Friday, December 11, 2015

A little wreath making

For years I've wanted to make my own wreaths.
I think it started when my older sister introduced me to this little shop in our home town called Welch Farm. It is unfortunately no longer open. It was a sweet farm store that had a room dedicated to just items made from dried flowers and other rustic style decorations. 

We fell in love with these wreaths made just of dried blushing pink hydrangeas. My sister gave me one for Christmas or a housewarming present, I can't remember. 
I loved this wreath and even though it was so fragile, it always moved with me adorning my front door or my bedroom door from apartment to apartment.
If someone would brush against this wreath, I'd hold my breath and clench my fists trying not to scream. 
It did finally kick the bucket though when it got acceidenly crushed during a move. 
I was so sad but knew it had a longer run than I thought it would. 

Ever since that time I've had a little bug to make my own wreaths out of other natural materials that I love.
Like these muscle shells from the beach just a few minutes walk from my house.

I collected them last April intending to make one for my son's room.
I have always loved this classic blue of the sea etched into these shells that scatter the Maine coast.

I used a $5.00 grapevine wreath from JoAnn Fabrics and a hot glue gun. I realized I had to sift through my pile to fine ones that were basicly the same the size and all going the same way. Because with mucsle shells there is a top and a bottom. Or a right and a left. Depending on howyou look at it.

I also wanted to make some winter wearths for all four of our door. Three for our house and one for my studio door. Everything in these wreaths I also found at JoAnn's. Though I realized that next time, I'm going to search for things on my property that have fallen on the ground.
I have a special spot in my heart for songbirds, especially cardinals. And lichens. And pine trees. The little trees and birds are not meant for outdoor decoriation, but I didn't care. I'll see how long they all last when our snow comes. In the spring I'll make something different. 
back door
studio door
all four together,

So many years have passed when I don't do any holiday or seasonal crafts/ activities and then I get really bummed out because I didn't plan or I was too busy. Making time to do things like this right around Thanksgiving really gets me in the spirit. 

Now, if only I can find time to make some salt ornaments....

What crafts put you in the mood for the holidays? 

Friday, December 4, 2015

Journey of a Yarn; the rainbow cap

5 years ago, my sister was expecting her 3rd baby. She asked me to create some of my rainbow yarn for a blanket. Her oldest, 4 then and with healing chicken pox, came over to spend the day with me and help prepare this special yarn for her future baby brother. 

I had the best day planned with my niece. It was filled with grilled cheese, tomato soup, and sharing my favorite Irish movie, Secret of Roan Inish. I just had to run to the store before hand to pick up the goodies. However, as I was leaving, my car died about 5 feet after I started driving. I then went carless for 2 years. It certainly made life more interesting but that's a story for another time. 

I loved doing this project with my niece as it's really kid friendly and even though she wasn't feeling her best, she was so into it. 
For the yarn, my sister requested mixed Bluefaced Leicester with silk which you can find here, my favorite local fiber shop, Portfiber. 

I love working with this fiber so much. With the grey and the silk mixed in, whatever you use for dye, it always looks so beautiful because of the multi textures. 

Dyeing rainbows is a lot of fun to do with roving. 
And because I wanted a very specific color placement, I used jars, which some call space dyeing. 
I think I dyed 8 oz or more. I may have dyed the roving in batches if that were the case. 
For the dyes I used 1 Kool-Aid packet of each:
yellow rite dye- the lemonade doesn't give a strong yellow
blue raspberry lemonade- be careful here. make sure the picture on the package shows a blue pitcher and not red!
and grape
oh! and strawberry sometimes to get that nice gradient inbetween the red and purple. 

I let my roving soak for a few hours. If it were just wool, it would have been 30 minutes or so. But silk takes much longer to absorb water. 

Lucy dumped each packet into the jars. With the yellow, I only sprinkled in a little bit because the pigment is so strong. 
With a tea kettle filled with just boiled water, I filled each jar about half way full. Lucy stuffed the roving in. I helped her by telling her when to stop stuffing so to keep the roving equal in each jar. I them topped each jar off with more water and with the end of a wooden spoon, she poked around each jar until the wool was completely submerged. We fiddled with each one to make sure color was swimming around the wool. 
After about half and hour- I don't like to wait longer than that because the wool soaks up the color so fast. I scooted the wool from each jar over into the next jar by about 2 inches so that as each color ends, it slightly bleeds into the next. This also gives you beautiful color gradiation. 

That's really all there is to it! I typically let these set for a day or until there is no colored liquid left. 
To make it go even faster, try this outside on a very sunny hot day and leave them in the sun. 
The red/cherry you can usually use again because there is so much pigment there (can you believe we used to drink this?!) With the purple, there will be blue color left which I always find amusing. But with the other colors, they usually get soaked up all the way. 

Once done dyeing, I gently pull up all the roving, squeeze and let soak in a room temperture bath, with a tiny bit of wool washing soap, like orvis paste. 
I then hang it dry. 

