Fall Frederick FiberFest!

Today was a perfect fall day and we drove the hour or so up to Frederick to go to the FiberFest. It’s totally free, there’s a raffle, plenty of parking, food trucks and real bathrooms. What more could you want?

We went in the spring and I think we had better luck today!

One of the reasons I thought it would be fun to spin is because there isn’t a ton of things for weavers at these festivals but they are fun. There is always a lot of fiber for spinners though! We live in a area with a lot of farms and producers.

I’ve been busy with my black walnut project and haven’t spun much but I’d like to have some fiber ready to go once I can move off of my practicing. It’s so much more fun to see and touch it in person and as a bonus there is no shipping costs.

This time I bought 8 oz of alpaca from an alpaca named Raven from Artemis Grange.

I was tempted by some rabbit fur but passed.

I did get some fiber from Polymorph Dyeworks. I talked to the owner and she said last festival they didn’t sell any but it was selling fast today. It really was. I saw what I wanted early and came back for it about 15 minutes later and most of it was gone.

I think the vendor with the best idea was Northwood and Pine which had vegan fibers (cotton, bamboo etc) that you could chose from and they made a batt for you right there! Super cute idea. I don’t think I will be ready to use it for a bit but I couldn’t resist. I love an interactive moment.

I also got a vintage latch hook kit. It’s a Christmas ornament that bizarrely says “Hello”. I did latch hook as a kid and thought it might be something easy to do on some dark night. Fingers crossed it’s in good shape. The box doesn’t look like it was ever opened.

My only disappointment with the festival the festival doesn’t seem to have a mailing list or actual website, just a Facebook page and that really gets lost in the shuffle. Apparently there was a spinning class today but I didn’t see it until too late. I put it on the calendar in the spring to check the page before the spring event in case they offer it again. They did have a rigid heddle demo and a fiber crafting demo this time which I feel like was new but didn’t require signing up. It’s still a very cute little festival but a spinning class would have taken it to the next level.

We actually went to the downtown area and got sandwiches at Crabapples and ate outside then returned to the festival for the one o’clock drawing. I feel like we have to make the most of these sunny days when we have them! Especially since we aren’t doing many indoor activities and winter is long.

While walking to lunch I “stole” some marigolds and mums that had overgrown into the walkway near some businesses. I think it might be just enough to eco print my walnut scarf!

Then on our way home I noticed someone in the neighborhood had posted they were sharing some flower arrangements in squash for free and we swung by! A mysterious voice from the house told me to take two. How sweet is that?

All in all a very successful day! I’m still hoping to go to the Alpaca festival next month but at least I got some fun things now in case it’s too cold or the event gets canceled.

Natural Dyeing Adventures- Black Walnut Scarf part 3: Weaving

I am starting to wonder if the project is a little cursed! As I went to start to weave I realized I had warped it going the wrong way! I somehow didn’t realize that there were holes for the clamps (why is this?) on both sides. The loom is so tiny, there isn’t a huge amount of difference and I was trying to get it done and I guess not focusing enough? But when I went to weave in some scrap yarn for a header it was clear I was on the wrong end.

Luckily, I think it will be okay. I panicked then thought that I tie the warp on my floor looms on both ends and that’s secure enough. I rewound the warp on the end that I had tied off instead of the end I had wrapped with warp. I wove a thicker header than usual to give some length for fringe to make up for the length that normally I wouldn’t reach while weaving which is now in front of the loom. I will just have to cut the warp off rather than untie it when I’m done. Or I could machine hem it if it is a little a short. Hopefully that works? I’m already a little tired of this project.

It does look nice! I’m starting with the leftovers from the warp which is the skein that was a little less evenly dyed so I’m getting some pleasant variation. I’m not sure if that will end up being too much of a contrast with the next skein of weft when I get to that. The warp will still be pretty unevenly dyed so there still should be some variation.

I ordered some alum for the eco printing. Once again I see a lot of different suggestions about how to eco print fabric and about half suggest alum or iron. I think alum brightens colors so I’m going with that.

Natural Dyeing Adventures- Black Walnut Scarf part 2: Warping

Yesterday the yarn was fully dry so I used my cheapo swift and rolled it into balls. The yarn is very silky and easily tangles. I ended up making one tiny ball of some tied together scraps that with any luck I won’t have to use as weft.

