Monday, May 13, 2013

Carding, Crocheting, Lasting Shoes, and Sun bonnet Sewing

 A few of the things I have been doing lately:

Drum carding.  I call this particular blend the "how the leopard got his spots" blend.  It is two different types of wool.  The pale, grey longer wool and the dark brown, short & curly wool.  The goal with this blend was to get spots of color in the final yarn.  I made a sandwich with the grey wool as top and bottom layers and placed the bits of dark brown wool directly onto the large drum of the carder.  The top layer of grey was added via the licker-in drum and a streaky batt  was the result.  The yarn spun up nicely.  I am always amazed at how quickly I can spin two ounces of worsted weight yarn compared to the time it takes to spin two ounces of lace weight yarn!

Spots of brown on the bottom layer of grey wool
Top layer of grey shows some brown streaks,
Two ply yarn from the grey & dark brown wool sandwich.

Crochet Motifs.  I picked up a book by Edie Eckman  called Beyond the Square Crochet Motifs.  I've been using my stash of handspun sample yarns and trying out different motifs.  This is #99.  My first sample of this motif was crocheted in a multicolored yarn.  It's on the bottom in the photo.  It's cute, but it didn't make my socks go up and down (That phrase comes from one of my husband's programming professors at Purdue.  Apparently he would say, "If that doesn't make your socks go up and down..." referring to a particularly wonderful bit of coding.)  At any rate, I pulled some other yarns from my stash and before I knew it, I had four cute little flower motifs with grey centers.  Then I got to thinking that a dark accent at the center would look even better, so I made a few more!  Here they are put together into a headband with a dark, knit underlayer.

 Shoe lasts.  Some of you may remember that I have dabbled in making shoes.  I discovered that making shoes takes work and practice...and there are lots of things I have yet to learn in order to make good shoes! One of the helpful things for making good shoes is a pair of lasts or shoe forms.  I don't have any.  However, today I took a step towards making my own.  I placed a light weight plastic bag from my groceries into an old tennis shoe (it was laced at the time) and poured plaster of pairs into the bag.  After an hour or so, the plaster had set enough to remove it from the shoe.  Voila!  An attempt at a home-made shoe last.  Now to make some more shoes and test it!

Sun bonnets.  I was able to volunteer on the grounds at Conner Prairie recently and got to dress in costume.  From my corded petticoat to my bonnet I was costumed like I was from the 1830's.  It was fun!  I came home and discovered that my oldest daughter had been working on a sun bonnet with the girls at church that were preparing for a pioneer trek journey.  Only the sun bonnet was tiny.  It's little brim would have left my girl's face burnt to a crisp.  So, I went looking for a better pattern.  And found this one at a Mormon Pioneer Trek site (  The pattern is simple--it's just a rectangle with  one end trimmed to a curve.  The curved edge covers the back of the neck.  The rectangular edge gets stiffened with slats.  Add a set of ties to  the back to keep the neck cover from flapping and a set of ties on the inside to keep the bonnet on the head and it's done!  I must admit that I cheated and used modern materials for my slats.  The pattern calls for cardboard or wood slats.  I had neither.  Instead I used some needlepoint plastic that has been hanging around the house for years!  Hooray!  I didn't have to buy anything new, I used something that I had on hand, and I won't have to worry about ruining my bonnet in the rain!
My sunbonnet.  Now I know the pattern works, I'll help my daughter make her own.

Monday, May 06, 2013

The Tortoise and the Hare

Needle felting is fun.  It's portable.  It's creative.  It's a bit like the story of the tortoise and the hare--speedy in some places, but slow and steady wins the race.

The hare is designed to go on a single finger.  He is made from grey wool. That's how it is labeled  in my stash--"grey wool".  It's a cross between different breeds--maybe cotswold and romney and shetland--a gift from a family friend years ago.  The facial details are from random bits of fiber in my felting bag.  One thing I learned as I searched for pictures of rabbits (after I had made most of the puppet) is that rabbits don't usually show their front teeth.  A google search for images of rabbits had only one or two where their teeth were at all visible unless someone was holding their mouth to show the teeth!  Drawings of rabbits showed a lot of teeth, but the photographs did not.  I removed the teeth from my hare!

The tortoise is a three finger puppet.  His head goes on the middle finger and his legs on the ring finger and the pointer.  He's really cute!  He even has a little tail.  I was going to make him very green--until I did another google image search.  Most tortoises aren't green.  In fact most turtles aren't very green (some are--some are very green!).  I was surprised and put away my green fibers.  Out came the more desert colored browns and tans.

What shall I do with my pair of puppets?  Right now they are in my display case.  I'm not sure this pair is sturdy enough for children's toys.  The tortoise legs are alpaca fiber and it doesn't felt as firmly as wool, making the legs a little too flimsy for young children.  At some point, though, my display case is going to get too full.  What shall I do with all my "shrunken heads" and other odds and ends that I've created?  What do you do with your creations?

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Dandelion Dyeing


The dandelions are growing at my house.  Rather than going out and digging them all up, I tried my hand at a dyeing experiment.  Four ounces of wool, mordanted with alum and cream of tartar, then dyed with the liquid from boiling 9 ounces of dandelion flowers.  I was thrilled with the results!

 I have tried dyeing with dandelion flowers before.  A few years ago some neighbor boys picked a bucket full of flowers for me and I used them.  Unfortunately, I didn't use any mordant, and I don't think I weighed either the fibers or the amount of flowers...the result was terribly disappointing...almost no color at all from the flowers.

This time, I made use of Wild Color by Jenny Dean. She provides "recipes" that gave amounts of mordant per fiber weight and amounts of fresh dye stuff per fiber weight.  What a difference that made!  Hooray for wonderful resources!  Thank you Jenny Dean, and thank you beautiful dandelions!

Happy Dandelion Days!