Tuesday, November 9, 2010


One of my goals this year was to give myself playtime. Not with any particular project in mind, just time to experiment with new (and old) techniques and materials. There doesn’t have to be a perfect piece, no oohs and ahs expected; just what-ifs.  I have more than enough books and materials for inspiration (because when you don’t have time to make things the solution is clearly to buy books and materials for “eventually”!).  
I’ve done a few things, but to force myself to make time, I signed up for an online class. The Ratty Tatty Papers is offered by a Dale Rollerson in Australia and is taken by people all over the world. We are communicating through a Yahoo group.  Check out  for more information. Lessons come out every couple of weeks for the next few months.  Here are the first of my trial and error efforts:

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Home again after Rhinebeck and SAFF

It’s taken me a week to catch my breath after doing back to back shows at opposite ends of the country.  Okay, maybe Diane and I had a playdate or two, but we’ll get back to that. 
Rhinebeck was lovely.  We enjoyed the beautiful fall season in the Hudson Valley and had a wonderful show. Diane had time to take one (and only one) picture of our booth (right).

On the way out of town on Monday, we stopped for New York apples (for me, the comfort food of childhood) and a pumpkin.  I still have the Mitsu apples; they are waiting to be made into a pie.  Which, in turn, is waiting for my kitchen renovation to be completed!

The one negative from the show is that theft from booths seems to be on the rise. The odd skein has occasionally gone missing, but lately more of us are having big ticket items taken – drum carders, finished work and samples.  I promise not to rant (well ,not too much) but I am posting a picture of a sample necklace that was taken from our booth at Rhinebeck two weeks ago.  Each of our necklace kits are unique, you’ll never see the same combination of yarns and beads.  So if you see this sample……… well enough said.
In brighter news, SAFF followed close on the heels of Rhineback, so with a brief stop home to restock (and remind our husbands who their wives are) we were off to Asheville, NC!  Diane and I love this show; its Maryland Sheep and Wool at a slower pace. There’s plenty of time to visit with friends, see other booths (i.e. shop!) and still manage our own booth.

We’ve never had so many people bring their projects for us to see! Here are a couple finished shawls. 
It’s always wonderful to see finished pieces and how happy customers are sashaying about in their handiwork! 

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Pattern for Knitted Rayon/Flax Placemats


I often use a rayon/flax yarn to weave household items – hand towels, placemats, table runners etc. So why not make a knitted version (and I needed a mindless take-along project)!

Size:  You could compare placemat sizes from the various commercial outlets or….look for these two reference books:

Placemats seem to come in two sizes:  12” x18” or 14” x 20”. Mine is 14” x 18”. 

Pattern for Knitted Basketweave Placemeats

Gauge: 6 st/inch, doubled on a US 3
Pattern Stitch: 3 stitch garter edge with a basketweave body
Row 1: k3, *p6, k6* repeat 6 times,(9 stitches remain) p6,k3
Row 2: k3, *k6, p6* repeat 6 times, (9 stitches remain) k9
Rows 3-8: *Row1, Row2* repeat 3 times
Rows 9-16 *Row2, Row1* repeat 4 times

CO 84
Knit 3 or 4 rows of garter stitch
Work in pattern to just shy of 18” 
Knit 3 or 4 rows of garter stitch

Wash in cold water, dry flat and block.

To put it mildly, I’m not a great sampler, some would say just too impatient. So my compromise is to try yarns and structures out as placements and towels. Functional even when not quite perfect. Now that I know what the hand of this yarn is doubled, I’d like to try a top. Check back to see how it goes!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fall JOY

Finger Lakes Fiber Festival 
Just back from Hemlock, NY. Diane and I always enjoy these small fiber festivals. The pace is relaxed and we see many old friends. I spent high school and some of my college years in the Finger Lakes region and fall is my favorite season. Nothing like a New York apple!

