Friday, December 17, 2010

Enough With the Hats Already

My 30 Hats in 30 Days challenge continued well into December, even picking up the pace to 21 hats in 16 days.  I will deliver another dozen hats today to my best customer.  After that I'll be taking a wee break to do a bit of my own knitting. 

I ended as I began, with hats for guys, particularly my ubiquitous 'Boyfriend Hat' and several variations of the new 'Skater Boy' series in solids, color blocks and even with a brim, shown here in blue, but badly edited just to be visible.  The room was too dark!.  Some are close fitting, some over-size, but they are all destined for heads around town and points distant.  One of the glories of living in a place that people like to visit, is that the market doesn't get saturated.

I also worked on the design of a new felt hat.  For years I have knit a deeply rolled brim that looks good and fits right and even sells quite well, but is a total snooze to knit.  So I started on a cloche style.  I think I finally got the pattern right (after 6 prototypes), so we will have to see what the market says.  No pictures yet. 

With the semester over, grades in and no begging students in my office ( I guess I got the grades right this time!), I'm happy to take a few weeks off.  I'll be spinning and knitting (for me!), dancing, traveling, cooking, and visiting with friends and family.  I plan to read some good books, watch some good movies and generally take some time off.  I MIGHT bring home a stack of journals, but no guarantees that I'll actually read them.  I certainly don't read them here!  

I'll put the Etsy shop to bed for a few days too.  I'd like to develop some new colorways or create some carded batts, but for the mean time, it will go a bit dark.  Let's let the creative juices take a break too!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Snow Days

Tuesday,  is my first day out after the Saturday evening snow and very cold temperatures that decended upon western North Carolina.  Now I grew up in NE Ohio, where this kind of weather was no big deal.  I lived for several years in Erie, PA and in my last year there, this became normal.  Of course, that is when I decided to move.
But we Southerners are not used to it staying cold and we are not used to driving on snow and ice.  Snow driving is a skill, much like archery.  I have chosen to skip it.  But the dedicated teacher that I am, it seems that sometimes I have to show up.  So this morning I got out in the single digit temperatures, warmed up my little truckie and headed about 20 miles north to the little college where I had an 8 am final scheduled.  Once I made it out of my neighborhood, the only mishap was trying to use my windshield washer when a big trucked sprayed me as he passed.  On the driver's side, the nozzle was frozen.  This was a big improvement over the passenger's side where the wiper was too frozen to actually connect with the washer fluid that promptly froze on the windshield.   

The upside of snow days is that when you are trapped in the house you can get a good bit of knitting, spinning and dyeing done.  Now dyeing can be chilly work, as my dye studio is in the basement of my home.  Putting my hands into the water where the fiber has been soaking is not fun.  I have found that pulling the fiber out of the dye water is easier on the hands if you do it about 2 hours after the dyeing is complete, rather than waiting overnight for the fiber to fully cooled down.

On Sunday I spent some quality time with Little Otto, my drum carder.  I have a goodly collection of dyed fiber, some of which is overdyed, seiously uneven, or - face it - ugly.  But a pass or 2 through the carder changes everything.  I made up a set of batts in a very pretty reddish brown, but mostly I just carded fiber and put it aside for more creative work later.

But for being snowed in, almost nothing beats watching movies and knitting.  I have been working on a new design for a felted cloche, so I knit up a couple of new prototypes and felted them in the washer, knit at least 3 or 4 hats for guys and started thinking about knitting fingerless gloves for a Christmas gift.  A cup of tea, a pot of soup, a good movie and an extremely large quantity of yarn.  Ah, the perfect snow day!

Friday, December 10, 2010

6 Things to do While Waiting....

...for my students to submit their work.

In real life, I am a teacher; both instructional technology to undergraduate education majors and professional development workshops for teaching with primary sources to K12 teachers. This time of the year I am finishing up the primary source reporting and grading student projects.  Mostly though, I am waiting for my undergrads to send me portfolios, take their online final and finish up outstanding work.  Since I can't just pull out my knitting, while I wait...

1. Pack up work to take home.  The weather people have predicted a lousy Sunday and Monday, so I can expect to work from home on Monday.  I'll be taking journals and books to read, hard copies of assignments & rubrics (because sometimes paper is OK), and the right flash drive, fully loaded, of course.

2. Search for a particular Excel spreadsheet.  Go a little bit crazy because it appears to be hiding.  Remember the name of the file.  That's the one!

3. Because you are paranoid, email same docs to self as you just saved to a flash drive.

4. Add names to the database.  It's boring, but now it's done.

5. Make a cup of tea.  This is a particularly good time waster use of my time as it takes me out of my office and I can see if there is any mail and chat with colleagues.  I also like tea.  One of the adjuncts brought cookies. 

6. Tidy up my office.  After all, it's the end of the term and there is a lot of paper and stacks of journals.  Add a few more journals to the going home stack.

Funny, I never have to make work when I am home. 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Peacock Yarn

Sometimes my dyeing comes out just beautiful.  Lovely colors, just like I planned.  Other times, not so much.  The dyes split, dye doesn't migrate to the inner folds of the roving, I am a bit heavy handed, you get the picture.  But sometimes mistakes end up being quite a nice surprise.

This roving - and the yarn is one of those.  Although I didn't take a 'before' photograph, you can trust me that roving was pale and washed out, with an obnoxious split. [A dye split is when the different colors of dyes that are blended, separate into their component parts.  For example, instead of purple you get  purple and red and blue.] Face it - it was ugly.

So I over-dyed it.  The original colors were blues and greens, so into a turquoise dye bath it went. Now I love it. I spun the yarn during last Wednesday's spinning night.  It was great fun to spin and I am looking forward to knitting it up.

