Spinning Camp 2015

It’s been about a month since I went to the spinning retreat/workshop on Orcas Island with 2 friends from the valley.  I had missed the last 2 years so it was great to be back with Judith MacKenzie as our excellent teacher and mentor, and an interesting group of women.  There were some familiar faces, and some new ones as well – one group of 4 came all the way from Indiana!

The theme this year was “Wit, Wisdom & Wool” but basically it was trip around the world to explore  various fibers.  A lot of these were fine fibers such as yak, silk, camel, etc. and my friend Jacquie, who is a new spinner, really was thrown in the deep end.   It was a good review for me for things I had encountered in previous spinning retreats, especially since worsted draw isn’t my strong suit.

Here is a general view of the room – spinners, fiber and Judith!



We started with 100% yak (Himalayas, Tibet, Mongolia) and were shown several ways of spinning the top.  Later I also tried a yak/silk blend that is yummy.  The yak fiber is a soft gray color.  On day 2 we went on to a camel/merino/silk blend and then some 100% baby white camel, plus what Judith said was “adolescent” camel – not truly baby.  Of course, all of this is accompanied by many wonderful and informative stories about the nature of the animals, their history, and how important they are to the lives of the people who live with them and use all of their products.  This was definitely the “wit & wisdom” part of the week.

Then we moved on to silk – 5 different kinds, to be exact.  Eri is a wild silk from Tussar, India and is gotten from spent cocoons (that is, the fibers are shorter because they allow the worms to hatch and eat their way out of the cocoon, which breaks the continuous thread).  This is a rare and hard to get silk- it was white.  Muga silk is a wild silk from India and also very rare – it was a lovely honey color and has a lustrous, reflective surface.  I found it easier to spin than the eri and some of the others.  There was a dyed black tussah silk from India which was kind of coarse, I didn’t care for it.  White bombyx silk (cultivated) was finer than any of the others and a challenge to spin.  There was a natural color tussah (wild) that was quite nice, and finally some dyed bombyx that Judith had dyed an indigo blue.

On the third day we had a diversion into a color gradient exercise.  We used cotton hand cards to open up and prepare a solid color dyed merino top (the hue).  The hue was blended on the hand cards with white (for a tint), gray (for a tone) and black (for a shade).  These were spun into singles, and then we made all the possible 2-ply combinations of each to see what different yarns could be achieved.  It was fun!

Next was a trip to the Shetland Islands.  We spun up different natural colors of Shetland from rovings, and learned the different ways to spin it depending on its intended use.  Also we had a visitor in the form of a Shetland sheep:P1040435

By the fourth day they were getting the dye cabin going.  People brought all kinds of things to dye – ugly yarn to made beautiful, spinning rovings, sweaters than needed a change of color, you name it.  This is always a part of camp.  I brought some Corriedale roving from home – it came out a little felted and I need to figure out how to disturb it less if I continue with this at home.  I also dyed some Polwarth/Silk top and that turned out pretty well!  They also had three electric drum carders set up so we could make mixed fiber and color batts to spin.



The next stop was Australia and a chance to try Polwarth, a Lincoln x Merino cross.  Lovely, long & silky fiber but with plenty of crimp too.  I am in love.  Then we moved to South America and alpaca fiber.  Judith brought a whole haucaya alpaca fleece that we could sort through, and also an alpaca/silk blend in roving form.

Here are some things I spun and finished at home:


yak, silk, camel spun in class, then made into a random 2-ply to become – something!

Polwarth/Silk roving dyed at camp. one finished and one yet to be spun

Polwarth/Silk roving dyed at camp. one finished and one yet to be spun

Judith's own dyed merino/silk - enough to make this shawl pattern

Judith’s own dyed merino/silk – enough to make this shawl pattern

And here is our Methow Valley contingent, with Judith MacKenzie:


Done & Delivered

Yesterday we delivered one of the dining tables that Rick has been working on.  It is for our friends’ cabin up in Mazama.  The style is a “Dutch drawleaf” and the method came from a 1977 Fine Woodworking magazine.  He has done 3 tables before using this method, including our own Oregon walnut table.  This table was done with afromosia.   The leaves store under the ends of the main top, and when pulled out the center section drops into place between them.

