Category Archives: Spinning

Conversations In Newburyport

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Yesterday I spent the day in Newburyport. The humidity has let up for the time being and I figured the temperature would be nice and cool down by the waterfront, so my sister and I drove up for a day. It was the perfect day to eat, shop and relax by the Merrimack River. We shopped, walked through some of the older streets to view the beautiful 18th- and 19th-century houses, and we ate popsicles on a bench overlooking the river. Newburyport is one of my favorite places to spend the day, and I mention it frequently on this blog. Yesterday  I didn’t have any particular goals in mind other than stopping into Newburyport’s LYS, A Loom With A View, for some sock yarn.  It turned out to be a day filled with, to say the least, unexpected fibery finds.

Our first stop was the antiques warehouse Oldies, which is never dull and always full of surprises. There is a vintage clothing section that often has a lot of old sewing and knitting things on the shelves, so I ventured into that room first. There were several pairs of old steel knitting needles, small cones of thread, and a lot of darning eggs. There were also three nearly identical rough wooden Russian-style support spindles.

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Has anyone ever seen a spindle like this? It’s very plain, and it’s certainly seen some use.

They were $5 each. I picked out the one I wanted and gave it a twirl on a countertop. It had a pretty decent spin. Satisfied, I decided I would buy it.  A nearby dealer was watching me.

Seller:  Have you figured out what that is?  I thought it was some sort of knitting needle.

Me: I believe it’s a support spindle for spinning yarn.

Seller: You could be right. The vendor put her initials and the price on it but didn’t tell us what it is.

I give it another twirl

Seller: Whatever it is, it’s only five dollars.

Me:  O.K. I’ll take it home and try to spin yarn with it and see what happens.

Seller: That-a girl!

I really do love the salespeople at Oldies because they’re lovely people, and they love what they do.  The lady at the register called it a “spool” for making yarn.

Let’s take a look at it:

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It actually has a nice, tapered top, the better to grip it in order to spin the spindle. I think that’s pretty clever!  It’s not fancy, but the little ball and disk detailing above the tip is a nice little touch. It’s definitely hand carved. The wood is aged but still smooth. The saleslady couldn’t say for sure how old it was, but her best guess was that it, along with the darning egg, was from the 1940s or 1950s. Here’s a close up of the tip:

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I’m no expert but I think the spindle might be older than that, because t’s so plain and utilitarian, like someone literally did not care what it looked like because they just needed it to function. It’s hand-carved. It looks very aged to me. This is a tool, and no one obsessed over what kind of wood they wanted, or what color stone or crystal to put above the tip. We’re so spoiled for choice these days, when we are spinning for fun, and not for a do-or-die need to put clothes on our backs. And people certainly didn’t pounce on spindle makers as soon as their shops opened because the newly made spindles were going to sell out in a ridiculously short amount of time. Man, how times have changed. I bet the woman who used this spindle would laugh and shake her head if she saw what some of us go through today when we stalk online shops for a chance to buy a handmade spindle or join a hand-dyed fiber club!

It’s going to be awhile before I get some usable yarn from this spindle. I’m still trying to get the hang of support spindling, and I need a lot of practice. But I look forward to using this spindle in my efforts. I like the idea of using an antique tool for an ancient process.

According to the saleslady, the darning egg is also from the 1940s or 1950s. Again, I’m no expert, but I would believe that. The egg seems a little more sophisticated than the spindle, which adds to my belief that the spindle may be older.

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Despite its age, the egg is still in great shape and very pretty to look at. It’s very smooth and pleasing to handle. it’s also very glossy. Look at the beautiful grain. The Forties or Fifties makes more sense to me for the egg because, apart from hobbyists, I don’t know how common it was at that point for women to still be spinning yarn on hand spindles. But women were definitely still hand knitting (and repairing) socks–especially during the war. Sock-darning is an as-yet untried experience for me, but it’s a skill I want to learn. The egg was $12, and is in excellent condition.

My next stop was my favorite bookstore, Jabberwocky Books. Their crafts section is tiny but the few craft books they stock are always thoughtfully chosen. I was surprised to see four books on spinning, and almost bought the Tiny Owls Woodland Knit book, but I put it back for another day. Because you can’t beat this price:

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Now compare it to the original price:

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I can’t believe no one wanted this book, and that makes me sad. But on the other hand, markdown! Woo-hoo for me! I took it to the cashier.

