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my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home


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Woodstock Fleece Festival – silver anniversary

We joined hands and spent a mid-October Saturday together at the 10th annual Woodstock Fleece Festival.  These right steps answered T’s big question:

Why do you go to a spinning festival anyway?

Reason Number 1, there are fibre animals, dear

Llama demonstration 4-H Llama Club Woodstock Fleece Festival 2018 by irieknit

Llama love – that’s T’s hand!

The 4-H Llama Club brought super tolerant llamas.  This sweetheart was almost eye-level with 6 year-old T!

4-H Llama Club demonstration Festival Barn Woodstock Fleece Festival 2018 by irieknit

Another llama friend for T (while I shopped!)

There was enough time & space in this Festival Barn space in particular for the little ones to enjoy their experience.  The volunteers did a fabulous job!

Angora rabbit demonstration Marketplace Barn Woodstock Fleece Festival 2018 by irieknit

Angora rabbit care & plucking

After a bite to eat we found the angora rabbit demonstration starting next door in the Marketplace Barn.  I was happy to point out kids in handknit (are they handspun too, I don’t know!) hats, rush a goodbye and head for the vendors’ stalls.

T learned a lot, snuck a pet mid-demonstration (you did?!? yes), and is not very sure about plucking fur from angora rabbits being exactly kind to them.  I demurred not being an expert.

Reason Number 2, buy all the things!

This reason covered seeing friends – vendors & attendees alike.  My purchases year-over-year are down but still not what you would call paltry.

Knitting books from Gemini Fibres at Woostock Fleece Festival 2018

L-R: T’s pick; and my pick

While I was in the Gemini Fibres line with a copy of Marianne Kinzel’s First Book of Modern Lace Knitting, T ran up beaming with his find & pleases.  To go with a WIP handspun monster he asks for the Michele Wilcox owl & chicken first from her Amigurumi Animal Friends.  Alrighty!

Handspinning Shetland wool dyed by Sheepspot on Wee Peggy spinning wheel by irieknit

Spinning festival fibre with Wee Peggy

Visiting Sasha’s booth for Sheepspot was a special treat.  So impressive was it all that T asked if she owned & operated the Auditorium!  We had nice chats through the day, and I brought home this Shetland top (104 g, ‘Autumn Wedding’ colourway) with other fibre & yarn.  They are the only local sellers of Greensleeves spindles if you are looking for good ones.

This braid was handled exactly as I did the Furiosa Shetland top, i.e. divided by length into thirds, and spun end-to-end.  My guess is that they will show how different the same spinning can look where the only variable is the dyer’s colourways.  Tools, breed, and ply structure will be all the same.  It will be interesting to compare them!

Handspun Shetland singles dyed by Sheepspot on Wee Peggy spinning wheel by irieknit

Third & last bobbin of the Shetland spin

The wheel is Wee Peggy, and I didn’t change her set-up, scotch tension, 5:1.  It is a 1982 (i.e. late version) Rappard kit wheel that my friend Margaret bought, and sold to me for a first wheel.  Mary Knox has given a timeline comparison of the Peggy wheel designs here.

Since this wheel has been home, I have spun with the Willow Tree figure on the back maiden.  She holds a conch shell to her ear, and if she’s here for luck it’s been working!

As for other purchases most were re-stocking, and I also got dyestuff from John at the Fibre Garden.  Hopefully it all spills into TKK as we go through to the next Festival.

An interesting new-to-me vendor was Karberry Farm from Mountain, On.  Their Shetland was tempting but I chose 2 colours of Jacob roving (raised by a neighbouring shepherd).  Jacob is listed as critical in the Breed Conservation List 2015 of Heritage Livestock Canada.  It was a joy to see a 1-30 animal category rare breed at Woodstock!  I was in danger of grabbing the bag of raw fleece but am glad that I resisted.  Cleaning fleece as I do in the kitchen is more difficult to arrange, and I don’t like keeping wool raw if I can help it.

On Melvin

A quick update is that Melvin has been stable through the summer & fall on his new regimen for feline diabetes.

Melvin cat by irieknit resting

Our Mel at rest

Here he is to my right as I typed this morning (the Erica loom is beside him in the picture).  Apart from being mighty vocal on the dot of his feeding times, our Melly cat is doing pretty well, and regaining weight that he lost rapidly in the spring.  We will be doing a new blood curve shortly to find out more.