It’s rained a bit every year we’ve done this show, and this year was no exception. Mother Nature flexed her muscles and rained for set-up and through the night.  But the sun shone bright during the show on Saturday and Sunday.  
Studio spruce-up
My husband says our whole house is my studio (I admit, things do migrate from room to room) and Diane’s describes his “castle” as a factory.   I’ll never get the Good Housekeeping seal of approval (ah well….) but even I have my limits.  This weekend I tackled the room where we dye and I reskein yarn.  

I’ve covered the entire floor in the rubber mats we use in the booth. It helps when you’re standing on hard concrete all day, is easy to clean and a single tile can be replaced when it gets too grubby. My husband even commented on how good it felt underfoot. His enthusiasm waned, however, as the afternoon wore on and we were still moving furniture.  (Used a few marital points there.) Whenever I clean one room it seems to have a ripple effect in the others; so for now, I have a picture-perfect work area… 
…Until I sit down and do some work, anyway.  

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Ode to Test Knitters

When Diane and I first started Just Our Yarn, we made all the samples ourselves.  In no time at all, we realized that was not going to be practical.  Enter the test knitters!  In addition to creating the gorgeous samples you get to see and touch, test knitters also give us feedback on the patterns and instructions.  While getting 300 pounds of yarn in the mail can be exciting, I love the gratification of getting samples back, so I thought I’d share what was in the latest packages:

Flared Smoke Ring Cowl in Mira

Mira is a luscious cashmere lurex we decided to try. We don’t have hundreds of pounds of it so you won’t find it on the website. Check out the show schedule for where to get an up close and personal experience with this yarn.

Pearls of Wisdom in angora/wool (LE15)

LE means it’s a limited edition yarn, in other words we liked it, bought it and can’t get it again. 

Lily Shawl in Myne

This shawl continues to be a favorite and we’ve had it knit again in another colorway. The cashmere feels wonderfully decadent and the beads add just a bit of glitz.

Wonder what next week’s mail will bring…..........

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Summer and more.........

1. Convergence

Back from Convergence! We had a wonderful time and came home with many textile treasures.  Check out the book "Imprints on Cloth" by Sadae and Tomoko Torimaru for how these skirts are made. The indigo and white one is for my daughter for Christmas (brownie points to me for getting a head start there!).

The September/October issue of Handwoven just arrived on my doorstep and I’m excited to see 2 projects in it using our yarn! Giovanna Imperia used our 30/2 Tencel in her scarf in combination with her yarns. So now to get a warp on my loom and try out those many yarns I’ve bought from her!  I picked up some more at the show to add to my growing stash (see photo).

The second piece is a double weave scarf by Rebecca Fox, a member of the Blue Ridge Spinning and Weaving Guild. The Guild has graciously been a guinea pig for our workshops. Rebecca did a terrific job – Congrats!

2. Colors of the Blue Ridge

As Robert Cratchett said, “I am behind my time…”.  The kits for Rebecca’s scarf in Handwoven should have been put together by now and on the web!  Alas, I am still working on that one.

Perhaps cloning is a solution? I’d certainly like Cathie 2.0 to help reskein and package kits (I’ll keep the dyeing duties, thanks).  Also, if she could have some skills I don’t?  Say, accounting and computer know-how.......  That’s not too much to ask, right?

3. Kumihimo

Diane volunteered me to give the fiber group presentation in December – and chose my topic!  What are friends for?  The fiber group is a group of women who bead, weave, spin, knit, braid… in other words a little bit of everything.  Diane chose jewelry techniques. She generously told me I could interpret that as I wanted!

So now samples and maybe a short hands on……. Kumihimo jewelry? Findings? Here are a couple of pictures of projects I’ve been playing with –

We won’t mention how long these beads have been demanding my attention. The ends of the braid on the top will be beaded – so far I’ve unbeaded more than I’ve beaded. But the up side is that I’ve learned lots of new techniques.