Once dry fully, I prepare for spinning. Because I wanted a long color repeat, I gently pulled the roving apart length wise so that I have continuous long pencil roving that started with red and ends with purple(or pink). Preparing your roving this way, makes it very easy to keep your spinning even. There is very little drafting you need to do and you can just let it flow from your fingers into a soft single. 

Once the yarn was spun, I wound it onto my knitty knotty (skein maker) and soaked it again (like I did for the roving). It helps set the twist of the yarn. 

My sister made a few items with this yarn and a little bit she had left over, went into a little cap for her middle child who is now 6. She recently passed that cap onto me for my baby. It was far to big for R's new head. So I frogged it, soaked the yarn again to get the knitted kinks out and started knitting a new hat for my babe. 

It took me 5 tries to get just the right fit. I've knit a ton of hats but hardly even knit baby hats. 
Living on an island with the wind we get, it was very important for me that he had a solid hat that covered his ears. 

I loved making this so much.
And you know what?
It still smells like Koolade!

And I love how this yarn has made it back to us in this full circle that's seen so much love between our two families. 
<3 nbsp="" span="">

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

New Shop Items, Baby Socks, and a Fiber Column

I've just have too many thoughts swimming around up here to get organized properly.
Or at least like I used to. 
Days of spending endless hours creating and writing are over. 
Or at least on hold, for a long while. 
But that's ok. I've got a human to raise and cuddle and love and just be with. 

Motherhood is a crazy time warp spent swimming through diapers, cuddles, and every emotion. 
And being a new mom whose life has been spent creating has its special challenages and highlights. 

My good friend, Casey recently told me about the podcast On Being with Krista Tippet. In particular this episode with Ann Hamilton. I loved the last question of the interview about balancing motherhood and creating. 

I had had a particular crappy week with teething issues with our 5 month old. 
The concept of balance has always eluded me. 
That is until however I heard the Ann's answer. 
I then started to feel differently. 
Thoughts mainly consisting of:
Nothing is written stone.
Lower my expectations for myself and for my baby's routine.
Sink in deeper and cuddle more.
Put off that project if it's not working. Let it breath, think about it, come back to it. 
The response Ann had to how she keeps her balance invloves looking at everything, from her art work, to making soup for her sick child, to whatever needs to come next- as all one big project. 
What I took away from it was
L E T  A L L  O F  I T  B E  YOUR  W O R K 
the laundry
the meals
the playing
the relaxing
the creating

And for me the word work isn't a negative one. But rather filled with privilege, meditation, graditude, hope, shelter, color, nourishment, entertainment, therapy. 

This past week, my heart has felt new aches for the world that it hasn't felt in a very long time. 
I've been reminded to be thankful all over again for the rhythm we've created in our family, the environment we live in and to remember to look up at strangers to smile, say hello, or even give a compliment. To just slow down and notice. 

So, to let all of it, my work, to be part of one project that is never ending. 
Doesn't it make sense? Because laundry and meals and general care of our selves and our child is not suppose to have an end. Neither should our creating. Or interacting with one another. 

I used to think I needed (and sometimes I still do) so much clear head space to get settled into a creating rhythm. But I also realized that part of my creating rhythm needs to include prepping and cleaning materials and making lists or steps and documenting- it's really endless what needs to go into creating. 

All this has come about for me with the approach of winter. I've been remembering that at the beginning of last year, I was writing and creating a dye tutorial once a week or this space to share. I miss my dyeing desperately and hope to get to it when I can. But in the mean time, I'd like get back to my once a week posting and share whatever I've been working on for the week. When I decided to do this, I was reminded that Damn! I make a lot! Despite the broken hours and stranded projects and misplaced ideas I have at 4am. I'm still creating!

For my shop, new Holiday themed project bags. I love making these so much. 
I am a fat quarters hound. I visit a fabric store and I immediately start looking for stacks of fat quarters. I found these sweeties at Z Fabrics in Portland, Maine. I've also been taking a weekly sewing class there working on garments. I love it so so much. I've completed 2 so far that I'll share later.

I often have several knitting projects on the needles and I love keeping them tidy and clean and in a to go mode. I never know what I'll want to work on while on the boat and on car trips. 
Sewing up fat quarters and adding a simple ribbon or lace at the top to create a simple size bag and an easy to open and close bag. 

I couldn't resist these prints. And I really enjoy adding to my project bag collection every season. 

My little one has been growing faster than I can blink- as babies do. He's just over 5 months now and growing out of his soft stretchy new born Old Navy socks. Though I can't believe how long they've lasted. Babies grow in funny ways. Our guy has been growing long and fast but it wasn't until last month or so that he started growing out ward much faster than before. 

I've had a few balls of my hand spun Irish Texel and fermented lichen dyed yarn hanging out in my stash for a while now from experiments I did here last year. You can also read about my whole process for lichen dyes there. 