Melvin is still our only pet, and I have been feeling a tug towards adding another to the home.  It’s open-ended but we all agree.


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The why of my knitting

Last Tuesday, the man sitting across from me in a coffee shop struck up a line of questioning.  I was a little in love with swatching my Clun Forest wool yarn from Sheepspot it being for baby nephew and all.

Yarn and fibre from London Ontario indie dyer Sheepspot

He had asked if I knitted my sweater.  Nodding, I added that I made the yarn, and dyed it.  We talked just a little about cochineal, and he told me about knitting with his Grandmother as a boy.  Then he asked penetratingly,

You knit because it is relaxing, yes?

“No,” I answered laughing.  “I knit because I get to have the things that I make,” pointing meanwhile to the little swatch-in-progress.  He & the 2 friends were stumped.  He gave a, “Huh,” and asked again.

“Right. It is relaxing.  I like the process but I knit to make things.”  The conversation marched on.

That Tuesday’s sweater is a good example of what, “I get to have this” means.  A 100% Finn wool sweater that left the industrial complex at an early stage as combed fibre.  It ticks these boxes: soft, comfortable, fits, layering, warm, and brighter than anything an Ontario winter can throw at it.

Even if I could get this breed-specific wool as a durable, fitted sweater off the shelf (and I can’t), the single greatest attribute of my version is the expression of ideas.  It is what I chose for lunching with my spinning mentor/friends that day.  They last saw it on the needles.  It said, “Yeah, people spin yarn,” in a coffee shop, and that a red dye is from scale insects.  Right here on TKK it was all about the neck steeking, and the stress knitting in its day.  Later on, I had to shorten the long sleeves.  It is documented on Ravelry; could still be even more.

In special cases like the expected baby nephew, I knit, and even spin for deserving others.  Sometimes knitting is relaxing.  Sometimes it really isn’t relaxing at all.  Sticking to it gets you more than entertained, and that’s the point as I see it.

Here’s to hoping that all our FOs will be all that and then some in their own time!

Columbia wool story with Zoë the CPW

In the last post, I shared a new purple wool spin on the Canadian Production Wheel’s bobbin.  It was the Columbia wool roving at the bottom of the box there.

Handspun singles of Columbia wool spun on Canadian Production Wheel

Columbia wool singles

This roving was 119 g of Sasha’s ‘Orchid 1’ colourway.  I really enjoyed the darker spots.  The 1st bobbin was spun before our trip last year, and the 2nd bobbin followed on January 18th.

Handspun Columbia wool roving on Canadian Production Wheel

Skeined! Woolen-spun Columbia yarn

The 310 yards were plied on the same wheel after I reversed the twist in the drive band.  This Philias Cadorette CPW really does better spinning left if I reverse the band.  I also changed to the second ratio.

Spinning natural Columbia wool roving on Canadian Production Wheel

Stash-busting!

One good long-draw experience leads to another!  I have spun all 150 g of this Columbia roving from the Fibre Garden up now.  We are still climbing over the big girl because the 124 g batch has come out to play as well.  I may need to get more soon!

 


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Living a little and crafting a lot – knits, spins and even weaving!

The past month took me home for a sad occasion with family.  It has meant working harder to get ready for the holidays ahead but I came back deeply grounded.

Bougainvillea new growth after coming indoors

Her late blooms and new leaves are a wonder

On the flight south, I took out my new Ampersand sock-in-progress… only to find out that my seat-mate was also a knitter!  She had holiday knits on the go, and I got down to the foot with this lovely Indigodragonfly merino yarn as we knit along with each other.

 

Indigodragonfly fingering weight handdyed yarn

‘Who’s a Happy Tribute?’ colourway from the Knitter’s Frolic

A better blogger would have the actual sock project to share, I know.  This is the trouble with major disruptions & terrible seasonal lighting around here – not for everyone but if you are me the photography it suffers.

Catching us Up (a bit)!

You were missed, as I was propelled forward.  This is only the tip of what’s been happening while I was away from posting.

Antique saxony spinning wheels in a hatchback vehicle

We can call the wheels at home a herd now.

