Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Basket of Fiber

A couple of weeks ago a friend had contacted me to stop by her place to pick up something she had gotten me at an auction. Since schedules where not working out she had dropped what she had for me at my in-laws and I picked it up there. What it turned out to be was a large basket of fiber. She was telling me about it and wasn’t sure what all was there. Her thinking was wool, linen and maybe some cotton singles. Since she doesn’t spin she didn’t really know the difference or how to figure it all out or at least try to.

When I got the basket home and was able to go through it I found what I hoped to be some really cool treasures. The first think that kind of sucked though was nothing was marked. So I have to do some testing and research to figure out what I had. More testing though which I will explain.

I found a lot of wool some very soft and other not good for wearable’s. All of it but one small amount was cleaned and some was even dyed. What it was dyed with I’ll never know at a guess I would say a synthetic dye. Yet it could have been natural who knows. The natural colors were white, charcoal grey and dark brown. The last one I thought may have been Bison since we do have a farm in the valley but examining it closer I believe it to be wool. The last time I had some Bison in my had, there wasn’t any crimp to it and this does, so will go with wool.

Then I found a bag of mixed bags with small amounts of fiber in them. With in that bag I found what I thought to be silk, angora (bunny), and cotton I found some curly locks that I really don’t know what it is and some more wool. The more testing came at this point I wanted to test some of the fiber to make sure they where natural. So to do that I did the burn test, you take a small amount of fiber and burn it. If it smells like burning hair then there is a good chance it is natural. I say good chance because it could be mixed with a synthetic, so a second test it to place it in a strong alkaline. The reason you do this is all the protein fibers will be dissolved by the alkaline in this case bleach. If there is any synthetic fibers in the mix they would not be touch by the bleach. So after letting the fibers set in the bleach I determined that they where real.

So what I believe to have is a lot of wool of different types, some silk since it is a gold color I will guess and say tussah silk, a small amount of cotton. Some angora and I’m stumped on the curly locks, there not very soft so I really not sure where they came from. The final think that was in the basket was a hand made Lazy Kate. Which also had four home made spools, a cone of rug wool and some hand spun yarn. So all in all it was a really cool gift.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Finally we got a computer. So now I’m able to blog again, so here is a new entry.
Last Labor day weekend I had entered a handwoven doily in the Great Allentown Fair. My thought was I will give it a try and see if I get a ribbon. I also noticed that there were no woven items to speak of in any of the categories. So we have two opportunities one to show that people do still hand weave and the second was to try and get a ribbon.

Last year my intent was to enter about five pieces, that of course never happened so I only entered the doily and it won a blue ribbon. Pretty cool for the first time out he he…
So after that boost of confidence I decided to enter some new pieces this year. I was only able to get three items done. The first was the loom fitted vest that you all saw (it was one of my first blog entries). The second was a table runner or scarf and the final one is a wall hanging.

The vest only got a third place ribbon. Something I really didn’t think about in the category was the sewing part. So my detective mind is saying I got that ribbon because there was very little sewing. Well that and the judge wrote a note saying the piece was very interesting but very little sewing. The table runner got a second place ribbon this year, there wasn’t a not from the judge so I have no clue why I only got second. But I will say it beats anything under that, so I’ll keep the second place ribbon on that one. The final piece was the wall hanging this one I got a fifth place. While I was at the fair checking to see if I received any ribbons. When I got to this section I noticed that all the other entries where quilt’s except for a couple of embroidery pieces and of course my piece. So I think I really screwed that one up. In my defense there was no explanation or definition of what a wall hanging was. So all in all I had three entries and three ribbons, it’s all a learning experience and I now have a first, second, third and fifth place ribbon. So next year I will try again.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Still witho

I'm still without a computer so I snitched a friends laptop will there at work to check thinks out.

While I'm on line I will quickly tell you all that we haven't had a real summer this year. My garden at the farm was horrible, to much rain and to cold. So I got very little from it this year. Yet here at the house the garden did very well. If you are wondering why the one did good and the other not so good. The farm is up on the mountain and there is a temperature drop up there that keeps it cool. Under normal circumstances there would have been no problems with the garden the weather just did everyone up there in this year.