For this little sock pattern that I improvised, for the starting point I used the pattern from a book in my home library, Last Minute Knitted Gifts, Angora Baby Booties
I've made countless pairs of these booties and they are so much fun to make. I tried the base of this pattern with my thick and chunky handspun. The only adjustment I made was continuing to knit up the leg and adding a few rows of rib stitch. I tried to make my bind off nice and loose and stretchy but it didn't happen. Resulting in making it kind of hard to get the socks on his chubby feet. I found instead it worked to fold over the rib edge and get them on that way! He wears them that way too. And usually stay on for a quite a while. 

My latest endevor involves venturing more into my home state of Maine exploring and sharing Maine's fiber happenings through a new media outlet known as Northern Journeys Magazine. A quartley publication that was created by Jason Thomas nearly 20 years ago in Idaho. You can read more about it on their website. I will be a contributing columnist for each edition for the 
Your Maine Fiber Connection.
In the first edition, I share my own fiber journey. The online edition will be live soon. 

I somehow was able to complete this post around a feeding and getting a pumpkin in the oven and feeding myself!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Fiber Prep Season; for the love of the process

I just love this time of year.
The cooler weather, the leaves changing, the goldenrod still lingering, and wearing layers. 
It's also the time of year I pull out my acquired fleeces and go to town. 

Since I went full time with my yarn making business two years ago, I've also been in the process of tweaking and streamlining my entire process. 
Turns out I have a thing for lining up several projects at once and building up such a momentum it feels almost meditative. 
It may seem danuting but breaking it all up into little bits, it's quite managable and simple. 

In this age of Etsy's new guidlines of allowing outsourcing and now most recently Amazon Handmade, I continue to stick my toes further into the sand in order to stand up for what I believe in when it comes to a creator's creative integrity. 

I've also just recently (and finally) added a much needed tag line to my business title 
44 Clovers
: heritage yarns; hand spun & plant dyed :

Why "heritage" you might ask? 
To me, the word heritage stems from age old traditions and techniques and processes that I hold very dear to my heart. 
When I started spinning 15 years ago (this month!) I had been wanting to do so as a way to bond with the past when it came to textiles. 

Since then I have worked with all kinds of textiles especially fibers when it comes to spinning and I found I started to ask the questions of "where did this wool come from?" "where was it grown?" "Who worked on and took care of this animal?" The more I asked myself these questions and went seeking, the more I ended up being drawn towards raw fleece which I can easily find in my surrounding communities.

skirting a white shetland fleece
shetland before the wash

I love using my double kitchen sinks, a scoop of orvis paste, and the hottest water from the tap for gentle soaking

This shetland came out

A few weekends ago I was taking advantage of the warmer weather by skirting, drying and carding my fleeces on the front porch. 

skirting a finn fleece

carding a scottish black face fleece

spinning and plying my first skein of white new mexican churro wool

So far I've managed to get all fleeces washed and two carded.
Once all is carded I'll be ready to settle in for the winter to spin in front of the fire.
Then just like Fredrick, I can dream about the colors they will be come spring. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Finding My Feet; life with baby and wool

For the past 3 months, my life has been all about establishing routines. Something I find very grounding. 
Our babe has quickly become a 3 month old. And I know next time I blink, he'll be a 4 month old. 
I have been loving every bit of figuring out motherhood and forming a family.
I've also been learning that raising a baby and working with wool, go so nicely together. 

Lately I've been thinking a lot about and missing showing up to this space to share my work. 
As we figure out routines, care for, play with, and generally stare at our baby waiting for him to wake up (which is happening right now), I've been wanting to show up here but also feeling too scattered to do so in a way that feels right to me. 

But this past Friday I was given the gift of time to travel on my own up tp the Common Ground Fair in Unity, Maine as my husband took charge of our R. 

It was blissful and I was giddy as I moved through the fair with an energy I don't quite remember happening since long before I was pregnant.

Once there, I bee lined it for the fleece tent and people in there must of thought I was nuts as I darted around with my cart looking at every single fleece. I smooshed 5 fleeces into my cart to open up and decide upon. 
I went home with 4.  

On the way out, I found this dye garden with a weaving project in the middle. Dream dye garden. 

dye garden by the wednesday spinners. very inspiring for my soon to be dye garden.
I was so so pleased with the fleeces I found. Three of which are from Eolian Farm~ a brown/ grey finn and 2 very light grey/ very light tan shetlands. And a beautiful brown icelandic from another grower- name is escaping me at the moment. 

The following day I started my fiber prep process. This fleece is also from Eolian Farm that I purchased this past June at the Fiber Frolic. I was way too pregnant to do any prep- then my water broke one week later. 

I soak my skirted fleeces in a my double sinks. Giving them several baths until the water is clear.

