Showing posts with label fiber. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fiber. Show all posts

New creativity!

I just want to spend my day making stuff!

I love creating! New yarns, new fabrics, new designs - if it's makeable without requiring a whole manufacturing plant on stand-by then I probably want to try it; at least once.

I've been enjoying new color dyes and new (to me) methods of hand painting. Twisting, turning, and coiling the fiber prior to dyeing is way more fun than I thought it would be. Initially, I wanted to experiment with more organic and less structured but I'm finding that waiting for the 'big reveal' is as much fun as waiting for Christmas morning present exchange. (I'm just a big kid when it comes to anticipation participation)

New items in the store! 

I've begun adding new items to the store in addition to new yarn colorways and handspuns.  Occasionally I take a quick break from yarn making and look for other creative projects.  My latest extracurricular project is designing fabric and sewing up yarn totes. I'm absolutely hooked! You can expect more project yarn totes and more designs in the future.

What's trending for Fall?

As a crafter you are also part fashionista so it helps to keep up on the latest trends. We have some amazing colors and textures coming up for the Fall/Winter 2016 season.

Some colors to keep your eye on:

New hand dyed colors for the shop!
Colors for the Fall/Winter season range anywhere from the traditional deep pumpkin and mulled wine to soft prism kissed pinks, purples and blues. And the yarns are just as wonderful. Soft worsted and woolens, shiny silks and fingering, beaded lace weights - it's all beautiful.

I just finished dyeing up two new colorways for the store and of course it had to be Poe inspired - my little nod to the Halloween season.

Annabel Lee is a beautiful wool and tussah silk blend, hand dyed in soft shades of silver that blend into cool blue and purple before transitioning into a soft pink. Edgar is 100% polwarth  in shades of rose, purple, and steel grey handpainted on a creamy background. Both are wonderfully soft and ready for your needles.

Accessories as always will run the gamut from hat to fingerless gloves. The wonderful thing about accessory patterns it that they are usually quick so it is possible to punch out at 5 on a Friday and have a neat new hat or cowl by 8 AM come Monday morning. The other thing that's great about accessories is that you can splurge on a slightly more expensive yarn - always a fun thing to do.

Dropping Daisies Crochet Scarf

Adirondack Knit Hat
A few quick accessory patterns for you to try:

Adirondack Hat (Free through the end of September!)

Dropping Daisies Scarf

Fearcorbda Capelet

Spinzilla 2015!

Handspun yarn by Color Energy Designs
Spinzilla 2015 - already planning for 2016!
This year I finally joined the Spinzilla event as a rogue spinner. For those that don't know, it's an annual global event to see how much yarn you can spin in one week. I thought about it in previous years but never did it - always with the excuse "I'm not good enough" or "I'll wait until I'm good enough". But then I read one of those meme's: if you wait until you're enough, you will never get started. So, with that thought in mind I signed up. I'm so glad I did.

I had set a goal of spinning a mile, I fell short at 1720 yards but I learned so much and the spinning exercise was worth it. The first thing I learned? I did not prepare nearly enough rolags for spinning. What seems like a mountain of fluffy, prepared wool is deceptive. The mountain disappeared quickly. But this did lead me to my second challenge: respinning my first ever spinning attempt into something nice.

Handspun yarn
Angry caterpillars!
The respinning adventure! To be honest, if I hadn't stopped to do the respin I would have been able to meet my goal but then I wouldn't be looking at a nice hank of burgundy BFL right now. Priorities? My first attempt was terrible! I gripped the fiber too tightly, my rhythm on the wheel was akin to Steve Martin's in The Jerk and the result was a ferocious row of evil caterpillars. I left it hanging in my craft room as a reminder of how spinning should not look. But midway through Spinzilla I decided to see if I could save that beautifully dyed fiber.
Saving the BFL

The 'unspin'
Handspun yarn
The 'respin'
As difficult as my first spin was, unspinning it proved to be just as difficult. At first I tried to unspin it on the wheel - I don't recommend it. The poorly spun fiber was already unfriendly and it definitely did not like being twisted in the opposite direction running along the flyer hooks. Then I decided to use the drop spindle - much better. All I really had to do was let the spindle hang in mid-air and let gravity do its work. It was time consuming but after a few hours, I had all 180 yards unspun and waiting to be fluffed, drafted and respun. I did save a bit of that first attempt though - it's always good to have a visual reference for progress.

Handspun yarn
Much better!

 My surprise of the week was the 'crazy' skein. I took all the odd bits from the previous plied skeins and put them all together. I love the end result, in fact it's probably my favorite skein from the week. The mix of colors has me rethinking the way I plan out my colors for future yarns. I plan to play around with some more 'crazy' skein ideas.

The week was a huge success for me, not because I think I'm a great spinner....yet, but because I gave myself the opportunity to experiment and to grow as a spinner. It's amazing what you can accomplish when you challenge yourself - true for spinning, true for every day life.

