Sunday, December 13, 2009

Yummy Alpaca Handspun!

Well, I finally finished spinning and plying one skein of Raw Alpaca. I set the twist friday night and left the yarn to hang in the basement stairway to dry until this morning. The pictures just do not do this yarn any real justice. I just can't stop touching it. It is soooooooo soft! I am knitting a manly scarf for a Christmas trade and I just know that I will have to spin up some more of this fiber to knit something else because it is just so YUMMY!

I purchased 5lbs of this raw alpaca at the Farmers Market in Athens MI, and I wasn't sure what I was going to do with it. I bought a pair of hand carders at a garage sale, I got a great deal on them ($25) and I used them to hand card this fiber for spinning, AND, I spun it all up on a drop spindle. I have been dreaming of buying a spinning wheel, but it will probably be a while before I can purchase one, so until then it takes several days to spin and ply and set the twist on a skein this size. This skein is 186 yds of yarn, and I still have to measure it on the yarn gauge for WPI to find out the weight. I want to say it is a worsted weight.

Right now I plan to sit down with a cup of tea and wrap the yarn into a center pull ball, and then CO for the scarf and spend the day knitting.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas Knitting

Well Christmas time is here, and winter has hit Michigan with a vengeance. Just a few days ago it was mild and sunny, the grass was green, and now it is a whopping 9 degrees outside, with a severely bitter windchill and at least 4-6 inches of snow. That is not very much snow, but with the previous mild weather and the wind and drifting it is rather cold, icy, and COLD outside. And to make matters worse, the one pair of wool socks I have knit for myself suddenly have holes in the soles. I just mended one sock yesterday only to find the second sock starting a hole today that was suddenly threatening to expose the entire sole of my foot if I did not stop wearing it. I was loathe to take the socks off and now my toes are like little ice cubes, bereft of warmth until my socks are repaired. I really need to knit myself a few more pairs of socks, but my Christmas knitting projects require all of my time right now.

The picture above is of some raw alpaca I am spinning to knit a man's scarf for a trade. I found a great pattern on Ravelry and plan to ply the yarn and set the twist tomorrow so I can start knitting on saturday. I have devoted my weekend to knitting this scarf. I need to have it finished and off in the mail by the 18th for it to arrive in time for Christmas. I hope to get a minimum of 200 yds of worsted weight yarn out of this batch. If I need to spin more I will have to stay up late and get up early to make sure I have enough time to accomplish everything.

The other day I stayed up until almost 1:30 am finishing up a pair of fingerless mitts for my mother. Tonight my daughter stopped by and snatched up those fingerless mitts as soon as she saw them exclaiming over her frozen hands as she begged me to let her have them. Of course, I let her take them home and now I will be CO a new pair for my mother. I told my daughter the fingerless mitts wouldn't help her too much in this bitter cold and were more suitable for wearing inside this time of year, but she did not care. I think she just wanted them for herself all along. She is always complaining that I never make her anything, when in reality, I make her many things and she never likes them because she is far too picky.

Well, as much as I would love to chat some more, I must get back to the knitting and the spinning or I won't have any gifts under the tree this year.

Maybe tomorrow in addition to getting a few pics of this bitter winter weather, I will take a few photos of all my current projects so you can see what I've been up to.

Happy Knitting

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Novelty Yarns - The Drop Spindle Method

Well, Sorry I have not been updating the blog lately. I spent the summer at my parents in SC and just returned home in September and I have been swamped trying to get all my things put away and catching up on Etsy orders and making ready for all the holiday spinning and knitting. I should be posting regularly now that I have gotten back into a normal routine.

ALSO......I have started a podcast. My first episode was in July, and I just uploaded Episode 2 last week. You can find the podcast and show notes here and it is also available for free download on iTunes. Just type in Spinsterknits in the search bar and you will find it.

Since returning home I have made some new friends at a fiber festival I attended in the beginning of October. I now meet with the ladies every Monday night for spinning and socializing. They all spin on a wheel, but sadly I am still a spindle spinner until I am able to purchase my own wheel. I did test a couple at the festival though. I am really liking the Ladybug wheel.......ALOT!

