Tag Archives: spinning

Rhinebeck 2019

Some of the woods in front of our house looking very autumnal

It’s been a week since I got back from our annual trip to the New York State Sheep and Wool show.  As always, I went with a group of friends and we stayed in our favorite AirBnB house north of Rhinebeck.  And, as always, we had a fantastic time! It’s always funny to be down in the NY area and then return to Maine, where autumn suddenly looks like it’s almost over.

It takes two vehicles to get our group down there, and we usually take along just about all the food we will need for dinners and breakfasts.  It’s so much fun cooking and hanging out with the ladies, and the festival is great too!  Sometimes it’s nice to get out of Dodge, and we had pretty good weather this year, not too cold, and not as hot as it has been some years (not great for vending wool products!).  One year it snowed, as well :*)

Swaledale combed top

This is the first year in a long time that I have not come home with one or more raw fleeces.  I did not even allow myself to walk amongst all those raw wool fumes, as I know that I would have been totally unable to resist.  I kept my purchases pretty light, and came home with 2 lbs of combed Swaledale wool and some dyed roving.   Swaledale are sheep that are from Great Britain, native to the Yorkshire area but found elsewhere as well.  It is a breed of sheep that I have never come across in the U.S., but have always wanted to have a crack at.  The sheep themselves are beautiful, and I expected the wool to be much coarser that it is.  I don’t know what I will use it for yet, maybe for something woven.  The wool is not pure white, but slightly off-white, and there are some very fine black hairs and fibers in the fleece, but you can’t really pick it out from the rest.

Swaledale ewe
Into the Whirled lovely goodness!

I also headed over to one of my favorite vendors, Into the Whirled, and bought some of their dyed roving in the “Rhinebeck” colorway.  Always a favorite of mine (dyed on Polwarth roving).  I also got two bags of their odds and ends rovings, small amounts of various colorways and fibers all in one bag.  Lots of fun to spin up together!

I only spent Saturday at the festival as my hip is not in good shape and I didn’t think I would be able to drive on Monday if I limped around all day on Sunday as well.  So I had a lovely day of knitting in front of the wood stove with one of the other ladies, and it was a very nice time.

Winnie sniffing the wool

I was a little worried about how Winnie would react to my being gone for 4 days, but she did quite well.  I think she took a few naps with John in the recliner when she was feeling a little lonely (really, this dog is never lonely and is with one or the other of us at all times!).  And now she knows that even if one of us leaves for more than a grocery run, we do actually come back!

Tour de Fleece

Mystery wool singles yarn

Tour de Fleece usually comes and goes and I totally miss joining in.  This year, however, I am having loads of fun with it!  (This is a program for handspinners who spin as much fiber as they can during the Tour de France.  We join into teams and go for it, spinning on all the days the riders are competing, and see how much we can get accomplished.  I am on Team PortFiber, a group associated with a lovely fiber arts shop in Portland, Maine).

I have spent the first 6 days of the Tour spinning up some wool roving that is a “mystery” blend I bought from Jenny of Underhill Fibers.  It was a bit of a challenge, even for me!  The blue wool is a long staple sheep’s wool, and the white bits are fluffy little short bits.  So getting them to all spin up together was a little challenging, but fun.  I love the yarn – it’s bouncy, soft and light.  I don’t know what I will do with it, I only have about 532 yards, but perhaps it will make a nice woven scarf.  Who knows!  I can’t stop for long and think about it, I must get back to Touring the Fleece!

Finished 2 ply yarn

I still have a bit of work to do on my big production spinning wheel, however, before I get back to work. I was nearly finished plying the blue and white singles into a two ply, the wheel’s drive band frayed and jumped off the wheel. I was watching closely and playing chicken with it for that last short skein, and I lost :*<.   But, I hand plied what was left and it all came out just fine.

Anyhow, now on to some new spinning after getting a new band on that big wheel.  I can get going on my smaller traveling wheel, a Jensen Tina II, now if I want, and I just may do that and save the maintenance job for later.  I think I saw some camel/silk roving in my stash, and I also have a pound of a flax/wool roving that is going to be lots of fun.  I will have to let you know!


Some fun news

Masham fiber that I got from Into the Whirled at Rhinebeck, 2016. Lovely springy fiber!

Lest anyone think that I have been idle all winter, I have not!  I have been alternately messing around in and re-organizing my studio loft area.  I can get so easily sidetracked with all kinds of things, like book binding, embroidery, quilting, and of course, spinning, knitting and weaving, that I can make chaos in a very short amount of time.

