Category Archives: Spinning

Book Review: The Spinner’s Book of Fleece

Back in 2006 a discussion group I belonged to decided to do a fiber study. Each member picked a type of fiber, researched it, purchased raw fiber, cleaned it, spun it, and then plied it. We then sent everything to one person who had the dubious job of assembling all this information into binders and mailing them to each person. It was a great exercise and I know we all learned a lot.

2006-breed-study-open-binder
The Coopworth pages from our fiber study in 2006.

Fast forward to 2014.

There is now a great book available that covers what we did and a lot more. The Spinner’s Book of Fleece: A Breed-by-Breed Guide to Choosing and Spinning the Perfect Fiber for Every Purpose
is an amazing book that I am enjoying reading. It is written in a conversational tone so it is an easy read. It goes beyond a straightforward explanation of the different breeds and talks about how to pick a fleece, how to protect your fiber, and different ways of spinning your fiber for projects. It also talks about different spinning equipment and even how to maintain your wheel.

Author Beth Smith breaks down the different fibers into four simple groups: fine, long, down, and multicoat. She also has a “miscellaneous” category. She then goes into all the approaches you can take when spinning your fiber into yarn. She talks about drafting, using a lazy Kate, how to clean your fiber, and carding, to name a few techniques.

What I think I like best about this book is how well Beth breaks everything down into easy-to-understand bits of info. Even if you don’t spin, you will find this book helpful with your weaving, crochet, and knitting projects as she covers fiber information for each art form! I definitely see myself reading this book cover-to-cover.

And as always, you can win this copy!
Again, the rules are simple:
1. Make sure you “like” my Facebook page.
2. Make sure you “like” the book review post on Facebook.
3. I pick a winner!

I’ll pick a winner on October 2nd. Trust me when I tell you, you definitely want to be in this giveaway. Good luck!

My 2014 Fiber Plans

So as the calendar turns, we all look to make resolutions and plans for the upcoming year. Many have the usual plans – get in shape, lose weight, and spend more time with family to name a few. Well, I make a fiber resolution list as well. Here are my plans…

First, I really want to spend more time learning to weave. I started taking a great class on Craftsy, but as usual, other issues got in the way. I hope to spend time learning and improving my weaving skills. If you haven’t checked out Craftsy, it is definitely worth it. And they have plenty of free classes! I would also love to pick up a Zoom Loom and give that a try!

Next, I want to make another pair of socks. I made a pair awhile ago and I am not going to lie, it was tough. But I am determined to give it another try. There are so many great patterns out there, I am truly inspired!

A year or so ago I did an interpretation of one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s stained glass windows. I would like to do more interpretations of other works of art. I think that will require some visits to some of the great museums in NYC. I know – it will be a tough assignment, but I will take it on.

I want to create more patterns. I have been sketching out some great ideas, but need to put hook to yarn and get them going and sent to publishers for consideration. I plan also to self publish a few! Along similar lines, I really want to write more articles. I felt very lucky to have a few pieces published in the magazine Inside Crochet in 2013. I am hoping for continued success in 2014.

Following along with artistic crochet, I would love to try to do some artistic felting. There is a great book I have been drooling over The Art of Felt: Inspirational Designs, Textures, and Surfaces
for awhile and I would love to give the techniques in the book a try.

I would like to give knitting another try. Years ago (and I mean years) I made a hat and scarf and that was it. I would like to see if I can get a little better at it. Another skill I would like to work on improving is hairpin lace. Jennifer Hansen of Stitch Diva Studios offers great instruction both on her site and Craftsy.

Finally, I want to work on my spinning skills. Just like my weaving, my spinning fell to the wayside in 2013. I really want to get started again. The classes offered by both Craftsy and the Journey to the Golden Fleece can certainly provide some great inspiration!

Well, that’s it. It is an ambitious list, but I hope to achieve all of it. What about you? I would love to hear about your fiber resolutions for 2014!

My Fiber Christmas List

So Christmas is right around the corner and I just realized I haven’t sent Santa my fibery Christmas list! So here we go…

Let’s start out with something I have always wanted to try – Pure Qiviut Yarn. This type of yarn is the ultimate in decadence. It is incredibly soft and depending on the brand, it is available in some absolutely wonderful colors. It also has a hefty price tag. I definitely want to try it out at some point, but it would have to be for a VERY special (and small) project.

Once I have that wonderful yarn, I would need an equally special crochet hook to make my project. So the next item on my list is the Celtic Swan Forge crochet hook. Each hook is a hand-made work of art. John Swan Sheeran works in both silver and gold. I know people that have John’s hooks and they are just wonderful!

This year I started (slowly) to weave using a Cricket Loom. Unfortunately, I haven’t had much time to use it. There is, however, a new weaving tool I would love to give a try and it is from the maker of my lovely spinning wheel. Majacraft is now making a circular loom and it looks like a lot of fun! And along with that Majacraft loom, I would need to register for the Golden Fleece Fiber Creativity Certificate. The course helps to help boost your creativity and get started with a circular loom. (By the way, stay tuned for an upcoming post about the program!)

I would love to do more needle and wet felting and I really like the idea of doing landscapes in felt.  The book Art in Felt & Stitch: Creating Beautiful Works of Art Using Fleece, Fibres and Threads is a great way to learn about how to get started in felting landscapes.
Continuing along the lines of spinning, I would LOVE to have a pocket wheel someday. I met the designer at the Rhinebeck Sheep & Wool Festival a few years ago and it is definitely  on my “want” list!

