Spinning Tuesdays

TNNA 2018 – Things That Aren’t Knitting

The Dress at Freia Fibers

Amy, Kate and I are just back from the annual National Needlework Association convention, where we get to touch yarns and plan with yarn companies and designers. Amy posted to the Knitty Instagram all about the knitting side while we were there.

I get so caught up in looking and touching new fiber things and the hugging of friends that I forget to take pictures, but I have a few.

I do have to mention one yarn company that always makes me smile with their creativity, Freia Fibers. That dress is knit from

Amy, Tina and the Yarn Bomb

their gradient yarns. I have a crush on Tina’s yarn akin to the crush I had on Noro in the 1990s. She has a new giant gradient ball called a Yarn Bomb, 860 yards of fingering weight Merino. There is a shawl in my future.

There were a few other yarns that turned my head, Cashmere People, Kellbourne Woolens new Faroe imported yarn, and Jade Sapphire’s entire range of cashmere yarns.




There were quite a few companies with spinning fiber, I think the most I’ve ever seen at TNNA. I took no pictures, I was too busy touching. My spinning representative is Roy G. Pig from Oink Pigments, who had delicious fiber. Here are the companies I saw and touched with fiber: Oink Pigments, Frabjous Fiber, Dragonfly Fiber,  DM Fibers, Ashford Wheels and Looms, Lorna’s Laces, Malabrigo, Manos, Anzula, and Elemental Affects. I’m sure there were more.





Just a tiny bit of the beauty at Brooklyn Haberdashery



The biggest growth area this year that wasn’t knitting was stitching, embroidery and cross stitch mostly. I saw several companies selling the quick to stitch types of samplers that I love, but the thing that had my head spinning were all of the gorgeous notions. Brooklyn Haberdashery had the most amazing things, but their booth was so packed I could never get in!

The thing that lots of people, were talking about, but wasn’t represented was punch needle embroidery.



Schacht Easel Weaver and Louet Erica


You’ll notice that I haven’t mention weaving, the craft that I keep dancing around. Well, at this show I stepped fully into the weaving soul train. There was great weaving at the show. Purl and Loop had their new woven earrings, Ashford was there, Kromski premiered a new rigid heddle loom. Schacht has a great new Easel Weaver, it’s an I style loom with a kickstand, genius. I can’t wait to play with it.


Me and my Erica, scampering out the door.




Louet was there too with their amazing Erica loom. It’s a table loom that’s 2+2. It comes with two shafts with the option of adding two more. Which to me means weaving twill!  It’s a great step up from a rigid heddle without investing in a floor loom. Reader, I bought one. When I’ll have the time to learn about the loom and weaving with four shafts will remain to be seen, but she’s sitting on my dining room table singing me a little song.

Tour de Fleece 2018 – What Are You Spinning?

The bicycles are going on this route.

Tour de Fleece this year is July 7-29 and it’s going to be here before we know it! Are you spinning? Do you know what you’re spinning?

For those that don’t know about the Tour de Fleece here’s the scoop. Every year during the run of Tour de France bicycle race spinners spin. They challenge themselves to spin every day for about three weeks following the schedule of bicycling Tour, resting on days that the riders rest.

Lots of spinners join teams for camaraderie, fun and prizes, check out Ravelry for lots of team info. Some spinners watch the Tour as they spin, some spinners spin with no team, binging on Netflix. It’s fun and it’s casual.

What all spinners do is challenge themselves somehow. They learn new skills, or spin new yarns. They spin a sweater’s worth of yarn, or they just spin down their stash. It’s amazing how much can get spun with focus, if you have and take the time.

I haven’t spun during the TdF for a few years, for a lot of reasons. It’s usually vacation time for my family and mostly I just don’t want more deadlines.

Homestead Hobbyist Deepwood


This year I decided to change my thinking about it all and release the pressure I put on myself. I have always wanted to spin and knit a pair of socks. One of my fav dyers is going to hold a sock spin along/knit along over three months from July-September. It will be announced soon, I’ll let you know the specifics when he releases them.