Me: I can’t believe no one wanted this book.

Salesguy: You want that book.

Me. This is true. I’ve been meaning to buy it for a long time.

Salesguy: And now it’s yours for $7.98! Do you know how to spin?

Me: Yes.

Salesguy: Good for you!

Clearly this was the tone of the day. *eyeroll*

I also picked up the most adorable knitting reference book ever!

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It’s 4″ x 6″ and costs $7.99. It’s thin and light and perfectly portable.

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Wait! What’s that bright green bag next to the ball of Zauberball? Why, that’s Loom With A View’s signature green, of course.

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I went into LWAV with the specific goal of buying some pink and brown sock yarn. I saw some socks on Ravelry in this colorway and wanted to make some, too. Pink and brown together is one of my favorite color combinations. I didn’t know which yarn companies made this colorway, but I thought to myself, “It would be nice if I could find it in Zauberball.”  There was a nice variety of Zauberball, but I didn’t see my colorway. I didn’t know if it existed but I was determined to look through every color just to make sure. I reached out to the very back of the cubby when lo and behold, I pulled out a ball of pink and brown! In Zauberball. Like I imagined in my head. Something I imagined but wasn’t sure existed, existed exactly as i imagined. Spooky, right?! Chalk it up to one expected fibery find!

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Now let me share with you the most surprising fibery find of the day: a sheep hanging out in the middle of town. My sister and I were walking through the beautiful waterfront park when my sister points towards the distance and says to me, “That lady is walking a sheep on a leash!” As you can imagine, I asked her to repeat that. She did. I really wanted to see a sheep on a leash, so we walked towards it. There were two ladies sitting on the grass. There was a big black dog, maybe a Great Dane, on one leash, and, sure enough, a sheep on the other. I approached the lady holding the leash.

Me: Do you keep your sheep as a pet or for the fleece?

Sheepmom: Both!

Me: What breed is she?

Sheepmom: She’s three-quarter Leicester and one-quarter Romney.

Me: Can I take her picture?

Sheepmom  Sure. You can pet her if you want.

I did want to pet her. She let me, and gave a contented little Baa-aaa when I patted her on the head!

 

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But she put her head down and went back to grazing when I took her picture!

Later, my sister and I spotted this sheep and her entourage crossing State Street in the middle of downtown. They were in a pedestrian crossing with a city bus waiting for them. I bet the bus driver got a bit of a shock.

I could see people stopping and snapping pictures with their phones (not one person was taking a picture with a camera).

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It just goes to show you: people love sheep. See the dog and the sheep together? They appeared to get along. I wonder if the dog thinks the sheep is just another dog, and the sheep thinks the dog is just another sheep.

Then the sheep began eating the flowers out of the restaurant’s flowerbox.

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Everybody laughed, and that was when I realized that the crowd around them had grown, full of people eager to take a look at a sheep being walked on a leash in the middle of town, and to take her picture.

I bet that happens to them a lot.

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Best street name ever!

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The Spinning Continues

…on a spindle. The plied merino and silk yarn that I worked on last week is now hanging from my shower curtain rod, drying. I’ll post pictures when the skein is dry and finished up. In the meantime, I’m still plowing through the fiber club monthly samples from Paradise Fibers. I’m having a great time with it and I’m so glad I joined this club. The samples are generous, and compared to a pound or more when spinning for a big project, they’re the perfect bite-sized introduction to a variety of fibers. I’m not spinning with any particular project in mind, I just want to perfect my technique and tweak my results.

I’m a little behind on my club spinning. Last week I finished up the April shipment. Now that it’s June, I’m just getting started on the May shipment. As I write this post (on June 7th) my June shipment is sitting at the post office downtown and should be on my doorstep later today.

Updated on June 14th (the day I published this post): the June shipment did in fact arrive later that day. Deets and photos to follow.

