Dyeing Fiber by The Arkansas River


Some fiber friends and I headed west over a couple mountain passes to spend the day in the Arkansas valley attending a natural dye workshop.   Jane, our enthusiastic hostess and instructor, has eleven acres of beautiful property located alongside the Arkansas River set up with everything a fiber enthusiast dreams of.  A physician for twenty five years, she retired to this lovely valley to pursue her passion of fiber.  Her massive studio complete with a dyer’s garden full of color waiting to be harvested, llamas, a variety of sheep and a beautiful patio overlooking the river where one can gather and talk of fiber – the setting was perfect for a day nestled alongside the Collegiate Peaks.



Jane’s philosophy is simple.  Working with fibers and dyes is a lot of fun. You can follow a lot of rules or you can experiment and see what the results turn out to be. Either way, you end up with something that is more personal that you will treasure.


The kettles were brewing – weld, logwood, indigo and cochnial and cota.


Weld produced a knockout yellow color.  It was used by ancient tapestry weavers in Central Asia, Turkey and Europe.  I believe Jane said it is the brightest and clearest yellow flower dye.  We noticed a distinct green cast as the water temperature increased.

Logwood was a seductive, brilliant purple.  It originated from the Americas and to the Aztec Indians it was known as the ‘spiny tree’ because it had a thorny, contorted trunk.  They used it as a weapon.


Indigo, traditional and most technical of the dyes and, I might add, the stinkiest.  This natural blue dye is affected by oxygen so we had to be careful dipping our fiber in and out of the pot so that the color would not be affected.  As our fiber dried and more oxygen interacted with it the color changed.  I thought it was a bit tricky and only played with it as an overdye.

Cota, or Navajo Tea, produced a beautiful yellow.

My favorite was cochnial with its deep shades ranging from fuchsia to raspberry.  Cochnial is an insect found in South America.  Our instructor imported hers from Peru and ground them to a fine powder to be used in dyeing.  Interestingly enough, it is the only natural red colorant approved by our FDA for food, drugs and cosmetics.


Most everyone dyed their fiber in variegated tones but I, having knit with variegated yarns that pooled horribly, decided to stick to  semi-solid saturated colors.  After seeing the end results hanging to dry I decided I will be braver next time.  My fiber looks rather plain down there on the bottom rack.


We had a lesson on how to blend fiber on a hackle.  I’ve only played with blending boards so this was a new technique for me and I had never heard of a hackle before this.


Fiber animals are always fun getting to know although I mistook one of the alpaca’s intentions and ended up with a wet face.  I thought he was being amorous and leaning in for a kiss for, after all, he was puckering his lips and making smacking noises.  But much to my surprise, before I knew it, he landed a spit storm on me.  He then followed me everywhere I went but I gave him the cold shoulder and told him he blew it and would get no more loving.



Our day was so delightful that we have already planned another excursion in October.  Guess I better get busy and spin up some fiber!  Meanwhile, I’m off to look at patterns that will incorporate all the yarn I dyed today.  Any suggestions?


Anticipating a Day By the River

The invitation to spend a day alongside the Arkansas River dyeing fiber was more than tantalizing.  I’m easily allured, playing with enticing colors drawn from plants in this montane zone is just too irresistible.

Hi Dyers,

Looking forward to seeing you all on Wednesday. I’ll have 4 colors ready, and you are welcome to bring mordanted yarn. We can do various dips, and replenish the blue and yellow pots. The red and purple will be more limited. You can each bring up to 10 ounces. We can also play with some blending techniques. I have hackles, and a friend is bringing her drum carder. If anyone has a blending board to demonstrate, bring that.

Please bring a lunch. I’ll have some muffins, coffee and tea. My well water is very good.

Attached are directions.



The wildflowers have been stunning this year so I can’t wait to see the colors that come from the dye pots.  My eight ounces of fiber is skeined and presently soaking in water to get it ready to be mordanted.

Stay tuned….. I’ll post pictures later this week.

Tour de Fleece 2015

It’s right around the corner, spinning friends – Tour de Fleece 2015. I am pulling out the spindles and finishing up things on my wheel so I will be all set and ready to spin!  My spindles will be spinning some Hedgehog Fibre I got in Ireland a couple years ago.


The fibre is from Corriedale sheep and this is the first time I’ve spun Corriedale.  It’s a little    fuzzy but running it through the diz a couple times has tamed it some.


What are you planning on spinning?



Bliss: complete happiness, great joy, paradise, or heaven.

Bliss: complete happiness, great joy, paradise, or heaven.

What is your idea of bliss? Is it an image of your family, laughing at the dinner table? A state of total relaxation, while lying on the beach? Your latest painting, drying on the canvas? My idea of bliss?  Spinning with my wheel on a rainy day.




