Working with Camelids and Other Fiber Shenanigans

The latest cold snap has got me suddenly working with the camelids . Back when I first started spinning I would search out as many different types of fibers as I could find. In my search I found myself driving to a local farm to purchase my first Huacaya alpaca combed top. It was so lofty and soft. I ended up knitting my first lace shawl out of this precious yarn. My young mind couldn’t appreciate the natural brownish grey color and so the project was dyed (slightly felted) in red Kool-Aid. It has taken years for it to soften up and I wear it all the time. I still have a skein of this yarn un-dyed in my stash awaiting a worthy project.


My first lace shawl knit from handspun alpaca and dyed with Kool-Aid

The next year I got bold and bought a raw alpaca fleece at a fiber festival. I was determined to turn Babydoll’s first clip into something special. I knit a  huge Faroese shawl out of it. These wing shaped shawls are not the most stylish in my opinion but they sit nicely on the shoulders without any pins or draping.


It’s my heat-me-up-til-I-sweat shawl.  The fiber is so soft though that it pills like crazy. It’s really shaggy looking now but, oh well.


Super, soft alpaca first-clip fiber pills a lot but makes a lofty, warm shawl.

I wear it around the house like a uniform in the winter.

The llama fiber I bought last year from Baker’s Studio in Allegan, MI was recently put to use. I crocheted a poncho with a shawl collar. My intention was to follow the pattern, Night and Day Poncho by Lion Brand,  but then..sigh…things went awry. Even using my largest hook my gauge was off, way off. I had to work 3 times as many rows and add double crochets to make the center meet. It worked up fun and fast though. I added a crochet cord and tassels to jazz it up.


Still on my Camelid kick I purchased some Suri alpaca from a sweet little farm (I can’t think of the name at the moment) in Chesterton, IN. I didn’t realize there were two different types of alpaca fiber. I had only previously worked with the fluffy huacaya type. It has a crimp to it and spins a lot like fine wool whereas the suri has a spirally, silky curl.

Suri alpaca is more rare than Huacaya according to the Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook. Approximately only 2% of alpaca fiber on the market is Suri.

I would soon find out why I haven’t found much of this fiber in my spinning circles. It is tricky to work with. After it was washed I thought I’d just use my mini combs to process it into combed top. Nope! It wasn’t having that. The fibers were super slippery and flying all over the place. I ended up carding it into silky clouds.



Cleaned Suri alpaca



When I started to spin it into a fine yarn I realized what a pain in the butt that would be. The singles kept trying to slide apart but adding more twist would just kink it up. I was so over it after about an hour and ended up just feeding it into my wheel like a mad women trying to get it over with.  I ended up with a couple of floppy aran weight skeins.


handspun Suri alpaca yarn


At the moment I am revisiting camel down. I actually spun some years ago and loved it. I had 1oz of camel down in my stash from Afghanistan. This particular batch is much courser than the other fiber I’ve worked with. I spin it the same way as with cotton using a supported backwards, long-draw draft.


What next? Well, I did pick up some English angora earlier this year at Michigan Fiber Fest. We’ll see what happens.

As for the other fiber shenanigans let’s see here.

I spun of a lot of mostly wool blends into basic 2-ply fingering weight


Finished a lace-weight, space-dyed chain-plied Polworth/Silk  skein. It took forever to spin. I am looking forward to seeing how this will knit up. Probably super stripy.


Finally finished the socks I started in August 2017


Made some new miter square slippers and lined them with fleece.



Finished weaving the cotton warp I put on my floor loom over the summer using handspun, natural colored cotton remnants. I even incorporated the thrums from the last project for a funky shaggy type fabric that I think will make a nice summer top.


There is one more special project I was able to finish up on winter break. My handspun challenge project is complete. You’ll just have to wait to see this one at another time.


Smiles and Sparkles with Knits and Spins

September was a month with lots of knitting and spinning on-the-go. I literally took a project with me to school, BSF, restaurants, and everywhere else. I am so done with hiding away one of my dearest past times passions for the sake of appearing conventional. I have truly enjoyed the liberation and made some new connections as a result.

Art blitz spinning

Spinning at Art Blitz in Valparaiso, Indiana with friends from Duneland Weaver’s and Spinner’s Guild

One of my favorite events was spinning at Art Blitz in Valparaiso, Indiana at an art school with my guild, Duneland Weaver’s and Spinner’s. There were lots of laughs and sharing of ideas.


I met Cathy at the spin-in at the Sauder Village Fiber Fest in Archbold, Ohio

I also went to the Sauder Village Fiber Fest in Archbold, Ohio and participated in the Spin-in with Kate Larson and other spinners on retreat from all over Ohio. We had a good time. I can truly say I always find a friend with crafty people. There is a certain bond that is shared with people who like to create from raw material.

