Archive for the ‘handpainted yarn’ Category

Spring is for growth and change.  I think I’m doing a pretty good job of celebrating that this year.  But I’m also prone to biting off more than I can chew, so we’ll have to see how this all plays out.

I’m sorting, purging, and cleaning of course. I spent three weeks with a stupid back injury from some ridiculously mundane activity and haven’t been able to do a normal spring clean and it has been DRIVING ME CRAZY.  I’m going against my nature and trying NOT to make up for lost time but rather pace myself and be content with small victories.  Ugh. Small victories suck. I want ACTION!

So, I completed cleaned and sorted my file cabinet.  Who still has tax returns from 1996? This girl did.  I also had manuals for appliances purchased 15 years ago-even if I still have the appliance, I confess that there have only been 2 times in the last TWENTY YEARS that I actually have needed to look at a manual. And yet I saved them all.  Not anymore!

One really neat thing that I found was a bunch of my writing.  For several years before I began this blog, I had another one with quite a bit more traffic.  It was….more colorful than this one.  I generally try to keep this pretty tame, but the other was full of personal information and a bit of scandalous behavior.  I wrote a lot between 2001-2006, and it was neat to see some of that work.  I also found a bunch of my old zines.  For those who aren’t familiar with the term, they are a low cost publication, often in black and white, sometimes created by an individual and other times with a group. They can be a single publication but are often published as a series.

Anyway, I found some of my old zines and it was interesting to look through them. I’ve decided to publish them as e-books here.

I’m also sorting through other areas of my home.  I have a lot of cool stuff. Not as much cool stuff as my mother, but since many of my cool things are hand-me-downs from her house, I still have some neat things.  If you like antique oddities.  She most recently gave me a box of old books-one on Eugenics from 1904 which, at quick glance, has little to do with racism and more to do with how to feed your baby so that it doesn’t have “fits”, like…bonafide daily convulsions which were apparently commonplace 112 years ago.


She also gave me a complete set of first edition Foxfire books, including the one with my husband’s grandparents in it.

I love old things.

Yesterday I scored a couple of neat old things.  A vintage suitcase (the one on top) to go with my collection.  I use them in my studio to store all of my supplies (2nd photo), and I need a few more for my Pike Place Market display.

But my big score yesterday was a 1936 Figidaire.  We’re going to repaint it and have to replace the handle (right now we’re opening it with a screwdriver) but it seems to be going strong and keeping things cold at 80 years old.


I’ve been in this appliance quandary and am glad to have it settled.  As you may know, our household has access to about 10 amps of electricity (most U.S. homes have 200).  We seem to do just fine with this, but it does require consideration for new purchases.  It’s not as if we couldn’t have more…we could upgrade the lines and put in bigger power, but this self-imposed limit is a good thing for us.  It’s a good thing for everyone.  And since we heat with wood, cook with gas or wood, use an outdoor bath tub, and do our washing at the laundromat…the refrigerator is probably our biggest electricity draw.   In case you were wondering, our electric bill is about $15 per month. We have a small (about 3.7 cubic feet) refrigerator which we purchased new about 5 years ago and is already a piece of junk.  It’s the 3rd one we’ve owned in the past 12 years.  Supposedly, refrigerators made prior to the late 1940s rival today’s energy efficient ones and from what I’ve read…the slightly larger one (4.7 cubic feet) we’ve just purchased will use the same amount that we’re using.  And it’ll match our 1920s green and cream cookstove perfectly.

FYI, no home we visited in Europe had even an apartment sized fridge.  They were all in the 3-4 cubic foot range.  Even for families.  Even houses in rural areas.

Okay, back to more new stuff.  I PASSED MY ENTRANCE EXAMS AND WAS ACCEPTED INTO COLLEGE!  That’s really the biggest news.  I’m going back to finish my teaching degree. Because of my schedule and location, I wanted an online program with a lot of flexibility but a good reputation and accreditation.  I think this one will work. It is competency based, which may allow me to move more quickly through some courses since I have years of teaching experience.

The reason for going back to school?  Earning a degree is important to me, but looking ahead I’ve realized that I can’t keep up this level of yarn production. I may choose to partner with another spinner (if my daughters are reading this, I’m looking at YOU!) or even start over with yet another fiber business.  But, I’m thinking that it would be good for me to have a backup plan and that could be substitute teaching. While I don’t see myself working full time in a public school, the local districts need help and working a couple of days a week might pair nicely with a fiber business. Or social security.

The other idea is that it might allow me to travel.  I’m not too keen on teaching English in Asia, but I might be interested in teaching 3rd grade in Scotland for a year.

