Thursday, December 30, 2010


All of my kids are home right now.
Brittney is visiting from Utah where she is finishing up her Master's in Education. She'll be a high school English teacher.
Chelsea came back home after her relationship ended. She's planning on being here for about 2 months so she can save up for an apartment deposit.
Maggie and Ryan are here for at least another 8 years, because, you know, they aren't old enough to be on their own.

Having everyone home has given me some opportunity to pause and reflect on the last almost 25 years. Brittney will be 25 in April.

My kids are so different from each other. Different in their physical build, different in their tempraments, different in how they view the world and how they approach problems.

Over the years, even up to as recently as last night, I have heard murmurings among them about whether I treat them all the same. Do I have favorites. Is it fair.

Now that I have 2 adult children and two who will be home for a long time I can analyze these things in a way that I couldn't even when Brittney and Chelsea were teenagers. And here's what I want to say about the whole thing. It isn't fair but it is just.

How can you treat them all the same? How can everyone have the same consequences? Some consequence that might be horrific for one kid may have no effect on another one. Each one has different interests. So how can a treat for one be the same as a treat for another?

It's funny but that "it's not fair" has caught me off guard and introduced some guilt many times in the past. Not anymore.

I do have a favorite. The favorite is the one who is making me smile at the time. The favorite is the one who is not currently causing me to worry. The favorite is the one who is working hard and trying hard and being responsible. The favorite is the one I am currently worried about. The favorite is the one who needs a bit of a speech to help him/her see the error of his ways or why we don;t behave that way in our family. The favorite is the one who is reading quietly and the one who needs a bit of encouragement to practice reading.

The favorite is Chelsea because she has made so much progress and come such a long way in the last 2 years and has become a talented dyer and has learned about how much her family truly loves her.

The favorite is Brittney because of all that she has accomplished in the last 6 years. For her earnest interest in the world around her and a desire to help and work to help students attain their goals.

The favorite is Maggie because of her interest ins textiles and arts and her desire to learn everything she can. For her clever wit and easy going nature.

And the favorite is Ryan for the way he is a friend to everyone. How he can meet a person and suck them into his light saber dueling and story telling. For his happy and loving way of looking at life.

How could I choose just one child? How could I?

Sentimental a bit? Why yes, please.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Merino Lace...and Margaret Stove

Margaret Stove has long been one of my heroes. My spinning career began at about the same time as my discovery of my love of lace knitting. It's no secret that I am not a fan of Merino. I should clarify. I am not a fan of spinning mill processed Merino. I love washing it myself and spinning from the lock. The yarn is so much better. I am not a huge fan of Merino yarn that was spun at the mill but! I do love a well spun handspun Merino yarn. And it all began with Margaret Stove.

This book, Merino; Handspinning, Dyeing & Working with Merino and Superfine Wools was one of my very first spinning books. Margaret's methods for washing fine wools have made a huge impression on me and my washing techniques across the board.

The book begins with an overview of Merino types and possible history of the breed. Margaret goes on to tell in detail her washing techniques and how she holds the fiber to get a lively, springy yarn that works great for fine lace knitting.

Next she talks about spinning wheel setups including drive band materials and brake band materials. She also discusses, when spinning from the lock, which end she likes to spin from and why she thinks her method works. Then comes a chapter on how much twist and how to decide in the singles and the plied yarn. The twist chapter alone is worth the price of the book.

Finally there is a chapter on dyeing Merino as well as discussion about how this wool plays with other fibers. Lots of dyeing information about dyeing the locks in the grease and then washing the locks before spinning is covered...I, not being a fan of dyeing, have not spent very much time in this chapter.

There are then 40 pages of appendices covering everything from easy outlines of processes covered earlier in the book as well as a discussion about how different yarn thicknesses affect knitted lace and 5 patterns for Merino garments for baby and adult.

This book has been out of print for several years. I have found it for as little as $75 on Alibris which is my favorite spot for buying out of print books. I think this is a fantastic book and wish Interweave would put it back out in circulation. It doesn't look good though.
The next book in my Margaret Stove collection is Creating Original Hand-Knitted Lace. This book was published by Lacis and was out of print for a time but is available again (and you can get it at the Spinning Loft)

This book has no spinning but is a great lace tutorial. it begins with a very in depth chapter about the history of Hand Knit lace in many parts of the world. Margaret goes on to talk about the importance of understanding the structure of lace as well as when lace is appropriate in knitting.

