Monday, March 28, 2005

March progresses...

Alpaca shawl progress Posted by Hello

I’ve been plugging away at my shawl, and not working on much else. It’s coming along, though, as you can see.

Shetland Lace samples Posted by Hello

Oh, I DID get some wonderful Shetland fleece samples from Cyndee Wolfe (, in Ohio and spent a pleasant couple of evenings playing with them. She has wonderful fleeces. I bought some rovings from her last year in white, brown and a beautiful black lamb. They’ve made wonderful lace yarns, and I’m hoarding the last of that black lamb to use as spindle fodder. But the sample lace pieces shown are from Sophie’s and Arabella’s clips from this spring. While I’ve already purchased those fleeces, I’m sure Cyndee has others just as beautiful.

My plan for this fleece has been dictated by my darling daughter – she wants a shawl of heirloom quality. Her plan is to wear it as a wedding veil, then use it for christenings. When her children are grown, she’ll pass it along. She also wants detailed history, complete with pictures, to pass along with the shawl. I think it’s a great idea. We have some quilts from my great-grandmother, but none of the history regarding when they were made and why those patterns were chosen. Hopefully my great-grandchildren will still have the material we document for this shawl, and will appreciate the love and skill involved in its fashioning.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Guilds and Groups Posted by Hello

There are lots of opinions about fiber guilds and groups, ranging from ‘can’t live without them’ to ‘can’t see any earthly reason for them’. Where do I fall on that scale? Let’s take a look at the evidence.

I started my weaving with no guidance other than Mary Black’s New Key to Weaving and tenacity. I don’t recommend this as an approach, since I spent a great deal of time re-inventing the wheel. On the other hand, once I found an area hand weavers guild, I wasn’t impressed. The members appeared to group into three categories – tapestry weavers, ‘show-off ’weavers with a great deal of very expensive equipment that they didn’t use very often, and production/design weavers who were only interested in producing woven goods for sale as quickly as possible. I didn’t fit into any of these categories. I simply wanted to learn to create good cloth for use in household goods and personal clothing. I branched out from this, eventually doing ecclesiastical weaving for several area churches, but I still predominately produce woven textiles for my family and household or for gifts. So I decided after a couple of years that the weaving guild and I had little to give to or learn from one another and went on my way – no hard feelings. And I did learn things from this group – I never knew about Weaver’s, Handwoven, or the other fiber publications until I joined this group!

The next rung on my personal ladder was to join a local fiber arts guild composed of weavers, spinners and knitters. I must admit that this small group (there were originally only 4 members – there are now over a dozen) has done a great deal to teach me various fiber techniques. When I joined, I was a weaver, tatter and crocheter. Now I’m also a spinner and knitter. The members of this group are the best sort of fiber guild – enthusiastic, challenging and always supportive of new endeavors. We have no dues, largely because most meetings are in members’ homes, and do one ‘public service’ spinning demonstration each year. I look forward to the monthly meetings, and always feel deprived when I can’t attend. This is the group that includes my ‘fiber friends’ – those whom I call between meetings for support and encouragement.

The other local guild is strictly for hand spinners (with a large sprinkling of weavers and knitters, of course), and is based in a nearby large city. This is a much larger group with more resources – equipment that can be rented and a nice library of tapes and books. It also tries to sponsor at least one workshop each year on techniques of interest to members. We have several shepherds in this group, and also do mass purchases of supplies that are cheaper to buy in bulk. There are dues for this group, and I pay them cheerfully for the access to resources and fiber supplies.

Another type of guild entirely is the professional crafts guild into which I juried a decade ago. This guild has stringent guidelines, and the criteria for admission are tough. Quality standards are sky-high, and the guild membership includes several internationally-known artists. I am honored to be a part of this guild, and enjoy fulfilling my membership requirements. This guild does two shows each year, spring and fall, and public demonstrations are always a large part of those shows. Since I’m doing nothing for resale at this time, I fulfill my membership requirements by demonstrating and doing the ‘behind-the-scenes’ work needed for this type of show/exhibit.

The current rung on my own ladder includes both of the above local groups. But I’ve discovered through the years that I’m also what my best friend calls a “natural teacher”. I’m happiest when I’m showing someone else how to do something. I push myself to learn more (and in more detail) when I know I’ll have to show a student how to do the same thing. So a bit more than a year ago, after numerous requests from the local high school students to coach them through a knit or crochet project, I started a needlework group at our local library. We meet one Saturday morning each month. This group has grown from just me to a core group of six with additions each month bringing our usual number up to about ten. Ages and skill levels range all over the place. We have two sets of mother-daughter members, a couple of teenagers, a couple of retirees and a couple of empty-nest mothers. We also have a couple of men! It’s completely informal – we meet around a couple of tables in the resource area of the library and everyone brings whatever they’re working on that day. They also bring ‘problem projects’ for help and advice. While I seem to be the unofficial leader of the group, I think that’s just because I was there first. We pitch in to help one another learn new techniques or skills. I truly do enjoy this group, at least partly because it is such a public forum. We have at least one person each meeting who just walks over to see what’s going on. Frequently they show back up a month or two later, project in hand, to join us.

Based on the above paragraphs, I have to say that I do believe in guilds. I do miss meetings – sometimes for months at a stretch – but I enjoy the various people and resources of each guild. Could I live without them? Of course, if it was necessary. But I probably wouldn’t learn as much, or as well, as I do with the support and encouragement of these groups of people. But these types of support are neither necessary nor desirable for everyone. So if you find guilds a waste of time, don’t bother. But if you enjoy having other enthusiastic fiber people around you for a morning or two each month, go for it!

