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Feelin’ the love

August 12, 2010

Summer’s flying by…..amidst the business of summer, there is productivity; the whir of the spinning wheel, the rhythm of the beat of the loom…miles of yarn spun, and yards of fabric wove.  and piles of cukes and tomatoes and melons and fragrant herbs and buckets of blackberries to can.  I love the cadence of summer…simply trying to keep up with abundant inspiration all around.

But today i am feeling  the love…the love of crafting in a way that inspires others…. I recently had a visitor at the studio.  a lovely intern from a neighboring farm…she blogged about her visit.  Lovely.

I also recently received a mysterious letter in the mail.  I opened it, and found an intriguing poem, written just for me by a lovely lady who purchased handspun yarn from me at last winter’s Holiday Faire at the Schoolhouse.  The yarn i spun, had inspired the words, and also a scarf which she lovingly knit for her husband.  This is the gift of craft….to make yarn that inspires someone else’s creative muse.  What a blessing. here’s the poem:

A skein of yarn;handspun and hand-dyed.

As I cast it onto my needles it cast me

out into some world beyond the scarf i begin

and the blue and green collide like some kind of

magical map she spun into existence.

nights before the fire

the magma mixing with the oceans,

now the caribbean,

now the seas around fiji

now the crystal blues of the Artic

now the waters swirling around coral reefs

colors deepening as the seas sweep away from shore

periwinkle turning into cerulean

and now a touch of ochre for the dry hills

and the desert and the tumbleweed in the Eurasian plains

and now the seas green of the Aegean transmuting into

the dark green of the pine forest punctuated

with the brown shaggy bark of the redwoods

along the coast leading me out

and onto the moors their gorse of green moss

after a long rain and now a splash of vermillion

the hummingbird’s throat vibrating in my hands

and now cerulean celadon chartruese live agate aqua

the Amazon river weaving its way the the rows

the world she spun slipping now between my fingers

each knit or purl wrapped inside the other and then turned

around the one before it awaiting the next as the needles click

as her spindle whirs

mama spider spinning the world

the colors she painted drying by the woodstove

wound and bound together with pieces of string.

these are the colors of the planet

seen from reaches of space

these are the colors of the earth

seen from cabin windows and bridges

these are the colors of the land

as I walk between the trees

and stop to dip my fingers

into the stream.

—Laura Pendell, for Rowen White.


New England Spring Fiber Tour 2010

June 11, 2010

Well, here I am finally updated in the blog with a wrap up of my New England Spring Fiber Tour, 2010….which was a tale of my fibery exploits while being on-call “Grandma sittin'” in Massachusetts!

Unexpectedly due to several health crisis’ in Gordon’s family, we had to leave our California homestead ( right in the middle of spring planting time in the gardens…argh!)  to go take care of Gordon’s 90 year old Grandma for two weeks.  The upshot of the whole trip was several fiber related adventures, which has made me fall in love with New England all over again. Western Massachusetts is a treasure trove for the fiber artist…many local weavers, shepherds, and yarn stores that have me leaving for the airport with yarn laden bags, and a box via USPS with my loot!!

Where do I begin?  First a few pictures of Gordon’s mama’s farm…an 1800’s era farmstead in Shelburne Falls….

view of the fields from the creek

the Clesson Brook that runs thru the farm

Igor the Rooster, with a great "hat"

The kids had a blast at the creek, and we enjoyed many walks out behind the house.  New England is so green in the spring!

So you wanna hear more about the fiber and wool, right?

Well, fortunately for me, the first weekend in Mass. coincided with WEBS Yarn Store’s HUGE tent sale! WEBs yarn store is HUGE…biggest yarn store in the country i think.  The only yarn store I’ve been to where you can get a shopping cart for your shopping convenience!! lol!

the WEBS yarn store warehouse...a LOT of yarn in here!

