Further thinking and stitching.

Further thinking and stitching.

When I worked on the stitched piece for my last studio post, I still had a decision to make about adding ‘something’ to the central square. I had left it blank and I was unsure about whether or not to add anything to it. Looking at it again in time for this post, I decided to add some more fabric scraps and further rows of running stitch to secure them to the background linen.

 

                                

This is my stitching as I had left it on my previous post.

 

I have added a variety of small fabric squares into the centre blank square of my stitched piece, and I have managed to fill the blank space quite well. The fabrics I chose complement the fabrics that are already on the outer border, and measure about 1″ – 1  1/2″ square ish!

I have added a row of double herringbone stitches at two edges of the stitching, to secure the edges of the fabrics that I feel are not secured well enough with the running stitch.

The orientation or direction of the stitching echoes the outer border.

Whipped running stitches add definition to the inner square, and to the outer smaller squares, and add to the overall effect.

 

I have really enjoyed adding more stitches to this piece. I continue to find stitching very mindful, and calming. I am so pleased that I found this linen sheet at the charity shop that day, a lovely happenstance.

I think the completed work looks good, I will decide about adding some machine stitching and perhaps a little applique, as another layer when I look at it again.  Open to suggestions from you too of course!

I have another hospital stay looming when this post is due, so I probably will be late in acknowledging comments, but I will read them.

 

 

 

Hand sewing some rabbits

Hand sewing some rabbits

Recently, the Chinese celebrated the arrival of the Year of the Rabbit. How very fortunate of me, then, to have a couple of rabbits to hand stitch!

I had initially bough this Briar Bunnies kit for my mum, to keep her entertained during her Christmas stay with us… in 2021. My mother started making them, but lost steam somewhere along us all catching Covid and being flabbergasted by how messy our place was (if only she knew we had tidied up before she arrived!) After she left, the poor duo was stashed somewhere in my studio and completely forgotten, until recently.

Unfinished hand sewn Briar Bunnies, a kit by Cool Crafting

This is how my mother left her bunnies. The blue pen markings were done by me with a heat-erasable Frixion pen. The ink would guide the stitches and would disappear once I ironed the fabric after sewing.

You’ll notice there are two pairs of ears and arms. I had suggested mum make two bunnies at a time to avoid what in the knitting world is called “second sock syndrome” – when you’ve knitted one sock and don’t feel at all motivated to start all over again and repeating the same steps to make another… Once I took over the project, I followed my own advise.

The pattern expects you to machine sew the bunnies, but in my mind that would completely defeat my notion of enjoying the making process to the full. Machine sewing these bunnies would mean I’d be done in a couple of hours, not nearly enough time to be mindful of even having held them! Hand stitching was much better for that.

Two hand stitched bunnies, with striped leggings

My hand stitching skills are mediocre at best, but slowly I saw the rabbits shaping up. One of them has wonky ears and her leggings don’t quite match in the front, and I love that about her. It adds personality!

Two finished hand sewn linen rabbits with coordinating red and floral garments

Here they are all finished. Those dresses took me ages to make! I can’t tell you how long exactly, but a good amount of an audiobook kept me company whilst I slowly stabbed the fabric and, once or twice, my fingers. The bunny on the left was supposed to have a bow made with the same burgundy fabric as her dress, but after almost losing my mind turning the other bow inside out, I decided to go for a red ribbon instead. It’s not cutting corners, it’s being creative…

Have you hand sewn anything lately? Do you love or hate the notion of slow stitching? Let me know your thoughts.

 

Felting Machines, from Ukraine and China

Felting Machines, from Ukraine and China

I was surprised at Christmas with a single needle hand-held felting machine from Ukraine.  (Glenn said he had been told by the seller on Etsy that there is a Russian rip-off, which had horrible reviews. It either seized or flings parts of itself off as you try to use it.) The Ukrainian one he gave me, seems to want to keep all its parts together.

1) Ukrainian made single needle felting machine. Speed control is on the power supply.1) Ukrainian-made single needle felting machine. Speed control is on the power supply.

2) Ann liked it and suspects it will work with sculptural projects.2) Ann liked it and suspects it will work with sculptural projects.

3) It came with a thank you card from the maker3) It came with a thank you card from the maker

  4-5) and instructions.4-5) and instructions.

 Glenn had seen me waffling about a 4-needle hand-held felting machine out of china. That one required the needles to have the crank end cut off. I was not too excited by the idea of cutting needles, so was waffling. I spent a long time chatting with different customer representatives asking lots of questions about needle gauges and shapes. They listed 3 unspecified sizes. I put on my teacher hat and went into education mode and explanations of needles (you may remember my meandering through the topic of needles in a previous blog.)  I passed all the info I had gleaned from them to Ann, who did order one which arrived in early January. She will, I am sure, tell you more about how she is finding it. We will also likely do a comparison of the two types we have acquired.  After seeing Ann’s I decided it looked like it will probably work well for Picture Felting.

Today a mysterious package arrived from China, well a few little parcels also arrived including the metal thimbles I was waiting for. It was covered in a layer of clear tape with layers of skid rap under that! (Skid wrap is like cling wrap but extra clingy!! It holds boxes or other things on a shipping skid.)