These pictures feature the last of the April samples and the first of the May samples that I started spinning. Here’s the April sample:

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The fiber is a merino/silk and get this–Tibetan yak blend. TIBETAN YAK, PEOPLE!! It’s from Ashland Bay. The spindle is a lightweight Golding .84 ounce top whorl called Night Owl. I like owls, and I love my little owly spindle! I chose it to get a fine yarn from this fiber. I enjoyed spinning the yak blend. It was easy to draft, it was smooth and it has a beautiful sheen to it, which you can see in the picture. Compared the the merino wools I was knitting and plying earlier, this yarn is much thinner, which is what I was aiming for.

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The sample was 2 ounces, and it didn’t produce a lot of yarn. I have two adorable little balls of yarn that are ready for plying. I would like to try a lace pattern with this yarn. Depending on the yardage, I am hoping to perhaps knit a lace kerchief to go around my neck, since I don’t think there’s enough here for a small scarf or cowl. If I don’t get a lot of yardage I’ll do some lace swatches. I think this yarn will be soft and drapey and perfect for lace. Time will tell if I’m right…

On to the first of the three May samples that I’m working on. I grabbed the 4 ounce bag of painted merino and Tussah silk fiber first. This is much loftier than the other samples and the amount looks huge! It looks like they gave me a lot more than other samples, although some of the April bags had 4 ounces in them, too.

This colorway is called McKenzie. Look at all the gorgeous colors swirling around in there:

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It reminds me of Van Gogh’s The Starry Night:

 

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Here’s the McKenzie on the spindle.

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Out of all the bright colors swirling around in the fiber, the black is very prominent. The yarn has a fuzzy halo when spun. There are so many colors in there that there’s a barber pole effect taking shape as I spin. I’m disappointed that the little bit of bright minty green you can see in the previous photo is barely noticeable in the spun yarn.

I’ve started two little balls of McKenzie.  I’ll add to each one as I finish spinning the fiber and then I’ll pull out my flowerpots and ply them together. 🙂

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Yarn. It’s what’s for dinner.

I’m happy with this yarn so far. Again, I was able to spin a thinner, more consistent yarn. Maybe I was out of practice when I picked up the Cyan and Mallard spinning fiber. I think this yarn is shaping up nicely.  I can’t wait to see McKenzie as a two-ply.

The weather has finally warmed up but my hands have not stopped spinning and knitting. I have a lot of things to write about and lots of photos to share with you. As always, I thank you for reading Spin. Dye. Knit. Love.

Adventures In Plying

OK. So. I’m ready to ply. For real this time. This time I’m going the whole nine yards: plying, yarn bath, winding into a skein, the works. I’ve got the niddy noddy on standby.

I’ve got my high-tech plying tools:

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And two balls of yarn ready to go:

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On the left is Ashland Bay’s merino/tussah silk blend in Mallard. This photo is more accurate in terms of its color, which is a predominantly dark green with blueish tones. The photos I took outside in a park a few weeks ago were way off. Crazy, right? On top of that to the right is Ashland Bay’s merino in Cyan.  These are the samples from the April shipment of Paradise Fibers’ fiber club. I love this fiber club, but the monthly shipments are coming in faster than I can spin the fiber!

I’ve got my huge and heavy Golding plying spindle on deck (literally, it’s on my front deck):

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And…let’s ply!

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So far so good. The yarns are “grabbing” each other nicely. They’re twisting up a little bit even though I’m holding them so that there isn’t a lot of slack. Once I separate each color by sticking my index finger in between as I ply, the plying gets easier. I’m doing a chain ply, no fancy Andean plying for me. I’m happy to work towards a barber pole effect right now; I’ll move on to the special effects like self-striping yarn and matching color repeats after a lot more practice.

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The yarn looks pretty even here. It’s not super fine, but it’s not too bad looking.

There’s actually a lot of science involved in spinning, isn’t there?  Crafts, please don’t make me learn science, dammit, the math in knitting is bad enough! There’s physics to understand how the spindle works. Knowledge of different sheep breeds and plant fibers is helpful in getting the best out of your yarn: is the fiber long stapled or short stapled? Corse or curly? Also, knowing the properties of the fibers you’re using is important when planning what to make with your yarn once it’s spun. Which fibers are good to wear right against the skin and which ones would you not want to wear next to your skin. In the latter, what could you blend with the first fiber to make it more comfortable? I’m not even going to get into spinning with fleece straight off the sheep, whether to card or comb it, etc. There are so many decisions involved in spinning. Even as the unread spinning books accumulate in my library, all I want to do is grab my spindle and some fiber and see what kind of yarn I get. They say ignorance is bliss; well, I’m in a very blissful state right now!

