Saturday, November 29, 2008


We had a pretty strong wind storm last week. I heard a huge boom while I was in the laundry room & thought it was thunder, but as it turned out, our loafing shed, a three-sided structure in the north end of our back pasture had been lifted up, uprooting its deep anchors, and had been hurled *through* our new fence & into the neigbor’s pasture, where it landed in pieces. The galvanized steel roof had been rolled back like a sardine can lid. The tubular galvanized steel frame had been bent, bowed out on what used to be its sides. The wood panels were still attached & intact. We are very thankful that there were no animals in the neighbor’s pasture right then. They often keep a few cows & bulls there.

Doug hauled the pieces out of the neighbor’s pasture & placed them next to our driveway, making an oh-so-festive looking yard sculpture, and began work on repairing the fence. Again, we were grateful not to have any visiting bulls from our neighbors, and Doug was able to get the fence somewhat restored before our alpacas, sheep or goats could wander into their field.

Since the storm, we have had a series of misty days. Thought you might enjoy this photo.

Fortunately, both the old barn and the new barn came through the storm without any damage. The loafing shed and old barn are Noble Panel structures, and last year, when we had some 90 mph gusts come through, the old barn held fast to the ground like a boulder. The loafing shed, though, being a three-sided structure, acted somewhat like The Flying Nun’s wimple, and with the wind coming from the southeast (not the usual for this area), well, just didn’t stay put. Doug has started repairing the tubular frame. . . by repeatedly running over it with the tractor to flatten out the bowed sides. In the meantime, the beasties still have their barn so are quite comfortable.

Weaving Progress

I am happy to say that the handspun warp scarf, done on the rigid heddle loom, is done and fulled. Amazing to see what a little vigorous washing will do to soften the appearance & feel of the fibers. I did develop a bit more skill using the rigid heddle, but I have to admit it’s not my favorite (as in I’d rather have a root canal). Still, it is a very portable loom so it will have its uses when I *must* have a weaving fix while camping or whatever.

As for knitting projects, well, we all know that Christmas is coming, so you won’t be seeing those for awhile. I can tell you that I am spinning some llama fiber which was given to me years ago, before I knew what to do with llama combings. It will eventually become a scarf of some kind, depending on the yardage that get out of the 5.8 ounces that I have picked & carded so far.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


I knew she had a reputation as an excellent teacher, so I was looking forward to the three days that I’d be spending with Judith MacKenzie McCuin, in a spinning & weaving workshop sponsored by our LYS, Northwest Handspun Yarns. But I was blown away by her ability to take my spinning skills to a whole ‘nother level.

The first day’s class was “Comprehensive Spinning”, exploring the history of spinning, discussing varieties of fibers & their evolution, and polishing worsted & woollen techniques. Judith is a wealth of knowledge, and got us all thinking about fleece with greater depth and appreciation for generations long past.

The second class was “Spinning for Weaving”. We did several novelty yarns which were suitable for use in a mixed warp. It was in this class that I finally came to understand why my own mixed warp, done years ago, didn’t work so well. The key is *strong* two-ply (not three ply), and worsted spinning that is less likely to stretch than woollen. And if we were going to use a thicker yarn, it worked best to allow more space between those thicker warp threads and the adjacent ones. Duh (slapping self upside the head). Several of us were using rigid heddle looms, so we simply skipped two spaces on both sides of the thicker yarn. People using table looms were able to make adjustments in the reed to allow more space for the thicker yarns.

In spinning novelty yarns, I got *way* carried away & made things that were too thick for my rigid heddle loom, so when I returned home that night, I went through stash of unused handspun, and came up with the warp in the photo. I think there are probably some woollen yarns in here, but they’re pretty stable and I’ve had minimal stretchiness & only a couple of breaks. I’m weaving it off with a weft of Harrisville Shetland single from my stash.

The third day was spent “Spinning for Knitting”, so we made three-ply yarns of various weights. You can see, in the photo, that using one prepared combed top & spinning worsted, we were able to go from our “default yarn” - what we normally make if left to our own devices & not trying to do anything different - to both extremes, simply by adjusting the tension on our wheels. We adjusted in very small increments. With looser tension (less pull-in using Scotch tension) the yarn becomes finer & finer, down to what is known as “frog hair” among spinners. Adjusting tension by tightening made the yarn thicken. My thickest is bigger than a pencil. As I said, this is all the same combed top. I used the same whorl (pulley) on all except for the most extreme. I went to a smaller whorl size for the very finest, and larger whorl for the bulkiest yarn.

I’m still weaving on the rigid heddle - not my favorite, I must say, but that’s not the warp’s fault. I do think I’m coming to terms with the RH’s idiosyncrasies (and my own, in working with it).

While Moms are away, dogs will play. I’m going to need to order a replacement piece from Poland.