One of the girls I spin with on Mondays has the book "Intertwined - The Art of Handspun Yarn, Modern Patterns, and Creative Spinning". You can find it here I was able to browse it briefly on 2 occasions and finally decided to request it from my Library. It came in on Thursday and I am in Total and Complete Love with this book. Some of the yarns and projects are a little too OUT THERE for my taste, but the techniques are fantastic. I am still reading the book and all the different step by step details of each technique, but the book is designed with the Spinning Wheel in mind and not really the drop spindle. I am determined that I can spin just as many interesting and unique yarns on the drop spindle as can be spun on the wheel so I opened up the book, pulled out my wools, fibers,bits and pieces of handspun yarns,and my hand carders and went to work making some CRAZY BATTS as described on pgs 64-67.

Basically, for the yarn pictured (total yield= 93 yds in 3 skeins), I made 22 mini crazy batts by loading one carder with some grey wool (my mother bought it at a festival as a mill carded batt and she has no clue what the fiber is, the farm she bought it from raises Icelandic sheep and Llamas, so its a 50/50 guess as to what it is), and then I laid out bits of leftover pieces of handspun yarns from other projects in green, teal, pink and orange. On top of that I added pieces of hand dyed yellow and watermelon colored German Angora, and then topped that off with some hand dyed light blue Corriedale wool. Then I hand carded the mass onto the empty carder and then onto the other carder before pulling it off and rolling it up, ready for spinning. The idea is to lightly card the fibers so that they retain their lumpy, bumpy,unmixed textures. Then you spin it up fast with minimal drafting allowing the fibers to clump and shape into a thick and thin kaleidoscope of color. To finish I plied the yarn with a silver metallic crochet thread. I really like the end result and have already made some sketches for a new pattern I am designing especially for this yarn. I will be working on that project this week.

Now,some tips on the spinning process. Because you are spinning these batts up with minimal drafting it takes a little time to get the feel for the technique. A wheel will continue to spin as you treadle, but the spindle doesn't spin as long when you are barely drafting and basically overspinning the fiber. You have to keep a closer eye on the spindle so it doesn't change direction and undo all your hard work, and it is easier when you wind on every 12 inches or so instead of spinning until your spindle touches the floor. I spun up all 3 skeins in just a few hours. They were much faster to complete then I expected.

I will definitely get some pics and maybe even some video of the entire process for anyone who is interested in a step by step demonstration of how I made this yarn.

Over the next 2 weeks I plan to try out several more techniques in this book with my drop spindle to see how they turn out. Even though some of the projects are a nothing at all like items I would actually wear or yarn I would actually use, this book is a MUST HAVE on my Christmas list because the techniques can be used to make a wide variety of yarns to fit any person's style.

Happy Spinning:-)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Hand Dyed, Hand Spun, Hand Knit Mitts

I fell in love with these mitts when I saw them in the IK Fall 2007 Issue and knew that one day I would knit them.

2 years later........I finally have!
I hand dyed the colorwork wools with Wilton Icing Dyes and spun them up in small batches to make the mitts. The body of the mitts is knit with a worsted natural gray handspun wool. My mother purchased a batt of it at a recent fiber festival in my hometown, sadly, she does not have the label telling what kind of wool it is. I can tell you it is a little bit coarse, but not scratchy, and it was a bit tricky to spin, as it was carded into a huge batt at the mill and the fibers are very short bits and pieces. I had to pull the batt in several directions to loosen up the fibers for drafting, I then rolled it loosely like a rolag and folded it gently in half so it formed a V shape. then I drafted it from the tip of the V which pulled the fibers sideways across each other, this seemed to help them twist more firmly together. I am a fairly new spinner, so if there is a specific name for how I drafted this I don't know what it is, but I would love to hear it if you do.
I measured out 2.25 ounces of this wool and spun up 90 yards of worsted weight yarn.
The yarn used for the colorwork is as follows:

Red 3o yds handspun 12 wpi
Orange 1o yds handspun 12 wpi

Teal 11 yds handspun 12 wpi
* I used this in the center colorwork of the 2nd mitt when I ran out of the red.