So my spinning goal for the Tour de Fleece is to spin four ounces of fiber into sock yarn, that’s it. It feels good to take part in the Tour and have a tiny goal. I even have my fiber already, a perfectly socky blend from The Homestead Hobbyist , 50% Southdown/ 25% Dorset Horn/ 25% Mulberry Silk, in the color Deepwood. And yes, that is a not-so-subtle hint about who is having the sal/kal.

Tell me about your TdF plans, goals, team, fiber, all of it!



NwRSA – PNW Spinners Are Amazing

A giant felted spinning wheel!

What I didn’t really realize when I said yes to teaching at the NwRSA conference this year is just how many spinners there are in the upper left hand corner of the US. The North West Regional Spinners Association conference is a whole bunch of guilds coming together. It was all spinning all the time and it was wonderful!

I taught Yarnitecture and the Gist of Grist to very enthusiastic and talented spinners. The conference was in a hotel in Olympia and we pretty much took over.

The main ballroom was ours and it was full of a gallery (check out the giant felted spinning wheel!), vendors and spinners from the morning to 11 at night. There was a banquet with the ferociously talented Andrea Love as a speaker. She is the stop-motion animator and felt artist who did the short film, Revolution, for Hansen.



Andrea Love, grist mess, our spinning room and Elizabeth Palmer’s gorgeous tunic.



The spinners here were so welcoming, I drifted around to different groups and never stopped talking. The first person I met was from Michigan, the second is a University of Buffalo alum (Go Bulls!). I asked so many questions about weaving and everyone’s spinning projects and received such thoughtful answers. It was a weekend where no one was in a hurry and everyone luxuriated in their craft and their friends.






Rug hooking and Tasmanian Comebck

I did the tiniest amount of shopping, but managed to discover a new dyer and pick up a new craft. I bought fiber from Fleebers Farm (she doesn’t have an online shop yet). Yes, that says Tasmanian Comeback for breed. She explained it as a Merino bred to a Longwool sheep then bred back to a Merino, I can’t wait to try it.

After three years of circling rug hooking, Judy Taylor’s kits finally made me jump. I bought a small kit (the sheep one) to try hooking with yarn, but already have my eye on a large rug that uses wool strips.

Seattle Spinning, Knitting, and Weaving – Suggestions, Please!

Olympia and Seattle here I come!


This week I’m teaching at the  Northwest Regional Spinners Association Conference in Olympia, Washington.

It’s going to be an outstanding conference with a big list of creative teachers, an outstanding keynote speaker, and , of course, all of the visionary spinners attending. I’m ready to teach and to soak up all innovative thinking at the event.





Kinokuniya – where are the pens and stationery?

I am very grateful to my friend Lisa who has invited me to stay with her in Seattle for a few days after the conference. I haven’t been to Seattle since the 90’s, and I’d love to know what you suggest I do while I’m there.

My friend Lisa is an amazing weaver and spinner. Guess what my brain will be full of when I come home?

Right now the only thing on my list is a trip to Kinokuniya, the Seattle location is giant and there are pens and stationary.

What fiber, food and generally soaking up the atmosphere spots do you recommend for two days in Seattle?


Rhinebeck Spinning Retreat, Spinning and Knitting with Louet in May

Beth wrote this awesome book!

My friend and amazing spinning teacher, Beth Smith, is having a spinning retreat at Rhinebeck.

The retreat is October 18-22. The price includes two days of classes,class materials, lodging, meals, a weekend pass to the Sheep and Wool festival and a goodie bag.

Beth explains the whole weekend in this post.

This is a great opportunity to take classes with Beth. She won’t be teaching much in 2019 because she’s spending the year learning and working on something new.





Will you buy a prize winning fleece?

The classes she’s teaching are ones I’d love to take (but I’m teaching elsewhere).

There is a full day breed study, taking four breeds from fluff to a knitted or woven sample. I need to take this class to figure our different ways to sample, that may be a little more detailed than my quick and dirty method.

On Saturday, the morning is spent discussing the ins and outs of buying a fleece, then the afternoon is all about shopping for a fleece with Beth. I have witnessed this woman shopping for fleeces – she has a magical ability to find the most delectable fleeces.

Louet S10 Concept Wheel





This month Louet is celebrating spinning and knitting! If you pop over to their blog, you can read a post I wrote about knitting with handspun yarn.