The sad part - I can never dye this again!  That is a tiny problem with one-offs.  You just can't do another just like that one!

Another snowy day in Asheville.  It's pretty but quite cold - the low 20's F.  And as a fearful snow driver, I have great trepidation getting behind the wheel on snowy days.  Sounds like day to work from home!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Success: 30 Hats in 30 Days!

I set a challenge for myself to knit 30 hats in the month of November.  With my hats in 3 shops, I need to keep my production up for the winter hat shopping season and this was a way to stay on or even ahead of schedule.  I did it!  It was close at the end, but I managed to knit a-hat-a-day.  On November 29th, with all 30 hats completed and logged into my handy dandy Excel spreadsheet, I cast on for a felt hat in a style that I've never made before.

I also made an effort to knit from the stash as much as possible and tore through several hundred yards, so I knit down the stash too.  However since part of knitting down the stash required me to purchase more yarns to go with the stash yarns, I didn't get too far out front of that.  But all in all, a fine effort.

Only one tiny problem - a good problem to have.  Almost as fast as I have been making hats, I have been delivering them to stores and they are selling!  Of course that is the point - I can't sell them if I don't have them!  Nor do they sell piling up in a nice stack in the studio.  And as I backed off the spinning, I have very little hand spun yarn to knit my always popular guy hats - so I am still a wee bit behind.

Thanksgiving weekend was busy here at the world headquarters of Smoky Mountain Fibers.  In addition to manic hat knitting, I did a bit of dyeing and carding and spinning.  I also visited a couple of my favorite local yarn shops (one on Black Friday - Hey, 30% off and I bought some lovely silk-merino spinning fiber for a sweater for me!), spun at the Locally Grown Gallery and shipped a healthy number of orders for the Etsy shop (Thank you very much!).

I also painted my bedroom, including 2 coats on the dreaded popcorn ceiling.  I'll spare you pictures.  Although I am very happy with the results, photos of dingy off white with drywall mud over the cracks  and photos of fresh off white aren't really that exciting to anyone other than me.

Tonight is spinning night at Friends & Fiberworks.  I'll be spinning some over-dyed blue-green that looks like a really iridescent peacock. A colorway that will never be duplicated, I can assure you.  Hope the yarn is half as pretty as the roving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Singleton's Holiday Weekend

I admit that I am a single woman of a certain age. I like myself very much.  Yes, I wish I was taller and smarter, but in the great scheme of things, I am just fine.  This Thursday is Thanksgiving here in the USA.  Now Thanksgiving is pretty much my favorite holiday. The focus is on gratitude, food and family.  No excessive gift giving, though you can shop if you desire. Even the football really is optional.

But as my sweetie is out of town and my family lives far away, I treat this holiday as a deeply personal one.  I long ago realized that spending Thanksgiving alone is okay.  I have frequently accepted invitations to people's homes when I should not have.  I love my friends and their children, but I don't want to be tied into other family's traditions and time tables.  I want my day to myself.

So this year I decided early on that I would turn down invitations and be thankful on my own.  I will cook and eat a special meal - I even bought the smallest turkey breast I could find.  I will take a walk in the woods, enjoying being out in nature.  But I'll do it on my own terms.

My do list (in no particular order...
  • Play with fiber - wash, dye, card, spin, knit.
  • Paint the bedroom - taking advantage of this glorious opportunity of a long weekend.
  • Read good books
  • Watch a decent movie or two
  • Get some exercise every day
  • Call a contra dance at the Old Farmer's Ball
  • Clean and organize a wee bit around the house.
There's plenty more, but not for public consumption.

I know this is not everybody's idea of how to spend Thanksgiving.  There is no travel, no picking the perfect wine, no family drama, no major overeating, no getting up at 3 am to shop on Friday morning.  But somehow I'll manage to survive - and in a newly painted bedroom  Besides, I still have a few hats to knit in the 30 Hats in 30 Days self-imposed challenge. Still on target!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Something to Look Forward to in January: Winter Fiber Retreat in Asheville

Registration is now open for classes at the Winter Fiber Retreat in Asheville, NC.

Hosted by local yarn shop Friends and Fiberworks, this weekend of activities will take place on January 14-16, 2011.  A large variety of classes in knitting, spinning, weaving, felting, dyeing and lots more.  Great teachers - many of them teach at SAFF.  We spin each Wednesday evening at F&FW and the ideas were flowing freely the other evening.  Still being hatched: a sheep-to-shawl contests - my job is to make the rules!  Yikes!

Lisa has negotiated special hotel packages for people looking for a mid-winter get-away. Vendor space is still available too.  Here is the link:

I’m teaching a couple of knitting and dyeing classes and there are plenty more that I’d love to take!  I just don't know how they will fit in, though I hope I can. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Heathered Roving

I find that I love to dye and I love natural colors.  When they come together I get heather tones.  In my booth at SAFF, my heather colors sold first.  I also have good response to the oatmeal and sheep's grey roving.  This weekend I had fun dyeing oatmeal roving in the both warm and cool colors.

A few years ago I developed a line of colors that I call Andromeda Shades - colors based on the planets, and other heavenly bodies.  Two colorways are heatheres.  Mercury is blue and purple on a oatmeal base.  Uranus is orange and bronze, also on an oatmeal base.  Here they are drying on the line.

Heathered Pumpkin is just that: multidimensional orange on an off-white base.  People seem to like it for needle felted pumpkins.  It has a much more earthy feel - not even close to that international neon color that hunters wear in the field.

Oh, and hats?  Still on track.  Yesterday I knit #17.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Hats Challenge

The 30 Hats in 30 Days challenge continues unabated.  I'm having great fun in the design process - matching different yarns to make hats that look great and are fun to knit.  I'm discovering yarns in my stash and in a few different yarn shops in my local yarn shops.  I'm also spinning yarns that should work nicely in my hats.  In an earlier post, I showed off some yarns I was spinning.  Here are those yarns all knitted up.

