Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Fifteen More Minutes of Fame

Over in the fiber subculture we have the Phat Fiber Sampler Box - a monthly box of samples that go out to several dozen lucky buyers.  They do up on the Phat Fiber Etsy shop and are sold out in minutes.  To drum up excitement, Jessie, the queen of Phat Fiber blogs about different contributors throughout the month and people go check out your shop and talk about what they like. It's a fun community and since I am a contributor I get a box each month.  It's a great way to keep up with what other fiber artists are doing.  At our SAFF meetup back in October, I got to meet a number of the Phat Fiberistas - a fine group we are too!

I'm on the blog today, giving away a full size version of my December sample, Saturn.  I love to make this colorway - a vermillion red with gold - and all the colors in between.  In fact I blogged about it just the other day, but this is a different picture. And I admit it - I like reading the comments to hear what people like about my work.  Besides everybody says nice things!  They want to win!  No place here for that dreaded 'feedback.' No constructive criticism for my own good.  I'll just bask in my own personal glory for a little while longer!  I'll come down to earth soon enough.

Back to knitting:  Calorimetry 1 & 2 completed.  Scarf 1 begun, all of 5 inches knitted.  Still choosing yarn for the fingerless mitts.  Solid or multicolored?  Life is full of difficult decisions!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Looming Ever Closer... it's time to change my mind about what to knit for people. Oh No!  Instead of the scarf for person E, how about fingerless mitts?  Found a cute pattern that should be a fun knit and I can convert it to knitting in the round (or not!).  Truth is, I hate to knit scarves.  So don't already. 

The picture that you see here is my kitchen window about as decorated as things get around here. Yes, they are hot pepper lights which I purchased in Long Beach, CA back in the mid-nineties. Even though I don't decorate my hoe or office, I like to visit Christmas and that I will do that when I travel to see my sister and her darlin' family.  Now they do Christmas!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Ho Ho Holiday Knitting Fun

Taking a break from dyeing for SmokyMountainFibers and knitting for the local gallery shops, it's time to knit a bit for people I love.  I always have such good intentions; then Christmas tends to sneak up on me.  Can't really tell you why.  Unlike movable feasts like Chanukah, Easter, Back-to-School, Christmas, as they say, comes but once a year.  And as far as I can tell, on December 25th. 

Back in the olden days, my parents used to host the family get-together on New Years Day.  My mother strongly believed that children should wake up in their on beds, open their presents on Christmas morning, go to church and spend the remainder of the day playing with their new toys, reading their new books, arguing over engaged with their new games and eating candy from their stockings.  Children did not need to leave the house, unless sleds or skates were involved.

What this meant for out-of-town Annie was that the statute of limitations for shipping gifts had a one-week extension.  Finishing and shipping had a January 1st deadline.  Now if I had actually attended said gatherings the deadline would have slipped even more positively, but the airports and roads between North Carolina and Minnesota are simply closed that time of year.  Now the nieces and nephews are mostly grown.  The little kids' mom gets a check to add quietly to their Christmas fund.  I only see the  Pittsburghers and frenzied shopping on the 23rd is part of our tradition. 

But I do have a few gifts to knit. I will see just a few people with whom I will exchange gifts and sadly the drive north is a mere 8 hours, so I can't leave it all to do in the car.  Here goes...

Calorimetry in Punta Merisoft in a handpainted green - 90% done
One Row Scarf in variegated reds - stash yarn selected
Another scarf in 'woodsy + blue', highly likely same pattern - yarn purchased
Pink Mittens - Yarn in stash. I think.
Available, fully knitted and not spoken for: some number of knitted hats that are particularly nice and have been held back from the gallery shops as gits in reserve.

Can that be all?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

December Phat Fiber Spoiler

The Phat Fiber theme for December is 'AuroraBorealis and Beyond,' but in my case it's a little closer to home.  I'm staying inside the solar system with Saturn, one of my stock colors.  A year or so ago I developed a group of colorways inspired by the planets and Saturn is one of my favorites.  It is red-orange and gold, a hot and happy color and the secondary colors that form where the dyes mix are very nice.  There is pink and coral, both pale and saturated.  During the Thanksgiving break, I dyed up a few batches and made up samples for the Sampler box, taking advantage of a bit of time off from work to play with fiber.  I even sent them in as soon as the post office reopened on the Monday after Thanksgiving.  I always look forward to getting my own box.  It is both gratifying and inspiring.

With the shopping season in full swing, I have knit hats and hats and hats.  Now I'm ready to deliver the last of them to the shops and knit for friends and family.  As so often happens, when I sat down to begin I knit a disaster, using a much too thick yarn so I not only have something to un-knit, I have to reknit it.  I's okay I like to knit!  Since it's my own yarn, I have already made new plans for it.

My Etsy shop has been rocking the past few weeks, thanks to my new and loyal customers. I have been taking piles of boxes to the post office 3 or 4 days a week and sending them to their new homes.  Thanks!   I appreciate your continued support. 

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Counting Down the Days

Though I don't have children counting down the days until the guy in the red suit makes an appearance, I do have a number of students who are ready to usher the semester out the door. I make sure that their most difficult projects in my class are over earlier in the semester.  This way when they are covered up at finals time, I am not in competition for their scarce time, limited resources and failing sense of humor.

