Monday, September 17, 2007

Vacation -- All I Ever Wanted

Just got back from a most wonderful vacation -- visiting friends in NJ. We did a couple of day trips to NY while we were there -- we went to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty -- all the times I've been to NYC and never once saw those things! The pic to the left is from Ellis Island -- some of the things people brought with them. The spinning wheel is from Norway. I also saw a tabletop loom and three sewing machines from Germany. Didn't get pics of those, tho. This is actually the only fiber-related picture we took. All of the textiles in the pic are handmade, too.

We also went to the Gustav Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms. There were some great textiles there, too, although most of them weren't original to the house, they were from the Arts & Crafts period and were handmade. Not allowed to take pics inside the museum, tho.

Took a harbor cruise around Manhattan. Never did that before, either. Didn't make it to Ground Zero, but saw the void from the boat. Very sad.

On a happier note, my very good and enabling friend Dana took me yarn shopping in NJ! We had 5 shops on our list, but we couldn't find one of them. Here is a list of places we visited:
Knit A Bit in Westfield --
Nonna's Yarn Cafe in Denville --
Accents on Knits in Morristown --
Down Cellar in Basking Ridge --

I bought something at each place, but not a lot of stuff -- had to pace myself! Knit A Bit and Nonna's Yarn Cafe were like the shops in Debbie McComber's books -- the big table where people come in on their lunch breaks and people know each other. Very homey and comfortable. I actually met a woman from my old stomping ground -- she had lived in Watertown, MA, and I used to live in Lexington. Down Cellar was also a very cool shop -- huge variety of yarns and other things -- it's a two-story house and just packed full of things to see and touch! Really liked that place, too! Accents on Knits was a little different. The people were friendly enough and they have a very friendly bulldog named Daisy who is the official greeter and she is very good at it! Loved her! The yarn is arranged by color rather than fiber, weight or designer or company, and there were no prices anywhere that we could find. Dana and I are seasoned enough to be able to tell a $6 skein from a $30 skein, but a newbie might not be.

It was a WONDERFUL trip! Hey, Tony & Dana -- THANK YOU!!! We had a great time!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Chaos and Alchemy

Chaos and Alchemy -- these are a few of my favorite things! I've been working hard to get ready for Burnham Community Day which takes place tomorrow. Each year Warp 6 does a sheep to shawl demo there and Mary Anna and I have a sales booth next door. Below is my latest batch. The Chaos colorway is on the left and Alchemy is on the right. The Chaos skeins are Merino dyed with KA. The fiber for the Alchemy skein was purchased from eBay as a Mystery Batt. The seller had thrown all kinds of luxury fibers into the picker with a wool base. Beautiful, huh?

Monday, August 6, 2007

Batik Patchwork Bag

Okay, so I decided I needed a new tote bag. I LOVE tote bags! Actually, I love any kind of container. If you can put something in it, I probably love it! Anyway, I got these nifty 4"x4" batik fabric squares on eBay, and this is what I did with them. I had 40 squares, so I divided them in half and sewed them together to make the sides. Each side is 4 fabric squares deep by 5 fabric squares wide. Then I cut two squares of unbleached muslin the same size as the patchwork sides. I cut two smaller pieces of muslin, pressed in 3 sides about 1/2" and sewed homemade bias taped to the top edge. These are the inside pockets. Next, I sewed a pocket to each larger piece of muslin. I sewed each lining side to a patchwork side, right sides facing, and then I turned them right side out. Next I sewed the two lined sides together, again, right sides facing, and turned them. To make the squared bottom, while the bag was still inside out, I measured in about 2" from each corner and sewed across, forming a triangle. I made more bias tape from a separate piece of fabric -- the same fabric I used for the edging on the pockets -- and stitched that to that raw edge at the top of the bag. To make the straps, I cut two lengths of cotton webbing to suit me. I sewed two tubes of the same fabric I used for the edging. I cut each piece about 3" wide and a little longer than the webbing pieces. Fold each piece in half and sew up the long side with the right sides together. When the tubes are turned right side out, use a safety pin to run the webbing through the tubes. Leave a little extra tubing material at each end. Turn those edges over once and then once again and stitch. Now, making sure the webbing is lying flat withing the tubes, topstitch down each sided to keep webbing from moving around. Next, attach the straps to the bag -- first sew a square and then sew an X in the square. Click on the pictures to enlarge for detail. This was a pretty simple project. Please don't ask for measurements -- I made it up as I went! Here are some pictures. One shows the bag with the sides folded in -- This is how I usually use my totes when I'm using them as a purse or if they don't have much in them. Next is the bag in square formation. This is how I use it when I'm carrying files, etc. And the other picture is the bag turned inside out so you can see the lining and the pockets. I'm still considering adding some sort of closure to the top and maybe small pockets for my cellphone and iPod. I think I'll sleep on that, though! It's late. I'm going to bed! :)