This is the pretty, sparkly blue yarn in an all-garter stitch hat with a brim that you can turn up or not - your choice.  I added a darker blue stripe just because I had the yarn around and thought it would be pretty.  I'm wondering if both of these hats are a bit short.  I may adjust them longer - and I have the yarn.  Of course that means I have to pull out the crown and knit a few rows before I start the decreases, but I think I'll like them better.

The second hat is from the yarn I didn't like very much.  It was brown with a bit of yellow-y tan that I wished I hadn't carded in.  Guess what?  It's not bad at all knitted up.  Go figure!  Both hats are from the same recipe: all garter stitch. Just start knitting, decrease when it makes sense and don't stop until you are nearly out of yarn.

I'll continue knitting hats this weekend.  I'm still a bit ahead on my challenge, even though one day did not see a completed hat.  I spun instead.  I have a plan to go to the WNC Farmers Market this weekend and spin in front of my friend Sally's gallery shop, Locally Grown.  It gets me out of the house on quiet weekends and is good for both our businesses!

Also on the weekend's agenda - dying, delivering. working in the yard and attending a event to honor a local teacher.  Since I nominated her, I think I should go!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Fresh New Yarns

I've been carding some blends for spinning lately - partly becuase I enjoy it, and partly because I have a good bit of fiber that needs some prep before it's ready to spin.  Here's a very pretty blue - I added some black fibers and some angelina - that's fine shiny nylon that adds a subtle bit of sparkles to the yarn.  I'm worried about overdoing it, so sometimes it's very subtle.

It came out nice - just as I thought it would.  3.5 ounces (100 grams) and 109 yards - so about a bulky weight.  It's a lovely shade of blue - perfect for someone with blue eyes.

The next yarn was a pleasant surprise.  Now it was a less-than-fabulous dark brown roving to start with, but it had a number of grey fibers that I didn't like.  So I overdyed some in burgundy and some in olive and they looked good.  The brown dye on brown roving came out ...well...brown.  I thought it needed some jazzing up, so I blended it with some samples from various PhatFiber Sampler boxes.  

There were a couple of very pretty red-orange samples and some peachy-gold that looked like they would work.  It turned out that the peach blended nicely, but the gold looked a bit jarring.  I took the batts to spinning night last week and was not happy - maybe even a bit embarrassed by my rather sorry looking yarn as it grew on the bobbin, but my fellow spinners we quite encouraging.  I thought that maybe their Southern politeness was clouding their judgment, but I was there to spin, so I soldiered on.  I plied it a day or two later, happy to get it off by bobbins so I could move on to something that I liked better.  It turned out to be just fine - the lighted bits add a depth that sursprised me.  4.1 ounces (116 grams) and 85 yards - so a bit a bulkier.

Both yarns are destined to become hats.  Still ahead of schedule.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Really - It's not about me this time...

This Etsy treasury celebrates Appalachia and the items in it are wonderful representations of the mountains here in Western North Carolina and the whole mountain region.  The killer, handmade banjo is a great reminder of the old time music that I love - and love to dance to.  The apple butter shows one of the foodways that live on.  The pottery, quilts and baskets represent the handmade life that existed long before the craft mafia took over this here town.  Not that I am complaining, being a card carrying member of that gaggle of renegades.  Thanks fiftyleven,  for making me and my sheep's grey roving part of your thoughtful treasury.

The 30 hats in 30 days quest continues.  I'm a little tiny bit ahead.  Could be I'll take time for carding and spinning this weekend.  Of course, that's what got me into this hat deficit.  But if I'm going to use the yarn for hats, it's okay.  Right?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

2 Days 2 Hats

The Challenge is on: 30 Hats in 30 Days.  As today is November 3rd, I have the first 2 hats to show you.  Both are the same pattern. but are different in fiber and size.

November One is my Windy City pattern in purple worsted with a band of Plymouth Expressions.  I like this multicolored soft, textured yarn.  Although I am usually not a fan of unnatural fibers, this yarn is 55% wool and 45% acrylic and is quite soft.  The colors are very nice - expect to see a good bit of it in the coming month.

November Two is Windy City again, but sized larger and in different yarns.  This time it's made of Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride and Ironstone Sunset, a glittery mohair blend.  The color is a deep red and super pretty.  Because most of my hats are for sale, I try to make some larger and some a bit smaller.  After all, people have different size heads. 

The hat for November 3rd? Already on the needles.  Don't worry, this month will not be a parade of similar hats. I'm keeping a spreadsheet (what a geek!) for myself, so I'll only show off the ones I particularly like.  I admit, I do make a lot of Windy City Hats. They are quite flattering on a number of women. Plus, two of the shops that carry my hats also sell the patterns.  A few nice variations on display help sell hats as well as patterns.  If you like this pattern and want to make your own, visit my Etsy shop. It's a great way to use up  30 yards of a pretty yarn already in the stash.

By the way, this hat is looking for a new name.  I originally called in 'Windy City' because a friend who wore hers in Chicago says it really stays on.  But there is another Windy City hat on Ravelry so I need to change the name.  Any ideas?

Monday, November 1, 2010

New - Vember

Just coming off of 2 very busy,crazy months, I am happy to usher October out the door.  November is looking good.  Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday comes later this month, with it's mini-break.  It's the last full month of the semester, so for the academic side of my life it's a nice period of getting things tidied up.

One other thing that happened in November is the winter knitting season keeps pace roughly ahead of the  Christmas shopping season.  The shops that sell my work will sell a good many hats in the next 7 weeks.  Although I have several in the 'hat bank,'  I'd like to have a few more on hand.  How about 30 hats in 30 days?