I'd rather spend my time on fiber!  I'd rather spin and knit and dye that read research papers.  I'd rather grade projects that demonstrate that they are learning.  Because of my work in teaching with primary Sources, I am working with a group of students who are creating a documentary about the struggle for civil rights, that is my real work.  These students are doing creative work whereby they have to understand the content as they build their group video.

Life in the world headquarters of Smoky Mountain Fibers has been hoppin'!  I have been spinning and knitting a LOT, shipping daily, working at Locally Grown, the crafts gallery at the Western North Carolina Farmer's Market.   I'll be there this Saturday and next, knitting and spinning as I booth sit next door for my friend Mac, who is doing a show.

I've been included in 2 recent Etsy Treasuries - in both cases my hand dyed Romney locks.  Here are the pictures.  The Reds are a real treat, the Purple locks  got a great spot in the upper corner.  Keep in mind, the links don't stay active long.  They get recycled pretty quickly.  Meanwhile, time to take a little walk to the Post Office, then get grading, work on budgets and generally put nose to grindstone!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Dyeing Mohair

I have been having fun dyeing mohair lately.  While at the Southeast Animal Fiber Fair (SAFF) one of my jobs was to assist the director of the Fleece Show and Sale.  The upside of that task is that you see the fleeces as they come in, so you get early pick of the fleeces.  Now I was not really looking for a wool fleece nor alpaca.  I have some left over from last year and really want to get the remainder carded and spun.  But  I was on the lookout for a nice angora goat fleece.

When I got the the show a few mohair fleeces were already there, including the fleece of Brooks Hill Farm's Minnie Pearl.  Now I must say that picking a raw mohair fleece requires a great leap of faith.  The fleeces are quite dirty, they can smell a bit...ummm...goaty.  They might look dingy and grey and Minnie Pearl was no exception.  Her fleece was grey, smelled like she had spent her life outside laying in the dirt and living in a barn.  But she felt right.  The ringlets were long and I had a great belief that she would wash up beautifully.  Turns out I was a fine judge of mohair fleece and Minnie Pearl's took the blue ribbon for white mohair.

Once home I began the process of turning mohair from funky to just fine!  I soaked it.

I washed it.

I dyed it.

And created a number of fun colorways including Beach Glass above and Autumn Sky to the left.   I've left some white and may tail spin the locks, though it is not my favorite spinning.  I'd rather spin my own hand dyed roving or carded fleece that I have processed.  I spent a bit of time carding a sweet brown lamb fleece I purchased at the Mountain State Fair this fall.  I've knitted a couple of nice hats from it.  My sweetie gets first pick, but they will likely end up in one of the local gallery shops.

This long weekend has been great fun.  As I have a serious aversion  to traveling on Thanksgiving weekend, I've spent time close to the house and studio  In addition to carding, dyeing, spinning and knitting, I've caught up on some chores.  With a bit of time off for unstructured play, I was happy to clean up the yard, catch up the mountain of laundry that accumulated when the house had plumbing issues, and tidy up the studio.  A fine holiday weekend indeed!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Being Thankful

As today is the American Thanksgiving holiday, I want to spend just a couple of minutes reflecting on gratitude. 

I grew up in a family that understood that it was important to be thankful for our blessings.  We were not wealthy - my parents were depression era, working class folks trying to get a better life for themselves and their daughters.  We didn't waste food nor money.  But we knew that we had a darn good life.  A warm home, good food, an education, people who love us. I thank my parents and sisters for the life that I have led.

This year is no exception.  Work has been gratifying; my creative work is exciting.  My house is still standing, though with rather interesting cracks in the walls.  My garden has been a delight; still giving me greens and herbs and flowers with promise of new beauty and sustenance in the future.  I am in love with an endlessly entertaining man.

Today I will take a walk, enjoying sunshine and nature in the UNCA Botanical Gardens.  I will dye and spin and knit, and prep fiber for my business. I will cook a bit and eat a wonderful dinner.  Later I will call the contradance at the Old Farmer's Ball in Swannanoa, NC sharing music and dance with my community.

I am happy, healthy and grateful for the life I lead. 

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Going Solar

Over the last few weeks, there has been a bit of home renovation/repairs/improvements and minor disasters here at chez Annie, aka world headquarters of Smoky Mountain Fibers.  The most interesting piece has been the installation of a solar water heating system.  Once the new roof was on (and the roof infrastructure was brought up to code), Sundance Power installed 2 solar panels on my roof facing in just the right direction.  In the mean time, a big honking water heater was installed next to my regular electric hot water (aka Old Faithful) and pipes containing glycol (basically antifreeze aka solar juice) threading from the basement to the attic and back again. 

So when the sun heats the panels to a certain level, the pump begins to circulate the solar juice in the solar water heater.  When it get hot enough, it starts circulating hot water over to Old Faithful which then provides hot water to my house.  If there is enough sun, the element in Old Faithful won't kick on and I'll use solar hot water.  If Mr. Sun hides for a few days, I'll just use vintage hot water.

The funny part was that we fired up the system as tropical storm Ida was dumping a couple inches of rain in our region.  So we not only had ZERO sun for about 4 days and actual rain water oozing into the basement.  Chilly, non-solar heater totally natural water.  The kind you sweep into the floor drain with the big, wide broom.