Before I retired I knew that one of my very biggest goals in retirement was to get back to my weaving.  I have been fooling around with looms, both simple and multi-harness, since I was about 12 years old.  Nothing fancy and nothing complicated, but always I come back to it.  I learned everything from books, and now that YouTube and online tutorials are so widespread, I have used some of those to get my feet wet again in weaving, but I really wanted to do a more organized and thoughtful study of weave structures, not just fool around with the odd project here and there, to really learn how to design and weave what I want to.

I had met a local weaver a few years ago when I was driving to Bethel, Maine to pick up a buck from my friend Jane, who is also a production weaver.  The local professional weaver, Nancy, was picking up a loom from Jane at the same time, so we caravanned over in a snow storm (what else is new).  At the time I had only spoken to Nancy a little bit, and asked her just in passing if she would be willing to work with me after I retired, and she said, “Sure!”

When I finally got in touch with her last November, we had just heard about the Maine Crafts Association and Maine Arts Commission opening up the application process for grants to artisans wishing to apprentice with a master artist (Maine Craft Apprentice Program).  We talked about it and decided to give it a try.  It was quite a process, but we got the grant application in before the December due date, and then promptly forgot about it with the holidays and the bitter cold weather ushering in the new year.

Waffle weave dish towels, cottolin

When we got the notice in mid-January that we were finalists, I really couldn’t believe it, and a week or so ago we found out that we are one of two master/apprentice groups to receive the grant for 2018!  I am very honored to think that the committee liked our proposal and am very excited to get started!

In the meantime, I finally warped and wove off a set of waffle weave towels that I have been trying to goose onto my Macomber loom for over a year.  I know there is a threading error, but I can’t find it, and I am very happy with the towels, perfect or not!

And so the adventure begins.

No sun yet

Bobbin full of single ply Romney/silk yarn

It feels like it’s been forever since we saw the sun.  For a moment or two this morning the sky brightened, but in the end it just led to more clouds.  The temperature feels like it is inching up, though, which is definitely a plus!

2-ply skeins of the Romney/silk

On these gloomy days I have been catching up on herd paperwork, and doing some plying.  I have spun up quite a bit of my backlog, but I hate to ply, so I frequently put that off until I can’t find another empty bobbin to put on the wheel.  I know, silly!

While spinning, I have been listening to Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising sequence audiobooks, and am on the 2nd one, The Dark is Rising.  I read this and the prequel, Over Sea, Under Stone, many years ago, but am enjoying it again.  I had never read farther into the series, though, so I am looking forward to the others as well.  Susan Cooper is a wonderful author who has written more than just this series, one of my favorites being The Boggart.  I am not a serious fan of heavy duty fantasy, but the battle between The Dark and The Light in many of her books is a timeless theme, and she does it very well, with believable, complex characters.  It also helps that these books take place in some pretty dramatic places, like Cornwall!

Peanut with her morning bottle

Peanut is continuing to do well, staying outside all day with the others, and coming in about dark.  She hasn’t made the transition to a three bottle a day schedule yet, but I think she is close.  She knows where to go when she wants a nap, and plays hard with the others when she wants.  I don’t fear for her safety with the others, but we will wait until after the Mother’s Day rain deluge to leave her out at night.

Oh my, I can see a slice of blue sky in the distance!  Shocking!


October fiber fun

It’s been quite a month for fiber activities.  It finally cooled down, although the autumn continues to actually be warmer than usual.  Much nicer to work with wool when it’s not humid and hot!

I have had a list of fiber projects as long as my arm for many years.  Some of them on the list are knitting projects, but many more are spinning projects (I am not going into the weaving project list right now, that would be embarrassing!).  And so I have begun to prioritize them.  (Of course, spinning projects turn into knitting or weaving projects in the final analysis…)

Friends Folly Farm singles. I really need to ply these - I need the bobbins for my next project!
Friends Folly Farm singles. I really need to ply these – I need the bobbins for my next project!

First on my spinning list has been to finish a beautiful 50/50 mohair/wool blend from Friends Folly Farm.  Last week I finished spinning up the pound of singles, now it’s in the queue for plying.

Jacob batts on my old Fricke carder
Jacob batts on my old Fricke carder

Second on the spinning list is to card and spin the beautiful Jacob lamb’s fleece that I split with a friend 2 years ago.  As soon as we received it from our friend Debbie at Hearts of the Meadow Farm in West Virginia, I washed it and carefully put it away.  It has been floating around in the back of my mind for quite awhile, and I am very excited to say that I have begun to process it.  (Although, true to form, when I broke out my drum carder, it turned out to be so dirty that it took about a week to finally get it cleaned out.  My husband took it to work and used an industrial grade compressor to blow out all the little bits that were lurking in there for quite a few years.  So that put me back a little on the project).