Well, I didn’t manage to snag a picture of the crowd at the tent sale, but you can only imagine hundreds of knitters elbowing their way thru a serious crowd to get deals on bags of yarn…I scored a couple of sweater’s worth of yarn for a mere $35, plus a few skeins of sock yarn for only 4.00 a skein. Who could resist the bargains??

WEBs yarn store

Next on the Fiber Tour, we went into the village of Shelburne Falls, home to the Swedish weaving school, Vavstuga.   This is literally a 2 minute drive from my mother in-law’s home!!  What a treasure!!!  I cannot wait to come and take a week long intensive here!

the weaving room at the Vavstuga Weaving School

a student project on the Swedish drawloom

This charming little weaving school just sang to my heart.  To see the unique swedish drawlooms warped with all sorts of bright colors was so inspiring!!  I was 3,000 miles away from my own weaving studio, but was delighted to visit this studio, where students of all ages and backgrounds are learning new ways to warp and weave.  I was in heaven.  That night I even dreamt of weaving in that studio, playing with color and texture to my heart’s delight!!

I want to take their 5 day Swedish weaving basics course, and am hoping to do so in the Spring of 2011.  They offer lodging, organic meals, and 8+ hours a day of weaving.  Pure Bliss in my opinion…now just to talk my mother into childcare for the week!!!

I got to visit my friend Julia‘s farm, which is a delightful homestead in the woods of Colrain.  She raises Border Leiscester sheep, which is wonderful wood in many ways, Nice curly locks, good sheen, and nice big fleeces.  I have a fleece of her’s coming my way.  Julia is one amazing knitter, and is test knitting many garments for Gudrun Johnston’w new knitting pattern book.  If you haven’t looked at Gudrun’s designs, run don’t walk over to Shetland Trader. Her patterns are awesome.   She is traveling to Scotland this summer, and taking my friend Julia along as a knitwear model.  And just who is going to be the photographer for this event..none other than Jared Flood of Brooklyn Tweed!!!  How awesome is that?…i am tempted to beg Julia to allow me to come….perhaps i can carry their bags? something?  honestly, i couldn’t get away from this crazy life for that, but I can dream….and get the whole scoop from Julia when she gets back!!!

Another gem of a farm I discovered was Moonshine Designs.  They raise high quality angora goats for the mohair, and weave and knit exquisite garments from this soft lustrous fiber!  The shawls they weave from handyed mohair boucle yarns are one of a kind, and the colors are amazing.  I just had to splurge and buy a pair of their Mohair socks, made from 85% kid mohair fiber…so soft, and they wear like iron.

All in all, I came home feeling really inspired to get back to my studio, and weave!!!  Plus a box of new yarns from my excursions will help me with that!!  I am getting myself in gear for the season of craft fairs and events from my studio.  I will keep you posted on my new projects!!

Mama Spider’s got a New Studio!

April 29, 2010

Yes, it’s true! Springtime has brought me into a new space for my studio, and I am soooo happy about it!

My old space was a funky old garage in the front of Willow Springs…cold and drafty in the winter.  And nothing but noisy motorcycle traffic noise in the summer, as folks on Harley’s would cruise up Highway 49 up into the hills for a day ride. Not so relaxing for weaving, although i would always get a few curious looks as i would weave or spin with the doors wide open!  The road so close was always unnerving, especially with my kids sometimes playing out front while i wove.  My intuition and fears about that road came to reality when my year old Border Collie dog named Cowboy was struck by a car just outside my studio. Fortunately he survived without hardly a scratch, but I knew that this was a sign that I couldn’t have my studio there much longer.

Well, due to a whole heap of circumstances, I was given the opportunity to move to a new space within the Willow Springs Art collective, and I jumped on it.  The new space was smaller ( so a few borrowed looms would have to go back to my weaving teacher.), but was well insulated with a nice wooden floor and cheery orange walls.  Easy to heat, with a big sunny window that looks out at the community gardens at Willow Springs, will a gate all around to provide a safe and shady space for my kids and dog to play!!!  YAY!  the bonus is that with this new space I have access to the community kitchen for water for dye pots, and a nice place to make tea and snacks on long weaving days or evenings.