But then on Thursday morning I was sitting in my office computing away when I realized that the sun was out.  My first thought was, Hey, we're making hot water!  I checked the readouts when I got home and saw that, yes, even in the early evening, the system is up and working. Yestredays warm temps were even more exciting!  Because of unrelated plumbing issues, I haven't spent every sunny moment doing laundry and dyeing fiber.  But that will soon be all better.

Annoying knitting content: Having finished the sleeves, I cast on the body stitches for the Knit Picks Classic Lines Cardi last evening as my trip knitting.  I knitted from Asheville to Charlotte, in the Charlotte airport and as we were preparing for decent into the DC area, I admired my inch and a half or so of fine work.  Every knitter can tell what comes next: there was a twist!  The kind that doesn't come out.  Sadly, out it came.  I have cast on again and am about to check the cast on edge. Wish me luck!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Post-Conference Wrap up

All in all, the AASLconference was a good one.  I didn't become a conference blogger, because I didn't want to carry my laptop the 4 blocks from the hotel to the Convention Center,  I went to a couple of session that I found engaging and enlightening.  I found some answers to my questions, about how to add elements of inquiry as I work with veteran teachers.  I also learned about some new resources for using images in my work.  Schmoozed the Washington crowd too.  Had yummy Thai food.

I also knitted 4 lovely hats, including a ribbed ski hat made from my newly hand spun yarn in a rich brown.  Still a bit of lanolin, it will get a nice bath before it goes to its future home, wherever that may be.  Perhaps it's time for an Etsy hat listing again.

This is the yarn that I spun at the Mars Hill Heritage Festival and it is much prettier than I expected.  The fleece has a good bit of grey, but it didn't really come through in the yarn.

Once home, I called a dance Saturday evening in Jonesborough, Tennessee with the Contra Cowboys.  About a year ago we worked together at their premiere gig, but we have not had the opportunity since.  They play fiddle tunes combined with a Texas swing style that some contra dancers don't like, but it certainly brings out my inner cowgirl.  I tried to pick dances that complemented their music.  Kind of fun!  I tried waltzing on my bum knee and I was not in pain later, and that's a good thing!

On Sunday I spent some quality time with my drum carder, making batts in sparkly blue grey and also sparkly hot pink.  I spun a good bit of the blue-grey, but haven't plied it yet.  I'll start spinning the pink this evening.

Remember that Great Things are About to Happen?  Tomorrow the solar hot water should go live!  Stay tuned...

Friday, November 6, 2009

Live from AASL!

This week I am attending the National Conference of the American Association of School Librarians.  On the record, I am not a school librarian, but I do provide professional development (PD) to teachers and school librarians.  My day job is to develop and implement PD using the digtal resources of the Library of Congress.  So today, I'll be attending sessions by the Library both in the exhibit halls and in their official session.  The booth is very nice: quite professional but not too slick.  Apparently the other one is a bit 'high and mighty' and scared people off!

I saw my Library colleagues last night as well as several librarians that I know from the Asheville area.  One of them was knitting in line!

 For the first session, I'm deciding between 'Developing Global Awareness in the 21st Century Learner' and Electronic NoteTaking.  Biggest issue is that I should take my laptop to the Note-Taking session and that will require carrying it about 4 blocks.

As it often happens the 2nd session has ALL the workshops I'd like to take!  But I will attend the LOC session.  At 2:15 I'll attend 'Get Graphic! Visuals for Deep Thinking, Inquiry and Learning' because of my interest inf visual literacy and would love some new strategies for implementation.  So I am off to the conference, laptop in hand! 

Official Fiber Content:  Having knit 1.9 hats last evening, my conference session knitting is a ribbed guy hat using my newly handspun brown yarn - very pretty!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Progress Check

In my last post, I made a list of what is/will/should be happening. All in all, it has been a very good week! Here is the update...
  • The Roofing dude is about to fix the creaking rafters. Check.  We have raised high the roofbeams, carpenter.
  • The Plumber has my leak on his schedule (as soon as he gets back from Europe!).  Still broken, minimizing the use of plumbing, which means that laundry is piling up and I skipped my shower this morning.  I did spin out some dyed fiber, but captured some the grey water to use in soaking mohair locks
  • The Solar guys are about mid-way through their installation. And should finish up tomorrow!
  • New entry.  The furnace dude comes tomorrow to give the old geezer of a furnace it's yearly tune up.

In the world headquarters of Smoky Mountain Fibers...
  • I'll be working at the Locally Grown Gallery this weekend at the WNC Farmers Market. An excellent day, selling lots of yarn, patterns and hats.  I spun a good bit too! 
  • New entry. I weighed, bagged, photographed and listed a few bags of hand dyed locks I have had hanging out in the studio for too darn long.  Send them to a new home!
  • New entry. Keep on spinning - I'm dangerously low on dyed yarns in Locally Grown.

  • The day job has been requiring excessive reporting to finish the federal fiscal year, but they are nearly complete.  Done!
  • I will lead my first full program on English Country dancing on Sunday. Although not a groundbreaking success, everybody lived through it and my fans were quite pleased.  Lots of new dancers!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Great Things are About to Happen

If I saw this message in a fortune cookie, I would be feeling about like I am right now.

My house is in flux right now. Let's think about pretty dyed wool.

  • The Roofing dude is about to fix the creaking rafters.
  • The Plumber has my leak on his schedule (as soon as he gets back from Europe!).
  • The Solar guys are about mid-way through their installation.