On another note I entered three items to be judged in the Great Allentown Fair. One was a table scarf that got second place, second was a loom fitted vest that got third place and the final was a wall hanging that got fifth place. Which is a little disappointing since last year I entered a doily and got first place, yet it is better to get some kind of ribbon then none at all which was the case for some people.

The produce stand is slow right know hopefully it will pickup with the pumpkin season. Hopefully soon I will have my own computer so I'm able to show you all pics of the stuff that I'm doing and be able to blog more. So Hope to blog again soon.

Monday, July 13, 2009

I am so....

I am so sorry for not posting anything in such a longtime. I have been very busy with several things at once. So I’ve worked on getting some things posted which are below. As the rest of the summer gets here I will try to post more things thru out the season.

I have explained in the other posts what’s been going on except for this part which I’m going to try to post about more formally. In June we started selling produce and that has taken up a lot of our time. I will explain that in a later post.

So I do hope you will all forgive me in not posting for such a long time and please enjoy the new posts below.

Fig Tree

Back in May at the herb sale I picked up a bay laurel and turkey fig tree. Transplanted them both in new clay pots and have been keeping them in full sun on my front porch. (The front of the house is a southern exposure.) It has been eight and a half weeks since all of that has taken place when I purchased them both they were the same size.

Now the fig is about four times the size of the bay, Truth be told the bay laurel is a very slow growing plant. So it is going to take the bay several years to catch up. But how cool is that the fig is growing quit nicely and some one told me I wasn’t going to get figs for thirty or more years. What do they know?

Front Yard Garden

This growing season as not been a real good one here in eastern PA for much of the year thus far it has been cool and raining. So a lot of what I have planted is taking for ever to grow or not at all. I planted a large veggie garden which I will talk about later. What I wanted to talk about was the small garden in my front yard.

I planted the entire front garden the weekend of the 15th of May which is the last frost date for this area. Except this year we had two frost warnings later that month I was lucky I didn’t lose anything, not even my basil which is very tender.

For the entire month of June everything was growing very slowly if at all until the last week of June going into the Fourth of July weekend. Then we had success with growth and fi

nally some warmer days with out any rain for some of them.

Now that it’s the middle of July we have some nice growth and very pretty results. My cotton is starting to come along quite nicely after such a horrible start. So I hope to see flower buds on it soon. With in the next week or so, cotton is new for me to grow so I’m not sure when the proper time for flowering is in my area. A guess says end of the month early next month so we will see.

The Amaranth is doing nicely also soon I would like to make some dye from that and see what I can get. What has been weird is the new growth of leaves has been green then turning red. Yet when I started it in March it came up red and staid red until now with the new growth. This is another plant that is the first year for me so I will see how it goes and show you the yarn that I dyed with it when I get that far.

The rest of the front yard is zinnias, herbs, veggies and some other little flowers. They have started doing well and I’m finally pleased with how it looks. When I planted they garden the first thing I did was to trim back the azalea bushes to a quarter of there size. With all of the rain they have grown back to half there size of when I cut them back.

We all so have three roses bushes that I just cut back to allow new growth in and with the flowers and herbs that I planted they have become the focal point instead of the rose bushes. So all in all everything has worked out and I hope to have a good rest of the season weather wise. Only time will tell.


One of my dye herbs that I planted at the house was woad. Unfortunately I was only able to have one plant growing at the house. All the rest never came up from the seeds that I started, you will have this and I hope for better luck next year in that department.

Any way I got some leaves from the plant to make a vat of dye. Before anyone says anything I know that one plant is not enough to dye large patches at once so I’m only going to do small ones and keep over dyeing to see how dark I can get the samples.

I used Rita Buchanan’s book A Weavers Garden, to help me with creating the vat since I’ve never worked with fresh woad or any woad come to think of it before. The first step was of course to pick the leaves. Which I did and placed them in a clear quart jar, then the book says to bring water just up to the boil and pour it over the leaves I did this as well.

