Monday, November 24, 2008

Holiday Schedule

First off, I wanted to announce my next craft show:

It's going to be a small, fun show, the last one I'm planning on doing for a few months! I won't be listing very much in my etsy shop until the show is over. Right after the show, I'm going to be leaving to visit family in WI for about a month. I'll be taking my yarns & a bunch of fiber with me, so I'll still have my shop open. Since I only have a Ashford Traditional with smallish bobbins up there, I'm planning on spinning up TONS of singles for patchwork yarns, and then when I get back to my Lendrum I'll ply them all. So sometime in early to mid-january, I plan on unleashing a barrage of patchwork yarns (both wooly and vegan) into my etsy shop. And I'm making an effort to come up with new colorways! I've been getting lots and lots of custom patchwork requests, but I don't have the time to spin them all before my show, so right now what I'm telling people is that if you have a specific patchwork colorway in mind, you can let me know and if I end up working it into my spinning schedule, I'll convo or email you to give you first dibs on the yarn before I list it. That's the best I can do for now - my custom patchwork yarn listing won't be going back up in the shop until mid-January at the earliest.

I'm really looking forward to seeing friends & family & spinning somewhere other than my tiny apartment, but I have a mountain of work to do before that happens, so I'm off to multitask like crazy in the hopes of getting lots done today!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Best cake ever!

It's been a while, eh, folks? This past weekend was Lucius' birthday, so I baked him a nice homemade cake. A few days beforehand, I asked him what kind of cake he wanted:

L: A pumpkin cake.
Me: What's that?
L: I dunno.

Haha, so I googled it, and of course such a thing does exist! And I just roasted, mashed, and froze a bunch of locally grown pumpkin a few weekends ago, so this was a good excuse to cook with some of it. I cobbled together a recipe and it actually turned out to be the best cake I've ever had, so I thought I'd share it with you all. Now, I avoid refined sugar like the plague, so this might not be what most people think of when they think of 'cake', but I found it to be plenty sweet. And also the measurements are approximate because I'm not very strict about measuring and I tend to just wing it ;)


NOTE: this made TWO 9" round cakes.

3 organic eggs
1 stick organic butter
2 c pumpkin puree
dash of vanilla extract
2 1/2 c whole wheat flour
1/4 c molasses
chunk of evaporated cane juice, dissolved in a small amount of water (you can substitute honey or sugar to taste)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp each cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice
1/4 tsp sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix butter, eggs, pumpkin, vanilla, molasses, and cane juice or sugar. In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking soda, spices, and salt, then mix into wet ingredients. Pour into 9" round cake pans and bake for one hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

-organic cream cheese (you'll probably need at least 1 package per cake, so get 2 if you're making the full recipe) or homemade yogurt cheese

Blend cream cheese with honey to taste, chill and then ice cake. I like to use yogurt cheese - to make it, take a quart of organic yogurt and place in a muslin-lined strainer inside another pot and let drain for about 8 hours or until the yogurt is about the consistency of cream cheese. You can save the whey that drains off and use it for cooking (Nourishing Traditions, the cookbook I use the most, calls for whey a lot for soaking beans and lacto-fermenting vegetables).

Mmm. This cake came out perfect, moist and springy, and the cream cheese honey icing was the perfect compliment to the pumpkin.

On the fiber front: I'm spinning my way slowly but surely through custom orders, and will be listing yarns very soon! Most likely there will be a shop update early next week. I'm going to spin spin spin all this month because I'm taking a much-needed month vacation to visit family in December.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Handspun scarves = love

So, I haven't done any 'customer appreciation' type posts in a long while, but I was inspired to do one by the lovely handspun scarves made from my yarns by Molly and Amber, two of my favorite crafters. Here are the yarns and what these two lovely ladies made from them - you can click on any of the scarf pictures to be taken to its etsy listing.

These yarns:

Became this scarf, crocheted by Amber:

(The leafies!! How I love them...)

This yarn:

Became this scarf, knit by Molly:

These yarns:

Became part of this scarf, crocheted by Amber:

This yarn:

Became this scarf, knit by Molly:

(I love the colors & textures in this one! It's got organic cotton, bamboo, tencel, carbonized bamboo/"black diamond", and sparkle)

This yarn:

Became part of this scarf, crocheted by Amber:

This yarn:

Became this scarf, knit by Molly:

I love the drapey elegance of Molly's scarves, and the thick snugglyness + awesome yarn-combining in Amber's scarves. I especially like the handspun tussah silk in the last scarf of hers (spun by snowberrylime. There's also some knittydirtygirl yarn in that one.