Only a couple days before our sad news was delivered, I had another trip to visit Alvin & Barbara Anne Ramer. Alvin repaired my antique William McDonald wheel while I cough fell in love with the smaller wheel in the foreground cough.  The separation of this metal pin and an old fix to her treadle bar needed attention.

 

Broken treadle pin on antique Nova Scotia flax spinning wheel

You can imagine my horror

Alvin fixed this main problem, and he also made other adjustments to the wheel.  It was awesome to see him in good health & at his wheel-smith work.  Barbara Anne was so gracious as well, and I loved speaking more with her about spinning, weaving and her plans.

Blue Faced Leicester/Silk yarn spun on antique spinning wheel on niddy noddy

First spun on the early C19 Nova Scotia wheel

The first spin is 646 yards (127g) of BFL wool/silk.  It was all plied on my Watson Martha wheel in double drive.

Last Thursday, I used this yarn for a great dye experiment with Madder root.  The mordant is alum @ 8% and cream of tartar @ 7%.  I brought the 100g of ground Madder with 1 tbsp of baking soda up to a simmer, and cooled overnight.

Madder dye bath preparation

Straining madder root from dye liquor!

Further tweaking happened in the morning after straining, and I mordanted handspun Dorset (horned) wool yarn for the legendary exhaust baths.

Natural dye with Madder root on handspun yarn

Home-dyeing with Madder root!

This operation was surprisingly fragrant!  The madder has a nutty, smoky aroma.  After rinsing & drying, I have rich oranges – and the exhaust material/bath in reserve!

Natural dyed handspun yarns using Madder and alum mordant

Madder’s fall bounty!

Although I strained & rinsed thoroughly small specks of the ground dyestuff are scattering from the skeins.  It’s no big deal at all but is a side-effect!

Handspun Falkland wool dyed in black walnut, antique wheel spinning

Walnut-dyed Falkland handspun yarn

The McDonald antique wheel was also a joy for spinning my Falkland top that is dyed with black walnut.  The 5.9 oz gave me 593 yards of 2-ply.  This time I changed ratios on the Watson Martha but still plied in double drive.

Spindles, loom & knits

All have been in rotation since I recovered from the time away.  These are just quick out-takes (in no particular order) while I keep gaining on deadlines.

Spinning organic handdyed Polwarth wool with a Tabachek drop spindle

Cedar Tabachek with organic Polwarth

The dyed-by Sheepspot spinning project is down to the last 44g of Polwarth wool.  Having the cedar Tabachek drop spindle in regular use again has made me so happy.  My plan is to chain-ply this yarn when it is all spun up.

Spinning batts from Enting Fibercraft on Bosworth Moosie drop spindle

Oceanside Ent Batts for a Moosie WIN!

These batts by Naomi at Enting Fibercraft are amazing.  Four breeds of wool are blended with Tussah silk & Bamboo rayon.  The colour is so deep, and the blend is just fabulous on my Moosie spindle.

Handwoven cotton kitchen towels in Keep it Simple pattern

Learning curve & humble pie to mix metaphors!

These towels stretched me so much.  The red one is unwashed.  A mistake that glared at my friend Diane in the top towel got corrected thanks to her kind pointing-out.  They need pressing, hemming and documenting but they certainly have happened!

Baby Surprise Jacket, newborn size in Heritage Handpaints by Cascade

Another Baby Surprise Jacket!

A lace-edged hat, and booties went with this Baby Surprise Jacket for my cousin.  Her shower was this past Sunday, and we can’t wait to see her baby outfitted in the knits!


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Spinning in public: a waiting room story

My hands have given me a bad scare this winter.  The flashpoint came after weaving on my class towels one day back in mid-December.  My left wrist just ached that night, and I was not close to being done the weaving.

Rest, bracing and conscious thought (prayer, inclusive) helped but the pain was nagging each time I worked even a little – okay, for me a little is still quite a bit.  It started to dawn on me that my laptop computer work was also problematic.  As in, neither comfortable nor reducing my risk of hand injury.

Once we got past the fact that I do this much but do not in fact have an Etsy shop my family Doctor examined the hands.  She was soon intoning, “carpal tunnel,” and “both hands.”  In the 6 weeks that it has taken for me to get in for an E.M.G. test, I have been quietly having kittens.  After all, the scheduling letter with its HOW IT IS DONE (emphasis, theirs) rubric was loud & clear.