I have wheel lust. I think a Louet is going to be my next wheel. I have always liked the look of an S10, and they treadle so smoothly.

Do you have a Louet wheel? Tell me what you love about it!


Kate Atherley’s Buttonholes for Handspun

Kate has a smiling face and a gigantic brain!

Ok, these buttonholes aren’t only for knitting with handspun. This article is so perfectly succinct in the construction of six different buttonholes for hand knits that every spinner who knits needs to have it as a reference.

Knitty’s own Tech Goddess, Kate Atherley, wrote this buttonhole article for Mason-Dixon Knitting. It shows how to make eyelet, eyelet in ribbing, horizontal, vertical, and afterthought buttonholes. Plus my new favorite, Slipped-Stitch Cable Buttonhole, I’ve never seen that one before and am in instant love.

Being ever helpful and wickedly smart, Kate tell us how to fix a stretched out buttonhole. The answer doesn’t have to be, buy bigger buttons!

Slipped-stitch cable buttonholes forever! All photos by Kate Atherley for Mason-Dixon Knitting.

What is your favorite buttonhole for handspun hand knits?

New Sett Checker for Weaving

I’m so curious about weaving and how weaving works. Usually when I start a new craft I jump in the deep end and just start thrashing around. I do a lot of guessing with mixed results. What I realize after all of these years is that by not doing any methodical learning, it takes me twice as long to learn things; I stay an advanced beginner for a long time.

This time around with weaving (the first time around is a story for another day – there was a lot of thrashing) I am vowing to be more methodical. But I also love a short cut (I’m lazy that way). Which is why Liz Gipson’s new Sett Checker is perfect for me.

Yarnworker’s Sett Checker

This handy dandy new tool lets me peek at three different setts for a any yarn. A sett is how many ends per inch (EPI) are in a warp (the vertical threads on a loom).  Really, if I was being completely methodical, I would weave small samples to check the sett, and if I were thrashing about I would just pick one because it sounded good that day.

These Sett Checkers are made by Purl and Loop, who also collaborated with Liz on the 3 in 1 Swatch Maker Loom, and are the fine folks who make the amazing Bracelet Looms, the Stash Blaster Looms, and the Swatch Maker Weaving Looms.

Setts are 8, 10 ,12

This Sett Checker is as easy to use as a WPI gauge. It works great with commercial or hand woven yarns.

A full Sett Checker is a happy Sett Checker

I will caution you that just like a WPI gauge, you can make the Sett Checker lie. If you pull tightly when wrapping your yarn on, it will change how your sett looks. Take a look at this handspun. I wound it on with just a little tension for the first 3 slots, then pulled it taunt as I was wrapping. Big difference. Don’t be in a hurry or feel like pulling things tight when you check your sett.

I pulled on my yarn and it gave me a wonky sett.

My weaving right now is all on my rigid heddle loom (I have a Schacht Cricket). I’m just starting to experiment with dyed handspun yarn and weaving and boy is it a fascinating rabbit hole. I’m doing a lot of following along with Liz’s weaving column that she wrote for Knitty for three years, Get Warped. Liz is a fantastic teacher and really understands the balance between jumping in and being methodical. She’s set herself up an online weaving school this year. You can find her school, her teaching calendar, blog, and shop on her website Yarnworker.

Sampling Miss Babs Fiber

Miss Babs BFL

Did you know Miss Babs has spinning fiber? I saw it announced on her Instagram and hopped right on over to shop.

Miss Babs has colors that are beautiful with so much variety in tone and depth. Plus Babs and all of her employees are the nicest people!

I bought 8 ounces of two colors on BFL, Coffee Break and Deep Sea Jellyfish. She has added more colors since the last time I looked; someone hide my credit card.

She has BFL, BFL/silk, Merino, Merino/silk, and Merino/bamboo/silk bases.  Her descriptions say they are roving, but they sure look and feel like top to me.

Her colors are divided into Wild Iris – not repeatable and Babette – repeatable-ish, every braid is a little different.



Just a pinch

The fiber came very fast (yay!). I have no idea what I want to do with any of the fiber, so I did my most favorite thing. Everyone cheer together – I sampled.

When i have a finite amount of fiber, I strip off a little bit. I used .5 ounce of each color for four samples.

