A Peek into Ancient Color


Last Friday I went to the Kelsey Museum of Archeology at the University of Michigan to see the exhibit Ancient Color, a look at color on Roman artifacts.

Most of the people there looked at the hard artifacts, statues, pottery, and pieces of wall, but I drooled over the textiles. It wasn’t a huge exhibit, but it was mind blowing to me that we have such ancient textile fragments to study, and that we are using most of the same materials centuries later.

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Wool bag, here’s the museum description:

Wool with red, green, and possibly yellow dye.

Roman period (1st–4th century CE), Karanis, Egypt, U-M Excavations, 1924–1935.

Look at that red, and it’s probably faded! The bag is woven, but how. Is it backstrap? And the wool, what breed?

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Textile fragment featuring a scene from the myth of Leda and the Swan. Here are the museum details:

Wool with purple dye. Roman period (1st–4th century CE), Karanis, Egypt, U-M Excavations, 1924–1935.

Look at the detail in this weaving, it’s about 8”x8”. Was the purple, Tyrian purple, dyed with Murex rock snails? I want to know more about that super stinky process.

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Textile fragments.

There are three, the Red on the left, Blue on the right in the front, and Purple on the right in the back.

Here’s what the museum knows: all are Roman period (1st–4th century CE), Karanis, Egypt, U-M Excavations, 1924–1935.

Red: Wool with red dye (possibly Madder). Blue: Wool with blue dye (possible Indigo),flax. Purple: Wool with purple dye (possibly a blue-red mixture), flax.

The Blue and Purple fragments look woven with a linen warp and wool weft. The Red fragment I can’t really tell the construction, maybe twined? Clearly I have to go back.

Here you can see official museum photos of all of these pieces on grey.

This show shut down my working brain and filled up my curious brain. I’m going to do more digging on ancient Roman textiles, textile conservation, and the stinky snail dye process.

You can look at parts of the show online. Be sure to check out the resources page, there are lots of great links. If you are near Ann Arbor they have extended the run to July 28th. Coming to town and need a yarn fix? My lys is Spun in Kerrytown.

Maryland Sheep & Wool: I Bought Fleeces

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I'm just back from Maryland Sheep & Wool, which was fantastic! Want to know more about my teachng and teacher adventures? Head over to yesterday's KnittyBlog where I spill all.

I went without a shopping list (rookie mistake), but never in my dreams did I think I would buy a fleece, let alone two. But several things happened. I listened to Judith MacKenzie talk about how the fleeces at Maryland are the best in the US in her opionion. Then I was faced with this bounty. This video is 900+ fleeces ready to be sold:

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Could you resist? Add to that Maggie Casey, Deanna Moore, and a whole host of volunteer fleece experts whispering, like the devils they are, in my ears and helping me choose.

Here’s what I got, an unusually fine and colored Finn, and a black Corrie X. Aren’t they lovely? I have no idea what I’m going to spin, but I am going to process them by hand.


Remember that I was a newbie to Maryland? Well I had a great guide, Laura Linneman, one half of the KnitGirllls podcast and SSK. She’s been going to Maryland since she was a little girl, and has only missed a few. Leslie couldn’t come because of work, but we texted her a lot.

She knew where to go, what to eat, where and when to pee, and the secret spots to sit and rest our feet. I couldn’t have asked for a better escort!

We both did a little shopping. Another mutual friend, Jess, was with us, and no one really reigned it in. It was great fun, but I’m not looking forward to my credit card bill.

Here’s the rest of my haul:

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Two spindles from Bosworth, and a support spindle and bowl from Stephen Willette.

I will confess to touching a book charkha in the Bosworth booth, but it did not come home with me.


And all of this, clockwise from upper left: Cormo from Bumblebee Acres, a sweater’s worth of kettle dyed sport weight yarn Captain Tightpants from ITW, BFL/silk top, Polwarth top, and three skeins of kid mohair/silk form Neighborhood Fiber Co, and a skein of Corrie sock yarn from Bumblebee Acres.

I already have plans for most of it. Mohair and mohair/silk yarns are making a big comeback, I saw them everywhere. I kinda love them.

I will leave you with the famous Maryland Sheep & Wool spinning dinosaurs, father and daughter edition

Pssst, I Have a Newsletter

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I found out during my past couple of teaching gigs that many fiber folk don’t know that I have a newsletter.

I do! I have a newsletter that comes out once a month full of fiber and other things I find interesting.

There is always something about spinning, usually something about knitting, my upcoming teaching schedule, a few links to articles I liked that may or may not be textile related, and a list of what I read and watched over the past month.

