Sunday, April 29, 2012

A successful book signing at the indoor farmer's market

My book signing at the indoor farmer's market yesterday was fun. I brought my drop-spindle along with a finished skein of yarn to show anyone who was interested in my spinning.

I ended up selling not only several books, but my finished skein of yarn, too! I also got to eat a warm breakfast pie from the Gaelic Imports table, and I brought home some ground bison from the man who sells pasture-raised, grass-fed bison, and made a big pot of bison chili for dinner last night. Yum!

I love farmer's markets!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

My latest project

I really like my new drop spindles. Here's what I'm working on now:

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Cleavers tea

There's a small patch of cleavers growing along the fence in my yard. I plucked a little bit and brought it inside to make some tea with. It's one of those things that people use as a spring tonic.

I've also used it in salves to calm irritated skin; for example, it's one of the ingredients in my bug bite balm.

The roots, when you've got enough of them, can be used to dye with. They'll give you a range of reds. I've used cleavers roots to dye with and gotten a really pretty salmon color on the wool, which I spun into a pretty, salmon-colored yarn.

This little plant has a lot of uses and  these are just a few that I've touched upon.

It's easy to mistake Lady's Bedstraw for Cleavers. They look very similar and are related (they are both in the madder family). To tell the difference, all you need to do is touch the plant. If it 'cleaves to you', then it's cleavers. If it's content to let your fingers go without clinging to them, then it's lady's bedstraw.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A celebratory, half-off coupon for The Witch of Starmont!

I finally put The Witch of Starmont up at, and within a couple of weeks it will also be available at Apple, Sony, Diesel, and Kobo ebook retailers.

Before now, it was availble only at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, but, as of right now, you can  purchase it through Smashwords and download versions compatible with just about any ereader device! And to celebrate, I have a half-off coupon for you to use at Smashwords!

Here is the 50%  off Smashwords coupon code for The Witch of Starmont:

It's for use only at Smashwords, and only for The Witch of Starmont. Use it at checkout and pay only $0.99!

The coupon is good through this Sunday, April 29th, so hurry to get your half-price ebook! 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A homemade basket for washing fleece in the tub

I've been contemplating an easier way to wash raw fleece in the tub. I decided that some sort of basket would be the best thing. The fleece could be put into the basket, the basket and fleece submerged in the tub's soapy, hot water and left to soak. The basket could be lifted out of the tub to drain the dirty water and refill the tub with either more hot, soapy water, or hot, fresh rinse water, and then the basket re-submerged.

I went to the hardware store to scope out materials, and came home with a 3x15 foot roll of plastic hardware netting, the sturdy, yet still flexible kind that can wrap around tree trunks to protect them from deer, not the really flimsy netting that goes over berry bushes:

Here's the resulting basket along with the materials used to make it, netting, twine, and scissors:

 It was really easy to cut the netting to the right size and then fold the ends up to make a basket:

 The extra material at the corners was folded to the outside of the basket so that fiber wouldn't catch in the fold on the inside, and then tied in place with the twine:

I braided a length of twine and used it as handles, but I think I'll remove the handles and add loops along this edge for dowels to slide into. This will make it easier to lift the basket out of the tub to hang, resting on the dowels which will in turn rest on the edges of the tub, when changing the water in the tub:

Here is some Icelandic fleece in the basket, waiting for the tub to fill with hot, soapy water:

Here's the fleece soaking in the tub. It's so easy to place it into the water and let it soak this way. There's no agitation to felt the fibers:

I lifted the basket out and placed it on an old screen resting on the edges of the tub while I drained the filthy water and refilled for one more soapy soak. Again, very little agitation was induced:

After two soapy soakings and one rinse soak, it was easy to lift the fiber out of the tub. I let it drain overnight sitting on the old screen over the tub, and this morning it's drying outside in the sunshine:

This basket is super easy to make. The roll of plastic netting cost something like $16, and the hemp twine cost about $2. There's plenty of netting left to make more baskets, or use in the yard. If you wash raw fleeces, I'd recommend using a basket, it really makes things easy.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Deer and great expectations

Last fall I planted something like 200 bulbs in my front yard. I waited all winter, hoping that my bulbs were doing what they do to get ready for the show come spring. A few weeks ago, I was excited to see some of the plants emerging from the soil. And then the deer struck. They nibbled most of the emerging plants down to nibs, and here is an example of the results:

There have been a few survivors:

But it's nothing like the show I was hoping for:

The few that made it are very pretty, and I've been enjoying them. It's more like a display of 10, rather than 200, but I'll take what I can get:

In the back yard, the wild violets are blooming. They're some of my favorites:

My garlic is a success so far, something between 25-30 bulbs have come up from the fall planting:

And here is the first of my asparagus spears:

Over the weekend, I finally spun up some of the fiber I dyed with natural dyes a few months ago, this is roving dyed with pokeberries and marigolds, ready for spinning:

And here is a skein of yarn spun from the roving I dyed with cleavers root, it's a very pretty salmon color:

My expectations for a glorious spring floral display didn't pan out this year, but my yarns are colorful, and I'm excited about the garlic and the asparagus, and ready for the planting of everything else to begin as soon as the frosts pass.

Can you believe these gorgeous colors are from natural dyes? The yarn on the left gets its color from cleavers root, the middle gets its color from marigolds, and the right gets its hue from pokeberries:

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Book Club Treats and Tomato Plants

Book club was at my house last month. I made some of the things I learned how to make in my cooking school classes last December for refreshments:

My husband surprised me with the classes as an anniversary present.

Mmmm... chocolate croissants.....

And in other news, the tomatoes I started back in February are going gangbusters under the grow lights in the basement:

I'm hoping to till the garden plots in my yard sometime this week. The community plots have already been tilled, but I'll have to till my plots (I'll have two community plots this year) again when the gardens open in order to work in the soil amendments I have planned.

Monday, April 2, 2012

My new drop spindles

I recently purchased a top-whorl spindle and a bottom-whorl spindle from this shop on Etsy. They came in the mail very quickly, and over the weekend I played around with them. I've never spun with drop spindles before, but it wasn't hard to get the hang of it.

I ended up spinning about 1.5 ounces of fiber onto each spindle. The white fiber on the top-whorl spindle below is Bluefaced Leicester, and the red fiber on the bottom-whorl spindle is merino (you can view larger versions of the pictures by clicking on them):

Once I had spun the fiber up, I decided to ply it right from the spindles, using my spinning wheel (I have a Kromski Fantasia). Here's my set-up for plying:

I'm not finished plying yet, but here's what's on the bobbin already:

I call it Candy Cane yarn. I've made it before with my wheel. I really like it. I made a pair of mittens with it that look like crushed peppermint, and I sold a kit with enough yarn and a pattern for the mittens. It's really soft and yummy yarn.

Spinning with the drop spindles is a little addictive. I really like it, and as of right now, I don't have a preference between the top- and the bottom-whorl types. Spinning with a wheel is faster, but there's something really satisfying about the drop spindle. I'm looking forward to using them lots more in the future.

If you'd like to try spinning with drop spindles, I'd recommend the shop I've linked to above, and I'd recommend this book, by Priscilla A. Gibson-Roberts:

It deals mostly with the top-whorl spindle, but you'll pick up how to use the bottom-whorl as well. It recommended adding notches to your top whorl spindle if it doesn't already have them. Mine did not have notches and I did add one. I'll probably add at least one more. The notches really help keep the yarn in place, which is important as the amount of yarn wound around the spindle starts to become substantial.

Happy spinning!