Just look how snow white that comes out!!! 
I use Orvis paste for the soap. 
Washing fleece is really easy and you can even have little ones help. 
I fill up my sinks, or you can use basins or bowls, what ever size. I found I'm able to fit a pound of fleece in one sink. 
I fill it up with the hottest water from the tap, shut off the water, add a scoop of orvis paste (I found mine on amazon), stir it around, sink the fleece in- dirty tips down if your able. 
Let sit for a few hours to over night. I'm impatient though and I only let mine for for a few hours and then change the water. 

This is the brown/ grey Finn I mentioned. So so lovely!! I can't wait to spin it up. I've already envisioned making a little cabled sweater for my R. 

I typically go to the Frolic, Common Ground, or help put farms with skirting for all my fleeces to produce my yarns for my etsy shop. But I've had a super sad realization about my work. That is, I never spend time knitting these yarns I work for hard to make! That is changing now. From each fleece I'll be keeping enough yarn for myself to make at least something small. Especially to showcase what this yarn looks like to help encourage you along too:) 

As I started washing all my raw fleeces, I also started to set up my carding operation outside on my porch. I have 7 fleeces left to card. Some are only 1 pound where others are up to 8!! My goal is to have all these carded up before the weather turns too cold to do it outside. Then, come winter, my work will switch over to spinning 10 fleeces by the spring. Let me tell you what they all are, because I'm so proud of my selection this year. 

But before I do, here's a Scottish Black Face fleece on the carder. Speaking of carders, I have an extra wide Fancy Kitty and it's a dream to work with. Once my fiber is weighed out, I'm able to card up 4 ounces in 5 minutes. 

So these 10 fleeces I've got:
Scottish Black Face from Nina Fuller at Lily Brook Farm
A Cheviot mixed breed from Wolf's Neck Farm
A white Shetland and two grey/tans and a brown Finn from Jenni Johnson at Eoilan Farm
A brown Icelandic from a place that's escaping me at the moment. 
and a creamy alpaca, also can't remember where it's from
A white churro from New Mexico from Pat at the State Fair
And a creamy cinnamon Churro from New Mexico from a lovely weaving center, again, my brian is starting to take flight. I will post about all these later as I'm working on them so stay tuned. 

That's my work for this week. 
I wonder what I'll get up to next week. 
What are you working on?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

It's the Little Things

I've been trying to reconcile missing the entire gardening season despite the fact that we started an enormous amount of seedlings. 
For our 6 beds. 
And pending new bed that hasn't been dug yet. 

However, we got a bit behind this spring. Then it was June. Then my baby arrived in the middle of June. 

I still have the gardening bug though and have been trying to figure out really simple ways to brighten up our yard with what we've got. 

I've got this wonderful red geranium that I over wintered indoors this year. 
I've got a couple dozen old glass jars we found on the side of the road that we also used in our wedding a few years ago...

(just had to share. best day of my life.)

and I've got two sad window boxes outside my studio. 
I pruned my geranuim and filled 7 jars in each box with the cuttings. 
They will start to sprout, and this winter, we'll have geraniums all through the house. It livens up the window boxes for now. And I'll have even more reason to harvest red petals for color. 

After my huge dyeing spree, I've been having withdrawls. 
I've dyed up all my hand spun and had to go rummaging around for my stashed away mill spun. 

I got it all scoured and then mordanted in a cold soak of 10% alum for 24 hours. I love this method so much. Saves me butane and time and energy. 

Still thinking about what I'd like to do with it all. I've got 5 skeins of Purl Soho merino. I'm thinking of going all lichen. I've got quite the collection of several dye lichens. I'd like to make myself something real nice... A huge cowl? Maybe a sweater vest? Just not sure. It's a bulky yarn and will knit fast. A poncho? I need ideas. I'm thinking it's somewhere around 500 yards.  

I also set up another sample hoop stash. 
This time I only prepared wool, silk, cotton, and linen. 
Very basic.
My mordants are: 
copper liquor
iron liquor
oxalis acid (ran out of rhubarb leaves and I had this on hand, thank goodness)
alum acetate
tannic acid 
I used a second bath of the tannic acid and it was so much more powerful than the first bath. I only let it soak for a day and holy cow!) It's a beautiful color on it's own. 

After these dry, I'll sort them into their proper bags and then assemble 20 hoops with one of each. 
My first dye pot will be my jewelweed out back. 
And then maybe the horsetail out front. 

I'm finding that most of the time now, I just need 10 minutes here, 30 minutes there, to get anything going, or to check on progress or to just cleanup. 
Plant dyeing is very involved and a super long process, but it is not something that you need to stick by for hours and hours. 
At least not the way I do it.

And I'm so excited about my sample hoop work. 
I love setting these hoops up. 
It's long and tedious. But also mediative. 
Then at the end, when inspriation strikes, I grab a hoop and throw it in a simmering pot of plants and let it be. 
It's such a beautiful thing. 
And after all is said and done, I take my little piece from each one to add to my organized sample hoops 
my catergories are lichens, foraged plants, mushrooms, kitchen scraps, pigments extracts, and teas.

and the rest.... I add here:
A little quilt for R.