4. Travel Broadens the Mind

At least that’s when Diane and I do our most creative thinking!  On the way back from Convergence we came up with the idea of having a show featuring projects made from Just Our Yarn yarns. Now we need to nail down some of the specifics and here’s where you all can help. We’ve never done anything like this and any suggestions from those of you with experience would be greatly appreciated - submit your thoughts here.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

After finding this “neck-piece”, called Sev[en]circle, I was compelled to knit up my own.  The pattern can be found for free on Ravelry.  

As is the same with anyone who knits or weaves, I have a lot of leftover bits.  This seemed like a fun way to use some of them up.  As a great bonus, it knits up quickly: perfect for presents!  

The first time through, I pretty much followed the pattern, using Aziza (5/2 tencel) and our limited edition Rayon Seed, to make Scarf 2.  I like the finished product, but it is heavier than I had imagined.  Here are two pictures of this first scarf.  The first (left) is just the scarf, and in the second (right) I added a pin to the section where all the circles come together (moving it away from the back of the neck).  Personally, I prefer the scarf with the pin, I think without it the piece is a little dull, and the weight of the strands support the pin nicely.  

Sticking to a pattern is not my strong point, however, and soon I was changing it to suit my own purposes.  The second time through I swapped the Aziza for something lighter, our 10/2 tencel, Almaza.  This second scarf is a work in progress, seen below, and I think I may stop after only a few circle strands.  
My daughter seems pleased with the results of the first scarf, as she is wearing it around the house already.  As for me, I’m looking at the patch of stockinette at the connection of the strands on the second scarf and thinking of using this yarn combination for another project.  


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Bateman Weaves

It goes without saying that I don’t weave as much as I’d like... but once a year Diane and I set aside a weekend to do just that.

In 2008, we went up to The Mannings and began to delve into the Bateman Weave books with Tom Knisley. A weaver’s dream – looms warped for you, a clear and concise explanation of how the drafts came about, and weaving to the wee hours. Many of you saw our samples at Convergence in Tampa that year, and Diane even used one as her contribution to Fine Threads Study Group.

This year we returned, hopefully starting a new and refreshing tradition, getting the chance to play with Park, Boulevard, Chevron, and Combination weaves. It was relaxing to get away from the pile-up of boxes in my living room as we wait for our kitchen renovation to get started back home.

I’m working on my notes now and hope to have the samples hemmed in time for Convergence in July. Here are a couple quick pics:

Both of these are of Boulevard weaves, from Bateman. The piece in the first picture uses one color of Almaza (10/2 tencel) for the warp and the tabby with Myne (lace-weight cashmere) for the pattern. The second piece has, again, an Almaza warp, this time with the tabby in Mira (cashmere lurex) and the pattern in a second color of Almaza.

Now that we’ve had a great overview of all these different drafts, we’re looking forward to returning and getting a more in-depth look at some of the weaves. Maybe one book at a time from now on!


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Quality Time with my Loom

Diane and I put into practice those time optimization skills we've been talking about and finished dyeing a day early. We decided that was a sign to weave the next day.

Still on my loom was fabric for placemats that were to be 2009 Christmas presents! I’ve woven them off and they may make it under the tree this year.

The draft is from Weaving Designs by Bertha Gray Hayes, a book put together by the Weaver’s Guild of Rhode Island. It’s Meigs Mountain in Crackle Weave on page 188. They are selling the book and we still have signed copies for anyone who’s interested.

We've also done samples from this book with our lucious new cashmere yarns!  Come check them out at out booth at Maryland Sheep and Wool (MAIN EXHIBITION HALL:B6)!

The next one was another stash buster. The warp is cottolin, the pattern yarn is a Noro paper yarn from eons ago, and the tabby is black cotton.  I wove until there wasn’t any weft left. There was however more warp – so maybe napkins too? I switched to a cottolin tabby and used Almaza for the pattern weft.

What to put on the loom next…..


Friday, April 23, 2010

New Yarns, New Books

I love books. I come by this naturally, both my parents loved books, and in turn I have tried to instill this love in my kids. The first year my son was in college we went to see him. The first place on his tour was the used book store in the next town over. I had to buy another suitcase to bring my books back.

