Thank You!

It’s the early dawn of Thanksgiving on the west coast, and I’m quietly having coffee and reflecting on all abundance of things I have to be thankful for in my life. I’m so grateful for my family, the fact that my mom is still with us despite her battle with two kinds of cancer. We’re all gathered at a house on the beach, and I just feel overwhelmed with gratitude–and it doesn’t take a holiday for me to feel like that, but that does give me a reason to write about it.

But, I am also so grateful for all of you who read this blog. You are all around the world, from the US, to Canada, to Saudi Arabia, to Africa, to the UK, Europe, Australia, New Zealand…it’s crazy awesome!! You encourage and motivate me. I learn from you when I read your blogs. This spirit of companionship connected through art has changed me this year. You’ve given me the courage to start my etsy shop AND make it not-for-profit, which is a dream I had years ago–to celebrate art and use that passion to give back. It’s crazy, I know, but it’s GOOD crazy, and you are all a part of it.

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You are people who see handspun yarn like this with (pearly beads) and think of possibilities. Who stop by to comment on color or technique and give me ideas as to what to make with it. You inspire me with your own pictures/stories and how you spin, knit, or weave your life moments into your art.

So, thank you. From the depths of my creative heart, I appreciate you all! May your sunsets be as amazing as this one…Spin on!

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Spinning for the sake of spinning..

20131120-134200.jpgI love sitting at my wheel and filling a bobbin. Honestly, it is just as enjoyable if it’s a lace weight, art yarn, standard two ply worsted..there is just something really beautiful about a full bobbin of freshly spun yarn.

In fact, one of the more difficult parts for me is deciding what technique to use for the final product. For the skein above, I was going to do supercoils..but at the last minute I decided it needed to be a Navajo ply.

Then there’s these skeins:

20131120-134409.jpg I wanted to spun a really even uber thick single, which requires a steady zen-like spinning technique..at least for me.

I’m taking an online course to dig in deeper to art yarns, and the initial phase is all about exploring what types of yarn you like to spin the most. I’m having a hard time deciding because depends on what is inspiring me at the moment.

I rarely spin a yarn for a specific project…the idea will come to me while I am in the spinning process. And, sometimes it’s just yarn for the sake if making that be the “something beautiful.”

How about you? Do you spin for a purpose or for the yarn as the final outcome?

Spin on!

Oliver, spinning, weaving…so much going on!

So…my blogging has been a little slow because of this sweet distraction.

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Can you blame me? Oh. My. Gosh. Meet Oliver, my new little sidekick. He’s 5, a rescue, and a mix of Shitzu and Maltese. He’s like a cuddly teddy bear. I confess I have missed a few spinning evenings because he’s brand new to us and I couldn’t stop holding him!
Stay tuned for more Ollie stories… But for now, back to spinning, knitting and weaving!

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Fall colors…and a cabled yarn.
If I had to choose my favorite type of art yarn to spin, it would be yarn with beads in it. I’m fascinated with the combination of yarn colors and textures with various beads..and the possibilities are endless! This yarn is a 4 played cable, which was tons of fun, but I worked beads in like this:

20131118-184252.jpg It’s a pretty simple technique and I love having the beads spun directly onto the yarn. I’ll write up the pattern soon–it’s a very simple cowl that makes a sweet neck warmer–and with the beads, who needs a necklace?
My other big project was a shawl I wove for my mom..she requested one large enough to wrap around while sitting on the sofa watching a movie or reading, but not a bulky as a blanket. I think she’ll enjoy it! I do love weaving..it’s such a different stride from spinning and knitting. I just have to get over the whole warping thing..not my favorite part! But still..a fun project! Spin on!!

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First report from my “pay it forward” Etsy shop!

Hi everyone! Been a crazy month with work, travel, and flu..but good news to share! A month ago, I opened my Etsy shop, with a pledge that the profits would go to Awamaki a nonprofit that supports women in Peru. Because I use so many local or raw products, my material expense is pretty low. So…drumroll.. Based on October’s sales, I was able to donate $106 to Awamaki. Two items were sold–the “Outrageous Cowl” and my “Merino a Bobble Cowl.”

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I have a custom order in progress for November..and it’s so exciting to see this little dream come to life. The joy in all of this for me is the ability to create art from nature. Knowing that someone is wearing and enjoying it and that the proceeds are going to an organization that I truly believe in makes the whole thing come full circle.