Salmon 15 yds handspun 12 wpi
Lime Green 27 yds handspun 12 wpi

lt pink 7 yds handspun 11 wpi
* I only used a very small portion of this yarn on the top portion of the 2nd mitt because I ran out of the Salmon color. The colors are so close that you almost can't tell the difference unless you really look closely at them together.
I really like the slight differences that resulted in the 2nd mitt due to the color changes. I knit these mitts over a few days. Each one took about 12 hours. I CO in the evening for the first mitt and knit for 6 hours. I picked it up again at 7am the next morning and knit until 1pm. The first mitt was finished. The majority of the second mitt was knit in a single day. I knit 27 rows from the CO edge in the evening and then picked it up again at 6am the next day and knit for a few hours in the morning, and then I knit again in the afternoon until the mitt was finished. I think the second mitt actually went a little faster, but since the first one was 12 hours of knitting I figured it would be safer to estimate 24 hours for the whole project.

I like these mitts so much, I think I will make them again in different colors. My mom wants a pair and I am sure my daughter would love a pair too.

The pattern for these mitts can be found on Ravelry here Interweave Knits Composed Mitts

Happy Knitting!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Dye Spin Knit Felt

Lately I have really been into felting Knitted projects. So much so, that I have made several felted patterns and made them available on Ravelry (I still have a frog toy to write up and post though). While browsing Etsy the other day I came upon many needle felted items, mostly adorable little animals. I have a needle felting tool that my mother sent to me and I decided I really wanted to make some little needle felted animals and things.


Well, I am visiting my parents in SC right now, and I knew that anything I purchased on Etsy probably would have to go to my house in Michigan because I was going to be heading home soon, and I am very much a "Spur of the moment" kind of crafter. Once I get something into my head, I want to do it right now and waiting around for items in the mail is NOT an option.
So I took a trip down to Hobby Lobby to look at their needle felting roving packs. They really didn't have anything of interest. While I was there my Mother wanted me to check out the baking and Cake decorating aisle for those nifty silicon muffin molds (She uses them as soap molds because they are easy to manipulate and release the soap better). Well, sadly for her, they did not have any of those silicon molds, but goodie for me, I spied some wilton gel colorings in little jars and had an epiphany!

At 1.49 each, I grabbed up 8 jars of various colors and headed to the checkout.

Once back at the parents, I pulled out about 12 oz of natural ecru fiber I had been hoarding. 4 ounces of Romney and 8oz of BFL. I pulled it into shorter lengths and soaked it in a bowl in the sink for about an hour, until it was heavy with water and there were no dry spots left.

There are numerous posts online if you do a google search for "dyeing fiber with Wilton Dyes" too many to list them all, but I really liked this one by PieKnits.

I did not really write down measurements for this first attempt at dyeing. My goal here was to dye up the fiber I had for my own personal use, so I really just jumped right in and played around with it.

And this is what I did:

I put 3 separate saucepans on the stove top, each with 4 cups water and 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar. I brought the water and vinegar mixture to a boil and then reduced the heat to simmer.

I used a butter knife to measure out a small bit of Wilton Dye from the jar. Basically I covered about a 1/4 inch of the knife tip with dye from the jar. The dye is like a thick paste, so I mixed it with some boiling water in a small glass pyrex dish (very small custard style cup) until it was well dissolved. Then I added this color mixture to the pot of water and vinegar on the stove and stirred it in. I mixed a different color in each pot.

Now I took my bowl of soaking roving and poured it out into a colander. Then I removed each length of roving, one at a time, gently squeezing out the excess water and laying the roving on a small towel I had opened up on the kitchen counter.

Once all the roving was ready I put 1 short length into each pot. Now I just waited a few minutes, spooning the fiber up out of the water to check the saturation periodically. It really did not take more than maybe 5 - 15 minutes for the fibers to be well saturated with color. Many times the fiber would suck up all the color in the pot and the water would be clear once the fiber was removed. When that happened, I would just add more color and more wool to repeat the process. If there was color remaining in the pot when the wool was removed, I would simply place new length of wool in the pot to use up the remaining color. This is how I was able to get varying shades of the same color. As I went along, I became more confident and started mixing colors in the pot to try and achieve different shades. (I will be dyeing more fiber soon and will post detailed instructions on mixtures for the colors I achieve).

