Archive for the 'yarn' Category

Pompom Creatures

Making pompoms can be a project unto itself. Wrapping yarn around your hand over and over again, then tying it in the middle and snipping the loops can provide an hour of simple entertainment for young children. Considering how easy it is to come by inexpensive yarn, this is cheap fun. Raid Aunt Sarah’s closet, ask the lady in the next cubicle who’s always knitting through meetings for her project leftovers, pillage the sale bin at your local yarn store or sign up for the 40% coupon offered by the suburban craft superstore.


A bowl full of buttons and some cotton yarn took this little pompom project to another level. For my class sample, I glued ears cut from scrap bits of felt and then glued a small piece of yarn into the shape of a mouth. My pompoms are dense little nuggets after a whole lot of snipping and trimming. If you like the loose and floppy look, don’t trim so much.


The students in this class range from 5-7 years old. For most students, this project required the assistance of an older sibling (we have several who come in to help on a regular basis) or an adult. Tying the yarn around the middle of the pompom is almost impossible to do on your own hand, though it would be manageable if you had a nifty plastic pompom maker


We braided a tail and tied it to the “belt” around the middle of one pompom. This same belt was used to tie to the two pompoms to each other. Button eyes were sewn through the middle of the smaller pompom. Someone (who shall not be named) sewed eyes to the bigger pompom, but failed to convince her student that this was a creature that could see through its bottom, or a creature that walked upside down. The eyes were moved to the correct position and all was well in the world.


Some students love sewing buttons, but others are reduced to a puddle of frustrated tears at the mention of the idea. A hot glue gun would make short work of the creature assembly, but since this is a hand sewing class, I left my hot glue at home and helped the students thread their needles. They were giddy with excitement over the adorable creatures they had made. One student opted to make a cat toy by tying a long piece of yarn to his pompom and pulling it around the classroom, happily sweeping up the yarn confetti as he went. Whatever floats your boat, as they say.

Handspun Squiggle Scarf

Hi this is Sophie, I wanted to blog for my mom today. Here is how to make a wet felted scarf with yarn laid in it:


We started with handpainted merino roving and handspun yarn that I spun with my mom.


First you draft some roving. Drafting is when you pull gently on the roving. Lay down a thin, uneven batt. Our batt was 72″x10″.


Now lay down some loosely spun yarn.


Now lay down another layer of roving over the yarn. Then lay down a nylon screen.


Squirt hot water on your batt .


Put melted olive oil soap on your hands. Rub the batt under the screen until wet and soapy all over, take off the screen .


Then roll the batt up in bubble wrap, then roll it up in a towel and roll some more .


Then unroll it, and check on it .


Now that it is completely felted, full it as shown above. Lay down a towel before fulling.  Fulling is when you throw your piece down from a high distance to finish the shrinkage . Our final piece was 47″x 7″.


Rinse out the soap and hang to dry.


Spinner’s Delight

A few weeks ago, I decided I really wanted to learn how to spin, just small bits, but enough to use as a tassel or fringe on a felted piece. I bought a simple drop spindle and packed it with some roving when I left for Madrona. On Friday night, after everyone else went to bed, I pulled out my spindle and looked around the lobby for an unsuspecting spinner to get me started.


Once I got started, I literally couldn’t put the spindle down. The first night I spun a very smooth 4 oz of merino into a chunky, slubby single ply. Saturday afternoon, I walked into the marketplace looking for some help plying my yarn. Ruth of the Dizzy Ewe was already giving Marisa some spinning and plying advice, so I listened in and then stepped forward with my spindle.

Later that night, after enjoying dinner with fiber friends, we retreated to the lobby again. I spent an hour fiddling with my yarn, trying to even out the thick and thin bits before plying.


One of the coolest things about the Madrona Fiber Arts Retreat is the bevy of experts sitting around, cheerfully offering (sometimes unsolicited) advice. There was a trio of women sitting in the same part of the lobby as our group. I’m not sure who was louder, but we were all clearly having a great time. After watching me wrestle with my yarn for an hour, Trish of Tanglewood Fiber Creations, stood up and said something to the effect of ‘you are doing this all wrong and it is killing me to watch you’. She took the spindle out of my hand and immediately started to correct my technique. Before long, she and her cohort (Sarah from Great Balls of Fiber and Bonnie from Tea Time Garden) had set me straight; they gave me some great tips and plied two lovely hanks of yarn (that was my goal all along).