Handspun yarn
The 'crazy' skein <3
If you'd like to see what Spinzilla is all about, please visit Fair warning though: once you get the spinning bug, it's hard to get rid of (but really why would you want to?).

The only thing better than surrounding yourself with yarn is surrounding yourself with yarn you've dyed and spun.

Where you spend your money matters

The Holiday season will soon be upon us so it’s a good idea to start your craft projects soon. Chances are you’re the crafty type who enjoys making a heartfelt gift for the special people in your life. And if you’re not particularly crafty then you probably either know someone who is or have local crafty people that operate a small business. Where you spend your money matters. If you are crafty, why not buy your yarns from your local yarn store or a local dyer and spinner (if not local, consider someone in your home state). Or if you make your own yarn, consider buying your spinning supplies from the market down the street. I know, why highlight what would seem to be the competition? Because small businesses matter and in the spirit of small business camaraderie I’ve spent some time searching online for local businesses (by state) you should consider patronizing for your holiday shopping needs. (NOTE: None of the businesses listed paid for advertising - I used a search engine and included the sites that appear to be in business at this time. I’ve also included notes for any business I have personally shopped).

Beesy Bee Fibers (Great fibers & great service!)

Treenway Silks (Excellent customer service & fun fibers!)

Yarns to Inspire

Gnome Acres

Indie String
New Hampshire

Yarn and Fiber
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York

Spinning Bunny (I love their fibers!)
North Carolina

Black Mountain Yarn Shop
North Dakota

Prairie Yarns

Yarn Wench
Rhode Island

The Mermaid's Purl
South Carolina
South Dakota

Athena Fibers

W.C. Mercantile (I bought some beautiful silk hankies from this store - great service!)

Knit or Dye

Spincycle Yarns
West Virginia

Felting wool really is easy!

Gather your supplies......check
And fun, and versatile. It also takes very little in terms of supplies and equipment. You know it's true - just think about that last favorite sweater that was totally ruined in the washer. No effort, right? The only things needed to felt wool are hot water, soap and agitation. Easy peas-y. To get started you'll need some combed wool, plastic wrap, rolling pin, dish soap, water, some string, and an old towel.

Set up workspace, begin layers....check

Setting up your workspace

Step 1: Lay your towel out on your work space - I recommend doubling it up, there will be sudsy water squishing around and you'll want clean up to be somewhat easy. Now add a layer of plastic wrap. If you want a felted piece bigger than the plastic sheet just overlap a few sheets of the plastic wrap. Make sure you have enough plastic wrap to fold over your planned felt size. Keep in mind that the felting process will reduce the size of the raw fiber to felted fiber by about 30% (remember that sweater? shrinkage will occur).

Finish layering fluffy fibers....check

The puffy layers

Step 2: Take your combed wool and start adding your layers. Layer 1 will start in one direction and following layers will be placed 90 degrees to the previous layer. The amount of layers you add will depend on the thickness of the felt you need. Thicker felt = more layers. The photos show two really thick layers. You may want to start with four thin layers if this is your first project.


Now the fun stuff

Just add soapy water!
Step 3:  Add some hot, soapy water to the wool and press gently. This is the time to tuck any ragged edges under and neaten up the edges. Once the wool is saturated, fold the plastic wrap over the long edges towards the middle. You should have enough plastic wrap for the edges to either meet or overlap in the middle. Fold the plastic wrap on the short edges towards the middle. Use your hands to rub the layers in small circles. Don't press too hard at this point - you don't want the layers to separate.

Wet, soapy wool all packaged neatly

Let the agitation begin
Step 4: Starting on a short edge, roll the plastic wrapped wool layers around the rolling pin and secure with string. Now start rolling. I didn't time how long it took but I'd say after about two minutes of firm, steady rolling you should be able to see your piece beginning to change. Carefully unwrap your plastic and pick up one of the edges - you should see a nice layer of felt fabric. I like to take my pieces out at this point and work them by hand. I usually work the felt on both sides. This gives me a chance to see how my wool is doing.

Voila! Fabric!


More hot water please!

Step 5: Once I've decided the piece is finished, it's time to start the dunking process (I know, technical). Put your felted wool in the sink and run hot water over it to rinse out the soap. Once the soap is rinsed, you can start dunking your wool in a bath of hot water. Keep dunking until the wool starts to dimple and harden. Your felted piece is still shrinking at this point as all the fibers become more compact, making a very stable fabric. Once you have your piece just the way you want it, gently squeeze the out the excess water. Don't wring it out or twist it - you want that piece to retain much of its shape. Then hang it up to dry.

New material for new projects!

Project time!

After it's dry you can use your felted wool for any number of projects. Your newly made fabric can be needle felted, cut, sewn, and painted. Buntings, hot pads, slippers, wall hangings are just some of the things you can make.

Why make your own?

