Saturday, January 31, 2009

More Stitching...

I imagine Sharon B will be moving on to a new embroidery stitch in the Stitch Explorer challenge, but just had to have another go at Chicken Scratch. I really enjoy this concept and see so many possibilities with it! This one involves small squares of multi color gingham lightly fused to a piece of my hand-dyed felt in a checkerboard pattern as a base for stitching, again with my own yarn.


Thank you Kristin Nicholas for stopping by my blog! Hope all is continuing to go well with lambing; I loved that last photo you posted!

Sharon, thank you for admiring my first piece I did for Stitch Explorer. Hope you stop back and see today's!

Now I'm off to feed some sheep.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Kristin Nicholas has posted a beautiful short video of one of her sheep giving birth and caring for its new lamb. This would be a great video to watch with children.


Barbara G, thank you for the feedback. I missed seeing your new work at our last meeting!

A Little Thief...

A couple days ago I checked in on my chickens just after lunchtime. This is what I saw: an opossum had found his way into the house, taken the top off the kitty litter pan I use as an egg box, had himself a tasty egg dinner, and snuggled in among broken eggshells for a nice nap. When I first saw him he was sound asleep in a ball. I was unable to capture that because I had to run back into the house for my camera.

Ever so slowly, he shook off his somnolence. He knew he was in an awkward situation and stayed curled up with his pointed snout open, showing some rather sharp-looking teeth. Most of the chickens were outside in their fenced-in area, but there were one or two walking around inside, unconcerned. There were a few eggs laid in the bedding in another corner of the coop so I'm assuming this fellow had been in possession of the egg box for awhile.

I don't want him to be a regular visitor so using a t-post I tipped him out of the box. He scurried out through the small chicken door, cowered in one corner of the outdoor pen, and eventually found a way out to freedom. He may have been helping himself to eggs all along but got sloppy in his burglary by snoozing on the job. I'll have to keep an eye on the situation and make some changes in the fencing if I see him again.

Time to show one of my projects from last summer. This is a ruglet, a small prototype for a rug. I tend to embark on rather labor-intensive projects so I like to do small samples and then make a decision about whether I want to invest the time on a larger version, or whether my idea would even work.

This ruglet was woven on my big Swedish loom on a cotton warp using several hues of hand-dyed wool roving. I didn't want the warp to show so laying in enough roving weft to cover the warp yarn was quite fiddly. If I were weaving a rug I'd probably use a nice dyed wool warp and not worry about whether the weft covered it completely. I'm also not sure about how this would function as a rug. I wouldn't want to put it in a high traffic area; it might be quite nice though as a scatter rug next to a bed.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I Digress... Often.

I am, to a fault, a divergent thinker and a curious person. I'm always up for learning about, or at least admiring, a new artistic medium. The problem is that I often allow myself to be lured into trying my hand at these new adventures. I've finally decided that it's a good thing, something that I shouldn't try to reign in for now, but it definitely results in being spread a little thin.

Here's an example. I'm currently enrolled in a fantastic online course, Paper Quilting Explorations, with Terri Stegmiller. I'm not a quilter and clearly wool is my thing. The class is time-intensive (as evidenced by my lack of blogs over the past few days), but so worthwhile. I'm putting materials I'd purchased and stored away and learning about the characteristics of various surface design products.

This piece involved gluing white tissue paper to muslin after crumpling it up then smoothing it back out, spraying three hues of Adirondack Color Wash (I used hues close to the primaries I use for dyeing) and then spreading the dyes around on the surface. After drying I added a little gold Lumiere paint to bring in a little light, cut the sheet into six squares and darkened the edges with a black stamp pad that was almost dried out (oh well).

For the background I chose some sheet music that my mother-in-law had used as a young girl and glued it to muslin. The background was fused to Pellon. The squares were fussed to the background in a pleasing arrangement. Finally, a little machine stitching around the squares and the edges of the background were machine zig-zagged. I like it enough to hang it and will probably be matting it on a canvas, although I'm open for suggestions. I've added a close-up below.


, thank you the positive feedback on my chicken scratch embroidery. I took a look at the work you’re doing as a City and Guilds student, and it looks intense! I’ve been subscribing to your blog for awhile. City and Guilds, for anyone that’s not familiar with this, is an educational program leading to a diploma in stitched textiles.. At one time the program was supported by the British government! JaneO, if anything I said here was inaccurate or if you’d like to say more, please come back and leave another comment.

