mary


    I have most of it done. I just finished a year of driving school bus and went right into a week of youth camp in T.N. Thank you for your amazing patience with me this year. Many unexpected family things came up that required much time and effort. Your yarn looks and feels really great! Could you please refresh me on your address? Thanks again, Julia

  • I think I can finish the rest within a week or two.

  • It’s not really the spinning that takes most of the time, it’s finding the carding time all together.

  • June 29
  • 6/29, 1:09pm

    Thanks Julia – I look forward to seeing your work!

  • 6/29, 1:40pm


    I think you will like it. The amazingly long fibers were challenging to card, but spun beautifully!

  • June 29
  • 6/29, 9:31pm
  • Mary

    Can’t wait to see it – thanks!

  • July 6
  • 7/6, 1:55pm


    Hi Mary, I just finished the last six batts Saturday, and am waiting for the fibers to dry. Would you please send me your address in confirmation? Thanks so much, Julia

     July 6
  • 7/6, 5:46pm


    Hi Julia – I am anxious to see the yarn. My address:… Thank you!

  • July 6
  • 7/6, 9:52pm

    Here is a sneak preview!

    July 8
  • 7/8, 8:37am


    Beautiful! Thanks.

  • July 8
  • 7/8, 2:25pm

  • Julia

    It is on the way!

     7/8, 2:53pm


    Thank you!

  • 7/8, 2:55pm


    You are very welcome! I apologize for the length of time it took to get back to you. Most of the spinning was done on school break, in December, so I named it “Dreams of Spring”.

     7/8, 2:57pm
  • Mary

    Oh – so sweet…

  • July 23
  • 7/23, 5:50am


    Did the yarn make it to your place? What do you think?

  • July 26
  • 7/26, 1:43pm


    I just returned from vacation last night – YES – the yarn is here and it is beautiful. Thanks!

Some important things I learned from this batch of fiber are:  Dye more than you think is necessary for the job.  More is better than running out and having to try to match colors.  Use the wool picker correctly, and use hand protection!  To enjoy the process the most, plan for life to happen between fiber days.  Sometimes life takes a lot of time, but it’s so worth it!  Long staple alpaca is fun to spin, and tough to get off the drum carder.  Dyeing and washing can play havoc with alpaca, which clumps into felt easily.  I loved spinning fiber from this alpaca!!!  It was so soft, silky, fine, and lofty.  It was a dream fiber that spun into even, fine yarn that will be a thrill to knit and comfortable to wear.

Categories: Spinning | Leave a comment

Attending Shearing at Broken Arrow Ventures

On February 2, 2014, I emailed Christa Trude, of Broken Arrow Ventures about the possibility of spinning some of her alpaca.  At the time, she had no raw alpaca fiber and was looking forward to her spring shearing.  She invited me to her farm and mentioned the possibility of letting me spin some of her fiber later in the year, when she had more fiber to work with.  We talked about the possibility of spinning and carding together at some point in the future, and sharing our methods.

When we came to the shearing, on May 16th, Christa introduced us to her alpacas and gave us guidelines for helping and safety.  She and her husband were setting up for a big day.  Their shearer, from Pearth, Australia, was coming presently, and friends were arriving to help out with the shearing, handling, and lunch.

First, a foam mat was laid down to cushion the floor, then the men ran electric cords through the rafters for the shearer’s cutters.  We made various attempts at friendliness with the alpacas, who were a bit nervous.  It was a cool day with threatening rain clouds, and they looked a bit reluctant at the prospect of losing their sweaters!

Christa showed us the basics of alpaca wrangling and let each of us hold the alpacas while they were in line to be sheared.  The shearing included tooth and hoof filing, main blanket shearing, neck and leg shearing, and separating the larger blanket from the smaller fiber pieces.  The shearer’s wife knew the quality of each fleece by touch and sorted quickly.  When I mentioned I had family in Australia, we were all surprised to find that they came from the same area and might have sheared for them in the past.

After a delicious picnic lunch, Christa showed us some samples of exotic fiber and whetted our appetites for the second annual Central PA Fiber Festival, which would be held at the Clinton County Fairgrounds over the weekend.

The next day, when we attended the fiber festival, we met many fiber artists, millers, growers, importers, and recyclers of different kinds of fiber, especially of wool and alpaca.  I bought some pink milk fiber, green bamboo fiber, purple silk noils, and teal Firestar for combining with my projects.  They were my first “bought” specialty fibers, and I felt like I held precious packets of gems!

Categories: Spinning | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Exerpts: Spinning for Alpacas of Alagaesia

Click here to see the original Spinning for Alpacas of Alagaesia post.