Shetland fleece on the drying rack
Shetland fleece on the drying rack

Project three in the spinning department is the Shetland fleece that came home with me from NYS&Wool this year.  Yum!  I can hardly wait.  That is definitely #3 in line.

Romney/silk roving
Romney/silk roving

And number 4:  the lovely Romney/silk roving that I brought home from Rhinebeck.  Two pounds of it means that I really need to hunker down and commit to the project, and I feel like that will be a very good mid-winter project.  Particularly if The Polar Vortex returns to darken the doorstep!

Post-Rhinebeck week

Lovely yard behind our AirBnb house
Lovely yard behind our AirBnb house

I am finally able to write about my adventures at the NY Sheep and Wool Show!  Retirement has its benefits, for sure.

Traveling to Rhinebeck, NY, with a lovely group of fiber friends is the highlight of the year.  The Hudson Valley is usually at its peak of fall color; we rent a house, bring lots of lovely food and libations, and just have a great time.  The sheep and wool show is absolutely fantastic as well!  (Not an afterthought and certainly our reason for being there).  We also get to visit with many vendor friends who are there at the show.  Sometimes this is the only visit we get.

View from the porch
View from the porch

This year our AirBnb rental got a little mixed up, and we ended up staying in a different place than usual.  Lovely, large farmhouse, with all the seating and sprawl areas that we could have wanted, and a great kitchen as well.  You never know how those things are going to work out, but it was a great choice.  With the drought in the northeast continuing, we ended up having perfect weather, too.  Sunday was almost too hot!

Shetland fleece on the drying rack
Shetland fleece on the drying rack

Having had a lovely flock of Coopworth and Border Leicester sheep and crosses for many years, I really never need anything at a sheep and wool show (I have tons of roving and yarn left from our crew).  But in the last year or two I have been loving the adventure of trying out wools from different breeds of sheep.  This year I knew that I wanted to find a Shetland fleece, as that is something I have never spun or knit with.

Foster Family Farm yarn
Foster Family Farm yarn

There were a plethora of fleeces to choose from, and I had a difficult time deciding.  I knew I wanted a dark fleece if I could find one, but a reddish-brown one was second on my list as that is a color you don’t find in Coopworth or Border Leicester sheep.  And so I came away with a lovely small fleece, just enough for me to have some fun with, and maybe spin up for a small shawl.  This hogget (or yearling fleece) came from a farm on Cape Cod, Freddy’s Farm Shetlands.  Lovely, very clean fleece.  This one is not a dual-coated Shetland, as many are (Shetlands are considered a “primitive” breed, so they would typically have a hairy outer fleece layer with very soft undercoat.  And you really want to keep those two products separate when spinning!).  So I waited in the long line in the fleece area, got to look at what everyone else around me was buying, and had a great time!

Romney/silk roving
Romney/silk roving

I also found more little treasures at the show:  some beautiful Romney/silk roving, and two skeins of Wensleydale/Romney yarn.  I bought enough of the roving to possibly make myself a sweater or a vest.  The red yarn is for a cowl, Purl Soho’s pattern ‘Cowl with a Twist.’

And so it goes.  Yesterday was so beautiful and warm that I was able to wash the whole Shetland fleece, and it was almost totally dry by dark.  I also plied up some Coopworth grey singles yarn to use for the accent color on the red cowl.  It was a beautiful day all around, and our Rhinebeck weekend was pretty spectacular!


And we are off


Into retirement, which still does not feel like retirement!  It feels like most of my summer breaks, although I am not on a roll trying to fit all the “fun” things into a very short time span, and am enjoying the lovely summer we are actually having in coastal Maine this year.

Lots of milk!
Lots of milk!

I am now into milking, cheesemaking, training pigeons, and spending as much time with our grandson as possible.  We love to swim and go to the beach, so that’s been a lot of fun.  I am trying to get myself into a productive schedule, but have not succeeded yet.  That extra cup of coffee on the back steps, smelling the ocean air, is too powerful to resist.  I have not gotten much done upstairs where I need to get going on organizing the fiber space.  But I have been doing some spinning on a beautiful wool/mohair blend from Friends Folly Farm.  My eczema got really bad toward the end of the schoolyear with all the stress, so I couldn’t handle fiber for awhile.  But my hands are almost all better, and I am trying to get to a little fiber every day.

And so it goes.  Delightful!



The Deal

What I want to be taking time out for int he mornings!
What I want to be taking time out for in the mornings!

I have had plans in the works for a number of years.  The deal with my husband is that I would retire when I turn 62.  That happens to be this February 11th, and  I really can’t believe that it is real.  Where did the time go?  It has just snuck up on me.  (Of course, I would not retire until June, at the end of the school year).