Helen, thank you for your compliment on the chicken scratch embroidery. Helen, also located in England, maintains a blog. It’s worth a click to check it out; scroll down a little to 11 August 2008 for a hilarious post on stash busting!

Thank you, Elizabeth, for your comments. I love the texture too- that’s one of the reasons I love working with felt. I realized that I had made a mistake in my description of the work. The lighter brown squares are couched, not appliqu├ęd. Elizabeth has a great blog, Quieter Moments, in which she’s documenting her embroidery work.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Stitch Explorer

I'm participating in the Stitch Explorer challenge over on Sharon Bogan's blog, Pin Tangle. Each month Sharon will be posting information about an unusual stitch or style of embroidery. She provides guidance and links to other sources of information about the stitch. Sharon challenges participants to try the technique, modifying it with their own ideas.

This month's challenge is "Chicken Scratch," described as a combination of simple cross stitches and a lacing technique. As always I'm partial to
wool yarn on felt (from my sheep of course). Chicken Scratch is often worked on gingham; I chose work my own version of gingham by couching contrasting squares onto the background with the embroidery stitches themselves. I'm pleased with my sample (6 x 6); the photo doesn't really capture the texture. Lots of fun, so many possible variations!

Temperatures are predicted to be below zero in the morning, without taking wind chill into consideration. We're ready!


Thanks for stopping by, Elis. Her great blog, Into the Blystic, documents every few days another of her abstract paintings. I really enjoy seeing them, and lately she has started commenting on her technique. I think that enjoying another art medium helps me to be more creative in my own.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


My husband gave me these flowers on my birthday. That was 23 December. I want what they're having.


Lynn, thanks much for your kind comments! The twined rug was fun to make, and not at all mentally taxing. I like that.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009



Evol-HUE-tion sock yarn dyed in my latest colorway. Two "cakes" available at $25.00 per. For more information about this yarn and how it knits up, please check out this web page.

Kristin Nicholas, author of Kristin Knits, reports that they're in the midst of lambing time at her farm. She lives in Northern Franklin County, not far from here, and her blog, Getting Stitched on the Farm, is one of my favorites. Over the last few days there have been lots of new lamb photos stop by and see!

Here's a photo of a rug that I twined this fall in a class taken with Alice Kane of Northampton. Alice does an exquisite type of embroidery called black work, and in addition she creates excellent twined rugs.

A beginning project, this rug measures 18 inches by 23 inches. It was twined using an inexpensive loom constructed of canvas stretchers. I tore strips from an old blue blanket, an olive Army type blanket, and added some purchased wool in a bright plaid. It is an extremely solid little rug that lays nice and flat on the floor and will wear like iron. This class was offered at the Wool and Dye Works here in town.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

It's All About the Wool

Here's a piece that I just finished yesterday afternoon. It's based on a project in a wonderful online course, Sumptuous Surfaces, that I took with Sharon B, author of the blog Pin Tangle, this past fall. We were charged with using monotones for this piece so that we could focus on texture and design. I chose to use several hes of brown, natural-colored wool, both felt and yarn, as well as some cotton chenille, cotton and rayon weaving yarns and three coconut shell buttons. My goal was to gradually build up the texture the center of the smallest circle.

I'm happy with this piece and will be hanging it in my home so I decided to use a blanket stitch to embroider it to a piece of felt, again from natural-colored wool. There's a pocket, created with blanket stitch, through which a dowel will be slipped. All the wool in this project was shorn from my sheep. I am many weeks late in finishing this project, but that's the speed at which I operate and that's why Sharon's online classes ( and those of a few others) work so well for me.

I had some unanticipated free time Friday afternoon, and had been notified by Jeremiah at Twist of Fate Spinnery in Portland CT that my latest batch of fiber had been carded and was ready to pick up. So I gathered up all the fleeces that I'd skirted and sorted for the next round and packed them into my back seat. When Bud saw that a road trip was in my plans he stationed himself by the door. Here we are, with bags of wonderful-smelling (really!) dirty wool and ready to go.