This morning I broke out my neglected Cricket 15 inch rigid heddle loom to warp it up. The rigid heddle sock yarn scarf patterns I found online largely called for a 10 dent heddle but I only have 8 and 12 (as you may recall, I bought it used on Marketplace and that’s what came with it) so I went with 12. 8 felt too wide since my goal is the eco print the finished scarf so I’d want a somewhat tight weave.

Warping didn’t go well. It is easy to direct warp on the rigid heddle but I realized the plastic lock had come loose allowing the apron rod to pull forward shortening the warp. That a real issue with direct warping, you are warping to a peg that is the distance of your final project, plus some waste so if something shifts, it throws the whole project off.

I really refer the wooden pieces of my Kromski 32 but that’s already warped with a wrap project I haven’t actually started. The Cricket makes sense when it comes to making a scarf because it is so small I can basically weave in my lap but it really does feel like a child’s toy to use.

I pulled the warp out but of course it tangled and I ended up winding a bunch of small balls that were only a few yards long and tying them on. I was worried I would run out of yarn if I didn’t use it all.

I finally started pulling from the big ball again from the center pull and it some how tangled up. I ended up cutting it, tying it on again and pulling from the side. Then a tiny bit from the center got tangled to the outside yarn I was using and I had to free that. Oy. It took way longer than I was expecting but I did get it set up.

Running out of yarn turned out to not be an issue because I warped on about 90 inches and 10 inches wide and had a lot of yarn leftover. That might solve what I had thought was my weft issue but I am wondering if I should have made it longer. I don’t think it will shrink much if at all because the yarn has been washed several times and it’s sock yarn so it is meant to not shrink and to be machine washable. While this project is an experiment, I would like it to be a functional scarf!

I haven’t tied it on the front yet so fingers crossed that goes well.

My goal is to do plain weave so the eco printing stands out. It’s a short project so hopefully I can weave it quickly and eco print while there are still pretty leaves and flowers around.

Right now the warp reminds me of ‘80s “flesh tone” pantyhose. I do think the dyeing went well, I just think it’s kind of ugly. Which I knew going in was probably going to be the case. I am hoping the eco printing will perk up the final project.

Natural Dyeing Adventures- Black Walnut Scarf part 1: Dyeing

When we visited the Landis Valley Museum I foraged some black walnuts that were dropping (and rotting) all over the place. I figured of all places not to mind some low key foraging it would be a living history museum!

I picked up about 8 green pods and double wrapped them in some plastic bags we had in the car. I let them sit, bagged, on our enclosed porch until today.

They were starting to get soft so I just stepped on the bag and cracked them open a bit.

I added them to the large steamer pot that I ordered from Amazon. My idea had been to thrift a pot but I really didn’t think I had the time to do that and still have time to complete my project before the walnuts really rotted.

At our guild zoom meeting on Monday I volunteered to present a dye project in December (dyeing yarn and then making something with it is the guild project from now until May) so I wanted to get on this project while I could still do some foraging in case it didn’t work out.

I had the idea for using a steamer pot with a deep insert because the insert acted like a sieve and I didn’t need a strainer or to use a mesh bag. It also has a shallow strainer basket that would be good for steaming yarn.

As soon as I added water to the pot it turned dark brown. I think this is because the husk/pod is where most of the dye comes from, not the actual shell or nut.

I brought it to a low boil and boiled it for about an hour. I know other sources say to boil it for many hours but this water was already very dark and if I’m honest, I don’t really like brown and didn’t want to make the yarn too dark. My plan is to weave up the yarn and then do some eco printing on the finished product using flowers and leaves from my yard so I need a lighter shade.

I strained out the walnuts. I soaked the yarn (to make this easy on me, I used white super wash sock yarn) in warm water about the same temperature as the dye. That seems to be important? I didn’t actually want to soak the yarn so I used stainless steel tongs to dip the yarn in the dye about three times. It really soaked up the dye!

I then put the yarn in a basin and rinsed it in our bathtub until the water ran clear.

Then I hung it on my new collapsible drying rack. I was excited about this one because it folds into a pole and not only has arms but the arms have holes I could hang hooks from for more yarn.