Finally, I would love to get a Moosie spindle from Journey Wheel. These one-of-a-kind spindles are made from moose antler. They are so popular, there is actually a waiting list to purchase one. I played with one once and it was a dream!

So there’s my list Santa! I am sure as soon as I post this I’ll think “oh wait! I forgot…” I would love to hear what’s on your list!

Rhinebeck Sheep & Wool 2012

There are very few words someone can say to a group of individuals that immediately stir emotions. For fiber fanatics, one of those words is Rhinebeck.

The New York State Sheep and Wool Festival held at the Dutchess County fairgrounds, better known as “Rhinebeck Sheep & Wool,” was last weekend. For the last several years, I go to the show by way of a wonderful bus trip run by Jill Deal Yarn in Milford, PA, however, this year I had a very important event on Sunday that kept me from participating – my niece’s Confirmation. I thought I would have to miss this year’s event completely, but thanks to my wonderful husband, I was able to go on Saturday by hopping a ride on the Amtrack. It was quite the adventure!

I hopped the NJ Transit train in Dover, NJ into New York City. Then it was the Amtrak to Rhinecliff, NY, and finally a short taxi ride to the fairgrounds. A total of four hours door-to-door. I made arrangements to meet the taxi a few hours later and off I went!

At first, I was a bit frantic. I only had four hours to get to everything. My usual plan when going to Rhinebeck is to make one or two rounds and make mental notes of what I plan to purchase and then on the last round, pick everything up. Well, this year I had to purchase when I saw it. I still made mental notes for items that I would not be able to purchase at the event, but hope to plan to at some point in the future.

The purchase I made was was one of my favorite vendors – Golding Fiber Tools. I picked up a set of Knitters Pride Dreamz crochet hooks. They were quite reasonable, VERY light, comfortable, and just lovely! I own a Golding spindle and I can say with great confidence, their work is some of the best out there and they offer their tools at a wide variety of price points so you can find something to fit your budget. Purchasing a spindle is a great and inexpensive way to get started in spinning and there is nothing like spinning on a quality spindle.

I found a great spinning seat that I plan on buying in the future. They were all hand-turned and cost between $120 and $150, depending on the type of wood used. The best part is that he does ship! As I was on the train, it didn’t make much sense to try to bring this home so I plan on picking one up.

I also had a chance to try out a spinning wheel called “Hopper” from Spinolution. This is a portable-style wheel and it spins like a dream! The woman at the booth let me spin for a long as I wanted and answered all my questions. The wheel retails for a little more than $800. Definitely a well made wheel!

I had a chance to say a quick hello to Susan from Susan’s Fiber Shop. This is the only time of year I get to see her and I always make sure to say hello. Her booth was full of fibery goodness as always! For those of you who don’t know Susan, she is incredibly knowledgeable and helpful.

As always, there were many different finished pieces available for sale from a wide variety of different artisans. One vendor had these beautifully made hand-felted scarves. Felting is something I keep saying I want to learn more about, but that never seems to happen. It is definitely on my list.

I also checked out the Schacht Cricket Loom. There is now a 10 inch model available, which is just the right size for condo living. That will be on my list to Santa this year for sure!

The leaves were in all their glory and the weather was just perfect! There was only a slight chill in the air, making it perfect for some leaf peeping and hot cider. The colors on the trees were just lovely.

In what seemed like no time, I had to meet the taxi to head back to the train station to catch the Amtrack back to NYC and then the NJ Transit train back to Dover.

Overall it was a great day and it always goes by too quickly. The train was a nice ride – although a long one. I hope to take Jill’s bus trip next year. Once I was back on the the train in New Jersey, I was able to snap a shot of the Freedom Tower being built in lower Manhattan. It was certainly a beautiful sight!

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!

The Ultimate Pocket Wheel

azul pocket wheelLike most fiber fanatics, I love looking for new fiber tools that are useful, unique, and just plain ol’ lovely. Well, yesterday, the makers of the Pocket Wheel posted a photo of their latest creation that just took my breath away!

This wheel is made of black walnut with blue a (azul) copper big wheel. The color contrast between the copper and the blue (my favorite color) is simply amazing.



Designed by Doug Dodd, the Pocket Wheel is 18 inches tall, weighs 6 pounds, and easily disassembles to fit into a tote bag. I had the opportunity to meet Doug and his wife at the Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool festival awhile back and they were very nice and proud of their products.

This is definitely on my want list!

The Ultimate Pocket Wheel

azul pocket wheelLike most fiber fanatics, I love looking for new fiber tools that are useful, unique, and just plain ol’ lovely. Well, yesterday, the makers of the Pocket Wheel posted a photo of their latest creation that just took my breath away!

This wheel is made of black walnut with blue a (azul) copper big wheel. The color contrast between the copper and the blue (my favorite color) is simply amazing.



Designed by Doug Dodd, the Pocket Wheel is 18 inches tall, weighs 6 pounds, and easily disassembles to fit into a tote bag. I had the opportunity to meet Doug and his wife at the Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool festival awhile back and they were very nice and proud of their products.

This is definitely on my want list!

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?

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.