Friday Fiber

The fiber eye candy I’m sharing today are a few shots from my Friday Fiber club that meets once a month.  As I’ve mentioned before, this wonderful eclectic group of women inspire me greatly and I’m learning a lot from them.


Today’s meeting place was at a member’s home who is an incredible yarn dyer. Her sense of color is amazing and I love both spinning and knitting with her fibers.  Not only does she produce amazing fiber she also weaves, sews, quilts and spins lovely things.  We often are given the opportunity to have a tour of the hostesses’ home to get a glimpse of her ‘stash’ and fiber equipment. Today was one such day.


We started with this beautiful quilt which commemorates the forest fires we all have had to cope with in recent years.  The flames in the quilt were not completely attached to the quilt which give the piece much depth and movement. To me it also captured the sense of doom we all felt where we lived (the blue sky/green trees) as the smoke and fire crept toward where we lived.

We moved on into the weaving area of her studio……


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And saw this lovely blanket made out of cotton……with a mousetrap on top of it…..


Here is a glimpse of her extremely well-organized stash ….


I wish I could be this organized.  She was able to bop back and forth between her studio and where we were bringing up things to show us ……

IMG_1279Me?  I bop down into my work area to look for something that inevitably has disappeared into who knows where.  Note to self:  I must get organized before hosting at my house!

We moved on into her dyeing room that I would love to show in detail but will not in order to protect her business.  I will summarize it by saying that all the dyers in the group were doing an awful lot of eweing-and-ahhing.  Even I, a non-dying-person, wanted to come spend a day in her little studio playing with colors and fiber.  (At this point I would far rather knit so that in itself should clue you in on how amazing this studio was).  Here is a little peek…



And here is some lovely bamboo/tussah silk she had just finished dyeing which I really wanted to take and rub all over my body.


I think I’m going to have to ask to purchase it when it is finished, or at least stalk her Etsy Shop looking for it!

At some point during the day we have a show and tell which is always enjoyable.


This lovely silk yo-yo scarf was bought to be disassembled.  The little yo-yos were going to be used to embellish clothing.


This fabric was bought in another state with the intention of making it into a jacket.  The bottom brown fabric was ‘mud’ dyed.  I had never heard this technique.  Apparently, dyeing with real live mud produces a very expensive piece of fabric.


The lower fabric was bought to co-ordinate with the ribbon pictured above it.  This ribbon was hand-made and the pieces of fabric were folded over each other and sewn together.


As you can see, we really were fascinated by it.  I believe it was made in Guatemala.

I shared two shawls – the Poison Eiregal and the Romi Mystery Shawl which everyone liked.  I really have no fiber skills to share at this point but perhaps I will someday.  I also told them about the Shaun the Sheep Picnic BlanketRowan Yarns current fiber knit-a-long.  It is based on an animated movie about about a sheep named Shaun.  I had never heard of it but my very organized hostess had.  She beep-beep-bopped right on down into her studio and came back with Shaun …..


Isn’t he a cutie?

Friday Fiber Group

The first Friday of every month I look forward to getting together with some amazing and talented women.  This Friday Fiber Group has been meeting for over a decade in various homes, most living on the west side of Pikes Peak out in my neck of the woods.  Almost all of them come with a spinning wheel which is what peaked my interest initially.

They spin, weave, knit, dye yarn and some raise their own animals as fiber sources.  Some teach in shops or at wool festivals, some sell their wares and some I just hope will rub off on me magically.  I truly admire these ladies and feel minuscule in their presence but they are all kind and eager to help me along my own fiber journey.


This morning it was hard to crawl out of bed having just gotten my flu shot and feeling rather achey.   The fact that It was only twenty-seven degrees outside didn’t help much but then, when I remembered it was Friday Fiber Group, I suddenly had more eagerness to hop on out of my warm bed and not linger any longer.  Having a little red sweater that is under a deadline I almost decided to bring it instead of my travel wheel but then I decided it was, after all, fun to spin with others.

The whirl of the wheels and the chattering of fiber friends can be quite relaxing and enjoyable,  One can spin somewhat mindlessly and not have to concentrate as you do when whilst knitting.  So off I went with my Kromski to rendezvous with knitting buddy Carol so we could carpool together.


Wanting to take photos of the changing aspen along the way I was disappointed that fog had settled in.  Nonetheless, I still took photos and it was a still beautiful ride despite the fog.  I can only imagine it is stunning when the skies are their normal brilliant blue.  We traveled down into a beautiful valley on a road that disappeared into the horizon.  Can you see in the photo how far we drove?  I had not been in this part of my county before nor had my friend so we felt like we were on an adventure exploring .  It is interesting to me how the aspen change colors faster in some spots of the county than other spots, here it seemed there was still some green on the trees.