Once I spooned the fiber out of the dye pot, I would let it sit in a colander in the sink to cool for a few minutes and then I would rinse it with warm water until the water ran clear. I would gently squeeze the excess liquid from the fiber, shake it out a little bit to fluff it, and then hang it outside to dry.

And here are the results for my afternoon of dyeing fiber!
I used a little bit of the colored rovings to needle felt this little Mother Hen and her Chicks
and these 3 little piggies
And then I decided to spin up the wool I need to knit the Composed Mitts from Interweave Knits Fall 2007 Issue Here is the link to the Composed Mitts Pattern Page on Ravelry.

These are the mini skeins I spun up last night for the bits of color.
I am still spinning the natural lt gray to use for the body of the mitts. I am currently using my US4 Addi Turbo 40 inch circular to knit the Dream Twister Socks 2 at a time, so I will have to buy another pair to knit these mitts 2 at a time.
Next post will be an update of the ongoing Toe Sock Project and more knitting WIP.
Happy Knitting, Spinning and Felting:-)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

How-To Make Your Own Seed Packets

Now that summer is in full swing, if you have a garden you are or soon will be enjoying the fruits of your harvest. When preparing vegetables from your garden, set aside the seeds whenever possible. Wash them in a colander and lay them out onto paper towel to dry. Once dry store them in Seed Packets you make yourself!

I have included a link to the Seed Packet Template here

and a link to the Fancy Seed Packet Labels here

For my own hand made seed packets, I have printed the labels out on regular printer paper and traced the seed packet template onto a paper grocery sack. I like the look of the brown paper sack and it is a great way to RECYCLE and REUSE. If you want to go even one step further, print the labels on the back of already used pieces of printer paper or junk mail and reduce your paper waste even more.

This is a great way to have seeds on hand for planting year after year and you can even give filled seed packets to friends and family who enjoy gardening as well.

Happy Harvesting:-)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

COMING SOON - Audio and Video Podcast!!

Recently I have been thinking that it is time for me to take the leap into the world of PODCASTING! I plan to introduce my very first Audio Podcast sometime this week, with a video podcast to follow shortly thereafter.

I have been listening to several knitting podcasts this weekend and I have decided that it would be nice to get a peek at some of the projects and techniques that many of the podcasters discuss during their segments. So when I start my own podcast, I am going to include a video segment later in the same week which will show details of the projects, tips, techniques, and other things of interest that were discussed in that week's Audio segment.

I am very excited about this idea, and I hope to be able to include my Cousin Holly as a special guest in several of my Audio and Video Podcasts as well, as she is a superior knitter and I have learned much from her and her mother, my Aunt Mary over the past year.

Topics will include Knitting, Spinning, Fiber, and for those of you in my local area, a glimpse into the fiber related activities and events coming up or currently going on in the community.

So STAY TUNED........for now I will leave you with my latest Youtube Video

Saturday, July 18, 2009


Rarely in my blogging do I ever really give any insight into "who I am". It is more of a " what I do" or "what I have done" sort of sharing. I guess from the beginning I thought of my blog as a way to escape from the everyday things that troubled me, focusing instead on the activities that filled my life and not the reality of daily living. But this morning I have been thinking, and I am realizing, maybe for the first time, that all of the so called "activities" of late are moving me towards a common purpose....... self sufficiency. It is something I could never accomplish working in a mainstream position. I worked from dusk til dawn, on call 24 hours a day 7 days a week, and in the end I was never ahead financially, I was just barely scraping by and spending a lot of time away from my child. Certainly, as a single mother of 1, my working outside the home was necessary to provide for my family. But I can honestly tell you that when I lost my job, 2 years ago, I wasn't gripped with fear over how I would survive or provide for my family, I was overcome with relief as if this huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders, and I had been given a second chance to start again. And now, 2 years later, I know that I am right where I should be, even though I am still lacking a steady income, I am no longer lacking in purpose. The needs of my family are being provided for through faith, and the path that I follow is being laid out before me through prayer. So this morning, as I sit in the quiet of the early hours, I am thankful for all that the Lord has provided, and pray that I will continue to seek Him first in all things.

