Summer Vacation at the Lake


I grew up on a lake back east; I dyed this with the bright green of the grass, the darker green of the trees, the blue green of the algae, and the blue of the water in mind.

This is a 6 oz braid of hand dyed alpaca top which was originally a silver grey color.  I dyed it in a crockpot I use specifically for soaps and dyeing.  I bought a starter kit of Greener Shades dyes recently from a friend who is a distributor; they are dyes that use no chrome or tin to brighten colors and therefore are safer to dump in sewers, and onto garden beds.  While my favorite way to dye is with food coloring – easy, bright fun colors – the darker colors tend to “break” meaning they are a mix of lighter and darker dyes, and under the heat stress of dyeing they separate into their constituent colors rather than dyeing the color you want.  Blue, purple, and black are notorious for this.

This braid is for sale in my ArtFire shop and is currently the ONLY thing I have for sale there.  This evening I hope to take more photos of my hand spun yarns to put up in the shop; this will take some time because while I tracked the yardage while I was skeining, I couldn’t put tags on them until after I washed them and so I need to recount each skein for yardage before I put them up for sale.  I really need to figure out a better way to do this.

There will be more offerings soon so visit often!

I give up.

Kilt Hose for Mr. Tin FoilNot on these.  These are finished.  The yarn is hand spun superwash Blue Faced Leicester, purchased when I thought I was going to have time to actually make a business out of my crafting.  Purchased, not incidentally, for the specific intention of spinning sock yarn.   ETA:  I know I have said before that superwash isn’t as good for use in socks, but I wasn’t buying this for me.  I was buying it to spin and sell, which didn’t end up happening.  I still have several pounds of this to use up; if you want hand dyed hand spun sock yarn, email me for prices.

I used it for Mr. Tin Foil’s hose because this is pair #3 I’ve made for him, and pair #2 of hand spun.  He is *very* hard on socks.  I’m hoping these hold up longer than the last pair; I made his last pair out of worsted weight wool and he wore a hole in the tops of the toes the first day he wore them.  We all (friends who also wear kilts/hose) told him he must walk by curling his toes up every time he picks up his foot in order to wear holes in the tops of the toes.  He wasn’t amused.

There is a supposedly debunked urban myth that says knitting a pair of socks takes as much time and as many stitches as knitting a sweater.  I say supposedly debunked because the debunker did some math and decided that was not possible with size 3 needles and regular socks.  Said debunker has obviously never knit a pair of kilt hose on size 1 or size 0 needles or said debunker (who shall remain nameless though if you look I’m sure you can find the relevant information) would not be so sure.  These are made on size 2, which to me is HUGE but made the knitting of these go relatively quickly.

No.  I give up on making more things for family members who don’t care and don’t appreciate it.   I just can’t spend that much time making things for children whose parents put it away and the kid never wears it because the parents don’t put it on the kid.  I just can’t spend that much time making things for adults who put it in a drawer and let moths eat it or even worse, never even acknowledge they received the gift.  Cash is more expensive in dollars, but easier on my heart by far.

I guess it will free up more of my time to spend on making things for sale — I do a fairly good side business with my weaving and knitting; if I”m not wasting time making things for family members who don’t care about the gifts anyway I will certainly have more time to design and weave things that may actually sell.  Or to design and weave things for myself.

Yes, there was an incident that provoked this post.  I asked someone of the same approximate age as my children if I was being overly sensitive and was told no, that I had every right to be upset.  Ah well.  I will save my creative energies for those who appreciate them I guess.  Fewer tears for me.

9 yards of mosaic

9 yards of mosaic green9 yards of mosaic brownThese are towels I just finished weaving and took off the loom.  They aren’t done yet, because I haven’t cut them apart, sewn the hems, or wet finished them.  But the weaving part is done!  I made one green one simply because I was getting very tired of looking at the pottery brown color, and because it’s a gift for someone who asked for green.  A few of the browns are destined for gifts, the rest will be put up for sale.  I was very excited about this pattern and its treadling variations until I did 9 yards of it.  I needed something different after all those towels in the same basic pattern!

