Thursday, July 23, 2009

New Video Podcasts

I've been posting several podcasts today, trying to get them out before my summer vacation runs out. I've posted the basic knitting videos that are also posted on I'm almost finished with the cat screen and would really like to get that out of the way in time to start some new fall crafts. The wall border is finished, but not completely edited, so that's still in the works. I'm giving you a preview of what's coming up with the cat screen.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Weaving with the Cricket

In continuing my summer of expanding my crafting knowledge, I drove to historic New Bern, NC yesterday. I had an appointment with Marilyn Vandersea, the owner of the Weaver's Web Gallery to learn to use my Cricket Loom. Marilyn owns and runs a large, beautiful shop containing aisle after aisle of beautiful yarns, needles, and anything else to do with fiber arts. I began my spinning with her last summer after purchasing my Louet 76 spinning wheel and learning to spin at her shop. She also has two large floor looms in the store on which she weaves exquisite tapestries and apparel displayed throughout the store. My goal is to one day learn to use these looms, but for right now, more immediate, was to learn to set up and weave on the table-top loom Henry bought me some time back.
I had tried reading the instructions to set up and weave on the loom that came with it, but it's not the same as having an experienced weaver show you. The yarn sent with the loom was Lion Brand Wool Ease. Although the wool is good for knitting, it didn't do well as a warp thread. I purchased a skein of Maysville Carpet Warp in a dark brown 100% cotton for the warp and a skein of Plymouth Encore Colorspun (worsted weight) for the weft. The colors are going together beautifully. I can't wait to finish the piece.
Marilyn showed me a different way to tie on my warp threads which eliminated having to untie and retie until all were evenly tight. She also showed me a way to finish the beginning of the weaving while the work is still on the loom so that when finished, I only have to cut the warp threads to be done with the piece.
I count myself very fortunate to live within an hour or so's drive of four very accomplished fiber artists who are very willing to share their knowledge of the craft with others. One part of taking classes with each is getting a different perspective on working with fibers. I've learned that there's no one way to do anything in spinning or knitting or weaving. Yesterday was certainly no exception. If you have the opportunity to visit New Bern, NC, please go by the Weaver's Web Gallery at 602 Pollock Street for a fiber treat. Marilyn carries a wide range of knitting needles as well as embroidery and needlepoint supplies and will do mail order (252-514-2681).

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Santa in July

I had a ball today learning a new craft, needle felting. I made the trip to the Tail-Spinner Yarn Shop in Richlands, NC and had the chance to learn to do a Santa head ornament with their resident needle-felting artist, Melissa. She makes it so easy to follow along and gives great advice on shaping and using dyed wool to color an object. Melissa's award-winning felted items are never painted; they're made by adding already dyed wools in various shades. Her work is amazing to see. I've already displayed some of her work on an earlier blog, but if you missed it, here's the link. I kept glancing at my Santa on the way home, wondering that I actually made this and in such a short time. Melissa is offering a more advanced class this fall, so if you are interested, please see their website: and register. She will also be teaching this class at the Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair in October. Highly recommended.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Secret Garden Winery

Saturday was a beautiful, warm, but not too warm day here in Wayne County. Henry graciously offered to chauffeur me and four of our good friends to A Secret Garden Winery, located off of Highway 117. We had a blast. The winery is completely organic and does not use any sulfites to its wines. We sampled several varieties including a Golden Harvest; Hush, Hush Blush and Mary Rose Red (these two have won awards), Southern Breeze (red) and a Blueberry Wine. All wines except the fruit wines are made from native Muscadine grapes. The Muscadine grape actually produces a wine with forty times the amount of antioxidants as any other wine produced. The wines were extremely fresh and the hospitality from our hostess was wonderful. We were made to feel welcome as soon as we entered the wine shop and were also greeted by Molly Muscadine, the owners' Basset Hound when given the tour of the grounds. The orchards get local help controlling the insect population from the hundreds of purple martins who have taken up residence in the martin condos. These birds are well-known in the South as a farmer's friend because of their habit of living in large groups, thereby increasing their worth as free bug control. They love the gourd-style houses hung high from a pole.We were taken on a tour of the fermentation room where the wines are taken after being crushed. They are kept in temperature controlled vats until ready to be bottled, usually around two years later. This keeps the bottles fresh. The wine is sold only at the winery due to the nature of the wine. It is not made to be mass produced. Each bottle is hand-filled, labeled and tested for alcohol content. Nothing is done by machine at this winery. It shows in the quality of the product.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Finishing Projects

I'm finishing up the last wax coatings for this Buckeye Gourd for my nephew's friend. I used the Gourd Master's new heat-set glue for gold leafing. I think it turned out well.
The dragon is finally finished except for a quick follow-up bake and will be flying off to his new home soon.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Dye Workshop

I attended a great dyeing workshop yesterday at Heelside Farm in Four Oaks, NC. The workshop was given by Carolyn Beasley, owner. I should have checked my batteries in my camera before I left home, because after taking three pictures, they died. I managed one photo of some guinea chickens who crossed the road in front of my car on the way to the farm. They weren't in a hurry and took enough time for me to pull out the camera. The second was the beautiful peacock perched atop of the house when I drove up.

