rag dolls and woollies

rag dolls and woollies

Monday, December 12, 2022

An Amazing Year

This has been an amazing year.  Truly.  It has been a time of learning about -- as well as how to do -- all kinds of new fiber skills.  That has included learning to drop spindle better, trying supported spindle spinning for the first time (!), and spinning a sock yarn 3-ply from extremely thin singles.  I've also reconsidered how I select needle sizes for knitting (more about that later) and knitted socks more tightly.

This was also the year I discovered JillianEve.  And even more, I discovered continuing education in spinning, weaving, knitting and dyeing. Here's information on how to find her: https://jillianeve.com/blog-2/ Look for her on youtube also. 

I can't remember what happened first.  But what I found were a lot of youtube videos on spinning techniques.  Then I FINALLY found the webpage listing all the little fiber art suppliers in the UK (been looking for literally years) and naturally, I went through every single one of them, looking at every single listing they had. Tsippy helped, of course, lending her discerning eye for fiber quality. We spent all afternoon at it -- and on my birthday! Here it is -- https://hand-spinning-news.com/uk_spinning_suppliers.py

There was some really beautiful stuff.  This one woman in Yorkshire makes punis and I've never yet seen any others so gorgeous.  She's very overworked, she says, and can't get them made for you very quickly (can take 4 - 6 weeks) but are they ever worth waiting for.  OMG.  I have 5 bags and, to be honest, it's just not enough.  Just look at this one from Fellview Fiber  (https://www.fellviewfibres.co.uk/)

We were finally going to the UK after all the covid stuff (I'm very angry about all that) (this is not the place to get started however).  We hit on a new way to travel: international dog sitting!! What's not to like? You look after the dogs and house and you get to stay there free. 


Let me tell you -- it truly was a great experience.  We watched two pups in Dumfries, Scotland, in a fabulous house built in 1910 with William Morris wallpaper on the walls!  Most people know the style if they don't know it by name.   A picture of typical Wm. Morris paper is below right.

The house had a beautiful staircase! What a fabulous kitchen!  One dog was older and one was young and they were absolute sweeties.  

The second set of doggies were in Yorkshire in a much newer and also very attractive house set in a little village.  The older pup had her own pram (!) and had a particular pub she preferred to drink in (!!).  If you've never been drinking with a dog in a pram in an English pub, you are missing an important life experience. 

Register with Trusted Housesitters UK ASAP to get your opportunity!!

And of course we visited Malca in Manchester.  So in honor of that visit, I combed (and combed, and carded and combed again) through EVERY listing on World of Wool so I could pick out the best stuff and send it all to myself care of Malca.πŸ§ΆπŸ“¦πŸ“¦πŸ“¦πŸŽπŸŽπŸ§§πŸ§§

Malca's husband Jon opined that we should have just sent a whole sheep.  It would have been only one package that way.  I told him, "next time I will."  (Muah ha ha)

So with a three week stay in the UK but no spinning wheel, it was time to get my drop spindling up to snuff.  I knew how, but it always gave me tight shoulders. I had learned to do it standing up which isn't much fun.

Enter JillianEve.  She is just lovely!  She is working on her COE (which of course EVERYBODY knows stands for Certificate of Excellence in spinning).  She is the cat's meow. And quite the character!

There's nothing fiber she's not interested in trying.  Now that is definitely not me -- I'm set in my ways, suspicious, and resistant.

Just ask my family.   The last thing I'd ever do is her "wheel of fiber" game, and I'd also go kicking and screaming into opening boxes of unknown fiber (that I'd paid for without knowing what I'd get), or putting all my extra "flouff" (as she calls it) into a box to spin into Who-Knows-What-It-Will-Be at the end of the year. 

 But I didn't mind watching her try it!  And -- don't tell my family -- but she opened my mind.  Quite a bit actually.

It came in the form of supported spindles.  You could do this sitting down.  No tight shoulders.  So I jerry rigged a drop spindle into a supported one, found a bowl here at home, and set off trying.  It took awhile to spin without a hook to hold the yarn, but I got it -- and I like it better that way now.

