The Years of Lightening Up

Some of you will remember that my mother died just over two years ago, and that has prompted a huge evaluation of my life and honoring of my own mortality. If I have (with luck) a third of my life left to go, what am I doing with that precious time???

I am grateful that I no longer have to go to a job – retirement is sweet, indeed. And leaves me full luminous days for my own passions. Three times, now, since my mother died, I have walked through Inanna’s Descent and each time I have been transformed. “Lighten Up” has been a repeated theme – possessions, activities, attitudes, relationships, and this year literal physical changes. My aging body no longer tolerates lactose, cruciferous vegetables, and more (I’m still figuring some of that out). As a result of having to change what I eat, I’ve lost several pounds without effort. I’m also very ready to alleviate the load on my back and shoulders by having breast reduction surgery – scheduled for June. And out of sheer vanity I’m having brachioplasty at the same time – no more bat wings.

Collage PapersPart of lightening up in attitude is taking a more playful approach to, well, as many things as I can. And allowing myself No Excuses for procrastination, especially towards my creative processes. I’m learning new skills and having fun. I’ve been trying my hand at Art Journaling, which includes glue and watercolors and no rules, just a box to play in. As a 60+ student at U of SC I’m taking Color and Composition this term, and I have gained a whole new comfort level with acrylic paint, use of color, and mixing my own colors. Last weekend, I saw an ad for a mixed-media collage class to make Tiny Tattered Houses with Jennifer Chamberlin at The Maker Beehive, signed up, and really enjoyed it. Today’s pictures are of some of the collage papers I made for that. Now that I’m vaccinated (2nd shot next Wed) I’m taking three different classes at John C Campbell Folk School later this year.

Collage Papers And I have no idea how to wrap this up. It is not the post that I intended to write, but it’s the one that happened. I’m just going to stop and let this be.

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Spinning Samples

One of the challenges in spinning for a specific project is getting the yarn I want. Part of this is getting the correct diameter in a consistent way from start to finish, so that my final plied yarn comes out the way I need for it to. The way to get that consistent diameter is having a sample to compare against as I go.

I’m getting ready to start a new secret project for my fiber guild and for that I needed to create a guide sample for the spinning part of it. Since I was in sample mode, I decided to go ahead and create three samples for this specific fiber, which is a yummy Polwarth/Silk blend from Essential Fiber. I buy from her regularly, and having these samples will make my life easier in the future.

Disclaimer: there are a number of different charts out there describing the WPI for various yarn weights. I use this one: Purl Two Together Yarn Weight Chart.

The first sample is for fingering weight yarn, which came out about 16.5 WPI (wraps per inch). This is on the light side for fingering, but lets me know I can have some leeway in going slightly thicker if I want and still end up with fingering yarn.

The second sample is for sport weight yarn, at 13 WPI. Sport yarn is typically 12-13 WPI, so this is right on the money.

The third sample is for DK weight yarn, and also came out perfect at 11 WPI.

For record-keeping purposes, I created cards with the fiber information, WPI, weight & length of the plied sample, and my version of grist: grams per yard. I taped each sample to its corresponding card so they stay together.

So I’m all set now for this secret project as well as all my future projects with this fiber blend from this dyer.

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Creative Play for the New Year

Paper cloth project-in-progress

Color and texture are my primary loves in all my creative endeavors. So I was completely captivated a while back when I ran across a little book called Stitch Alchemy: Combining Fabric + Paper for Mixed Media Arts by Kelli Perkins.

I’m not really much for sewing, but there are many other galvanizing techniques in here that are really inspiring. So over the last couple of weeks I’ve cut muslin, made the glue mix, and started slathering things together. Adding further fun, my Cayce Arts Guild buddy Renea Eshleman introduced me to gel printing…so some of my paper cloth includes prints that I made while volunteering at the CAG Holiday Market. I have incorporated spinning fibers in another.

The work-in-progess in today’s photo is plain white tissue paper glued to undyed muslin, then gel printed on my new very own gel print plate with teal, daffodil yellow, and copper acrylic paints, then stamped with several designs, then today sponged with dark blue acrylic paint mixed with glazing medium for that translucent effect. There will be more layers to come!

The cool thing about paper cloth is that it’s quite sturdy, and suitable for many purposes (book arts, art quilts, jewelry, cards, bookmarks, etc.). I’m already planning jewelry projects that use it, so you will see more about this over the coming months.

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Wow. 2020.

Copper and Glass Earrings

It’s been quite the year, hasn’t it? I realize that I’m seriously behind here so this will be a catch-up post. And I promise I’ll do better in the future.

I already posted about the Quarantine Lace Shawl – I haven’t finished it but I’m still working on it. A couple of rows a day is about my limit because it is so very demanding.

I’ve been spinning a LOT since I’m home pretty much all the time. My favorite dyer, Nancy at Chasing Rainbows Dyeworks, retired this year. Good for her, bad for me. I bought out all of her remaining inventory, including random stuff she found as she was winding everything down. Today’s fiber photos are of what I’ve spun during this quarantine from that incredible stash. Plus the two knitted things I’ve completed so far out of that spinning.

Quarantine Spinning

I’m still taking classes at USC here in Columbia, all online of course. I took Fundamentals of Art in summer school, and English 102 Rhetoric and Composition this fall. I really enjoyed both. In the English class, we took a topic for research, crafted an argumentative essay, and then made that into a multimodal public turn. My topic was using Tarot as a tool for gaining personal insight. If you are interested in seeing my public turn, it’s at

I am a member of the Cayce Arts Guild, and I have a number of items in our Holiday Market that’s going on right now (until the weekend before Christmas). It’s been a long time since I took part in a show, and it feels good. In addition to my usual silver chains, I have fun copper and glass earrings and pendants for sale.


