Category Archives: Fiber

Etsy Site Updated for Fall

upcycled felt mittensWell, anyone familiar with Etsy knows there is a year-round craft fair taking place online. On Etsy, you can find just about anything you want made by amazing artisans and crafters. I visit it regularly and have made many purchases over the years.

Today I finally updated my Etsy site: Andrea’s Yarn Basket. On my Etsy site you will find fall hats and scarves, as well as crochet wire jewelry, bracelets, and upcycled mittens. I also have hand-spun yarn, felting supplies and de-stashed yarn.

I hope you check it out!

Meeting Other Artisans

Today I participated in a unique craft and lecture event at Saint Clare’s in Denville. While the attendance was light – and on such a beautiful fall day, who wants to be inside – I did have a great time and was able to meet three incredibly talented artisans.

Next to me was Miriam Seiden. She had some of the most lovely jewelry I have seen in quite a while. Her work was of high quality, incredibly creative, and certainly unique. She used a lot of big stones and silver in her work she had available. Each piece made a statement.

Ameenah Designs designs capes, shawls, vests, coats, and hats. Each piece is made by her and has great style and quality. It is easy to see the care and creativity in her work.

My favorite, I think, was Peach Fuzz Fiber Art. She had great bags, fiber bowls, jackets, shawls, and other incredibly creative items. Her free form-style work had just the right touch of whimsy!

Overall, it was a fun day, even though we didn’t have many customers.

Ravelry Vs. The U.S. Olympic Committee

If you knit, crochet, spin yarn, weave, or other type of fiber fanatic, you know all about Ravelry. As I have blogged in the past, Ravelry is a wonderful online community where you can meet others who share a love of fiber and chat, find patterns, and share opinions about yarn and all things fiber. It is truly a wonderful place for those of us who are misunderstood by “non-yarnies.”

Since Ravelry’s start, something special happens when the Olympics comes around – Ravelympics! Containing lots of fiber fun, the Ravelympics has great events such as Scarf Hockey. It is a great way to finish projects, share the results, and root for our country during the Olympics.

Well, the United States Olympic Committee has decided to pick a fight with Ravelry over the Ravelympics. Adrian Chen reported that Ravelry was served a cease-and-desist letter by care of the USOC. I read the entire letter and I have to tell you it is quite possibly the most ridiculous thing I have ever read, which includes:

“The athletes of Team USA have usually spent the better part of their entire lives training for the opportunity to compete at the Olympic Games and represent their country in a sport that means everything to them.  For many, the Olympics represent the pinnacle of their sporting career.  Over more than a century, the Olympic Games have brought athletes around the world together to compete at the Olympic Games and represent their country in a sport that means everything to them.”

And…

“The USOC is responsible for preserving the Olympic Movement and its ideals within the United States.  Part of that responsibility is to ensure that Olympic trademarks, imagery and terminology are protected and given the appropriate respect.  We believe using the name “Ravelympics” for a competition that involves an afghan marathon, scarf hockey and sweater triathlon, among others, tends to denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games.  In a sense, it is disrespectful to our country’s finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work.”

Well, USOC, cry me a river. First of all, we do not participate in the Ravelympics to denigrate the Olympics or those who participate. And your glib commentary actually denigrates those of us who have spent years perfecting what we do.

Fiber fans everywhere have inundated the USOC’s web page, email servers, and Facebook page with their opinions on this subject. So much so that they have published what should be called “the non-apology apology.”

“Thanks to all of you who have posted, tweeted, emailed and called regarding the letter sent to the organizers of the Ravelympics.

“Like you, we are extremely passionate about what we do. …

“The letter sent to the organizers of the Ravelympics was a standard-form cease and desist letter that explained why we need to protect our trademarks in legal terms. Rest assured, as an organization that has many passionate knitters, we never intended to make this a personal attack on the knitting community or to suggest that knitters are not supportive of Team USA.

“We apologize for any insult and appreciate your support. We embrace hand-crafted American goods as we currently have the Annin Flagmakers of New Jersey stitching a custom-made American flag to accompany our team to the Olympic Games in London. To show our support of the Ravelry community, we would welcome any handmade items that you would like to create to travel with, and motivate, our team at the 2012 Games.”