There are some great medieval reenactment videos of supported spindle spinning which just ooze peace and tranquility.  And sweet pictures as well.... 

Lovely punis. Support spindles. Now for 3 ply sock yarn.  Is this your thing? I had never bothered and just spun a thin 2 ply and it was good enough.  But  my new fiber friends community on discord and zoom are very inspiring so, I tried it (!) and it looks ok on 2.5 mm. needles but my goal is to spin even thinner.  

I haven't asked anyone yet -- but I believe I've been using needles too big for years.  I discovered that my yarn was just as nice on needles two sizes smaller and maybe the resultant fabric is more substantial. My knitted items have sometimes stretched out too much in the past.   I read today that you try to put two strands of your yarn into the holes that measure the knitting needle sizes to find out which size needles to use.  Never thought of trying that.  

It's just amazing how much knowledge is out there. I am learning what I can about dyeing because I've decided to buy more raw fleece and dye my own.  My very understanding daughter has 8 pounds of wool waiting for me at her house.  Actually, I understand I have a WHOLE closet for my stuff.    

So when we get to Miami later this month, I have a lot of goodies to go through.  We are taking all of them to colonial Williamsburg, so I have spun and woven cloth for vests for DH and son in law.  They're almost finished.  And I hope to weave stomachers for two granddaughters for their colonial dresses.  That sewing will take place in Miami and at least one granddaughter will be involved in that since she's into learning how to sew....sweet child....

Another granddaughter has demonstrated some ability with spinning, so I have an extra Ashford drop spindle for her.....another lovely child....

Anyway, this has gone on long enough.  Suffice it to say, I'm having too much fun.  Nuff said!


Monday, November 22, 2021

Be Careful What You Wish For

ALL this roving has arrived and I can't spin fast enough.  It's actually stressing me out. I'm not having ANY fun.  Don't ask me to do anything else right now; you won't like the irritable response you'll get back.  Just leave me alone!

I ordered from not one but TWO different wool joints in England: Wingham Woolworks, my old standby, and also from World of Wool (try saying that three times fast).  They're both in Yorkshire, England.  Two orders each.  I think.  I actually can't quite remember.

The orders are coming in thick and fast.  I have merino and silk in blues, pinks and fall colors. 

There's grey baby alpaca. It's so nice, I'd eat it if I could.  Then I decided to get adventurous and try sari silk and superwash.  I've always been tempted by those lovely little sari threads and the picture showed a roving that looked workable.  From a youtube video, I learned that when it gets uncontrollably balled up and knotted, you just cut it apart with scissors.

Those grandkids pushed me into trying superwash.  I've always looked down on that stuff, and been pretty sure it can't possibly feel as nice as REAL wool.  But I admit to getting a little tired of all the itty bitty socks that emerge from their  dryer.  And I do understand.  There is, thank G-d, a whole houseful of kids -- what's not to like?? So there's no competition -- if you had to choose between all those kids and itty bitty socks, the choice is a no brainer.

The superwash is still in its package but it...looked...ok.  I'll save it for later.  So I started with this fabulous blue, silver, and silk combo called "unicorn."  Did you think unicorns were blue? I didn't.  But no problem.  I started spinning and it is truly wonderful -- however I was having trouble really enjoying it because I wasn't spinning the baby alpaca or the "gin and tonic" green mixture or the cool looking blend dubbed "fair isle." I was really upset! Even nervous and a little shaky!


This is ridiculous! Order tons of wool, then get upset because I can't spin it all at once!  Number 1 son is into Buddhism or Zen (is one a subset of the other perhaps?) and  I bet he could give me some pointers on chilling out.  I'll have to ask him sometime.

Number 2 kid, the Rebbetzin, can always take the long and bigger view of things.  She might say there's time to do all the important things and not to worry about the bounty from G-d.  Anyway I think she'd say that.  I'll talk to her on the phone later today, double check, and get back to you.

Number 3 kid, also a son, can take a long, philosophical and very humorous view of the world. Actually he's kind of nuts.  And I know I'd end up laughing. 