Can I do it?  Should I do it?  I looked back at the last 2 previous years and found I sold about 50 hats in November and December.  With an increased presence in the 3 shops where I sell my work but also with a depressed economy, I should be able to match or beat that number.   And to sell the hats, I have to knit the hats.  Lately I have been spinning a lot -mostly because I find peace and joy in spinning.  I simply love to make yarn and so have been spinning daily - or almost.  I also need the yarn!  My marketing mix requires me to sell a hats in a combination of hand spun and commercial yarns.  And that means I need to make the yarn so I can knit it up.

Last week I traded both patterns and blogging services for yarn - the kind I can't make but love to make into hats that should sell quite nicely.  So I currently have a table of interesting yarns in the studio.  I'll keep track of  my progress here.  In all fairness, I have a couple of hats in progress, but finishing counts, so that unfinished hat that I just found the yarn to finish knitting the last couple inches - it's in!  Time to get knitting.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

SAFF Report

The Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair (aka SAFF) took place last weekend.  Ever throw a party for about 6,000 of your closest friends?  I have to say that I had a great time - in a number of ways.  The event was very well attended with only a few bumps in the road.  The weather was perfect; the animals were cute; the shows went off without a hitch.  Even with a smaller board of directors, our synergy worked very well. 

I shared a vendor booth with 2 other people.  I sold dyed and natural roving and washed fiber, my own hat patterns, sock yarn and felting needles.  I sold lots of other things too, but that was my bread and butter.  I also got good feedback on the dyed fiber and patterns.  I did okay - and my expectations were not terribly high.  I have never been a vendor at this large an event before.  My prices were in line with other vendors of my ilk.  I am not trying to compete with the fellow down the way who imports large quantities of fiber and close-out yarns.  I cannot compete with full service fiber shops - that's okay!  I had a small investment and for the most part I had a mix of product that people wanted at reasonable price points. I'm happy to report that even though I came home with some beautiful local alpaca-cormo roving, some killer mohair locks (both from my booth-mate) and a part for my spinning wheel, I did not go crazy with the other vendors.  While there I spun the yarn I really need to make - plain vanilla and well as a pretty dyed BFL!  I took home a lot of dyed roving, all of which will be used to stock my Etsy shop and the local yarn shops.

Next year I will do a couple of things differently. I need to write a couple of new patterns.  I think that my hats are so simple, but people kept asking for patterns for 'Skater Boy' and the 'Yet-to be-Named' hat that I have been knitting of late.  I also need to arrange my booth in a better way so that people can really see and touch the dyed fiber.  I used a very sweet pumpkin of my own design (is it possible?) to demonstrate needle felting and sell felting needles.  People wanted to buy the pumpkin and kits.  Next year - make kits.  Also I need to dye more heather roving. That sold first!  Who knew?  I was so focused on merino, that I really missed a good opportunity for needle felters and rug braiders.

SAFF has been a big deal - both in the planning and the booth prep during a very busy time at work.  As a board member, I have had a good bit of stress, though I just love the event.   I have some new things to share n the blog soon - People have made some very nice things from my fiber.  I'm happy to get back to real life

Friday, October 22, 2010

I'm tired, but it all looks good!

Yesterday was set up day at the Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair (SAFF).  No pictures yet, but my shared booth looks good.  My dyed fiber looks as good as anyone's (IMHO!).  I'm also sharing the front desk with the same person and our booth is adjacent to the front desk.  Once we got the booth set up, we put up the souveniers - lots of t shirts, a few dozen tote bags and coffee mugs.Because of my responsibilities, I didn't get all the way around the event, but everything is looking good.

The overnight task was to get all the ribbon sorted out for the various and sundry animal, fleece and skien & garment competitions and to finish tagging yarn and small items for my booth.

Now, time to get dressed and reload the car.  See you there!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My Trip to Washington

Twice a year, I go to Washington to meet with members of the consortium with whom I work.  I usually go up a day early - why not?  It's not like I can fly in on an early Monday morning plane and get in on time.   This time I visited a couple of cool museums - and not just the National Gallery of Art.  I did go the NGA - my favorite exhibition was a group of small German drawings.  Some were sketches for larger works, but many were just sweet and lovely works that stand on their own merit.  Portraits, landscapes, nature drawings - some simple others with a considerable narrative like this 1765 Canaletto.  Really nice.

Before I went, I heard about the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef - now on display in the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum.  It was wild and fanciful - exciting to look at and explore.  One young woman was pointing out pieces that she had made.  Really nice!  Read more about how this project brings together science, math, craft and community at  No pictures, as I want to respect their copyright statement. It's on tour - maybe it will be coming to your town.

My last visit was to Julia Child's Kitchen at the Museum of American History.  It was delightful - and now I know what color to paint my kitchen - a mellow blue-green.  It won't make me able to cook quite as well, but it was quite a lovely space and will fit nicely in the era of my home.

One of the best parts of travel is the time for knitting - in this case about 6 hats.  Getting ready for SAFF - Set up is TOMORROW!  Yikes!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Translating Yarn to Hats

A few days ago I blogged about some green yarn that I had dyed and spun.  Although I liked it in the yarn, I'm not sure I'm crazy about it knitted up. I like the seed stitch section, but not the stockinette area.  I think that the seeming randomness of the yarn did not translate well into areas that were essentially knit flat. 

Now the orange hat (actually Smoky Mountain Fibers 'Fire' colorway) looks good in what I call the 'Skater Boy' style.  Totally in garter stitch, the purl bumps that dominate the surface are quite happy to show off their random colors.  The stripy-ness of this kind of spinning can live in harmony with a textured surface.