Along with the crafting in public I am proud to say I finally knit up something out of one of the crazy sparkly art batts that I’ve been hoarding lately. My Undercurrent cardigan is complete.


I only had 12 ozs of the DKish weight yarn so I paired it with some white commercial silk that I had plied with dyed silk hankies long ago and forgot about. I think it works well. I used all of the art yarn and barely got away with a bind-off only having a silver dollar sized yarn ball left over, phew. I really love the fit of this pattern and how easy it is to knit. I could definitely use another, perhaps in a more conventional yarn. I must say though, I really don’t mind all the sparkles. I’m giving this project 5 stars.

BTW, spinning wise, I was able to get a 4 oz. skein spun up of oatmeal colored Sally Fox cotton on my new Lendrum Very Fast flyer. That thing is crazy fast and definitely beats out my Ashford Traveller lace flyer (which I have since sold). I finally purchased the fast whorl for my Kromski Symphony and plied the cotton singles quite efficiently at the 25:1 ratio it offers.


New Fast Whorl on my Kromski Symphony does an excellent job plying high twist cotton

My mint chocolate chip spin is off the wheel. I added in some grey Shetland breed wool in order to stretch the 8oz into a nice sweater quantity. I now have a gradient-like set of skeins to work with.


I’ve also spun up Hipstrings’ HillStreet District colorway and 8 ozs of grey Romney that is awaiting plying.

My latest spinning obsession is a tussah silk/flax blend I ordered from Inglenook Fibers in the Madras colorway. The plan is to hopefully get some weaving done one of these days this fall. I’m also spinning up 8ozs of recycled green sari silk on the Kromski Sonata which I hope to weave.

My Stash: Am I Busting or Building?

I have been spinning a lot of yarn lately. A lot. Now a sane crafter would be telling herself “Good job, see you may buy a lot of craft supplies  but at least you’re producing”, “Look at all of that yarn you’ve spun, one day soon your  fiber and yarn stash will be reasonable. Nope not me. I just go out and buy more. A lot of what I am spinning lately has been new acquisitions. Only about 3oz (the cotton/bamboo blend, and 1.5oz green merino/silk) was old stash. Womp, womp.


Newly spun yarn (2- 4oz skeins of Ashland Bay dyed merino top in Baltic and Bermuda colorways, 1.5 oz of merino/silk green top, hand-dyed cotton punis, and brown cotton mixed skein.

I am having a lot of fun though. The latest finished project was 4.6oz  art rolags from Spindipity in the Monet colorway. They are so interesting to spin with all of the color and texture changes. There are 2 more art batts in my stash that I plan to spin up very soon.

I spun 4 ozs of Ashland Bay merino top on my KCL modular drop spindles.  This a bit of a milestone. I have gotten quite efficient.


fabric strip wrist distaff in use

It was a fairly quick spin especially once I started using a strip of knit fabric as wrist distaff. Having the interchangeable spindle shafts is also nice. I just fill two shafts up and wind a plying ball.

The plant fibers are finally seeing some action now. I whipped out my last bit of recycled blue jean fiber. The tiny sampling was striped with white cotton. In order to make more yardage, I plied it with singles spun from my last bits of carded bamboo. (I did not feel like carding up more).

While I was at it I made a cleanup-skein with bits of left over plant fibers on my bobbins.


brown, white, and recycled blue jean cotton handspun

My other plant fiber spin was the art rolags that I bought from Buchanan Fibers.


Dyed cotton/milkweed rolags

They were a blend of dyed cotton, milkweed, and nylon. The singles spun up fine but the headache came when it came time to ply. I forget an important lesson I had learned a while back. NEVER create a plying ball from a center pull ball with cotton singles. The high twist combined with fine singles WILL tangle and make you cry or even worse cause you to lose yardage. This method works well for wool only (maybe not fine mohair singles).

The most efficient way to divide yarn for plying is to weigh out equal amounts of fiber before spinning. Anyhow I did get it to work out but it was unnecessarily stressful and time consuming. The end result was a pretty nice yarn however. We’ll see how it washes up.


Handspun cotton/milkweed/nylon skein

Alas, I have busted a lot of stash this month however there is more where that came from. I did a little inventory, organization a few days ago. I have 10- 5gallon bins of wool fiber and yarn, a bookcase of plant fibers and yarn, and a bookcase of weaving yarn.

No excuses folk, I know there are no excuses. I’m in pretty deep and loving it.

A Spinners Milestone: Weaving with Handspun Yarn

I have been spinning yarn since 2005. My first experience with the luxury of working with natural fibers was after winning a gift certificate to Evelise’s Yarn Shop at the Berrien County Youth Fair . An Afghan that I had crocheted with acrylic yarn won Reserved Grand Champion.  With the gift certificate I bought my first designer yarn, a black cotton, and a pattern for a beaded crochet handbag. The bag was a success and I was in love.