You wanna see some pictures?

Here’s my carding corner….

and here’s a view from the back of the room. You can see the attached kitchen thru the doors, and my “Beast” of a loom on the left ( 12 harness, 60″ wide!!) with a few rigid heddle looms propped up on it.

I can’t wait to host some dye days and classes here.  Perhaps even some craft nites.  it’s a much cozier space, and it’s been fun to make it comfortable with a nice layout to get lots of work done!   Willow Springs is hosting a “Living Skills” Day, and I will be teaching spinning, weaving, and dyeing.  The event is on June 26th.  Hope to see some of you there!

On the knitting front, I just finished my February Lady Vest from handspun yarn…

More details of this can be found on my Ravelry Project Page..

It was a fun knit, and I used just about every last inch of handspun to finish it.  We’ve had late rains here in California, with some cold hail today, so I am enjoying my last chances to wear my new wooly vest..soon it will hibernate in the cedar chest during the long hot summer…soon it will be time to knit and weave cotton garments…

And I have a new warp to share:

I handpainted some warp chains, with the intention of making yardcloth for a shirt for myself.  I will share with you soon the finished cloth, as the weaving is going fast, as plain weave does!  Painting warps is lots of fun, and I will be posting a tutorial on it in the near future!

Until next time, happy spring!!

Springtime Batts!!

April 13, 2010

A few hours at the carder, and I have a heap of batts to share….

MamaSpider Etsy is stocked with colorful spinning batts…

and for those local to here, I dropped a fresh batch of batts off at MeadowFarm Yarn Studio.…colors all inspired by Spring!!!

And I also have some awesome Walnut Buttons for sale, made by Lebin St. John, from local walnuts!  Lovely unique buttons for that special knitting project!!

Hope all of you are enjoying the springtime rains and colors!!  I will be painting warps tomorrow, and will post soon about that project!!  Springtime always gets me inspired to get the dyepots going!!

A gift from my grandmother

March 21, 2010

So, last night while knitting on my handspun February Lady Sweater, I got an overwhelming memory of my grandmother. Perhaps it was the sound of the click of the needles in my hands that brought her memory close, for many of my memories of her, she had her knitting in her hands.

I called her “Doda”, which means grandmother in her first language, which is Mohawk. She grew up on a small family farm on the Mohawk reservation of Akwesasne. She grew up on the Canadian side of the reserve, on the small island of Cornwall on the St Lawrence Seaway.  She didn’t speak English until she was over 10, and was one of the only members of her large family to go to school and learn English. Her Mother was a basketweaver, making exquisite little Mohawk fancy baskets she could sell at the market in exchange for groceries.

My Doda left home to become a teacher, having no patience for her mother’s trade of basket weaving.  She taught in a one room school house on the reservation for several years. Eventually she married my grandfather, Lincoln, and had three boys, ( one being my father).

My grandmother’s name was Emily White.  Here is a picture of her when she is roughly my age…she always had such grace and style, she always looked well dressed.

She is who first taught me to knit.  Socks were our first project.  I still have them…She knit one, i knit the other in the pair. Her’s were perfect ( after knitting hundreds of pairs in her 89 years, she could practically knit them with her eyes closed!)…and my pair were wonky, the knitting so tight, that my sock was nearly 2 sizes smaller than her sock!

here’s the first pair..

But, i caught the knitting bug that weekend, and have been insatiably knitting ever since.   When I sat with her that weekend, I asked her how you said “knitting” in Mohawk.  “There is no word that means knitting in Mohawk.” she said. ” Kali:say yoon:we” was the mohawk word she used, which literally meant “making socks”. But nowadays, it is used as a word for all knitting.   Guess the Mohawk women were impressed with the English sock making skills!!!  My Doda never knit lace, saying Mohawk women had no need for doilies, just socks, sweaters and “toques” ( knit caps).