When I returned home, my spinning obsession continued. I spun all week, and then took spinning with me to Wintergrass, the bluegrass festival held at the same hotel the weekend after Madrona. By the end of that weekend, I had six bundles waiting to be plied, washed and wound. Lance built me a spiffy niddy noddy for winding the yarn into hanks after it was plied. Pardon the colors on these six pictures; I was using an old digital camera that has great depth of field but lousy color values. Each yarn is brighter than it looks, though I wasn’t able to color correct accurately. Counterclockwise from the top left:

  • the original bulky merino that I started at Madrona which is actually candy pink, royal blue and grass green;
  • a fuzzy wool blend sent by one of my roving sources as a freebie – it didn’t speak to me when I was felting, but I loved spinning it as the colors suddenly made sense – blue and yellow, orange and purple.
  • a short bit of handpainted merino roving with patches of very soft grey-ish blue, my spinning became a lot more even by the time I made it to this bit of roving
  • another short bit of handpainted merino roving with patches of light red and the same grey-blue; I love the barbershop striping of this yarn
  • a combination of Sophie-spun and mama-spun handpainted aquamarine roving
  • the same roving spun entirely by me

You can imagine that when I came home from Madrona raving about the cool things I learned, Sophie started to hop up and down, wanting to get her hands on the spindle. She spun several ounces of thick, slubby single ply, which I finished off with a more uniform batch; when I plied it, the result was an interesting mix that looked a lot like my first batch. Now that I’ve spun with four very different rovings, I’m amazed at how easy the handpainted merino is compared to the solid carded merino I tried for my first spinning.

This is the same roving I used for the last two hanks in the mosaic above, but photographed with my normal camera. ahh. I love those colors. I bought 8 oz of this color from Dancing Leaf Farm. It makes such lovely yarn, I plan to spin it all.

One of the women watching me struggle to fit my super-bulky yarn onto my small top-whorl spindle suggested I should buy a Turkish spindle with a bottom-whorl. Besides being able to hold more yarn than a top-whorl, the pieces of the spindle can be pulled apart, leaving you with a center pull ball, ready for plying. After cruising around the marketplace with my guide, Francine, I fell in love with an Australian myrtle spindle from Crown Mountain Farms.

Now that I can spin a more even yarn, and I’m at home with easy access to my ball winder, I’ve found it is easier to use the top whorl spindle because of the little hook. I can get greater spin on it using the thigh spin (copying Sarah’s technique), and it is easier to wind on the bits I’ve spun without undoing the half-hitch each time. There is no denying that this bottom whorl is prettier than my first spindle, so I would like to learn to use it better. I guess it is time to start frequenting the spinner’s group at the Fiber Gallery too.

Fiber Debauchery

Two weeks ago, I attended a fantastic retreat with my 563 closest fiber friends at an über-mod hotel in Tacoma. This is the third year for several delegates from the Fiber Gallery in the Greenwood neighborhood of Seattle. We met artists, writers, teachers and designers; celebrated a couple of birthdays; learned to spin, ply and weave; shopped, laughed, sympathized and commiserated, indulged and spent wonderful time in each other’s company.


Open a hotel to a large group of women with fiber and watch the havoc ensue. As the hotel was undergoing extensive renovations, we rubbed elbows at the bar with several contractors unwinding at the end of their shift. Clearly making a play, one of the electricians leaned over to Loren, asking ‘what the most exciting new product was at this convention’. He tried vaguely to say he remembers his grandmother doing something with needles and tiny thread making little knots, confusing tatting with the knitting most people were carrying.

For me, the most exciting thing in the marketplace was all the fiber. Walking into that space, my eyes saw everything in a new light. I was a knitter last year, so my interest lay only in the yarn. This year, my eyes were drunk with all the different fibers on display. Since most of my roving has been bought online, it was a feast to see and touch the many color and fiber blends.


I indulged in several expensive blends to expand my catalog of fibers and effects. The shimmering bundle of softness on the left is a 60/40 blend of merino and bamboo from Blue Moon Fiber Arts the saturated colors on the right are merino/tencel blend from Chameleon Colorworks. One of the women who bought merino roving from the Chameleon folks had already spun several ounces last week; she brought it to our knitting group still wet just to share the beautiful color with us.

As I walked around the marketplace, getting a lay of the land, there was one booth that attracted my eye over and over, though I didn’t stop to look at anything carefully until a friend started to fondle their sock yarn. As my vision narrowed to take a closer look, I realized it was the overall palette that appealed to me. Their products had a tone, much like a piece of music, that was both engaging and harmonious.

A moment later, one of the business partners spoke up: she knew me from something. We paused for a minute, searching our collective memory and then suddenly realized our faces were familiar because we read each other’s blogs: it was Maia of Maia Spins, now also partner in Tactile Fiber Arts.


The dynamic team of Missy B and Maia use natural dyes for their fiber and yarn – read more at their store blog. Between Madrona and Stitches West, these two women have been very busy, so check out their blog for more pictures of fiber (the store should be open March 3rd, but we know how these things go). The golden fiber is a 50/50 merino/tencel blend; the plum fiber is a 50/50 merino/soy silk blend; the green fiber is blue faced leicester which felts very well and is more economical than merino.


I couldn’t wait to try some of my new roving. The word around Madrona was that plant fibers add shimmer to the roving, but don’t impede its ability to felt. As soon as I returned home, I ripped the wrapper off the merino/soy silk to take it for a test run. True to legend, this scarf is soft, supple and slightly shiny. It was a little more difficult to lay out the batt because the fibers wanted to cling to my fingers instead of staying on the workbench; there are some thin spots as a result, but I will know for the next time I need to put down a little extra fiber. Ultimately, that means this scarf is not for sale, but something for my personal collection. I love it when things work out that way.

Flickr Photos