Talking without all of the Words

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My father in law has dementia. He is one of the most intelligent and curious people I have ever met. Through the years we bonded over books and reading, and clashed over guns. This man loves his family fiercely and he knows exactly what is happening to him.He made the choice to stop driving and get rid of his car. 

He grasps for words most days, but still knows the concepts. We had an entertaining conversation about black holes the other day. Between his dementia and my menopause brain we didn't have many concrete words between us, but understood each other perfectly.

His birthday was the other day and he wanted to go to John King Books in Detroit, four stories of used books. My husband and I took him book shopping and then to Polish Village for lunch. He has great difficulty reading, but still loves books. He spoke openly at lunch about how much has changed, and didn't need to say how hard it is to feel himself slipping away.

These types of outings have become a regular thing, mostly with my husband and his dad. I feel lucky when I get to come along, to spend time with him and to have the connection of talking without all of the words.


Summer PLY Magazine Is Out!

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Just in time for vacation reading and spinning the new issue of PLY is out. This one is all about the flyer-led (some, including me, call it Scotch tension) drive system.

I used to only spin in double drive and needing a little more finesse in my take-up one day, I switched to Scotch tension and it's been my go-to drive ever since. 

I do still spin in double drive and a Louet bobbin-led wheel is high on my list of next wheels, so I'm not a Scotch-only woman, but a Scotch-usually woman.



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I'm excited to read the articles Band Practice by Kathy Sparks all about different drive band materials, Trifecta by Kara Perpelitz about twist,draft and tension, and to spin along with Beth Smith to practice my fine yarn spinning.

I wrote an article about how to adjust your wheel if you're not getting the yarns you want with Scotch tension, called World Peace and the Yarn You Want (flyer-led edition), it's a quick and dirty Agony Aunt style article.

Because I know you want to know, the fiber I used for my article is Homestead Hobbyist Crime Scene Blend (Superfine Merino/Shetland/Mulberry Silk) in the Chain of Custody colorway.

There are two new columns that start in this issue of PLY, the first is Sheep on the Edge, about rare and endangered sheep and the second is Person of Interest, a showcase of the leaders, teachers, mentors, and deep thinkers in the spinning world. You'll have to pick up an issue to find out the which sheep and which luminary we feature in this issue.

You can find PLY at your local spinning shop or online here available in both paper and electronic editions.

Pocket Looms for the Summer

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As soon as it gets hot (and it's 90+F here in Michigan already), I bring out my little looms, my Zoom Loom and my Wee Weavers. There is something about the hot weather that makes me want to play with tiny squares.

They use so little yarn and are so satisfying. I have yet to make anything to wear with mine, but I have a few things that are really inspiring me to try.


 Spanish Moss from Handwoven May/June 2010, Harlequin Vest from Cotton /clouds, and Little Looms magazine from Interweave

Spanish Moss from Handwoven May/June 2010, Harlequin Vest from Cotton /clouds, and Little Looms magazine from Interweave

John Mullarkey's Spanish Moss shawl from Handwoven May/June 2010 and Lois Weaver's Harlequin Vest for Cotton Clouds get me excited to make squares that work well together. Little Looms magazine from Interweave is also a great resource.

There are a bunch of boards on Pinterest devoted to Zoom and pin loom weaving and they get me excited about adding texture to my squares.

Do you use Zoom Loom or tiny looms? What do you make?

Storage Bobbins for Spinning


I am a huge fan of using storage bobbins and a bobbin winder for spinning.

I use them because they are cheaper than buying more bobbins for my wheel. I rarely spin one project from start to finish without starting something else, so I store bunches of yarn.

Storage bobbins also help me work with color, to mix and match and just play with color in my spinning. 

I use small stickers on the ends of the bobbins or loop tags around the bobbins to keep track of the yarn on them. I usually use both.

Last week I wrote a blog post about how using storage bobbins makes my yarn better on the Schacht blog.


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I also use cardboard spools when I want to store more yardage on a single bobbin. Spools won't fit on my bobbin winder, so I use cooking skewers. 

I bundle the skewers together with a rubber band and use an electric drill to wind them.

It's very easy to keep track of what's on a spool because I can write right on the end.

Do you use storage bobbins?


Making Magazine No. 5/Color

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Making Magazine has been around for three years now and it has defied the odds. It is a magazine that is consistently well-produced and beautiful, it is a print-only magazine and it welcomes and showcases a variety of fiber, thread and yarn crafts.