I just finished warping up a mohair warp.  Amazingly, I only broke one thread in the beaming on!!!  It’s a very sticky warp though, and after weaving only the header to separate the warp threads I can already tell I’m going to need something to put on it to ‘slick’ it up a bit.  From what I’ve read a product called Cowboy Magic (for horses) is supposed to work like magic in making them separate more easily.

Absolutely nothing done in the garden yet.  I’ve been lazy, and working on things I really want to work on – like spinning more sock yarn, making kilt hose, finishing up the weaving,  sewing, mending, etc.  It has to happen soon though, or we’ll have nothing to eat in a month or two!

The chickens have begun laying again which has been excellent.  They have been allowed to roam the yard and as a result I have no grubs in the beds.  And the yolks are so very orange that everything I make with them takes on a bright yellow cast.  After going the whole winter without eggs, I can’t tell you how delicious these are.  We did break down and buy a dozen eggs twice, but they were awful.  Pale and watery, like the memory of eggs rather than the real thing.

That’s all, I’ll have pictures of the mohair warp later on.  I need to get busy making peach cobbler to take to a friend’s celebratory barbeque – he got a promotion and a 20% raise.  Lucky man in these times!


Holiday knitting

Hand spun hand knitted sweater for someone in Maine. I love this pattern! I will definitely knit this one again for other deserving people including one for myself. At minimum wage and materials this sweater costs over $600 (before taxes of course).

Pattern is called hitofude, which is Japanese for one brush stroke. It’s appropriate, because the pattern is knit entirely in one continuous piece and the only ends are where I made joins for new skeins of yarn. Absolutely ingenious construction and a very enjoyable knit. Continue reading

Hypocrisy and Half-baked thoughts

Cafe Hayek has a post by someone named Don Bordreaux trying to make the case that we should abolish the minimum wage.  He begins with a scenario of you being in a fast food restaurant or rent-a-maid office, or the grocery store and you accidentally overhear a woman who is obviously poor, who speaks broken English, ask for and be rejected for a job at this fast food restaurant:

Suppose that you’re at a McDonald’s restaurant or at a Safeway supermarket or at the office of a maid-service company and you see a 20-something young woman.  The woman is obviously poor by American standards and her English is broken and heavily accented.  She has no certifiable job experience.  She applies for a job and is rejected.  She – with entrepreneurial gumption – responds to the rejection by offering to work, not for the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour but, instead, for $5.00 per hour.  You observe the manager’s evident interest in her counteroffer.  The manager ponders for a minute or two and then whispers to her – yet loud enough for you to overhear – “Look, that’s against the law, but I can use you at $5.00 per hour.  So, okay, you’re hired!  But please don’t tell anyone or else I’ll be in serious trouble and you’ll lose this job.”

He then attempts, badly in my opinion, to play on you, the reader, for sympathy, by asking how you could be so heartless as to personally (italics his) intervene:

Would you – you personally – intervene to stop this woman from taking this job?  Would you – you personally – be willing to look her in the eyes and tell her that she may not take that job?  Would you – you personally – inform this young woman (with regret, of course) that she must remain unemployed for the time being and resume her job search elsewhere?  And would you – you personally – be willing to use force against this woman to prevent her from working at $5.00 per hour if she stubbornly ignores your demands?  Would you be willing, if her stubborn refusal to refuse the job persists, to poke a gun in her face to prevent her from working at an hourly wage of $5.00 per hour?

The writer goes on to say that, of course we’d happily turn in the manager, or call the police to intervene, but that prevents the manager and the woman from knowing that it was us, personally, who deprived her of the job and turned in the manager.  He ends with these questions:

But I wonder how many of you – you personally – have the courage of your moral convictions to be able to look the woman in her eyes and expose yourself personally, to her, as someone willing to deny her the opportunity to work at the highest wage she can now earn.

And if I’m correct, how can you, in good conscience, continue to feel that minimum-wage legislation is ethically justified?

The fact that I don’t eat fast food and can’t afford maid service  aside and so never would have heard this conversation to begin with —  I personally would have NO compunction about intervening in this situation, and making a report to the appropriate agencies as well as the division office of this fast food restaurant.

I would intervene for a number of reasons.  That’s because I can think logically.  First, if she was here as a refugee, the government would have offered her employment assistance and therefore she would not be begging for a job at less than minimum wage.  If she was here legally, she could also appeal to a number of government agencies which would be happy to assist her, on a level they do not seem to display for natural born citizens, with finding employment or in getting public assistance.