6) tape over skid wrapped cardboard box sitting on a clear box of tiny colourful elastics.6) tape over skid wrapped cardboard box sitting on a clear box of tiny colourful elastics.

7) protective waterproofing covering removed from small cardboard box7) protective waterproofing covering removed from a small cardboard box

I carefully extracted the box from the wrapping with the help of some scissors.  There were multiple layers of Skid wrap so the scissors were the best solution.

Now to get into the box without damaging the contents….

8) Bring on the Norway pewter Heilag Olav letter opener!! (small cardboard box balancing on small clear plastic box of tiny elastics balancing on a mettle box that use to hold quality street candy8) Bring on the Norway pewter Heilag Olav letter opener!! (small cardboard box balancing on a small clear plastic box of tiny elastics balancing on a mettle box that use to hold quality street candy

Hum what is this? Wow, this is well-wrapped!! There is something loose underneath it!

9) Surprise! A bubble wrapped object 3 small canisters and cloth rose.9) Surprise! A bubble-wrapped object, 3 small canisters and a cloth rose.

9) Surprise! A bubble wrapped object 3 small canisters and cloth rose. 9-10)  Surprise! OH MY!!! That was unexpected! A rose as well as 3 tubes of extra needles!9-10)  Surprise! OH MY!!! That was unexpected! A rose as well as 3 tubes of extra needles!

11) Opening the end of the bubble wrap bag I found More sealed plastic in the next layer!!! 11) Opening the end of the bubble wrap bag I found More sealed plastic in the next layer!!!

I am starting to wonder if they were expecting horrific weather in Canada or if there will actually be an end to the protective wrapping!! (it may be all packaging and nothing inside?)

 12) Aha!! A fancy white box with writing I cant read and a sticker with some sort of cool pattern on it.12) Aha!! A fancy white box with writing I can’t read and a sticker with some sort of cool pattern on it.

It may be one of those boxes other people’s phones can read. (I did mention my phone only claims to be smarty….but it is mostly out of power and is just a phone. It doesn’t even text. Which is good since it’s a phone so friends should just call me.)

 13) Gold text on the white box, any idea what it says? 13) Gold text on the white box, any idea what it says?

Removing the outer layer and lifting the lid I found helpful instructions, including some English!!

14) the instructions in multiple languages14) the instructions in multiple languages

Oh no more packing, this is very well-packed!

15) Now we are getting to the heart of the matter! lifting the thin foam layer I can see a silver solid mettle with plastic sliding needle guard and the nob for the speed control and anther bottle of needles all nestled securely in more packing foam.15) Now we are getting to the heart of the matter! lifting the thin foam layer I can see a silver solid mettle with a plastic sliding needle guard and the nob for the speed control and another bottle of needles all nestled securely in more packing foam.

16) Digging a bit further I found the power cords with speed control and a white plug adapter that I wound need on this side of the ocean.16) Digging a bit further I found the power cords with speed control and a white plug adapter that I would need on this side of the ocean.

17) all the parts extracted from the packing, plus the 3 viles of needles an the cloth rose.17) all the parts extracted from the packing, plus the 3 viles of needles and the cloth rose.

The needle canister with the machine has three sets of four needles, I did not ever get any of the otherwise very helpful company reps to tell me what gauges these are. It may be 32, 36 and 40 gauge but I’m not sure. I may investigate more Sunday.

18) Allen Key inserted to add the first needle. 18) Allen Key inserted to add the first needle.

Referring back to the instructions, yes it is best to actually read them and not just guess. I loosened the needle-holding screw with the Allen key provided. (I got extra screws and Allen keys since I don’t want tiny parts to go missing.)

Each of the four needles has a tiny screw that needs to be backed off to insert the cut needle and then tighten. You can run it with one needle or up to all four.

19-20) When the needle(s) have been added you can twist the guard and release it. showing guard retracted and extended.19-20) When the needle(s) have been added you can twist the guard and release it. showing the guard retracted and extended.

This is what it looks like with the guard extended.  It slides up and down like the Clover and fake clover tools do.

I have to get back to getting ready for tomorrow, which will be the Spin in, in Chesterville, a small town south of Ottawa. I hopefully will have photos for you of the fun and shopping, in an upcoming post.

there are a number of other hand-held felting machines (tools) have you tried either of these or one of the other ones? once I have given these a good test run we can evaluate the ergonomics and get a better idea of their effectiveness.

Felted Lantern Workshop

Felted Lantern Workshop

This last Sunday I taught the felted lantern cover workshop that should have happened in December but was delayed. I was teaching at the guild I belong to, Ottawa Valley Weravers’ and Spinners’ Guild.

It was a half day class. the biggest challenge with the lantern covers is laying out the wool thin enough to let the light through but with enough wool to hang together. They don’t need to be strong because the lantern will give them structure. For this class, I provided a glass vase so everyone would be working to the same resist size. You can use a large pop bottle with the top cut off but I would add some weight to it to make it more stable.