The scheduling letter also closes with this half-truth:

*** Be prepared to stay at least 60 minutes for this test.

Naturally, I wanted a project for this ordeal and its waiting room.

Spindle spinning merino dyed fibre

Hospital exam? Bring your spindle

The waiting area was small, and shared with patients going in for Geriatric Assessment.  The spinning time was closely watched by all parties.  Finally, one gentleman in a wheelchair broke the ice.

We laughed; I explained.  A lady took up the thread.  She does other work with her hands, embroidery and crochet mostly.  Arthritis has been difficult but she can’t imagine sitting and watching TV without using her hands.

With each back & forth she opened-up more, asking questions and sharing.  Another lady was in between us, listening closely as was the first gentleman.  I reminded her of her childhood in Czechoslovakia.  They grew cotton, and flax.  She remembered her Mother preparing the fibres in the creek.

I slyly said, “And weaving?”

“Oh yes! My Mother wove on a big loom!”  The memories came quickly now because I understood.  She helped her Mother spin because she had a bad foot for the treadling.  They would spin in the mornings before school.  She remembered sending wool to a mill, and getting it back cleaned.  She dropped her voice, and said that the soldiers came.  They helped themselves to everything as they passed through an area, and they took it all.  The lady in between us said, “OH!  Why?”

Quietly now she answered, “It was the war.  That’s what happens in war.”  I told her about my friend whose family was burned out of their home in Slovenia.  A neighbour kept a length of handwoven linen that survived the fire, and my friend received it from her years later.  I told her how wonderful it was to be shown such a cloth, and she agreed.

She said, “Yes, Slovenia.  It is the same.”  Then she said even more quietly and with feeling looking me straight in the eye, “We are in Canada now.  We are safe now.”  I nodded yes as she repeated the words again.

The gentleman’s name was called, and she went with him.  We all parted the better for the talk, I think.

Folks have largely similar responses to my spindle spinning (“I don’t have the patience” ring a bell?).  I love when they ask, and always thank them.  The best times are when they share their stories; are transported back to their own spinning culture.  It’s a privilege to listen and to have sparked that fire.

My tendons are irritated

The Physiatrist determined that the damage is not at the nerve level – the readings were normal.  I do have De Quervain’s Tendinosis, and will do non-surgical treatment.   They said that I speak like spinning, knitting & weaving are sports!  Well, yes, Doctor.  The idea that I can use my hands with thumb splints is really not on.  We can all agree that opposable thumbs are needed for all of our material culture, right?

I left with good news, a spinning story, and the Czech-Canadian lady’s acknowledgement.  Her last words were that she could tell I was ‘the real thing’ and would do well.

 

 


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An irie snowflake, and January is happening

organic cotton handspun knit snowflake

Civilized Snowflake

Oh, January, I see your cold and raise you a handspun, Paper Snowflake.  This wonderful knit pattern is by Naomi Parkhurst was ideal (ideal, I tell you!) for my many hours-worth of 3-ply cotton yarn that I made with coin takhli spindles.

organic cotton handspun knit snowflake

A very wet Snowflake

As the pics show, this was made a while ago in better weather.  It hangs on my studio bulletin board, and is an awesome reminder that small amounts are not useless.

cotton handspun supported spindle coin takhli

It has taken time but cotton seems to be here to stay.  None of my cotton spindles is ever empty, and I gradually spin more.  Spinning with the seed attached is amazing but I also figured out that if the Turkish distaff holds a length of top then I can spin it that way too.

The fact of the matter

I am still getting used to this loss.  The tree had to be removed after the ice storm damage, and was a better candidate for the estate of my dreams than our suburban back yard, it’s true.

ice storm Norway maple tree removal

Hard work underway in bitter cold

I had a full two deleted sentences re: neighbour activity.  Let’s just say salt was rubbed in the wound shortly after I took this picture.

A woodpile from a giving tree

It has been a wrench.  Our home feels different with the new outlook.  We can work with it (new window treatments, please) but first there’s that unwanted bill to take care of.

N has made promises to chop the wood for the fireplace.  Now that would be a fun development and a first!

Bright spots

Of the many (as yet un-processed) things happening this month, I have a few to share.

handwoven cotton kitchen towel floor loom

A third woven twill kitchen towel!