These two have me craving some handspun scarves! I have a feeling there'll be some scarf-making in my near future. Make sure to check out both of their etsy shops for tons more amazing handspun & handknit goodies (Molly) and gorgeous felted headbands (Amber).

A quick photo credit - the pictures of Molly's scarves were done by Dorean Photography.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Crafty Bastards fall '08

I did it! Whew, it feels so good to have all that stress and crazy craftin' over with. I managed to spin more yarn than I brought last time, and I think I improved my booth. I sold more too ;) I brought home about 4 skeins, 4 batts, and a few knits. I didn't get as many pictures as I hoped, since I was so busy at the fair...I really wanted to take picture of my corespun kid mohair yarns, but I didn't manage to get any and they all sold. I hung up a sort of "yarn curtain" of corespun skeins along one side of my booth, which I thought showed the yarns off nicely - plus it attracted more people, since they stopped to pet the enticingly fuzzy yarns. Here are the few pictures I managed to snap of my wares:

crafty bastards fall 08

crafty bastards fall 08

crafty bastards fall 08

crafty bastards fall 08

I also had pick-your-own felty baubles again, and I have a lot left over, which makes me happy! So I'll probably be spinning up some bauble-y yarns in the near future.

Some of the yarns that didn't sell surprised me, cause I thought they were good ones! I just finished listing them in my etsy shop, so you can see more pics there. It feels good to have more than one thing listed on etsy again!


I also came home with a few other goodies - handdyed falkland wool sock yarn from Woolarina for teaching Lucius how to knit socks, and about 6 bars of soap. I picked out the sock yarn, Lucius is the one who went crazy with the soap. It's all really nice stuff, from Oliba and Biggs & Featherbelle. The only thing I'm sad about is that I missed checking out the awesome wooly hats at Rocks & Salt. I really wanted to get myself a hat from them, but the one time I managed to get away from my booth for a moment, their booth was completely full and I didn't have time to wait.

I'm back to spinning for etsy now, so I should be updating regularly again! Hurray! Did you miss me? I missed you.

EDIT: I can't believe I almost forgot! There was a huge B-boy battle at Crafty Bastards, right by my booth. Lucius sat and watched it for 2 hours! The guy in the rainbow shirt in the link above was his favorite.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Crafty Bastards preview

Ack! CB is two days away! I'm almost at my "WHATEVER" stage of craft show preparations, where I throw my hands up in the air, polish off what I have finished, and stop my panicked crafting. Almost.

I've got self-striping yarns, patchwork yarns, vegan yarns, and novelty yarns. And even a few knits! I spun up a bunch of deliciously luxurious corespun yarns (pictures cannot even begin to convey their fuzzy-soft allure), including three from the batts in one of my previous posts:

corespun yarns

Remember those purple kid mohair locks? Ohhh, so soft and gorgeous. I want to keep all these yarns and cuddle with them like teddy bears. They're super super bulky, about 70-90 yds per 4 or 5 oz, so these will knit up into awesome instant gratification scarves! And each skein should be enough for a scarf - you can probably use like size 30 needles, cuz not only are they really really bulky but they should develop a nice fuzzy halo with wear.

dark crystal handspun

A bunch of the corespun yarns were spun from local mohair, fresh off the goat. I made a trip out to a small local goat farm two weekends ago and picked up 5lbs of soft goatie curls that were fresh off the goats. I washed, dyed, fluffed, carded, and spun them, and I'm hoping they sell well so I can make another trip out to see the goats!

mohair locks

I've been chucking all my finished yarns into a big plastic bin as they dry. Here's what I've got as of this morning:

crafty bastards yarns

Although I still have a bunch more that are either drying or waiting to be set. Whew. I have been crafting my butt off the past few weeks! Including making my own handmade wool felt and cutting it up into soft organic leafies to be spun into yarns:

new leafies

I'm excited that I finally tried making flat sheets of felt, because it didn't take as much time or effort as I thought - so now I can make lots of fun felty embellishments for my yarns! I have some really thick felt leaves that are too heavy to be spun into yarns, so I may have some felt leaf pendants for sale at the show.