Higgins table 2

Higgins table 4

I finished a sweater last week.  It is based on the pattern Lightweight Pullover from Knitbot (Hannah Fettig).  This is a plain stockinette stitch sweater worked all in one piece from the top down, starting with the cowl neck and then into raglan shaping.  I used 7 balls of Rowan DK Soft from my stash, which is no longer available.  It’s a brushed wool (no mohair).  I decided the plain stockinette would be a little boring so modified it with a twisted stitch pattern after doing some swatching.  It required a bit of tweaking of the stitch counts especially for the raglan shaping, but I am happy with the result!

Knitbot Pullover Feb 2105

Our weaving guild always has a gift exchange at the February meeting.  This is a chance to pass on some materials, books, tools, or whatever that you have in your stash.  Chocolate is always welcome, too!  We do it “white elephant” style, so a package can be taken away from someone else 2 times before it stays with the recipient.  Much hilarity ensues.



I also got the new rug warp on the loom and wove a black & white rug for someone who wanted an 8 ft runner (she bought another B&W rug of mine at the Confluence Gallery late last year).  I thought I had enough material left to pull it off, but I was wrong – it came out 16″ too short.  I even called down to the Woolen Mill Store in Portland to see if they had any more, which was a really long shot since I bought this particular blanket selvage several years ago.  Oh well, someone will want it some day.

R215 - black & white - 32" x 80"

R215 – black & white – 32″ x 80″

Off to spinning camp on Orcas Island tomorrow!

Back In Action

The blog post title is kind of an inside joke, because my main focus for the last several weeks has been to  do something about my ongoing back problem.  This has been plaguing me since late summer.  I thought it was just the way it was going to be since my back surgery a year ago, plus we were so busy over the holidays that I just suffered along.  But I started physical therapy a couple of weeks ago and by golly it does seem to be helping.  I can actually stand up straight and almost walk like a normal person!    And I have a lot more enthusiasm for working on projects and life in general.

Nonetheless. when I look back on it, I have gotten some things done since December.


I mentored a group of knitters who meet on Wednesdays up valley who were interested in knitting my Mosaic Mojo Hat.  It was easier for some than others, but a lot of them got through it without too much anguish – and I understand one of them has now knit ten of them, and another one is on her fourth!  These pictures are from one of our meetings – more hats have been finished since then.

Mojo Hats Mazama 2

Mojo Hats MazamaI also knit a new one myself using some miscellaneous handspun yarn.

handspun mojo hat

Here are a couple of cowls I knit during December and January.  The pattern is Rayas Cowl & Scarf available on Ravelry.com.  It uses fingering weight yarn, is fun to knit, and so easy to wear!  I didn’t have enough yarn for either of these to do the exact number of garter ridges in each section, but it doesn’t really matter.

Rayas Cowl using handpaint sock yarn

Rayas Cowl using handpaint sock yarn

Rayas Cowl using Toots LeBlanc breed-specific fingering weight

Rayas Cowl using Toots LeBlanc breed-specific fingering weight

Of the Toots LeBlanc yarns, the gray one was her handspun that I bought years ago at Shepherd’s Extravaganza in Puyallup, WA.  Nice to finally turn it into something yummy.


I have actually been doing a lot of spinning lately.  I upgraded my Hansencrafts electric mini-spinner by buying some breakdown bobbins for the WooLee Winder flyer from Akerworks.  These bobbins consist of a hollow aluminum core and 3D-printed plastic end elements.  The big draw for me was that they can be taken apart for storage or travel, taking up much less room than the standard wooden bobbins.  They come in a bunch of colors and I got RED to go with my bubinga spinner.  I also got the Hansencrafts breakdown bobbins for my lace flyer.  The reason (or excuse?) for these new toys is that I am going to a week-long spinning retreat on Orcas Island in a little over a week, with Judith MacKenzie.

I spun up all of a blend of about 2/3 Corriedale (from a fleece I bought years ago) and 1/3 natural gray alpaca (from an alpaca breeder in Oroville, which I also bought years ago).  I had the Corriedale dyed a teal color and then blended and made into a roving by Taylored Fibers in Quilcene, WA.  I now have a 3-ply yarn that knits to about 5 sts/inch and more than enough to knit the cardigan pattern I have in mind.

teal corrie & alpaca


Finally got back to weaving a couple of weeks ago, and got 3 more rugs off the warp that was on there.