Categories: Alpaca, Carding, Fiber Dyes, Knitting, niddy noddy, Spinning, Spinning Wheels, Wool Dyes | 1 Comment

Spinning for the Tabernacle

“And all the women that were wise hearted did spin with their hands, and brought that which they had spun, both of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, and of fine linen.”   Exodus 35:25

Model of the tabernacle in Timna Park, Israel. Credit:

Earlier this year, as I was reading through the Pentateuch, the Exodus account of the building of the tabernacle seemed to come alive, especially the part about the spinners.  As a beginner spinner, I’ve mostly been spinning worsted wool and alpaca, with a little angora and flax, for fun.  The sheer volume of flax that was needed for the tabernacle, besides the weaving was astounding, especially for a couple million of people in transition.  I wondered if the women of Israel had a certain technique for spinning.  Did they use a drop spindle, or a long lap-style spindle?  Did they use techniques they learned when in Egypt?  Egyptian spinning techniques were extremely advanced.  One book I read compared ancient Egyptian linen fabric to silk.  Did the women borrow the flax and spinning tools as well as the knowledge to use them when they left Egypt?

“And the children of Israel did according to the word of Moses; and they borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment: And the LORD gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they lent unto them such things as they required. And they spoiled the Egyptians.”   Exodus 12:35-36

There are so many questions, so many skills to be learned and preserved!


Categories: Spinning, Weaving | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Local Wool Spinning

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A few weeks ago, I went to visit my friend, Mrs. W., who raises several sheep.  She gave my family and a friend the grand tour of her barns, folds, and home.  We got to spin together, see her loom, and make plans for helping with the spring shearing and dying.  Before we left, Mrs W. let us borrow her Louet spinning wheel and two large boxes of milled wool fiber to spin.

 There are three parts to this project, a silver Romney roving, a dark gray blend of Black Welsh Mountain, Border Leicester, Polypay (, Suffolk, Rambouillet and two or three more breeds, and another lighter Border Leicester wool.

 There is so much wool, that I decided I would weigh the box and fiber together.  After spinning, I’ll weigh the finished hand-wrapped balls and box again, and track the discard amount.

 Speaking of processing, the wool was milled by, who did a fantastic job!  There is so little to discard, and that makes spinning so enjoyable.  Formerly, I have avoided wool because it has given me an unbearable scratchy, irritated feeling.  My forearms feel prickly and turn red when they touch a 3% lambswool sweater.  Mrs. W’s wool is different.  I can rub a ball of 100% wool on my forearms and neck without the least irritation.  We talked it over and speculated that it may be the commercial wool processing chemicals that give me the irritation.  Her mill does not use harsh chemicals to process the wool.


 The lesser box with the silver Romney wool in it weighed 4 pounds, 8.2 ounces.


 Box weight: 1 pound, 8 ounces

 Yarn weight: 3 pounds, 0.6 ounces

 Total: 4 pounds, 8.6 ounces.

 I appeared to have gained four-tenths of an ounce in this process, but after thinking about it, I remembered a tiny ball that I spun on the traditional wheel as a test and included in the general weight.  When measured, this ball weighed 0.06 ounces.  That brings the waste to a skimpy two-tenths of an ounce!

 The fuller box with the dark blend of wool on top and the light Border Leicester wool on the bottom weighed 6 pounds, 0.6 ounces.  That will be in the spinning soon.

I began with the silver Romney roving.  There were no odors or skin irritants.  The fiber was carded very well and arranged into delightfully long slivers that go on and on… We’ve come a long way from dog brush handcards!  Smile.

 The fiber was firmly packed into the box in circles that came up easily.  The top was looser than the bottom, but halfway through the box, I began to plump up the remaining half box and it fluffed into another full box of fiber.  This wool has loads of crimp.  It was a bit of a challenge to spin wool on the Louet after spinning alpaca with the traditional, because the wheel ratio and treadles are very different.  Just when the Louet was feeling comfortable, I began some fine llama on the traditional and rediscovered some of my original quirks with the treadle.  Overall, the Louet spinning wheel is wonderfully comfortable to treadle, with a “positive” and “negative” ability to treadle.  I can treadle with my heel or toe, and it works just as well.  My traditional wheel needs a heavy down motion with the toe to bring the wheel around again to a convenient starting point.  The Louet’s close wheel ratio means that the twist goes a lot slower.  This was really something to get used to, and at one point, I reversed the bobbin to the smaller whorl.  After getting used to that, I reversed the bobbin again to the larger whorl and it was not such a culture shock.  It seems harder to spin a thicker yarn after spinning thin alpaca.  I really had to focus on the yarn size.  The Romney was strong, soft, and ever-so-slightly softened with lanolin, but not sticky or greasy.  It has a lovely glow and silver color.  It is relatively easy to spin, especially once I dealt with the slipping tension.  The tension knob irritating habit of slipping out to the right, reducing the tension gradually.  As I needed more tension as the bobbin loaded, that was really inconvenient.  A rubber band came to the rescue!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The fiber’s ability to shrink when spun has been a constant amazement to me.  A box of fluffy roving decrease in size, but increase in density, retaining the weight, but only a fraction of the original bulk.  In the entire box of Romney, I found only 3 or 4 tiny cucumber seed-like cocoons.  They were easy to pick out.  There were the bare minimum of seconds, tiny amounts of waste/grass, and no sticks or dung.  The Romney finished out into 8 hand-wrapped balls.  Mrs. W plans to use them to weave and asked me to hand wrap them from the wheel.  She plans to set the twist and measure the yardage.