I had 5 ladies for this class. I showed them two examples of covers I made.

wool felt lantern cover, blue, green, brown wool felt lantern cover lit up, blue, green, brown

Everyone wanted the longer one so they could add wrinkles

laying out wool for a felted lantern cover laying out wool for a felted lantern cover laying out wool for a felted lantern cover laying out wool for a felted lantern cover laying out wool for a felted lantern cover

 

I only just realized we ended up with just 2 colour palettes. the largest part of this class is taken up with layout and decoration. We discussed how you can add things to the inside of the cover that won’t show when it’s not lit up but will show as silhouettes blocking more light.  A couple of people decided to give that a try.

Adding embellishments to felt lantern covers Adding embellishments to felt lantern covers Adding embellishments to felt lantern covers Adding embellishments to felt lantern covers Adding embellishments to felt lantern covers

It is hard to see on the last one but she is adding white and blue silk hanky pieces to the wool. they disappear as soon as they get wet. They will show up again later. You can see them a little in the pictures below. I think everyone had a great afternoon.

 

Group shot of the students with their lantern covers.

finished wool lantern cover finished wool lantern cover finished wool lantern cover finished wool lantern cover finished wool lantern cover

Two of my students sent me pictures of their covers dry and lit.

Christine

lantern cover drylantern cover lit up

Janet

lantern cover dry Lantern cover lit up

I hope the others will send me pictures as well. One was very thin and delicate and I think it will look amazing lit up. If they send them I will add them here.

I did have someone ask why I like to make covers rather than making them with a bottom. There are 4 reasons, first making a nice flat bottom that will allow the vase to stand properly can be tricky. A cover that is self-supporting needs to be felted much more or be thicker to be stiff enough. Having an internal structure gives you something to put the lights in and attach the controller to. And lastly, the container inside allows you to add water if you would like to use it for flowers.

 

Winter Inspiration

Winter Inspiration

To warn you in advance, this post has loads of photos and no fiber unless you count bison as fiber. But it should be inspiring so I hope that you will continue on reading to learn about my recent trip to Yellowstone National Park (YNP) and my first snowmobile ride. Last year, our friends from Idaho, Howie and Janine had asked us to join them for a couple of snowmobile tours in YNP and we thought, why not? It’s kind of a bucket list item as we are downhill skiers but have never snowmobiled before. So we journeyed off to West Yellowstone, MT and got to see some real winter inspiration. There was tons of snow and it was cold but we had a great time. Seeing YNP in the winter is so different than the usual summertime visits.

With the snowmobile tours that we took, you could rent all the gear to stay warm so everyone looked alike. The first day we took the “Old Faithful” tour where we saw a lot of thermal features, waterfalls and of course, Old Faithful geyser. We had a great guide who explained all about how Yellowstone is mainly a big volcano which is really quite close to the surface. He reassured us that the volcano is not predicted to erupt for another 70,000 years. You can read more about Yellowstone National Park here. 

Here are some of the thermal features that we saw. It was amazing to see some of these beautiful colors on a winter day. If you click on each photo, the titles might give you a bit more information.

We saw a lot of wildlife and it was amazing to be on the same roadway as the bison. We did not get off the snowmobiles when we encountered bison and we kept moving slowly by the herds with the snowmobiles close together so that a bison couldn’t get in between two snowmobiles. They pretty much ignored us. They are huge, shaggy beasts and quite awesome to see their size and strength pushing through deep snow off the roads. The coyote on the top left, was hurrying down the road as we went by. There were lots of ravens around and you can’t really tell from this photo but they are big birds and noisy! There are a lot of wildlife that can stay in YNP because the rivers don’t freeze. With all the thermals, geysers and warm water flowing in the rivers, it provides a habitat for a large variety of birds and mammals to survive in the harsh winter.

On our second tour, we went to the “Grand Canyon” of YNP. It was a bit longer on the snowmobiles but has some great scenery. The snow/ice has fascinating shapes as the steam coats the surrounding pine trees. We call these snow ghosts in our area (you see a lot at Whitefish Mountain Resort).

On our day off, we visited the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone. It was a really cool place to visit. They rescue grizzly bears, wolves, otters and other small animals that would  normally be euthanized. They also do a lot of education of the public about these wild animals. It was great to be able to see the animals more closely. The bears don’t hibernate at the center because they get plenty of food. Bears only need to hibernate if they don’t have a good food source. I wish we could have seen some of the otters in the wild (some had been spotted several days before we were there) but no luck. They do have a bear cam and a wolf cam so that you can view the animals live if you like.

Dennis did get a video of the wolves. There is a building where you could be inside (warm and cozy) and watch wolves interact with each other. This is a pack of a mama wolf and her four offspring.

I had a great time on this trip, rode and drove a snowmobile for the first time and was inspired by winter. So if you get the chance to visit Yellowstone National Park in the wintertime, go for it. You will see some amazing sights.

Where wool begins: a solar grazing story

Where wool begins: a solar grazing story

I’m pleased as can be to have been asked to contribute to this felting and fibre blog, though the most I’ve ever done with the art side is creating a happy face on a wool dryer ball (it was very satisfying!).

I was asked (I think?) to share on this blog as a raiser of wool — a much different, but key, part of the fibre world!