When she was 91, I went to visit her. I had a couple of years of sock knitting under my belt, and thru online tutorials and a Cat Bordhi book, I had learned to knit socks on two circular needles.  She watched with interest as I knit socks in a new-fangled way, and immediately she wanted to learn how to do it my way.  I showed her the basic concept, and she knit one whole sock that way.  She laughed, and in her funny mohawk/english accent said: ” oh that was easy as falling off a log!” She always had these funny little sayings.  But for the second sock, she had her trusty double point needles ready to cast on.  It’s hard to convince an old dog to practice new tricks, eh?

I really wish I had a photograph of her hands. She lived with rheumatoid arthritis for a large part of her later years, and her hands were very bumpy and gnarled, but in a beautiful way that old tree trunks twist and bend.  She swore that knitting wool kept her hands nimble and working, and she could knit like the wind, a very fast knitter. Prolific too, as we have a bin of old sweaters she knit for us over the years, and my daughter still wears some that I wore as a small girl.

Here’s a picture of her showing me a knitting technique….note my daughter is the baby on the floor, she’s now 5 years old!

She gave me so many gifts and memories.  Yet the gift of knitting, it’s one that keeps giving, as my hands work the yarn into many shapes and colors.  I cherish that she and I shared that connection, that love of a craft.  In her last days here on Earth, she called all of us to her bed to share with us a few more bits of wisdom, and to give us things from her possessions she knew we would hold onto.  Naturally, she wanted me to have all her knitting tools, and she even had me promise to finish a sweater of hers that was still in progress on needles in her knitting basket.  I am thankful to still have that last sweater of hers, as she passed the torch to me as the knitter in the family. I will proudly pass down the craft to my own daughter, as she grows.

I was inspired to write some of these memories by a blog I recently stumbled onto….The Family Trunk Project.  Emily Johnson has been designing knitwear patterns inspired by old family photographs and her own ancestors. Each knitting pattern was designed with a specific family member in mind, and the pattern tells the interesting story of that persons life.  She’s created a family tree of knitting designs!  All her patterns have a wonderful vintage flair, and I can’t wait to knit more of them.  I already knit her Portlandia Cloche, and i love it!  Here’s a photo of my finished cloche:

One of my most favorite things that my Doda left for me was a bowl full of darning eggs.  She was an avid collector of many things, including vintage Fiesta Ware. This Fiesta bowl filled with darning eggs on the shelf in my weaving studio is a daily reminder of the things my Doda loved.

I still use those eggs too, they are a wonderful tool to patch my precious handknit, handspun socks!

Here’s one final picture of my Doda, Emily White.  This is always how I will remember her, smiling.

She was a fiesty old woman, and I only hope I can live with half as much grace as she carried herself through her life.

Chai and Cardweaving!

March 6, 2010

I’ve got  a pot of chai simmering, and it’s making the house smell divine.  Wonderful warming spices to cheer even the greyest of days of winter. Here are the herbs before simmering.

Now here’s the recipe:

Red Rooibis Chai:

5 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces

dash of vanilla extract

1 tsp ground nutmeg

3 star anise, broken up

8 whole cardamom pods

4 Tbsp fresh grated ginger

3 peppercorns, bruised

3 whole cloves

pinch of sea salt

6 cups water

Simmer these spices for 30 min.  Turn off heat and add a handful of loose rooibis red tea, or several teabags of any kind of tea.  let steep for 10 min.  strain and serve with milk and sweetener of your choice.

ENJOY!! my kids love this drink, with steamed milk in the morning.  A great digestive tonic for the whole family.


And on the weaving front, i’ve been experimenting with cardweaving.  This ancient form of belt weaving uses cards to create a”shed” to weave intricate belt patterns.  H

Using cards made of paper, wood, horn, bone etc., you can weave an infinite array of designs.

check out Linda Hendrickson’s amazing website and gallery! she has done absolutely wonderful things with card weaving!  and Mike from Wormspit has an amazing gallery too.  His website is totally inspiring on another front: domesticated silkworm cultivation. i will be posting more about this,  as the kids and i will be raising silkworms this summer!