I like both styles.  Depending on the yarn, they can look good on men or women.  They also look good in multi-colored bulky yarns - heavy worsted or chunky. 

Both theses hats are destined to one of my local gallery shops.  That way people can try them on and see what they are taking home.  Because online shopping can be fraught with disappointment, I like people to see these in person. 

Just one week until SAFF setup!  Tonight is the board meeting and I am looking forward to the festival.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Dyeing Red

The color for today is red - dyeing all shades of red - fiery red to mellow read to oranges and gold.
 Later, it was purple - pinky red and blue to make lavender.  Some with firestar; others with silk.  Some more pink; others heavier on blue.  All pretty!  Getting ready for SAFF.  Dye pots every day.

Friday, October 8, 2010

A n Etsy Treasury: Rovings to Yearn For

My natural creamy roving made it into an Etsy Treasury yesterday, Rovings I Yearn For.   And all were quite... yearnable?  yearny? yearnarific?  OK really pretty - and I wanted to spin every one of them.    I did spin the creamy white last evening. It's my go-to white yarn that I make to sell in the local yarn shop and gallery and is a prime ingredient in my handspun handknit hats. And I am out of that very yarn!  I delivered 5 fresh skeins to Asheville Home Crafts a week or so back and have barely been back to the wheel.

The music and dance world has kept me quite busy lately.  After teaching an English Country Dance workshop at Feet Retreat  in late September and attending the SE Dance Leadership Conference the following weekend, I knit a few hats, but did not get much spun. Now, I love dancing to traditional music - almost as much as playing with fiber (or is it the other way around?).  So it's a tricky balance to keep all the balls in the air, particularly during my busy season at work, which is right now too.  This weekend is a return to fiber.  I'll be spinning and dyeing and knitting, oh my!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Kind of Green

Actually very green - ranging from chartreuse to moss to a nice hunter green.  This is the yarn that I spun a couple of weeks ago at Moon Dance, a contradance weekend that I attended.  I hand dyed this Blue-Faced Leicester (BFL) roving and then spun it up into a slightly bulky yarn.  The fiber is very puffy and springy and I thought it might make a nice hat.

No complicated patterning intended - just a couple rows of garter stitch, then a couple inches of moss stitch, a couple more garter rows, then plain stockinette on the top.  Just the kind of simple knitting that should make the yarn stand out.  That is the plan in any case.  Sorry about the photo.  Just a quick lunch hour snapshot, proving that there is some fiber work being done around here! 

Another travel weekend - more work deadlines - not nearly enough down time.  Oh well.  I am happy to have good health and an energy level that means I thrive on having lots to do.  Gotta go!  Lots to do!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Do You Love Maps?

I do - and it appear my students do too.  Or at least they fake it well!  I've recently taught 2 undergraduate classes and 2 in-service teacher workshops based on historical maps.  I'm doing another one today to a self selected group of middle school teachers as one of the selections in a teacher workday.  Because maps work nicely across the curriculum, they are nicely flexible for teaching social studies, language arts, science, math, and plenty more.  I've got a couple of special ed teachers in my group today.  One teacher told me about an interesting learning disabled child who could become totally engaged with maps.

In the fiber world, I statrted processing a mohair fleece I purchased a month or so back and I'm very pleased with it.  I bought a faded red fleece (2nd clip kid) that is dyeing beautifully. The colors are deeper and more muted.  There are a number of black fibers in the fleece that are giving it a heathered look - quite lovely.

I spent last weekend at a contra dance weekend where I called a beginning English Country Dance workshop that went very well.  I also knit six hats for my local yarn shop and galleries.  I was hanging out with friends from the community where I lived several years ago - before I started spinning.  They were a bit surprised and fascinated how I had left my corporate life behind to become an academic (who, me?!) and fiber artist.  To be honest, I was quilting back then, but seldom in public - one of the reasons I switched to knitting. 

I'll be knitting in public this weekend too, at another dance-related event - this time I'll be a serious student of English Country Dance.  Perhaps I should knit something fancier?  Not likely, though I may just take the Mossy Cardi.  I finally looked closely at the pattern and where I am on the sweater.  Not too mind bending!

Friday, September 24, 2010


Maybe I'm weird.  OK, I am a little weird.  It makes me happy when the numbers on my odometer line up.  My 1996 Toyota pickup, Truckito has quite a few miles on her. 233,866 as of this morning.  I like the rhythm and the repetition.  So I made a wish this morning - that I have a great weekend. 

Am I the only person who makes wishes on the odometer readings? Don't you love seeing the little numbers line up?  Do you know that the moon is roughly 238,900 miles from the earth?  Perhaps I should throw a little party for Truckito when she makes it that far.

I know it's not world peace or the end of hunger, but it's only an odometer wish.  I am going to a contradance weekend near Winston-Salem where I used to live.  I'll be teaching a beginning English Country dance workshop, so asking for a great weekend means...
  • That the workshop goes well
  • No traffic problems on the way.
  • No knee blowouts or other dance related injuries
  • No relationship breakdowns or other undue emotional distress
  • I get in a nice hike
The weekend is in a beautiful setting, a 4-H camp in the foothills not far from Hanging Rock State Park.  The music should be wonderful with the Great Bear Trio and the Skytones.  Since I used to live there, I'll see lots of old friends.  I'm bringing knitting, but probably not my spinning wheel as there is more community space at this camp than at the last one. I'll be knitting hats, but I may bring the green cardi, even though it requires thinking.  Wish me luck!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Spinning Calm

It seems that when I am super busy, spinning is what I want to do the most.  It forces me to slow down.  When I am spinning my default yarn, I can totally zone out and spin without thinking.  The prepared natural creamy fiber just flows through my hands and onto the wheel, creating the yarn that I love to knit with and my local yarn shops want to sell.