And then there this little thing. 
A view I haven't really noticed before until I was riding my bike, which I hadn't done in a year, to go to a new pilates class which I hadn't done in 15 years. 

All of which felt so great.
Being a new mom.... I can find it very hard to remember when to let go and do something just for me, like leaving the house and taking a class. 
Or letting it be ok that I can only spend who knows how long in the studio before the baby wakes up. 
I'm realizing quite happily, that it never matters and that planning only goes so far. 

I still pinch myself for how full and rich my life is. 

Monday, August 3, 2015

2015 Summer Collection; the process behind my obsession, making yarn from scratch.

It's been what feels like 
Since I had enough time and mental energy to write something here.
However, I've been growing a baby.
And on June 14th, he arrived. 
Which was 3 weeks and 3 days, 

Our little guy has kept us quite busy and we are just so in love. 
And some how, miraclously, I have been able to accomplish the occasional knitting
and dyeing. 
All due to his long naps and my husband having time off from work. 

The day before my water broke, I spent it outside in my make shift dye studio moving basicly like a turtle. 
It was the most active I had been in a few months I think. 
The next morning my water broke (which woke me up) and two days later, I was holding my baby. 

When I retuned home almost a week later, I discovered I still had several skeins soaking in dye pots. 
The Rosehips in particular benefited from this 8 day soak the most. The color held fast during my wash and light tests. 

Beautiful peach color. 

It didn't take me long to recognize that dyeing and fiber work slipped in nicely with caring for our little one. 
For dyeing I need only about 1/2 hour chunks of time to set things up. I can let pots simmer away checking on them occasionally and then switching them off about an hour later and let them sit for a day or more. 

Same goes for all my fiber prep. 

And speaking of, that's what I wanted to share with you, 
how I get it all done.

From fleece to yarn.

First, I start by going to the Maine Fiber Folic, Common Ground Fair or volunterring with sheep farmers to skirt fleeces in exchange for fleece. 

I collect anywhere from 5-10 raw fleeces over the course of the year.  
Focusing on Icelandics, Shetlands, Finn, and Cheviot mixes which come from an island in the Penobscot bay. 
I'm very picking about the fleeces I choose and want to choose them myself and in person so I can smell them and unfold the entire fleece for inspection before bringing it home. 

Once I get them home, I skirt the fleece on my porch and then let it soak is batches in my double kitchen sink with the hottest water and orvis paste. The wool goes through several rinses until the water comes clean. I hang the fleece to dry on hangers and then on the cloth line outside. If I'm doing this is the winter I hang the fleece to dry above the woodstove. 

Then working one fleece at time, I weigh it out in bundles of 4 ounces and using my Fancy Kitty drum carder, (I just love that name!) I card up bat after bat to then be spun. Once the whole fleece is cardered, I stuff it all back into it's bag and start carding the next. I've had my carder for a whole year now and I just love it. It's a double wide and it was a very reasonal cost. Because it's just me doing this whole operation and I only sell from Etsy right now, I work really hard to keep my costs low and my work sustainble. I was very pleased that I could use money I made fro teaching dye classes to purchase this item. 

When all fleeces are cardered, I then start the process of spinning. Using my Kromski spinning wheel that I've owned for 11 years now, I mostly like to spin these primitive breed wools into singles variying from aran to sport weight. I rarely ply but it does happen. 

This summer I read about how to mordant wool with alum in a cold soak. I was over joyed at this item because I knew it would save me time, energy, and butane. I have a very large pot- way to big for my stove or my burners. I set it up outside, filled it up with the garden hose, desloved 10% alum with boiling water and added this to my pot. I then added my wetted out yarns and let them sit for 24 hours. Mordanting done. 

I will admit, I was slightly skeptucal that it would work and it was a bit deal to try it on such a project. But it did work and I highly recommend trying this next time you want to save on time and energy. 

When I everything was ready to dye, I really had no plan for colors. The really wonderful thing about natural dyes is that if you dye something and it's not strong enough or you don't like it, you can over dye it and it will be beautiful. 

I'm someone who both collects too much stuff which clutters my life and I love to get rid of stuff and organized. I really don't like it when things hang around too long. As I was setting up shop and getting highly organized for this 37 skein dye adventure, I discovered I had several buckets full of old dye baths from a year ago. Cochineal, jewelweed, and indigo. I also had some frozen plants last year I dug out of of larger freezer. It felt so great to use everything up. 

I was so pleased with these pastel but bright colors. They are layers of old cochineal, jewelweed, indigo, frozen rosehips, goldenrod. And the purple at the bottom is my Umbilicaria lichen. I had such a great time moving through my colors and wool slowly. 

