On the Wheel


It has been a long, long time since I’ve used my spinning wheel.  I am struggling to regain sufficient dorsiflexion in order to walk without a limp, despite doing physical therapy exercises religiously.  We brought the wheel downstairs so I could treadle and at least gain strength, and possibly mobility as well.  (First, the little bit of lavender merino yarn had to come off the bobbin so I could start spinning the KoolAid dyed pinky-orange roving.  I will ply it later.)


George hung out with me and had a snack while I pre-drafted the roving.


Attempting to get the wheel going was tricky.  My ankle is very stiff and the muscles in that leg are weak.  I found the tension had to be let way out in order to keep treadling and draft correctly.  It means I’m dealing with a bit of overspin, but right now the spinning is for the doing and not the finished product.  IMG_0032[1] IMG_0048[1]

The wheel tends to walk across the wood floor when the wheel gets going, so I keep a little rag rug my great-grandmother made underneath to prevent this.  My ankle can hold up for about 20 minutes of spinning, and then it starts to grumble loudly, but after a short break I can return.  The plate and screws and pins don’t bother me, for which I am grateful, and with time the soft tissue will stretch out more and the range of motion will improve.

IMG_0037[1]After a number of sessions, I managed to get a small hank of fingering-weight yarn spun, and started a second.  Not sure yet if I will knit it as singles, or ply it when I get the other half spun up.

Joining Ginny’s Yarn Along today.  More from the garden later this week.


Yarn Along – Just Barely


Life is so frantic lately, I almost didn’t make Nicole’s KCCO or  Ginny’s Yarn Along this week.  I am having trouble keeping my head above water some days.  It seems to be a constant problem – four kids, busy schedules, deadlines, nowhere to cut back and simplify.  When life gets like this, I’m going to drop a ball somewhere, I just don’t know where yet…

This week, I’m re-reading some of of my favorite permaculture books.  I am working on a research project, and while I thought most of my reading would take place late at night (thanks to chronic insomnia), the kids had other plans.

Ruth and Bea (ages 10 and 8) found the stack of 7or 8 permie books and asked if we could read through them together.  Ruth, ever the artist,  is fascinated with all the diagrams and base maps and sketches.  Bea, ever the idealist, enjoys thinking about designing for conservation of resources and regeneration of the land.  We all enjoy reading them together.

(Our favorite is Jenny Allen’s Australian book, Smart Permaculture Design.  Oh, if only we could grow mangoes and avocados!)

IMG_8096George is growing like a weed, and has outgrown some of the wool soakers I made him a while back.  Those that still fit take a while to dry on the line, so we’re a little short in the rotation.  Over the last few months, I’ve collected some cashmere and merino sweaters from the thrift store (for $1-$2/each), and today I hope to get them cut up for more longies and short soakers.   There should be enough to make four for George and two infant-sized ones for baby shower gifts.

IMG_8106In the late winter, I tend to be a little burned-out on knitting, and try to fill the void with spinning projects.  Last week some folks here and on the Facebook page commented on all the spindle spinning, and asked what I had going on the wheel.

(Apologies for the fading light – it’s so hard to photograph in Oregon in January.  The color on the bobbin below is more true than above.)  Almost three years ago, I purchased a lot of mill-end Brown Sheep roving at a ridiculously cheap price (less than $8/lb).  I have worked through most of it on drop spindles, but this full pound of  teal with blue and black streaks (85% wool 15% mohair) is on the wheel.


My beat-up Louet S10 came with only two bobbins (it was supposed to come with three…long story.  Buyer beware on Craigslist!), and both are currently holding this yarn.  Trying to fill this bobbin so I can hurry up and ply them.  My goal is to make matching vests for Harold and George (There should be ample yardage out of a full lb), which will be sized to fit them this coming fall (you have to really plan ahead when planning a project from a bag of roving!).

And now it’s back to school work with the kids:  Ruth is tackling addition and subtraction of mixed numbers with unlike denominators, and she needs me right there to work through the problems with her.  We are trying to wrap up school work early today, because Bea has an appointment to read to the therapy dog at the library this afternoon (such a great program for cautious and struggling readers!), and Ruth is desperate to pick up her book on hold (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix).

I will catch up on the other Yarn-Alongers later tonight.  Happy knitting and happy reading!



Alpaca and Social Permaculture

I’m tackling spinning for the Yarn Along this week.   Little by little, I am working my way through a 4 oz bag of first-shearing unwashed alpaca fiber (isn’t the coppery color lovely?).  This buttery soft fiber was a gift from my sister some years ago.  She picked it up from Foothills Fiber in Hood River, OR.

