Tools of the Trade: The Traveling Spinner’s Tools

Traveling Tools for a spinner

Tonight I gathered a few small tools for the upcoming knitting retreat up in Port Townsend, WA.  This will be my 17th year attending, even though I complain about the old metal spring cot I sleep on each year that sinks down in the middle or how salty the food is, I really do have a great time and look forward to it each and every year!

I decided my mini-combs may be too dangerous for such a trip and felt my flicker would be safer for all.  The little 26″ kniddy knoddy comes apart and travels quite nicely.  Of course, my sweet, adorable, and pretty little Jenkin’s Delight Turkish spindle will be tagging along.  I may take a second Turk spindle, my Jenkin’s Lark for plying. Oh yeah, and some wool.

I think I will pack up 25 g of the different colors of Shetland I have been dying this past week to take along. Small, quick projects I can do when I need to take a rest from knitting.

What’s the end goal:   a multiple of 2-ply yarn for fair isle knits, of course.  Such as this:

Shetland Fingering 38 yards 2-ply

38 yards, 2-ply fingering weight Shetland, dyed Olive.  I processed it, start to finish. You can even count picking it off the sheep when I was at Ananda Hills Farm helping skirt on shearing day a few years ago.

I’ll have some more great colors spun up soon.

Dye Pot: Blue Shetland

Blue ShetlandWith Shetland Wool week now past for 2014, I have lots I want to do from the inspiration of it all.  Dying wool is pretty easy with all the wool acid dyes available and boy, do I have the wool to dye up, 11 fleeces at last count.

This is a pot of blue I made tonight.

Why dye up the wool locks before spinning versus spinning then dying?  Saturation of the wool.

I have knit with some yarns that when cut or pulled apart, the core is white.  No color saturation at all.  That makes me wonder how long the dye will last in the garment.

From what I have gathered via video and web searches, Jamieson’s of Shetland dyes their wool before processing into yarn.  It is a good practice and something I learned to do when I first started spinning in the early 1990’s.

I like that I can take 25 or 50 g of wool and have the dye pot going while I go take my daily walk.  I arrive back, put the pot off to the side to cool off and exhaust the dye.

My goal:  create a handspun 2-ply fingering yarn similar to Shetland Spindrift.  I won’t be making gobs of it at one time, but little pots of different color ways for having on hand for fair isle projects.

What’s your favorite color work?

History Makers: Shetland Fine Lace

I’m still celebrating Shetland Wool Week from afar by working on my Shwook Hat.  So, I thought I would share this exceptionally made film with you.

A 14 minute video worth your time, I promise.  Have a cup of tea and your knitting handy as you learn a bit about Shetland Fine Lace.


Shetland Wool Week 2014 – Live Feed

Photo URL: 

Shetland Wool Week kicks off in just hours.  You can catch the live broadcast from the Wool Week Hug, located in the Boat Hall at the Shetland Museum and Archives.

When the feed is off air, they are broadcasting some lovely music from Shetland Radio Station 96.2 FM.  Enjoy!

Wool Breed: Wensleydale Longwool

Wensleydale Longwool

History: The Wensleydale Longwool sheep began in the early 19th century in the North Yorkshire area, as a cross between an old-type Teeswater ewe and a new Leicester ram.

Fleece Facts:

Size: large sheep with mature rams weighing up to 308 lbs (140kg); ewes around 220 lbs (100kg)

Horns: Hornless

Fleece Weight:  7-20 pounds (3.2-9 kg)

Staple Length: 7-12 inches (20-30 cm)

Fiber Diameters:  44s to 50s by the Bradford count, 32-34 micron count.

Coloring: White, gray, black; sheep have blue-grey faces

Spinning:  The longer fibers are excellent for combing for worsted spun yarns.

Wool Breed: Wensleydale – The story of my two pound fleece.

I attended Black Sheep Gathering in Eugene, Oregon this past June with my friend, Larraine.  What an experience.

I have heard great things about the wool judging by Judith MacKenzie that she does at this event and I was able to catch a few minutes of her in action. Amazing!

The crazy part of Black Sheep Gathering, the fleece-crazed folks that waited in line to buy a fleece or ten once the judging was completed.  It seemed like forever we stood in that line on a hot, windy day, waiting to be let in.  We chatted with many folks from far away places. Always a lovely experience to meet others with the same passion.  Larraine had no desire to purchase a fleece and probably found it quite funny to be able to be an on-looker at all the people running around.

Finally, the doors opened and the crowd rushed forward to get those ribbon winning fleeces. I would compare this to Black Friday when the newest 60 inch t.v. is available for $100 to the first five persons in the door. Can you say CRAZY?

I did manage to get one fleece, a lovely little Wensleydale X, in a natural black. Upriver Wool Company had entered it into the fleece competition and I believe had won a ribbon for it.  I was lucky to snatch it up before those crazed-eyed fiber folks swooped in and took it out of my arms.  Trust me, there was a possibility of that happening.

Wensleydale X

The sheen and the color are amazing and I have plans to comb it to spin for a sweater.  After I finish my California Red, of course.

This is the fleece after washing.

Wensleydale X locks

I think a Wool Breed Study will be in order for the next post.

Shetland Wool Week 2014: Shwook Hat

Shwook HatWith Shetland Wool Week just days away, I dug into my stash of Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift that I had leftover from making the Beezy’s Traditional Beret last year to get started on my Shwook Hat.