Monday, July 30, 2007

Fire Piston Bags

Okay, I've been crafting -- just haven't been posting! I've been working at perfecting and making bags for the new Barnburner Fire Pistons over at Tangled Strands. Fire Pistons are a primitive method of starting fires. They are used by backpackers, Boy Scouts and other outdoors persons. More info is available at

I was charged with making the bags for them. These are made of nubuck -- it looks and feels like leather, but no animals were injured in the making of this product. Basically, I just cut 3"x18" strips of nubuck, folded down 1" at each end and stitched it down, and then sewed up the sides, right sides together and leaving about 1/2" open at the top. I just ran two lengths of cording through the casing, one in each direction, and then knotted the ends. I didn't bother to finish the edges of the casing. The nubuck won't fray and folding it over would make too much bulk.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Abi's Dress

I just finished this sun dress for my friend's daughter. Again, no pattern -- just some pre-shirred fabric and Abi's measurements. Sew it up the back, hem it and put on the straps.

A Skein Just for Me!

I got this fiber from Ebay in the form of dyed locks in various shades of blue. I was so anxious to play that I carded without picking. What I ended up with was some neppy yarn! But it's all good! I need a new felted bag!

Reconstructed Jeans -- Into a Skirt

Okay, I don't know why I even had these jeans in
my closet -- they were probably from the 80s -- they had tapered legs with zippers on the bottom! I know, right? EWWW! Anyway, I fixed them.

I cut them off below the zipper. I probably should have cut closer to the zipper but I can always go back and fix that. The fabric I used for the bottom was sort of a mesh with the pattern flocked on it -- (see the out-of-focus close-up) -- so I lined it with burgundy cotton broadcloth. I wish I had made the skirt fuller, too, but I didn't have enough fabric. I used the standard gathering technique -- baste and pull -- I pinned the skirt to the yoke, right sides together -- and pulled the stitches until it fit, and then I stitched it. Then I sewed up the back seam and hemmed it and voila!

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Kool Aid Hats from Fiber Space Designs

Hats and bags are two of my favorite things to make with Kool-Aid dyed yarn.

This hat is a really simple, no-pattern thing I made up years ago. It's so easy to make and easily becomes as much a wardrobe staple as your favorite jeans. I've had strangers come up to me and ask where I got mine. It's an opp to hand out a business card!

Anyway, to make the hat, I CO 68 st on 10.5 circs and knit until I find a length I like by trying it on my own head. Then I k2tog once around, switch to dpns, and k2tog 2x until there are about 9 st left. Cut the yarn, leaving about a 6" tail and use a yarn needle to weave the end through the working stitches that are still on the needle. Tie off and weave in ends, and you have a rolled-brim slouchy hat that's nice and warm. There's no shaping on the crown and the fast decrease leaves an interesting star-shape on the top.

As with my yarns, you can find them at The Pen & Thread, local arts and craft shows, or directly from me.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The One-Hour $5 Skirt

I made this skirt last night in about an hour and it really did only cost $5. I got clearance fabric at $2/yd, and as you may have noticed, I'm not exactly petite, so I bought 2 yds. Another $1 for the elastic. No pattern and hardly any measuring or even pinning, thanks to my trusty iron!

Basically, I wrapped the fabric around myself one and a half times and cut. Since it was a plaid, I just marked it and cut along the line in the pattern. I laid it out flat and folded the top over for a casing that was slightly wider than the elastic. I used 3/4" elastic, so the casing was probably about an inch. Again, I used the lines in the fabric instead of measuring. Then I folded it over again. Yes, I know that's not the proper way to make a casing, but i was in a hurry! :) I just sewed it closely to the edge.

Next, I held it up and marked it for length. Again, I just used the lines in the plaid to cut. I folded it over twice, roughly a half-inch each time and sewed it again for the hem.