Our farm is Shady Creek Lamb Co., based near Kinburn, Ontario. Our sheep, however, end up living all over the place because a key part of our farm is solar grazing.

What is solar grazing? We have two main sheep flocks, and each one is tasked with doing the “mowing” at commercial solar sites. The companies that own and run the solar sites pay us to use sheep to mow instead of using tractors and mechanical mowing. Each of the two sites is 200 acres.

A ewe stands under a solar panel
A ewe stands under a solar panel. Note the burrs. (EDF Renewables, 2021)

We run all wool sheep, and some of our wool has even been used for “real” wool projects — but we also have a good portion of our wool that is nothing more than compost, for a few reasons. One, we do have a fair amount of Romanov genetics in our flock. Romanov lambs have beautiful soft coats, often with colour, but when the adult wool comes in it’s more like hair. The double coat and wire texture make it the least favourite of our shearer and anyone who wants our wool!

The balance of our flock has some lovely wool. We usually run purebred rams — Canadian Arcott, Suffolk, Shropshire, and Border Leicester, but we run some commercial rams too. Our most recent addition is the Clun Forest. Those first babies will be born in May.

Beyond the obvious Romanov wool, we also battle different issues with wool quality than some barn-based farms. In winter, our ewes eat hay that’s been unrolled on snow. This actually keeps the wool quite clean and tidy. It’s the grazing aspect that ruins our wool for much more than compost — because we deal with burdock in one of our solar sites. Burrs are hated by us, our shearer, and anyone who hopes to do anything with wool, but they are a struggle to get rid of on the one site.

Sheep graze a field of peas, barley, wheat and sunflowers

Our sheep also spend the autumn and early winter grazing cover crops, which is a new venture for us. Grazing cover crops — a mix of plants seeded after a winter wheat crop comes off to decrease erosion and feed soil microbes — has been a natural extension of the grazing season for our sheep.

We usually have our ewes sheared in April, but because we run multiple flocks, we have split shearing into two times of the year, with at least one of those shearing days happening at the solar. It’s a challenge to have the equipment and power and people power (and shade!) on-site, but we’ve made it work.

Shearing is an important part of the flock’s health management. Wool sheep do not shed their wool, so it must be removed every year. Good wool cover keeps sheep very warm in the winter, but it needs to be removed before the heat of summer sets in. What’s more, too much or dirty wool can cause skin infections, harbour parasites, or lead to unhealthy lambs. Shearing does not hurt the sheep, and it gives us a hands-on, close-up look at our ewe’s body condition before lambing. It costs about $5 per sheep to have them sheared, but that is just for the shearer: we pay two or three people full wages to help for the four or five days a year of shearing. Wool itself is always sold at a net loss, even if we get decent quality.

Fun fact: wool composts beautifully, so even though the infested wool can’t be “used,” it does have value as we compost it and apply the nutrients back to the pasture and hay fields.

Please ask questions! Next blog post I will write about our guardian dogs (pictured above is Nala, a Great Pyrenees/Karakachan cross. She loves her sheep but she loves belly rubs and snacks more).

Finishing the hand spun/hand woven scarf

Finishing the hand spun/hand woven scarf

In the fall I wove a scarf using my ‘precious’ handspun yarn.  It’s time to stop thinking of this commodity in such terms.  There is bound to be loom wastage when using any yarn and handspun can’t be saved, so best to get over that reality and start enjoying the enormous gratification to be had in weaving my own yarn.

The excitement didn’t wane even as the finishing process started.  Finishing can be an extremely tedious time, but I really enjoyed it this time.

A metal needle slides the knot into position

Once the warp is woven it’s time to cut it off the back beam.  I did this very carefully and knotted each group of four threads as I went along.  Using a large metal tapestry needle lets me slide the knot into position easily.  I didn’t hemstitch the scarf, nor did I use a fringe maker.  These are two perfectly satisfactory methods of finishing but I chose not to use them, maybe on a later project.  I also left a lot of fringe length to help in the finishing process for later evening up.

Starting the fringe finish on the loom - back edge of the scarf

Here the back beam fringe is all done, now I have to unwind the fabric and start on the front of the material, which is still attached to the front of the loom.

These knots are usually easy to undo, but if they get a bit cranky the metal needle comes in handy for prying them apart.  Again, I just knot them in groups of four as I move along the front of the loom.  Once that is all done, the fabric is inspected for unwoven threads that are hanging loose.  My apologies for not taking pictures of these, but I was running out of hands.  These usually are along the selvage edges and I trim them off or weave them in using my trusty metal needle.  It’s a bodkin so works perfectly for that task.

The plaid of the two different burgundy shows clearly

Once everything is where it should be, the fabric is given a wash in very hot water and mild soap, rinsed and hung to dry.  I was very pleased with how the colours played out to give a subtle change in the plaid.  I hope to be able to replicate this somehow in the future, just have to figure out how I did it in the first place.

Align the knots of the fringe and cut both sides of the fringe

The final step is to even out the fringes; they need to be the same length on both sides.  I find it easiest to pin the fabric together and just cut them at the same time.