So i sat up late last night while the kids were sleeping, and warped my inkle loom up and threaded my first card woven belt.

I am so excited to learn more about this technique and experiment.  Apparently you can even weave letters and words!  So cool!  I am using my Gilmore Inkle loom and am just bypassing the texsolve heddles to use the cards.

I can’t help but wonder how people figured this technique out.  Years of trial and error to figure out how to weave with simple tools.  I am so thankful that people are still around who know how to do this and other fiber related crafts, and have the foresight to continue to write and teach about them to us.

Winter Weavings….

February 27, 2010

Finally catching up to write here…winter has been a whirlwind of holidays, flu, colds, and rainy days.  Haven’t been in the studio as much as I would like, but sometimes a break can be a breath of fresh air for inspiration.  Spring is surely on its way, as the daffodils are blooming and peepers are peeping, and i have a lot of projects i am excited about….

First off, i will tell you about this amazing dye recipe book i have in the works…the amazingly talented Sara Lamb of  Woven Thoughts came up to my studio to teach a handful of us ( Woolydaisy has some pictures in her blog of our day!) how to create our own Dye Sample books.  Using Sabraset Acid dyes, we worked on mixing an amazing array of two and three color combinations using primary colors. Using beakers, syringes, and , we mathmatically (and metrically) made mixes of different proportions of dye to make a great gradient of color.  Out of this, my love for the metric system has increased tenfold at least.

We got the jist of it while under Sara’s guidance, and will be meeting monthly to complete the long list of dye combos needed to make our dye books complete.  After that, we will have a go to reference to easily replicate nearly every color you can imagine!!   Here’s a few pictures:

this mess of sample cards we made on our first day:

will soon transform into a neatly organized book like this one Sara lent us to finish! I can’t wait!!!

As for weavings…i am in a warping zone these days…both my floor looms need warps, and i am warping my two rigid heddle looms too!  Always tough to get motivated sometimes to get to warping, but the promise of a new project is also really inspiring.

First, i warped up this table loom for some tea towels in a 4 shaft Bird’sEye twill pattern.  i think i have enough warp to make 3 towels, so i will make them in three different colors.  Here’s a shot in progress:

Next, i am warping my rigid heddle looms for a couple of projects.  I’ve been super inspired by Sara Lamb’s new book Woven Treasures

Sara is in our Fiber Guild, and i’ve seen her exquisite bags firsthand.  So inspiring.  so i am using her book to learn to warp and weave with two heddles.  Her instructions are clear, and photos very helpful.  Here is a picture of my warping in progress:

I am using 4/2 unmercenized cotton i got for cheap in the bargain bin at Paradise Fibers.  I am weaving yardcloth for either a bag or a top for myself…i haven’t totally decided which, i will see how the fabric is once off the loom.  the weft will be an 8/2 cotton.  i am using 2 -12 dent reeds, for a sett of 24 epi.

And other exciting news is that i am passing on my love of fiber arts to my daughter Maizie, who is learning to weave and drop spindle at the ripe age of 5!!!  we got her a little rigid heddle loom for the holidays, and she loves it!  she will spend hours weaving, and has already cranked out several scarfs and a wall hanging.

Here’s a few pictures of her work: a scarf in progress on the loom…

Her wonderful wall hanging, complete with embellishments and braided fringe ( she did all of it with very little help from me!!)

Here is a picture of her spindling:

She makes me smile in so many ways.

I have a whole pile of new handspun yarns ,and a whole basket of knitting works in progress, but i will save those for another post…

Life is full of spring planting in the greenhouse, rainy days with the house alive with noise and play, and the gentle whir of the spinning wheel.  Thankful for inspiration of color and texture to enrich our already abundant lives.  Peace.