Not sure if I will be sending anything along with Team USA, but I think the USOC learning a valuable lesson – don’t mess with fiber fanatics.

Book Review: The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook

Several years ago, a discussion group I belonged to decided to do a “study” of different breeds. Each member picked a breed, did research on its history, purchased raw fiber, spun some up and sent everything to another member with a small amount of money ($10-$20 if I remember). That good soul took all the information, printed it out, added a small amount of fiber to each page, created complete binders and shipped them back to each member that participated. It was a huge undertaking, but it has been an invaluable resource, as there was really nothing like is available in print…until now.

Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook
The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook: More Than 200 Fibers, from Animal to Spun Yarn
from Storey Publishing is an amazing resource! This book has information about over 200 different breeds that can be used for crochet, spinning, knitting, and weaving. Its photos are amazing and I know this is going to be an invaluable resource in my fiber arts library for years to come.

The authors are certainly not new to the fiber arts industry. Deborah Robson is the former editor of Spin-Off and Carol Ekarius is the author of multiple books on livestock farming. Both Deborah and Carol live in Colorado.

I expected a hardcover reference book like this to have a list price of $50-$60; but I was pleasantly surprised to find it has a list price of $35! Storey publishing certainly kept pricing in mind, making this an easier purchase for fiber fanatics during this tough economy.

I will definitely be using this book often and will probably wind up reading it cover to cover, as I am finding all the information provided very interesting! It is definitely worth a look if you are a fellow fiber fan!

What are Your Fiber Art Goals for 2011?

As 2010 draws to a close, many of us start to make goals for the next year. Along with the usual wants like “lose weight” or “exercise more,” I think about what fiber arts goals I would like for 2011.

So what are my goals? I want to find more time to spin as well as improve my spinning skills. This year I haven’t had anywhere near enough time to spin, so that is right at the top of my list.

Next, I want to actually crochet (and finish!) a pair of socks. Yes, I know this sounds a tad silly, but I can’t tell you how many socks that start out, well, as socks and end up as wrist warmers!

I want to spend more time being creative. That means developing more patterns, focusing on my free form and felting and writing more fiber-focused articles.

So, I would say those are my three main fiber goals for 2011. What are your 2011 fiber goals?

My Ultimate Fiber Christmas List

It is the time of year when everyone makes their lists. So, here is my ultimate fiber Christmas list.

pocket spinning wheelWhile at the Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival this year, I saw the original Pocket Wheel. This wheel has a great feel and spins like a dream. This is on the top of my ultimate fiber list!

To go with the pocket wheel, I’ll need to get some fiber. That  means getting fiber from Laurie’s Lambs! Additionally, Susan’s Fiber Shop and The Woolery have great fiber options.

To go with my new wheel and fiber, I of course need to add a new spindle to the list. This is easy. I have always wanted a Moosie spindle from Journey Wheel. These amazing spindles are made from Moose antler sheds. While we are talking about spindles, Golding spindles are always just beautiful and spin like a dream! I have always wanted the Golding Spindle“Midnight Sky” spindle.” Team Golding is incredibly talented and should be seriously considered when looking for that special spindle.

At the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival this year, I treated myself to a mini glass crochet hook from Michael and Shelia Ernst . Well, on my ultimate fiber Christmas list, I want the full one! They are just gorgeous. The Turquesa model, please. Also while at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival this past May, I won a Weavette in an auction. These are incredibly tough to find. I would love to get a few more in different sizes.

Fiber arts and books always go hand-in-hand. That means, I have lots of books on my list! First and foremost, Creative Crochet Lace: A Freeform Look at Classic Crochet by Myra Wood is at the top! Myra is a wonderfully talented artist and an even better friend.

During the past year, I have been fascinated by hyperbolic crochet. That  means I have to add Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes to my list. If you have seen hyperbolic crochet, I highly recommend you check it out!