Proverbs 3:5,6
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy paths.

Romans 8:28
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Friday, July 10, 2009

How-to Wash a Raw Fleece

Since my comb and hackle set is almost completed, I thought it was time to wash the raw fleece I bought at my local fiber fest.

Since I didn't have the slightest clue where or how to start, I did a little research on Ravelry, and joined a new group here and they had alot of info on washing fleece including this link with step by step HOW-TO directions.

I printed out the directions and followed them exactly. Here is how I washed my fleece.

This is the fleece before washing...............dirty and with a strong farm smell that no one else can stand. I don't mind it at all. This is 1 pound of raw fleece.I started by filling a super large stainless steel pot with cold water

Then I submerged the raw wool in the water, gently pushing it under until it was all covered. The water became cloudy and dingy almost immediately. I let the fleece soak for 15-20 minutes before removing it from the bath and placing it in the colander.

This is the dirty water left in the cold bath after I removed the fleece.

Even after just 1 soak in the cold bath the raw fleece is distinctly lighter.

I rinsed the pot and added 1/2 scoop of powdered laundry detergent. I used Gain.

Then I filled the pot with scalding HOT HOT HOT water!

Then I added the raw fleece and used a long handled wooden spoon to gently push the fleece under the water until it was completely covered.

Then I placed the lid on the pot and let the fleece soak in the HOT soapy water for 15-20 minutes. I repeated this process with the soap once more and then I repeated it without the soap until the water remained clean when the fleece was added to the pot. After that the fleece still smelled very farmy and so I soaked it for 15 minutes in another hot bath, but this time I added shavings of lavender soap my mother had made for me. It eliminated the farmy odor and left the fleece smelling great. After that I soaked the fleece in a final HOT water bath to remove any leftover soap residue
This is my 1 pound of raw fleece all washed, bright, clean, and drying outside.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

How-to Make your own Wool Combs

Not long ago I was browsing on YouTube and came across the following videos showing the proper way to use wool combs.....and the wool combs themselves were quite nice.

I especially liked these English Combs ( and the 4 part video series is quite informative)

And this comb and Hackle set

So with a little more research I also found a HOW-TO blog post here that was very informative.

Well I took a little bit of direction from the blog post and some ideas on style from the videos and sketched up my own little comb and hackle pattern.I took a trip to Home Depot to pick up a 2 ft piece of 1x6 Oak ( and my dad had a nice oak dowel to use for a handle. I did the cutting, Dad did the sanding, assembled the comb, and drilled the holes for me after I marked them out. He even stained it for me. I put the wax on this morning, and just finished gluing in the 4 rows of nails with 2 part epoxy.

I still have to make the hackle, it is all drawn out and ready for cutting when my dad gets home from work today. But for now I am quite pleased with the finished comb.Dad had the great idea to wood burn the word PROTO and the date on the back of the comb to record that it is the PROTO-type and when we made it.

I have enough wood left over to make a set for my mother too.

By the weekend I should be able to wash and comb this lovely 1lb batch of raw wool I bought at a recent fiber fest.I am so excited.....I can't wait to show you the finished set...not to mention the final roving I will make with this wool. Maybe I will even try my hand at dyeing it too.

Once the hackle is complete I will write up step by step instructions for you to make your own, and I will include a PDF link with a template for both the comb and hackle design. So stay tuned. I should have the hackle finished and ready to use by Saturday.

Monday, July 6, 2009

In Vogue - Elizabeth Zimmerman Snail Hat!