After washing my fleece in several rounds of very, very hot water in order to remove all traces of grease, the fiber is processed through their carder, below.

Here's Rick with some freshlly-carded fleece. They line tall buckets with long plastic bags and the roving from the carder settles neatly into the bag. I really like this arrangement because when I open the bag to prepare the roving for dyeing I can find the end easily and it feeds out without tangles or breaks. The bags also store well, either vertically or horizontally. They even leave a small piece of the roving hanging out of the bag before tying it shut. This enables me to evaluate the feel of a given bag of roving without actuallyl having to open the bag.

When I open a bag of roving I find the end and then pull roving out into a container until I have the weight that I need for a dye job. Then I usually skein the roving and secure it with ties so that I can manage it easily through the dyeing process. It really helps to have the roving feed out so smoothly without breaking!

I have not yet had any yarn spun at Twist of Fate but I probably will at some point. Here's Rick next to the spinning machine, in use.

Below Rick is skeining some freshly-spun yarn. To his right is the equipment that will wind yarn on cones if that's preferred.

Bud is cozied up to the thirteen or so bags of clean, soft fleece ready for my dyepot. Jeremiah and Rick also use special equipment to produce large sheets of needle-felted wool for me with the wool that's left after I sort out the best quality for roving. It's this felt that I use for my embroidery projects including the one above and my Stitchlets.

I think that's enough for today; I apologize for being so long-winded today!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Preparing for More Snow...

Aren't chickens cute?

A little help from husband Bill, and a little extra haylage for everyone to get them through the coming snowfall.

Most of the haylage gets tossed into this feeder.

More experimentation from my summer fiber seclusion: twining. This is based on one of the exercises in Bobbie Irwin's book, Twined Rag Rugs. Except I used roving, for both warp and weft. This piece is about 12" square.

Tomorrow I'll upload photos from yesterday afternoon's project. And perhaps something else for sale.


Katie, Glad to read that a hooker is reading this! I hope to post more about rug hooking soon.

Robin, Yes! I think that's what appeals to me too about the embroidery on locker-hooking: somewhat disorganized stitches superimposed on a regular background.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Another Beautiful Winter Morning

After the snow and freezing rain of yesterday, the scenery I encountered when I fed the critters this morning was delightful. A thin coat of ice and snow on the trees and bushes, but not enough to do damage. I could hear the ice cracking delicately with each breeze.

Here is another experiment in lockerhooking, this time with natural-colored roving and created on the sort of canvas grid that is used for rug-hooking. I then did a few embroidery stitches and decided it doesn't work. Now I'm not so sure, I kind of like it. Opinions?


Thank you Rayna, glad you're enjoying the photos. Anyone interested in surface design should take a look at Rayna's blog. She has also authored a book about creating your own hand-printed fabric; information about the book can be accessed through her blog.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A New Spinning Enthusiast

There was a mixture of rain and snow overnight; there's now a thin crust over everything. Not thick enough to support Bud, but my Silky Terrier Spike was able to slip and slide over the top of the "wintery mix." As I stepped out to the woodshed there was a drizzly sort of mist. The dogs were wet enough to need a quick tour with the towel, something they always happily volunteer for (the trick is to get to them with the towel before they shake a spray of droplets over everything.) A good day to not be out on the roads. A good fiber day.

Last night the Parallel Plyers, our local spinning group got together. For some reason my fob wasn't working and I was unable to get us into our regular meeting place at WEBS. We decided to reconvene at my home where Bud and Spike had a most splendid time "working the room."

Bud settled in for awhile cozied up against Deanna Moore. Apologies for the dark photos; the lighting in my living room is terrible. I need to work on that issue. Deanna didn't get much spinning done because both dogs succeeded in enticing her into playing their various games with them. She didn't seem to mind!

Which way should I turn the wheel? Can this thing go any faster? I plan to have a sweater knit by the end of the evening, just as any respectable Border Collie would.


Thank you Hippopip for your good wishes for 2009! Hope your year has started off on the right foot :)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A very eager goat at the feeder. I have a couple of these little guys to neaten things up around the yard all summer. They're quite charming, and compared to other goats (these guys are high percentage Boers, or meat goats) they are rather mannerly.

Probably one of the most invaluable technical projects I did this summer was to create a dye sample chart.