Our hostess lives in the oldest log cabin in the county.  In fact, it was on the Pony Express route and was the last place to stay to freshen up or change out your horses before heading over Wilkerson Pass.  How cool is that?  A picturesque setting carved out amidst beautiful rock formations, this place was truly beautiful.


There being twelve ladies, we spread out between the kitchen and den and got busy with our wheels right away.  The conversation is always interesting and stimulating varying from current events to things we do with our fiber.  We gather around the table at lunchtime and eat whatever our gracious hostess has made.


This time Evelyn had made lentil soup on her stove from the 1920’s which she says is always an adventure in and of itself.  We had fresh baked bread, coleslaw and cheesecake for desert.  I’m enjoying getting to know these ladies and hear their life stories.

When mid-afternoon arrived we slowly gathered our fiber and fiber tools and reluctantly left.  It seems like every time I go to Friday Fiber Day it is over before it has just begun! Before we left we had to venture through the 150 year old barn to see the burros out back.  They each  came to greet us and get a good forehead rub.


Have Turtle Will Travel 1

As the bikers in the Tour de France started their race thousands of spinners around the world simultaneously began the Tour de Fleece.  I spent the better part of an evening readying the Raven Ridge Targhee Top for my little Jenkins Turkish Delight to spin for the race.  She is such a dream to spin and just keeps spinning on and on all the way until she reaches the floor.  My husband has named her THE TURTLE because he thinks she looks like a turtle as the fiber wraps across the crossbars making a ‘turtle’ hump.

20140706-004859-2939697.jpgThis will be the first time I have tried Fractal spinning and I hope Little Turtle can keep up to the end of the race and finish these 4 oz.   This technique will supposedly help the colors pop better than the method I have thus far used of just splitting in long strips and spinning.  My plan of action to help Little Turtle is to take her with me wherever I go –  have turtle will travel.  I will take photos here and there of her adventures.  Yesterday she went to Summit county to be introduced to some relatives.


She didn’t much enjoy the winding mountain roads we went on to get there because she kept bumping agains my leg which, of course, makes her stop spinning dead in her tracks.  As we climbed through mountain passes she wanted to sit on my lap.


Little Turtle was more than relieved when we started up the driveway and she knew that my feet would be planted on solid ground giving her the ability to spin to her heart’s content.  The wildflowers were spectacular as we drove through the meadow and the Blue Columbines in particular were especially prolific.




Little Turtle enjoyed the beauty from the deck as she twirled around and around although……….the dogs were a little scary and one almost chomped on her.  The big one is used to hunting and I think he thought Little Turtle was an unusual bird and the little one, well….let’s just say he is a ball of energy and wants to taste everything.  It was lots of fun visiting and meeting new family (but when is that baby going to pop out again?)




The best of the whole day for Little Turtle was when she got to rest in the Turtle box and sleep the whole way home.  I let her do that because she worked hard the first day of the Tour de Fleece. Her Bossie friend wanted to spin while she slept.


Little Turtle slept through the stop in Breckenridge to visit old friends here from St. Louis.  And,


What’s this?  Little Turtle was sooooooooooooo sad she missed the most incredible rainbow the old folks had ever seen.








Fiber Study – Color Inspiration

Have you ever had a very special skein of yarn or braid of fiber that your eyes feast upon?  It is so beautiful that you are almost afraid to knit or spin with it because it such a delight to the eyes.  Sometimes it is all about color and letting it take the forefront instead of whatever it is you knit from that fiber.  I have a beautiful braid of fiber from Fiber Optics and it is a feast of color.  The colors are so deep and brilliant that they remind me of some of the great paintings by Titian or Raphael, not so much in the colors these famous painters used but in the sense that no photograph can do the painting true justice.  If you have been fortunate to have seen one of their painting in person then you know exactly what I mean.


This fantastic fiber gradient blend from Fiber Optics is splendid and, being such, I really don’t want to muddle the colors together when I spin the braid.  I want the color to shine!  I want the colors to stay consistent with how they are represented in the fiber.  I’ve conducted a bit of research and found a way that this can easily be accomplished.  It is all theory to me right now but the Tour de Fleece offers an opportunity to put theory into practice, right?


I believe I can keep the colors consistent in this Honey to Fig gradient if I separate the fiber into color breaks.  I’m documenting this sequence here in pictures so I can remember the order in which to spin them in.


My next step was to divide each color breaks into four equal strips.  Doing this will also help me keep this spinning project more manageable.  The strips have been put into ziplock bags to keep everything orderly and now they are ready for the start of the race.


After spinning all of the fiber onto one bobbin I will use the technique of Navajo plying.  This will allow the colors to stay consistent.  Navajo plying produces a 3ply through the process of pulling the fiber through loops and let it ply back on itself.  My one attempt doing this ended in disaster so my Bosworth Mini spindle twins are spinning Greenwood Fiber pigtails so that I can practice before I even touch the Fiber Optic very special fiber.