Chapter 4 is where we really get to the designing and begin to learn how lace stitches, and decreases affect the overall fabric based on where they are placed in relation to each other. Lots of great charts are given so you can swatch and do your own studies.

Then we get into planning projects and methods for doing this. A really fantastic part of this chapter is that Margaret Stove encourages us to make a notebook of samples we have made so far so that they will be available while we are planning. So that we can avoid mistakes and take advantage of things that worked. And then we begin. This book can be used as a textbook. Step by step you can follow along with the author and come up with your own lace designs led by a master.

She then helps us to begin to learn how to make the stitches bend to our will. Of course physics plays a big part but just by moving the position of a decrease in relation to the yarn over we can make the shapes we want.

Then to the part which has always scared me and the place I always stop...Translating sketches into stitches. How can we take a drawing of something that inspires us and change it to a lace design. This could be my year!

After these wonderful instructions we are led step by step through a Margaret Stove Design. how she went from a sketch to a finished shawl. I've seen this shawl in person. It was knit with white Merino and then painted. Each lace motif is a different color. The shawl is stunning in person.

The book also includes several patterns for finished objects.
This book is worth every penny of the new $29 cover price - plus it's in hard cover!

And now for the latest offering from Margaret Stove. It's called Wrapped in Lace; Knitted Heirloom Designs from Around the World.

This new book is published by Interweave Press and also available - surprise - at the Spinning Loft!
This book, at first glance, appears to be a book of patterns. It is so much more. I hope that you will take a moment to really look at this book. Like the other two books, it is an invitation to design and experiment and come up with your own lace. We follow Margaret through her journey over the years. She brings us along on her travels and invites us into her design process.

If you are a new lace knitter there are projects in this book that will help you be the lace knitter you are deep down. If you are experienced then this book will also be fantastic for you. There are many advanced patterns as well as the help to advance even further.

The photography is beautiful and the instructions and charts are clear. The New Zealand Tribute to Orenburg shawl is not included in the book but is available as a free download from interweave. This is already a pretty big book and the pattern for the Orenburg style shawl is an additional 18 pages which is why I expect we have the download.

If you have any interest in lace knitting and fine wool spinning I would encourage you to check out all of these books. I dream of someday visiting New Zealand and having lunch with Margaret Stove and showing her my yarns and knitting. In my dream, she is impressed:-)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

So much going on and lots to post a couple of days.
The thing is, I was in Peru for less than 2 weeks and I miss it. How could I get so attached to a place in such a short time?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Peru - The First Time

I say the First Time because I can't imagine this being the last time.

Before I left for Peru I had my usual travel jitters. My usual nuttiness. I was nervous and scared and worried about a million things. I had no idea what was in store or really even what to expect. Abby had described the place and the people but it was hard for me to have a clear picture.

Well, now I have a very clear picture. And I took lots of pictures too. I'm including a few here but I have all of them in my Photobucket Folder called Peru 2010 Not all of them are labelled but you can check them out.

Let's start at the beginning:

It takes a long time to get to Peru. Mostly because of layovers and wait times. We waited in Miami for more than 12 hours for our flight to Lima.

It felt like forever since our flight was about midnight and we got there about 10AM.
But once we got there it was an overwhelming feeling of disbelief and wonder and happiness. We rested on the first day but on the second day the running began and didn't stop. We were on our way to the first of a few sites of ruins but our patient driver stopped to show us Cochineal. The white is surrounding grey bugs on the cactus.
He squashed one in his hand and the amount of red that is used for the dye that came out was unbelievable. Cochineal was everywhere on every cactus.
This is the Inca ruins at Urubamba. Amazing and slightly scary for those of us afraid of heights. Each terrace was for cultivation of food as well as fortressing the place. There were terraces on almost every mountain in the area.
After Urubamba we went to Pisac and I though I might die. There were true tears and crying (from me) and encouragement and a little tough love from Abby and Michelle. If it weren't for that I may still be there because I felt like I couldn't go on at a few spots.
But there was some retail therapy at the end and some darling girls with a lamb for tourists like me to photograph. One Sol was the price for a picture and I'm glad I have it. They are delightful.