Then of course, there's the long suffering hubby.  It's important to remember that if I'm swimming in wool, it's so much the more so for him.  Whereas I see the details of each lovely plastic bag of 100 gm, he sees a mountain of bags.  I get it.  I really do.  He just seems to float effortlessly around wheels and looms and sewing machines.  I think he finds it funny that I'm always dropping knitting needles while I'm knitting. 

Actually, the dropping of knitting needles really is getting worse, probably because I'm getting a bit older...maybe...but of course, maybe not.  In any event, I remembering watching videos of Elizabeth Zimmerman dropping knitting needles and am secretly proud that, as time goes on, I appear to be doing it too.  Estee and I ordered all her videos from the Denver Public Library system and snuck off to watch them.  Her  #3 kid told us we were dorks.  It was so incredibly flattering!

Before Friday night candle lighting, the hubby indulges in his weekly -- and pretty much only -- shot at me and my fiber: "it's time to clean up your toys," he says, clearly enjoying the words as they roll off his  tongue...

 I let him have his fun; after all, look at what he puts up with.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Another New Sewing Machine

Based on the last two machines, it seems I can beat up a $100 Brother in about 5 - 6 years.  I hadn't thought about it, but when the repairman pointed out that it wasn't worth fixing, I realized he was right and it was time to get into the market and buy a new one.

Buying a machine in Israel however is a challenge.  Oh yes, they have them all right, but they cost an arm and a leg!  A basic "Bernette" (do they have those in America?) which is like $100 Brother is....wait for it....2400 NIS or in USD -- 662.70!!  No way!

After spending a week figuring sewing machines up one side and down the other, the best plan was to buy a Singer 3232 in Rome.  Our trip was coming up in two weeks, so everything looked really easy.  Pick one up, put it in a carry-on suitcase, fly back, and Bob's your uncle. So we advised the store we were coming -- in a week -- and would like to pick up the machine. So in between sight seeing....

.... we took a cab out to the store.  NO ONE in any sewing machine store in Rome speaks English. I can say buongiorno in Italian. They do speak "Singer" and so we corresponded.  Cuicherona was the best option -- in the afternoons Katia came in and we could sort of communicate.

But they had just changed some of their complicated business laws to more complicated business laws in Italy and not even the store owner understood what to do.  Two weeks later, after consulting with their accountant -- and our trip was over and we were back in Israel -- my machine arrived in the mail.

So here it is! With the instructions in ... Italian! Very pretty, isn't it?

I truly don't know what normal people -- even normal people who sew a lot like I do -- use all those stitches for on these mechanical machines, let alone the computerized ones!  If you'd care to tell me, I'd love to know.  Maybe you can give me some ideas.

I get the straight stitch and zig zag and hem stitch.  But which design do you prefer and for what??

So now I am back in business.  My next post will describe additions to my doll making....

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Takeover

Ever since beloved last Kid Number 3 moved out...

I have been slowly taking over the whole house.

 I work mainly on the kitchen table and have taken over two kitchen drawers, one for body parts (for dolls, muah ha ha), and the other for thread and such. My spinning wheel makes lovely living room furniture when not in use, so I spin in there. Our bedroom was always for wool storage (hubby said he felt he slept in a sheep shed) (funny guy, huh?)

and now the guest bedroom is my sewing room.  So guests have to bravely make their way through it to get to the bed, if the dogs don't get there first. But when I was cleaning up Kid Number 3's room, it really hit me:

I have a lot of toys.

I have remade his room into my weaving room, with the floor loom and its accouterments.  And there also resides my lovely treadle machine.  

There is a spot on the floor for his mattress, too.

How things have changed!

In the early days (30 years ago) when I began spinning, I had secret feelings of superiority that I had ONLY one spinning wheel and nothing else -- and I could turn out homespun sweaters.

Other people had roomfuls of implements, niddy-noddies, drum carders (well I did want one of those), extra wheels -- and I sort of looked down on them.  Well no more.

Do you want to know what I have now? 