Once the fringe is trimmed the two sides are pinned together and the fringe length is verified

Sometimes they need just a little more trimming, just noticed there is a stray bit in the picture, just like a bad haircut.

The final product is going to be used for display purposes at the next Sale and Exhibition.  I am very pleased with the final result.  It will not be for sale.  I did show it to a fellow weaver for a hard critique and I meant it.  I wanted to hear the “hard stuff”.  She was kind enough to tell me the truth.  There are a few techniques that I need to work on before selling my scarves.  I need to open up my work so it drapes better.  I need to get better at math!!!  This ended up very short.  It was a wonderful width, but it did shrink in length and would only work as a dress scarf.  And finally, I need to practice hemstitching.  That said, the colours are great, my use of yarn is superlative, the fringe is perfect and the simplicity of the design is perfect to set off the fibre.  Ta-da, I’ll take that.

 

A few of my collection of wheels (a wheel would be lonely if it were the only one!)

A few of my collection of wheels (a wheel would be lonely if it were the only one!)

January 2023 still is having its way with changing my plans so I will just have to acquiesce and make new plans more in line with the year’s decrees. I am still working on my vocabulary note, I can’t show you too much about my big Christmas present yet, since my desk is trashed as I try to move furniture and upgrade my office to better function. I am also debating which of my flock of wheels (is it a flock? or should it be a whirl or maybe a herd of spinning wheels? Maybe it’s a flurry, let me check with google, silly distractible brain!! Worse google doesn’t know!!! Let’s say it’s a whirl or a flurry, since when you get one, usually more follow.)

The plan, (barring more changes) for next Monday’s guild social, is a “meet the wheels” afternoon and early evening. We have a good number of new-ish spinners who began their journey just before or during the plague. Those of us with wheels who are willing to let others try them will bring one (or maybe two) to the social and introduce them to the curious spinners. I wish I could take all of mine outside and get a group photo, but it’s snowing and there are stairs to navigate. So that may be a photo shoot to do in the spring or summer possibly with a bit of carrying help.

My first wheel was found in an antique store on Bank Street. It was under $150.00 Ashford traditional wheel with 1 bobbin and a 1 or 2-speed flyer. I think I upgraded to the 2-speed. It was a bit overpriced, but it hooked me on spinning and started the collection. I have had a number of Traditionals over the years. The oddest was from the Stittsville flee market. I was cruising the outside parking lot stalls and spotted the wheel so stopped to check it out.  The wheel was very wobbly and may be warped, and the maidens (the part that holds up the flyer and bobbin at the front of the wheel) had been painted to the point they didn’t turn to get the bobbin out. Hummmm. The frame seemed loose too, that will just need an allen key to fix. Worse still someone had taken city of Ottawa fence paint, brown, to the whole wheel!! Poor thing.  (It looks like the brown colour that taking lots of leftover paint and mixing it together makes.)

The vendor rushed over excited by the prospect of a sale. “Oh do you like my antique wheel?”

Poor vendor, he really doesn’t know what is about to hit him. I replied going into educational demo mode, “Well, it’s an Ashford traditional wheel. It is sold out of New Zealand, as a kit spinning wheel. They were making them to help home production of yarn during world war II. I was on their website last night, you can still order one today and they make replacement parts!” I took a breath and his face looked a bit deflated. “The wheel may be warped,” I spun the wheel showing the large wobble, “the Maidens are stuck and won’t rotate to remove the single bobbin, it should have 3 bobbins and a lazy kate when it was shipped.” He looked a little more deflated when I looked up.

“So, you know what it is?” he said.

“Oh yes!” I stated with enthusiasm, “They still sell parts! If the wheel is warped I can order a new one, I may be able to get the maidens loose if not I can order a new mother of all,” pointing out the parts which would include the base where the maidens sit as well as the maidens. “So, how much are you asking for her?”

“Would $50.00 be too much?”

“No, that seems fair, I should be able to replace anything that isn’t working.” He looked relieved and took my money.  As I put the wheel on my shoulder and turned to go. There were two glaring women standing behind me…. I am not sure if they wanted a wheel to put as a decoration on their porch, or were actually spinners who just missed out on a good deal.

I wandered around the market with my wheel looking for an allen key. Then remembered I had one in my change pouch…. I found a quiet spot put the wheel down dug out the key and tightened all the frame joints, then gave the wheel a spin….. Oooh, it spins true!!! No more wobble! Now if only I can get the paint loose from the maidens and around the bobbin. I spent some time when I got her home working to loosen the maidens with success. She spun like a dream but was the ugliest wheel I have ever owned. I think I traded her to Elizabeth for the same make of wheel but one without paint (it looked better with the looms).

The guild has a couple of Ashford Traditional wheels. They have been good teaching wheels. I have found that mine always reminds me of a golden retriever of wheels. “Is that fibre? Can we spin it? Aww, Please?” They are fabulous sit-by-the-window-and-spin wheels, but with their Saxony-style shape (Flyer beside the drive wheel) they don’t fit quite as easily into and out of cars, so I probably will not bring mine next week.

