Sunday, May 30, 2010

phenological events May 2010

phenological events

May 2010

1st bluetts and heal all
5th peas and lettuce up
10th tree swallows
11th frost overnight
15th cat birds arrive
plant potatoes
16th hummingbirds!
18th warblers!
19th pea trellis built
22nd planted string beans
29th red currents ripening
30th red raspberries setting fruit

Thursday, May 20, 2010

the shetland connection

Cathy is my Shetland Connection. Over the years, (has it really been years?) I occasionally get a package in the mail from her...little (and sometimes bigger) baggies...with bits of Shetland sheep fleece tucked inside. I spin them up, I make notes...I set them my "Shetland samples" basket.


The baggies are marked with the name of the sheep, and occasionally the name of shepherdess and/or the name of the Shetland color. According to the NASSA..Shetland wool comes in one of the widest ranges of colors of any breed.

While reading up on the names and numbers of colors that can come out of the Shetland breed, I found this interesting quote:

"Besides the white, the sheep produce several shades of wool including moorit(reddy/brown), shaela (silvery grey), fawn, grey, dark brown and black. They are often patterned such as krunet (white crown), katmoget (dark belly) and gulmoget (light underneath). There are 11 main colors as well as 30 markings, many still bearing their Shetland dialect names. Unfortunately, many of these colors and markings have become quite rare as white wool has historically commanded better prices."


I'm starting to enjoy seeing the range of samples that I am slowly amassing...they look so pretty all lined up.

From dark to light:

Batty Grey (which was my favorite!)
Sax Emsket multicolor
Liberty light

Some samples have been spun on the Great Wheel, others on the Ashford, or CPW...and a few are spindle spun. Some are woolen, some are worsted, and some are somewhere in between. Some of my samples are singles.

I have tried to spin the individual wool samples the way I believe they should be spun. In other words, I spin the wool in a manner that I think the wool would best lend itself to make the type of yarn they were born to be. If you don't spin, you may not understand what I am talking about. That's OK.

I still have a few baggies stashed away to spin up...they are marked:

Willow fawn

And what is to become of all this yarn?


Cathy has completed a Shetland Samples sweater...gorgeous..did you see it? And Leigh has also worked with Shetland samples...did you see her finished Shetland Sweater? Oh my! I just love looking at their work! Each sweater reflects the imagination and style of the creator. When I think of the talents and skill and creativity that went into these sweaters, I stand in awe of them!

Both of these projects are so beautiful, and of these days, I will finish spinning up my Shetland samples, and create a sweater of my own. But I don't mind telling you, after looking at these two projects, it is somewhat daunting to think of making my own!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


There are so many things we can learn just from looking at pictures. Visual Language. Pictures can speak to us. know....that expression about them being worth a thousand words.....

A minute into this video, note the dual purpose of the spinning wheel. It appears that the spinner is winding off the cop onto a winder that has been mounted on top of the wheel. She is turning the crank on the wheel to turn the winder. At closer examination of the winder -- it looks to me as if inverted hand spindles have been inserted into the holes of the arms on the winder...again, another dual purpose.

I find myself watching, looking, learning.

Friday, May 07, 2010

looking to the past


It is getting hard to find a good supplier of flax strick. Good quality flax strick should be bundled, with all of the flax measuring the full length of the plant. Generally, it is 30 to 36 inches in length. This full length is important when it comes to dressing a line distaff for spinning. A line distaff is for long line flax strick, or an uncut full length.

The image above contains an example of premium quality flax strick on the left, and poorer quality on the right. The color of the flax would indicate the retting method. But if you examine the photo, you might notice that the flax on the left is nicely prepared, and the fibers are not stuck together. There are no pieces of broken boon (or the woody outer waste portion of the flax stem). I had ordered this flax strick online, and when it arrived I was disappointed in the quality. I really should have sent it back. I can send it through the hackels and clean it, or scutch and swingle it..but a fair amount will be wasted, and I paid for line flax, not tow.

I am posting these two videos of flax processing for you to compare (for those that might be interested). One video shows the modern methods and the other shows the traditional methods. One thing that strikes me when I compare the two videos, is that in the traditional or old method of processing --the flax is handled by human hands a good deal of the time.

Do you think we have a finer product by means of the new methods, or the old?