Thanks everyone for the words of encouragement while I have been launching this! 🙂

In other bloggy news..I just signed up for an online class to learn new techniques for spinning art yarn. It starts in a week, and I can’t wait to get going on it! I promise to post progress pix..even the ones that are kinda crazy!

This is one of the first items to be sold for November, my Sea Glass Yarn, so I already know I’ll have an update for you at the end of the month!

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Priorities…what are your top five?

20131022-162233.jpgSometimes life can get crazy. Not just out of balance, but cuh-razy. Seems like everything hits at once. When I have those compact moments (like the past few weeks), I like to pull it all back and think through what matters the most, and then my craziness slows down.

For me, it looks like this:
1. Faith. I can’t imagine life without it, and starting my day with quiet time and prayer grounds me.
2. Family. Moments with family and friends are the things that make life real. And joyful. And sad. But oh, so….real.
3. Exercise. If I don’t take care of myself, how can I enjoy the rest of what life has to offer?
4. Art. For me, that’s knitting, spinning, weaving, creating. I come alive..or get introspective. Both are great.
5. Work. Yes..in my top five. But, it’s the last on the list, and that makes me happy. For years, it would have been #1 or 2.

Here’s the deal. Last weekend, my mom came to visit. She’s ill. Two kinds of cancer, and the liver one is untreatable. So I love the moments I get with her. We went to the beach and she took pix of the knitwear that’s on my etsy site.

We. Had. A. Blast. We laughed at the really bad pix, at the cold, and enjoyed the fall leaves. I’m no model, and she’s not a photographer. But somehow..it all came out good.

I’ll leave you with a few moments of fun…and I am off to my wheel.
Spin on!!

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Celebrate Life & Dare to Dream!

yarnTime to share a dream.  On the eve of my 45th birthday (halfway to 90!!), I am stepping out to do something that started as an idea almost 10 years ago.  I had just started spinning, and I knew down to my core that this was a form of art for me.  I would dream patterns, yarn colors and styles, and I taught myself how to weave, knit and clean/card my own wool so that I could create things that are as close to locally sourced as possible.

All the while, I was wondering that the true value of this is.  Yes, it brings me joy, and Yes, I love to give people things I have made.  But was there more?  I started reading about alpaca farmers in Peru, and local artisans around the world and I suddenly felt incredibly blessed to be able to create for the sake of art while others do this to survive.  So, I had this idea…

What if I created a business model that meant I would make what I wanted, sell it for the value it was worth as a handmade item, recover the costs for my supplies..and give the rest of the $$ to an organization that was helping other people around the world?  Honestly, my friends thought I was nuts…but I couldn’t shake the idea.  A few years later, I ran across Awamaki, an amazing cooperative for women in Peru that was started by an awesome woman who lives in the Seattle area.  The dots started to connect, but between work and family things, the time wasn’t right for me to dig in.

scarfI’ve decided the time is more than right, right now.  My new SeattleSpinner Etsy Shop opened tonight.  I’ll keep adding to it to my heart’s content, knowing that what I am making will serve two awesome purposes.  People can buy handmade items that also support local U.S. farms and know that the proceeds will go to benefit women in Peru.

So, that’s my birthday present to myself.  Dare to dream…and even more…dare to do it.

Spin on!

The Outrageous Cowl!

First..my day job (aka, how I support my fiber habits) has been sooooo busy! A good kinda busy, but whew. Need a break. I missed a few good blogging moments, but I am making up for it with this.

The Tale of the Outrageous Cowl.

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I still have a couple pounds of my lamb’s wool locks, and I learned early on that this fiber created a Very. Heavy. Yarn. A sweater or vest would have been like a suit of armor. So I started experimenting with tailspinning–the simplest form that I could imagine. Basically, I grabbed a handful of locks, fluffed with my fingers, and spun a single. The solid grey looked something like this:

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Then I spun a couple skeins with color:

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And decided I wanted a simple (in design) warm, statement piece that could double as a shrug or a cowl.

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Gotta admit, while I was knitting it I thought it might be a little much…but once I put it on I was hooked!!
Easy pattern. I will write it up and post it if anyone is interested!!
Spin on!

Why I love my Sidekick

Happy Friday! Wow. It’s been so busy of the past few weeks that I’ve hardly had time to post. That being said, I’ve been uber busy knitting during my car commutes and am almost done with a GORgeous cotton hoodie.