1)  2003 one of my Ashford Traditional wheels (on loan to another guild member) and my Lendrum folding upright wheel (it has a broken peg  underneath that I cant fix so wobbles from side to side as she spins.  The wheel still spins well even with her drinking problem.) there are sample scaines hanging off the lendrum.1)  2003 one of my Ashford Traditional wheels (on loan to another guild member) and my Lendrum folding upright wheel (it has a broken peg  underneath that I can’t fix so wobbles from side to side as she spins.  The wheel still spins well even with her drinking problem.)

Wheels come in many shapes and sizes. You can divide them into spindle wheels (they have a spike to spin off like the sleeping beauty wheel) and flyer wheels (that’s the Rumpelstiltskin straw into gold wheel). We can then further divide the flyer wheels into the upright-shaped “Castle” wheels or the more horizontal-shaped “Saxony” wheels. There is a third group of flyer wheels called “Direct drive” wheels. They don’t have a drive band but they are usually small and portable.  I have a few wheels in each category.

Thinking upon my, flutter or flurry or whirl of wheels, I should select a couple that would be available but also they may not have seen. I think the ones that would be most beneficial for other spinners to try would be; the Louet S40 “Hatbox” (Louet made a commemorative edition a few years ago so you can again get parts for the old ones!). The Road Bug wheel by Murlen tree and probably my Alvin Ramer Kick spindle (it’s like a tiny grate wheel but a lot slower but also more portable).

The Louet S40 “Hatbox” arrived one day at the guild while we were still at the old location on Chapple Street in Ottawa. There were 3 of us drooling at the cute little wheel that fits in its own box. That is why it’s called the hat box and not by its actual name S40.  One could not get it to spin, (there is a trick to that) which left two of us in serious want of a hat box. The other contender was finding spinning more difficult from health problems so we decided that if she didn’t want it anymore she would sell it to me at the same price as was being asked. Which eventually happened and the wheel came home to meet its new wheel friends.

Being a direct drive wheel the flyer drive ring must sit against the drive wheel or the flyer doesn’t turn. If you spin and pull the yarn to the side away from the wheel, you also pull on the flyer and lift the drive ring off the drive wheel. Lifting the flyer Stops all rotation of the flyer and thus the spinning. So spin directly in front of the orifice or towards the side with the drive wheel.  It comes with three small bobbins. Along with the flyer, they are stored in the lid of the wooden top of the hat box. It is a single treadle with a nice heal-tow action.

2)  2010 Spencerville Demo Ann has an Ashford Traveler.  We are separated by one of my floor inkle looms.  I am spinning on my hatbox wheel. (We were in an unheated, dirt floored, arena. Not the heated building we were expecting.)2)  2010 Spencerville Demo Ann has an Ashford Traveler.  We are separated by one of my floor inkle looms.  I am spinning on my hatbox wheel. (We were in an unheated, dirt-floor, arena. Not the heated building we were expecting.)

This was one of my main demo wheels for years. Before the introduction of the commemorative reissue a few years ago, it was very hard to get replacement parts. The tensioner, to keep the flyer leaning into the drive wheel, had long ago been replaced by an old shoelace. It worked but, occasionally at a demo, she would randomly and holey unpredictably go from silently happily spinning and being ignored by passersby to suddenly screaming at the top of her lungs (yes I am sure this wheel at least has lungs). This tended to gather a large crowd to see what I was killing in the corner. She would again shift back to a mild happy spinning wheel persona and happily demonstrate spinning fine lovely yarn. (I think she just didn’t like being ignored by possible admirers.) I did eventually get a replacement for the old shoelace and she has not screamed at anyone in ages. (I rather miss her occasional screams).

The road bug wheel is made by Murlen Tree, in Vermont, USA. Mine arrived many X-mass mornings ago and was quickly put together. There was a bit of a wobble in the wheel but it spun beautifully. I borrowed my father-in-law’s computer and sent an email to the company asking how best to adjust it to reduce the wobble. (This was early X-mass morning so I did not anticipate a response until at least after Boxing Day.) The return email was back within about an hour with apologies and suggestions for fine-tuning. He suggested I get back to him if I had any further problems. WOW. What a company!  I sent back an apology for interrupting his X-mass morning and thanked him for his suggestions.  It has also been a fabulous demo wheel.

3)  Road bug at the Richmond Fair, wheel is sitting on a rubber-backed mat on top of a tarp on wet grass, covered by a tent. 3)  Road bug at the Richmond Fair, the wheel is sitting on a rubber-backed mat on top of a tarp on wet grass, covered by a tent.

4)  Road Bug spinning wheel in a under bed box at a rainy demo in Manotick.4)  Road Bug spinning wheel in an under bed box at a rainy demo in Manotick.

5)  Another rainy demo, this time at the Richmond Fair. Spinning with the road bug in an Ikea under bed storage box to keep it off the wet ground. (trundle box is visible behind the chair under the table.)5)  Another rainy demo, this time at the Richmond Fair. Spinning with the road bug in an Ikea under bed storage box to keep it off the wet ground. (trundle box is visible behind the chair under the table.)