With rare exception, I rely on three dye colors to obtain the colors that I produce. Every hue on this chart- and I did eighty some-odd dye lots- was produced using one, two, or three of those basic three colors in varying proportions.

This is a priceless tool for me because it's far easier now to "nail" a color on the first try.

OK, here's something new for me. I'd seen lots of lockerhooking projects look just awful, even some in books about lockerhooking!

The concept still appeals so I tried using some of my roving "seconds" to hook a sample. This measure about ten by ten. I lockerhooked on a weaving warp (actually did it on my loom) which is a little unusual; most lockerhooking is done on a canvas grid.

A new offering:
Purebred Coopworth batts, originally gray and over-dyed in several hues of magenta. The variation is very subtle including an ever-so -slightly coppery magenta to slightly silvery magenta. When I look at it overall, I think "chocolate cherries".

Here's a close-up. This fiber was from Dooby, my ram. It is on the soft side for Coopworth.

$3.50 per ounce; just under 23 ounces are available but I'm happy to sell small amounts.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

A Perfect Winter Day

Feeding the critters was delightful today. The sun was bright; it was cold but there was no breeze and it just felt good to be working in the fresh air.

The critters had finished their first bale of haylage, opened for them on Christmas Eve. Haylage is hay that is cut and then gathered up before it has had a chance to dry out. It is compressed and wrapped in plastic; the absense of air in the bale causes the grasses to ferment. (Off subject: in the distance are, left to right, the woodshed, Fort Apache the chicken house, our home, and just the peak of the building in which my husband built me a beautiful studio.)

I feed my sheep haylage rather than bales of conventional, dry hay because haylage keeps the fleeces cleaner, the sheep waste far less, and it's more economical.

A bale of haylage weighs in the vicinity of 1200 pounds. In the lower right hand corner of this image you can see a wrapped bale; the one that I just opened is the brownish-green one behind it.

Here's a close-up. When opened, a good bale of haylage has an odor that's been described as "pickles and beer." It's actually quite an appealing odor.

A few words about why I was silent since my post in May. 2008 did not get off to a good start here. There were numerous sad events and losses, and even an attempt to get away from it all for a few days ended in failure. One of the losses was my part time job; my company eliminated an entire sales division this past spring.

I knew that I had an indefinite period of unemployment and needed to find a positive way to spend this time as I sorted through various issues. I made the decision to see this time as a gift and to spend it quietly doing a lot of creative experimenting. Those months were a sort of passage for me between a not-so-good beginning and a much better ending for the year. Not every issue has been resolved- some won't be- but in general things are much better (and, by the way, I was able to find new employment and am in a better place career-wise). But beyond 2008, I made several discoveries and conclusions that will probably shape the path I follow.

Here's the first of many images over the next couple of weeks to get caught up with what I've been up to.

These are what I call stitch-lets; little 4 x 4 samplers of embroidery stitches. The wool is two-ply sock yarn from my own and other Massachusetts sheep; the felt is made up in large sheets from the less desireable (to spinners or knitters) fiber that I separate out when my sheep are shorn.

I love embroidering on felt and am doing these stitch-lets to learn new embroidery stitches and to apply embroidery concepts to felt. Very different from working on evenweave or needlepoint canvas! While I'm learning how to work on a scale that's larger than most embroidery work, it helps to keep the projects... and associated failures as well as triumphs- small. I love the texture, the variations in color, and especially the fact that this takes me back to when I was a little girl experimenting with felt. It was during the summer that I realized this connection to my past. I'll most-likely be posting lots more stitch-let images.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Catching Up...

I'll be catching up with photos and comments in no particular order. For starters, here are some of the critters yesterday, the day after a snowfall, awaiting their daily ration.

A long-overdue progress report on Bud! Here are a couple of photos taken late fall. As you can see, he has the sheeps' respect and he knows how to keep up the tension but not put his charges into a panic. He looks to me for direction (wish I could always be up to the task). We have a few bad habits to work on, but he is turning out to be a very good worker. And a wonderful companion off the job! He continues to be a food thief; his latest conquest was the last of a loaf of fruitcake today. Not the kind you're glad to get rid of; rather, the kind that you hate to see dwindle away. Dwindle it did not.