Second, I can do math.  If this situation were to happen without intervention, the very next thing to happen is that the manager would call his buddies and tell them that he got someone to work for less than minimum wage, and find out if his new girl has friends he can hire or refer to his manager friends.  The next time an employee calls out, or has any sort of a discipline problem, they will find themselves out of a job and yet another person willing to work for less than minimum wage will be employed.  This, I believe, is called wage deflation.  Paul Krugman has an excellent article on this very phenomenon I found when I went googling a definition for wage deflation.  Now, opinions on the REST of Krugman’s essays and work aside, this is a very commonsense and easily understood essay describing this problem.

Third, I can see the end resulting from this cause.  This will have ripple effects – or as the Aussies and the English say – a knock-on effect on the rest of the economy.  Because her wages are less, eventually there will be more people working at less than minimum wage than can be policed by agencies responsible for ensuring compliance with the minimum wage.  People will not speak up, because they will now be working outside the law – and those few who still work for minimum wage will be in fear of losing their own jobs.  These people will have even less money to spend on the basic necessities and therefore can’t.  Sectors not directly related to fast food will experience loss of revenue and layoffs will begin in those sectors.  Even the manager who began paying less than minimum wage will find that his bonus is cut, or the cost of living raise he was expecting, is not going to be happening. This will ripple across the economic landscape, and up the pyramid of unskilled, semi skilled, and skilled workers, to ultimately affect the owner class at the top. Of course, they at the top don’t rely on actual business earnings for their money, they rely on fantasy money produced via ‘vehicles’ such as bonds, stocks, and derivatives, so it will be quite a while before they realize that the REAL economy and money that their fantasy money used to arise from is, in fact, fantasy.

This author relies on shame and an appeal to the emotions in making this case, not logic.   This is why I think most Libertarians of today are just selfish shits who don’t want to share the sandbox, and can’t logically think their way out of a paper bag.  Or, as my ex-husband use to say, they don’t have enough brains to pour piss out of a boot.  We don’t live 150 years ago, and thankfully so, or most of us would be working in factories or mills for those business owners at pennies per week, 16 hours a day, 6 days a week.  We would have started working at as young as 6, and most of us would die from malnutrition or diseases easily prevented by proper diet, basic sanitation, and sunshine.  Yet these Libertarians would happily do away with minimum wage even though their wages are predicated on that minimum standard, and would decrease by a LOT, if it were abolished.  The concept of days off arises from the same place and time where minimum wage was implemented, and I’m sure Libertarians enjoy their holidays and days off as much as the next person.  Same for medical care, enough food to eat, the ability to live where you want…you get the idea.  It is BECAUSE of the abuses inflicted on the unskilled and fearful populace in previous centuries and eras that we have the protections — the privileges of middle class life — we have now.

I agree that regulation has gone too far.  I can’t, for instance, open a business out of my home, because I live in a residential area.  You can’t have manufacturing in a residential zone unless you want to drastically increase your tax burden and open yourself up to a whole host of new regulations.  If I were to ever get to the point where I wanted to open a store to sell my hand crafts, I would need to pay rent for a building miles away, all the utilities, fire/theft/liability insurance (because someone might strangle themselves with a skein of my yarn and I’d be liable), the gas to drive there and back, and so on….   They are right in this point of view.  It would be even worse if I were to build a building myself.  Construction insurance, loan insurance, building codes (including the Universal Fire Code — look that baby up if you want to be goggled with horror at ridiculous regulations!), handicap access, etc.

If I were to hire an employee it would get even more onerous.  Minimum wage, of course, but also Social Security tax, Medicare tax, state taxes, county taxes, and on and on…. or I could hire the employee on a 1099 as an independent contractor and let him/her worry about it, but I’m sure that opens me up to further regulations I can’t even conceive of right now.  Like I said, regulation has gone too far.  In this I do agree with  Libertarians.  How to fix this?  I don’t know.  I do know that slashing minimum wage without dealing with the economy strangling regulations (and the government entities creating more and more every day) is NOT going to work.  Appealing to flawed logic and misplaced compassion for an agenda that benefits business owners – the 1%’ers greatly in the near term, and hurts them in the long term, is NOT the way to go about this.