Along with crochet and spinning, I also love to felt and enjoy reading the history of fiber arts. That means I have to add Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times, The Art of Felt: Inspirational Designs, Textures, and Surfaces and In Sheep’s Clothing: A Handspinner’s Guide to Wool to my list.

Last, but  certainly not least, I have to add a felting machine. I currently do needle felting, but would love to try it on a machine. Janome makes some great machines, but I hear the Singer felting machine is just as good and less expensive. I also saw a mini felting machine somewhere once; that would be perfect!

So there you have it. My ultimate fiber Christmas list. What’s yours?

2011 Fiber Arts Calendars

As the year begins to progress and the calendar turns thin, it is time to get another calendar. When you are looking for your 2011 calendar, why not look for a fiber arts calendar that will not only keep you up to date, but provide inspiration as well?

One of my favorites is the Crochet: 2011 Day-to-Day Calendar. This calendar provides a unique pattern on every day’s page! At the end of each year I always go through all  the pages again and save my favorite patterns!

A new line of calendars is now available from a great fiber arts publisher, Interweave. They are offering a total of nine different calendars that cover everything from knitting, weaving, spinning, crochet, quilting and more.  Each provides wonderful inspiration. The Quilting Arts 2011 Wall Calendar features the winners of the 10th annual contest theme, “Flavor of the Month.” As someone who can just about sew on a button, the projects are simply amazing and inspirational!

I hope you take a few extra minutes when finding your 2011 calendar and look for something truly unique!

Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool 2010

This past weekend was the 2010 Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, NY . I look forward to this event year and, as usual, it didn’t disappoint!

High Point, NJ
High Point, NJ on the way to Jill Deal in Milford, PA

I took the bus from Jill Deal Yarn, just like every year. Now you may remember I took a bus trip from another yarn store earlier this year to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival . Well, they could definitely take a page from Jill’s playbook. As usual, the trip was flawless! We left from her shop promptly at 8:00 a.m. in Milford, PA for the roughly 90 minute trip to Rhinebeck, NY. I sat next to a lovely woman on the bus and we chatted all the way up. This was her first trip to the Festival, so I was happy to fill her in on all the fibery goodness she would experience!

Sheep at Rhinebeck, NY
One of the great sheep hanging out.

The morning wasn’t very busy with plenty of walking room and very pleasant festival-goers. Of course, I had to pick up a few items. I picked up the Denise Interchangeable Crochet Hooks  which I purchased from Susan’s Fiber Shop. Susan always has the absolute best stuff! She is very knowledgeable and is always happy to provide information and answer questions. I also picked up a Turkish spindle from Bonnie McMillen, made by her husband Neal. Finally, I found an unexpected treasure. A beautiful hand-woven scarf made with recycled sari silk at Fessler Spinning and Weaving. They also had some very yummy yarn at their booth that I plan on ordering.

An overhead shot of one of the vendor barns.
An overhead shot of one of the vendor barns.

I had the opportunity to meet John McCoy and his wife who manufacture Pocket Wheels by Jon . Let me tell you, this is an awesome wheel! This may very well be on my “wish list” in the future.

I had plenty of fun, including my usual lunch of stuffed cabbage and perogies and topping it off with a late afternoon pumpkin spice coffee. Of course I had to go see all the great sheep on display. Although I was sad I missed Laurie, mommy to Laurie’s Lambs in Chesterfield, New Jersey. I came to find out, she was in a different barn that I thought was just for judging.

I did notice people carrying fewer bags than in the past. I am guessing this is due to the unstable economy and high level of unemployment. I asked a few vendors about their sales and while some were optimistic and said they “did well,” others told me they sold very few “big ticket” items (such as carders and spinning wheels) and more items like knitting needles and books. Even I found myself taking a few business cards of vendors I would like to order from in the future, working to stay on a budget.

Spindles at Rhinebeck, NY
Spindles, spindles and more spindles!