I only dyed two skeins—one for the warp and one for the weft. I’m going to make the scarf on my 15 inch Cricket rigid heddle so the sock yarn isn’t under too much tension and there will be a lot less loom waste. I don’t want to invest too much into an experiment! I don’t have the yarn stash so many weavers have.

I picked black walnuts because they are easy to find, don’t need a mordant and are color fast. I like the idea of natural dyes but so many fade so quickly! Some recipes tell you to redye your project yearly depending on the materials used. Who has time for that? I like to complete a project and move on.

The directions I found online were mostly on these blogs clogged with ads that are written in that robotic, repetitive SEO way that I find boring and difficult to follow. Some had you heating and cooling the yarn and heating and cooling the dye and then heating it together. Others had you heat the yarn and put it in hot dye. Some had you dip and some had you soak for anywhere from 15 minutes to literal months. It was really all over the place. Many directions had you using the dried shells which might explain some of it. I was using the very dye rich whole pod.

I just did what made sense to me and I have brown yarn now so I think it must be good enough. I had more than enough dye to dye many, many more skeins of yarn.

Harvesting Color, which I checked out of the library, had you fermenting the walnuts (in the husks) for three weeks. She does not explain why you are to do that. Then she has you boil it an hour, strain and then soak your yarn for 60-90 minutes. She also points out that you could add the husks back into the dye to darken it again as desired. I don’t find that a lot of books and blogs give you a lot of the “why” I am looking for. Why does she have you ferment when others don’t at all or like in Wild Color, only have you soak overnight? She talks about getting the same dye from the husk or the shell but other books imply there is some difference in color and state that the husk is where the majority of the “dye” is found. It’s all a little confusing. I guess the longer you soak or boil the walnuts the more concentrated the dye is so you can use it for more batches?

Landis Valley Museum Harvest Days

We visited the museum back in August and enjoyed it. I had checked out their events and class calendar (I wish we were a little closer, their classes all look great) and noted their biggest event was in October. Since it was nice weather this past weekend we thought we thought it was worth a drive.

We went to Flying Fibers and then drove about 25 more minutes to the museum. I wasn’t sure what to expect, the descriptions were a little vague—food, demonstrations, pumpkins—and it said it was family friendly. Family friendly is great but when you don’t have kids it can be a red flag—is it code for “this is really for toddlers”? We came up with some back up activities in nearby Ephrata and figured it was worth the risk.

I’m glad we went! It was actually a lot of fun. It was kid friendly and they had some small kid activities but it was largely groups of adults and older elementary or middle school aged children. One little girl was dressed in an old fashioned dress and bonnet with a cloth doll and seemed very excited to be there which was fun to see.

Neither of us were really expecting vendors but there were a lot of niche vendors what sold niche crafts and were showing off their goods. we bought a sassafras bowl/dipper from a cooper (who also teaches coopering at the museum at times!), some wool from a spinner, had a long chat with a woman who canes chairs (my husband now really wants to do this) and a woman who made jewelry out of human and horse hair like Victorian hair work. I think she might be a good speaker for my weaving guild next year! It was very interesting to see the weaving process. There were also farmers with pawpaws and different types of apples, potters and gourd artists. One table was selling tape looms (even fancier than the ones we had bought at the museum before with an extra decorative hole section), pot pie noodle rolling pins (I was tempted) and other wooden handcrafts.

The museum had a lot of artisans out doing cooking demos in the wood ovens, butchering and making scrapple over a wood fire, apple cider pressing and the Lancaster Weaving and Spinning Guild was there. They talked to us about their sheep to shawl competitions in the PA Farm show and we bought one of the shawls they made during practice runs. I never really thought about them practicing but it makes sense, it’s basically a relay race but with sheep and wool!

The woman we talked to suggested I join the guild because they have frequently talks with guest speakers and it’s all over Zoom. Apparently they have some members who live further out in PA and only make the big in person events so my hour or so away in MD isn’t that big of a deal. Honestly, it is quicker for me in Northern Baltimore City to get to the Lancaster area than it is to get to the area where the “Greater Baltimore” weaving guild meets/holds their shows heading down towards DC/Columbia.