R213, 32" X 47"

R213, 32″ X 47″

R212, 32" X 52"

R212, 32″ X 52″

R214, 32" x 64"

R214, 32″ x 64″

I have an order for a long runner, and I have lots of Pendleton selvages left, so despite the fact that I am a little sick of weaving rugs, I am tying on a new warp this week.  I can weave a few, then let it sit for a while since I do have 2 other looms to get new projects started on!

Home Life

I took this picture a month ago, it has been sunny and foggy on and off, but the snow was actually pretty good this year for cross-country skiing.


Juno and Stormy have been playful and cuddly.  They like to be warm and they like each other!

Juno&Stormy Dec2014 1

Juno&Stormy Dec2014 2

New Year’s Eve we had friends for dinner – here I am with the lemon meringue pie:

NY Eve Lemon Pie

Rick is making a couple of beautiful dining tables in the shop – that will have to wait for the next post.

Two Stockings

A few months back, one of my neighbors asked me if I could knit two Christmas stockings for her new daughter-in-law and her youngest grandchild.  It seems this is a family tradition that was started by her husband’s mother, and there are 18 of these stockings out there, all the same pattern.  But she didn’t have the pattern – it had been lost after the two family members who had knitted the previous ones had passed away.

All she could do was give me her son’s stocking as an example:

Newman stocking original

Well, I have to tell you that intarsia knitting (knit-in separate motifs) is one of my least favorite things to do.  But she is a good friend and I couldn’t see how she was going to find anyone else who could not only knit it, but also deconstruct the original stocking to come up with a pattern.

So I did a bunch of examining and stitch counting and charting (using Excel) and went to work.  It turns out they were knit flat and seamed up the back, down as far as the heel shaping – because of the intarsia motifs.   There are ways you can knit intarsia in the round and I considered that, but decided it was more hassle than it was worth.  The foot can’t be knit in the round until you are done with the wreath motif on the instep (top of foot) so the part of the foot after the heel shaping, and the rest of the instep, are both knit flat and then seamed together.  So only the last red and green parts of the foot were knit in the round.

I didn’t knit the names in as intarsia either – just knit the white section at the top, then used duplicate stitch with the green to add the names.  Much easier!

I definitely had “second sock syndrome” by the time I was done with them.  As in, sick and tired of knitting that second sock.  But they turned out well, here they are with one in profile and one with the top facing so you can see the wreath:

Newman stockings 2And the two of them with the original (my neighbor is going to sew the jingle bells on):

Newman stockings 3Now she has a pattern and charts, just in case they ever need another one.  I won’t be knitting it.

I have also been a little scarf-weaving factory the last couple of weeks.  Put on three 21-yard warps using some handpaint mohair boucle and brushed mohair yarns from New Zealand that I picked up when a business changed hands several years ago.  This is actually much easier than it may sound, using my AVL warping wheel and winding directly on to the sectional warp beam.   A 21-yard warp is just enough for me weave 10 scarves on the same warp colorway, each about 65″ plus fringe after washing.  The scarves themselves are just plain weave with a hemstitched edge and fringe.  I used mostly rayon chenille for the wefts, but also some Jaggerspun “Green Line” wools on some of them, and natural black alpaca on a couple of them.  They are all out at the Winthrop Gallery, Confluence Gallery, and the holiday gift show at Local 98856 in Twisp.

Didn’t get pictures of all of them, but here is the last set of 10 drying on a rack:

Parrot warp Dec 2014 1 Parrot warp Dec 2014 2

We had a decent snow 2 weeks ago, then it stayed very cold for a while.  Then, it rained a lot this week and stayed just above freezing during the day – so now the snow is a mess and it is really icy and dangerous to walk on.  Yuck.  I do hope we go back to normal snow soon, for the sake of the ski trail system!

Bazaar happenings

My Dad rather pointedly reminded me that I haven’t posted since the one titled “A Month Went By” – and that was over a month ago.  Well, it’s not like I haven’t been doing anything.

The end of October brought the Seattle Weavers’ Guild sale.  I didn’t go over for it this year, but did send my handspun wraps and some Mosaic Mojo hats over to a friend to take in for me.  I sold 4 hats but nothing else – my friend brought what remained out to me at an annual knitting retreat I have been attending for decades.  That was a lot of fun, as always – 4 days of hanging out with old friends, knitting (and going out for some nice dinners in Port Townsend).  There is always a de-stashing sale and I once again pared down my knitting yarn collection – although it is still SABLE (stash acquired beyond life expectancy).  I also sold three of my handspun wraps!  To say I was thrilled doesn’t quite cover it.