The next step was to leave it alone for about an hour till you have a tan red color liquid. I didn’t do that part, what I did was to leave it set for twenty four hours in full sun. I used the hot water to get the process started and left the sun do the work of keeping it warm for the rest of the time. I left the leaves in for this long to get as much of the blue out as possible. With such small amounts of woad at one time I want to get as much out of it as I can.

The next step is to remove the leaves then add some sodium carbonate also known as washing soda and a lot of air or oxygen into liquid to turn it blue. I will say that mine never turned blue when I added air with a whisk for ten minutes no less. No instead mine was a muddy swamp water color and at that point I was hoping I had the right plant. So I moved on to the next step.

For this step I could have chosen several methods to remove the oxygen from the vat to render it usably. Since I really didn’t have a lot of success with some of those options in the past with indigo vats I went the easy way out and used Spectralite also known as sodium hydrosulphite and left it sit for about an hour. As the oxygen is removed from the vat the vat will turn a yellow tan green color.

Of course mine is neon yellow, so here the moment of truth has arrived, is this a woad vat or did I pick a foreign weed thinking it was woad. I am happy to report as I removed my neon yellow yarn from the vat it started to turn green and then blue. So yes it was woad and I did every thing correctly and I got cool results. I was never expecting a dark color, there wasn’t enough leaves for that but I did get blue on the first try too.

For any one new to woad or indigo dyeing I want to recommend that you use the power of the sun to keep your vat at the correct temperature. Also if you use a clear jar you will be able to see the changes in the vat and learn from them. Last year I had a hard time with my indigo vats trying to figure out which step I was at. This way I can see the different stages as they happen. Or you can wow all the kids in the neighbor hood with this fun experiment or project.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Herb Sale

Today was an early day, for I had awakened at six am (which is unheard of for me) to attend the 70th annual herb sale that benefits the Herb Society of America, Philadelphia Unit, the sale started at 10am so Why did I have to get up so early? You may be asking, it is suggested that you get there as early as possible because there is a very long line.

Since we were un-sure how long the line was going to be we wanted to get there as early as possible to beat the mad rush. So we left about 6:45am this morning and arrived there about 8:45am. So with traffic it took two hours.

When we arrived we were amazed to find out that we were about the twelfth people in line. So that wasn’t so bad, while we were in line we got talking to some of the other people who were all very nice. Through those conversations we found out that since this was our first time at this sale it would be an orgasmic experience for us.

So as we waited and look behind us the line was getting longer and longer as the time got closer to the sale starting. Since we didn’t take a count we have no numbers to give, put at best we would at least say 100 to 150 or more. We were also told to head to the center tables where the scented geraniums are since that is were every one heads and if you don’t get there quick you may get run over.

The advice was well taken for when the gate opened that is indeed what happened. No not us getting run over, everyone heading to the center island for geraniums. To give you some perspective on how large the sale was the island was about 8’ – 16’, the main area was about 100’ with two 16’ sides, there were also one area of roses and one area of native plants about 10’ – 10’ each. The last section was about 20’ – 40’ tented area, that’s were you paid and purchased none herb stuff like books and yard ornaments and the lot.

The herb selection was wonderful and surprising they had things I was not expecting to see and the prices were good. There inventory consisted of several scented geranium, sages, rosemary’s, thyme's, lavenders and many, many more with the addition of simple single varieties of herbs. I have a list below of the small amount of thirty different things I got. It was definitely a worth wild sale.

Looking around as we were in line to check out you would see that about a third to half or more of the tables were empty. This was a half hour after the sale started (that’s why we were warned to get there early). Since I have been put on there email list I will get an update on when next years sale is going to be, which is good because I would love to go again.

As we were told before the sale as we waited in line that this would be an orgasmic experience. We are herb sale virgins no more for it was an orgasmic experience.

