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!

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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!


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Local Wool Spinning

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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!

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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

Originally posted on 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…

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Dressing a distaff with wool


This is such a helpful video! Thank you.

Originally posted on 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.

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Weekend News

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

Thank you Kristin! Your insight is so valuable.

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Another Cowl In Progress

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Fixing a GIANT Hole

Originally posted on The Bumbling Bees:


Back in 2012, I knit my mom some mittens out of a beautiful batt that I spun in to a scant 100 yards of alpaca yarn. My mom always loves seeing my handspun yarn, so I knew she would love something made from it.


I managed to squeak a pair of mittens out of it and she really liked them. A year later, her Yellow Lab puppy decided he really liked them too.

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Clean up and Destash

Originally posted on Mountaingmom:

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…

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Winding away

Originally posted on 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.

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More spinning

Originally posted on 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.


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Helpful Yarn Measurements & Tags

Control Card

yarn tags template

Yarn Weights and Measures-1

Standard Yarn Weight System

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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.

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How to make scrubbies from plastic bags or tulle.

My music teacher’s wife makes one-sided round scrubbies out of tule and sells them.  They are really the best scrubbies around and last for months.  I know how to chain and double chain, but I’m not very good at complicated crochet or reading patterns, so I really like this video.  It shows a step-by-step crochet method to make round scrubbies.  You could use the same technique to make the round tule scrubbies or the round netting scrubbies.

How to make a bath scrubber or pot scrubber from plastic bags – YouTube.

via How to make a bath scrubber or pot scrubber from plastic bags – YouTube.

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Great News: Carder Aquired!

Rejoice with me, all my spinner and grower friends, I finally acquired a lightly-used Ashford Drum carder! The fine carder fabric should be ideal for the alpaca I have been spinning, and I get to see it when my brother visits this week.  Now, I will be able to use my own carder instead of my friend’s, which is a mental relief, though she has been so gracious to share the use of her carder with me.  It has been a wonderful change from the hand cards.


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Pennsylvania Farm Show Pictures

Pennsylvania Farm Show Pictures

Harrisburg, P.A.


Hats and scarves made from alpaca fiber on sale at the 2014 Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg.

Children getting a hands on experience with an alpaca at the 2014 Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg.

Pam Potts from Mt. Joy, Lancaster County, spins alpaca fiber at the 2014 Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg.

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

Two local women place at Farm Show – | News, Sports, Jobs, Community Information – The Express

Have you ever watched or attended the Sheep to Shawl event at the Pa. Farm Show?

It’s quite an amazing process.

Dashner and Joanna Smith, both of Clinton County, were on the first and
second place sheep to shawl teams at this year\’s Farm Show.

Article Photos

Time Warp members holds their first place shawl, ‘Pollock’s No. 18,
1950.’ From left to right are Libby Beiler, weaver; Emily Kephart,
spinner; Ivy Allgeier, spinner; Pa. Department of Agriculture Secretary
George Greig; Katherine Dashner, spinner; Jeff Johnstonbaugh, carder;
Carl Geissinger, shearer; as well as Pa. Farm Show Wool Princesses.
Below right, Time Warp members Libby Beiler and Emily Kephart weave and
spin during the Sheep to Shawl competition at the 2014 Pa. Farm Show.
RAY DASHNER/For The Express

Dashner has been spinning since 2005 and began participating on her sheep to shawl team, Time Warp, in 2010.

of Dashner’s team include Carl Geissinger (shearer) of Reedsville;
Emily Kephart (spinner) of Baltimore, Md.; Ivy Allgeier (spinner) of
Westminster, Md.; Libby Beiler (weaver) of Montour County; Jeff
Johnstonbaugh (carder) of Northumberland and Donovan, the team’s
Romeldale/California Variegated Mutant/Lincoln cross wether sheep.

Time Warp won first place this year with their “Pollock’s No. 18, 1950” shawl.

This was Katherine\’s fourth time receiving first place as a member of Time Warp.