4 Indigo warp 3 fibers one colored

5 Peacock warp BFL handpaint roving

6 Sable warp lambswool alpacaGone, but not forgotten.  Of the 9 shawls I made in the late spring with my handspun, I now only have 3 left.  Considering I wasn’t sure I would sell ANY of them, I am quite pleased!

Right after I got home, we went down to Wenatchee for Rick’s knee replacement surgery on Nov 4th.  That went very well and he is now about 3-1/2 weeks out and definitely on the road to recovery.

When we got back to the Methow, I went to work on finalizing the rugs I was making for the winter show at the Confluence Gallery in Twisp – the title of the show is “In A Land of Snow and Indigo”.  Now, imagine a winter wonderland: the quiet of snow, shadows stretching across the horizon, cold, crisp air, and magnificent icicle stalactites. Peer from the warmth of your home through the windows or reflect on a day of snowy adventure – artists tell us what they see.  I made some rugs that I thought would would work color-wise – and there’s nothing like a cozy wool rug underfoot in the winter!

P1040260 P1040266 P1040267 P1040268Rick was actually up to attending the opening on Nov 15th, having moved off the walker and only using a cane at that point.  He lasted for about half an hour before getting too uncomfortable to stand, but I think he enjoyed getting out of the house for the first time and visiting with folks.

The next event up was Methow Valley Spinners & Weavers Guild annual “show and sale”, which is always the weekend before Thanksgiving.  We made some extra efforts at advertising this year, adding some radio ads on our local station KTRT “The Root” to our local paper ad and putting up posters around town.  Don Ashford at KTRT does a fabulous job with his ads (97.5 FM if you are over here).  We also had a reporter from the Methow Valley News come by the guild room the week before the sale, and the resulting picture was on the front page of the MV News:

photo by Laurelle Walsh

photo by Laurelle Walsh

We also had a reporter for the Wenatchee World come by with a photographer and wound up with a story about our guild on the front page of that paper the week before the sale!  The link no longer seems to be working, so you just have to trust me on this one.

Here are some pictures I took of the weaving guild room after we set up for the sale:

P1040291 P1040293 P1040295

For several weeks before the sale, I wove 10 towels on my loom at the guild room, finishing off the warp I had put on for the Robyn Spady workshop in September.  I tried quite a few of the treadlings/patterns we had covered in the class, so each one was different.  My threading was for overshot, what we learned was how to get additional kinds of patterns by changing the tie-up and treadling.


Lace with overshot borders in a cotton/linen blend


Lace with blue overshot borders


Lace with brown overshot borders


Summer & Winter Fashion – Pairs


Summer & Winter Fashion – Dukagang


Monk’s Belt


Double-Faced borders and plain weave in nubbly cotton


Shadow Fashion borders and plain weave in nubbly cotton


all-over Shadow Fashion


one of the Twill treadlings

For the last 6 weeks or so, I have also been on a roll to make these “fiber beads”, which I am making into earrings for the holiday sales season.  I did some up using my handspun yarn especially for the guild sale.  These have been a lot of fun, and something I can do in the house in the evenings while hanging out with Rick and the cats (and the nice warm fire).  Rick made me the display racks a day or two before he went into knee surgery!


Well anyway, we had quite a good turnout for the guild sale, and I personally did very well – 17 towels (including all the new ones), 7 scarves, 5 rugs, 3 pairs of earrings.  That’s the good news and the bad news!  Now I have low inventory and commitments to Winthrop Gallery, Confluence Gallery and the holiday gift show coming up next week at Local 98856 in Twisp.

So now I am weaving more scarves.

A Month Went By

I guess I just haven’t been in a blogging mood lately, but am shocked to see it has been over a month since my last post!  Here is an attempt to catch up a little.

Our guild had a 2-day workshop with Robyn Spady, something we had booked back in the spring.  I was the chief organizer and it seemed like a lot of work at the time, but it went well.   Robyn stayed here with me and Rick, and she is very personable and easy to talk to.  The workshop was her “Extreme Warp Makeover” class, in which you choose one of three threadings (overshot, rosepath twill, or huck lace) and then learn how you can “make over” that threading by changing treadling sequences and wefts.  It includes a very comprehensive bound notebook that covers all three threadings.