You may be wondering why would I make my felt when there is so much to buy at the craft store? Many reasons. First and foremost, I like making stuff. To take something from raw material to finished product is an amazing feeling. Second, I know what's in the product I make. Not all craft felt is made from wool or natural materials, some of it is made from synthetic materials. Which leads me to my third reason, synthetic materials are not bio-degradable. My final reason? I can make exactly what I want without combing through shelves, walking up and down aisles or endless web browser searches. I think about it, I make it - how cool is that?

The Color Cure for the Winter Blues

Recently I have been from one extreme to the other - painting, knitting, spinning, dyeing, wire-wrapping - I'm suffering from a lack of focus. At least I felt that way until I started looking at my individual projects: coral baby booties, lime-green snuggly socks, turquoise mesh bag, copper and brass pretty dangly things (to name a few).
I'm not suffering from a lack of focus - I'm suffering from the end of Winter lack of color! And today I found the cure. While adding an item to my Etsy store, I happened to see a blip on the side of the screen about creating a Treasury. Treasury? I clicked - it sounded...different. It's a bit like Pinterest but all in one neat little package on the same site.
Etsy said I could pick 16 items for my treasury and at first I thought it would be impossible to fill those 4 by 4 squares but then I went on my color clicking mission. I highly recommend the exercise at least once - you won't believe how much fun it is and it won't cost a thing - unless that vintage frame and boho bag just can't be turned down. (You're going to shop - why not support an Indy?)

Wool...the Winter Blues Cure!

I'll admit it...I am not a fan of winter and the recent polar vortex did not improve my view of the season. Luckily, I am a yarn enthusiast (or addict - you say pool, I say pond - either would be nice). I like to focus on something colorful, soft and warm instead of the white, cold, frozen water piling up outside.

The nasty weather does have one upside - it gives me the opportunity to work on some wool spinning technique and what better way to learn than to sit right down, pull up some YouTube and get to work.

I found the Namaste Farms YouTube channel and within minutes of watching "Preparing your yarn after spinning" I discovered what I had been doing wrong. You can read it in a book but there's nothing like watching the process. I quickly watched a few more of the videos and discovered not only where my technique needed work but WHY my yarn didn't look as nice as I wanted it to.

Handspun wool © 2014 E. Stilson-Ouderkirk
The photo above shows my spinning progression from left to right. The first two are excellent examples of over-spinning, gripping the wool too tight at times, pushing the wool at the wheel, not finishing the wool properly and not keeping a nice and steady rhythm. The greenish one (2nd in from the right) my technique was a little better - however, the wool was very difficult to work with. I purchased the wool at a bargain price and at the time of my purchase I thought I had gotten the 'best deal ever'. What I got was wool that was partially felted and fibers in every direction possible. Still, it was a lesson on what to look for when buying wool, keeping the hands in proper position and finishing technique. The far right skein is my first alpaca spin and my first dye project. You can see that the technique has improved - the strand is more uniform throughout. I dyed the finished skein using turmeric and used alum as the mordant. I found some of the information on the HGTV Gardens site.

Winter blah's - I don't think so. I have an app for's called wool, wheel and YouTube. Happy spinning!

© 2014 E. Stilson-Ouderkirk

Not enough hours in a day!

Knitty City on 79th
Berroco Swing Shawl
I can't believe how much time has passed since my last post! But not to worry, I have filled my time by moving to a new city (Albany NY is amazing), recent trip to NYC (inspirational visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art & Knitty City on 79th) and of course with yarn of every size, color and texture. I even added to the stash while at Knitty City - wonderful Berroco yarns in cotton and linen. Which of course prompted another project - the Swing Shawl pattern on the Berroco website is perfect for the textures and colors I chose.

The Schackenmayr has arrived!
Recently, I opened a Vogue Knitting email to read about the My Mountain design contest and they were giving away balls of Schackenmayr yarn. Giving it away and all I had to do was ask? I clicked on the email link and had a design forming in my head before I was even aware of conscious thought. That's how it is for a fiber enthusiast. (We are also known affectionately as yarn junkies). We operate by instinct; the yarn speaks to us - we don't see the fluffy, soft ball of yarn. We see all the possibilities that it will become. For us there is no such thing as too much yarn - only undiscovered projects. Right now I have a room full of undiscovered projects and am happily collecting more.

Spinning Day

    Today was a spinning day. I like listening to the steady whirring of the wheel, the feel of soft wool running through my fingers and having absolutely no thoughts rushing through my head. It is, for me, as close to meditation as I can possibly get.
    My first attempts were less than zen for me. My feet treadled faster than my hands were prepared for leading to lots of broken strands and the constant rejoining left big, ugly slubs. It was a frustration! But, I was determined not to quit.
    Little by little, I have been improving. I'm not at lace weight...yet! And I may never achieve that quality but that's not why I do it anyway. I spin for the quietness of thought and for the love of fiber.

Here are a few of the businesses I have purchased my roving from, the customer service at each has been stellar!

Maine Woods Yarn & Fiber - 

Susan's Spinning Bunny -

Knitting, Etc. Ithaca -