My first bag made with fancy commercial cotton yarn. Still sparkling after 16 years.


Unfortunately I could not afford to buy more natural yarns. I was over the cheapo acrylic and so I stopped crocheting. At college the following year I gained new hope of acquiring “good” yarn when a professor at my university did a show and tell with spinning equipment. I became fixed on the idea of spinning my own yarn.

Online I ordered a kit that came with a book , Spin It by  Lee Raven and 1oz of roving. The book had instructions on how to make a spindle out of a CD. With a pencil, CD, and the small bit of sliver I became a spinner. Shortly afterwards I learned to knit.


The book that started it all.

I knitted a lot of lace shawls with my handspun. I love making them but that was all I would do with my yarn.  After a while I had way more yarn than projects I wanted to knit up. I kind of got bored.

For the longest time (12 years!) I was so afraid that my yarn wouldn’t be strong enough to weave with, especially my cotton. It was only safe to crochet with it.


Crochet shawl made from hanspun cotton dyed with tumeric. The pattern is Moondrop by Lori Carlson published in Interweave crochet Winter 2016

A few years ago I had crocheted a ruffled throw with my natural colored cotton  See it here that I wasn’t all that happy with. I just kept crocheting in a round until I had used up all of the different colors of cotton in my stash. After a while it started to come apart  where I doubled the stitch count. I decided that I had nothing to lose by unraveling the throw to reuse the yarn for weaving.

I warped random colors on my Leclerc Dorothy table loom that I bought in my college days. With a simple plain weave I slowly but surely realized that my worries were unfounded. Without any special treatment I was able to weave an eclectic little scarf. Oh the new possibilities!

This week I met a new milestone. I am now using my handspun to weave!


Finished handspun, handwoven natural colored cotton scarf. I’m in love!

Not wanting to lose momentum I decided to unravel a shawl I knit from handspun wool. I alternated a painted handspun with a natural gray that proved to be scratchy against my skin. The pattern was just mindless, uninspired blah. I wouldn’t miss it. Finding a darker grey rambouillet yarn in my handspun stash that was nice and soft  I began warping my Dick Blick Art Craft table loom. Sadly the loom sat untouched for 6 years. I found it at a garage sale in Amish country for $125 and thought it was too fine of a machine to pass up.

So far so good. I am looking forward to doing more with my handspun.


Handspun wool weaving in progress. I am using stick shuttles because they give me more weaving space on a table loom.


Getting My crochet On

I had an itch to get some crocheting done. It began this summer and I ended up making some hats from one of my favorite books Get Your Crochet on by Afya Ibomu.get your crochet book They work up really quickly and the design possibilities are endless. My hats are a variation of her pattern since I decided to be cheap and substitute elastic for a drawstring.

My fuchsia Kinky Reggae hat with bib variation from the book Get Your Crochet On! The shawl is self-knit from too long ago to remember what the pattern was. I made 2. This version is knit from Noro yarn.

My fuchsia Kinky Reggae hat with bib variation from the book Get Your Crochet On!
The shawl is self-knit from too long ago to remember what the pattern was. I made 2. This version is knit from Noro yarn.

My fuchsia Kinky Reggae hat with bib variation from the book Get Your Crochet On! Holds back the hair lika Pro!

My fuchsia Kinky Reggae hat with bib variation from the book Get Your Crochet On! Holds back the hair lika Pro!

My version of the hat called MC from the Book Get your Crochet On! with drawstring in the back.

My version of the hat called MC from the Book Get your Crochet On! with drawstring in the back.

turqu hat 1

My crochet hat collection

My crochet hat collection

A Gift: Putting My Handspun Cotton to Use

It has been a long time, like 5 years since I’ve done more time consuming needlework such as shawls. Once upon a season I was a knitting fiend and I knit about 30 shawls and scarves over the course of a 2 year span. Many of them were done with yarn I spun myself.

My crochet itch came back this winter and I found myself pouring over my crochet magazines looking for a shawl to crochet. It just dawned on me that I had never actually crocheted a shawl before this latest project. The majority of my projects were afghans and purses during my high school years. 13 years ago!

The material used for this project is extra special. I was on the SpinOff Magazine website about 4 years ago and found myself chatting with a cotton farmer from Texas. He emailed me last summer and offered to send me cotton and seeds from his farm. What a gift!!! I was so excited when 10 pounds of some of the best quality cotton I have ever worked with arrived at my home. Thanks Jack!! You’re my hero!