I spun my default yarn – woolen draft, dk-light worsted weight in a 2-ply. I plied each color on itself, I plied them to each other, and I drafted the colors together and plied it on itself.

These are super quick samples, more for color and feel. I ply the samples off of my hand and knit tiny swatches, about 12 stitches.

I just want an idea. If something makes me curious, I would do another bigger sample.


Spun up and finished



Here are my tiny skeins.

Left to right, Coffee Break on itself, Deep Sea Jellyfish on itself, Coffee Break and Deep Sea Jellyfish plied together, and Coffee Break and Deep Sea JellyFish drafted together and plied together.





12 stitch swatches


My tiny 12-stitch swatches tell me so much.

First off, I do not like the the colors mixed or blended together in any way.

It took this exercise for me to notice that there is a fair amount of dark in the Deep Sea Jellyfish. In my mind it was relentlessly and fabulously just bright pink.

Putting it together with the darker Coffee Break stole the brightness.

Plus, I like them very much plied with themselves.

The Miss Babs team does a great job dyeing. The fiber wan’t compacted at all and there was no dye residue when I finished my yarns.

I already want some more, but first I have to spin these little jewels!




Spinning in the Spring and Summer: The First Wave of Fiber Festivals


Iowa Sheep and Wool Festival

I get itchy this time of year because I know festival season is going to start soon. Animals, fiber,  spinning, and friends all together usually at a fairground, I love it. In my mind the season opens with Maryland Sheep and Wool in May and it closes with the Southeast Animal Fiber Fair in October.

Here’s a list of some of the US festivals from May-August.


May 5-6 Maryland Sheep and Wool, West Friendship, Maryland.

May 11-13 Shepherd’s Harvest, Lake Elmo, Minnesota

May 12-13 New Hampshire Sheep and Wool, Deerfield New, Hampshire

May 19-20 Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival, Lexington, Kentucky


June 2-3 Northern Illinois Sheep and Fiber Festival, Woodstock, Illinois

June 2-3 Flag Wool and Fiber Festival, Flagstaff, arizona

June 7-10 Estes Park Wool Market, Estes Park Colorado

Black Sheep Gathering

June 17-19 Iowa Sheep and Wool Festival, Ames Iowa

June 29-July 1 Black Sheep Gathering, Albany Oregon


August 15-19 Michigan Fiber Festival, Allegan Michigan


Then fall happens and we run to the fall festivals soaking up fall sunshine, friendships and buying fiber because we have to store it away like squirrels hiding nuts. I’ll list the fall shows in August.

If you know of a spring/summer show that has fiber animals, fiber for sale, has spinning classes, and is happening before September, put it in the comments and I’ll update this page.

Happy travels, happy shopping and happy spinning!



This Spinner Talks Knitting on Mason-Dixon Knitting


Singles, 2-ply, and 3-ply commercial yarns.


I have a new post up at Mason-Dixon Knitting about  how ply in commercial yarn affects knitting.

I’ve been having a great time over the past few posts talking to knitters about how yarns are constructed and what it means to our knitting. Everyone seems happy to learn new things and to find out that some knitting snafus are caused by yarn fiber, draft and ply, not by our ability to knit.


I demonstrated fun with ply in some great yarns :


Single-ply (singles): Mrs. Crosby, Satchel (100% Superwash Merino), Color: Spun Gold.

Lace swatches!

2-ply: Sincere Sheep, Cormo Fingering (100% Cormo), Color: Vit C.

3-ply: Sincere Sheep, Cormo Sport (100% Cormo), Color: Vit C

I did my most favorite thing, I knit them into swatches to show what happens when a ply is added or subtracted in various stitch patterns.



Singles, 2-ply, 3-ply and cable ply all in BFL

As spinners we figure this out pretty early on in our knitting our handspun careers. It’s easy for us to change our ply when we sample to get the right ply for any particular project.

Waaay back in 2013 (!) I wrote my Knittyspin column about ply and knitting. I had a great time experimenting and sampling with ply.

Singles, 2-ply, 3-ply, and cable ply in cabled knitting. The cable ply weighs a ton!

I carry my ply samples with me every time I teach. They’ve caused quite a few ah-ha moments when spinners handle them in class.

Have you done any experimenting or sampling with ply?