I went ahead and joined. I can’t imagine I could come to too many in person activities but their offerings are plentiful and still largely online. The woman told us how having them via Zoom has been a boon because they don’t have to pay for travel and lodging for their guest speakers because people can remote in from anywhere. I love my current guild and of course will remain a member there but for $25, the membership benefits of the Lancaster guild are great. They even have a private YouTube channel with old classes on it.

I’m really glad we went! It was a beautiful day, everyone was so nice, we were so inspired and I even foraged some black walnuts to try to dye some yarn for my local guild’s dye challenge.

Yarn Store Visit: Flying Fibers

Over the weekend we made a trip up to Pennsylvania to the Landis Valley Museum Harvest Days and on the way we stopped by Flying Fibers.

I had come across the store on social media and it seemed like an easy detour. They had relocated their store to their farm which was fun to visit.

It was small but very well stocked and had a lot of yarn, fiber and notions that were very much our style.

I bought some roving to spin (sold by weight and some single origin bundles), some spinning wheel oil, a small eye shaped loom by Loome and a darning loom by Katrinkles.

Matt got some sock yarn to try with his lucet. All in all well worth the shop and only about an hour north. She even said if I wanted order something not on the online store (like the dyed roving) she could sell it to me over the phone. Traffic being what it is in the Baltimore Metro area, it took me just as long to get there as it would for me to go to the “closer” shops here.

It was really nice to shop in person!

Spinning Adventure Part 2

Two of the women from my weaving guild offered to meet and spin with me so I could try out my Hitchhiker spinning wheel and get some help.

It did not go well! Even the experienced spinner was a little flummoxed by my wheel and said she didn’t think it was working quite right. We really didn’t get any yarn going.

I had kept up my alerts for used spinning wheels but haven’t had luck. The prices for used wheels anywhere within even very generous driving distance were very close to retail.

I read that Ashford was raising their prices in October so I took the plunge and bought a Kiwi 3 from a dealer that had them in stock vs outsourcing the order to Ashford. The idea was to get it before we went to vacation to Cape May, NJ the last week of September because I read about a store that had spinning lessons there. I picked the Kiwi because it folded up and didn’t take up that much room. I was debating the Joy but that was very small and since I have the tiny HitchHiker, I thought something that was portable but also a little taller and easier to see would be nice.

The wheel did arrive just in time! I opted for unassembled and unfinished to save money so I took a sunny day, waxed it and assembled it. The directions were really good! I didn’t have any major issues.

Then we realized that between the dogs and their things and having to bring linens and beach stuff to the house we were renting, we really didn’t have the room in my Matrix to bring the wheel.

I didn’t even get a chance to try it out before we headed to the beach.

It turned out okay because we went to that store and it was a little odd. They weren’t terribly friendly and there was almost nothing spinning or weaving related in the store! I thought maybe I’d be able to get a niddy noddy, fiber, maybe a case, more bobbins etc but they had nothing but a tiny amount of fiber in a weird glass case. It was one of those stores where you feel like you are interrupting someone in their home.

There was a group there knitting that also was a little strange and talked about us to the owner while we were right there. My husband found a good needle felting book he would have bought but it wasn’t for sale. Sometimes I wonder if people open these stores just as a tax shelter (is that a thing?) and to have a way to make people their friends. There was not much for sale. I guess it was my fault for assuming that a store that offers spinning lessons would also have spinning items for sale. Why is that so common? The store where I took my weaving classes doesn’t even sell cone yarn or shuttles.

We took a lot of games and crafts on the trip and ended up not really doing anything. The weather was nice and walking the dogs and picking up food took up more time than you’d think in the evenings. We spent a lot of time on the enclosed porch (the house was very fussy and carpeted and my husband fell down the dangerous stairs which put a damper on things) and it was a little dark in there at night. Matt did manage to do some work with his lucet following along in our new lucet book but my cardinal pin loom project went untouched so I’m not sure if I would have spun anyway.

I spent Tuesday trying the Kiwi out I can get something that looks like thick yarn going! More than I can say about the HitchHiker.

Tomorrow we are headed to a festival and might stop at a fiber store on the way. They are a little over an hour away and also offer spinning lessons so I’d like to check them out. Their social media looks promising! I really wouldn’t mind taking a class, I’m not sure if I can really get the feel for it via a video and I don’t want to lean on my weaving guild to help me for free.