Then I get to finish up the remaining stuff - like those giant cracks and then painting everything!

In the world headquarters of Smoky Mountain Fibers...
  • SAFF is over and was delightfully successful and fun in so many ways.
  • My booth-sitting was financially positive
  • I'll be working at the Locally Grown Gallery this weekend at the WNC Farmers Market.
  • My Etsy shop has been quite busy, thank you!
  • I hit the blogoshere, thanks to Ms. Ashlee of My Cellar Door!

The day job has been requiring excessive reporting to finish the federal fiscal year, but they are nearly complete.  This makes me happy as I don't enjoy the reporting part of the job.
I will lead my first full program on English Country dancing on Sunday.  Last night I sent the tune list to the musicians.  Wish me luck.

So with this fortune, I am felling happy, lucky and expecting Great Things!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Phat Fiber Meetup at SAFF

It was a fun day a SAFF, particularly as six of the Phat Fiber contributors got together on Saturday morning.  We met at Moonwood Farm & Covy Cove Farm's Shared booth, just across the aisle from Knitty and Color. CptSnoopy [Rav Link] was there with her hubby as well as KTLV with her family.  We chatted and laughed and talked like we have known each other for a long time.  I brought a bit of  'Show and Tell' - a lovely pink yarn that I made by carding everything in the August box that was pink and sparkly with some pink roving  and spun up a sweet and sparkly yarn! I also brought the genuine original PhatStripes Hat and SMF samples for eveyone. 

While all the fiberistas and their support people were terrific, Roo has great energy! All of the vendors were doing well, even after a rainy Friday.  But Saturday was bright and clear and busy, without being frantic.  Here we are, photo courtesy of CptSnoopy's husband, nice guy Major Snoopy(?)
Back Row:  Capt Snoopy, Roo (Moonwood Farm), Kathering (KTLV),  Cozette of Cozy Cove Farm
Front Row:  AnneMarie (SmokyMountainFibers), Sarah (Knitty and Color)

I've had a great time at SAFF, with my volunteer duties going well, my short booth-sitting vending acceptable.  I met a number of folks I have only known online in addition to seeing old and new friends from many of my different lives.  I bought a lovely mohair fleece, but did not pick it up yet - it was still being judged.  Back tomorrow for more fun and games!  

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Thank Goodness for Knitting

Although my life seldom mirrors the Yarn Harlot's life, we seem to be in cahoots these days.  My elderly furnace is behaving, but perhaps because I haven't turned it on yet.  Not a part of the Canadian contest, I just avoid turning it on until it has been tuned up.  After my experience a couple of years ago, I can put up with a lot of chilly indoor temps.

I have a new roof which looks lovely, and it has a ridge vent so it should be a bit cooler in the summer.  Back when this house was built and for about the next 50 years or so, a couple of guys carried as many shingles as they could hold on their shoulder up a ladder and used a hammer and nails. My dad spent much of one summer re-roofing our house just that way.  Now it's  'Roof-in-a-day.'  But all the commotion on the roof caused some icky cracking in the ceiling and walls. The Engineer came yesterday and although my house is not an official disaster area, a bit of shoring up of the roof beams is in order.  OK, I'll be getting estimates very soon.

Look at some wool - Autumn Leaves Merino, recently dyed.  Isn't it pretty?!

Apparently the basement was jealous of the attic and sprung a leak.  In the outgoing water pipes (because it sounds less awful than saying raw sewage) there is a drip.  Well, more of an ooze.  Not pretty.  And because my house has cast iron pipes and they are rusted through, a healthy quantity must be rerouted and replaced, including the vent pipe.  That will be a thousand dollars, please.

I think I'll be knitting (or spinning) again this evening.  It's been a rather productive time of late.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The End of Summer

Living in Western North Carolina is wonderful for many reasons. In addition to great support forcraft in general and fiber in particular, The weather can be delightful. This year has been a warm (not hot), moderately wet growing season.  I had terrific peas & beans, good squash & cukes, excellent tomatoes  & peppers.  But with a night that may see a bit of rain turning to snow, This is the last of the garden for this year.

The last green beans.  I recommend Kentucky Wonder pole beans.  They have just kept coming and taste good even big.

Sweet and tasty raspberries. Yum!  Made a few pints of jam too.

A squash flower.  Ever hopeful, but likely doomed.

Chard.  This will keep on coming, though it may not overwinter.  I plan to box them in with hay bales to give them a hand.

Dinner tonight:  the last of the eggplant with mushrooms, onions, peppers and tomatoes

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Nice Treat

The day job has been something of a slam lately, with the multiple witching hours all coming due (strangely) at the end of October.  So as I was completing some qualitative reporting this evening, I got a lovely email from an Etsy jewelry maker and seller, TheLowerEastSide who put my Fawn roving in a treasury that she created.  After kind of an icky day,  getting featured in a treasury is a nice thing to happen.

So now it's time to go home, spin a bit, knit a bit, relax, see my sweetie, eat some dinner.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Deadlines Are Upon Me!

I hate waking up at 4:00 a.m. in a bit of a panic about all the things I need to do.  But that's what I did on Sunday morning.  I began realizing just how many things were due at the end of October.  Some are on the good side of the work/fun continuum.  SAFF for example.  Even though I have to keep up with a web page or 2.  Dyeing yarn and fiber for my Etsy shop and delivering yarn, fiber and hats to my LYS accounts. Knitting and spinning.  Again, a good kind of work.