It's a magazine I read occasionally because it's not always in my budget. It is worth every penny of the $24 cover price. I find it more inspiring and it gets my fingers itching to craft more than a lot of books that are the same price. 

No. 5 is an exceptional issue. The topic is Color and the projects are marvelous. It's been a long time since I've wanted to make every project in a magazine.


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Making invites you to slow down, to settle in with the magazine. I can never rush through. Partly because of the luscious paper it's printed on, I just like holding it and feeling the pages. Partly because the projects and photography encourage a little dreaming.

This issue has natural dyeing, knitting, quilting, crochet, embroidery, weaving, sewing, book binding, and that clever little rabbit of a craft that keeps inviting me down it's rabbit hole, rug hooking on a small scale. The hooking article is about finishing, not hooking, hooking is in No. 4/Lines. There are more crafts and projects, a total of 29 things to do with your hands. It is a grand issue and one that will last me through the summer with making or just dreaming about making.

If you like to listen the folks talking bout the creative side of life, there is a very fine Making podcast with interviews. 

Spinning with Thread

I've recently had a few questions about thread plying, spinning Racing Stripes and Auto Wrapping. Here's a quick spin through these fun spinning-with-thread yarns.

Using thread is one of my favorite ways to give a yarn, especially a yarn spun from a textured batt a little sparkle and a little stability.

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I have this fab bag of Mega Batts from Gritty Knits that I got at the Dallas Fort Worth Fiber Fest. Each tiny batt is different and has a big variety of fibers and colors.

I'm paring these batts with a silver sparkly sewing thread. I use every one of my JoAnn's coupons for buying extra shiny and sparkly threads at a discount.

I'll spin a thread plied yarn, a Racing Stripe singles and an Auto Wrap singles. Racing Stripe and Auto Wrap I learned from Jacey Faulkner's fab book, Spin Art.

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Thread plying is just like it sounds. I make a 2-ply using a batt spun single and my sparkly thread. I use a cracked Jennie the Potter mug to hold my thread so it doesn't fly around the room, and ply like a regular 2-ply. Putting a little extra tension on the thread will squeeze the singles for extra texture.

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Spinning a Racing Stripe, takes a bit of letting go of control. I put my thread cup between my feet, so the thread and fiber come from the same direction.

I let the thread rest in my palm as I go about my drafting business; I don't worry about it.

What happens is the thread wraps as the fiber drafts into yarn. It makes a singles that look marled with thread.

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Auto wrapping is the most fun ands give the most random look. I set my thread cup to the fiber side of my wheel.

As I draft my fiber I let the thread wrap on the singles however it wants. I don't hold it or tension it in any way. Sometimes it wraps on cleanly, sometimes it snarls around itself. It looks good as a singles, but I may like it even better plied on itself.

How do you spin with thread?

 Left to right: Thread ply, Racing Stripe, Auto Wrap and Auto Wrap plied on itself.

Left to right: Thread ply, Racing Stripe, Auto Wrap and Auto Wrap plied on itself.

A Spinning Tip for Getting to Know Your Commercial Fiber

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Here's something I like to do to get to know my commercial top a little better before spinning it.

I do this if I get something called 'wool', or if a fiber is listed as a particular breed and I think it's a mistake, or if I've lost the label (most likely), or just for fun (also likely).

Like smelling salts to a swooning Victorian maiden, I steam my fiber to revive it. A little steam revives the crimp in fiber.

Sometimes I steam just a little to see what the crimp is like without the combing. Sometimes I steam all of the fiber I plan to spin, if I really want my yarn to be airy.

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Here's some Corriedale (left) Southdown (right), in each photo the fiber strip on the left is top before steaming and the fiber on the right is the same top steamed.

My hair did the same thing in Dallas last month.

HUGE difference, and quite a peek into what the fiber is really like. 

The Corriedale snaps to it's famous medium crimp, zig zaggy with some spring and loft. The Southdown went sproing like in a Bugs Bunny cartoon, the crimp spiraled and it feels spongy and dense.

These steamed fibers would make for different spinning experiences and a different yarn than they would when they were still neatly combed top. It's fun to compare.

If I was going to steam ounces of fiber at a time, I would use a handheld steamer or a steamer basket on the stove (be careful of felting). For small samples like these I use my electric kettle. Here's quick video where you can see the crimp bloom.