I'm excited for this sunday! Makes sure to come say hi if you're in the area - it might be rainy, so bring an umbrella. I'll be in booth #26.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Vegan Yarn Club - the making of

I thought my vegan yarn club peeps might like to see a bit of the "behind-the-scenes" of me making their yarns, so last month I took pictures of the yarns in-progress. I think it's safe to post them now, since everyone received their yarns. I chose a theme of bright, multicolored gypsy-inspired yarns for August's yarn club, and this was the first month that everyone's yarns all came from the same dyelot (before this, I dyed up custom colorways for each person). I started out by sitting down and making up a list of 14 different colors that I wanted to include, and then I dyed up a storm...this is about 2.5 lbs of organic cotton, plus another 8oz or so of loose bamboo:

august vegan yarn club

august vegan yarn club

(you can click on any of the pictures in this post to see a larger, more detailed version on flickr)

I separated the fiber out into piles for each individual yarn. I spun two different types of yarns, according to each person's preference - organic cotton patchwork 2-ply and organic cotton/bamboo chunky thick-and-thin thread-plied novelty yarn. So for the patchwork yarns, I had to prep the organic cotton roving into a more easily spinnable form, and for the thread-plied yarns I carded up batts of organic cotton and bamboo. Organic cotton takes forever to prep or card, so this was the most tedious part of making the yarns.

august vegan yarn club

Once all the prepping was done with, I starting spinning! And spinning, and spinning... Each skein was a hefty 5-6oz, so for the patchwork yarns that meant spinning 400 yds of singles (and then plying them together for a total of 600 yds of spinning, but only 200 yds of finished yarn). The thread-plied yarns spun up faster, since I only had to spin one ply and they were pretty chunky. My regular bobbins were packed full of fiber. This was the second most tiring part - and I got pretty sick of spinning the same colors over and over.

august vegan yarn club

Luckily, I have a short memory, and so by the time it came to ply the yarns I was back to liking the way the colors were turning out. I'm especially proud of the dark teal color, which was a new invention for me! I mix all my own colors, so every once in a while I discover a "new" one. It's impossible to see the teal in the yarn pictures (I think the color is a bit off, since I took them late in the day), but if you look at the first picture of the organic cotton fiber you can see it tangled in with the pinks.

august vegan yarn club

Once the yarns were plied, next came the boiling. Yes, boiling. It's my preferred method for setting the twist on my cotton yarns. I put a big pot of water on to boil, and when it's hot enough I plunk the skeins in, turn the heat down to a simmer, and leave it for a few minutes. I like watching the yarns plump up and relax into their new shape while they bathe. I didn't take pictures of this part since I usually do it late at night. After their hot bath, the skeins get hung up to dry, which can take quite a while for cotton, depending on the weather. If it's sunny, I stick the skeins in a window where they will be completely dry in 1-2 days, but if it's damp, cold, or rainy, they can take several days to dry all the way.

When the skeins are dry, I weigh them and write out the labels and make them look pretty before packing them up. Here are a few of the finished skeins from August:

august vegan yarn club

Some of the lovely patchwork skeins.

august vegan yarn club

One of the thread-plied yarns - this one was plied with a nylon novelty thread that was black with bits of red, yellow, and blue popping out. Most of the other thread-plied skeins were plied with metallic threads.

I'm working on September's yarns right now, in the midst of my craft show spinning - this is the last month of my vegan yarn club! It's been fun, but I'm also relieved that it's over. I will probably do another club in the future, but when I have more time & less craft shows!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Carding day

I'm so super busy with fiber right now. A new 22lb bale of organic wool just arrived, and so I've been dyeing that up into new patchwork & self-striping yarns. I just finished up all the vegan yarn club yarns and custom orders I've been backlogged on, and now I'm spinning away for the fall Crafty Bastards show. Today I prepared for a corespinning marathon - I carded up a bunch of super airy, lofty, mohair-y batts:

mohair batts

That I'm planning on spinning up into a bunch of lovely corespun yarns like this one:

seafoam handspun

I love mohair, but it usually spins up too rough if I just spin it into a single or 2-ply yarn, and it doesn't really agree with thread-plying (unless you want a crazy slippery loopy yarn). Corespinning is perfect - you get a super soft yarn with a gorgeous halo. I've been carding shiny bamboo, soysilk, tencel nepps, and sparkle into the batts for textural interest.