Playful Peg Loom Weaving: A modern approach to the ancient technique of peg loom weaving, plus 17 projects to make by Stéphanie Fradette

I was excited to get this ARC from Netgalley! I read a lot and regularly review books but there are rarely craft books on there.

It was a major record scratch moment when I saw this book. I had to “wish” for it and that wish was granted. I enjoyed using my peg loom recently but wasn’t sure what to make next. There aren’t too many books or patterns out there! The Facebook group is largely made up of people making rugs out of their own fleece which is not my situation at all.

This looked like a colorful, modern approach to peg loom weaving and I wasn’t disappointed.

I really appreciated the very clear photographs of the different stitches. So many books are vague and only have drawings which can be difficult to follow. I’ve actually never even encountered a book or pattern for the peg loom that had you do anything but the most basic weaves. This incorporated a lot of modern tapestry techniques which I really enjoyed. Several of the projects used weaving sticks (which are basically the peg loom without the stand) to make smaller projects which I liked. I need to get some narrower sticks!

I really liked how she organized the book into how long the projects took. I really like projects I can do while watching a movie or listening to a podcast and there is a whole section on weeknight crafting.

I am interested in learning more about the UK weaving and craft scene! This is not the first UK based less conventional weaving book I’ve come across, I also have a rag rug book by a different author that is very good and I’ve checked others out of the library. The US weaving scene seems large but I don’t see that many books coming out and not many about these more unusual smaller looms and techniques. Here Noreen Crone-Findlay seems to have basically cornered that market, her books are fine but I don’t generally see myself making any of her patterns and her videos are hit and miss. I don’t know if it is our publishing houses that aren’t putting out these books or if these types of crafts are just more popular in the UK. Here the focus really seems to be on floor looms and some rigid heddle.

The book isn’t out yet but you can pre-order it on Amazon. I normally don’t like craft books on the Kindle but this one works well in the format, I didn’t notice any formatting errors.

Vermont Weaving Club Update!

While I enjoy my guild I’m finding the greater weaving community to be a little odd! First the unprofessionalism from Sheep & Wool and now I’ve had a strange experience with Vermont Weaving Supplies that I can’t really wrap my mind around.

I should have trusted my gut when it came to the unusual set up of the club.

I was leery because subscribers don’t know what is in the box until it is too late to cancel. At $70 plus $9 shipping, it would be nice to know! New subscribers have a few days after the “reveal” to sign up and receive that box. In July it was revealed that the next box was about weaving rag rugs which I was so excited about so I took the plunge. I figured I could always cancel then sign up again after the next “reveal” if I wanted. $80 is too much for a box that I might have little use or interest in. I couldn’t wait for it to arrive a few weeks later.

In the meantime I joined the Facebook group and got members of my weaving guild to get subscriptions too so we could work on our projects together. The kit was $20 cheaper if you didn’t want the community and class aspect of it but I thought it would be helpful.

When it arrived I warped up my loom which was very tedious because both the heddles and the reed had to be double threaded because the kit contained 8/2 cotton which is pretty fine and normally used for things like towels not rag rug warp. 8/4 would be more common for a softer rag rug but I’ve been seen thicker thread and even cording used.

The subscriber Facebook group sounded great at first and I enjoyed seeing other people’s projects. Then it got weird.

On a post where another subscriber said she was getting undesired results with her project which she had downsized into a runner/placemat. An admin responded and said she should have used thicker cotton thread for the header. I chimed in and I didn’t see that in the instructions about modifications section (which included placemats) and asked for clarification because I was thinking about making something smaller too. The admin replied something that didn’t quite make sense about how this was a modification and that the directions were 14 pages long and didn’t really address the question.

I posted that I found doubling up the cotton tedious to warp on and then tricky to work with because my threads from my thrifted sheet weft kept getting caught in my warp.

The admin said that she designed the pattern to use the same cotton the towels in earlier kits did, she’s seen it used this way as an alternative to rug warp* and that every weaver is different. I replied that’s true but I think there is a reason why patterns call for certain types of warping materials, sometimes you really need something specific to get the right result. All very polite and again, this was in the supposedly “helpful” weave along group on a post another woman had written about how this cotton warp didn’t hold its shape well enough to give her the results she wanted or expected despite following the instructions and this same admin telling her she should have used something stiffer (and not included in the kit) for the header/edges.