My only “suggestion” to the event planners is this – I wish they would consider not allowing strollers. I know they billed this as a “family-friendly event,” but the strollers often make navigating the show very tough as the number of attendees increases during the day. Many of these booths are very tight. More than once I saw a mother and father with a stroller go into a booth and that was it. No one else could get in and look until they were fished, often leaving without making a purchase. I wonder if this also contributed to low sales. I also saw lots of double-strollers, making it even more difficult to get around. I hope they would consider at least eliminating the double strollers.

Ultimately, it was time to head home. Everyone made it back to the bus on time and off we went. Everyone chatted about their purchases of the day and eventually everyone settled in and either worked on a project or napped…or a little bit of both!

By the end of the day I was tired, but inspired. I realized how much I miss finding time to spin. I am hoping it has inspired me to work to find, at least a little time, to get some spinning in.

A Touch of Peru in Denville, NJ

Today I joined friends for some late lunch shopping at the Sidewalk Sale in Denville, NJ. One of the shops I always wanted to check out is Bridges Peru , a great little shop with authentic South American items. So, I took a few minutes to check it out. All I can say is WOW!

It is safe to say I could get into some serious trouble in that store. In addition to items such as Yerba Mate, unique and beautiful jewelry and beaded bags, they have baby alpaca yarn, alpaca gloves and hats and beautiful hand-made tapestries! The work is absolutely wonderful and incredibly detailed. The variety of offerings are Bridges Peru is just wonderful! It truly is a great source of cultural education and fiber art inspiration.

I, of course, had to pick up some black alpaca yarn and definitely plan to go back and get a pair of fingerless glove/mitten combos and some Yerba Mate. If you are in the area, I highly suggest you check it out – you will not be disappointed!

Spinning Dog Hair – Part Two

Here is part two in a two part series discussing what it takes to spin your dog’s pet hair into beautiful yarn!

Leigh Dudenhoeffer  of Frozen Tundra Fiber Arts is a long time spinner of dog hair. She has graciously agreed to provide us with some tips about how to get started spinning this special type of fiber!

ALVB: When did you first try spinning dog hair? What made you
want to try it?

LD: I started spinning dog hair about 10 years
ago
when my neighbor’s Llasa Apso was dying. The lady had saved bags and
bags of his
hair from all his groomings and knew I spun wool. She came over with it
and
asked me if it could be spun. I told her I could spin anything except
dryer
lint. I made her 2 skeins of pure Chiengora sock weight (14wpi) yarn
that she
knit into a hat and mittens with a skein left over. After that, people
just
started bringing over their dog hair to have it spun, if I could.

ALVB: How does it differ from more “traditional” fibers
like
wool, Alpaca and Angora?

LD: Dog hair differs in that there is very
little
crimp in most. St. Bernard hair from the long haired breeds is silky and
lustrous and requires medium twist, but not too much or the yarn will be
hard.
Long haired dachshund is very silky and lustrous also and spins very
much like
alpaca hair. I have found that some dog hair is very similar to Llama
hair
(thicker & sometimes coarse), some is quite similar to camel hair
(very
coarse), and some is similar to Alpaca hair (very fine and lustrous).
None that
I have ever spun was anything close to being like Angora.

ALVB: Do you use a wheel or a spindle to spin
the dog
hair?

LD: I use both a spindle and a wheel to spin dog
hair. It all depends on my mood when I start spinning it and the staple
length
of the hair. I generally do short hair (under 1-1/2″) on a spindle, but
have
also done it on a single drive spinning wheel. I typically spin long dog
hair on
a double drive spinning wheel (a matter of comfort for me as my double
drive
wheel allows me to treadle almost at a crawl if I want), but I’ve spun
it also
on a spindle. Most of my spindles are bottom whorl drop spindles.

ALVB: What would you recommend to those who want to give dog hair
spinning
a try?

LD: If someone is highly interested in spinning
dog
hair I generally recommend that they wash and deodorize it first. There
is
nothing like finding out you’re allergic to dog hair the hard way. Most
dog hair
does not need to be carded, but if you feel you must, do so lightly. Do a
lot of
experimenting. Dog hair is very, very versatile.

I hope the great insights by these two great spinners have been helpful for those of you who have been considering giving dog hair spinning a try. If anyone does try it out, make sure to share your results with everyone here!