Most of the mohair I'm working with is kid mohair locks (heaven!!) that I bought from a small farm. I'm using up the last of them now, so I need to order more! This is some naturally colored pale grey kid mohair that I overdyed in shades of purple, a color I don't work with often. The natural grey looks really good overdyed! I carded it up along with some bamboo & sparkle. I just watched the movie "The Dark Crystal" the other night, so this yarn is sorta inspired by that.

mohair locks

I give the locks a good floofing before running them through the carder - this ensures that they'll open up enough to corespin well, but still preserves some of the texture & curl. I alternate layers of locks with bamboo and sparkle and nepps.

mohair fluff

The batt starting to build up on the drum - yum!

drum carding

Back to work now!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Natural dye adventures plus milkweed fluff

My natural dyeing experiment with the fleabane flowers that I collected on my hike was a success! They dyed a nice yellow color on wool & mohair:


And I ended up pulling out my entire mini-stash of naturally dyed fibers that I've saved up over the past few months:

naturally dyed

naturally dyed

naturally dyed

And combined them into a few new yarns!

huntress handspun

masala handspun

I still have enough fiber for one more skein. Now I have plans to (attempt) to dye/spin a whole section of natural plant-dyed yarns and fibers for the fall Crafty Bastards show. I'm really picky about my natural dyes, which is why I've never offered naturally dyed stuff for sale before - all my dyes are either harvested by me (and I always plan my harvests around the plant's fertility, so that I never interrupt the breeding cycle, plus I never take more than the local population of that plant can recover from) or purchased from sustainable, ethical sources. A lot of dye plants are endangered in certain areas, so I find it very important to make sure I'm not wrecking native ecosystems. I also never use toxic mordants. I prefer to use natural plant mordants that I can collect myself or natural dyes that don't need mordants, but I do occasionally use alum. There are three different types of alum, some more toxic than others, but I usually use the alum that is used in food - you can read more here. I always save and re-use the water from mordanting fibers in alum, so it never gets dumped down the drain.

I also used some milkweed seed fluff in one of the above yarns, and I thought I'd give a quick mini-tutorial for anyone interested in collecting some. Milkweed grows pretty much everywhere on the east coast and the midwest - I'm not so sure about the rest of the country. Oh, and also someone commented on my last post and reminded me that some folks are allergic to oozes a sticky milky white liquid when cut or bruised (like dandelions), and it can be an irritant to some people. I've never had a problem, and I've actually eaten milkweed before (the young tops of the plant in early spring, the flowers, and the very immature seed pods are all edible, but I think the rest of the plant is not only inedible but toxic/poisonous). Here's a link with more info if you're curious.

Milkweed seed fluff is shiny and soft, but not strong at all. I experimented a lot with spinning it a few years ago, and it cannot be spun on it's own, even with multiple plies - the yarn will fall apart with a gentle tug. But it does make an interesting addition to other fibers, so if you have hand cards or a drum carder you can easily blend it into your yarns. Milkweed seed fluff has other uses besides spinning, too - it makes really good "down" jackets or pillows. Milkweed fluff is lighter, warmer, and more compact than goose down! There have been attempts to grow milkweed commercially as a down substitute, but so far it hasn't been successful since not all of the plants produced seed pods. There used to be a pattern for making your own winter jacket stuffed with milkweed down on eBay, but I haven't checked in a while.

So, on to the tutorial. I picked a few pods while hiking, because I wanted just enough fluff to blend into a skein of yarn. Some people wait until the pods are old and crack open on the plant to release the seeds, but I prefer to get them while they're still green because the fibers are damp and much less flyaway. The pods have a "seam" up the back, and if you press on either side of it, it opens easily.

Inside is a core surrounded by the seed fluff, with the seeds on the outside. These seeds are immature - they should be dark brown when mature. I usually save the seeds and scatter them outside near where I picked the pods, but these ones aren't ready. I hold the fibers down with one hand and gently scrape the seeds off with the other, leaving just the fibers still attatched to the core.