But my actual day job is definitely slanted in the other direction.  And even though I love what I do, occassionally all the deadlines kick in at the same time.  So instead of lying in bed worrying, I did what sensible people all over the universe do.  I made a List.

So on this very Monday morning, I have taken said List and begun completing items on it.  This blog post, however is not on the List, so it will be quite short and only mention that...

I have been featured on another blog,  Thank you Jenny!
My house is newly re-roofed, but now has several giant cracks in the ceilings and walls.  Kind of scary, huh?
This was not in the contract.
In the interest of getting back to the List, I'll be signing off! 

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Phat October

As the time come near for the next Phat Fiber Sample Box, I have been dyeing roving and making up little 'twists' - small skeins of merino roving that are my contribution to the sampler box for the the Month of October,  This month's theme is 'Harlequin Ball.'  The somewhat mysterious theme and fall weather has encouraged my creative side to dye a dark autumn colorway based on one of my favorites - Carnivale.  I started with orange and purple dye with plenty of white space so the colors would not merge to muddiness.  Then I overdyed the whole roving with a garnet shade to bridge the two colors.  I was very happy with the results and saved out a roving to list in my Etsy shop once the box hits the streets. Watch for 'Dark Carnival.'

The Mars Hill show yesterday was great fun. My students are always surprised to see me and I get a chance to chat with members of my various communities who seem to come together at this event.  The college faculty, staff and students (as well as a few parents), fiber people, traditional music and dance crowd and just plain friends stop by.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Getting Reading for the Show

This Saturday I will be a demonstrator & vendor at the sweet little Mars Hill Heritage Festival on the campus of Mars Hill College where I work.  I'll be carding & spinning a lovely natural brown/grey fleece and selling hats, yarn and fiber.  Now nobody ever gets rich at this little show, but we do put on a good event.  There will be live traditional music, handmade pottery (and kids can throw a pot), 4-H booths, milking goats, an apple butter kettle, a keeper of bees and a number of eceolygy/sustainablility/history displays of the campus quad.  The usual vendors will be down on Main Street.

Between now and then I need to...

  • Tag yarn and hats
  • Felt some knitted hats
  • Ply and wash yarns 
  • Weigh and tag fiber
  • Make a bunch of signs
  • Assemble my display stuff
  • Assemble the portable 'office'
  • Pack the truck
  • Snag stuff I need from Locally Grown

Because we have an English dance event that same evening, I also need to...
  • Clean the house (because you never know where the party will be!)
  • Tidy the guest room
  • Bake cookies
  • Assemble table linens & serving utensils
  • Pick and arrange flowers
  • Better clean the bathroom too
Since I don't do many craft shows (about 3 per year!), I have to reinvent the wheel every time.  But since a good bit of the stock of SmokyMountainFibers will come to the event, it's a good way for local Ravelers and Etsians who wish to can see my work.  I put a note on Ravelry inviting spinners to bring wheels and spindles and 'set a spell' as we say up in these mountains.  Should be chilly (good for hat sales) and I hope it's sunny!

Monday, September 28, 2009

All Natural

Just as I have been dyeing, carding and spinning lots of colors into my yarns, I've been selected for an Etsy Treasury featuring - what else? - natural colors.  Not that I am complaining! I love natural colors and just fininshed plying up several skeins of naturals that I have spun up over the the last few weeks.  I wanted to finish the last few pounds of medium brown roving (since the new batch was a tad different in shade) and I like to accumulate a few skeins to wash together so my natural skeins don't pick up any errand dye that may come from washing dyed roving or yarns.

Yes, I wash my yarns after spinning to release any dirt or spinning oil left in after processing,  The yarns have a much nicer hand - softer & fluffier - though they do shrink a bit.  However I think that is much fairer to my customers.  They get a truer hand and yardage.

Here is the Naturals grab bag that was featured.  If it sells by the time you read this blog post, just look in my 'Felter's Paintbox' category.  I just keep them coming! 

Friday, September 25, 2009

Spinning Happily!

Spinning away happily - for pure joy and for a good reason.  Lately I've been on a mission to spin my SmokyMountainFiber colorways.  I'm not quite sure why, but I love to dye roving, but tend to spin natural colors.  Is it because I tend to spin for the shops (who sell a lot of natural colors) and I spin for my hat knitting (again, much of the demand is for natural colors)? Yes, of course! Is it because the dyed roving is too precious to spin up?  I don't think so.  

So it has been my plan of late to spin my way through the SMF spectrum.  Although none of these are actual before and after shots, they do represent the starting point.   I give you Bronze Green.

 And now for something in the warmer side of the color wheel...

Fire is a hot color!  Forgive the pun, but dyeing this colorway has always excited my more than ony other color.  I have more on the wheel right now.

 My favorite  - Beach Glass  - the soothing blues and greens are a delight to spin and to dye.

I've got more, including colors that did not photograph well enough to put in my Etsy shop.  I've also spun some Uglies that went through the drum carder, as they frequently spin up better than you might think.  So I'll keep on spinning and sharing.

Still getting used to the new photo manipulation on Blogger.  Grrr!  I'll get better!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

What Have I Spun Lately?