And who knows? What I’d really like to do is to design curriculum. I mean, I already do this…but am hoping that having a degree might allow me to better market myself and perhaps I could find work if I’m a certified teacher.

So yeah. Big news.

At this moment, I’ve got way too much on my plate and I’m trying to sort out which thing will have to go.  School, yarn business online with occasional events, yarn business as a Pike Place Vendor, part time health and nutrition program coordinator at Washington State University, teaching summer quarter for kids academic enrichment program (ala Hogwarts) at a local community college, Finney Farm education outreach, farming, homeschooling my soon to be 15 year old.  I can’t complain about having too many options, but I’m going to have to spend some time in the next few months sorting out my game plan, since I’m set to being school in the fall.

And finally, as a reward for getting through this long winded post, I’ll post some food porn and a recipe for MAPLE BLOSSOM FRITTERS. Which are amazing.

To make them, collect new blossoms and shake them off a bit in case they contain any little critters. Mine didn’t, but I guess it’s possible.  Make the fritter batter (simple vegan and gluten free recipe below) and dredge the blossoms in it.  Dredging is a culinary term mostly used for dry coatings, but the process is the same…you don’t need to really immerse but rather drag the blossom through the batter. I used a fork laid across the blossom as I was pulling it out to remove extra batter.  Fry in oil. I had intended to do some as savory treats with a homemade chutney or sauce but wound up coating all of the ones in this batch in powdered sugar.  Which was amazing.

4-6 cups blossoms
2 cups flour (I used half gluten free flour mix and half rice flour)
2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp corn starch
2 cups cold  water
vegetable oil
powdered sugar

And finally…coupon code for free shipping at www.yarnarchy.etsy.com


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I’m entering into a particularly busy season  it seems.  The farm and garden have slowed a bit, although we are still somewhat behind schedule. Some harvesting is left: a few pepper varieties, late corn, tons of cabbage, and some tomatoes are still in the greenhouse. I normally like to be completely done with even thinking of farm work by November but I’m just going to have to cope with it.  Thankfully, we have another WWOOFer ( person from the Willing Worker On Organic Farms organization) arriving in the next couple of days to help out. We still have a barn full of seeds to sort and process!

I’m also entering into a different relationship with my business. My husband is an amazing carpenter, with years of experience building unique and well made structures and homes–timber frame, SIP panel houses, post and beam, log homes, etc.  Like most carpenters, he was laid off over 3 years ago when the market tanked. He’s worked a bit here and there, but the glory days of steady work for good pay seem to be a thing of the past in this economy.  His last unemployment check was in September, and we’re now totally on our own. I cannot express how glad I am to have made the lifestyle choices that I did.  We may not drive nice new cars, have a timeshare or boat, or shop just for fun. But we also don’t have a mortgage, and we are possibly the only people I know who own their home outright.  We drive 20 year old cars but we try to take care of them and we don’t have monthly payments. We grow much of our own food.  We limit the amount of resources we use (by choice) and one outcome is that our electric bill for our home is about $15 a month.  We chop firewood from our land to provide our own heat, we cook on the woodstove or 1920’s gas cookstove, we use water collection and a gravity tank to provide wash water, and carry our drinking water from a spring about 700 feet away. Our little stone cottage in the woods may indeed be little-and it’s around this time of the year that I start to feel the squeeze of space as we all move indoors…people, projects, and pets; but it suits our needs and has never been a burden to maintain.  And it’s due to these lifestyle choices that we’re able to meet our needs through our own efforts–crafting, building, teaching, and horticulture. No commute, no boss, no usury, no debt.

However, I do feel short on time!  I have 10+ pounds of handpainted fiber staring at me from the corner, waiting to be spun/blocked/photographed/listed online.  Drawers full of yarn ready to be knit or crocheted into items to be sold online or at a variety of holiday fairs/events.  A suitcase full of Waldorf doll making supplies.  More fiber shipped and on it’s way. Orders waiting for packaging and thank you notes.  A big suitcase full of feathers, trinkets, and silk flowers ready to be made into hair fascinators.  A trunk full of Kitschenqueen towel making supplies. And you, dear reader, will get updates on all of it.

Today my updates are mostly about yarn. Here are my newest endeavors…first, a Day of the Dead yarn. I spun it in a single ply but will also have a plied yarn soon.

The next is a beautiful 2ply Bluefaced Leicester wool and Tussah Silk blend, handpainted and another Greek mythology inspiration…Halcyon:

Another plied yarn, this time an Autumn colorway called Fallen Leaves. This one is made from Merino and Kid Mohair.

And something totally different…another Merino/Mohair blend: Cotton Candy!