Level 2 of weaving class started last week.  I am using all spare moments to get my twill towels woven.  For this third towel, I kept the yellow weft but learned how to carry the slate blue up the selvedge.  Most of the windowpane is 24 shots of yellow.  I am carrying up by twisting in every fourth pick.

Fourth and last twill kitchen towel!

The fourth towel is underway.  The weft is now light blue, and I am weaving it in broken twill.  It is nice to not be as concerned with keeping an even beat.

Wee Peggy spinning wheel handspun yarn Polwarth wool

Wee Peggy the friendly wheel

In between weaving sessions, I treated myself to a spin-in day at the Fibre Garden in Jordan.  My Wee Peggy wheel is perfect for these events – she travels well, and is easy for me to spin and participate.  I am spinning Waterloo Wools polwarth hand-dyed top in the Tidepool colourway.

There is also much spinning here at home.  This yarn is now all plied up & finished.  It is one ply of a lovely Entbatt, and one ply of bombyx silk – all spun on spindles.  I will give better detail and yarn pics in a later post.


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String Thing 2013 – my hat trick, continued

hat trick n. 1 the scoring of three goals, points etc. by one person during a game. 2 three successes

◊ Paperback Oxford Canadian Dictionary, 2004

It hit me that in this 3rd of 3 years of attending this Stringtopia event, I was most at ease.

Plain weaving with the Tanka design

This simple band or jakima represents this for me.  The length of kata, plain weave is where I re-learned how to weave.

The first ray of light was learning the Quechua term for lease cord – sonq’opa.  It is derived from the word for heart, “son”.  This drove a truth home to me.  It is what Nilda Callanaupa Alvarez says in “Textile Traditions of Chinchero:  A Living Heritage” on p. 85:

In the process of making textiles, the weaver devotes part of her life to her weaving.  That is why a weaver can tell stories about happy or sad times, and different life events according to the time it took to weave a certain textile.

This was the best devotion of my time.  To answer the US border agent – no, you cannot just learn this on Youtube.  I am the case in point.

Mahogany, folks.

As I suspected my backstrap loom management was awkward, and therefore, flawed.  Working with my waist as the front warp beam & my shod foot as the back beam, Abby gently corrected my process.

“Use both swords,” she said.  “You will need them both for the next step.”  With Abby’s help, and intense focus, I turned the first ideas on their heads.  The solution was less taxing, and completely elegant.

Friends in class had different problems, and revelations.  We walked the cliff edge of adult learning.  No-one fell into the gully of frustration.  I was very grateful when a more experienced backstrap weaver, Janie Yates pointed out that I was sawing my shed open with the yllawa or string heddles.  Janie helpfully guided me back to tensioning the warp open.

Where our spirits soared was after lunch.  We had hit the objectives.  Abby spoke to her identity as a Chinchero weaver, teacher and studio owner.  It was pure heart, and so very moving.  My culture is also rooted in the oral transfer of knowledge.  It’s something I deeply respect.

Abby knows what this means for me because I had to tell her, thank her.  I will practice and build on this foundation.  It was my best takeaway of any Stringtopia.

With thanks, Abby.

Studio, what studio?

Walking through Stringtopia’s doors the next day made me want to click my heels, or tear-up.  Or something.

Bricks & mortar matters for carrying textile arts forward.  It’s a lifetime achievement to create such a space in this day.

A spindle was removed before taking this shot

Canadian Production Wheels get around.  This one is safely out of the direct sunlight!

Frederic Bourda CPW

Having taken Abby’s backstrap weaving class the day before, I walked right up to the hanging jakimas.

They are pretty.  Carol told me that the jakima de kata on the left was woven by Abby’s son.

Back to the fun & games

How much of a textured batt can you spin on a drop spindle in 2 minutes, you ask?

This is our friend, Janet in the foreground helping Mandie pace out her yarn.  Taking classes & hanging out with them both was super fun as usual!

Beth was happy

Respect due to each & every long-draw competition team on Saturday night!

Win! Jane, Erin & Michelle

They used an e-spinner!  Other brave teams were…

Kathy, Lisa & Martha

Amy, Kim & Caroline

Serious kudos to Enting, Laura & Tracy who competed with a drop spindle.  I bow to the prowess!