I've been on something of a spinning jag the last few weeks.  It's that time of year for a number of reasons.  I need my own yarn to knit my handspun hats. My dyed yarns sell well at Locally Grown, the craft gallery at the WNC Farmers Market.  Asheville Homecrafts sells a lot of natural colors and I have a couple of shows coming up.  And I just like to spin - and that's reason enough.  Here are just a couple of sample skeins that I've spun lately.

The first skein is a bulky weight Merino in my Blue Planet colorway - blues and greens.  4 ounces;103 yards.  Squishy and delightful!

The second skein is a mystery roving in my Beach Glass colorway - blue, teal & green.  Although I can't be sure of the fiber content it is nearly as soft as the Merino, and nicely lofty.   3.5 ounces; 108 yards.

I also spun 3 other skeins of blues and greens, a red-orange combo, and some lovely natural brown.  I've got a bit of plying to do this evening to free up bobbins for Saturday's Spin-a-thon at the Mountain State Fair.  Can't Wait!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

You Dance; I'll Spin

My cranky knee has forced me to give up dancing and hiking for a bit while I let it heal itself.  Self-diagnosed as patella tendinitis (aka runner's knee), I've upped my dose of supplements that are good for joint health and backed off the exercise.  So what's a woman to do when face with a already-paid-for weekend of music, contradancing, good friends and a great location?  Take one's spinning wheel, of course!  I missed the contra dancing, but I knew that it would be impossible to 'dance light' with that fabulous band.  I want my knee to heal - I have to let it happen.

So while 250 of my closest friends danced to Elixir with Nils Fridland, plus Charlotte's Anam Cara with caller Barbara Groh, I hung out in the shade and spun yarn.  Lots of yarn!  I spun hand-dyed roving in my Etsy colorways of Beach Glass and Saturn as well as some hand-carded batts in deep blue with gold mohair and a sweet aqua.  I did some dark brown overdyed in loden and natural medium brown.  Of course I drew a crowd - people want to take a break from dancing, and spinners know that the wheel really draws people in.  Now I can re-stock the Locally Grown gallery at the WNC Farmers Market.

Coming up this weekend, spinning at the Mountain State Fair.  To get ready, I'm dyeing more merino roving this time in shades of reds and oranges, plus Smoky Mountain Fibers Bronze Green, always a good seller. It's also the Wool Breeds sheep and fleece show and I usually treat myself to a fleece at the fair.  I also entered some hats and yarn in the fair and am interested to see if I won a ribbon or two.  I'll see on Saturday and report back!  Look for me in the Heritage Walk area - if I'm not visiting the sheep barns!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day - When the Work is Fun!

When Labor Day consists of doing the creative and self-sustaining work that you love, it's more than labor.  It is the good work that makes us know that we are alive and contributing to the universe.

I didn't go to the college today, but I did respond to my student's concerns and questions.  I find that working on Labor Day goes against all that I was taught by my union-card carrying parents.  So I take a vacation day. 

I stopped by both my retail accounts today to say hello and check on my goodies - even chatted with a new needle felter.

I did a bit of drum carding - made some batts that I can't wait to spin.  Dyed roving too.

I spent some quality time in the garden, pulling weeds and tired tomatoes, planted collard greens for fall, harvested lots of green beans, tomatoes, eggplants and the entire potato crop - 7 volunteer spuds!  

After a small get together with friends, I'm off to host the Monday night contra dance.  No dancing on my bum knee, but I'll knit a Trailside hat and chat with friends.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Buying Less Fiber - with a Minor Exception or 2!

This morning I was looking at a Yahoo group digest email (Spin-Sales; yarnandfiber; FleeceforSale - one of those) and a seller was offering a delightful fleece for sale. The picture looked delightful - lovely gray color, good breed, right price - but I was not seriously tempted. In my earlier spining days, I would have jumped all over that fleece. But this morning I lingered briefly thinking, that would be very nice. I have some shows coming up, so I'll need real live fleece to demo carding and spinning. A lovely fleece to process and spin. Then I clicked off.

Like most spinners I have too much fiber - washed fleece, roving in white, natural colors & hand dyed. And because I am in the fiber business, buying unnecessary fiber cuts into the bottom line. But somehow, for the most part, it's enough. The Mountain State Fair (near Asheville, NC) is just around the corner with SAFF just a few weeks after that. I can wait untill I can see, touch, smell the fleece. Online pictures are tempting, but not enough. The real sheepy deal is just around the corner. I'l leave that beautiful fleece for somebody else. My fleece is waiting for me at the fair or SAFF.

Then I saw a note about the PhatFiber giveaway. Today the featured seller is Rachel, of My8KidsMom and Counting Sheep Farm fame. When looking at her shop, I didn't just decide what I liked, I bought it! Mulberry silk undyed roving. I don't have that - at least not undyed. I can dye that. I can blend that. She had 2. I bought then both! I paid retail! Yikes. I can't wait to get it!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Phat Fiber Box -Take Me to the Fair!

My Phat Fiber Sampler Box came last weekend, but I am just now getting a few minutes to post about it. As excited as I am to get it, I should be WAY quicker to show off a little, but back-to-school can be a busy time here at the world headquarters of Smoky Mountain Fibers.

Just opening the box is always fun & Jessie always packages it so that you really feel like you are getting a lovely present. Note the coupon pack - a popcorn bag in keeping with the Take Me to the Fair theme.

