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?

Ready for Market

Another load of yarn ready to head off to the Pen & Thread for sale. I don't usually have this much at one time, but I destashed some of my commercially dyed stuff. The top row is all Kool-Aid dyed. The middle row was commercially dyed roving and the bottom one is natural .

Thursday, June 14, 2007

New Widgets!

Okay, Gang! I just added a few new widgets to the left. Extreme Crafts is a cool blog -- check it out! Also Free Patterns is a great site to find patterns for just about any of the needle arts. And now you can add my blog your site as a blidget. Just click the black button for Widgetbox!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Only One Bobbin? No Prob!

There are many reasons you might want to ply from a center pull ball rather than from your bobbins. For instance you might only have one bobbin. You might have two bobbins, but only one is full and you don't to waste any of your singles. Just wind into a center pull ball and ply from both ends. A word of warning, though: No matter how lazy kate is, she's not going to help you with this! And the outside will always unravel at warp (;>) speed compared to the inside. This can lead to some serious tangles if you're not careful. When using this method, I always use a drop spindle instead of a wheel. I've found that placing some sort of weight on each side of the ball helps. Placement must be strategic, though, so it doesn't impede the movement of either strand. I've become adept at using my left foot to control the draw. Don't worry -- I always clean my feet and the yarn gets washed again before the finishing process to set the twist!

Monday, June 11, 2007

This is an ad I created for my yarn display at the Pen & Thread. I really do need to update it, though. Mary Anna has been very gracious to me. She actually put together a display especially for my yarns and bags. I hope to post pictures of it soon, along with some pics of the shop itself, and maybe of Mary Anna & me!

Fiber Space Designs Logo

This is the logo for Fiber Space Designs. I designed it with Corel Draw. What do you think?

Pastel Experiment 2

Okay, this isn't really a separate post. I just didn't have the pics ready the first time. This is just a picture of the full skeins of the pastel experiment. Feedback welcome!

Pastel Experiment

This is my latest work. I tried diluting the Kool-Aid by using less than usual and adding more water than usual. In the roving, I got a very nice lavender, but the blue and pink were a little too "baby" for what I was going for. The yellow was pretty much what I expected. This is the finished product. You can see the singles still on the bobbins if you scroll down the page.

Thursday, June 7, 2007


There's a new entry on my Links List. Check out Craft: -- it's one of my all-time favorite sites! I go there almost everyday to see what people are creating. Craft: is a webzine with a mag available on newsstands -- I get all kinds of fun ideas for new projects and experiments. This is the site that gave me the urge to start sewing again.

Tangled Strands

I'm adding a Links List today. Tangled Strands is only marginally fiber-related, but I wanted to introduce you to it. My husband does knotwork, and this is his blog. Check it out!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

How to Dye with Kool Aid

Oh, what the heck! I know where the article is, so I'm just going to go ahead and post it!

The Fine Art of Kool-Aid™ Dying

By Fiber Maeven

Okay, so I’m spinning and I realize that I’m bored with white, off-white, cream, ecru, beige, blonde and all of the other colors that are variations on the white theme. Not that there’s anything wrong with them. I just need a little variety or I get bored.

I switch to natural non-whites – the black sheep colors – browns, reds, chestnuts, fawns, grays – also very nice, but again, where’s the excitement? Let’s face it: spinning the same color for an extended period is akin to a road trip on I-80. What to do . . . what to do . . . Dying comes to mind. I admit it -- I have a dark sense of humor.

I love dye parties – hovering over dye pots on the open fire in Mary Anna’s front yard, eating interesting cookies and playing with Scrabble the Goose (RIP). This is when Mary Anna teaches us about plants, barks, and insects and the colors they create, which mordents to use with them, and how they can be brightened or muted or saved to dye another day. It’s a fun learning experience. The colors are beautiful and natural. However, some of the colors I want are just not natural, and aside from dye parties, I don’t have time to use the natural ways. It doesn’t help that, without Mary Anna standing next to me, I would probably die a slow, horrible death because I can’t tell a huckleberry from a holly berry . . .

Okay, so I can’t be trusted with natural dyes . . . how about chemical dyes? I’m afraid of things I can’t pronounce. And like used motor oil, they are difficult to dispose of. Did I just end that sentence with a preposition? Oh, well . . . Onward through the fog . . .

Let’s talk about drink mix dying. Drink mixes are perfect! Easy to use, easy to discard – see how I avoided the preposition that time? They are also edible, depending whom you ask, as well as easy to pronounce, and they create the most unnatural colors.

There are several brands of drink mixes, but I prefer Kool-Aid™. It’s familiar, reliable, and no matter where you live or travel, it can easily be acquired. It also smells good. One can dye a lot of fiber a lot of different colors in a relatively short period of time. Kool-Aid™ dying is inexpensive and the only mordant required is white vinegar, which is also edible. I’m in favor of anything I can eat.

So Kool-Aid™ dying is my preferred method of dying fiber. Please note: it only works on animal fibers. I’ve tried it on plant fibers and I’m usually left with some hideous pastel that makes me wonder how a Kool-Aid™ stain on a white T-shirt can possibly be so vibrant. When the dye process is completed, Kool-Aid™ is also color safe. It will not run or rub off on other items of clothing. It is washable – use the same care you would for any wool item. I do not recommend leaving it on the dashboard of your car in July, however, because, like any other dye, it will fade.

Here’s how to do it: Take a large pot – I like those big 16-quart stainless steel pots that Ollie’s sells for a couple of bucks – and fill it about half-full with cool water. Dump in several glugs of white vinegar. I do not measure. I do not believe in measuring.

I always start with white roving or scoured fleece. I split it into manageable serving sizes (about two to three feet of roving or several handfuls of fleece) and toss them into the pot. It’s okay to put several pieces into one pot as long as they all get saturated. Gently hold the fiber under the water until it is saturated. Do not stir or otherwise agitate. Remember that, as in life, agitation is our enemy. Let the pot sit undisturbed for about 30 minutes. (I should probably mention that I usually do several pots at the same time so that I can cover more ground in a shorter period of time, but that’s just me.)

When 30 minutes, give or take, has passed, lift the fiber out of the water and place it into a strainer or colander. Do not rinse fiber. Feel free to rinse the pot.

Now the fun begins. I use five or six packets of Kool-Aid™ at a time. Just open them up and pour them into the pot. Add cold water, stirring as you go. Add water until the Kool-Aid™ is a shade you like. If you like bright colors, use less water. If you like more diluted colors, add more. Be sure that all powder is dissolved for most even results.

Now gently lift the fiber out of the strainer and place it into the Kool-Aid™. Hold it under the water until it is saturated. Put it on the stove and heat it up to approximately 170F. Again, do not stir or otherwise agitate. Simmer uncovered until all of the color is exhausted. Yes, you read that correctly. The fiber will absorb all of the color and the water will turn milky when it is done.

Take the pot off the stove and gently lift the fiber out of the water and back into the strainer. I highly recommend using heat resistant gloves or wooden spoons or other tools to do this step. Let the fiber drain while you rinse the pot. Do not bend, fold, spindle or mutilate the fiber in an effort to get the liquid out. Just let it drain. When it is reasonably cool, dip it into a pot of clean water that is about the same temp as the fiber. This should rinse out any residual dye. Then put it back in the strainer and leave it alone for awhile.

When it has drained to your liking, hang it up to dry. I have a wooden frame that I simply hang the fiber over to dry in the breeze. Any railing or banister will work. This technique works well for roving. For fleece, I use a large frame with screening stretched over it. I know from experience that it is best to dry fiber outdoors. If you hang enough fiber over the same piece of linoleum for a long enough period of time, said linoleum will eventually need to be replaced. If hanging the fiber inside, I recommend hanging it over a bucket or drip pan. Trust me on this.

Okay, time has passed and your fiber is dyed beautiful unearthly bright colors. Now what? Well, it’s always good to have options, don’t you think? If you’re using one color, just card and spin. Actually, if you’re using roving and you’ve been nice to it throughout the process, carding might not even be necessary.

If you used two or more colors, you can card them together and spin, or card and spin separately and then ply them together. One of my favorite things to do is to card three random colors together and spin and ply them with three other random colors carded together.

I should mention that this technique can also be used on finished yarn and even commercially produced yarns – as long as they are natural protein fibers. Dye a whole skein one color or dip a section at a time for space dying. Try speckling your yarn – after the mordant process, lay the yarn flat and splatter or drizzle color randomly over it.

Go play! This is supposed to be fun!