I snapped one more of one of the farm turkeys before they died. I will be back at the farm before too much longer, I hope, so will still be able to share more photos. In the meantime, you can visit their website at
I remember dyeing basket reed years ago, when I was very heavily into weaving baskets. It was never one of my favorite parts of basketmaking as the reed was often bulky and required a lot of stirring and rinsing and large areas to lay this out after finishing. Also, the reed, unless bundled correctly, would sometimes flip onto the dyer or fling dye places it shouldn't go.
Dyeing wool with Carolyn was so easy yesterday and a lot of fun. We used synthetic dyes by Jacquard and dyed yarn and wool locks from her Border Leicester sheep. We chose turquoise and cherry red for our solid colors. I decided to buy extra locks to go with mine so that I could get a largeer amount of it from the same dye lot. I used the turquoise which came out in two shades because of re-animating the solution between batches. It's even more beautiful in person (or in sheep?) than in the photos.
We also each dyed a variegated skein by handpainting it with four different dyes. Again, the picture doesn't really do it justice. I'm going to measure my skein. It's kind of rasta-looking. I'm wondering if there's enough for a small hat. We dyed on top of the stove and in the oven as well, a new technique I didn't know.
Carolyn took us on a tour of her farm to introduce her animals, sheep, chickens, peacocks, turkeys and angora rabbits. I so much wanted to take home one of those sweet bunnies. She has beautiful angoras available for sale if you're interested.
Lunch was provided, consisting of smoked turkey and corned beef sandwiches, blueberry muffins and homemade dill pickles. I didn't know dyeing would work up such an appetite, but lunch was delicious. Thanks again, Carolyn and sons (who helped out) for the wonderful hospitality (and advice on my frustrating yak spinning).
Carolyn mentioned that she and some other spinners are trying to develop a group which would meet monthly to spin. I'm looking forward to this chance to network with more spinners. I don't know anyone around here that spins on a regular basis (or at all), so this will be a real treat for me.
In addition to the synthetic class, Carolyn also offers a class in using natural dyes, such as indigo, black walnut, brazilwood, etc. She is a well-read spinning and fiber historian and entertained us with a lot of background stories of indigo growers and other dyeing history. Did you know you can make dyes out of pine tree roots?
I would highly recommend these classes to anyone who enjoys knitting or spinning. Even if you're not a spinner and only buy ready-made skeins of yarn, wouldn't you like to be able to tweak that skein of wool just a little. Maye the shade could be a little bluer than what the store offers? Learn to dye your own wool and take more control of your knitting.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

New Book: Toilet Roll Covers

I recently purchased a book, Toilet Roll Covers, by Pat Ashforth and Steve Plummer. The projects for this book really sold me on the book, which is surprising, since I'm not usually a fan of kitschy crochet items like the little doll toilet roll covers. However, these are designs never seen before in a bathroom and are just darn cute. I will admit, I'm not someone who likes to read directions. Give me pictures and diagrams and I'm off. This was a mistake with this book. Although the projects are easy enough, the authors use different terminology than what I'm used to seeing here in the United States. Is the terminology for crochet different in the U.K.? They call a single crochet a double, a double a treble, etc. This was really confusing and caused me to start over twice on the wooly sheep cover. They also don't specify yarn size or hook size for the main covers, so this forced me to swatch to figure this out on my own. They do give you gauge information, so you can figure this out on your own. This does give more flexibility for your projects; you just have to swatch.
I'm not sure this is a book for beginners, or at least not beginners who have lazy habits like I do. It also helps to have your toilet roll handy while knitting or crocheting in order to fit it. (In my case, it also necessitates having a plastic bag to hide the roll while not using it, as my cat Willow is a shredder and can completely flay a toilet roll as soon as I leave the room).
But, having said all that, I would still highly recommend this book. I'm planning to try the Paper Tiger next which looks like garter stitch. I'll post a picture of my wooly sheep cover when finished. I bought the book at Barnes & Noble, but you can also find it at

Saturday, July 4, 2009