  • Aztec Sweet Herb
  • Calendula
  • Stevia
  • Horehound
  • Dill
  • St. Johns Wort
  • Rosemary
  • Catmint
  • Savory (Summer)
  • Violet
  • Curry Plant
  • Feverfew
  • Bay
  • Orris Root
  • Brown Turkey Fig


  • Spicy Globe
  • Greek Columar
  • Pesto Peretuo

Scented Geranium

  • Ginger
  • Peppermint Lace
  • Ardwick Cinnamon
  • Citronellum
  • Nutmeg
  • Dr. Livingston (Rose)
  • Rose

Monday, May 11, 2009


Since March I have been working on enlarging my garden plot from a 12’ by 18’ to 12’ by 100’. The process though not difficult has taken longer then expect to the point I had too wait to plant some of my early veggies till all the prepping was done.

In March we of course started with the layout of the garden. Since the garden is placed in a nursery row the width is 12’. There is not much we can do about that until we decide to remove some of the old nursery stock. This would give us a total width of about 30’ give or take a little.

After staking out the garden we wanted to till it under add compost and till again. The area hasn’t been worked in several years about 25 to be exact and a couple of years ago when I had a garden there some of the produce did very poorly for a number of reasons so this year the addition of compost will correct some of that. We added a total of 25 cubic yards of compost to 1200 square feet of garden. So with that amendment and some other tricks of the trade there should be no problems with the lack of nurturance.

We wanted to get all the tilling done before we put up the fence it just made it easier to till and add the compost to the garden. This was all fine and good until we got a cold snap and the rains came. Making it very difficult to do either chore, so finally we were able to get the garden tilled, composted and fenced. This was all completed on the last day of April not to bad, I did want too get the early veggies in a couple of weeks prier but that wasn’t going to happen.

After all the work to get the garden ready and protected for the new seedlings I started this year, it decided to rain, and rain, and rain and yes rain some more a full seven days of rain to be exact. If it wasn’t raining during the day it rained at night so the garden was too wet to work in.

After it did stop raining and we had a couple of days with no ran and sun, the earth dried enough to be able to work and I finally got my early veggies planted. So I was able to get the cabbage, cauliflower, celery, broccoli and cotton in the ground as of Friday. Thank God because I was getting worried I wasn’t going to get them in at all or at least too late to produce before they went to bolt.

I do have to get the early seeds in which I will probable do tomorrow. I was more worried about the plants since they were becoming leggy. While I was playing in the garden some one brought me a gift of tomato plants, all thought it is early to plant them for this area I decided to go for it. I figured they had a better chance of surviving in the ground then in a box. So I had to do some quick thinking on were to plant theses little guys in an already planned garden. I figured out a good spot and got them in I was given several plants of heritage and roma, I was also given some fun tomatoes such as black, pink, yellow, gold, purple and green. So I should have a lot of fun with them and a very colorful salad.

One last thing on this very long post when I had the garden a couple of years ago something had gotten in and was taking a bite out of every thing. Never eating the whole fruit or veggie, so I tried to figure out what it mite be. But nothing was coming to mind and I found nothing livening in the garden or even an escape route. Till one day I found the culprit it was a box turtle. So I removed the little guy and sent it on his or her way. Well while getting every thing together this year the turtle is back and I have decided to make it the official guard turtle of the garden. So there should be no more thieves in the garden with this little camera shy guy around. Well as long as you don’t take its picture anyway.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Saturday Night

First let me apologize for not posting in a while. I have been working on many things simultaneously and just wasn’t able to blog while I was doing all of that. So now I can blog and let you know what I have been up to.

This past weekend I was at an art show held in the Riverview Arts Center in Phillipsburg, NJ. They are going to be having a show the first Saturday of every month thru the summer (except July that one is the second Saturday, the first Sat. is the 4th).

There were a total of 12 artists showing, with a real mix of mediums being shown. There were paintings, photographs, drawings, pottery and there was even someone there show his painting that he dos on cars and motorcycles.

The cool thing about these shows is the artists don’t have to pay a both fee and the center also looks for people that has never shown there work before. To make money the center does charge a $4.00 entry fee, that $4 gets you food, drinks and live music through out the night.