Yesterday I did another photo shoot with my girls. I can’t believe I have a daughter who’ll be leaving home in 6 months!  She has become such a beautiful woman.  I love taking photos of both of them…  These knit/crocheted items were listed at http://www.wickedwenchdesigns.etsy.com

I also wanted to include an easy pattern on this post. I sort of have pipe dreams of writing a pattern book for handspun yarns but in the mean time, I’ll post a few here and there.  This one is from my zine:

Super Duper Easy Instant Gratification Yarnarchy Wrister Pattern

1 skein of Yarnarchy! Handspun (100 yards, thick and thin worsted to bulky)

Set of 4 dbl pointed needles, size 7 or 8

Cast on 32 stitches. Divide onto three needles-12, 12, and 8.

Cuff: Knit ribbing for an inch or more-knit two, purl two.

Body: Knit all around for stockinette stitch. Continue until the wrister measures 4-5 inches in length. At some point in the round, bind off 4 stitches and continue knitting around. When you return to the first bound off stitch, cast on one stitch and knit. Repeat three times (you have now replaced the 4 bound off stitches) and continue knitting in the round for another 1 ½ -2 inches.

Cuff: knit ribbing (knit two purl two) for ½ to 1 inch.  Bind off. Make another wrister. Voila!

You may experiment with adding a basic cable, making the whole tube in ribbing, skipping ribbing entirely and just knitting in the round for the whole thing.

Here are a few examples..the first are with ribbing at each end:

These are ribbing all the way up:

With a cable:

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I love fiber. I love spinning, I love color theory, I love playing with wool.

When I was growing up, I must have heard my Dad say a million times ” I get to do what I love! I would PAY to do this job! I can’t believe there are so many people out there doing jobs that they don’t enjoy.”  Because this was my model, I grew up with the expectation that I would always enjoy my work. And I have. Sure, I’ve had the occasional annoying boss or certainly had a bad day here and there but I’ve always loved all of my wage earning activities. If I wasn’t able to affect the bad boss or long commute, I would simply find  away to keep doing the thing I enjoyed in another venue.

I have always been crafty. Over the years I’ve had quite a few small businesses…from candlemaking to clothing. I even spent a few years hawking macrame hemp jewelry and crocheted bags to wholesalers back in the early 90s.  My seamstress friend Amy referred to me as “The Redneck Martha Stewart” quite a few years back and although I have mixed feelings on the title, I suspect it’s probably at least a little true. My friend George asked me if I was related to Frederick Taylor, who is credited as the father of the industrial revolution through his work in scientific management. George asked me this because of my natural tendency towards efficiency and production-something about a one woman industrial revolution.  He said this as sort of a backhanded compliment because Frederick Taylor is also credited as helping bring about the end of the craft era, which doesn’t suit me at all.  Being an anarchist, and a luddite at heart… I eschew capitalism, favoring collectives/co-ops/mutual aid and although I can’t help wanting to make each movement and action count as much as possible in the production line, I much prefer a peddle powered tool to one powered by fossil fuels or hydro-electric dams.

So I’m kind of in this interesting situation with the yarn business. I make this beautiful handpainted, handspun yarn at home with non-electric tools. I do use chemical dyes but they don’t contain heavy metals and my only mordant is vinegar.  I can do what I love, have flexibility in my schedule, and am producing (to me) a sustainable and ethical product. Unfortunately, I live in the woods about 7 miles from a village of 800 and it’s basically impossible for me to sell my wares locally.  I must rely on the almighty internet with all of it’s toxic accoutrements to market my goods and I mail my skeins all over the world.  My business is also a sole proprietorship, which doesn’t exactly match my worker owned collective/anti-capitalism ideology. But I’m working on it, and I keep trying to find a good balance.

Sales have been increasing since I began. I am in favor of slow and steady growth and although I’ve probably passed up golden opportunities I’ve also never been unable to meet my overhead costs or borrowed a dime.  Yarnarchy has been providing my family with about half of our needed income for the past two years and I have recently been considering some modest expansion concepts with the idea that I’d eventually prefer for the business to cover all of our household expenses.   Which would be outrageously awesome. With that in mind I will now be offering handpainted rovings and more kits.  I did a bunch of dyeing last week and here are some photographs:

And this is what they look like after the roving is dry and ready:

I must admit, although I dearly love fiber and dyeing is oh so fun..I’m finding it terribly difficult to spend time on yarn when there is so much to do in the garden!  Here’s just one photo, but if you’re interested in the farm you can visit the blog at http://www.finneyfarm.blogspot.com  If anyone has suggestions for my new product line, please do send me a comment!

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