One of those was a French book on passementerie – just picture after picture…. This sparked ambitious ideas of weaving my own and using kumihimo cords. No actual weaving done yet, but I just bought Robyn Spady’s book, Handwoven Decorative Trim: an introduction to weaving passementerie trims and am re-inspired.

Another recent purchase is Ori Ami Knits (  One of the first projects is a block necklace – perfect for those thrums of mine. Here are 3 versions I played with –

2 are knit and 1 crocheted. I didn’t stuff them but worked around a wooden block. They are light enough to be a necklace, but I think they’re destine to be Christmas tree ornaments.

Next I turned to the Japonica Cravat –

I’m using our Atiya (20/2 weight Tencel) and a silk/stainless.  Usually I knit everything with circular needles, but this time straight needles held the stitch shape better. The ruffles were knit on 13” SPs and the I-cord was done on DPs. The left tie still to do but I’m almost finished! It should be done by the time we leave for CNCH, so look for it there and at Stitches South.

Next I want to try the pattern with our new cashmere and the stainless steel.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Spring Inspirations

The weather has been beautiful and I couldn’t stand working in the basement any longer!

My husband and I went up to see the Cezanne exhibit at the Baltimore Museum of Art . There were works by Cezanne and those he influences. This picture by Oscar Bluemner sparked all sorts of possibilities for patchwork and surface design.  So too this Andrew Dasbury – I’d like to try tearing magazine pages…….

Then off to the Baltimore Arboretum. We had a few very warm days here and the spring blooms are well underway. Lots of wildflowers are out. Beautiful Virginia Bluebells. I’ve tried them my yard to no avail. And these wonderful mushrooms….
Monday…and back to work. This weekend is Stitches South in Atlanta. So here’s the start to our pack-out. Doesn’t look like much….well, that’s because we shipped the rest directly to Atlanta from the weaving show in Santa Clara last week. Sort of a dual pack out, with Maryland Sheep and Wool right afterwards.

The new patterns and samples are ready for prime time. Some luscious cashmeres. Still can’t decide what to do with the ball I’m coveting.

I was going to take pictures of the new samples, but I was too slow they’re packed already.

If you’re at either show please stop by and say hi.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Dye Days and New Yarns

Diane and I were dyeing some new yarns Thursday. They are all lace weight and suitable for weaving or knitting. There’s a 100% cashmere, a cashmere/silk and a cashmere/lurex.  All yummy, if I do say so myself.

Karen Raz has designed a shrug in the cashmere/silk . Here’s a close-up of the pattern –

And we have knit our rectangular Lily shawl in the cashmere/lurex –

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Time and Books

Time…something all of us could use more of. As organization experts tell it, it’s just a matter of structuring your life, making full use of the time you have. Sorry, that’s just not true. You can’t say to yourself, “Ok, I have 20 minutes, go be creative”.  It takes 20 minutes to pull out the materials, never mind putting them away (remember that’s essential to this organizing bit). Then there’s the theory of ….. well, you get the idea.

So not having time, I buy books and materials. I get all excited about these new ideas, making notes in the margins and filling sketchbooks. Then I have to share these discoveries, so Diane is inspired to buy books and materials. What are friends for….. and we’re doing our part to boost the economy.

I’ve tried making rules – for every book that comes into the house I have to make something  using one idea I’ve gotten before I can buy another book. Truth be told, that’s not working so well. There’s so much tantalizing stuff out there – hardcopy books, digital books, online newsletters – and so many techniques I dabble in. No, narrowing my focus is probably not in the cards.

So I have a new goal – to finish up the Just Our Yarn work early enough in the afternoon that I have a couple of hours to play before I have to get dinner together. My goal is twice a week. Seems modest enough.

Here’s my first effort-

Book: Contrasting Elements, by Jae Maries (  The book is a series of exercises to spark creativity. You could begin with any chapter,  I started with  Chapter 1 Energy and Tranquility.