Originally, I was going to put this on the wheel, but both sets of bobbins are already full of other fibers, so I’ve been working on a drop spindle.  (I have 6 or so spindles going at any one time, so progress on any one fiber is fairly slow.)

This week, we have been thumbing through Discover Nature in Winter, as well as the classic primitive/survival skill book Participating in Nature.  The children and I are looking for winter activities out-of-doors that extend beyond the garden.

I have also just begun  The Sweet Spot: The Natural Entrepreneur’s Guide to Responsible, Sustainable, Joyful Work.  Lately, the Buddhist ideal of “right livelihood“  has really interested me.   It is similar to concepts of social and economic permaculture, in which the ideal is to take work that benefits the renewal of the land or the care of people and eschew jobs that damage the land, overuse resources, and exploit people.

Both my husband and I feel our careers (paid and unpaid) fall within this sphere.  I don’t think either of us could embrace a career that did not, and we love what we do.  I simply thought the book might be an educational read.

Okay, back to spinning while Bea does her read-aloud this morning.  Have a wonderful second half of your week!

Yarn Along – Rhythm of the Home

I have a piece in the new issue of Rhythm of the Home .  It just came out today!   Hope you get a chance to read and try out the recipe – it is a family favorite.

The entire issue is packed with beautiful, thoughtful and instructive articles from such talented women.  From felted sweater garlands to meditations on homeschooling in the winter months to Waldorf doll shoe instructions..Rhythm of the Home always puts out a great edition!

Obviously, for the reading portion of Ginny’s Yarn Along, this morning I’m reading through the new issue of Rhythm of the Home.  For the “yarny” portion, and for Nicole’s KCCO, I’m starting a pair of socks (yarn on the right), out of Brown sheep sock yarn seconds I purchased several years ago (still de-stashing!).

Also in the works is wrapping up some spindle spinning.  The fiber is Brown Sheep mill end bits and pieces, 85% wool, 15% mohair.  I am doing my best to spin worsted weight singles, but I find it very difficult, since I have been spinning for a number of years, and my hands want to spin fingering weight.  I am hoping to turn the yarn into a little knitted panda toy for George, although, part of me is tempted to make another vest

We have company coming this morning, and then the kids and I are in full Christmas-crafting mode today.  We’re hoping to finish up our lessons before lunch, so we can play with some needle felting (making ornaments!) before Girl Scouts this afternoon.

Blessings on your day!

November Yarn Along

Taking a break from knitting this week to finish up some spindle spinning.  It’s a soft grey undyed wool, breed unknown, since it was purchased several years ago at an estate sale with many other bags of fiber.

My reading selection this week is a bit boring – mostly books on fruit-tree cultivation and pruning.  All of our young fruit trees are ready to have their central leaders lopped and I need to get serious about how they will be pruned and shaped, so it’s time to brush up on the subject.

The singles that resulted from spinning on this tiny burl-whorled spindle are fluffy, laceweight, and a bit overspun so that I can ply them back.  There will be enough 2-ply for some very special baby knitting (booties and a hat?  little vest?).

Many thanks to Ginny for hosting the Yarn Along and Nicole for KCCO, as well as all the other knitters  and crafters who share their projects and recommend some great reading each week.



Yes, we have actually been doing things besides garden projects!  (Not much, but a little bit.)  Some recent spindle spun, shown above, spun with Brown Sheep mill-end roving,  dyed with just a bit of leftover Blue-Raspberry Kool-Aid (we left it mostly white, and drizzled a little kool-aid here and there).  I think I’ll ply it and knit some booties for the baby.

On the wheel is also some Kool-Aid dyed Brown Sheep mill-end, but this time we saturated it with leftover pink lemonade, strawberry and orange.  The resulting yarn is VERY bright, and I’ll probably make Firecracker some socks with it.



I imagine the days of getting much spinning done are coming to an end for a while – it tends to be a winter occupation, with garden, livestock, and outdoor activities spreading out before us,  spindles and the wheel may get put away upstairs before long.  Besides, I’m on the brink of my third trimester and have knitted exactly one item for the baby, so handwork time needs to be dedicated to knitting for a while.

Are there handcrafts and activities you find falling into a seasonal rhythm?  As spring approaches, what are you laying aside, and what new things are you picking up?

Setting the twist



The first batch of Easter-egg dyed yarn is off the wheel.  Not a bad attempt, and I can see a lot of improvement from the beginning of one bobbin to the end of the next.  And the girls enjoyed drafting from time to time, or putting a foot on top of mine and helping me treadle.  Little Hen was able to spin some of the scraps by herself (she’s a great drafter), although it’s pretty difficult for her to keep the wheel spinning.