Some things never go out of style. I was browsing some of my favorite blogs the other day and read about the EZ Snail hat on Cosymakes blog. I thought to myself......that hat looks familiar, so emboldened by curiosity I clicked a few links and wound up on the Snail Hat Pattern Page on Ravelry where I was given the option to buy the pattern or, I was told, I could find it in the Winter 09 Edition of Vogue Knitting. Wouldn't you know, I happen to have that very copy of Vogue Knitting, hence why the hat looked so familiar. I had dog eared the page to knit later. Well I decided I would knit now instead.......added bonus Cosymakes is offering a handspun giveaway!I had just visited a local fiberfest and had 2.5 ounces of pink Angora/Merino/Silk/Angelina blend that I had spun up into a light worsted/sport weight yarn at 12wpi. Even though the pattern called for a bulky with a gauge of 2 1/2 sts per inch, I wanted to see how this would knit in the angora blend and figured I could hold on to it for a Christmas gift later. The finished hat is perfect size for a child of preteen age, say 8-12.I used a US 10 16-inch circular for the main portion of the hat, and switched to (4) US 9 DPNs to finish it off once I finished the round at (p1,p2tog,p2tog,k10,m1). From there I continued to decrease until I was left with a total of 15sts total, I decreased 2 more rounds as stated in the pattern and pulled the working yarn through the final 9 sts and finished off the hat. Using the tail of the cast on edge I seamed up the 2 edges of the garter stitch band at the bottom and weaved in all ends.I am very pleased with the results and can't wait to make another one of these luxurious hats. Imagine my joy at seeing how the wonderful Halo on this fiber appears in the final photos.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Bobbles and Buttons - Neckwarmer and Mitts

I have put this pattern on Ravelry - you can find me there as lildebi, and you can find the pattern PDF for printing here

I went to the Fiber Festival in Marshall last Saturday and fell in love with all the fibers. This fiber was from Jehovah Jireh farm and I purchased it in an 80z roving ready for spinning. It is a blend of 70% Merino Wool and 30% Alpaca, and I spun it up on my new bottom whorl spindle that I bought from Spin2knit to make a bulky yarn. I happened upon a women plying on her spindle using the navajo plying method, it was great to see, and even greater to realize that I knew and recognized what she was doing. I tried the Navajo Ply myself on this yarn and it turned out beautifully, if I do say so myself. I really love it and have decided to continue to purchase this fiber and make more yarn to sell in My Etsy Shop . I can envision this yarn in a nice chunky sweater or poncho with pockets. Too many of my clothes are minus pockets and I really miss the ability to carry small things without having to lug around my huge duffel of a purse.

Since I am under the weather this week, I am using this down time to spin and knit. I just finished up some angora/silk last night, it is a light pink reminiscent of Cotton Candy, and I just love it. I am also spinning up another smaller bundle of Merino/Alpaca from Jehovah Jireh Farm that I am going to navajo ply and use to make myself a pair of fingerless mitts.

I have also written up the pattern for the Owl Pincushion and am adding it to that blog entry later today. So keep an eye out for it later on.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Spinning Flax into Linen Thread

Here is my very first YouTube Video! How exciting. I am still getting the hang of my video camera. I have had it for a year, but I have just started using it to make videos of my spinning and other crafts.

This video is a close-up view of drafting and spinning flax into linen thread using the Wet-Spun method. This is my first time spinning flax. It sort of resembles a twine when finished and this type of flax is Line Linen I believe as it is the longer fibers and it does not need to plied at all. It can be used as a single. I plan to use my linen thread to knit a lace tank top. It is large enough that it is worn over a lighter blouse and long similar to an apron style in the front. I thought I had a copy of the pattern, but I cannot find it in my stash. I will have to hunt it down online and see if I can post a link to it here.

This is just the first of many more videos you will see from me in the future!

Happy Spinning!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Funky Bird Collages

I am in a mail art swap on ATCsforall and the theme is funky birds. No matter what I do I just can't seem to get away from color. I love big, bright and bold color, no art piece seems to be complete until I throw some bright color on it. I have to make 3 more pages before I mail them out to the hostess and so I am going to take some photos and possibly some video of the step by step process of making one of my Funky Bird Pages.Next, I will be making some mini ATC's. I dropped by Rocnic's blog at and was inspired by her mini ATC collages. If you haven't dropped by her blog yet, follow this link and check it out!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Happy Birthday Sunday PostCard Art!

Here is my entry for today's theme titled ; Crowns and Cake!
(Starring my oldest Pup Queen Isabella)

Sunday PostCard Art is Celebrating their 1st Birthday. If you haven't checked them out yet, Click the link and take a peek at today's submissions in Honor of their Birthday!