This is the market where I got the carved gourds for my mo and me. They are so beautiful and carved with many symbols and scenes from daily life including weaving and spinning and dancing which are all important parts of life here.The next day was the beginning of the Tinkuy. Two full days of interesting presentations from people all over the Americas. This is a photo of Nilda Callanaupa who is a magical woman who can make miracles happen and who can command all those around her who then serve happily.

The Tinkuy was opened with a beautiful ceremony of offering coca leaves to the earth. Each attendee had an envelope with 3 coca leaves which were put in baskets with a wish for the Tinkuy to be successful. Out wishes were granted. The weather was lovely and the instruction was fantastic.
This was one of my favorite things about lunch. The lines of people with their fantastic clothing. I loved the clothing. LOVED IT!
This woman is from Guatamala and the weaving she is doing is so very complex. Everyone of thoise sticks has string heddles for a different part of her weaving.
This woman is from Equador and is demonstrating a driven spindle. It was beautiful and fluid to watch. Notice all of the prepared fiber.
Maggie was a big hit with all of the weavers. here she tries a spindle belonging to a woman from the Chumbivilcas community in the Cuzco region of Peru. Notice that this wool is only washed. There is no further prep. That is what I saw all over with the spinners. Take note that no expensive tools are necessary to make fantastic yarn that then goes into textiles that last for many, many years.
Abby was beautiful in her Chinchero clothing and she wasted no time to show me that she can ply from a skein. Something that makes me very nervous. I need to practice more.
D.Y. Begay was there from Arizona with her marvelous Navajo spinning and weaving. She did a lovely presentation about Navajo methods of weaving.
This is a teenage weaver from Chinchero...I may get to that width of weaving in a few more years!
The knitting....the knitting...the complesx and fine. I took a knitting class and it is very difficult and I have3 lots of practicing to do there too. At some points I was trying to manage 5 colors of yarn at one time.
This man was working on tapestry on his backstrap loom. It was beautiful to watch him work.
At the end of the two days of presentations there was a wonderfully touching closing ceremony where the older weavers in each community passed on their weaving knowledge and tools to the younger generation.
Each night there was a party with contests and dancing and lots of sharing. This was a spinning contest which included all fo the children and Abby's son and Maggie.

And we all danced.

The Chinchero market was colorful and fun but there was class to get to so i didn't get to spend as much time as I wanted to.

There was a natural dye class that looked beautiful when it was over. I was in the knitting class that was so engaging I took no photos.
The next day was a weaving class about circular edgings. While we were warping my second edging there was a hail storm. I wished I was wrapped in all of the wool that my instructor was.
And then there was Machu Picchu.
It wasn't AS scary as Pisac.
A lovely breeakfast that included Chocolate Caliente and fresh Manzanilla (Chamomile) tea
The square in Cuzco city from our breakfast balcony.
And Maggie was able to get some traditional skirts. She looked so cute that the ladies who were weaving at the center wanted to complete her look.
It was a lot of traveling and learning and work. Maggie fell asleep at dinner.
This man is a fantastic knitter. I have a bit of video of him that I will be adding to Youtube shortly.
Maggie got some weaving instruction from many experts - as did I.

And Ryan...We brought him a hat and a Pan Pipe. He was out by the road yesterday with his pipe and hat hoping that if he played people would put money in his hat. I think he gets it from my Mother's side of the family. He was quite disappointed since we live on a not so busy street.

So, while I was in Peru I fell in love. I fell in love with the people. I fell in love with the weavers. I fell in love with the CTTC. I will be in their lives.

I also brought home a massive amount of textiles for the shop as well as a nice selection of Peruvian low whorl spindles. All of these things will be on the webstore as fast as I can list them. We need to preserve this fantastic and complicated and beautiful and useful art by helping and supporting these weavers.

The reality was brought home during this trip that we were within just a few years of all of this being lost. I am not exagerating. We can't lose the knowledge of this. We need to support these people as well as textiles all over the world. Machines cannot do these things. Only talented people who work for years to develop the knowledge.

Peru is beautiful but in the end it was the people who got to me. They are happy and friendly and most loving. Though many are very poor, they are hard working and they share and, not to sound silly, I wish to be more like them.