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But for now, this post has been on my mind for a little while. When I was looking for a smaller portable wheel, I didn’t see too much about the sidekick. There were a few good reviews, but now that I’ve had it for about a 18 months, I’m ready to lay it out.

First. I love it. I spin more than I did before because of how well it’s made and how easy it is to take places. I feel like I have had it long enough to give some decent feedback.

Size: Perfect. We live in a condo, so the larger wheel I had was really taking a lot of space. I can pick up the sidekick and sit anywhere without thinking about it. Balcony, bedroom, different spots in the living room..and when I don’t spin, it sits nicely against the wall. I’m also pretty tall, and I think the height for the orifice is great.

20130330-111729.jpgPortability. It rocks. I take my wheel all over the place. Usually by the beach, but I have taken it camping, visiting my mother (small apartment), on an airplane (fits in a 24″ samsonite), and to knitting meet-ups. The strap is a small bit of genius, IMHO. Pop the feet up, throw it over my shoulder, and I am out the door. I do break it down all the way for suitcase trips, and once you’ve done it once or twice, it’s really simple. Takes less than five minutes.

Upkeep. Very good. I haven’t had to replace any parts yet, but I have has two small issues. The first was totally my fault. I dropped the whorl on a hardwood floor and it broke. I emailed the company and they offered to send one out (I think it was about $24), but I glued it with wood glue and it’s stayed put–that was over a year ago. Can’t really even see the split. There’s also been a strange noise that I’ve never had on another wheel, but I finally figured that out too. It was making a piercing squeak….super loud, and I took it all apart and lubed, etc. I do travel a lot and process raw wool, so I figured it was gunked up. Well, what finally worked was to use the same degreaser I use on my bike and wipe it all clean. Then I re-lubricated it and the sound was gone.

Upgrades: I bought the bulky flyer and i love it. Art yarn is easy and the flyer rocks…it provides great versatility!

Parting shots? If you are looking for a durable, portable, smooth running wheel, the sidekick is well worth the money. You might not ever buy another wheel…

Spin on!

Sweater done! A few firsts for me..

Remember this?

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And I asked for advice on the sleeves, which was awesome! Based on combined feedback, I went for 3/4 length, and did one set of the lace, which made a nice touch but wasn’t too busy. So, here’s the finished piece:

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I love it. It fits beautifully, falls just below the waist, shaping where needed, and I do think it’s the perfect traditional sweat for late summer, early fall.

Here’s my firsts on this:
First full sweater of entirely handspun (weighs12 oz, which is also helpful info for the future)
First time spinning beads into yarn and using it in garment design.
First self designed pattern! (I know, it’s raglan, but still..gotta start somewhere!!)
First time asking for readers to help me sort though the last stages of design, so thank you!!!

Now we’re off for another camping weekend, and you know I’ll be wearing this in the chilly evenings! Here’s a pic from last week’s alpine backpacking trip:

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Happy Friday! Spin on!

Knitting and Yoga

What do knitting and yoga have in common besides tying oneself in a knot? Funny, I had that question and wondered if it was a unique thought (ha). I did a quick google search and found an interesting series of pages. What really fascinated me was that much of the conversation is about the relaxing and meditative quality of both…yet was drew me to the search is the physical biomechanics of knitting and spinning and how GOOD I feel when I counter those positions with yoga.

We do a lot of rounded-shoulder sitting both while knitting and spinning, and I’ve recently found myself trying to bring my upper body into a seated tadasana pose (basically better, more intentional posture) and it’s really helped me feel more comfortable at the wheel. Or..at the beach while knitting, which as you know, I tend to do quite a bit.

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I think it’s really important that we counterbalance these long seated postures with a little grace and spinal stretches. To me, it feel like the best of both worlds. One of my favorite sources for very good quality audio yoga classes is Yoga Download. (This is my own personal recommendation–no bennies to me for giving them a shout out.) But here’s the deal. They have tons of free 20 minute classes that are just perfect for a quick loosener or stretch. The paid classes are longer, but I have done both and find them to be very high quality.

So, Hubs and I are off for another backpacking adventure this weekend. A few nights in the middle of the mountains at an alpine lake with no reception (eek). Lots of hiking, fishing, reading, knitting, and yoga (also feels really great after a night of sleeping on the ground) in my future. I hope to come back with some great pics and maybe a project update!

Have a great weekend everyone and spin on!!