When I read Jackie’s blog post on Butting Heads Farm – the Art of Aging, Part 1  about aging and what can be accomplished home on the farm while working a full-time job,  I realized that we have been maneuvering ourselves toward this goal for a good number of years (I have had to let go of our sheep, our yearly meat chickens, and our yearly feeder pigs in order to keep things sane).  I have only told a few coworkers and close friends so far, but it’s finally here for me.  I am retiring at the end of this school year (!), and I am hoping to be able to totally give myself over to the farm and to weaving, spinning, knitting and felting from then on.  The money issue will be difficult for awhile, but hopefully I won’t have to go out and get a whole other full-time job.  I feel bad for all my coworkers who retire and a year or two later have to go back to work full-time, but most of those folks are single.  I am blessed to have a partner who has a few sources of income, and with my NJ pension, my Maine pension, and a little bit of Social Security, I might be okay.  (Although Maine is one of the two states in the U.S. who believes that getting SS and a teacher’s pension is “double dipping,” so the SS that I paid into in NJ is going to be drastically cut back when I start collecting because of my Maine teacher pension.  It’s a real bummer).

And so it goes.  I am frantically trying to make sure that things at work are going to be perfect for whoever replaces me, but we all know that that is a losing proposition.  It will be what it will be.  But I am having a wonderful time reading the seed catalogs and thinking that I can actually do a little more in the garden because I won’t be starting back into work by the middle of August, and unable to process the tomatoes and the eggplant that are just really coming ready at the end of August.

I can’t believe that I only have 80 some workdays left in my job as a Library Media Specialist.  It’s been a wonderful career, and it won’t be easy to give up.  But I do think that I will be having breakfast or lunch with my retired teacher peeps on the first day of the new school year.  And there will be champagne or wine involved!!!

Home again, home again

My slice of sky with a morning moon
My slice of sky with a morning moon

I don’t have much jiggity jig in my step, however.  My husband and I had to make an emergency trip down to NJ because his 90 year old mother was unwell and we really didn’t know what the outcome was going to be.  So off we went, really early on Sunday morning,  and blasted down.  7 hours driving with a quick stop or two.  My hips and back don’t do so well on long travels anymore, but it wasn’t too bad as we were able to share the driving.  And the traffic even in the suburbs of NYC is so bad these days, we had massive culture shock!

Yes, definitely my baby
Yes, definitely my baby

My mother in law is now on the mend and we came north yesterday.  My older son had been taking care of the goaties, and a friend of ours did the pigeon care.  It was a total relief to be home, and when I got outside this morning I was wonderstruck by our peepers, the quiet, and my very own slice of Maine sky with the moon still hanging there.  What a relief!

Goat kid selfie
Goat kid selfie

Pippi is warming up for her big event, but I believe she is still a few days out.  I am looking forward to spending some time with her as she gets closer to kidding day.  SnowPea’s babies are on a tear around the paddock, and can always be found out by the big rock.  They allowed me to take a “selfie” of them looking over my shoulder.  And then mama called them over to the feeder and she asked them to hang out by her for awhile.

Okay, Mom, we won't go far!
Okay, Mom, we won’t go far!

And then tonight was our monthly spinning/knitting group.  Great laughs with some wonderful women.  Can’t get much better than that!  What an amazingly great day.

More holiday cheer

My 30" 1996 Jensen Production wheel next to my 2005 Tina II wheel
My 30″ 1996 Jensen Production wheel next to my 2005 Tina II wheel

My husband and I do not usually give each other gifts at Christmas. We tend to plan for and get what we need as the year goes along.

Last October I invested in some really wonderful pigeons for John to add to his loft.  So he decided that he wanted to do something special for me. I have two Jensen spinning wheels, a 30″ production wheel, as well as a Tina II smaller wheel. (I take the Tina with me everywhere, and of course the big wheel stays home for other projects). For a number of years now I have wanted to get some fast whorls for the wheels as I have been spinning a greater variety of fibers recently, and some of them are finer, necessitating faster spinning speeds.

Whorls, bobbins and new flyer
Whorls, bobbins and new flyer

Getting a high speed kit was not as simple as ordering one online because of the age of the wheels. I was able to email and speak with both Jerry and his lovely wife Audrey on a number of occasions, and we finally got a plan together. I received the parts last week and am now in the process of oiling them before I get to try them out. But I am close!

So this holiday was a little different than most, but it’s been a good one. I am psyched to get going with my new Jensen whorls. I have a stash of some cashmere, silk, and some combination fibers that I am dying to try out.

I need to put some WoodBeams on the parts next, and after buffing I will be able to give it a go. Maybe as soon as this weekend :*)  More to come on that!