After setting the twist and hanging the yarn up to dry, my bathroom smells of wet sheep (thank you, husband and children, for not complaining even once about the “Eau-du-wool”!).


(There are many methods for setting-the-twist in handspun yarn – some involving vinegar or weights or dishsoap and potato mashers, but with my spindle-spun, I’ve had good results with soaking in hot water for 20 minutes, shocking in ice cold water for ten, whacking the skein against the shower wall a few times, and hanging it up to dry, so that’s what I did this time.)


A bit underspun (this picture was taken while plying on the wheel), but I’m learning, and it’ll make some nice little socks for Firecracker.

On to the next batch from my stash – 1/2 a lb of purple-grey merino that will eventually be a vest for Little Hen.

On the wheel, on the map


We’ve been studying a lot about map reading and map making, and yesterday afternoon I brought out a huge sheet of posterboard and let the children create and label their own “treasure map”.  (Little Hen’s idea is to re-create the map in real-life in the backyard and then use their map to find the “treasure”.   Pretty clever idea, actually.


My only concern is creating the “grape soda lake” they drew on the map…   😉

If the rain holds out, I think the girls will have a great time with their treasure hunt this afternoon.

I was feeling a bit under the weather, so while the kids worked on the map, we all listened to some Grimm’s Fairy Tales on book CD, and I had a chance to sit down and rest and work on the wheel.


The roving is some Brown Sheep mill-end roving we dyed with leftover Easter egg dye (for instructions, see here.)  I’ll ply the singles and it’ll make a nice pastel sock yarn.

Here’s what I got done yesterday.  Not too shabby for my second attempt at using the wheel (after some serious practice with scrap roving), don’t you think?    I hope to get some more done later today as we listen to the rest of Grimm’s:





My dad, who has made me all sorts of great spindles and fiber tools,  made me a new spinning wheel flyer to replace the broken one on my Louet-S10! (It arrived just in time for my birthday.)  YAY!!!!

It’s rainy and yucky out today (although, I’m grateful, because the seeds we’ve planted need the water), so I think it’ll be a great afternoon to listen to our new book on CD while the girls finish their altered book project and I try out my wheel!

Those bags of fiber upstairs are calling me.  Can’t wait to get spinning…

Quiet spinning


A quiet afternoon yesterday – now all of us are feeling under the weather and we are doing our best to cultivate an atmosphere of peace and foster wellness.  The girls were snuggling in their bed, reading Highlights and Ranger Rick,  and Tum Tum was napping.  A rare opportunity to enjoy a cup of coffee in the front room, watching the rain fall.


Also a perfect opportunity to get out some spinning (because anyone who knows me knows I can’t just sit and sip coffee without some handwork at the ready).  I’ve been so busy knitting socks, I’ve gotten behind on my spinning, and frankly, my hands are tired of double-points and need a rest.  So, I grabbed a basket with some mystery pencil roving (from the large bag of fiber that was thrown in on my Craigslist purchase of a fixer-upper Louet S-10) and one of the drop spindles my dad made me a while back.


I like spinning standing up, so I can spin a much longer length before I have to wind it up, so there really was no “sitting and sipping coffee” about it.  But I find spinning a very restful, meditative experience, even if I don’t put my feet up.

This spindle, made of maple, has a large whorl, but spins very evenly, and is one of my favorites.


The fingering-weight singles.  I’ll ply it when I’m done for a heavy sport-weight that will become more gift socks.

Wishing you a peaceful  and productive afternoon as well.

Drop Spindle #6


This is my newest drop spindle!  It was thrown in as a sweetener on a purchase I made off of craiglsist (more on that in a few days).   So, far I really like it – it is quite small, fast rotating, and spins a nice even lace-weight.  (I’ve been working on this very soft top, which came with the spindle  (It’s hard to tell from the photo, but it’s a beautiful black wool with cotton multi-colored threads throughout).  It will eventually become a 2-ply, but I have no idea what to knit out of it yet – there may be enough for a pair of socks – fingers crossed.)

Can’t wait to snuggle up with the family tonight and watch a movie and get some more spinning done on this little beauty!

Blessings on your long holiday weekend!

Egg-dyed yarns


I have always wanted to dye my own roving (mostly because of the Twisted Sisters Sock Book!!), but wanted it to be something the children and I could do together – something safe, easy, and non-toxic.  So, when I was pregnant with my son, the girls and I dyed 2 lbs of white Brown Sheep mill end roving (super economical!) with Easter egg dye bought at 75% off after Easter.    The needed ingredients are food-safe dye, vinegar and water.

We followed this Kathryn Ivy tutorial, using spray bottles, brushes  and spoons to experiment with different patterns of adding the dye to the roving.   We worked outside, putting down lots of newpaper,  so we could make a huge mess, and have fun.  The girls had a blast squirting different patterns into the white roving, and were surprised at seeing the final results after it the roving was steamed, rinsed, and hung to dry.