I pinned the two raw edges together -- the only pinning I did for the entire skirt -- wrong sides facing -- and sewed them together with a standard 5/8" seam. Be sure to stop just short of the casing -- it's important to leave that open so you can put in the elastic!

I attached a safety pin to the elastic and work it through the casing, making sure not to twist it. When it came out the other side, I put the skirt on and adjusted the waistband to suit myself and sewed the elastic accordingly. To ensure that it wouldn't twist later, I sewed vertically through the fabric and the elastic in the waistband in a few random spots. The last step is to close the openings in the casing. You have to sew this by hand.

And today, I have a new skirt to wear to work. Please feel free to contact me or leave a comment if you have any questions.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Fun With Preshirred Fabric

Did I mention that I also sew? I only do that for myself, though -- for now! This dress was so easy! I got the preshirred fabric from JoAnne Fabric and just sewed it up the back for the body tube. I didn't have enough fabric left over to make the straps, so I fudged with some scraps I had. I do think I'm going to shorten the dress though, and then I'll have material to redo the straps. I'm going to be on the lookout for more of this fabric!

Friday, June 22, 2007

My Stuff at The Pen & Thread

This is the Fiber Space Designs display at The Pen & Thread. Mary Anna made the sign for me. Isn't she a great friend?

These are spindles and lucets made by my husband. Not only does he do nice knotwork, but he also does nice woodwork!

I think we've seen these yarns somewhere before!

These look familiar, too!

Oh, yeah, and I make bags, too! Also available at the P&T and local craft fairs.

And Still More From The Pen & Thread!

This is Mary Anna's wheel. It's the wheel I learned on!

Mary Anna carries a nice collection of Cornish tin jewelry, too!

She made the sweater, the scarf and all of the jewelry in this pic!

Below is the view into the back hallway. The curtain is made from walnut shells that were sliced down and strung. Cool, huh?

More About The Pen and Thread

Here's a close-up of some Misty Dell yarn -- natural colored Romney.

The bags are called tagaris -- traditional Greek bags in which workers carry their lunches and other things. These are all handwoven by Mary Anna, who is of Greek descent.

These are two of the first shawls that our team made during sheep to shawl demos.

Two view of Mary Anna's loom. From the front, you can see some of the hangings and table runners she's made, and from the back, you can see piles of carded wool waiting to be spun for a custom job she's working on.
Mary Anna & I both do custom spinning. My last job was spinning a large trash bag full of combings from a Great Pyrenees dog. His mommy loved him so much that she wanted a scarf made from his hair. I would love to make something from Jet's hair, but it's just too darned short!

Welcome to The Pen and Thread!

This is my friend Mary Anna's shop. It's on Market St. in Lewistown, PA. Our sheep to shawl team hangs out here as well, and we welcome anyone who is interested in the fiber arts to stop in and see us. And, of course, shoppers are always welcome, too!

Mary Anna is an all-around artist. She spins, dyes, weaves, knits, paints, does calligraphy and makes jewelry. I hope I haven't forgotten anything!

She did all of the paintings on slate, including the Welcome sign with the hexes on it. We are in the heart of PA Dutch Country, so tourists expect to see stuff like that. Amish don't actually use them, though -- you're more likely to see it on an the barn of an Englisher.

Below is the view from the front door. Mary Anna has arranged the line of sight to lead directly to the handspun yarns. Misty Dell is her yarn and Fiber Space is mine. The picture to the left is a display of Misty Dell yarn.

Happiness Is . . .

. . . a rack full of freshly dyed roving!!! I dyed a pound of Merino with Kool-Aid this morning and I just hung the last of it out to dry. Jet the Wonder Schnauzer and I are going to head on over to the Pen & Thread shop a little later to deliver some finished yarn. I'll try to take some pics over there and post them later tonight or tomorrow.

I Named It!

Okay, remember this skein from a few days ago? I finally thought of a name for this colorway. I'm calling it Candy Dots That Come on a Roll of Wax Paper. Remember those from when we were kids? Well, from when I was a kid, anyway! Did I just date myself? Okay, for anyone who's really that curious, I was sleeping soundly in my crib when JFK was assassinated.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

New Link: All Fiber Arts

Another of my favorite sites for how-to articles, tips and ideas: It's also listed in my Links section to the left. Anything and everything you ever wanted to know about any and all of the fiber arts! Check it out!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Party in a Bag

That's not my name for it! I bought this stuff from a vendor at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival a few years ago. She basically threw everything she had lying around into the picker and this is what came out the other side. This is all I've spun so far. I have 2 more lbs to do. I'm not going to ply it. I like the singles just fine as they are. What do you think?