When I spin something trickier - hand blended merino-angora lately - I have to think - to concentrate - to be present.  Again, it slows me down to just make the yarn I want to make right now.

I'm quite busy right now with the several deadlines at the day job.  SAFF is nearly here and I have work to do for that.  I also am responsible for a dance event that needs my attention. Did anyone notice that it is fiber season? Smoky Mountain Fibers doesn't run itself, though I wouldn't mind if it did.

I love all the things that I do.  I don't want to drop a single one.  I know how to say no and not take on more responsibility.  So I spin.  I went back to graduate school a few years ago.  The last summer I took 3 classes so I could finish.  I worked on school starting in the early morning; went to my regular job; stayed late to do school work.  When I came home about 20 minutes of spinning brought me back to myself.

This evening I'll be joining old friends and new to spin at the local yarn shop Friends and Fiberworks.  I brought hand dyed merino roving in saturated shades of purple, blue and dark teal.  I like that it happens on Wednesday too.  A nice break in a busy work week.

So tonight I'll spin yarn; but mostly I'll spin calm. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Bit of the Fair

Yes, there were sheep.  Yes, there were giant pumpkins. But for me, the main event was going with my friends Sally and Jeff and Sally's grandson Nate.  Nate just turned 2 and everything was wonderful - baby chicks and ducks, the big veggies, the petting zoo, a baby tiger  - all the cute stuff tiny people love.  Who knew he'd be captivated by the dioramas - those shoeboxes depicting farm scenes make by grade school kids around western NC.  But for all of us, it was the Carousel.  Let this be the official documentation of Nate's first ride on the merry-go-round.  Too sweet!

Official fiber content:  I did not enter hand spun yarn or knitted goodies, but I wish I had.  There were very few entries, and although some were very nice (and would have kicked my behind) I could have been a contender!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Not as Quiet as it Seems

The blog, Facebook and Etsy shop have been quiet this week, but I'm not asleep.  I've been knitting and spinning, and doing the behind the scenes work that keeps Smoky Mountain Fibers the fun business that it is.  It's not the kind of work that makes good blog posts.  I can't imagine that people want to here that I have been making up grab bags or tagging hats for the retail accounts.  But it all takes time and a wee bit of effort, particularly during a time that I'm on deadline for the day job.

The picture here are some of the hats that are in inventory and are going out to my newest account, Garrou Pottery in Black Mountain, NC.  In addition to selling their own beautiful pottery, their gallery has work by a number of local artists, including functional wood items, jewelry, and now my hand spun and hand knit hats.  These hats were knit while I was on my trip to Colorado.  I am also taking hats and fiber to my other shops this weekend.

My weekend plans include knitting a few hats (it's time to knit a hat a day!), going to the NC Mountain State Fair for the wool breeds sheep show and fleece show and leading an English Country Dance on Sunday. 

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Take Time for Color

The day job is keeping me busy, but I am finding time to dye a good bit; spin a little and knit a wee bit.  Fall has really kicked in with an increased workload.  My day job is developing and implementing professional development for teachers and all of a sudden my calendar is filling up.  The Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair (SAFF) is coming up,so that is keeping me busy too,  I'm not complaining,but it just seems that everything is happening at once. 

But one must take time to play, so for me that's spinning and knitting, contra dance and English Country dance and hiking.  These pictures are the Blue Faced Leicester (BFL) roving that I have been dyeing lately.  I've been dyeing lots of merino for the bast year or so, so it's fun to work with a new fiber.  It's not as fine as merino, but very springy and the roving has a lovey luster.  So far I've only spun up a sample, but I really like it's 'squishyness.'  I'm planning on spinning a bronze green hank of roving this weekend. 

I'll be attending Moon Dance, a contradance weekend in upstate South Carolina.  The music will be great, the company fine, but I am no longer the dance-aholic that I once was.  Last year my knee was in a brace (the 'too much fun' alarm had gone off earlier!) so I brought my wheel and spun to the music.  This year I hope to dance more, but need the fallback of my spinning and knitting to keep me busy and not feeling too out of it! 

By the way, I love my clothesline!  It was part of this year's home improvement plan.  The drying roving looks beautiful and dries fast, the towels are a wee bit scratchy, but the sheets smell great!

Friday, September 3, 2010

ATreasury of Blues - and a Sale!

As Labor Day is upon us, I am winding down my workweek with a lunch at my desk that looks like I am cleaning out the refrigerator.  Oh, I am.  The last of the baby carrots, a wee dollop of cottage cheese, a piece of leftover chicken and a clementine that may not as juicy as it once was.  But I always feel rather noble when I finish up bits and pieces and not let things go bad. 

As my regular readers know, I love ending up in Etsy Treasuries - this time, it's all about the color blue, including my Paintbox for Feltmakers, The Blues.  In yesterday's post I mentioned that my dyed fiber stock was nearly gone, so the dyeing frenzy came at about the right time.  I'll be making up these multi-packs over the weekend, so I'll soon know what else I need to dye.

In honor of Labor Day, I'm having a sale in my Etsy shop.  Take 20% off everything (excluding shipping) just by mentioning 'Labor Day' in your notes to the seller.  I'll refund your discount (as well as any shipping overage) to your PayPal account. 

Hope to get in a hike, but my plan is to spend the weekend pretty devoted to Smoky Mountain Fibers.  Dyeing, spinning, knitting, visiting my customers - getting the fall fiber season off to a good start!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

At the Dyepot

I've been at the dyepot a good bit lately. My dyed fiber that fills the grab bags in my Etsy store and in the local yarn shop, Asheville Home Crafts  and the Locally Grown gallery has some been depleted.  So for the past week or so, I've been dyeing around the spectrum.  Here is a partial result:

These are semi-solid colors, perfect for felt makers and spinners.  Blues and greens and purples and reds - in a number of shades and hues.  Last evening I made up the blue and green grab bags as well as a few of the totally mixed colors, The reds had to wait,as most of the red roving was still wet.  Seems that I need more greens (as is often the case) so I am dyeing again this morning, including another semi-solid and a bronze-green.  If I can keep up the pace over the weekend, I hope to get back to my more artistic shades soon.