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What Knitting Lace is Teaching Me

I decided last week to knit a lace shawl. Because, you know, quarantine!

Here are the things I’m learning in the process:

1) I must not wait until the end of an entire repeat to count my stitches. Having to go back more than about 10 or 12 stitches to fix an error is just asking for trouble.

2) I am allowed to put stitch markers wherever I like instead of (only) between each pattern repeat.

3) Yarn-overs were invented by a trickster god who laughs hysterically every time a knitter misses one or drops one by accident.

4) “Total focus” is just the starting point for the level of concentration required for success in this endeavor.

5) At the rate I’m progressing, we will be past the third or fourth wave of the pandemic by the time I’m done. But it will be lovely.

Until next time!

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The Class Project

I’m a student now at the University of South Carolina, because I’m retired and have time AND, more importantly, people 60+ can take classes for no tuition.

Last term I took a 3-D Design class, which was fun because we made different kinds of sculptures (wire, wood, and mixed media). This term I’m taking Jewelry Making. You might be asking yourself why I would do that? The truth is there are always new things to learn.

There are all levels of students in this class. We more advanced students were given the first assignment of finding someone who inspires us, and choosing a project based on that inspiration that uses skills we already possess. This served several purposes, I think. The professor gets a feel for what each of us can already do and it got us into the mode of looking around for inspiration and making that idea our own. And provided the opportunity to fumble around in the studio there and figure out where everything is. Which is like cooking in someone else’s kitchen – you KNOW whatever it is you’re looking for has got to be there, but where?????

The artist that I chose as my inspiration was Maggie Joynt. Her work is amazing – here is a link to her Flikr account. I used etched brass, sterling silver, and copper wire to make my pendant. The stone is astrophyllite, which really complements the colors of the metals. Techniques: fabrication, etching, and patina. The chain in the photo is one that I had already made.

Astrophyllite, Sterling Silver, and Brass Pendant

Astrophyllite, Sterling Silver, and Brass Pendant

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Spinning the First SAFF Batt

It’s always such an adventure to spin a new batt. The very nature of batt creation means each one will be unique. In my last post, I mentioned the batts I got at SAFF this year.

The first one I decided to spin was one of the ones from River’s Edge Fiber Arts. The colorway was named “Maple Leaf”, and I loved the rich, muted colors the minute I laid eyes on it. It’s a blend of 70% merino and 30% mulberry silk noils. Noils are little nubby things that give yarn a wonderful texture.

I spun a little sample first, and found that the ply ration needed to be higher than I thought. So I spun the rest with an 8-1 ratio and plied it (2-ply) with 9-1 and that was perfect. I’m delighted with the way it came out!

Merino/Silk Noil handspun yarn

Merino/Silk Noil handspun yarn

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This Year’s SAFF Loot – Spinning Fiber

As I’ve mentioned in the past, SAFF (the Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair) is hands-down my favorite place to buy fiber for spinning. The choices! The colors! And at that show, my favorite fiber vendor is the Trading Post for Fiber Arts. So imagine my disappointment at their absence this year. I really missed the jaw-dropping pleasure I’ve experienced in their booth in the past.

However, that meant I had more money for other folks. In particular, I indulged at River’s Edge Fiber Arts and Apothefaery Luxury Fibers. For whatever reason, I was drawn to batts more than roving.

Click the thumbnails below to see the large images.

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Another State Fair Winner

I entered just one skein of handspun yarn in this year’s SC State Fair back in October. Yes, it’s December now, so I’m a little late with this post.

It was a fractal spin of 100% bombyx silk, dyed by Chasing Rainbows Dyeworks. I did it as a two-ply, with a 1-6 split. That means I split the braid in half long-ways, then split one of those halves long-ways again into 6 long narrow strips. I spun the “whole” half all in one go, then the 6 long strips end-to-end. So I had two bobbins, one with long color changes and the other with quick color changes. Those got plied together.

This type of silk fiber looks best to me as a consistent yarn, and I’m happy to say it came out well in that regard. And I won first place with it!

I had 4 skeins of this fiber in the Nosegay colorway, and I spun them all the same way (more or less). A couple of lovely things will result when I get around to knitting them up.

Bombyx Silk, "Nosegay" Fractal Handspun

Bombyx Silk, “Nosegay” Fractal Handspun

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Silk Hankies – Working Smarter, Not Harder

Back in 2015, when I was a new spinner, I tackled some beautiful silk hankies. They are nothing like “regular” fiber.

The basic technique is to peel off one (very) thin hanky, poke a hole in the middle, and draft it out however much you want prior to spinning. The less you draft them ahead of time, the more you must do when actually spinning. The fibers are very long and it is a challenge to draft them at all while spinning. It actually hurts your hands because silk is a very tough fiber.

Forward to the present. I want to knit a shawl using the hanky yarn I spun way back then, BUT I also want to include some undyed hanky silk (which is pearlescent white) with the purple/gold/blue that I have from before. That means hanky spinning!

Luckily, I know more now than I did then. I very quickly realized that this is a time when I want to pre-draft the fiber out COMPLETELY before spinning. That way I have more control over the drafting process, and no damage to my hands while spinning. The spinning process in this case is actually more like plying, because I am just making sure there’s enough twist as I put it through. I’m spinning it on 12:1 and feeding about an inch with each treadle.

I’m really happy with the results.

Undyed Hanky Silk

Undyed Hanky Silk

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