After each skein cooked in the pot for an hour or two, I turned off the heat and let it sit for 1-2 days. I then hung them out on my front porch to dry- right in full sun so I was able to see if any fading would happen. I then rinsed each skein in a Mrs. Meyers soapy solution and rinsed a few times to get any top color off. The deep madder however was very tricky and some still remains. 

This picture does not do the colors justice, especially the yellows which really are quite lovely. 

Though I've sold out of a few colors already, you can view more for purchase at mt etsy shop, 44Clovers

I do hope to write more in the near future about more of my creative adventures. I'm also planning more workshops, so stay tuned and thanks for stopping by. 

I love making yarn. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Me & My Knitting

Just a quicky to say hi and share where I've been at with my fiber. 

I may have mentioned that I've come to a decision about my 

I'm not going to do a ton of knitting for my etsy shop for at least 
a long while.
My plant dyed 
hand spun
yarns are doing really well
and take almost, if not more time to produce
so I'm going to be putting more energy into that
and more energy into knitting for my growing family- including my growing self.

So, with that said, 
here's what I've been working on;

isn't it the cutest thing ever?!?!
I just loved knitting this little romper. 
I used wool that I bought while on honeymoon in Ireland 2 years.
The town of Dingle is adorable and though it will be a few years till we can go back, 
I can't wait. 

The pattern I used is by Carina Spencer and is called Small Things Romper. It can be found on ravelry. 

I'm 24 weeks now and just finished knitting and blocking this past weekend.
It's been a really long time since I had such a connection with something I was knitting. 
I've been needing that feeling for a long time. 
I thought it was gone.

While knitting it I was able to think about the wool and where it came from-
off the backs of sheep all over Ireland, deing dyed in Donegal, it's Donegal wool- I'm not sure though, if they do their dyeing in house or in England or Germany, but in any case, it's what I thought about.
I thought about our honeymoon there and all the adventures we had- mostly sitting in pubs drinkng tea and going for walks. 

I thought about the baby boy in my belly and his increasing wiggles and what he might look like wearign this sweet romper- and how long he'd be able to wear it! 

I may knit 1 or 2 more a I have the same yarn in green and purple. 

I then got to re-working this 9 year old sweater that I made with Maine wool. 
The pattern is from the Last Minute Knitted Gifts book.
I first washed the fleece,
stuffed it in large glass containers with the Pumpkin colorway from country classics dye 
and let it do it's dye thing in the sun for 3 days.

I spun the wool and knitted this up following the pattern exactly- and not all my measurements. 
It's turned out that I don't like hiking up long bell sleeves and pulled at the waist. 

So, I frogged sleeve hems and waist hem, shortening the sleeves by 6" each and adding that rest of that yarn to the bottom. 
I'm almost finished. 

Though I don't use this dye any more, I adore this color and yarn and have been 
loving this methodical heavy knitting every evening. 

I'm noticing more and more with my pregnancy that I'm enjoying the slow process- or just making everything slower, the process of just doing things. I'm not really in a hurry as my body is slowing way down. My level of calm has been developing:)

Here's two extra tidbits;

these yarns {may} appear in the shop- 
haven't decided yet.
Just a collection of what has been sitting in my spinning basket. 
I don;t know about you, but I do love to clean house and use things up after a certain point. 
The brown is: natural Maine Icelandic.
The blue is: Navajo spun Maine mohair dyed with indigo
The magenta is: 1oz, first bath of Umbilicaria lichen fermented liquor.
The lighter pink is the 2nd bath of this lichen. 
The last two are a combo of evernia, xanthoria, and a curly green lichen I never identified, all spun together. 
All dyed in the batt form first and then I lost track of what every thing was so I spun it all up! These last three I'm not sure yet where they will end up...

Remember my last post of Operation Wool? This is another finished finished fleece, Maine Icelandic from Pondview Farm in Limington. 

It will get dyed this spring when it warms up enough. 

I cannot wait!

I go to bed at night planningout my outdoor dye space.
We'll set up the canopy,
bring out the enamal table, 
set up the pots,

This will be the first year I've worked my yarn creating into such a fine tuned mass production.
Well "mass" for me. 
Whether your a handspinner or not, you should know, it's kind of a big deal to knock out about a dozen spun fleeces in a one year. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Operation Wool

I don't find this time incredibly creative.
But it is pretty exciting for me 
as I sift through
bag after bag
of wool. 

I never know exactly the full potential of a fleece until I've through each step. 

And here's each of my steps:
from raw fleece to hand spun yarns.

I bought this unquiely colored New Mexican Churro fleece while visiting Tierra Wools in 
Los Ojos, N.M. back in September
which I then mailed home. 

This week, I finally got around to washing it.
I love my double sinks. 
I'm able to do a whole fleece usually in one day, in batches. 

Here in winter, I dry it above my woodstove. 
In summer, outside on the clothline. 
The wire hangers work well for srapping the wool over. 