Gift from an awesome cotton farmer from Texas. 10lbs of premium cotton

Gift from an awesome cotton farmer from Texas. 10lbs of premium cotton

I immediately got to carding it up and spinning. I just spun a little here and there, only finishing a 2-ply lace weight skein this past  December.

Carding the Texas cotton

Carding the Texas cotton

Nice and fluffy, reading to spin after a little carding

Nice and fluffy, ready to spin after a little carding

Finished skein ready to wind into a ball

Finished skein ready to wind into a ball

winding the cotton yarn into a ball

winding the cotton yarn into a ball

I decided to crochet my first shawl, the Dragonfly by Lisa Naskrent. My version has a HDC border instead of the lace border that comes with the pattern. I didn’t have enough yarn for it and I did not want to halt my project while I spun more. Keep going while you have the steam! I like how it turned out. I think I will dye it eventually.

Dragonfly shawl variation of Lis Naskrent pattern (not blocked) natural cotton color

Dragonfly shawl variation of Lis Naskrent pattern (not blocked) natural cotton color

wearing the hand-spun cotton Dragonfly shawl..with pajamas;-)

wearing the hand-spun cotton Dragonfly shawl..with pajamas;-)

I enjoyed working this simple pattern so much that I started in on another one using a hand-dyed seasilk skein I spun years ago.


My 2nd Dragonfly shawl in progress using a hand-dyed, hands-spun soysilk lace weight.

2014 Cotton Finale

It’s been a long growing season (February to November). My 2014 northern Indiana cotton crop is finally in.  This year I tried a few different things in hopes of increasing my yield, like well, planting twice as many plants and fertilizing. It didn’t work. I did not get as much as last year . This probably should not be called a crop (false advertisement right?). The huge yield I had last year amounted to less than 4 ounces 🙂 All the same I enjoyed watching it grow. However small the amount it is still useful. Next year I will most likely need to replace the soil on the side of the house where I grow it and plant less. I think poor spacing and depleted soil caused me to get less yield.

I ended up picking the cotton at the end of October, earlier than usual (mid November) because it kept raining and I didn’t want the cotton to rot. I already had a few casualties at this point.

Too much rain. This cotton boll rotted

Too much rain. This cotton boll rotted

The cool thing is even if you pick the bolls early while they’re still green, they still open up just fine on their own as they dry. It takes about two weeks but they will open. It’s actually kind of cool to watch.

I like the cool, finger-like leaves that cover the bolls

I like the cool, finger-like leaves that cover the bolls

My little nephew Waymel was glad to help.

My little nephew Waymel was glad to help  with the bucket


Cotton Bolls picked early

Cotton Bolls picked early

This boll is starting to split

This boll is starting to split


I potted two plants and brought them inside. I'm curious to see what they look like next year. Cotton tree maybe?

I potted two plants and brought them inside curious to see what they will look like next year. Cotton tree maybe?

This is it. I haven’t seeded the cotton yet. Right now I’m enjoying the fluffy, cuteness in a bowl on my mantel.

My tiny little cotton crop

My tiny little 2014 cotton crop

Update:2014 Indiana Cotton Crop

I am still obsessed with the idea of growing my own fiber for spinning and weaving. Living on a small city lot leaves me few options. Sheep  won’t work  here and flax needs special tools to process. Last year I was given a single cotton boll with seeds intact. I planted them in my kitchen that February. They grew!! Read here

I decided to plant more seeds this year. Read here.

The little cotton patch. There are about 26 small plants

The little cotton patch. There are about 26 small plants

When I put the seedlings outside in June they were very weak and spindly from lack of sunlight. They have since really perked up. There are plenty of blooms (by northern standards like 6 per plant) and 4 bolls of natual brown cotton have opened up so far.

The nodes where the cotton flowers bloom are forming underneath the leaves

The nodes where the cotton flowers bloom are forming underneath the leaves

A newly opened cotton bloom. It will only last 1 day then turn pink and fall off. The cotton boll forms underneath.

Here is a close up of one of the cotton bolls. It could be white or brown cotton when it opens up. I didn't mark the plants

Here is a close up of one of the cotton bolls. It could be white or brown cotton when it opens up. I didn’t mark the plants

I spotted the 1st boll open last week. It’s brown cotton

Close up of the 1st brown boll

Close up of the 1st brown boll

I found 3 more cotton bolls opened today. More brown.

I found 3 more cotton bolls opened today. More brown.

I’m looking forward to seeing how much cotton I will get this year since I planted twice as many seedlings.  At this point I can only grow them on the east side of my house so they do not get much space. The odds of me growing even 1 pound of cotton in northern Indiana are pretty slim. Nonetheless I will just as happy if I grow 3 ounces.  I should have enough to make a spectacular shawl when I combine the 2 years crops.