I have trundle boxes for each of my travel wheels. It’s a folding plastic box with 2 wheels and an extendible handle. There is room to put the little wheel, hand cards, and fibre (or a bit more fibre if I’m spinning and shopping at a fibre festival!). If you are considering spinning in public or are demoing, a trundle box can make transporting your wheel and spinning equipment much easier. If you have a larger wheel, one of the folding camping wagons is a good acquisition to move your wheel, small loom or felting supplies.

6)  My spinning spot with the trundle box up on the window ledge, the Road Bug on a small rubber backed mat and a green uncomfortable hospital chair.6)  My spinning spot with the trundle box up on the window ledge, the Road Bug on a small rubber backed mat and a green uncomfortable hospital chair.

7)  Chesterville Spin in, 2013 Kick spindle in front of Road Bug7)  Chesterville Spin in, 2013 Kick spindle in front of Road Bug

The last spindle wheel I was considering is called a kick spindle. Mechanically, it works like a Great wheel since it uses a spindle. Unlike my diminutive great wheel which has a ratio of 80 to 1 (that means one rotation of the big drive wheel turns the spindle 80 times) its ratio is much slower. There are quite a few makers of Kick spindles,  but they are not common. You can occasionally see them on Etsy or Kijiji. I found mine for sale on Kijiji and rushed out just at the end of a very large snow dump, before the roads were completely cleared. I only had to get to a town just south of Ottawa but saw many cars in odd parking spots off the sides of the highway as I slowly got there. The poor driving was worth it to bring home an Alvin Ramer made kick spindle.

8)  Farm show demo 2013m sitting with my Right foot turning the large drum, which runs the spindle. 8)  Farm show demo 2013m sitting with my Right foot turning the large drum, which runs the spindle.

 9)  Jan is sitting in the corner of the hospital room, listening to audio books, while spinning on the road bug wheel.9)  Jan is sitting in the corner of the hospital room, listening to audiobooks, while spinning on the road bug wheel.

10)  This is the Kick spindle I switched to part way through Glenn multiple times in hospital. 10)  This is the Kick spindle I switched to partway through Glenn multiple times in the hospital.

I had been taking in the Road bug and was sitting with him while he slept. He said he would start to wake up, hear the wheel making its whirring sound, know I was there and go back to sleep. One very early morning at shift change a new nurse rushed in to check the machines, muttering “it doesn’t usually make that sound!!” I stopped spinning and she seemed to notice the wheel and me, sitting in the corner of the room, she had run past me so I don’t know why she didn’t notice a spinning wheel. While Glenn found the quiet sound of the wheel soothing, it seemed to have distressed her. Therefore, I switched to my kick spindle, which is, basically, silent.

11)  Road bug in one of Glenn‘s hospital room, sitting on the window sill out of the way11)  Road bug in one of Glenn‘s hospital rooms, sitting on the window sill out of the way.

12)  A different hospital room, the same wheel and trundle box sitting on the window ledge.12)  A different hospital room, with the same wheel and trundle box sitting on the window ledge.

 13)  During the various hospital trips and stays I also found out you can spin fully gloved and gowned with a drop spindle.13)  During the various hospital trips and stays I also found out you can spin fully gloved and gowned with a drop spindle.

I spun in the coffee shop in the hospital while Glenn was in surgery and had patients, nurses and a couple of doctors come over while I was stress-spinning, and tell me how relaxing it was to watch me sitting by the window spinning.  This may be a good spot for spontaneous spinning, it helped me calm down while waiting and it also calmed those around me. It has been quite a few years since I have been spending time at the hospital but I still have my emergency spinning bag hanging on the back of the door.  It has a couple of spindles, in case anyone wants to join me spinning, and some good fibre. Glenn has not been hanging around at the hospital since these trips quite a few years ago, but it’s good to have a spindle ready just in case his body changes its mind.  (I have also taken felting for hospital appointments but I can’t find a photo of them.)

Looking through the photos I found another “meet the wheels” guild day in 2014 shortly after we moved to the new location. I seem to have brought the Road bug, Hatbox, Kick spindle and the Cowichan wheel (Indian head spinner) from B.C. I tried out a Majacraft Aura and enjoyed its smooth spinning. I hope to find an affordable, lonely, second-hand Majacraft Aura or Suzi at some point.

 14) My Cowichan and Road bug wheels with a spinner trying the latter.

15)  I am trying out a Majacraft wheel. the wheels moveing from left to the right is Majacraft Aura, Ashford Joy, Louet S40 Hatbox, Cowichan or Indian Head Spinner from B.C. and Merlin tree’s Roadbug.  Behind the wheels is the Alvin Ramer Kick spindle, sitting on the chair beside me.15)  I am trying out a Majacraft wheel. the wheels moving from left to right is Majacraft Aura, Ashford Joy, Louet S40 Hatbox, Cowichan or Indian Head Spinner from B.C. and Merlin tree’s Roadbug.  Behind the wheels is the Alvin Ramer Kick spindle, sitting on the chair beside me.