Joanna has been interested in Sheep to Shawl since she first watched one at a state fair years ago.

has been participating in the event as a spinner for about five years
and was on this year\’s Northumberland County team, the Dream Weavers.

For the full story, check out today\’s print edition of The Express.

via Two local women place at Farm Show – | News, Sports, Jobs, Community Information – The Express.

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Ian Tait on Making Spindles – Part 2


Tools, wood, inlays, and drop spindles…What a great combination!

Originally posted on Wovember:

Dear Wovember Readers, we have another evening with Ian Tait, who runs IST Crafts. Yesterday we heard from Ian in his own words, but tonight we’ll feature a new edition of a Q&A originally posted in the the Ravely Spindle Candy group. I feel Ian’s approach to spindle making, and his use of materials really resonates with Wovember’s ethos about wool; I hope you’ll agree. With many thanks to Diana, aka Chewiedox on Ravelry, for letting Wovember share her excellent interview with Ian, and thanks to Ian for updating the answers, as things have changed a bit since Diana ran the interview.

1. A recently released book by Matthew B. Crawford entitled “Shop Class as Soulcraft” puts forth the argument that skilled craftsmanship and hand labour offers an undervalued yet vital contribution to modern life. The 21st Century world places a definite emphasis on technology. Mass-produced items made…

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First (proper) skein of spindle spun yarn

Originally posted on The Wayward Leaf:

I’m kind of creeping myself out at how many times I squish this yarn but …. I made it! This is allllll me. OK the sheep who kindly allowed itself to be shorn so I could get its fibre had a part to play but I’m so pleased with this.

My first skein of yaaaarn

It’s a wee bit uneven, rather scratchy and far from perfect, but as a first attempt it’s not too shabby.  It’s 100g of Jacob fibre, spun on my Ashford 30g top whorl spindle, 2ply.

Now, what to knit with it…. hmmm…

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Thursdays are for Spinning

Originally posted on One Stitch, One Step:


2014-01-09 14.20.21

As you can see I’ve made significant progress on the alpaca fibre.  To be fair, this is the progress of two spinning sessions, since I took last week’s photo before spinning, and this week’s after spinning.  Still, it’s amazing how much fibre gets spun up when I actually sit down and SPIN.  Stunning, really.

I dug around in my notes a little and discovered this fibre is actually 60% alpaca, 40% wool, from a small alpaca farm near Guelph called Moffat Springs Alpaca.  The alpaca’s name is Jeweliette.  Gotta love knowing the name of the animal that ”grew” the fibre!

I’m really glad I started this weekly spinning practice; last week I was a little shaky in my technique but this week went swimmingly.  I’m really starting to get a handle on the rhythm of drafting and keeping the spindle spinning at the same time.  Who knows, I might…

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And so it begins

Originally posted on JLT Studios:

silk-merino-plyTook down Christmas yesterday. It sure looks barren in here now!

I start back tutoring today.

This afternoon I plan to do some rug hooking.  Hubby is off work, so we shall see.

Started plying the Silk/Merino mix.  I have another bobbin to ply before processing.

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Just Checking

Originally posted on weekend knitter blog:

I’m not a winter girl.

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Spinning silk


Thank you for your beautiful and helpful pictures! You are such an inspiration to me.

Originally posted on gather and grow:

In the course of this fall and winter, I’ve slowly been spinning my first silk yarn out of the unprocessed silk worm cocoons I ordered from here.

IMG_0442To tell you the truth, when the package first arrived in the mail, I had very little faith in my ability to spin anything out of that mass of fiber. The tiny cocoons were so tightly wound up, like cotton balls shrunk to a third of their size and condensed and matted in the process. Out of fiber finer than what spiders spin, the little silk worms had constructed what seemed to me impermeable fortresses. How would I be able to pull anything resembling a fine silk thread out of them?

But once I decided to give it a try, I found that the silk almost spins itself. These wispy fibers are so tensile and long and strong, with perfect crimp (spinner…

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