The reason I was there is of course to check out all the art work, and too show off my work as well. I was able to get six pieces done. Four of them are wall hangings and two are summer shawls. While I was working on them I was also trying to get the garden ready, with fencing, tilling so when the weather would stabilize I could start to plant.

The next show I’m going to be in is the August show. That will give me time to make up some more things. Also thru out the summer I will be working in the garden that is, if it will ever stop raining.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

PVC Loom the project

Last week got a little busy for me, so I wasn’t able to finish the project I started on the inkle loom until this week. I was able to get the rest of the band woven last night. I tried to do the pattern that was in the magazine but that wasn’t working out right. So I figured it would be best to just weave the band in normal fashion, instead of trying to use a pick up stick for the first time out.

After I warped the loom I did notice a little bow in it. What I did was loosen the tension and that corrected the problem without making it to loose to weave. The other problem I had was attaching the heddles, I didn’t understand the directions but I figured that out too.

After I got it all set up weaving went real easy and quick for me. I was weaving on my bed so the loom wasn’t slipping around on me. If you do you a table or hard wood floor I would take caution that the loom doesn’t scratch the surface. So a recommendation would be just to put a towel under the loom, this should help with slipping and it will protect the surface of the table or floor.

I did loosen the loom to advance the band forward and retightened when I had it in the correct spot. I was amazed how the tension stayed for me throughout the weaving; I had no loose threads or really tight ones. As I’m typing I realized part that is from the continues warp, if not all of it.

I do recommend this project (the making of the PVC loom) if you have never inkle woven before or have a son or daughter that would like to weave. This would be a fun project for them and they get to say they made the loom them selves. I am going to try the loom out with a card weaving project as soon as I get a chance. Perhaps in my free time, wait a minute what free time!!!!!!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Plam Weaving

Something that I have been doing for the past several years is palm weaving. That is when you take a palm crown and weave it in to a display. (see picture to the right, of the palm crown not the very hammy kitty cat) I am told that this weaving is an Italian tradition that is only done for Palm Sunday. The different weaves have meaning to them, such as nails, the crown of thorns and the beating that Jesus received before he was crucified.

This year I got to make a display to place on the altar at my church. Which is a cool honor so what I did was I got three palm crowns. Just in case I didn’t like the first one I could make a second or if need be third piece. It turned out that I made two pieces for the church and I had enough left to make some pieces for the cemetery.

During the Pastors sermon she was pointing out all the gifts that were displayed in the church and giving credit to the person or persons that made them. The point of doing this was to show how much God given talent we all have and not to let anyone stop us from using those talents especially our selves. So she finally got to the palm pieces, [which I had hoped she was going to forget (I’m to humble to take credit) alas she did not forget about the palm pieces].

She begins by holding up a palm cross that she had made and is telling everyone how taken a back she was when she saw the palm pieces. At how elaborate and beautiful they were. Then she proceeds to say (to embarrass me of course) “Who needs the little old Italian women of south Philly when we have Chuck.” The sanctuary was in roar with clapping and whistling and praises of thanks.
So I sure hope the little old Italian women of south Philly don’t find out.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Inkle Loom

As I was reading the latest issue of Handwoven one of the articles tells you how to make an inkle woven hat band. Pretty cool I thought, you know what’s even cooler. The article also tells you how to make an inkle loom. This loom is made out of PVC pipe. So the strength of a wooden loom may be missing. The only way to find out is to make one.

Since I don’t have an inkle loom I decided to do just that make one of these looms. Also since I do card weaving I was looking for a loom to use for that as well. I think I may have found it. So we shall see if this works out the way I’m hoping it will.

The first thing I did was cut all the pieces to length and marked them. Since you can take the loom apart for storage I wanted to mark all the pieces so I knew who went where when I put it back together.

Next I got the threaded rods step up with the nuts and washers to the correct places on the rod.

