Thursday, December 21, 2006

More Color: knitting with one's short handspuns

This is what you get when you knit a big project with your handspuns, which are often under 100 yards.I didn't want to be limited to hats and mitts, so I attempted to knit a sweater with a dozen small skeins, inspired by this photo below.
The knitted up fabric looked great. However, because I used US size 8 needles, the result was too stiff to be comfy as a sweater. In fact, it was more suitable for a placemat. The project is now frogged and I've swatched with a US size 11 and it's now just fine!

The dozen or so yarns linked together to create a huge hank.

The yarns up close.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

And may all your Christmases be bright! Part Deux

In response to the request from the francophone Tricofolk forum, I have made a step-by-step visual aid of blending carded wool with a diz.

Before starting, weigh the fibers. I've chosen four colors of equal weight. (Avant de commencer, pesez les fibres. J'ai choisi quatre couleurs de poids égal.)

Layer the fibers one color after the other. (Posez les fibres une couleur après l'autre.)

Pull a little section of the batt. (Tirez une petite section de la nappe.)

Pass the tip of the fiber through a diz and start pulling. (Faites passer le bout de la nappe à travers le diz et commencez à tirer.)

Tug the roving gently just a little bit to straighten the fibers. (Tirez la meche doucement juste un petit peu pour redresser les fibres.)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

And may all your Christmases be bright!

Le Monde des Teintures naturelles by Dominique Cardon
Traditional techniques from time immemorial to contemporary. Over 500 photos in over 500 pages covering some 300 plants and about 30 animals. A francophone dyer's bible. Large book format, too.

Couleurs: Pigments et Teintures dans les Mains des Peuples by Anne Varichon
This book tells the history of colors and their application, the customs of peoples and the role that color played in rituals and ceremonies. It also traces the steps taken by men and women in their search for their color of preference. The English equivalent of this book would be Color: A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay, a thick 464-page book (below).

Plantes colorantes Teintures végétales : Le nuancier de couleurs by Michel Garcia
Hot off the press, having been released just last October. A practical guide to plant dyes on how to identify the sources. Also provided are the step-by-step procedures. Michel Garcia has other books on plant dyes, De la Garance au Pastel: Le Jardin des Teinturiers and Couleurs végétales, but not exhaustive as this last one.

Natural Dyes by Gwen Fereday
These books above and below are my favorite dye books in English. There are many, many natural dye books in English, but these two provide, not just the necessary information, but also the color results in various fibers.
Indigo Madder & Marigold: A Portfolio of Colors from Natural Dyes
by Trudy Van Stralen

A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire by Amy Butler Greenfield
In brief, the socio-economic history of those little bugs known as cochineal. Reads like a travelogue into time embellished with political intrigue. If you like Stendahl, you might enjoy this. Some may say that The Root of Wild Madder: Chasing the History, Mystery, and Lore of the Persian Carpet by Brian Murphy is a companion piece to A Perfect Red, but as a spinner who dyes, I tend to think The Root... is more on the culture of the carpet than the color of madder.

Mauve: How One Man Invented a Color That Changed the World by Simon Garfield
Mauve is about the synthetic birth of a color as created by a teenage chemistry student in the 1800s. If you are a sucker for all the lovely shades hovering between cyan and magenta, you wouldn't want to miss this book.

Bleus et Ocres de Guinée by Anne-Chantal Gravellini
The age-old method of dyeing fabrics with indigo and ocre. With tons of photos of Guinean dyers in action, melding ancient tradition with new trends.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Knitted Handspun in the City of Lights

So we traipsed through France and Italy in early Fall for two weeks and a half. My companions were two family members, Lorna and Merle, from Manila. Two restauratrices -- bakers on the side -- but defnitely non-crafters.

We met up in Bordeaux after they finished with wine-tasting in the Rothschild vineyard and then we took the train to Nice to pick up a rental car. Seven hours of autoroute driving followed to visit Joelle Guevarra and her family in the Cevennes region where they raise donkeys and run a bed and breakfast called Le Mas de Riols. Joelle, and her husband, Pascal, will be hosting the next francophone spinners' meet scheduled for June 2007.