Materials: Only from my stash, no shopping trips. Complementary colors – a navy blue square that had been sun printed and a leftover orange oriental print – for the energy. For tranquility a hand-dyed piece of earthy red/brown with navy specks.

Using a rotary cutter, I randomly cut the complementary colored fabrics into triangular shapes and appliqu├ęd them to the background. This sat around for a few days before it talked to me again.

I had squirreled away transparent leaves, interesting but not sure how to anchor them down. Tried fusing them under chiffon – didn’t stand out enough. Tried a few other things and settled on Wonder-Under. Ok but stiff. As a wall piece this won’t matter and I’ll be quilting over them.

In the meantime….I bought some wonderful woodblock stamps. So much for not shopping. ( To shorten the clean up time, I covered the background stamp with plastic wrap and used textile paints. Not as clear a print but that worked for the background.

I tried it with some leftover dye thicken with print paste – interesting texture from the plastic wrap. Sorry, no pictures. The effect was subtle and my photographic skills are minimal at best.

I’ve pinned the quilt together (that would be the yellow dots in the picture) , but again time…..


Friday, April 2, 2010

2010 Playtime

I have lots and lots of thrums around. Some are just short ends from the reskeining, others are loom waste, and still more are substantial balls of weft leftovers. Diane’s birthday is coming up and I decided take the day off and play.

Short on time, it helped to set myself some “rules” (of course rules can be broken…..).
- Materials had to be from stash;
- Use up thrums;
- Use up some of the old buttons hanging around;
- Learn some new techniques;
- Try out come of those things I’ve been buying.

The background is loom waste couched onto 100gm Lutradur. Add some fusible Angelina fibers that have been lurking around for longer than I care to admit… those were ironed together in a wispy piece for the white area.

Then … a little time getting to know the sewing machine again; playing with the built-in embroidery stitches.

On to the drawer with ends from kumihimo braids….nothing quite right. Not to worry, I have numerous small balls of weft leftovers in almost every color. 5 or 6 braids later I had the right combination. Do I get stash reduction point for those 4 or 5 extra braids I made? Movement in the right direction anyway.

Diane, being the good friend she is, has introduced me to yet another crafty endeavor….beading. The button was glued to the background then beaded around. Beads also outline the braid and are scattered on the surface.

Finally the backing and a button loop…. Now my husband always asks “And what is it? What will you do with it?” Well, it’s not really anything, but I had a good time and Diane will find my efforts amusing. To my practical husband, I explained you could put a hook through the button loop and hang it as wall or Christmas tree ornament. Knowing my addiction to Christmas tree ornaments, that seemed to satisfy him.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

As many of you know, Cathie, the speed knitter, calls me the glacial knitter. I prefer to say I enjoy each and every stitch! She was quite surprised when I finished the new samples of Betsy Hershberg’s exclusive design for us (yes that was a shameless plug - kits for the beaded, knitted necklaces will be available at our booth at the Conference for Northern California Handweavers) . It’s such a fun necklace to knit and they knit up quickly even for me. Imagine her surprise when I showed her the second one…

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Guess what we did this week? We dyed 150 lbs of Almaza. As you can see, Cathie and I have a great time in the dye room and get as much color on us as we do the yarn. Nothing is safe from our color. We have it on walls, floors and just about any space that is within the reach of a flying dye drop. But we have FUN and that’s what it’s all about!

Watch for new colors at our next show - the Conference of Northern California Handweavers!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

We’re snowed in and I’m scavenging in boxes that haven’t seen the light of day in a long time. I found some cards I ordered eons ago with a window cut out for fabric swatches, some silk paper and small amounts of wool roving.

I cut the “thread paper” I made yesterday to fit the front of the card and cut the window larger to take advantage of the thread paper’s lacy appearance. The paper was sewed to the card using those fancy embroidery stitches my sewing machine came with and I rarely use.