I love seeing how different fiber artists interpret the theme. I admit that I think about color more than packaging, but the more creative types really do a fine job. The box was chock full of fiber and, yarn and patterns as well as a number of other goodies, so as I worked through each layer I was delighted, surprised and sometimes a bit puzzled!

The item that drew my eye first was the charming cone of pink Cotton Candy. From Spincerely Yours, it is a sweet mini-batt of superwash merino with tencel, inego (corn fiber) and a bit of nylon. Spincerely is a fine dyer - I admire her work very much.

The Black 'cupcake' is called Midway Magic, also superwash merino & bamboo, this time with angelina for a bit of sparkle. It's hard to see the teal & fuchsia in the photo, but its very exciting! It's from eXtreme Spinning - I've been hoping for her samples in earlier boxes, so I'm particularly excited to get this.

Another fair staple, the taffy is a bit blue and gold bamboo fiber, hand dyed by bananamigraine - more spinning fun for me! The purple supreme champion rosette is a two-tone purple blend of llama, alpaca, mohair & Border Leicester wool and perhaps a bit of angelina - It has a great sparkle! Clever packaging - Why didn't I think of that?

Tucked in its little brown bag, is a wool/silk blend from FromEweToYou - Just delightful!

Mmmm...Caramel Corn! but even better than that sticky treat (at least in the calorie count department) is caramel colored superwash merino hand dyed in yummy multi-dimensional colors by Jela's Fibers. In the interest of connecting this post to the picture, I'll proceed in a clockwise direction. The natural bag contains ginned cotton from Plum Crazy Llama Ranch.

It's a Colorful Life sent a black sparkly batt called Tarmac that's a blend of merino, alpaca, kid mohair, carbonized bamboo, rambouillet and angora. Can't wait to spin this one.

Gift wrapped in an organza bag is a wee pink batt of BFL from After the Sheep. At 6 o'clock you'll see another puff of deeper pink Border Leicester locks from FarmGirlChic,in her colorway, Pink Lemonade.

Rocket Yarn sent another black sparkly batt, this one called 'Black Hole', a blend of superwash merino, angelina, firestar. I am loving the black & pink rovings. These colors are really calling out to me. Not my usual choices, this is one of the reasons that I love the Phat Fiber box. It really challenges me to move out of my comfort zone and try approaches that I may not do on my own.

In the next picture you'll see a puff of honey colored fiber from Hands and Notions. In the colorway Jubilee, these are lamb locks - soft and lovely. Just 3 skeins of yarn this time.

As much as I love yarn, I much prefer getting fiber samples. Sock yarn samples will end up in socks, other yarns become stripes in hats or mittens. All in all, these are quite beautiful. The dark brown/green hand spun yarn is aptly named 'Mint Fudge' and comes all the way from Sheepshape Spinning the UK. Fabulous colors! The sweet variegated red sock yarn is called blue Ribbon Strawberry Pie from My8KidsMom and the dark green mini-skein of hand spun shetland is from Melissa's Kreations.

In the last group, you'll see patterns for a tinfoil hat (keeps the voices down!) & a corn dog puppet, a sweet apple stitch marker made of polymer clay, and a wee sample of bee balm from Clear Hill Honey.

The puzzling item is a zipper pull made of felt by Calizona Designs. But I can't tell what it is. Somebody? Anybody? Mr. Bueller?

I am looking forward to a weekend without travel, so I can card and spin and knit with my new fibers!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Autumn Colors are all the Rage!

My colorway 'Mars' roving was selected to be in a lovely Etsy Treasury this week. I'm wearing a very pretty shirt this morning in a deep coral shade, so I match it pretty well too. I love the red/orange colors - to dye, to wear, in flowers, in my home. paired with olive or forest green, they are among my favorite combos.

School is back in session and I am glad. I love to see the students back on campus, reconnecting with one another, smiling happily, mostly glad to be back. All my sections look good, challenging in a good way. I have changed my course significantly and the evening session (a short semester that starts and ends early) is rising to the challenge. I am impressed with the work that they are doing - creating blogs as they do their research - and most were somewhat reluctant to get started.

Looking forward to the weekend, after 2 weekends of contra dancing at camps, I'll be calling a dance in the Chapel Hill area. Sadly, my left knee is giving me a spot of trouble, so I have to be gentle with it. Vitamin I helps too.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Back to School, but Take Time to Dance!

The return of the academic year is taking a bit of a toll on my fiber work. I teach in a small college & run a professional development program for teachers, so back to school is a busy time in my life. I am teaching 3 sections of my Educational Technology class & developing new workshops for area in-service teachers. My evening class has already begun & day classes start next week. One of the toughest things about classroom technology integration is that it is a changing field and I have to keep up. I am adding some new elements to my course, including a blogging requirement.

In addition, it's a busy season in the traditional music and dance world. Last weekend I went to Mentone, Alabama to party and dance with the Red Mountain White Trash & Notorious. Okay Alabama and August - how do those 2 concepts work together? Easy - afternoons are spent on the river. Delightful. I did a number on my knee - possibly patella tendonitis - so I knit at the dance hall, just gave myself a couple of waltzes after the Saturday night break.