Categories: Alpaca, Carding, Knitting, Spinning | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thursdays are for Quilting

One Stitch, One Step

I knew today was going to jam-packed (unlike my usual Thursdays), so I spent some time last night at the embroidery frame to my “Thursday quilting” done early!


My progress is slow, although my technique with turning under the curves has evolved to a point where I am much happier with the result.  I roll the end under with my fingers and then pin it down rather than trying to hold it while sewing, it gives a much nicer curve and it is easier to do than trying to turn so much fabric under with my needle.  It isn’t strictly the “correct” technique but it has been working for me so far.

All the flowers have three of five petals sewn down now.  Once those are done I just have to do the five centers and this block will be done!  I already have the pieces cut out for another…

View original post 30 more words

Categories: Spinning | Leave a comment

Dressing a distaff with wool

This is such a helpful video! Thank you.

Barbro's Threads

I love this video that I came across when reading old posts in the Spindle Lore forum on Ravelry. No, I don’t know what the lady says, but I can hear a word I know very well: “rock”. That’s the word for (spinning) “wheel” in Swedish. It originates in a German word meaning “distaff”. The spinner also shows a quite efficient way of preparing wool for spinning without other tools than her hands.

View original post

Categories: Spinning | Leave a comment

Weekend News

Categories: Spinning | Leave a comment

Why We Teach – and how NOT to burn out :)

Thank you Kristin! Your insight is so valuable.

Small Town Music Lessons

I have been asked to write an article for a publisher working on a book.  Here is my section as a work in progress, from the heart.  🙂  And since I am sick at home, I thought I’d get to work on it.  🙂

Wallpaper9Teaching has to be organic.  If teaching isn’t already a part of your drive, something you desire to spend your days doing, you will burn out.  We all have had times we didn’t want to go to work.  Often, the reasons vary as much as the personalities between the teachers.  Maybe it has been a long week, maybe the parents have requested one too many times to reschedule, or maybe the kids simply won’t practice the assignments you’ve carefully jotted for them to follow… but in the end, do we really enjoy teaching?  What drives us?

I have been teaching since I could talk.  I used…

View original post 999 more words

Categories: Spinning | 1 Comment

Another Cowl In Progress

Categories: Spinning | Leave a comment

Fixing a GIANT Hole

Categories: Spinning | Leave a comment

Clean up and Destash


It is almost springtime, though today’s thermometer didn’t feel like it.  The Forsythia in town is blooming.  We will not see ours bloom for another few weeks at least.  The fruit trees are budding out and pruning is in order tomorrow.  The coming of spring will empty the garage of the deck furniture, the chicken tractor and some of the gardening stuff.  When we moved our household goods to our retirement homestead we moved a portable workbench that has sat and collected clutter for the past 6 years.  There are also some duplicate power tools and other items.  The garage has two very sturdy built in workbenches, organizational shelving to store coolers, camping gear, paint cans and organizer boxes for nails, screws, nuts and bolts.

Inside the house is a stash of yarn and fiber I will not use, stuff that I won, was given to me, or is extra…

View original post 115 more words

Categories: Spinning | Leave a comment

Winding away

Colour Cottage

Just a twirly sort of day yesterday. Winding bobbins, shuttles, warp chains and plying. Still have some tapestry bobbins and a stick shuttle to wind, then I’m ready to thread the loom and paint some more! Very colourful blanket coming up.

As I was finishing the muted yarn I finally, after two years of just looking at the fiber, figured out how I would have really liked to spin and ply it! Isn’t that just typical…. Where’s that Ctrl+Z when you need it?

twirly Not really happy with any of these yarns, but now they’re done and that’s how it goes.


During breaks I get to play with this:byld

Big brown pony is recovering from a monster abscess in his left hind hoof. Very ouchy, swelly and gooey. I’ll spare you the sight.

View original post

Categories: Spinning | Leave a comment

More spinning

Beesybee fiber's Blog

This is from a Malabrigo top that I got a couple of weeks ago in a new craft shop in Mill Valley called Once Around. While I was visiting the store it felt like being inside a candy store. I liked their array of merchandise and I couldn’t resist the impulse of purchasing some wool that was for sale. I think this color is called Mostaza (Mustard). I decided to spin a two ply yarn with it.

Malabrigo woolMalabrigo woolMalabrigo woolMalabrigo woolMalabrigo wool

And here is some plain white merino wool combined with some randomly picked sari silk threads and a little Angelina spark. I love the white against the bright jewel tone colors of the sari silk threads.

Merino and Sari Silk threadsMerino and Sari Silk threadsMerino and Sari Silk threadsMerino and sari silk two ply yarnMerino and sari silk two ply yarnMerino and sari silk two ply yarn

I’m thinking of combining the sari silk thread with other colors and spin some more textural yarns.


View original post

Categories: Spinning | Leave a comment

Helpful Yarn Measurements & Tags

Control Card

yarn tags template

Yarn Weights and Measures-1

Standard Yarn Weight System

Categories: Alpaca, Crochet, Spinning | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Video for Crochet Sashay Ruffle Curly Scarf

Thanks, Michelle, for posting this video on how to make a curly scarf!  You make it so easy.

Categories: Crochet | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: