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While working on a sample basket for a workshop I’ll be teaching soon, I was reminded of something I read recently in a book about writing practices. The writer compares walking along a straight line and walking along the spiral. You are moving in both cases but in one you also go round and round in a circle.

Practicing anything is sort of like walking that spiral, you do the same thing over and over but learn something new and thus move forward every time you repeat the same thing.

The photo is of the basket finished yesterday. It is less than 6 inches across and while it is time consuming, I really enjoy working on this type of project. There is no way to rush the process. It is worked in spiral fashion, 1 wrap and stitch at a time.

I used yarn sold in the gift shop at Mount Saviour Monastery, soft enough for wearables but sturdy enough for this type of project where the tension is very tight and where I want it to hold up to a lot of wear, because after all, baskets are meant to be used.

Note: 12 year old Krystal was trying to get my attention so I could let her out. Bossy little thing!

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Is it possible to be creative and get anything finished after a 3 year old child discovers the joys of binoculars? 

I think my brain is fried…..

Yesterday hubby and I celebrated an anniversary.  Instead of buying each other gifts, we pick out something that we can use, something that would reflect where we are in our lives.   One of our new hobbies is bird watching and we didn’t have binoculars  so we went out yesterday and picked some out before we went to eat. 

Back home, using the binoculars, we spotted our resident hawk and scoped out feral cats waiting to pounce on birds.  I like cats a lot, but between the cats and the hawk, the birds are in constant danger.    Maybe I should have a talk with Mr Hawk and see if he can solve the wild cat problem…. actually we plan to work with a local group to trap and neuter the cats.

Anyway, today I am watching grandson Connor…  who came with no volume control …. sigh…    The older I get the less I seem to be able to function around  noise.

Of course, I also have some things to finish up for The Festival Of Women In The Arts “Entangled Threads” exhibit which runs the month of March.  I’ve finished some final things,  needed to finish some small felted items and then tag the items and do up some cards with descriptions.  It has taken me a good part of the day to finish the little bag below ( for size reference, it is sitting on a large postcard) make and attach the beaded dragonfly.   Normally it would have taken me a fraction of that time.  I’ve decided anything else will have to wait till the little man goes home.

The little bag was made with fiber dyed in my studio.  I used very bright yellow/pink/orange.  I love all colors and just about now I need a shot of bright color to help cope with the last days of winter.   I have a bunch more of these to finish, in different sizes and colors, planned to pick one from the group to add to my exhibit items.  Since this is the only one finished, I guess I will be spared having to choose just one.   

Now I need to get going on the tags and descriptions….

My simple woman’s update is posted on a separate page…  you can find it in the link above..

and a teaser….

While I have posted very few things on my studio blog lately,  it is mainly because I’ve had little time for photos and descriptions.    And with Christmas and Rock Day so close I still don’t have a lot of time for getting photo colors just right… I may just wait till after Rock Day to work on it… 

I did take a quick photo this morning of just a few of my many batches of silk top available, some dyed using natural dyes this summer.  Here are  4 different batches of silk top that can be used for spinning, blending or other silk work.   One of the solid colors was done with a walnut dye, it is absolutely yummy! The sage green ( color is off in the photo) was done with my purple and black daylilies.   The other two were done with commercial dyes.    Using my plants for the natural colors was a lot of fun…

Simply Divine Silk Top

Simply Divine Silk Top

Rock Day, Saturday at the guild went well (will post more about that on the guild blog later on)  considering that the guild is only 2 months old. 

Sunday I was feeling a bit under the weather.

Monday’s appointment at the dentist didn’t go as well as expected, I’ll have to go back to be refitted for a crown.   It was a warm day but since I’d been summoned to jury duty the rest of the week I caught up on indoors chores.  Later that evening I called the court house to find out that I didn’t have to report for jury duty.  Yay!   We were expecting record breaking temps again on Tuesday and Wednesday and I’d have 4 whole free days to myself with nothing scheduled.   Top of my list was to bathe a dog or two and since there was no snow left in the yard, get in some yard work, go for long walks each day, let the dogs romp outdoors all day while I worked etc.

Tuesday…  we got into the high 60’s.   Unfortunately I was  feeling cruddy.    The closest thing to a dog getting bathed and outdoor work getting done was working on a couple of pounds of wool from Poodle, a monastery sheep.  I was able to soak, wash and dry it outdoors in the sun.  That little bit of work did me in.

Here is Poodle drying on the patio table.  Notice how green our grass is for January, normally it is buried under snow.

Here are sample skeins from monastery sheep.  Top to bottom Scottish Black-face,  BFL (Poodle), Grey-face (Scottish mule?)  Although the wool comes from uncoated sheep who forage, I think working to remove all the vm (vegetable) matter is worth it.    

Today, Wednesday is one of those days where if you don’t like the weather just wait a few minutes and it will change.   We have lots of rain, then sun, then rain, then windy, calm, thunder and so on.   It is very mild for January, feels like spring!

I snapped the photo of a double rainbow I noticed while letting the dog out.  How unusual to see a rainbow in January.  When I took the photo, the sun was shining through the clouds in some areas, but it was also raining and the wind tried to rip the door out of my hands…

Cough…  I’m off to have some hot tea with honey…

I got word Friday evening that some of my fibers were ready to be picked up.  Since it was a long weekend, on Saturday morning we took off for the 3 hour drive to pick up what was ready, leaving the rest to be picked up another day.  

The weather was pretty gloomy and as we passed from one town to another we could see snow on the tree tops in some areas, it rained in other areas and was sunny in others, very typical when you live in hills and valleys.   It is interesting to see that there was still a lot of bright fall color on some trees as we got to the southern part of PA, of course I forgot to take my camera.

The drive was thankfully uneventful, we stayed at the mill for a little while, then ate lunch at a nice restaurant and than headed home with 10 large bags of fibers.    Two bags belonged to a friend,  one of my bags was a long wool that I never got around to washing this summer and that will be used for dyeing and blends, another was a beautiful charcoal Corridale/Romney that I washed last year and that wants to be something special, I’ll be keeping some of that for myself.  Another is a white Romney, the whitest wool I’ve ever seen. 

The last 5 bags were blends of fibers I’ve had ready to card for almost a year now.   I finally faced the fact my shoulder had not healed enough for me to catch up with blending projects and so off they went to the mill.   They were blended perfectly and my sample skeins from the blends are just what I hoped for. 

I’ve listed the blends on my studio blog, will be adding some naturally colored fibers as well.  Once I’ve got my studio blog updated I’ll be working on hand painted silk projects. 

While I miss nice summer weather and puttering in the garden, I’m glad to finally have some studio time again.   

This summer was a busy one with lots of fibery events on top of home, family and garden activities.

Some fiber related events …

On Sept 8th, the Benjamin Patterson Inn  held their Whingblinger Heritage Festival.  I went as a visitor, but also to help a friend set up, this being her first time spinning flax.  I loaned Sue my Ashford Elizabeth wheel for this event as it fit the setting more appropriately than her Louet.  She did very well and produced a nice skein of flax.  Funny thing, I’ve had several people ask me if I sold my wheel, they’d seen my wheel at the festival, recognized it because of the dogs and flowers scene painted on the treadle. 

 

Granddaughter Jess went with me and took part in the many kids events they had there.  She sewed a mop cap, played a marble game, shucked and cracked corn, spent an hour in the schoolroom, made a felted necklace and bracelet, took part in the vegetable hunt.  When I asked her which had been the most fun, she mentioned one thing, then changed her mind, then changed her mind again, couldn’t decided which one she liked best.  We really enjoyed ourselves! 

 

 

Grandson Connor was also there, not as thrilled with the day as his older cousin. It was a hot day and there really wasn’t much for a toddler to do but sit and watch.

The next day I went to the Endless Mountains Fiber Festival.  I didn’t take my camera and so no photos.   I purchased a new WPI tool as I’d lost mine (I found my old one 2 days later) and some very springy Bamboo yarn.   It was a nice festival but so close to the Fingerlakes Festival and with many of the same vendors and so I doubt I will go back to it next year unless I go as a vendor. 

On Sept. 15th I went to the Fingerlakes Fiber Arts Festival at Hemlock NY.  I’d entered a few things in the skein and garment competitions and headed there first before visiting the vendors.   I didn’t do as well as the last few years (last year I earned a Best Garment ribbon) but I can’t complain as each of my things did earn a ribbon.  From the comments on the cards the judges liked my spinning and knitting, but didn’t care for the colors.  The red project bag I’ve used for most of the past year and a little worn, came in first place in its category.

I was really pleased to see that a young lady, Rosie,  in our guild earned several special awards for her first skeins.  I’ve been giving her tips on spinning and fiber prep, helped her with tagging and describing her skeins before sending them in.   Someone else took photos of her entries.. I’ll get them up when I get the photos.

But, the big surprise was Sis’s shawl winning several special awards.  The shawl was at my house and when I sent in my entries, I filled out a form for Sis and sent in her shawl as well. I hadn’t told her I’d entered it so imagine her surprise when I called to tell her the shawl had won several awards.  At first she had no idea what I was talking about.  Now she’s thinking about working on some new things.   The yarn for the shawl was dyed at a workshop at the festival in a previous year and then I showed her how to use the triloom to weave the shawl.  It is a beautiful shawl, will need to take a better photo of it. 

As usual there was lots to see and buy at the Festival. I only bought a few things, but could easily have bought a lot more if I didn’t already have so much at home.   I got to spend time with friends I hadn’t seen in a while and at the end of the day sat down and worked on The Big Sock.   

As always the guild hosting the festival did a great job with everything. I’ll be back next year!   

More recently there was Farm Days at the Mall.. 

Several guild members participated in spinning demos for 3 days. Our goal was to support the local farms and historical organizations and also to hand out fliers about our new guild, generate some interest.  Sunday was a slow day but Friday and Saturday brought a steady stream of visitors with lots of questions and attempts at spinning and felting.  We met a lot of interesting people and some potential new guild members.  I took my Great Wheel, garments and skeins to show and my little Gem wheel.  While spinning and talking to people doesn’t seem like a lot of work, I was pretty worn out by Sunday evening.  No more demos or festivals for a little while as I am busy with getting the new guild off the ground and working on updating blogs and website.

 

Recently several of us from the newly formed Chemung Valley Handspinners & Fiber Arts Guild traveled a short distance to the Wool Day at the fair.  We all live so close to the PA border that we thought we’d check out fairs and make some contacts in that direction. 

We found that this fair is not as big as some are we are used to.  But, much to our delight it is a fair with a lot of agricultural content.  We were able to visit all the 4H displays, view the many, many items entered in the fair competitions in many categories and sample some food.  

Where we spent the most time was checking out the animals, particularly rabbits (think angora fiber) sheep and goats, all animals that produce fiber… and… visiting vendors selling fleeces, roving and fiber related items.  There were only a handful of vendors there, but enough for anyone to find something they could use.  I was very pleased with the quality of fibers available. 

We made some good contacts, places to buy fleeces or process them, etc.   And we did get to ask a lot of questions of people there in hopes that we can pull off a Wool Day or something similar at our own local fair, encourage people to enter their fiber related items. 

Some photos I took at the fair…

  This man and his team caught my eye.  He looked so gruff and talked about how he trains his animals and how one has to be firm with them and so one.  But, I had to smile when I saw that his team wore a heart design, the first clue that the man is really gentle with his animals.  

  Some of the fiber vendors ….

   This character made me laugh.  At first all I noticed was a movement out of the corner of my eye, but when I turned there was nothing there except stacked hay.  Then I saw the goat poke his head through the center of the hay bale, through the side of the stall, check out the people going by and then proceed to munch on the hay..  very cute. 

 Resting….  

All in all a fun day.   We hope to visit more fairs to see how they are set up and hopefully next year or the next we’ll have something interesting going at the local fair.

For those who are wondering or have asked.   We (Chemung Valley Handspinners & Fiber Arts Guild) are still waiting to hear from the Big Flats Historical Society in regards to our meeting at the Museum.  We are hoping they will come through for us and allow us to meet there.  If not, we will have to continue looking for a place to meet one Saturday a month.  

 

Nearby is a monastery.  Rather than go on and on about what an interesting and spiritual place this is, you can read about it here Mount Saviour Monastery.  I will say that regardless of where you come from, denomination, race, etc., the chapel is a wonderful place to sit and pray.  And the surrounding area with the sheep is very restful.  The photo is of a 14th century statue in the crypt.

While visiting last week, I saw a sign announcing the day they would be shearing their sheep.  So early on Saturday I drove to a friend’s house who is fortunate enough to live about a mile from the monastery and we walked uphill to the barn. 

 You know you’ve entered the Monastery grounds when you see a large crucifix on the side of the road, looks old and what you’d expect to find. I forgot to take a photo of it.  But, I did take a photo of what I saw next, part of an electric fence.  Not a very interesting photo, but it struck me that it was such a modern contrast to the old wood hand crafted crucifix and an example of the modern monastic life, some things done as they always have been, but others things done in a modern way.

 A view of the barn uphill in the distance, you can barely see a part of one of the Casas on the left. The Casas are where guests stay.

 A little bit closer …

Approaching the barn we could see lots of cars parked around it and people walking in and out of the barn and over to the chapel and gift shop.

 Inside the barn… Watching this gentleman working, it was easy to see he had a lot of experience with sheep. He worked very quickly, carefully, handling the sheep firmly but kindly so as not to injure them or cause them much stress.  A young woman was also shearing and while not quite as quick and neat as the man, she was pretty darn good.  Note:  I don’t know what most people envision when they think of a Monk.  When working with sheep, here they wear a type of coverall.  I noticed Bro. Bruno and Bro. Pierre wearing them and so I’m guessing that the man in coveralls in the photo below is a monk.

 

 There was a man standing near me taking lots of photos, smiling as he did.  By the way he was talking to the monks I could tell he knew them well.  Curious, I struck up a conversation with him and found out that the two teen girls in the photo are his daughters.  They travel from D.C.  every year for shearing weekend and other retreats.  The girls help every year and this year they were ‘throwing the sheep’, which basically means flipping them over onto their backs and sliding them over to the shearer to save him some work.  Behind the girls you can see more sheep waiting to be shorn, hundreds were done that day.  The sheep was herded into the barn the day before (the monks ride 4 wheelers ) avoiding a thunderstorm and wet sheep.  A lot of people come to help herding and shearing and so it goes very quickly.  

 A very large, shorn fleece on the skirting table.  All but a ewe named Poodle and a lamb, are white.  Poodle and the lamb are black.  While normally they send all the fleeces off to be processed and spun into yarn, batting and such, when I asked they were pleased to sell me a fleece or two for a workshop.   I picked out a large white fleece and asked for Poodle’s fleece to be set aside for me in case I missed her being shorn while taking a lunch break.

  Sure enough I missed Poodle being shorn. For some reason I thought Poodle was a ram and would be done last, but Poodle is a ewe.. duh…. And she was too far when I came back to get a close up shot of her. This was taken with the zoom feature on the camera and you still can barely see her.  She is the lone black sheep in the center of the photo.  What you don’t see in the photo is a glider  in the sky from the nearby national glider museum, a post for another day.

 

After the sheep are shorn, they are checked very carefully for any cuts or signs of illness and such.  They are then released and immediately go out to look for their lambs which have been waiting, impatiently and very noisily for their moms.   Here are a few waiting and behind them a Ewe is nursing her lambs.  We watched as she was released and ran right over to her lambs which looked to us, exactly like many of the other lambs.  While she knew exactly which lambs were hers, the lambs at first were not sure this was mom.

The matriarch of the sheep, an older ewe was creating quite a fuss.  Very upset that some of her flock was still in the barn, she would come in from the pasture and complain very loudly.  Every time she did so, all the lambs waiting for their moms would run to her and follow her also complaining, making for a lot of noise.  Eventually she would leave, still baa-ing loudly, calling the sheep to follow her.   I tried to take a photo of her, but she was pretty upset and moving faster than  I was.

 Here are the fleeces I brought back home with me.  The white is actually much larger than the dark fleece. When I unrolled the fleeces I could see that although Poodle looks black when shorn, her fleece is varying shades of gray.. very pretty.  The spinners that meet at my house regularly will be helping me skirt the fleeces a bit more, wash and process these fleeces so that they can experience the entire process from start to finish. 

Close up of fleeces…

   

Before coming home I stopped in the gift shop to pay for the fleeces… big mistake… I came home with a dvd about the monastery that received 3 Emmy award nominations and I came home with this painting.  An artist comes and paints scenes of everyday life here and donates them to the monastery.   This one I’ve named ‘The Good Shepherd’.  It is Brother Pierre, who is in charge of the sheep, in a winter scene, Poodle being the dark sheep.  Bro. Pierre is a small, slim but strong older man who physically reminds me a lot of my Dad. I saw this painting last week and when I saw it again this week, I knew it had to come home with me.  Not a traditional sheep scene, but I like it very much.  There is a little glare in the photo but you get an idea of the painting.

  

A while ago I posted a photo of an oops yarn on my studio blog (link in the sidebar).   I kept the yarn for myself and am knitting a pair of socks with.  I’m once again using the 2 socks on 2 needles method, this time starting at the toe.   Not happy with heels on previous toe up socks, I decided to try a short row heel in garter stitch for better wear.

 

The heel looks like it will wear well and it can be used for toe up or cuff down socks.   My next pair of socks will be a cotton blend.

And the tease… if you like cherry blossoms colors in the header on this page…  check out the Custom Blended Spinning Fibers page on my studio blog…

Once a month a group of spinners get together at my house to sit and spin and sometimes learn something new.   With the warmer days, we have less people meeting as they are busy with gardening chores, family events, outdoor actvities.  It also means that we are able to work on some things outdoors. 

This week it was requested that I demonstrate how to use a drum carder.  I set up some tables and chairs in the yard before going to pick up Jessica for her morning ball game.  When I got home a little before spinners were to arrive, I started blending a pansy batt .  No sooner did I pull out my fibers when the wind gusted and sent purple fiber sailing away out of my reach.    I moved everything into the garage and we were able to work there.     Jessica was still around, playing in the yard and I could hear neighborhood kids laughing as they rode by the cherry trees on their bikes because it was “snowing pink snow”!  The wind was blowing cherry blossoms off the trees in drifts of soft pink.

The spinners learned a few new things,  they shared home cooked goodies with me,  and at the end of the day we had a glass of wine and a bite to eat.   Nice way to end the day.

I left my equipment in the garage as we don’t need it for the cars in the summer and I can work out there.   Just a little while ago, I went out and finished what I started yesterday.  This is a photo of a previous batch… there is a little over 4 ounces in this one.  It is a blend of several breeds of wool, generous amount of silk and just a little mohair, all blended enough to distribute the different colors and will result in a lightly textured yarn with a little sheen.  yes.. it is available.  $16.00 for the lot, email me or leave a message if you are interested.   I plan to start working on blends again on a regular basis, but I make no promises as to how often or how many, and I won’t take orders, I don’t want my shoulder flaring up again.  

Snow Pansies

  

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