Two Ashford traditional wheels, a single treadle Ashford Joy, one pair of Ashford carders, one pair of Clemes and Clemes carders, one flicker, one wooden comb (Ashford), extra bobbins in two sizes, a Leclerc table loom, an eight shaft Norwood floor loom with a sectional beam, a tension threading box, Schact bobbin winder, a spool holder, unknown number of shuttles including three boat shuttles, a Brother electric sewing machine, a 1905 treadle sewing machine, a forest of bamboo knitting needles, many, many more than three bags full of wool, piles of skeins of handspun yarn, silk roving, bamboo roving.

Wow, this is getting really embarrassing.  I feel moved to point out that one of my Ashford traditional wheels is with my daughter in law in the US, so I only have two here at home -- one traditional and one traveling wheel.  Surely that is better?

Five or six pairs of dressmakers' scissors, an awesome pair of scissors with micro-points, telescoping tubes, two dart markers, extra boxes of pearlized round head pins (I'm picky), two self healing cutting boards (listen, I inherited one from my mother in law), and the fabric! the ribbons! the lace! the elastic in all sizes!

I did receive stashes from two women -- and the one from my mother in law was gigantic. I have sometimes tried to visualize this amazing mass  of sewing supplies and fabrics that moves between women.  When one woman is done with hers (much of it inherited), it moves along to the next.  It picks up odd buttons, scraps of fabric, patterns, dressmaker's chalk, spools of thread. It's rather lovely really.

My mother in law got heavy into quilting in the last 15 to 20 years of her life.  That's a long time for a quilter! I have heaps of precut squares, triangles and rectangles, all colors, all hues.  And the fat quarters!  And almost finished quilts....two of which I have completed, all the while trying to guess what she had in mind....

My lovely, lovely friend, Eve, has such a HUGE stash that when she decides to divest parts of it, she needs a MAN to move it. So Kalman dutifully brought over boxes and boxes for me.  

Which I joyfully tore through -- 

I will use it. I am using it. I shared some. I found treasures. We -- all of us needs friends like these if we are to really create from the depths of our hearts.  

Sunday, December 7, 2014

On Warping with Dogs

I babysit dogs -- and I prefer the bigger ones, like labs, because they are so much calmer.  The little guys can be too nervous and bark too much and I don't like running around all day trying to shut them up.

So I fill the place with big dumb dogs, usually the kind that shed a lot. 

If you came into my 84 square meter house, you'd see them lying around on the furniture, sometimes on their backs, feet in the air....can you picture that?

Or just hanging out, "dogging up the couch," as we say in our family.

Two of these yoyos are paying customers.....the other two NEED to get a job.

So I'm pack leader and when I go upstairs, they come.  Bathroom, dogs follow. Kitchen, they're right there.  My buddies.

What does this have to do with warping? In my continuing clumsy efforts to warp my sectional beam Norwood 8 shaft loom with no yarn yardage counter, I keep trying to figure out how much warp to wind onto each spool to then feed through the tension box, to warp each section of the beam.

Lately I hit upon a new way to measure out that length: use the banister that runs around the top of the stairs -- from one post to the other and back is 184 inches and if I need to put on 5 and a half feet of warp in each section, that's 12 sections, and that measures 5.5 times 12 which is 66 yards, which is 2376 inches divided by 184 inches --remember that's the length around the banister -- and that comes out to 12.9 winds (approximately) around the banister posts.  Got that?

Ok.  So there I am upstairs. We have a bedroom at the head of the stairs, the bathroom in the middle and another bedroom at the other end. And I'm walking the length of the narrow upstairs hallway .... 12.9 times. I begin.  I walk towards the bedroom.  Aha! they think.  It's bedtime. Let's go jump in the bed!

Three dogs do this. Two are not so sure.  I turn and start the other way down the hall. 

Three dogs get off the bed. The other two think it's time to collapse in front of the bathroom door and wait for me to come out.  So they fall on the floor and I step over them, heading towards the other post by the stairs.

Time to go down! (so think four of them) They pile up behind me in the hall, ready to follow me down the stairs.  The bottleneck is totally confused when I turn and head back towards the bedroom. 