We set up our looms ahead of time at the guild room.  It seems that the usual thing to do is put on a relatively narrow and  natural color warp, but many of us chose to use color or put in stripes of color to see what happened.  Also some of us put on a wide and long enough warp to weave some towels after the class sampler was done.  Robyn seemed surprised and excited to see the color choices!

Each day included two lecture sessions, and a lot of weaving:

MVSW room 5

MVSW room 1

Carolee warp

Cheryl warp

Janet warp

Katie warp

group photo1

In the evening of the second day, we had a potluck here at our house so everyone in the guild (not just those in the workshop) would have a chance to meet Robyn and have some good conversations.

On the home front, we are getting ready for winter – especially since Rick is having a total knee replacement on Nov 4th and he won’t be able to do much of anything around here for a while after that.  There was all the wood, cut into rounds,  from the pine trees we had taken down – fortunately a friend wants that, so he has been coming over to pick it up and haul it away.  We raked up copious quantities of pine needles and hauled them to the burn pile area.  Had a bit of a burn pile going last weekend (VERY CAREFULLY).  The 2 cords of fir firewood we had delivered in August, is now all split and stored in the wood shed.

And we have new front steps!  Still need a temporary handrail to get us through the winter.  These replace the 2 timbers that were just sort of stacked there on concrete blocks, when we bought the place 4 years ago.  They have a shorter rise (3 steps instead of 2) and a nice long deep tread.


And I have still been weaving away on rugs at home – finished the first warp with the below:



R193 & R194 (2 alike)

R193 & R194 (2 alike)

Then I put on a new warp in early September, and the first 5 rugs were at a 40″ width, as I had a special order for one that wide.

R195 (40" wide, special order)

R195 (40″ wide, special order)

R196 (40" wide)

R196 (40″ wide)

R197 & R198 (40", 2 alike)

R197 & R198 (40″, 2 alike)

R199 (40" wide)

R199 (40″ wide)

I had 12 yards on the sectional beam at the 40″ width, so when the extra 4″ on each side ran out, I was back to 32″ wide for the rest I have woven to date:

R200 & R201 (to go with R195 special order)

R200 & R201 (to go with R195 special order)

R202 & R203 (2 alike)

R202 & R203 (2 alike)



R205 & R206

R205 & R206

Still have a lot of rug warp left, so I will keep picking away at these.  But I am planning to put a scarf warp on my other loom at home and do something else for a change!

Summer Rugs

So back to our regular programming….

I was weaving along from the end of July until early August, when there was a hiatus due to a trip to Seattle, getting ready for our huge Labor Day Weekend yard sale, and another trip to Seattle – and then the actual yard sale.

These rugs were all done at my standard 30″ width.

R182 & R183 - Fiesta fringe and olive green wooly worms

R182 & R183 – Fiesta fringe and olive green wooly worms – SOLD

R184 - fire color alternated with red wooly worms

R184 – fire color alternated with red wooly worms – SOLD


R185 - fire color alternated with dark red & navy wooly worms

R185 – fire color alternated with dark red & navy wooly worms

R186 - a long rug, gray fringe alternated with colorful wooly worms

R186 – a long rug, gray fringe alternated with colorful wooly worms

R187 - brown & teal fringe alternated with complementary wooly worms

R187 – brown & teal fringe alternated with complementary wooly worms

R188 & R189 - bands of charcoal fringe alternated with bands of wooly worms in a color progression

R188 & R189 – bands of charcoal fringe alternated with bands of wooly worms in a color progression

R190 - bands of black & color fringe alternated with bands of wooly worms in a color progression

R190 – bands of black & color fringe alternated with bands of wooly worms in a color progression

In some ways, life is getting back to normal.  Most of the upper valley is untouched, of course, and it is getting to be the kind of beautiful fall that we so love here.  But to quote our friend whose ravine washed out in the flood: “The weather here is beautiful now, and if you weren’t looking at burned landscape and dried mud, many feet deep and deeply scoured ravines, it looks beautifully pastoral.”  We met more people this weekend at the yard sale, who had lost everything and are still dealing with insurance companies, and where they are going to live for the winter, etc.  I just can’t imagine what that must be like, or how we would deal with the kind of clean-up our friends up Benson Creek are facing.

By the way, here is an aerial video of the  most severely flooded areas from Thursday 7/21’s heavy rains and the breaching of the 3 dams in the Wenner Lakes. It is 17 minutes long and takes you over much of the middle valley that burned and flooded, and tells you where you are throughout the flight.  http://vimeo.com/104463724


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