This weekend is Splash Dance, an all volunteer dance weekend hosted by our local dance community, the Old Farmer's Ball. I am in charge of T shirts, sounds like a pretty simple job, except that people will screen their own shirts. Our budget is very tight, but I managed to scrounge a LOT of inexpensive shirts in a variety of colors. I'm hoping for a feeding frenzy of folks looking for just the right color in their size. Dances at this event are mostly contras but with a healthy smattering of squares, English and waltzes. Variety - I like that!

I'm a busy woman, but managing to squeeze in a bit of knitting, much of it while in the car. I haven't dyed much in the past week or so - life has been too darn hectic! I'll be happy to spin and dye again soon!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Phat Fiber Sampler Box Coming this Weekend

I am again contributing to the PhatFiber Sampler Box. Since the August theme was 'Meet Me at the Fair,' I chose to send in some prize winning fruits - in roving at least. I dyed some very pretty Falklands and Merino roving in very pretty reds and golds. It's funny though...When I start pulling the roving into 1/3 ounce bonbons, they colors really change. Some are more yellow, some mostly red, others quite orange. They are all pretty though.

Boxes go on sale this weekend, Saturday, August 15th through the Etsy Shop.

Visit the Phat Fiber Blog today to take a chance on winning a 4 month fiber club giveaway from MoonWood Farm - an alpaca grower who dyes and blends fiber beautifully. I'm going to enter!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Circle of Friends

It's the first Thursday of each month - that's fiber night for my women friends. We were acquaintances when we started about a year and a half ago, but have morphed into a close circle. All of us are full-time working professionals who have come together over a love for fiber.

We have a potluck dinner, a glass of wine, lots of talk and then knit, spin, quilt, sew or not. The food is always very good and the companionship is wonderful. We have seen each other through difficult relationships, deaths of parents, health challenges and the interesting activities of grown children. Ocassionally we have a special guest or sweetie join us, but usually it's just us. In real life we are (mostly) teachers and therapists; in our group we teach and heal each other and ourselves.

August finds us a small group, with people on vacation or with family commitments. So we will be three or four meeting at the farm of one woman who is a therapist who works with people and horses. I'll be knitting a Windy City hat - nothing terribly exciting.

Tonight I am fixing a mess of kale from the garden. The greens, onion and jalapeno are from the garden, but that really doesn't matter. The woman who planned on bringing dessert had to cancel. It is likely we will just pick up ice cream.

I love this group. I find it comforting and strengthening. Seven women who came together over the love of making stuff - quilts, woven bags, crocheted scarves and afghans, handspun yarns, knitted socks and so much more, have woven ( or knitted or quilted) together a circle of friends.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

All Scrubbed Up

I spent last weekend with friends in North Georgia. There was a party involved with live music and contra dancing, wonderful food and great conversation. The much anticipated Monday event (after most of the guests went home) was the trip to the north Atlanta Korean Spa, JeJu. With wet and dry saunas, Korean bathing facilities and massage services, much of the facility in separated by gender. Americans can be a bit weird about nudity, but hanging out with a good friend and any number of naked strangers was actually quite relaxing and very much a part of the experience. I used the saunas & steam, the hot tub & cold tub; the wonderful massage services.

I had the exfoliating salt scrub followed by an aromatherapy massage and cucumber facial. The massage therapists spoke almost no English, just enough words to make you understand what to do: 'Face down,' 'Go shower; come back,' 'Cucumber.' My skin has not been this soft since I was a baby. I'm surprised I still have freckles!

After this, we met up with the fellows in the common areas for more sauna (this time in comfy pajama- like uniforms) and had a traditional Korean lunch in the cafe. They also have a pool and many other sauna rooms that we did not explore.

A trip to the nearby international supermarket completed what felt like a visit to another country. Not just Asian foods, the market had Mexican, Indian, Jamaican and many other ethnic foods. On the drive home, I could not stop stroking my arms and legs. My friends commented that I need to come up with a better opening line than 'Feel my thigh!" It was a truly delightful day.

Monday, July 20, 2009

I Skipped the ChooChoo

I went to Chattanooga last week and I can tell you what I did not do. I took a workshop that should make me a more effective teacher.

I did not ride, look at or sleep in the Chattanooga ChooChoo.

I did visit both Genuine Purl and R&M Yarns. Genuine Purl (located near the Bluff View Arts district) is a lovely yarn store with a great mark down bin and an excellent selection of lovely yarns. Did my part for the economy there & purchased several skeins of Needful Yarns Joy - a cool self striping yarn that makes interesting hats, as I know for a fact. R&M, located in nearby Cleveland, TN is mostly an online store for weavers, but they have a nice retail area, classroom area and another nice markdown bin. I was a bit more restrained there, but since I'm on their mailing list, I will take advantage of other opportunities!

I ate neither a Moon Pie nor a Krystal burger.

I ate dull Thai food in a downtown restaurant & excellent Chinese food in a neighborhood dive where I wouldn't have walked alone at night. The fact that I was the only 'round-eyes' in the place was a good giveaway.

I did not tour the Tennessee Aquarium nor take a riverboat cruise.

I did walk along the riverfront park, including the area that was a gathering place for the Native American people during the Trail of Tears.

I didn't even see Rock City.

I did see a very cool city with a rich and varied history that I would like to visit again when I am not focused on learning what I was there to learn. The natural beauty of the river and cliffs along it was interesting as well as the human history of the city. I promise I'll be back.