Showing posts with label wool. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wool. 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.

Tis the season for RSI's

Chances are you're probably in that holiday craft twilight time - the mad dash to get all those projects finished that you have in mind for your handmade gifting this season. I feel your pain, I have a list myself. I am also fortunate in that I get to knit and crochet as a source of income - so that's a lot of time spent with my hands and wrists in repetitive motion which could lead to repetitive stress injury or RSI. Even without the worry of RSI's, working long hours on knit or crochet projects can make for some pretty sore and tired hands, aching shoulders and a complaining spine.

So what can you do to reduce pain and fatigue while you craft?

Use proper body mechanics

I know I've spent some time on my nice comfy couch with feet propped up and needles in hand, in front of my favorite show only to be terribly disappointed when I can't move without pain just 30 minutes later. How is it I can spend hours in my craft room and barely tolerate the comfort of my red cushy leather couch? It all boils down to proper body mechanics.

Keeping your spine in proper alignment will help reduce pain and fatigue. Your grandmother was right - sit up straight. We all have three natural curves in our spine: the cervical (neck), the thoracic (upper back) and the lumbar (lower back). Proper alignment of the spine means keeping these natural curves lifted, not collapsed or held. Picture your spine as a gentle S curve, with each vertebrae stacked gently on top of each other. When you sit, you should feel your ears balanced over your shoulders, your shoulders over your hips and your spine lifted. If you have a chair with a lumbar support, make sure it is in the proper position and uncross those legs! Crossing your legs while you are seated will cause the spine to twist in an unnatural position which will lead to an aching back and shoulders. Speaking of legs, make sure your chair is at the proper height for you. Your knees should be at a 90 degree angle - no dangling feet and no knees pointing up. When seated, you should be able to have both feet comfortably on the ground while maintaining that 90 degree angle. I personally don't use a chair with a back. My favorite crafting chair so far is a padded storage stool. It's the right height, it's comfy and it serves a purpose (it holds my spinning fiber). I make it a point to sit up into proper spine alignment while I work but when I notice I'm starting to slouch I move on to the next point.

Take frequent breaks

It's important to take frequent breaks. If you notice yourself slouching or your shoulders are starting to squeeze in on your neck then it's time to move around. Get up, do a few squats, or a few lunges. Gently stretch your fingers back, give yourself a mini hand massage, lift your hands up to the sky and stretch out your spine. Do anything that will gently stretch those muscles and joints and get the blood moving.

I save my dusting and vacuuming for some of my "break" times. And fortunately with two large breed dogs that like to shed a lot, it's a daily break time opportunity.

De-stress your workspace

The quickest way to sit in a hunched or stiff position is to have a stressful workspace. Try not to have too many projects out at once, especially if you're planning on them all going out the door at once! This is a visual cue of a pile of work that needs to be done. Pull out one project at a time, work on it for a while then put it away before pulling out your next work in progress. This will keep your workspace de-cluttered and will help you remain calm. Stress? What stress, I'm almost finished with this and I see nothing else that needs to be done right now. That's my yarn zen mantra - it's a little simplistic but it works.

I hope you get to enjoy your crafting as much as I enjoy mine.

~Happy Crafting!~

Disclaimer: I am not a physician and can not diagnose or treat any condition. The advice given here is my personal opinion for my situation. If you are having difficulty, please consult a medical professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.

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?

Pardon the long break!

I can't believe how long it's been since my last post! It doesn't feel like months but I guess that's what happens when you immerse yourself in this wonderful world of learning opportunities.
Anyone that knows me already knows I have a yarn obsession (I say healthy interest - potAYto, potAHto). I love all the textures, the colors - I love to shop for it, knit with it and even just look at it all neatly nestled in a bowl on a table top. It's not really a problem....there is still room to move around.
But now on to my new obsession - undyed wool. Little skeins of untapped potential. I purchased undyed wool skeins and koolaid packets and then started watching every video I could find. I admit I didn't jump in right away - I was too nervous about ruining the wool. As soon as I convinced myself that it was okay to make a mistake I began dipping the first skein into its color-filled hot bath and a deeper appreciation for the wool-y arts has begun.
I may have to open my own shop soon, the yarn stash is beginning to reach private collection status and I'm okay with that!
Happy Crafting!

Navajo Ply

Handspun yarn by Color Energy Designs
Navajo Plied spun single

I have a confession - I love to spin but I hate to ply. Well, hate is such a strong word. It would be more accurate to say traditional plying is a source of frustration for me - the coordination required for a beautifully balanced handspun plied yarn is beyond me. I've tried (not often I admit) but I usually end up with one bobbin spinning a little too freely and what follows is a cloud of expletives while yet another "art yarn" gets wrapped into a skein.

Terribly frustrating until I found Sarah Anderson's video on Youtube. (I just love Youtube - you can find anything on there)

Handspun yarn by Color Energy Designs
I tried the Navajo ply technique (also known as chain plying)and I am a convert. The process is far less frustrating and the finished yarn looks and feels great. I like the method so much that I have taken some of my commercial yarns and combined them into some great looking combinations.

Have you been to the Knittyspin site yet? If not, make your first visit by reading Lee Juvan's article "Navajo Plying: Spinner's Glossary" (, Issue 32, First Fall 2010)

The Navajo ply method is an excellent choice for your multi-colored hand painted rovings if you want to keep your colorways nice and even. For me it is a way to finally finish my spinning in a frustratioon free environment.

Happy Crafting!

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