My comments all disappeared but the woman’s post remained. I thought it must be some glitch so I posted on the same thread asking what happened and then I was banned from posting.

I was really shocked. Surely this woman knows (and basically admitted as such in her response to me) that this is atypical cotton for the project and wouldn’t be upset about someone talking about how the project was going in a group that’s sole purpose was about working on this project.

The admin woman, Dena Gartenstein Moses, told me to message her about why she blocked me from posting. I did because I truly thought it was an error or that she wanted to help me directly and thought redirecting me would get my attention. What else could it be?

No she wanted to tell me she didn’t like my contributions to the group and that I was a problem. She said she was “sorry” the subscription “wasn’t for me”. She said I was on the only person who didn’t like the pattern and therefore I was contributing “bad energy” with my participation. She literally said she felt I was challenging her.

My comment was on a post where a woman was sharing the troubles she was having with the project! I did not start a post about issues with the project. I merely agreed and shared my experience. This woman’s response was so over the top it was nearly unbelievable.

I replied to her because I was truly confused by her reaction and she read my response and ignored me.

Adding to all this a weird, in light of this whole debacle passive aggressive, email went out to the whole subscriber list a couple hours after I was banned (but before I tried to contact her) about “community” and learning,

My learning process is not linear. I tend to start in the middle and work my way out to the edges. I absorb what interests me and ignore the rest. Over time I will circle back, gain more insight, and go deeper.

This is the approach that I have taken with the weaving clubs. Getting to bring other weavers along is a special treat. Learning about weaving happens in spirals. Concepts build on other concepts, but it is not linear. One often circles around an idea or structure a few times, each time filling in gaps, each time understanding in more depth. I have found that the best way to teach someone is to follow the thread of what they are excited about and provide education along the way in small and manageable chunks.

What’s Happening in September newsletter 9/7/22, Vermont Weaving Supplies

It seemed very pointed and was honestly a description of the exact opposite approach she took in the Facebook Group. She provided materials that weren’t well suited to the project, got upset when someone pointed out that the project would probably work better with actual rug warp (I did it in a less blunt way then I’m using here) and then banned me. She was also a little defensive with the woman who started the post about her project but I don’t think banned her because the woman, although clearly frustrated, took a more passive approach to saying that the kit didn’t work as designed.

I guess when the Vermont Weaving School means community, they mean groupies without opinions or outside knowledge.

I’m so sad I gave this company $80 and told anyone else about it. I admit I do expect a certain level of professionalism from people but this whole issue was really unexpected and escalated in a really bizarre way. How talking about a pattern in general, factual terms was warped into a bannable offense is truly beyond me. I was polite and not wrong.

I can only imagine that she knew and realized that she designed the project using the wrong materials (for whatever reason, the company also sells a better option) and was upset that anyone realized that. Maybe this person doesn’t the best temperament for moderating discussion groups around projects then? I have no clue who this woman is but this was a really outsized response to a nothing problem. I wasn’t attacking her or saying the project was bad, I didn’t ask for a refund. I said it was hard to work with and it was. Maybe the reason they don’t get bad feedback is because people know how oversensitive and ban-happy they are.

I’m really debating about not finishing the project. I spent a lot of time sourcing fabric and cutting it up for the weft and warping took a couple days but I’m really not loving the results. I might take the fabric and try it in my yet unused twining loom instead. I hate to waste all that warp though!

*I have not found this suggestion in any other rag rug book or pattern. I can see a weaver doubling it up to “make do” and use up what they have on hand but patterns normally call for thicker cotton because it is the right choice for the project for durability and structure .

Mini Project, Mini Blanket

I had been making little 2×2 inch squares with scraps from my temperature blanket the whole year. I didn’t know what to do with them but I thought why not make a doll blanket?

This is my first and favorite Cabbage Patch Kid from when I was a kid. My grandpop gave her to me and made her the cotton cord necklace she is wearing. My mom made the nightgown she had wearing and a matching one for me.

She lives in a chair in my craft room turned husband’s office and I figured she could use a little blanket.

I did a random order, no temperature tracking! It’s a little silly to make my old doll a blanket but why not? It was a tiny project. I don’t know any children or I’d make more!