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Is this what is known as art yarn?! I went out on my front deck tonight and plied for an hour until the sun went down. As you can see, the more I plied, the more uneven the yarn became. There are very lovely, perfect, thin strands and there are nice but thicker strands, and there are uneven, lumpy strands, all in the same yarn. The yarn keeps breaking as I ply–you can see where it broke on the left. That was when I called it quits for tonight.

I’ll finish plying over the weekend. After that, I’ll get to work setting the twist by soaking the yarn, then I’ll hang it to dry, and then I’ll wind it onto a niddy noddy and see how much yardage  it yields. I’m hoping to have this spinning project all wrapped up (Ha!) by next week. I hope to have some pictures of a finished, tied-off skein sometime to post then. In the meantime, wish me luck!

So…I’ve been spindling for about four years now, taking my time, not in any hurry to finish and ply. I know, this project is long overdue. Is anyone else out there like me? Share your stories in the comments and tell me the longest time it has taken you to learning a craft or finish a project!

Because I Don’t Have Enough Spindles

…I had to buy a couple more.  So I have a spindle collection that’s shaping up nicely. Off the top of my head I’m not sure how many I have at the moment. I’ll have to go through them and see what’s what. I think the number is somewhere around 15-20.  I’m a natural collector, I need to accumulate stuff. Cataloging my spindle collection would be a nice future blog post, I’m sure. Most of my spindles are from Golding Fiber Tools in Vermont. After that, I have a couple of Greensleeves, a couple of basic Ashfords, two Turkish spindles (one Spanish Peacock, one Jenkins) I have yet to spin on (damn you, half-hitch knot, what am I, a sailor?!), a Spanish Peacock Victorian Ladies silk spindle that I can’t for the life of me get the hang of, and a few other assorted models. Yes, I think taking serious inventory of my collection is in order.

But on to my two newest beauties from Golding. Last week I noticed a beautiful spindle made with pink ivory and holly for sale. This is part of their “Gemwood” series.

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See the back of the attached card for the stats:

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At 1.8 ounces this spindle has a nice weight to it. I love how the pink and white woods pop against the darker walnut.

The second spindle is one I’ve been thinking about for a very long time. I love purpleheart wood’s deep purple color. But whenever I log onto Golding Fiber Tools with a purchase in mind, I end up being distracted by the gorgeous vintage spindles with their antique jewels and enamel and metal findings. On Friday, I finally bought a purpleheart spindle, and it’s beautiful!

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This one’s a bigger model. With a 3″ diameter whorl, It’s pretty hefty at 2.1 ounces, and feels nice and sturdy in my hand.

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The spindles came with a sample of fiber from Ingelnook Fibers in a color called Brick Wall. I love that name!

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I ordered my spindles three days ago, on Friday morning. They were on my doorstep the next morning!  That is usually the case when I order from the Goldings. I wonder if it’s because Massachusetts is right next to Vermont, so Priority comes overnight instead of two days. I love the almost instant spinning gratification I get when I shop on Golding Fiber Tools; I received a shipping confirmation email an hour after I placed the order. Do the Goldings run each and every order to the Post Office when they receive them?!

I’ve started spinning some Ashland Bay merino in Cyan on the pink ivory spindle. I’m working my way through a three ounce bag in order to do something fancy: ply two different colors together. I’ve been spinning for about 5 years now, and I’ve always been content to just spin. Except for a little experimentation, I haven’t really moved on to the plying stage yet. I find the act of spinning alone to be pretty satisfying. But that’s all going to change. Yes, I’m finally pushing on to the next step! It’s about bloody time, right? I have various balls of handspun stored in my home that are crying out to be plied and knitted. So I give in!