Then…..a chance to play with the needle felting machine I got 2 Convergences ago (looks like a sewing machine but is fitted with felting needles). The purple hearts are needle felted onto the thread paper. I worked the fiber from the front, then turned it over and worked from the back. Needle marks showed after I finished working the front. Turning the piece over and working from the back seemed to bring up the loft again and camouflage the needle marks.

The last thing was to do some free machine work and add a little text. This will, no doubt, elicit comments that the machine work is better than my normal script.

One down, two to go…….


Friday, February 5, 2010

I’ve been reskeining yarn madly for both Madrona and Stitches West. After tying off the skeins I have lots of thrums. The piles of threads around my feet are interesting color combinations …. So I’m experimenting with glueing them into sheets.

To make silk paper you layout the fibers and glue them together with textile medium. So how about using the same technique but replacing the fibers with thrums.I cut a piece of window screen twice the size I wanted and laid the threads out on half of it.

The other half of the screen is then folded over the threads. Using a brush, I wetted out the threads and then coated it with undiluted textile medium. The thread and screen sandwich hung to dry over.

Here’s another colorway I did….

The fibers are stiff and you can see through the “paper”. … I’ll probably try to cut a shape and stitch over it somehow.
Come to think about it… We’re expecting massive amounts of snow here today and tomorrow. Maybe I can work this into a Valentine’s card for my husband and leave it for him before I fly out Tues….. I’ve had no luck finding a card.

Monday, January 18, 2010

I need to reskein our Tencel yarns, but I have workmen in redoing the bathrooms and they’re in my way. So…Maggie and I are off to the art store again. I bought a book on jump starting your creativity - The Creative Edge by Mary Todd Beam ( . We used clear adhesive backed shelf liner as a resist over the initial charcoal lines, liquid acrylics and various gels and gessos.

The photos are of Maggie’s work. I have to admit she was much more successful. I’d like to try the exercise again with batik in mind.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

January 16, 2010

Still on the Hawaii theme.

Diane and I have been dyeing our Limited Editions yarns for this year. So I need to attend to the rinsing. What to do while I wait for the washer to fill…. A la Matisse, I got out the grey scale paper and scissors.

Not sure where these are going but it’s fun and we have hundreds of pictures from the various botanical gardens for inspiration.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

As soon as I packed up from the last show my husband and I were off to Hawaii. We had a relaxing 2 weeks on Maui and the Big Island. Three things will stand out in my memory – whales, volcanoes and botanical gardens. The whales came early this year and we had ample opportunity to watch them.

We took a sunrise boat trip to see lava flowing into the sea. I didn’t think I got seasick, but it was still a good thing I didn’t have breakfast and the seas were “calm”. I’m no James Wong Howe, but I did manage to operate my new camera in movie mode. Clear stills were a problem with the rolling seas (and finding those camera settings in the dark), but the colors were interesting.

The most recent issue of Maggie Grey’s Workshop on the Web ( has an article on cropping photos for a mixed media piece. Our anniversary was coming up and I thought the volcano pictures might work into a wall piece. Found the perfect red silk for the background. Then I remembered a book I bought called Hot Textiles ( and thought I might try burning Lutradur. This took more experimenting than I had time in the 2 days before our anniversary. It moved to the “to be completed” pile and I moved on to plan B.

I could still experiment with stitching the photos, just on a smaller scale – postcards. The cards are a sandwich of Lutradur, felt and hand-dyed cotton)

The background on both cards is a picture my husband took printed on Lutradur (first coated with digital ground). The flower is free machine embroidered based on a photo of his too. I found some great water-soluable stabilizer that could be printed on unfortunately the printed Lutradur background didn’t take well to getting wet. So I resorted to freehanding a design and embroidering that. Fortunately simple shapes. The Pacific Tsunami Museum logo and the art print were printed on photos paper and stitched down. I have a few more ideas but time is running out…..

My daughter, Maggie, came home from college and we were going to take a class together. Instead we had a grand time in the paper store and brought home all the stuff to make boxes. …And the fabric postcards fit perfectly in the one I did.