Aha!  It IS bedtime, think two.  Jump in the bed.  No! Bathroom, think two others, fall on the floor.  One is just standing there looking confused as I walk and turn again (remember, this is 12.9 winds...)

Damn, I think. I have finished winding my 12.9 winds and I forgot the spool I needed to wind it all onto, so downstairs I go to get it. My pack is at my heels as I go down the stairs, thinking this is IT! we're going to the kitchen!

Grab the spool and go back upstairs.  Bedtime? Bathroom? We start all over again. Dropping in heaps on the floor, bottle necking the hallway, grid lock in front of the bathroom.... 

Thank God, I'm going to take weaving classes when I visit my son in Oregon in January. I sincerely hope they have a better method to suggest because the dog-pack-banister-method ended up to be yet another Eventful Warp.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

You're Knitting What??

My daughter is a doula -- the birth coach/assistant -- you know.  And she is rather GOOD at it, and the fact that I'm her mother has nothing to do with my opinion.  She just is darn good.

 If you're having a baby and want to have a good time -- call Rachel.

So this fall, she decided to add to her already rather impressive list of skills and become a Lamaze instructor.  I used the Lamaze approach when I was having babies.  Apparently they stopped teaching the heavy breathing techniques and I think that is good because I definitely could have done without that heavy breathing part those-oh-so-many-years-ago. 

Her class is composed of an instructor, originally from Zimbabwe,  and seven or eight students, all of varying backgrounds.  Some of them are doulas like Rachel, others have a background in massage, lifeguarding, or La Leche League leadership. They meet once a week for seven hours and will end up with college credit.

Not bad.

Sometimes I even get the grandchildren while she's in class.  A pretty nice deal for me.  I took number two granddaughter to a cute kiddie place full of toys -- ROOMS of toys -- and she was the only kid there. So she burbled around happily while I knit my latest project.

And now the plot thickens. What am I knitting??

You knitters are all familiar with this, of course.  You're out in public and mostly get ignored, but some people will smile at you, and then there is the exceptional individual who will ask --

"What are you making?"

The ones who used to knit tell all about how they used to do it, but their hands got arthritic (this gives me unpleasant shivers), and then there are those that "tried but never could get it," or "made a scarf once."  I like these people.

There are those who say they could "never do it!" and so I reassure them (and I'm sure you do too) that they most certainly can....every woman could do this once...it just takes practice....

But here's the deal.  Remember the Lamaze class? This post began with Rachel's Lamaze class. 

Okay, so they need audio/visual aids to teach all about gestation, labor, birth, post-partum -- and even about complications.  So they use videos, diagrams, pictures, life-sized infant dolls...

And they need uteruses.

The best uteruses are knitted. They have a snap-on birth canal and a ribbed cervix. The body of the uterus is in stocking stitch and the top is closed off in a decreasing swirl like the top of a hat.  They need to have placentas and umbilical cords to "expel" with the baby and it's best if those are knitted, too.

Now there are several styles online.  Some have a drawstring top (to make it easier to jam the baby inside in the first place) and others have a button or zipper opening for C-sections.  Ravelry has a few patterns and there is a Mothering website from Canada that has one too.  That pattern does need to be redone though, because it has a lot of mistakes in it.

So picture yourself, sitting in a hallway, bus station, doctor's office, or lobby, knitting away, and along comes that sweet, unsuspecting person who innocently asks "what are you knitting"?

There is surprise.  "You've got to be kidding me." Shock.  Giggles. "Look," I show them, "You can see the head crowning this way," I say, punching my fist through the "cervix" to show how it works.

To be honest, I especially like punching my fist through the "cervix."  The effect is always a certain......well....je ne sais quoi....

 Listen, there's money in this, too.  These things can sell for as much as $80.00 a pop (sorry), including the placenta.  And if you buy that self-striping baby yarn, they come out real pretty.  My latest is a lovely light lavender with a deeper purple stripe, and little dots all dispersed throughout.  A real work of art....

So those in the knitting business need to consider those doulas, birth instructors and midwives who are out there trying to help the new to-be parents figure out what is what ....