Proof of concept: sideways draft on a drop spindle

I am now home, and rested.  I miss being able to rush to classes, hang out in Morgaine’s space, turn around & speak with spinners.

If you live close to Stringtopia then I am a touch green with envy.  Support them!  Until next time I have skills to practice and yarn to make.

New wool combs doing what they do

For example, this 1.6 oz of luxurious Muga silk will also keep me happy and engaged.

Thing of beauty: Muga silk for spinning

 

 

 


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Celebrating String Thing 2013

Hello, morning of String Thing!

With Sandi on the first morning of String 2013

This year Sandi and I overnighted with my family in their lovely Toledo home.  It broke my drive but was much more – a chance to visit & laugh with some of my favorite people.  

Sandi graciously agreed to this plan.  She survived us talking at full speed!

I like the fine print

The Golden Lamb was just 3 hours away, and we made it just in time for afternoon classes.  Gotta love how the Lamb has operated under its 1803 licence as a “house of public entertainment.”

Still enjoying mine.

To wit, this year’s warm welcome!  I sensed a certain craftiness with the glue gun there… sure enough 2 hotel staffers bought 1st spindles at the event.

Enting!

The 2nd welcome pack went to my most excellent roommate, Enting!  Finally meeting an online friend is so cool and I loved getting to know her.

Traditional Andean Textiles

Abby’s Friday class was given in partnership with Charles H. Gerhardt of Tribal Art, a local collector/ dealer.  We were able to examine each pre-Columbian textile closely.

Ancient Peruvian spindle

These artefacts were found in graves.  They took our breaths away.  I ran to take pictures for you.

Works in progress.  The spinner’s fibre and her tools.

The shell in particular moved me.  I also use large shells to spin cotton on supported spindles.

Andean chuspa – purse or bag

What better way to begin to learn about Andean textile traditions? A backstrap woven chuspa was juxtaposed with a slit tapestry panel & much more.

Pre-Columbian slit-tapestry

Doesn’t the geometric design look very modern?  It incorporates both camelid & cotton fibres.

L – Belt with finger weaving

My hope is that Abby will run this workshop again for Stringtopians.  In addition to these and more items, Charlie made 2 Incan Quipus available for our class.

Multi-coloured Quipu

We saw not only colour but opposing twist, coils, knots and plies as the sophisticated system of record that it is.

The other Quipu that we examined was shorter with no header, undyed, and had less vertical yarns.

Mounted Incan Quipu

Spinners’ Social Nights

As you may have guessed, there is quite a lot of spinning in public at String.

Shelly aka Baking Goddess to the Spinners

Shelly was trying out cute Turkish spindles.  We loved her sweater & laughed at its story.

Fran, Anne, Karen and Stacey – local Stringtopians

Ohioans never fail to impress me with their friendliness.  We had a great time together over dinner.

Kristen, Knittin9Dra9on

This was all only after we made Mandie show us her gorgeous Iron Maiden shawl.

Mandie and her Mithril Maiden

She used 1 skein of her Sheepy Time Knits Silkie yarn.  Before I leave the subject of Mandie’s super talents, look at what I scored as a String prize this year!

Luck of the draw!

So thrilled to have won this awesome prize!  It’s 50/50 merino silk, and will be as lace-weight as I can make it.

And the contest rules are…

This year, Morgaine donated batts for sundry spinning competitions.  Not surprisingly my speed-spinning on a spindle was not competitive.

Devin won. He is a spindle speed demon!

On Saturday night to kick-off Longest Thread, Abby, Beth & Carol schooled the crowd.  My mind was suitably blown by the hilarity.

While this was all going on, I was enjoying having a New Glarus with Woolwine.  T is a super-favorite String friend, and she makes me giggle in class too!

Woolwine in her awesome handspun Paulie

New Glarus is a thing of beauty & deserves blog space.

Notice T’s bottle opener? Mad skills.

Competition fun aside (I might get to that in another post), Carolyn gave Abby a challenge she couldn’t walk away from.

We laughed OUT LOUD

Yup.  Boat anchor.  As someone said, “The jokes just write themselves!”

There is more I want to say but this post is already long.  Lebanon, Ohio is beautiful this time of year inside & out.

Spun in the best company

These classes teach me so much each year, and Abby’s community creates such a giving space.

Thank you, friends.