I would like to wish everyone a Happy Mothers Day...and show you a photo of my Great-grandmother, whose hands planted, processed, and spun flax to linen...long ago, and far away.


Having now completed the process with my homegrown/handspun flax... I feel a sort of bond or a sense of sisterhood with her...and certainly a sense of appreciation for the skill and work involved in creating a good piece of linen.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

extra hours


Spring is now in full swing, everyone and everything feels it. The young cockerel announces it several times a day and the songbirds agree.

The oriels have arrived, and the American Redstarts are back as well. Catbirds are late this year, along with the hummers...and we have not had a sighting yet.


Some of the late spring perennials bloom, while others are fading already. The sister to the cockerel hides behind the Bleeding Heart blossoms.


I've been making a point to get the eggs out of the henhouse early each day. I have 2 broody hens who keep looking around for eggs to set on. One of the hens has been sitting on a billiard ball for 2 weeks now! As a result, I have to collect the eggs before they find them. Part of my routine includes checking the asparagus patch and picking a few spears to add to the zip lock bag in the fridge. It is a leisurely task that I enjoy, as it gives me time to notice new sprouts of peas and lettuce and radishes that were recently planted.


A birthday gift of this beautiful support spindle by Fred Hatton holds a blend of Alpaca and Cashmere that will become the edge of the pashmina shawl/scarf that I am working on. Support spindling is one of my favorite things to these days. When I get a spare moment, I sneak off with one...maybe over a second cup of coffee a little after sunrise...or after supper on the deck..just before sunset.

BTW..sunset is happening as late as 8PM. This gives us a full fourteen hours of daylight to enjoy. Good thing, because there is a ton of work to be done around here! And it leaves little time to spin.


However, with something as enjoyable as sitting down to relax with spindle, it is easy to squeeze in a few minutes somewhere during the day...and it is amazing how quickly all those moments turn into yards!

calling all fibers

Public service announcement: You can send your hair, pet hair, alpaca, sheeps wool etc. to help clean up the oil spill in the Gulf! Details can be found HERE

Saturday, May 01, 2010

april 2010 phenological events

1st frogs wake up with beards
2nd quince buds show color
5th carpenter bees and wasps
8th warblers return
12th oriels arrive
18th may apples open
22nd wrens build in nest boxes
28th transplant tomato plants in greenhouse
April 2009

1st- frogs seen growing beards
3rd- garden bonfire
8th- spot broccoli starts
12th - amphibian eggs in pools
15th- ruby-crowned kinglet
warbler migration begins
18th- caddis fly hatch on river
19th- toads in garden
wasps start building nests
21st- mayapples appear

april showers bring may...



Well, almost May Apple flowers...buds are bursting everywhere. May Apple is also known as American Mandrake...and Indian Apple...once I heard someone call it Racoonberry. I wonder if raccoons eat it, I've never seen any critters eating the May Apples, but they must be, I never see the fruit of these flowers. A friend of mine once remarked that May Apples were eaten by the Native Americans, but I believe the plant can be poisonous if you don't know how to prepare it. Certain parts of the plant should not be ingested! Seeds and rind of the fruit should never be eaten. I shall have to watch carefully to see if any wildlife eats the May Apples.


There are more apple blossoms in the garden, these are from my Whitney Crabapple tree. My tree is 4 years old now. The old timer who sold it to us called it a sheepsnose crab. I cannot remember if he told me the fruit or the blossom looked like a sheep's nose, and that is how they got their nick name.


We had to collect blossoms from other trees to put in the branches with the tree to assure pollination. Our other dwarf apple tree was destroyed over the winter by rabbits, or perhaps a porcupine, girdling the trunk. So sad to loose that tree, it was 2 years old. Judy brought me another up to take its place.


Work continues on the Alpaca/Pashmina "scawl". Scawl is my unword for a cross between a scarf and a shawl..

The Alpaca has been hand combed, then dizzed and spun to a lace weight yarn on the Great Wheel. The panels have been woven using the continuous strand method on a square loom. I am using a lace background stitch to connect the panels.


The yarn is so light and soft, it seems I am working with air. I will be interested in finding out what the total weight of this finished product will be. This is my second project from "Allspice" that has been designed for Paco Fino and Finca Alta Vista.

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