There is so much more to say but work is calling me from the shop...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

New weaving and Old Spinning Wheel

Remember when Denny came in May and helped me put that warp on the back beam of my loom? (Warp was wound here) I was a bit overwhelmed by the amount of threading and also was VERY nervous about threads breaking because they seemed to break so easily while we were winding on. There is a very light twist in the yarn and it is also very hairy.

Well, I had threaded about 300 ends and then Evil Michelle and Suzanne warped another hundred or so. Then the light bulb came on and I asked Chelsea if she would do it. She had it done in about 6 hours. Then I showed her how to thread the reed...that was only a couple of hours and all 850 ends were ready to tie on!. Chelsea is the hero of the week!
And so the weaving of the two shawls begins. This is the fabric I have been wanting to weave since I learned to weave a few years ago. Also, I love twill.
Also, today, Jennifer came in with a wheel that she got at a second hand store...or an antiques store...or something like that. That always makes me nervous. She was lucky!

some string and a coat hanger and the thing was spinning along.
No marks. So we don;t know who made it but I'm sure it is over 100 years old.

And it's Irish tension!. It spins beautifully. If anybody has any ideas of the history of this type of wheel we would love to hear.

And finally! The Spinning Loft was voted the Best Fiber Arts Shop in the Detroit Area!!!!!! I am so proud and thankful. Thank you so much to all of you who voted for us!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Knit a Dozen Slippers!

I have a friend and she is the cutest thing. her name is Amy. I met her a couple of years ago because of spinning. It was near the beginning of her current career which has just exploded for her and I am so glad.

She is a terrific designer who has had knitwear designs in every knitting magazine. She is a talented tech editor and so has her name alongside many other gifted designers. Along whith that work she is also a talented spinner and has taught her young daughter to spin too!

And now, along with all of this, she has a new book out and it is all about slippers!

When I saw there would be a blog tour for the book I jumped in. I loved having the opportunity to review the book and ask Amy some questions about the book and also one pattern in particular.

So here goes:

Threesheeps: I know you are a spinner as well as knit designer and lots of other knitting related things and so I wanted to really focus my questions toward the spinners I know. I hope you don't mind.
But first! A slippers book is such a great idea. What made you decide to do a whole bunch of slippers?
[Amy Polcyn] Small projects are awesome, that's why! It's really hard sometimes to have enough time to take on a larger project, and sometimes we just don't want to. Slippers are a nice alternative to socks, and as a bonus they take much less time to complete.

Threesheeps: I'm a little spoiled and have had the opportunity to see you working on many designs over the years. Can you tell me a little about how you get inspiration for your designs? How about specifically slipper designs?
[Amy Polcyn] Generally, my inspiration comes from things I see or "spontaneous brainstorms" that often wake me up at night. I keep a sketchbook filled with little scribbles, pictures from magazines, and even some scraps of fabric. Often I'll see a collar, or a print, or a texture that I decide to save for possible future inspiration, while other times I'll see, say, a blouse in a catalog, even a skirt or a pair of pants and instantly envision a sweater inspired by some element of it, maybe it had cool pockets, or an interesting shape to the sleeves. For the slippers, I thought more in terms of covering as many sizes, ages, and genders as possible in only a dozen or so styles, and also of covering as many techniques as possible (lace, cables, colorwork, different toe/heel treatments, etc). Lastly, I thought about as many types of slippers as possible-- scuffs, pull-on styles, little dainty ballet slippers, slipper socks and boots, clogs... once I had all this in mind I put the pieces together, thinking about styles I or people I know might actually wear. For me personally, it's all about the Mary Janes, but I think you would have guessed that!

I love the Mitered Square Scuffs and think it is a great project for spinners to try. Do you have any advice about the overall knitting of the pattern?
[Amy Polcyn] I agree-- not much yarn is needed, so it would be a great project for those fibers you only have 4 ounces of! The knitting is very simple-- basically you knit a garter stitch mitered square for each toe (which has sts picked up on 2 sides and worked to create a pentagon shape) and 2 shaped garter stitch sole pieces for each slipper, which are then sandwiched around a piece of heavy interfacing. Super-basic crocheting skills are needed to finish the slippers, as a row of single crochet is worked to close the outside of the sole and to trim the front opening, though I suppose you could sew them closed instead if you prefer.