ETA:  I have more thoughts about this, but I don’t want to make it too long.  I’m on vacation from school until next week so I will actually have time to put thought to form.

Perusing Craigslist for jobs that don’t exist :)

I looked in the skilled trades/crafts section of Craigslist today, just to see what types of jobs are being posted.


RV mechanic technician


Experienced tile layer

And that’s about it.  I had to laugh — did I really think I was going to find a post wanting a weaver??  Or a spinner??

I am doing my first commission spinning though, nearly 2 lbs of an alpaca cria (baby) fleece (actually it’s called blanket) my friend tried to process and was worried she was going to destroy if she did any more.  Some of it is already in roving with lots of nepps (little balls of fiber) and I’m spinning that into singles that will become a worsted weight 3 ply.  Some of it is washed but not processed in any other way; this I will card on my drum carder, very slowly and carefully to keep the smooth and lofty nature of the fiber.

Ideally, the owner of the fleece (not my friend, she owns a fiber mill) will end up with a textured yarn and a smooth yarn, and be happy with her first fleece product.  She is new to owning fiber animals, and recently learned how to knit in anticipation of using her own yarn.  I am enjoying spinning this so far; it’s deliciously soft and fine and most of the prickly things are falling out as I spin.

I wish I could do more commission spinning and less actual working.  It’s less money by a long shot, but I don’t have to get dressed up, drive a long way away, worry about meals and drinks, or stress out about deadlines or working overtime.

People just don’t understand the value of PAIRS of things. Together.

sock blockersThese are sock blockers.  Antique sock blockers.  See how long they are?  That’s because they were used for blocking hand knit hose – like kilt hose, or women’s stockings.  Sheri from the The Loopy Ewe owns this particular pair, along with singles of several others.  Why would someone sell one of a thing meant to go as a pair???  Would you sell one bookend?

I need some antique sock blockers; when you spin your own yarn it becomes quite clear exactly how important sock blockers are to maintaining the fit of your socks.  Superwash yarn might be great for the washer and dryer, but it’s hell on the environment — the process of removing all the microscopic scales on the outer surface of the wool is so toxic that the superwash process is illegal in the U.S.  and countries like Turkey get to bear the brunt of our obsession with being able to wash and dry everything by machine.

Ironically you can buy superwash roving to spin.  I do have some, I was talked into it by someone who pointed out that when making baby things, it is better for mom to be able to just throw it in the washer rather than go through the hassle of hand washing and drying flat.  I still have most of this roving.  It’s not very nice to spin; it gives a product that is not elastic, just as superwash yarn isn’t very elastic.  That’s because the scales are part of the structure of the wool; removing the scales also damages the fiber, making it straight, and removing the natural bounce of the fiber.  Nylon gets added to the mix in order to make up for the loss of strength and bounce, both of which resist abrasion in the wool’s natural form.

When I spin yarn for socks, I add mohair rather than nylon.  It gives me the qualities I want for a sock yarn – high strength, resistance to abrasion.  The wool can be used alone, but it’s hardier for socks if you add the mohair.  It’s nature’s nylon.  And when I spin for socks, I spin a much tighter single, both because it needs to be for socks in order to maximize abrasion resistance, but also because I’m going to ply it into a 3 ply and it needs some overtwist to maintain that tight structure for socks.  The three plies make for a more rounded yarn, which also helps resist abrasion; a two ply lies flat and therefore is more likely to wear at one spot, it can’t move as well.

Because using mohair and NON superwash wool to spin yarn for socks makes them bouncy and elastic, the socks require blocking/stretching after being washed.  The yarn retains a lot of elasticity inherent in the fiber, and wants to curl up tightly after washing.  The blockers allow them to conform to a shape that prevents them from shrinking down too much while drying and maintains the spaces where you really need them – the heel, the arch, and the length in the toes.  I cannot STAND socks that are too small; I prefer snug fit all around, but I want room for my toes!  Plus, socks that are baggy will wear more quickly than those that are snug.  More abrasion in more areas.