I will be spinning this luscious fiber on my Schacht Matchless spinning wheel for TEAM SCHACHT.  Next step…….finish plying the bobbin on my Matchless so she can start this next project.  I have a perfect pattern in mind to knit with the finished yarn that will allow the color to speak volumes but will keep it tucked away for now.  And, it will be fun to knit!

Yarn Along with Fiber in Hand


It has been a while since I have joined Ginny and her peeps for a Wednesday Yarn Along.  My reading has been all about spinning these last weeks in preparation for the worldwide Tour de Fleece which starts Saturday and runs through the end of the month.  The knitting books are all reference books and I am scouring the pages researching ‘seaming’.


The Intentional Spinner by Judith MacKenzie McCuin initially spoke a foreign tongue to me but now that spinning has settled into my life and I am more routine about it, the instruction within the pages is making more sense.  I went to her book to find out what kind of fiber she recommended for hand-knit socks.  I blogged about what I learned a few posts ago so will not belabor your reading with more details.  I know, if you are on a Yarn Along, you are quickly reading through the posts and compiling a new reading list for yourselves.  Alas, I have no fiction to share with you today but if you are a spinner be sure to jot down this book.  The author is a guru in the world of spinning.  Her books and videos are fabulous and a DVD comes with this book.



The first half of the book speaks of the nature of fibers.  The author says fibers can be divided into three main groups and the following chapters explore the properties of those fibers.  In case you are wondering, the three main groups are cellulose-based, protein-based and manufactured.  Cellulose fibers are plant based flax, hemp, nettle, ramie, etc.  The protein fibers are my favorite because they come from goats, camels, alpacas, llamas, vicuñas, angora rabbits, bison, yaks, quiviuts, and silk worms.  I probably left one out…..oh yeah…..SHEEP.

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The second half of Intentional Spinner speaks of all kinds of spinning techniques. This is the nitty gritty and the pages are full of information on different drafting techniques, plying techniques and designing yarns.  I believe this book can be used by beginners and advanced spinners alike and there will always be a new bit of information every time you read it.


I won’t show my knitting today because I am psyching myself up for the Tour de Fleece!  My feet are ready to start this wheel moving!





I bought a nøstepinne last night at spinning group.  Nøstepinne.  I love that word.  noh-ste-pin.

Up until last night I knew they existed but I didn’t really know what they were used for.  I actually thought it was some kind of spindle, perhaps a type of Russian supported spindle.  Last night my friend and I were admiring the wooden beauty of several nøstepinnes in our LYS as we waited for all the spinners to arrive.  We asked the shop owner what a nøstepinne was and she told me it was the traditional way to wind center-pull balls before there were the current day center-pull ball winders.  “Nøstepinne” or “nøstepinde” is the Scandinavian term for a special yarn-winding tool.


Nøstepinnes are basically a shaped stick of wood.  They can be anything from an elaborate, turned wood piece to the end of a spindle or wooden spoon. When I got home I read that you can use the body of your niddy noddy if one of the heads comes off.  This one is about 12 inches long with a shaped handle to hold (on the right) narrowing down to a neck (on left) where the yarn can be tied on.

I asked why I should use a nøstepinne instead of the ball winder and swift I had at home.  The spinners in the group made a case for the nøstepinne that sold me within minutes.  First of all, they are portable.  Second, they are relatively cheap and fun to collect.  Thirdly, it is part of the history of spinning. Forthly, they can double as a spinning bobbin in a pinch to wind off yarn from a spindle.  Really?  That last idea had me brainstorming all the way home last night.

My two Jenkins turkish spindles, by the very nature of their design and the mechanics of winding on, will produce a center pull ball when the cross arms are removed and will be all ready for plying.


But as I spin on my Cascade Mt. St. Helens the fiber is wrapped around the shaft and will need to be removed after the shaft is full.  From there it is wound around a ball or wound with the ball winder to make a center-pull ball.  Why not use a nøstepinne for this?  Yes!  They make a perfect portable pair!  If fact, I am wondering if you had several nøstepinnes, as in “collecting” them, why could you not put them into a shoebox drilled with holes and plied directly from the shaft of the nøstepinne itself.


A perfect little match So together like a hand and glove…….. (that song has been in my head the whole time I have been writing this post)

Hand and Glove


And, they even fit in the Paris box together — at least for now.  I guess after I get more spun unto the St. Helens there might not be room for the nøstepinne.  But then, there will also be less fiber to spin in the box.


Anyone have any nøstepinne experiences they want to share?  I will have to spin a little more until I can try this “gadget” of olden times out!  Hopefully, with a little practice, I will be able to quickly and easily wind a beautiful center-pull ball of yarn using no more than this simple, but beautiful, tool.  I know it will take some practice to wind neatly and evenly but it seems like a pleasant enough pastime