I can certainly say that when you buy Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift, you are bound to get at least a few hats from it or bits and pieces to use in other projects.  Amazing how 25 g of shetland wool can go on forever.  To my advantage, I suppose.

The Shwook Hat calls for three darks and two lights if using what is on hand.  This is what I decided on.  For the darks: bark brown, deep heather green, and a maroon red.  For the lights: apple green and yellow-tint oatmeal.  I think they will work just fine.  You can hardly go wrong with fair isle.  It would take some pretty putrid colors to really fail.

More about Shetland Wool Week 2014:

Even if you are not attending in person, you can keep up on the week’s events and the blog virtually from anywhere.   Feel in the mood for pictures only, take a look at the gallery.

Where ever you are next week, play with wool!

History Makers of Wool: Alice Starmore & Judith MacKenzie

I have so many subjects of wool that I want to share with you. One being what I call the History Makers.  For me, I have two that fall into that category at this time.

  • Alice Starmore – Knitter
  • Judith McKenzie – Spinner/Weaver

I plan to share bits and pieces as I come across them.

Celebrating Wool – Shetland Wool Week 2014

Shetland Wool Week 2014

The fifth annual Shetland Wool Week will soon be here. October 4 -12, 2014.

What is Shetland Wool Week?  It is a celebration of Britain’s northerly native sheep, Shetland, the Shetland textile industry and the farming communities found on the Shetland islands. Shetland has produced some of the finest lace and Fair Isle knitwear in our textile world.

During Shetland Wool Week, there will be events, exhibits, and classes that represent the various subject matters of spinning, dyeing, Fair Isle and lace knitting and weaving.

As part of celebrating Shetland Wool Week, the organization has offered a free pattern,  the Shwook hat, designed by Hazel Tindall.

Hazel Tindall has held the title as the World’s Fastest Knitter. She designed the hat for Shetland Wool Week 2014.  A beautiful Fair Isle design, using light fingering wool, it is available free from the Shetland Wool Week website.  You only have to provide your name and email and in a short time, a pdf will arrive in your inbox.

I plan to dig out my Shetland wool and get started on the Shwook Hat to celebrate Shetland Wool Week.  How will you celebrate?

Shetland Island Screen Shot

Wool: Felted

Applique wool pincushion

With my upcoming adventure into bobbin lace, I decided that I needed a new fall-themed pincushion for my silk pins.

Working with felted wool is always a delight.  I love the texture of it, how it looks when you use a tweed or kettle-dyed piece. Let me just say, plaid wools make me swoon!

This pincushion is a smaller version of the one in Primitive Quilts Fall 2014 issue.  I just looked at the picture and did a free hand of the leaves and acorn, along with using a small bowl as my circle templet.

Stuffed with millet seeds I keep on hand for such a project to weigh it down and some local wool fleece from my stash.

Now to see how this bobbin lace thing works.

Wool – 100% Natural, Renewable, Sustainable

As I worked last night on a project, I was thinking of the many ways wool can be used.

Of course, there is the beautiful clothing and blankets made from wool.  Sometimes it feels scratchy, while other times, it is butter soft and you just want to cuddle up with it.

There are also options to buy wool insulation for your home.  With R-values ranging from R-9 at 2.36 inches all the way up to R-46 at 11.82 inches. Toasty!

Some of the things I have used with the wool from the fleeces I have purchased over the years.

  • Spinning for yarn
  • felting for wool applique
  • stuffing for projects

One of my favorite uses of wool in the past few years was the day I assembled my new Jensen Tina II spinning wheel that had arrived after a few months from when my order was placed.  I did all the staining, waxing, and getting all the pieces prepped to assemble it and I found on the legs was coming up a tad short and making my beautiful new wheel (Mr. Darcy, for future reference) wobble and not sit squarely upon the floor.

Mr Darcy

My solution.  Take a pinch of my “Bonny” Shetland fleece and stuff it up in the hole to help get the wheel to sit correctly.  It worked.


“Bonny & Friends”

Bonny is the lovely sheep with the black faced/white coat in the back near the wondering chicken.  She was my pick from Ananda Farms in Port Ludlow, WA.  The rest of the lovies are her sheep mates.

Historically, long after I am gone, someone might take Mr. Darcy apart and find a wad of wool stuffed up in the table and not know the history of that little bit of Bonny’s fleece.  Maybe I should tape a note with a picture under the table of the wheel for future reference.  Yes, I think I will.


Last night, I made a sturdy bobbin lace pillow.  Traditionally they are stuffed with cut-up straw and stuffed to the gill.  I decided I did not want to spend the whole evening cutting up straw so I went with a package of pine shavings and a fleece I had purchased from a local gal. It was a good use for the fleece that I might not otherwise get to spinning it.

The bobbin lace pillow weighs 5 lbs 12 oz. after all was done.  It has a linen casing for the main body and a cover made in ticking with three layers of felted wool sewn down the the center.

I found this lovely photo online today. Dated 1936; Germany.  Look at the sweet lace being made by the young woman in the center. I can see that being sewn on a towel or pillow case.  I wonder what she did with it after all.


Photo source

I have not yet done any bobbin lace work, but I have plans to get started soon and thought this was a great project to make (and use wool).

“Wool, it’s 100% natural, renewable, and sustainable.”

The perfect wool campaign.


Your Cart