It takes a LOT of  very concentrated dye to get the vibrant colors in the tutorial, and mine came out very pastel (as you can see).   It spun up nicely (you can tell this is some early spinning, however – it’s pretty uneven), but after we set the twist (just singles), the hanks have just been hanging out in my yarn dresser, because I haven’t been much in the mood for pastels.  With the wave of friends/family having babies the last several months, now is a perfect time to crack into that oh-so-pastel yarn!


So far, I’m really enjoying knitting with it, and when it’s all used up, I think we’ll try it again, but with more concentrated dye for more vibrant colors.  Who knows, maybe Little Hen will be old enough to spin some up herself by then.  🙂


If you’ve tried your hand at home-dying fiber, I’d love to hear about it and any advice you can offer.  If you’ve posted about it on your blog, I’d love to share the link.  Thanks!

(Only 3 days left to enter the giveaway!!)

Off the spindle



With the cooler weather of the last few days, we’ve found life has slowed down a bit, and we’ve been hanging around the house more and more.  The girls have been playing more quiet games,  and we’ve all been reading through our latest haul from the library.   I’ve gotten a chance to finish spinning some merino/mohair roving bought at a spin-in ages ago.  The twist has been set (which really brought out the loft in the yarn – it’s so fluffy!), and these singles are ready to knit.




Also off the another spindle are the last few ounces of 85 wool/15 mohair Brown Sheep mill end roving (1 lb total takes a while on drop spindle, so I’ve been doing it in batches).  The final product is a dk weight – some careful dividing of the roving resulted in hanks that are in strikingly different shades of white/brown/grey/black.

Now, to get knitting with them…

If you have any recent spinning, please share the link with me – I’d love to see what you’re working on.  Thanks!

(Don’t forget to stop by my giveaway post, and leave a comment, too!)

Handspun Baby Shoes


A lovely family from our church welcomed their second child, so the children and I took them dinner yesterday evening (well, afternoon, really…) Thought we’d include a little something for Baby Nicolas.   How about ribbon-tie baby shoes?  (Yes, I realize that’s a thumb in the bottom of the picture.  Please just ignore it.  I wasn’t up for photo-shopping.)

I know they aren’t the most practical gift, but there’s just something about baby booties – they are my favorite thing to knit, they make a good keepsake, and they’re small enough that I can utilize some of my spindle-spun yarn.


These are a merino/mohair blend that was a dream to spin.  I love how setting the twist (scroll down toward the bottom) added a lot of loft to the yarn and brought out its mohair halo.  I purchased the roving at a Spin-In on the Central Oregon Coast over a year ago, and wish I had gotten more than 2 oz!  (The white accent yarn I spun from a mystery-breed sheepswool roving that Fredda at the Yaquina Fiber Arts Guild gave me).

There are a whole bunch of babies soon to be born at church and in our homeschool co-op, so there will be lots more bootie knitting in the coming weeks!

On the drive – also giveaways

Some spinning I was working on as we drove to Hood River this past weekend.  It’s 100% Oregon wool that I bought while volunteering with my guild at the Spin-In when we lived on the coast.  The roving looked so pretty, but I was a new and inexperienced spinner, and I realize now that there were too many colors in it – burgundy, purple, forest green, grey, orange, and a little yellow –  and it looks muddy when spun up.  I think it’ll make okay baby booties or an edging on a baby sweater.  Overall, I’m not too impressed, but I feel like I have to finish it before I can start the gorgeous fawn alpaca top I bought in Hood River.

(my father handmade me this lovely maple spindle, btw.  It spins smoothly and evenly and produces a nice worsted weight yarn.  He’s also made me one of oak and one of walnut that are great for sport and fingering weights)

also,  i stumbled upon a huge number of giveaways today (what’s up with that?)-

Grosgrain is giving away a cute red ridinghood jacket – check it out.

BeckyKnitsToo requested cute halloween costume ideas and a linkback for her contest – my favorite was when Firecracker was a bumble bee for her 4th halloween (which also happened to be her third birthday).  She wore black a leotard and tights, black and yellow leggings i had knit, wings, antennae and a black and yellow striped stinger that was safety pinned to her bum.  She ran around “buzzing” all day.  The best part was when a kid at preschool bumped into her, and immediately leapt backward and shouted in surprise, “ACK! … Hh, whew.  For a second I thought I was going to get stung!”

really great baby sling giveaway at here.

soap giveaway at Sweet Figments.

also a giveaway at Noodles and Milk

cute birdie letter set giveaway here.