Threesheeps: The yarn for this is Aslan Trends Kettle Dyed Bariloche. Would you describe it as a medium or heavy worsted weight yarn? Are there any yarns you can think of that would make good substitute yarns?
[Amy Polcyn] I would call it a heavy worsted, since it gets a gauge of about 4 1/2 stitches to the inch. Good substitues would be yarns such as Mission Falls 1824 wool, Manos Wool Clasica, Classic Elite Montera, Nashua Handknits Champlain or Creative Focus Chunky, Stitch Nation Full o' Sheep, or Plymouth Galway Chunky. Personally, when I'm working mitered squares I like the look achieved by self-striping yarns, so that is why I chose the Bariloche. Of course, you could easily use 2-3 solid colors and stripe them, which would be a great way to use up leftovers. I would avoid using a super soft singles yarn, as it might not hold up very well on the bottom of the sole.

Threesheeps: There is a felt or interfacing lining inside the sole of the mitered scuffs. What is the purpose of this? If it is for more cushioning do you think more would be better or is the thin amount called for a better choice?
[Amy Polcyn] Not for cushioning, but more to give the soles some structure. If they are too floppy the soles would flip under your foot, and that would not be nice. I used Timtex, which is a REALLY stiff and thick interfacing, for the scuffs. If you wanted to add some cushioning, a thin layer of quilt batting on top of the interfacing would be a nice touch, but it's not necessary.

Threesheeps: I think everybody is getting slippers for Christmas...probably not handspun (well, maybe a pair for me in handspun)...and these Mitered ones look like just the ticket. Any advice on making slippers as a surprise gift when you can have a shoe size but no good foot measurements?

[Amy Polcyn] Glad you like the mitered ones. I agree that slippers make great gifts, which is why I included conversions for shoe sizes right in the book! Check out page 3, under Sizing, and you will find the shoe sizes that match each of the slipper sizes in the book. The sizing covers a toddler size 8- child size 3 for the children's lippers, women's sizes 5-13, and men's sizes 7-13+, so that should cover pretty much everyone on your gift list.

And now for the review. Yes, I gushed over Amy. Yes, I love her. But this is a book I would have bought anyway. There is a pair of slippers for everyone in here. With 12 different designs I know you all will be knitting slippers for everyone for Christmas too. Short Sweet and to the Point! And don't worry, I will be ordering plenty of these for the shop...and maybe we should do some together. Who's up for a class?

This blog tour is going on for the next 10 days and the next blogger on the list is Kate Oates. Check her out. She's got some really cute ideas for little kids over there.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Michael Cook and the Silk

These photos are a little out of order but you'll get the gist. the gist is, if you have an opportunity to take a class with Michael Cook on how to tie your shoes, SIGN UP!
The classroom was ready on time. Each student got 8 ounces of silk cocoons. Enough to play with for 2 days an even more to take home.
There was a lot of twisting and twisting and twisting. It's actually known as throwing.
There was also a lot of winding and transferring and winding. All to get the moisture out before the twisting (throwing)
But before all of that twisting and transferring and winding there was reeling. This is Michael showing the Lao technique that needs VERY little equipment.
This is my degummed wet skein. It has over 300 estimate was around 100:-)
This is how the silk looks after throwing but before degumming.
The degumming process is a simmering process with a couple of chemicals in the simmering water. But not hard.
After the silk simmers and is rinsed it has a bath in a citric acid solution and another little rinse and then it dries.
This is a medieval reeling machine. I took the photo after the cocoons were reeled but look at the amount of silk on that reel!
My twisting took all day.
From these bobbins. There are about 12-16 cocoons reeled together and then 2 or 3 or 4 or as many as you like of those are all thrown together to make a singles yarn or filament. it has to do with the thickness you want your final filament to be.
This is the setup for the Japanese technique.
And a tiny bit better photo. if you look closely you can see the silk on the aparatus.

Some students brought show and tell....this is a silk worm in the process of spinning.
And we got to keep some of the worms that Michael brought. The kids are thrilled and we have a mulberry tree just over the neighbor's fence. Who knew?!

It was a fantastic class. I learned a ton. Take this class!