Interested or curious? It’s easy to sign up, and rest assured that I will never sell or share your information with anyone.

I’m headed to Maryland Sheep & Wool to teach next week.

If you see me looking like a deer in the headlights on Saturday at the festival, just tell me what to buy and where to find it. I’m a first-timer!

PLY Away 4 - A Visual Recap

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This will be a photo heavy post because I know you like to look at all of the pictures.

PLY Away was wonderful as always, so many familiar faces, and so many people to hug.

It is an amazing thing to be around hundreds of spinners at one time. I think our energy could lift the roof off of the hotel. The non-spinners in the elevators are always curious, “ What are you doing? Everyone is so happy!”

We love not having to explain or backtrack in our conversations. If someone whips out some fresh fleece and starts talking crossbreeds and microns, everyone understands. Heaven.

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I had new excited students, and was so happy to see a whole bunch of students I’ve had before. They are starting to feel like family.

I premiered three new classes, and had a new focus for my Spin and Nosh class. Spin and Nosh was raucous, there was a lot of wine and Jill of Hipstrings, whose fiber was featured in class, brought the shopping to us after the market closed. It was the best kind of chaos.

I was lucky to get a spot in Judith’s spinning paper class. It was such a restful half of a day in the middle of teaching.

Clara Parkes, wool warrior, was our Friday night speaker. Sheep really don’t know how good they have it with an advocate like Clara. She is smart, funny, and tough. She wants to change the way the world sees and uses wool, and we are right there with her.

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Of course there was shopping. I had a modest haul this year.

Fiber-wise, I bought raw fleece (don’t faint) from Ross Farms for an upcoming article, Abstract Fiber Arts new AOC colorway on three different fiber blends, and her Deschutes colorway on BFL/silk.

I mostly bought tools, the Hansen Lazy Kate and ball holder (it’s spins so smoothly!), Hipstrings genius new Z Loom with interchangeable dents, and Clemes and Clemes cotton handcards, which are now my favorite cards.

I’ll talk more about all of my purchases as I use them in the coming weeks.

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The Pen Place at the hotel loves PLY Away. Who knew so many spinners love fountain pens? We did, it’s a tactile thing. I have a special stash of money I save for pen shopping every year, and I stalk pens until I can shop at PLY Away. Discussing pens is always an important part of every class and every lunch. I like to shop with friends, and we usually come away with matching pens.

This year I bought the new olive Lamy Studio, a Kaweco Frosted Sport in blueberry, and a Caran d’Ache 849 in neon pink. I know Maggie Casey, Judith MacKenzie and Clara Parkes bought at least one pen and maybe more…….

Buyer Beware: Roving Online

This is Merino/silk top from DM Fibers. It’s labeled top on their website. Isn’t it pretty?

This is Merino/silk top from DM Fibers. It’s labeled top on their website. Isn’t it pretty?

I have noticed a trend online lately to call both woolen and worsted spinning preparations, roving.

Even if I can see quite clearly in the online photo that a fiber is top, it still is labeled roving.

The ever-wise Liz Gipson told me, roving is becoming like Kleenex is to tissues, a generic term for commercially prepped fiber.

I had a student in my class just yesterday suggest that roving is a term better used in searches online. A search for top would return millions of things, mostly not fiber.

So, if you are buying fiber online, and are not sure what the prepartion really is, email the seller and they will surely let you know.

I'm on the WEAVE podcast!

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Today I'm on the WEAVE podcast! It's the brainchild of weaving guru Sarah Resnick of Gist Yarn.

I'm and thrilled to be on, especially since I'm just starting my spining to weave advetnures.

We talk a lot about spinning, and I talk a tiny bit about spinning for weaving. It was one of those conversations where we said hello,then 30 minutes flew by.

It's so great to talk to people who are passionate about the same things I'm passionate about.

Gist Yarn is a great shop full of hand-selected weaving yarns and spinning fiber. Check it out if you haven't already.

If you give my episode a listen, let me know what you think!

Endangered Crafts in the UK

Did you know that the Hertitage Crafts Association in the UK publishes an endangered crafts list every year?

The mission of the HCA is simply and wonderfully, "To support and promote heritage crafts as a fundamental part of our living heritage."

The HCA published it's first Red List of Endangered Crafts in 2017. Similar to the Rare Breeds Survival Trust Watchlist, the HCA uses four catagories to rate the threat to a hertitage craft, extinct, critically endangerd, endangered and viable.

One of the new entries for 2019 on the critically endngered list is spinning wheel making. These are small batch makers, making wheels one at a time. In the UK like the US, there are not many people who want to apprentice to wheel makers.