Once I've stripped all the seeds off, I carefully pull the seed fluff away from the inner core. I say carefully because the core is delicate, and if you pull too quickly or too hard you can pull off pieces of the core with the seed fluff. Once you're done, you should have a pile of seed fluff, a pile of seeds, the inner core, and the outer pod.

Repeat until you have enough fluff. The fluff is super flyaway when it dries. I like to store it in a closed paper bag so that air can circulate. If you have mature seeds, please consider scattering them in an area where milkweed grows so that there will be more plants next year!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Sooo, last week I felt like I was finally getting caught up on everything - spinning, shipping, etc. And then a bug bit me - in my EYE - and I've been mostly knocked out for the past few days. I've had random bad reactions to bug bites (especially mosquitos) ever since I was a kid, but it hasn't happened in a long time! Ugh. The side of my left eye was super swollen and painful when I woke up one morning, and the swelling then proceeded to spread all the way across my eyelid until my whole eye was swollen. As if that wasn't bad enough, I felt horrible too, all achy and feverish, so I've spent the past few days getting absolutely nothing done and slipping behind again.

Luckily I woke up feeling tons better this morning! My eye is still very slightly swollen, but it's not noticeable. I got a bunch of packing done today for a post office trip tomorrow, and I think by the end of tomorrow I'll be back on track. I'm giving myself until this weekend to pull it together business-wise.

Check back for a blog update in the next few days with my milkweed fluff & natural dye experiments!

Monday, July 28, 2008


Yesterday I missed out on one of the spinning meet-ups, but I had a wonderful day. I decided to take the whole day off to spend with Lucius. We planned on going for a walk in the woods, but then we suddenly decided to go a local pick-your-own farm, despite the fact that it looked like an intense storm was gathering overhead. It was a bit of an adventure finding the farm, but we eventually did, and spent several hours picking amazingly delicious blueberries and blackberries. We filled up two big buckets, one of each type of berry, and so I have plans to brew some wine in the next few days. One of the farm workers seemed kind of freaked out about the storm, because he kept running into the field yelling about how he just saw some lightning or how the rain was currently two miles away and closing. I love the rain, so we just kept on picking, but quite a few people left. The silly thing is, the rain never showed up! All day long, the thunder kept rolling and there were dark clouds and occasional lightning flashes, but no rain. And the sun actually came out a few times. But we amused ourselves for the rest of the day by randomly bursting out with dire warnings about the weather.

After our berry-picking was done, we dropped the berries off at the apartment and headed for the woods. I think I need to sew myself a skirt with tons of large pockets, because I am such a gatherer. I brought home a bunch of little bundles and treasures from our walk, including:

gathered treasures

-fleabane flowers for a natural dyeing experiment
-milkweed seedpods (pictured above) - I'm going to separate the seedfluff from the seeds and then card it into some yarns. The seedfluff is shiny like silk, but very delicate and not strong enough to be spun on its own.
-catnip, which I am drying and will probably make some cat toys with - but it's also a really good tea for fevers!
-autumn olives, which are beautiful reddish-orange berries with silver speckles.
-a black feather, to add to my small collection of found feathers.

The autumn olives were a surprise, because normally they don't ripen until the first frost! I love the way they taste, tart and sweet, but they're super invasive and non-native so I'm careful not to drop the seeds anywhere that they can grow. I'm glad we discovered them - I'll be back in the fall to gather lots more for fruit leather and maybe some wine. In the picture, the berries are in a simple muslin bag that I sewed to bring with me on hikes - because I've learned from experience to always bring gathering bags with me!

And now, back to work! I still have a bit of catching up to do and I want to have a shop update by Wednesday, which means I must go spin.

Friday, July 18, 2008

New yarn & interview

Tara of Blonde Chicken Boutique just posted an interview with me about my fiber business on her blog! So, click here if you want to know all my deep dark secrets.

I also finally, finally listed a new yarn on etsy today:

desert blossom handspun

Hopefully the first of many, as I'm trying to get back to listing a yarn a day. This one, "Desert Blossom", is a yummy blend of organic cotton and batts of bamboo and hemp with cocoons. Perfect for late summer knitting! I have a new skein of my Canopy yarn with felt leaves drying in the sun right now, so that will probably be popping up in the shop sometime tomorrow.