Anyway, the reason I started this post was to bemoan the lack of availability of sock blockers like those of old.  You can buy new sock blockers, even “knee high” blockers, but they aren’t really long enough for true knee highs, and especially not long enough for kilt hose or women’s stockings.  And it’s unbelievably difficult to find antique blockers that 1. are in a pair and 2. are less than $100 for ONE.  I do have a pair that were advertised as being for knee high socks, and I use them all the time, but they aren’t nearly long enough.  I really, really, really want blockers that are actually long enough to block hand made kilt hose and stockings.

I can’t be the only one that wants this stuff.

It’s my new year, some resolutions

I had my birthday recently and I made some resolutions.  I never do them on New Year’s Eve, it’s not my new year – my birthday begins a new year for me.

I disabled my account on Facebook.  I joined to follow my children but it just takes too much of my time.  I miss seeing pics of the grandbabies but not enough to sign back up.

I have severely limited my time on the computer unless it is for school work.  This actually interferes with one of my jobs but that’s OK.  I’d rather make less money and have more time.

I still haven’t gotten serious about an exercise program but that’s coming, it’s still pretty hot here in the desert for workouts when you cool only with a swamp cooler and fans.

I already eat pretty well, so that will continue.

I plan to make more time for the crafting business aspect of my crafting business — treating it like a job, making time on a regular basis (even 15 minutes is more than it often gets lately).  I can’t sell things if I don’t make things.  And I really want my husband to get more involved with the photography aspect so that my online photos do my stuff justice.  I try, but it’s just not my thing.  My loom is pretty self explanatory; my spinning wheels are pretty complex but don’t take a 250 page book to understand.  Our camera does.

I am going to do more winter gardening and after my final next week I’m going to get the winter veggies started.  I would like to buy a grow light, but they’re fairly expensive.  I’ve been reliably informed that my regular light bulbs do not give my plants the light wavelengths they need for proper growth.

That’s all.  I can’t get too crazy about the resolutions because now they’re public and I’ll be held accountable to them by those who are closest to me!

Tour de Fleece progress

cotton sliverThis is about 8-10 oz of cotton sliver.  It is from a college in Texas, prepped as an experiment that the cotton owner didn’t like.  My friend dug it out of the dumpster.  I’m glad she did, this is a dream to spin!

I spun up about 2 oz before the Tour began, but I wound that onto a storage bobbin so I could start fresh for the Tour and have my daily progress be actual progress begun on 6/29.  So far I have spun up all of it, other than 2 oz gifted to someone else.  It’s maybe a pound total, I’ll weigh it when I ply it to see my actual total yardage and poundage.


the herdHere’s the herd.  You can see the sliver hanging from the orifice on Antonio, and I proceeded to spin all of this remaining cotton today, to make up for not spinning at all yesterday.  I had a 14 hour day at work and I was too mentally burned out to spin when I got home.


all spun upAll spun up.  Antonio began protesting at right about the 4.5-5 oz mark on the bobbin, rebounded backwards and forced me to peel about 2 yards from around the flyer shaft.  It was pretty yucky with grease and oil so I didn’t save it.  I wound off and finished the rest on the end bobbin.

flax into linenAnd here is how the flax spinning is going.  If you look carefully at the first picture you will see the bag of flax roving on the ground.  I have decided flax is not meant to be spun as roving at ALL.  I have had much better luck with dressing the distaff (you can see the ribbon hanging off the distaff in the first picture) and spinning it the traditional way.  There’s a reason our ancestors did things the way they did.  What seems overly fussy and for appearance’ sake often is not, as in the case of the ribbon for the flax.  It’s wide, and slippery, and both holds the flax to the distaff and allows it to slip easily out as it’s drawn down for the spinning.

I do need to work on the tension on my wheel though; I keep forgetting that flax is a really.  long.  fiber.  and doesn’t need light tension to be spun finely.  Hence the messy looking bobbin.  Hopefully it will feed off OK when I wind it onto a storage bobbin.  I haven’t yet decided if I will ply this or just use it as a single in weaving.

I next want to try making a waist distaff (to tuck into a belt) and using a spindle for the linen.  I am finding that linen requires a much more meditative, slow approach to spinning than fine wool or silk does.  It seems to me that spindle spinning would be a more optimal approach to flax for that reason.