When it comes to my crafts, I’m not very organized. I work at a leisurely pace. I go with the flow. I spin but don’t ply. I knit something, put it down, pick up something else and put that down, too. I lose needles and tools and end up digging around in my stuff when I want a specific item in hand.  I always thought of myself as a product knitter rather than a process knitter because my original reasons for learning to knit was to have sweaters and other garments for myself. But I’ve come to realize that I enjoy the process more than anything else; a sweater at the end is just icing on the cake.

I suppose my crafting philosophy can be summed up as follows: Enjoy the journey, don’t worry about the destination. It will always be there.

 

A Much Needed Spinning Post

It’s been way too long since I pulled out a drop spindle and worked on making my own yarn. I’ve been doing a lot of knitting these last few months, but no spinning, despite a cabinet full of spinning fiber. Did I pull out some of the stash I already have lying around the house? No! I joined a fiber club so I could get monthly shipments of even more brand new spinning fiber! Cool, huh?!

I found myself browsing the Paradise Fibers website a couple of months ago and saw their fiber club options. I have always wanted to join a fiber club, but the only ones I knew of were run by independent dyers and, while the fibers were gorgeous hand-dyed works of art, the clubs seemed pricey and hard to join. For a good price point, members get to test-drive a generous variety of fibers, from different wool breeds, silk and silk blends, to exotic fibers such as yak, with the occasional neat-o gift thrown in.  I joined the 12-month club; for $40.00 a month I receive very generous samples of beautiful fibers, both natural and dyed. I’ve received two shipments so far and I am blown away by the quality and beauty of the fibers, which are a generous 3-4 ounces per sample. The April shipment had a bonus item thrown into the mix: an adorable Lantern Moon tape measure with a carrot-eating rabbit on top.

The bag I grabbed for my current spinning is from the April shipment. It contains an Ashland Bay merino/tussah silk blend in a color called Mallard. It’s a bluey-green hue that is truly reminiscent of the colors found on Mallard ducks: sometimes it’s blue, sometimes it’s green, depending on the light. I took a lot of photos of this fiber today–most of them were taken in the same lighting conditions–and the color never looks the same twice.  It may be hard to pin down, but it’s gorgeous in any light.

Today I took my spindle and some Mallard to the park for some spinning. It turned out to be a little too windy by the water to get any spinning done, but I got some great photos.

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The spindle is one of my Golding spindles. It’s called Inuit Snow Dance. The whorl is made out of linden.  (yarn=bright blue)

 

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I have a lot of spindles,  but Golding spindles are my favorite. I love the vintage ringspindles and the different and unique findings used on the whorl. (yarn=medium bluey-green?)

 

Some blue handspun in front of a blue sky. (yarn=medium blue)

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Look at my spindle as it encounters NATURE!! (yarn=light/medium blue?!)

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The merino/tussah silk blend is easy to spin, for the most part. I started out on a smaller spindle but I was having trouble getting started with the drafting each time after winding what I’d already spun onto the cop. I’m not an expert at the technical spinning stuff but I want to say merino is a longer staple than, say, bluefaced leicester. I switched to the heavier Inuit spindle and the spinning became a lot easier.

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(yarn=bright blue, again.)

I have a lot of plans for spinning the rest of this fiber, but none yet for knitting it. I am going to spin the Mallard first. Then I’m going to spin the sample of merino wool in Cyan separately. Then I’m going to ply the two colors together. Since I don’t know how many yards I’ll get, or what the drape and nature of the fabric will be, I’m not sure what I’m going to knit with it. Full disclosure: I loved these two colors and fibers so much I ordered a pound more of each from Paradise Fibers.  I have a feeling a pound of each is a lot more than I bargained for. Should I make a warm throw to drape over my lap in the winter? A hat and mittens? Dare I say it–will I spin enough to make a sweater? I don’t know what this yarn is going to be yet, but I’m having a lot of fun making it in the meantime.

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(yarn = dark greeny-blue.)

 

Fiber Revival 2013

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Stitched By Jessalu bags on one side, Mad Color spinning fiber on the other.

Part One: The Purchases.