Wednesday, March 16, 2005


I've got a new toy, and it's sidetracked me from fiber pursuits for a day or two. I am the proud (and bewildered) owner of a new iPAQ rx3700 pocket pc.

It has so many gizmos that I may never straighten them all out. But on the up side, it also has a camera included, so I have no excuse for not having pictures of my finished projects - or the ones in progress, for that matter! I just have to figure out how to transfer them to my computer so that I can post them!

Monday, March 14, 2005

Running hard and fast!

So much going on right now! It’s hard to find time to catch up the blog right now – work is going through a crazy spell and cutting into my fiber time!

I have managed a little time on fun stuff, though not nearly as much as I’d like. That Suffolk I dyed a few weeks back has slowly become sport-weight two-ply. I now have a rainbow of balls waiting to be turned into a Fair Isle project of some sort.

Socks for me would be lovely, but I didn’t spin the yarn with socks in mind, so it’s really a little soft. However, the doubled yarns should still wear fairly well, and socks are easy – I can concentrate on the Fair Isle method without worrying about construction details. I have enough yarn, I think – about 10-12 ounces total divided into approximately 2-ounce skeins of red, yellow, green, blue, pink and purple. There is somewhere between 150 and 200 yards of each color. That’s the only problem with dyeing by the “handful” method – you can’t be absolutely sure how much of each color you’ll end up having!

I have two books of just Fair Isle patterns – the Philosopher’s Wool book and 1000 Knitted Motifs – that should furnish plenty of patterns. There are the Barbara Walker Treasury books to look through, too. This will make a great practice project for the PW sweater kit I bought. I did do an in-the-round swatch over the weekend, and the gauge is about 10.5 stitches per inch in Fair Isle on size 1 needles. That sounds horrific – 84 stitches around on socks – but it’s only a dozen additional stitches from my normal socks on size 0 needles.

But first I want to get further along on my shawl. I’ve worked through row 50 of the Feather and Fan circular shawl in “A Gathering of Lace” – almost to the point of beginning the F&F rows at row 61. The KnitPicks ( Alpaca Cloud yarn is perfect for a shawl, since it’s sooo soft and drapes beautifully. I got the midnight colorway, which is working up into a very dark green instead of the blue-black I was expecting, but I love the dark green and it will match so many of my rose-pink, tan and burgundy work outfits.

My daughter has set my summer spinning project, too. We met for dinner one evening last week, and were talking about my knitting projects. She also knits from time to time (usually when she gets homesick), and checks out some of the knitting blogs fairly regularly. She ran across a reference to and picture of a knitter’s wedding shawl recently and wants me to do something similar for her. So I’ll be spinning for and then planning and knitting a Shetland-style shawl for her to wear for her someday wedding over the next couple of years. I do have two fleeces already that I can use for this – a 6-inch staple Shetland lamb fleece and a 4.5-inch staple Merino-Clun Forest cross. The Shetland has already been commercially cleaned and carded; the Merino-Clun Forest will have to be washed and combed or carded by hand.

I’ll start the spinning during my late spring/summer public spinning demonstrations. I should be able to finish by Christmas 2005 – February 2006 at the latest. Then will come the design and knitting. The design will have to be a combined effort, but the knitting will be mine alone. I’m figuring at least a year, probably more. I’ll try to take pictures along the way. Then I can use the pictures and the text along with the shawl as a wedding gift. I won’t make more than one or two of these – my attention span isn’t that great! - but I do want the ones I make to be special and original.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Grandchildren's socks! Posted by Hello

Completed Projects!

The socks for the grandchildren are completed! Dad is a major University of Tennessee fan, so the orange was an absolute. The rest of it was up to me, though, and I couldn’t resist the Regia yarn. Dad may root for the Vols, but Grandma is a Lady Vols fan!

The good thing is that the yarn I was waiting for is here! I've already begun the circular Feather and Fan shawl from A Gathering of Lace from the midnight Baby Alpaca. It's lovely yarn, and I can't wait to do some serious work on it this weekend. Of course, there are four weeknight evenings until then, and I can do quite a bit during them!

The Philosopher's Wool also arrived, along with the book. I've put it aside until I decide whether I want a cardigan or a pullover. My original idea was a pullover, but the more I look at it, the more I'm thinking "cardigan". The finished sweater will be so pretty that I'll want to wear it more than I can wear a pullover. I can wear a cardigan a lot more, I think, pulling it on over my knit tops. I may have to order a little more yarn, but then again, maybe not. There's probably enough already there!

New projects are so exciting!

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Waiting Is So Hard!

It really is! I've placed several orders lately, and now have to work on other stuff while I wait for them to arrive!

Exciting stuff is on the way, though. I ordered Sweater Wizard after having a terrible time designing sweaters for myself on the needles. I look best in fitted styles, as I have an hourglass figure - the hourglass is just rather generously endowed! Trying to make all the necessary adjustments to a fitted pattern was proving difficult, to say the least. I understand that SW should help.

I'm also still awaiting the Philosopher's Wool sweater I ordered 16 days ago - 9/11 has made getting even simple things like wool into the country a little more time-consuming. And I ordered some of the Alpaca Cloud lace-weight in the midnight color from Knit Picks for the Meg Swanson feather and fan shawl in "A Gathering of Lace".

While I await all this bounty, I'm trying to finish up the socks for the grandchildren. Then I can knit for myself with no guilt feelings!