At the same time, I've been working on carding up my Maine Island fleece which is a Cheviot cross. And raised by Lee Straw out on Metric Island. 
These are the fleeces that started it all for me;
using just local fleece as the base for my plant dyed hand spun yarns. 

These fleeces are always so clean, and just a pure joy to work with. 
Long soft staple lenths. 
The dreamiest. 

This basket is "yarn in the waiting".

A Maine Icelandic fleece, also very clean, wonderful to work with and is on the wheel right now. 
I got this fleece from Pondview Farm in Limington in exchange for skirting 32 of their fleeces. 

As my handspun business is steadily growing, and now with my first child along the way, I'm moving more towards doing less knitting for the shop. 
I will always knit for myself and my little family. But I've finally realized that knitting for the shop, in the quanity I have been in the past, isn't quite working out. 

I do have a collection coming out this spring of something delicate and plant dyed. 

Below is my latest finished piece, for me. 
So easy and so fun. 
Knit with my own handspun of 100% Maine cashmere from Black Locust Farm and dyed by Bill Huntington at Hope Spinnery. 
I couldn't resist a green cloud of cashmere. 

I have one more fleece to wash. 
A Scottish Black Face fleece from Lilybrook Farm in Hollis.
I just have to card the brown churro, black face, contining spinning the icelandic, island, those other two and by the end I think I'll have about 60 skiens I'm thinking. 
Which I'll then have a field day dyeing in my back yard when the thaw comes. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Creating an Heirloom with my Destash

A few months ago I made a commitment not to buy/ collect/ bring into the house/ studio any more acid dyed fibers for my work. 
Mainly because I create so much plant dyed fiber using locally grown fibers now and want to continue getting better at my craft with just these materials. 
However, this left me wondering what on earth do I do with the lovely goodness I've collected over the years? 

Materials for Nuno felting is one of three groups of fibers I'm joining all together into a large rainbow project which is two fold: 1- to destash 2- for the baby.
The other two- my yarns, fabric scraps which I'll share about another time. 

This will be a wall hanging in the nursery and/ or quilt. 

Made with merino acid dyed fibers and massaged into layers of vintage silk hankies with hot and cold water and soap. 
I collected a bunch of bamboo placemats that work really well as my roller. I used to use bubble wrap but I found it to be a pain, too messy, and too slippery.

I've tried and taught nuno felting quite a few times before but never with much purpose. Or even passion. The day I pulled my large tote box out of my closet with all I've collected AND after I took a nuno felting workshop from my friend Laura Glandenning at Portfiber, I finally felt like I could focus on a project. 

I made these three rectangles in about four hours. 
I would have kept going but I wanted to get dinner started (I was being very ambitious and cooking my first beef and onion pie which we didn't eat until nine. But it was worth the wait.) and my shoulders where killing me. 

I love how the red turned out. Thick and bumpy. The yellow is lighter but fluffy. In the end, I'm going to cut them into strips a few inches wide and attempt a log cabin style quilt. I intend to use up all my colored merino and silks that are thread bare. You know the kind, scarves that tear if wind blows threw it. Perfect for incorporating into a felt because then the silk is locked in forever. 

Something that gives me so much joy with this project is knowing I'm making fabric and it's how this type of fabric has been made for thousands of years in Asian countries. All it is is an animal fiber and friction. Put the two together somehow and you've got a felted fabric. 

Also, I don't feel the need to make these pieces of fabric perfect. 
Instead, I'm paying more attention to my focus in following through with one piece at a time, letting the design take shape and going with my intuition. 
And as I work, all I can really think about is creating this soft, bumpy fabric for my child to be cradled in from birth to kid to teenager to adulthood. 
And maybe they can pass it on to their child. 

With these thoughts in mind, my work has taken on this new focus that hasn't existed before and I'm really thankful. 


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Pots of Purple Carrots

So I mentioned I was on a roll with dyeing one day. 
That day I dyed with the 4 lichens, I was also dyeing with red cabbage
and these purple carrots. 

When I dye, I often go big. 
Though it can seem very daunting to get it all set up,
once I've got it set up,
the actual dyeing time is a snap. 
I just sit back and wait. 
Maybe poke at a pot but really it's just waiting. 
So I often go big, adding several more pots. 
Like this past summer when I found myself dyeing 10 pots at once. 
It was great!

This is the last of the dyeing from that day and I'm not sure what I'm going to do next. 
I've been itching to get better at linen dyeing so I gather my next days will be about perfecting my scouring and mordanting tecniques for vegetable fibers. 

Have I mentioned before in another post my plans for the dyed yarn?
I've got 12 skeins or so spun up of various Maine primitive breeds.
I've also got;
2 New Mexican Churro fleeces, one from Bob I got at the State Fair back in September in N.M., and 1 from Antonio at the Santa Fe Farmer's Market though I went to his ranch for the fleece. 
1 Maine Island Fleece from Lee Straw
1 Maine Scottish Black Face from Nina Fuller in Hollis at Lily Brook Farm
And I think 1 more from Sue Pondview Farm in Limington.
I have a feeling there is another floating around in that closet of mine...