Learning to spin has taught me how to draft fibre, how to comb and card fibre into various fibre preparations and has given me the opportunity to spin different types of fibre and blends of those fibres. Coming from a spinning (and weaving) background I think this has helped me in my felting endeavours. Spinning also keeps your Fiber-hoard in check if you do a bit of Over-shopping. But I will warn you that the acquisition of “A” spinning wheel can lead to the acquisition of More spinning wheels!!

If you are curious you can find out more about two of the wheels that are still in production below, you will have to be lucky and catch a Hatbox or a Ramer Kick spindle secondhand. Both are fun and worth trying if you get the chance. Have fun and keep felting and maybe try spinning if you have not yet had the opportunity.

https://www.themerlintree.com/tmt_003.htm

https://www.ashford.co.nz/products/spinning/category/spinning-wheels

Doing Some Teaching

Doing Some Teaching

The last couple of weekends I have been teaching some workshops. Last Sunday was Nunofelt Scarves. This was originally scheduled for December. But I caught whatever nasty head cold was going around, it came with a very annoying cough. I did a test for Covid and it was negative.

Anyway, after a couple of years of no workshops and a delay, it was good to be able to teach people in person again. I am still rusty when it comes to taking pictures during class, so there are not very many of this one.

rubbing nuno felt scarves

students with finished nuno felt scarves

 

Yesterday I taught Wet Felt Birdfeeder/house.

This is the picture we use to advertise it.

Everyone in the class chose to do a feeder( larger opening) in a gourd shape.

I remembered to take a few more pictures but I still had a hard time remembering.

Laying out the base wool.

laying out wool for a felt birdhouse Two people laying out wool for a felt birdhouses two people laying out wool for a felt birdhouses

 

Decorating

 

The finished birdfeeders. I think some of the holes may need to be enlarged. They have balloons in them to hold the shape while they dry.

 

 

All in all, we had a great time on both days. It was so nice to teach again to interact and answer questions and see people be amazed when it really does work.

 

Handmade Mixed Media Tree ‘Specimen’ Book

Handmade Mixed Media Tree ‘Specimen’ Book

I have been continuing to slowly add bits and pieces to my tree ‘specimen’ book. You can see most of the ‘blank’ pages of the book in this post and some pages that have had ‘specimens’ added to them here.

This is definitely a ‘slow’ project that I am working on very intermittently. It’s been fun to pick it up again and just add a few things here and there without pressure to finish it or make it look perfect.

Mixed media book, front page painted watercolor background, machine stitched moss glued to background and definition of mossy torn paper glued down.

I added some more machine stitched moss to the first page and a definition of mossy.

Mixed media book open to left page painted cracked plaster on the left and torn sketchbook page with 'pine needles' on the right.

On this page spread on the left, I had one of my plaster coated pages but it had cracked significantly. I need to get some gesso to paint over these pages but since I haven’t ordered it yet, I decided to try something different. I layered different colors of paint on the cracked surface. You can click on the photo to enlarge it. The page on the right is a torn piece from one of my small sketchbooks. It kind of reminds me of pine needles. It was originally screen printed and I added colored pencil to enhance the look of the pine needles. Torn and messy is the point of this book so I ripped the sketchbook page and glued it down to a lightly painted background page. You can see the dark edges of the next page which is next up.

Mixed media book open to a page spread with an eco print of leaves and buds on the right hand side.

The page on the right is an eco print on paper that my friend Paula created. She has a big stash of these papers and kindly let me use a few.

Mixed media book open to page spread with blank plaster coated page on the right and back of eco print with cut out frame of painted paper and tea bag machine stitched skeleton leaf on the left.

This is the back side of the eco print above. I cut a window out of the painted background so you could see more of the backside of the eco print. I added a machine stitched tea bag leaf as well. The right side is another plaster coated canvas pages that needs to be gessoed and then drawn or painted on.

Mixed media book open to page spread with blank plaster coated page on the left and green painted paper background and stenciled/painted brown pine cone on the right.

This pine cone on the right was stenciled ages ago. I pushed some kind of thicker medium through the stencil to give a relief effect. It didn’t work all that well and got a bunch of bubbles in it. I painted it green at some point but didn’t like that either. I got it out of my paper stash and decided I needed to finish it. I added walnut ink, sepia marker and matte medium to get it to a point that I was satisfied with it looking like a pine cone. It also needed more strategic cutting out than I had done previously. I glued it down to the painted background letting a little bit of the pine cone stick out over the edge of the page. This is a testament to never giving up on a piece of artwork!

Mixed media book open to page spread with orange feathers woven into a gridded hand made paper on the left and an eco print glued to a dictionary page on the right.

Next to the feathers that I had shown you in my last post, I glued another one of Paula’s eco prints down on to the dictionary page. I can’t decide if this page needs something else but I will just leave it for now. I do want to leave more simplified areas where the eye can rest.

Mixed media book open to page spread, blank plaster coated page on the left and painted skeleton leaf on the right.

This one on the right is the last page that I worked on this time. It was originally a deconstructed screen print on paper all in the brighter green. When I was looking through the book, this page caught my eye as I saw a leaf in the middle of the page. I used Inktense pencils and then water on a brush to make the darker leaf appear more strongly on the page. I hope you can tell I am having fun with this. It is a very freeing process not worrying about the final outcome.

 

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