Tonight is my fiber night - dinner with my women friends where we have dinner, talk about our lives and knit or crochet or sew a bit.  Since I have mostly been spinning and dyeing this week, I think I'll take my knitting and mix it up a bit. 

Monday, August 30, 2010

Can It Be?

Is it true?  Am I actually working out?  I just did 2 loops around campus with my colleague, and I'm still sweating.

After the trip to Colorado where I walked and hiked each day and last weekend's walkabout, this weekend my sweetie and I went on a bit of a hike in Craggy Gardens, north east of Asheville.  Even without the large elevation changes and western views, the Blue Ridge mountains are equally lovely.  With friends from out of town, we drove up the Blue Ridge Parkway to a lovely area.  Instead of hiking to the balds with the CCC-built picnic shelter and views both of Asheville and other peaks, we hiked the rocky, shady side of the mountain.    But still ample time to enjoy the subtle beauty of rocks and flowers in addition to the amazing views.

This has also been a time for dyeing.  I'm not sure how it happened but when filling a big roving order for the LYS, I realized that I am very low on dyed roving.  Very low.  So in the past few days, I dyed about 8 green shades; 6 blue shades and hit the reds hard starting this morning.  I think I need to dye morning and evening all week to be ready for the fall season.  Thankfully we will not be traveling on Labor Day weekend, but will be happily home to dye and spin and garden and workout!

I did a good bit of yard work too.  That's exercise, right?  I don't feel any thinner.  Perhaps it's too soon to tell.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Big Puffy Yarns!

My New Year's resolution for 2009 was to spin more intentionally.  My default yarn was kind of big and puffy - perfect for the hats that I make for the Asheville HomeCrafts shop.  The patterns that I wrote a few years back were geared to beginning knitters who wanted semi-instant gratification.  This was yarn that I could spin eithout thinking and the hats knit up quickly.

But back in ought-nine, I felt that my spinning needed to get better - that is to say, thinner.  So I have concentrated on spinning merino wools, wool-silk blends and other fine wools into fine yarns.  I can do that now without much difficulty.  I have trained myself to spin skinnier yarn,  Now granted, I am not spinning 3 ply sock yarn.  Nothing wrong with that.  I have friends who spin 3-ply sock yarn - lovely yarn for lovely socks.  But I find I don't like to spin superwash yarn and I don't like to hand wash socks.  I am happy to buy sock yarn,, thank you very much!  Besides, I like the stripey sock yarns.

But I have a need to some yarn for my hats - the big puffy yarns that I do not make very often anymore.  Tonight is spinning night at Friends and Fiberworks and I will intentionally spin big puffy yarns. Not rank amateur out-of-control blobby yarn - just nice puffy yarn the way I used to.  Creamy white, fluffy yarn of Falklands wool.  Pretty yarn.  My yarn!

Monday, August 23, 2010

School's In!

I seldom mention my day job on this blog, but I can't help commenting on the students back for the fall.  I am happy to see our good students - fun people, hard workers - dedicated to what they love.  The class of student teachers are a fine group, ready to make their way in the classroom.  The student athletes look refreshed (except the football players who have been here a couple of weeks already) and ready to see their pals.  I have promised my students that I'd make it to at least one football game this year.  Last year it seemed that all the home games conflicted with dance or fiber.  I'll try harder this year.

The Anything Fiber Yard Sale was lots of fun on Saturday.  I sold lots of yarn (at bargain prices), a few books and a little bit of fiber and fabric.  Nobody got rich, but it was a good relocation of stash!  I bought a few dyes and a mohair fleece and I traded a couple of books. I also made contacts with local spinners and weavers, never a bad thing.  It poured rain most of the day and even though it was inside, that probably kept people away.  I will probably do it again next year and will be smarter about what I bring.

I did get a wee bit of dyeing done. This is African Sun, the full size version of my August Phat Fiber Sampler box contribution.   Since I will be a vendor at SAFF, I need to get yarn and fiber dyed up and ready to sell.  And as October looks slammed a month before it starts, I'll be dyeing almost daily until then.  Watch for the woman with the purple fingers - - Oh, that's all of us!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Western Jaunt

I did not fall off the earth, though I was in something of an internet brown out.  I just returned from a business trip to Denver with an additional hiking extension.  Of course I knit through it all (except the business meeting!) coming back with 7 hats and a sock and a quarter.  Disregarding my theory that socks are the supreme travel knitting, I took a good bit of hand spun and commercial yarns and knit a number of hats for warm heads all over western North Carolina while I was riding in the car through the Rockies as well as in the airports & airplanes.

While in Denver we visited friends and walked over to the Denver Botanic Gardens.  They are having a year-long Henry Moore exhibit with big honking bronze sculptures all over the park.  Late summer in Denver is beautiful and the Moores were nicely set among the plants and ponds and lawns.  The deal is that you can see the work around the year, in every season.  If I lived there, I would.

The trip was partly work for me, but my sweetie went with me.  I had not been to the Rockies in a long time.  We walked and walked and walked in the Rocky Mountain National Park.  We saw big mountains and pretty lakes, darling chipmunks and cool birds.  The mountains were really big and it was windy above the tree line.  But the coolest thing was a little evening stroll  - really, just a leg stretcher - I didn't want to get caught out after dark.  As we crossed the Big Thompson River near the Cub Lake trailhead, we came upon a head of about 50 elk.  Just hanging out, browsing, traveling fairly slowly.  Rather unafraid of the humans - they were about 10 tards from us.  The big guy had about a 5' antler spread - amazing.  This is not our picture, it's from the NPS, but this would be the picture that we took.