These last two farms I had a blissful time helping them out sort and skirt fleeces in exchange for 1-2 fleeces. It was an idea I had to be near sheep, help out in a way that I knew how and get paid in fleece. I hope do do it again this spring but with a growing belly, I'll need to wait and see. 

Anyway, when I get through this winter spinning all that, and it will happen, I will then have a big ol dyeing time this spring. Just as soon as this 4 feet of snow melts. Oh and after these next 3 (!) storms we have coming this week. I always wondered what it would be like to live in a northern Scandanavian country. I think I know now...
Anyway, I cannot wait for both spring and for dyeing. 

I've got all kinds of plans for that wool. 
queen ann's lace and goldenrod I froze from last year so I could use it this sring and rose hips!
And there will be much more. 

So about these carrots. 
I had wild success the first time I did this back in Santa Fe on vacation. 
Probably one of my favorite posts because it was such a time of self discovery for me to be in a completely different place and still find a way to do my work. It really inspired me.
In a place like Santa Fe, in September, working with solar methods from raw plant materials, works really well. I got temps up to 110f in the jars over several hours. It was perfect. 

As you'll read about the carrots from that post, 
I only use peels from 2 medium purple carrots I got at the farmers market. 

So when I got home and tried to find purple carrots, there weren't any availble quite yet. 
I waited a few weeks and then when I finally saw them at a local market, I went a little nuts and bought a lot. To be fair, they were very scrawny and I was a little puzzled why they were even put on the shelves. They weren't really the baby size, but more like pencil size carrots. Anyway, I stashed them away planning on using them in the spring for some Easter color:)

Well, about 2 weeks ago I discovered them in my fridge, a little moldy. 
I had been checking on them every few weeks and they did just fine up until that point. 
So I knew it was time to get to work. 
Though I'm not saying that waiting til your food is moldy means its ready to dye. Fresh is better. However, I rarely dye with good healthy foods, as I don't believe in wasting it. However, these carrots were so tiny and stringy- I had planned on getting some, using only the peels and roasting the rest but there was nothing to peel and no "rest". 

I really didn't want to take the time to peel every single one as it was a pain in the butt. I did this.

Then, because in Santa Fe my experiment was solar dyeing with them, creating a long slow heat, and here it was the beginning of Janurary, in Maine. I put them in here and then next to the wood stove. 

In this long tall jar is a skein of kid mohair silk that I get online at
Wonderful source for yarns. Have gone there for years. And now I use them for my test yarns in classes and for test dyeing.
Also there are bits of vintage lace. 
No mordants. 

Don't you just love that color?!
It's so different than it was in Santa Fe where the color was so grapey there. 

Because I had a lot of carrots, I split up more into two pots because I had a lot I wanted to dye. 
3 skiens of hand spun Maine double ply Finn. I get Finn roving from a lovely lady, Diane at the Maine Fiber Frolic. Her tent is always off the side and she always has a few Finn sheep in a pen and Shetland lace shawls hanging in her tent. Very small, with lots of natural colored roving, and spun yarns. It's my favorite tent of the whole thing:) 

Anyway, I also had a few other vintage textiles in a pot. Again nothing was mordanted. 
I chose this path because when I did my tests in Santa Fe, I found that the unmordanted samples, especially on wool were almost brighter then the alum ones (??!!) kind of crazy I thought, but I thought I'd go with it. 

It felt so right to place them on our woodstove instead of turning on our oven, which would have been fine. But the woodstove is already there and I knew my pots could handle it, I thought why not? 
I kept a thermometer in there at all times to always keep an eye on the heat. It never got above 180 which was what I wanted. It did take longer then the oven and that was also what I wanted. A long slow heat. 

Here is everything washed and drying also by the woodstove. 
I was very surprised and disapointed at first by the grey tones in the wool when in Santa fe the wool took on a lovely deeper/ brighter purple.... Though to be fair, I didn't so an exact ratio comparison. 

But the kid mohair/ silk skein, looks perfect. 
And the vintage textiles also look perfect. 
I was very happy with those. 
As I'll most likely be using these Finn skeins for knitting something for my baby, I think I'm going to go for a deeper purple and dye them in my umbilicaria later on. 

They aren't shown here, but I continued to dye with the carrot baths another 3 times. I kept throwing in vintage cloth and lace and just letting it sit. No heat to see what would happen. 
I finally let it go and dumped it when I noticed one morning a fine white film on top. It did pretty well though for about a week and 1/2. And all it was was carrot juice:)

The batt below here is dyed with lichens that you can read about here.

If you have any questions about dyeing with purple carrots, or have done some yourself, I'd love to here your story. Leave me a comment:) 

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