Then all I did was assemble the loom and it’s ready to go. The final thing for me to do is to warp the loom and try it out. I will be doing that later this week, or at least that is my goal.

This project cost me less then $20.00 for all the parts. I do remember reading on one of the Yahoo groups about a PVC warping board that was in a previous issue of Handwoven. There was some concern that it might not hold up to the high tension that it would receive. That may be true with this loom also, but since I don’t have an Inkle loom and I really can’t afford a pre made one. I figured I would try this out. Since the cost is minimal and it takes no time to make I don’t see the harm in experimenting with it.

Knitting 8

Here is this weeks knitting, well actually this weeks and last weeks. I found out, now that spring is here and I’m going to be outside more. Gardening manly I’m not going to be able too get all the knitting done that I have been. So I won’t be posting it as often. Unless of course we have a lot of rainy days this year that end up keeping me in doors a lot.

I was able to get 15 swatches knitted up so that isn’t too bad. So now I’m up to 75 completed swatches. Still a long way to go but I’m getting there.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

More Seeds Planted

Today was seed planting day. I got all my summer seeds sowed and in there warm little incubators so they can germinate. A total of 36 different varieties of plants in 4 flats of 72 cells per flat, that a total of 288 seeds that I sowed today that’s a lot. I do have a couple of more trays to plant yet one for the front yard of the house and one for a garden near the vegetable garden. I have to wait for the seed I planted today to germinate so I have room for the next two trays. Below I have a list of all the seeds I planted if you would like to check it out.

  • Delivious Tomato
  • Principe Borgehese Tomato
  • Chrimson Cushion Tomato
  • Amish Paste Tomato
  • French Marigold
  • Parsley
  • Basil
  • Nastrium
  • Pomigranate
  • Egg Plant
  • Dill
  • Cheese Pepper
  • Paprika Pepper
  • Cayanne Pepper
  • Hungerian Black Pepper
  • Sage
  • Rosemary
  • Sesame
  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • Amaranth
  • Indigo
  • Woad
  • Henna
  • Weld
  • Dyers Broom
  • Fullers Teasel
  • Eucalyptus
  • 2 Variaties of Zinnia
  • Ipomosis Rubra
  • Kiss me over the garden gate
  • Snapdragon
  • Cosmos

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Natural dying

On one of the yahoo groups there was a discussion on soaking wood chips in alcohol. As I was reading, it reminded me that I had some wood chips soaking for six months. So I decided to do some test samples to see what I would get if anything from what I had soaking.

What I had soaking was nutmeg, hickory chips, apple wood chips and I remembered I had some mushrooms in the freezer as well. So I decided to do some dye experiments. I don’t remember were I herd or read this but someone uses small baby food jars when sampling. I liked the idea and decided I would try that for my experiments as well.

I did this for all four sample batches.

1 Made a mordant solution of each mordant (a pint of each mordant)

2 Made the dye bath

3 Placed the sample yarn, 1/4c of mordant solution and 3/4c of dye in each jar (one jar for each mordant)

4 Placed each sealed jar in a large pot of hot water (just like you do to process can goods)

5 Left the jars simmer in the water bath for and hour

6 After cooled I let them dry, rinsed, washed, rinsed again and let them dry.

So I had a total of seven jars one with no mordant added, alum, tin, copper, iron, vinegar and washing soda. The dye baths were simmered at 212 degrees and the water bath was at 202 degrees. I like the way this worked out and have decided to use this method again when I have new dye stuff later this year to try out.

The fun stuff that I’m going to try out this year after I get them growing is, henna, amaranth red dye, dyer’s broom, eucalyptus, French marigold, weld, bull’s blood beet. If you take a look below you will see the finished results.

This is Nutmeg from left to right no mordant, alum, tin, copper, iron, vinager.
This is Hickory wood from left to right no mordant, alum, tin, copper, iron, vinager and washing soda.
This is Apple wood from left to right no mordant, alum, tin, copper, iron, vinager and washing soda.
This is Mushroom from left to right no mordant, alum, tin, copper, iron, vinager and washing soda.