Monday, February 4, 2013

The Uneventful Warp

I like the title of this post -- the Uneventful Warp.  Doesn't it sound nice?  Well, it has never happened for me.  All my warps have been Major Events, Tangled Webs -- a sort of theater in the round. Could have been a TV show entitled, "The Three Stooges Warp the Loom."

I am a self taught weaver, plugging away at it now for about four years.  First I bought Estee's old table loom, a real beauty. I packaged it up carefully to bring it back with me to Israel as one of my two allowable suitcases (remember those days?).  At the El Al counter in New York, they ran it through the X-ray machine.

"What is this?" a nice clerk asked me.

"A loom."

"A what?"

My attempts to explain what it was all failed. It is for making fabric. It weaves threads. It is an old fashioned way to make clothes. It is how people did it before machines. We tried hand gestures, body language....

So they began opening the box, trying to peek at it. They peeked. More confusion. They opened it a bit more. More confusion.  Opened more.  More -- well they opened it all the way, never figured out what it was, decided it wasn't a weapon, and put it on the plane. 

These guys are great in my opinion.  I loved every minute of it.  LOL.  ROFL.  You know.

So I read Debbie Chandler's book on the plane, even underlining important parts, and got home ready to weave. I didn't have a warping board. Ok. No problem. I'll make my own.

With chairs. Door knobs. A coat rack.  Looped around the desk. Warp running the length of the hallway.  Up the stairs. And I could chain my warp just fine, but I never understood THE CROSS.

So I had LONG warps hanging off the back of the loom which I patiently untangled.  And I untangled them as I wove also. Some warp just got cut off.  I wove anyway, and made a tallit for my nephew, some weird towels, a couple of short (really short) scarves (hubby doggedly wears them) and put the loom away for the next year.

In the years that have followed, I still never got THE CROSS. But then I lucked onto a great find. A cherry wood 40" wide Norwood 8-shaft floor loom with a sectional beam. People in Israel don't really value this kind of equipment -- and have no one to sell it to. So I got $5,000 worth of stuff for $700.  A-ma-zing!

I have the loom, a bobbin winder, a spool holder, tension box, sectional beam, extra reeds, every kind of shuttle, extra heddles, fancy tex-solve snap ins, bags and bags of unwanted yarn, a warping board (ALAS!! It was broken!!) -- the list goes on and on.

For several weeks, I just nervously sat in the living room and watched it.

Then Dina came over and with her reassuring presence, we poured through books on how to do it and we warped the beam (ok, she did most of it). Then she went home.

There were tension problems. Threads were tangled coming from the sections to get to the heddles. I called Dina. She suggested advancing the warp completely, then rewinding it.  Good idea.

OMG. Threads were snapping all over the place! I advanced that warp at the rate of about three inches at a time, climbing all around the loom, on the floor searching for broken warp threads -- and after 8 hours of this, I fell in love with the loom -- and still can't figure out why -- and then rewound the warp with more threads snapping....

The next warp was handspun silk which was not spun firmly enough...as it turned out.  And I have studied pictures and watched youtube videos and can't get the hang of that weavers' knot. Maybe because I'm left handed? I'd lose warp threads completely and try to figure how to add new threads. Everybody tells you to hang them using film cans with a few pennies in them for weight.

What's with the film cans?? Who has film cans anymore?? I certainly don't! I had nothing I could figure out to use for tensioning new warp threads. So I tied them on and sort of wound them around the pegs on the sectional beam. Well, everytime you advance a warp like that, you have to retie all of them...

But I did weave two more tallits -- and sold one of them! -- and then another!

It's winter and weaving time again. Just wound on a new warp. I put 24 spools on the spool rack and wound on my nice new warp.  As I went to thread the heddles, I find that I've only wound on 23 threads. HOW CAN THAT BE???? I rechecked all the spools and they were all empty and even counted them individually although it is kind of obvious if you have an even number on the spool rack or not.... 

I love weaving. I really do. And now I am even starting to have ideas of what I'd like to make.  I'm spinning yarn just for weaving projects. But an UnEventful Warp?? Don't make me LOL.  Don't make me ROFL.  Don't even think about it!