Mixed Up Scarf

This scarf sparked my love of mixing things up. I bought the wool several years ago from a woman on Ebay who had run a natural dye workshop. She had small amounts of wool leftover from the workshop. There was about a thousand different sheep breeds, plus llama, alpaca, mohair and animal fibers. Each little bit had been dyed with about a thousand natural colors. I loved them all but couldn't begin to think what I would do with them. So I just carded random handfuls together and spun them. I liked the yarn, but I loved the scarf. This one is mine -- not for sale! The pattern is simple -- it's just garter stitch from a point at one end to a point at the other end with a YO eyelet edge all around and a nice fat, fuzzy tassel at each end. I just fell in love with the colors and the texture. The yarn seems to self-stripe all on its own. And it's very soft and warm, too!

Handspun, Handknitted Hats

So I thought you might like to see some of my finished products. These hats are all handspun and handknitted.

This hat above is made from mystery wool.

The gray part of this hat is Jacob wool and the white part is Karakul. They are both primitive breeds and the textures are very different. The combination made for an interesting end product.

This hat is 100% Jacob.

Latest Kool Aid Skein

This is the latest batch of KA yarn from Fiber Space Designs. I don't have a name for the colorway yet. Suggestions?

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Why I Knit

This is another essay assignment for the Pen & Thread fiber newsletter:

Why I Knit

By Fiber Maeven

When I was given this assignment, I jokely responded that I knit because it keeps me from inflicting bodily harm. Although that’s not entirely untrue, it’s not the only, or even the biggest reason.

It all started because I needed a hobby that would keep me from snacking in front of the TV in the evenings. It had to be something that would keep my hands in perpetual motion but that allowed the rest of my body to relax. It had to be repetitive enough that I could still pay attention to CSI, yet interesting enough to keep me . . . well . . . interested. What were my options? Hmmm . . . solitaire . . . jigsaw puzzles . . . juggling chainsaws . . . and all fun things to do, but not one of them quite fit my criteria. Oh, yeah, I forgot . . . my holy grail of hobbies had to be creative and constructive.

I seemed to remember that my mom had attempted to teach me to knit when I was a child. I hadn’t been very good at it. But I’d been seven. Twenty-five years had passed. Surely I had acquired some dexterity since then.

Let’s explore a knitter’s psyche, shall we? I, like so many of my sisters, learned to knit as a child. My mother used to knit sweaters and doll clothes for me. I’m not sure who taught her, but she tried to teach me. Of course, she tried to teach me lots of things, but I was a typical kid who would have none of what the adults were selling. Later, much later, actually, when I was in my 30s, I got the urge, for no reason that I can readily identify, to learn the craft. My mom hadn’t knitted for at least 20 years, so I decided to take formal lessons.

My first project was a 2 x 2 rib scarf, but it quickly grew tiresome. I moved on to a baby afghan, which was actually good enough to give as a gift, and that is exactly what became of it. I made several more of those, and then decided that I was bored with making squares and rectangles, so I learned to knit hats in the round on circulars. Next came socks on dpns. Eventually I tried sweaters. Interesting but boring. And the finishing . . . my word . . . the finishing!!!

Apparently I have an issue with finishing anything, actually. My house is strewn with project bags containing UFOs. A sweater in the round for my dh that begs me to finish the neck; a poncho desperately in need of fringe; a plethora of other projects that only need to have the ends woven in. But it’s not knitting!

Knitting has a rhythm all its own. It has a feel and a mood. It puts me in a trancelike state of solitude. It’s Zen.

And did I mention that it keeps me from inflicting bodily harm?

Some Close-Ups

Even though you can just click the pics to get a better look, I enjoy posting. Humor me! The first three pics are close-ups of different batches of my Chaos yarn. That's what I call my random Kool-Aid colorway. The other pic is my yarn label. Oops! I see a mistake -- I should have deleted the bottom sentence for a label on a natural skein! Think anyone else will notice?