Back in Denver, we visited the Denver Art Museum, another fine museum - well funded and nicely curated.  My favorite piece was this delightful group of foxes.  There are almost as many foxes invading the restaurant as there were elk.   Lots of other fine art too - an amazing pre-Columbian collection, as well as western works (cowboys, Indians, buffalo, etc) that you would expect.

Everything about the trip was good.  It makes me want to start hiking again here - the Blue Ridge Mountains are smaller and less dramatic, but no less beautiful.  Being in nature is good for my soul, even if it means walking through the urban forest to the Asheville Botanical Gardens just about a mile from my home.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Another Treasury!

 My Saturn Roving was featured in another Etsy Treasury.  All about the yellows and golds of fall, this red-gold roving fits nicely with the other handmade and vintage items in this treasury.  I've been on a gold binge lately.  Take yesterday's African Sun Phat fiber roving - I dyed a couple more batches yesterday and this morning to ensure that I'll have full size rovings in my shop when the Phat Fiber box gets into the hands of the purchasers.

I've also been playing with my 'Rose Gold' colorway.  One batch was very pretty, it's 'twin' - not so much.  It went into the drum carder with more pink and some sparkly firestar to become a much prettier yarn that anyone would have thought based on the roving.  This it one of the reasons I like to dye and to spin - the transformative process sometimes tales my breath away!

I picked up a new hat customer yesterday in Black Mountain, NC.  Time to get knitting!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

August Phat Fiber Contribution

After sitting out a month or two, I am contributing to the August Phat Fiber Sampler Box.  Along with lots and lots of fiber artists, farmers, & designers, I am part of a collaborative effort to provide buyers with sample sizes of indie dyed sock-yarn, hand spun yarns, amazing carded bats and hand-dyed roving for spinners and felt makers along with lovely patterns.

This month's theme is Africa.  My immediate thoughts were of the hot African sun and the jungle - so that is what I dyed.  Here is the roving in the dye pots:

 Here is the roving in the made-up samples:.  The African Sun is Merino wool - soft and sweet and wet-felts super fast.

 The Jungle colorway is Falklands wool - a little bit coarser but easier to spin and great for needle felting.

I love them!  This week and next, I'll be dyeing full size rovings in the same colorways for sale in my Etsy shop.  I've been playing with the packaging.  I think I like the banding idea, but the labels are too small.  I'll do better next time! 

Monday, August 9, 2010

Etsy Treasury: Lake Marie

My watery Blue-Green dyework was recently part of an Etsy Treasury, Lake Marie.  Based on the John Prine song of the same name, all the items in this collection reflect the story that Prine tells in the song.  This roving, Neptune is one of a series of my 'Andromeda Shades.'  How can I approach the heavenly bodies through the dyeing of fiber, then the spinning of yarn.  The yarn that I spin from this roving gets 'tamed down' a bit and is less vibrant.  The colors are still there, but a bit more subtle.  I occasionally run this roving through the drum carder to make it even more blended

What else is cooking at the world headquarters of Smoky Mountain Fibers?
  • SAFF board meeting
  • Planning and packing for the Anything Fiber Yard Sale.  Mark your calender for Saturday, August 21st; Black Mountain, NC.  I have a table.
  • Next week's trip to Colorado! What to knit?
  • Meeting with a new gallery who wants to carry my hats - so I'm getting some samples together.
  • Knit some hats!  I thought I was ahead on inventory.  Turns out, not so much!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Little Bunny FooFoo

A few years ago I had an English Angora rabbit.  A red-eyed white, he was a rescue bunny who never quite got over his trauma.  He wasn't happy outside his cage, although eventually he did become relaxed and content while I groomed him, talking and singing as I brushed, plucked and clipped him.  He was around for about 3 years before he died of a kind of bunny stroke.  He was an excellent helper in the garden as he produced copious amounts of fertilizer. 

He grew lovely fiber too.  I even won an award for a hat that I spun and knitted from his lovely fuzzy wool.  However, I have not been tempted to get  a new bunny.  His cage and accessories went quickly to another friend who had bunny fever and continues to raise and breed them for fiber.

Another friend got a gray German Angora bunny at last year's SAFF.  Really, I tried to talk her out of it.  They are not cats with long ears and cool fiber. But Mrs. Simpson became part of her life and she likes her a lot.  Now my friend is an excellent knitter but a new spinner.  We have had a number of conversations about spinning, though I have never seen her spin.  But the conversations that we have had regarding angora spinning made me realize that spinning angora was beyond her skill level. 

Angora is hard!  I seldom spin it alone but usually blend it with a soft wool.  I always sandwiched it between layers of merino and sent it through the drum carder several times.

So that is what I have been doing with this lovely gray angora.  About 5 passes through the drum carder with white merino wool gave me this very pretty batt.  I did not pull out all the short pieces, so it is likely to be a wee bit bumpy.  But it did spin very nicely to a heavy worsted weight 2 ply yarn. I carded another batch with some darker gray wool roving and it it coming out very nicely as well. 

This time I am much fussier about the angora that I am carding.  The brown yarn in the photo is a purchased roving of chestnut angora and pale brown rambouillet wool.  Reasonably nice spinning and already carded for my convenience!

I passed both yarns on to Mrs. Simpson's bunny-mama and she was quite happy!  So much so that she asked if I would spin her angora forever in exchange for all the foo-fur I want.  I suggested she learn to card her own.  Not to be ungenerous, but wouldn't she rather take control of the whole process?  Of course!