What more do you need to hear? There was a fiber festival, there was shopping. We all love reading about others’ expeditions and what they came back with, so here’s my annual Fiber Revival post.  This yearly event takes place on the serene Spencer-Pierce-Little farm in Newbury, MA, in the beautiful Merrimack Valley. It’s a comparatively small event sponsored by the Newburyport Spinners.  Every year vendors and fiber enthusiasts spread out over the farm’s grounds with their wares and their chairs; it’s a BYOC (Bring your Own Chair) event! People fan out in groups under the trees with their projects, enjoying the scenery and the company while waiting for the Ipswich Ale truck to roll in.  I love being exposed to so many knitting and spinning products, wandering around the farm, peeking in on the people who brought their spinning wheels and seeing what’s on the bobbins. Oh yeah, and the farm animals–I love visiting the farm animals. I started going in 2009, and so far the weather cooperated with us–each year the day of the festival has been sunny and beautiful.

I got an early start because I desperately wanted to stalk shop at two tents in particular: Stitched By Jessalu and The Woolen Rabbit. I love Jessalu’s fun and funky project bags, and I was on the hunt for one in particular.  As for the Woolen Rabbit, I’ve purchased spinning fiber from her, but I’ve never bought any of her hand-dyed yarn. I wanted to buy some of her yarn and one of the cute hat patterns featured on her blog, to cast on later that night.

My project-bag problem has been well documented on this blog, and I’m afraid it’s not disappearing any time soon.  I discovered Jessalu’s bags a couple of years ago at Spunky Eclectic’s tent, and I’ve noticed them popping up around me ever since. In particular I noticed a couple of people at the North Shore Yarn Crawl last March carrying around small box bags with the Tardis from Doctor Who on it, and man, did I ever want one. They never seemed to be in stock whenever I went on to her website, so on Saturday I planned on arriving at the festival when it opened at 9:00 AM. in hopes of scoring a Tardis bag. My early start paid off.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATraffic was light (well, it’s pretty light anyway once you hit the country) and I got there a little earlier than expected. People were already inside the gate when I arrived at 8:55 AM. The vendors had set up so I walked over to Jessalu’s stall. Success! There was one bag with the Tardis fabric that I wanted. The little Dalek notions bag was a delightful find and the perfect compliment.  There were a lot of bags with cartoon renditions of popular sci-fi characters such as Doctor Who and Star Trek, (OS and NextGen). There may have been some superheroes or Avengers fabric, and believe it or not, BBC’s Sherlock has its own fabric pattern.  You gotta love a woman who has a healthy respect for all the fandoms. I was happy that I found what I wanted, but were two bags enough for me? No. Because then I saw this:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m a sucker for kawaii sushi. I don’t know why. I hate seafood, cooked or raw. But there’s something about cute food with little happy faces on it that melts my heart every time. I should take a photo of the interior fabric because it’s even more adorable–smiling shrimps! This bag is quite a bit bigger than the small box bag and can fit a mid-sized project like a hat or scarf or small shawlette, perhaps.

I was Jessalu’s first customer of the day. You won’t hear me admit this again, but I may have come off as a bit of a stalk-y weirdo.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn to The Woolen Rabbit. This is her Kashmir yarn in the colorway Clara Bow. Clara Bow was a 1920s movie star, for you youngsters out there. 🙂 I bought one hank of this and the pattern for Amy Herzog’s Fellowes Cloche, an adorable ’20s style hat. This is the color shown in the patterns photos, and I think the deep red is deliciously perfect for a hat that’s both ladylike and a little jaunty at the same time. The other colors of Kashmir were beautiful, but I couldn’t picture the hat in grey or OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAdark green, so red it shall be. Who doesn’t want to be a lady in red sometimes? I also bought two braids of merino and tussah silk spinning fiber. I adore a wool and silk blend. I’m the type of spinner who buys fiber because it’s pretty without knowing what to make with it or how much yardage I’ll end up with once it’s spun. I love the delicate variegated shades of pink, mauve and chocolate. I’m not even going to think about what this will be once it’s plied, I’ll let the yarn tell me when it’s ready.

I took a workshop on Russian spindle spinning from Linda Scharf of Stone Leaf Moon. It was a wonderful and eye-opening introduction to the world of supported spindles. More of that in Part Two. For now, please enjoy some more photos.

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