As de rigueur practice when crafters meet, there was an exchange of swags. Joelle gave me a few of her handspuns, which came in handy as Lorna is frileuse, as the French would say, or sensitve to the cold. One of the skeins was promptly knitted up and that is what you see in the photos above and below.
Dinner was prepared by Pascal. Fresh sardines simply marinated in lemon and fleur de sel, meat stew with handpicked wild mushrooms, and a platter of cheese from the region. Dessert was made by Joelle: gateau au chocolat with mascapone cream. Below, Pascal and Joelle. The following morning, we hiked to the mountain plateau where Pascal and Joelle are building a second house. We were accompanied by their son, Francois, and grandchildren, Anatole and Agathe

From left: me, Anatole, Joelle, Lorna, Francois, and Pascal. Agathe is in front. Below, Joelle and one of their free-roaming donkeys.

Whoa, spinning on Joelle's Ashford Country is a real challenge. Time to consider a Majacraft with the Wild Flyer.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Collaborative Efforts: Spinning and Knitting

This is my spinning friend, Muriel, from Lyon, France on Little Gem. She and her husband, Serge, are strong supporters of Charkhas for Africa. So, I was very pleased when Muriel won my handspuns at the French spinning retreat exchange gift.

I'm even more pleased that she actually knitted with the skeins, adding nothing else other than the cute button. See the finished project, a bag, on her daughter's shoulder.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Proud to sell Majacraft's Little Gem

Majacraft's ad in the Fall issue of Spin-Off. Photos taken at the Majacraft Magic Camp in February 2006. That's me and Pat Old, Kiwi fiber artist. Read about it here, here, here, here, and here.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Translation of the previous blog.

Article published in French Newspaper Est Republicain, Sept. 15, 2006 on the Francophone Spinners' Retreat.

They were perhaps a dozen women who traveled to the farm of Marylene Durant of Horizon Mohair last weekend. They came from various regions of France, as well as of Belgium, Switzerland, and even the United States. All came with one goal: to talk about spinning.

“When one says knitting, spinning or wool, that seems a little old-fashioned, even obsolete, viewed from the outside,” explained Marylene. In reality, it is quite far from Tupperware parties. All in high spirits, they mix communication and spinning with ease.


It all started a year ago. Sandrine decided to create her own forum on the Internet. “Spinning and computers are my two passions,” she explained. Twelve months later, the site counts about 60 members. Mostly women, they are looking for information of all kinds: How to start, what spinning wheel to use, for what type of wool.

With many members exchanging photos and advice, some felt it was time to plan for a meeting. But for that, they needed to find a suitable date and a fitting location. Sandrine, who lives in Varennes, knew well of Marylene’s farm. The meeting was to be in the country, among angora goats. The original plan and nothing less.

“What brings us together is the passion for fibers and the satisfaction of creating a product from scratch,” according to Laurence, a plastic arts professor. That is to say from the shearing of the sheep to the sweater and everything in-between: washing, dyeing, spinning and knitting.

“We want to give another image of spinners. Today, we use new techniques, modern dyes, we create novelty yarns with materials like lurex,” said Sandrine. For that purpose, each brought her wheel, be it classic, traditional or modern.

Such motley of spinning equipment had to be exceptional. “There’s hardly any left in France. I import mine from Poland,” added Sandrine. The creation of her internet site allowed her to acquire more easily the tools and materials necessary for their activity.

New Image

But this weekend, it is above all a matter of sharing, though from various perspectives: Florence, from Belgium, is the only one who raises sheep for fleece; Laurence, from France, loves to play with color et texture; Therese, from the US, buys Indian charkhas – these little spinning boxes introduced by Gandhi – and then sends them to Africa.

So many reasons for the same activity. Hands extending the wool which progressively wraps itself around the bobbin: “It has a hypnotic side to it. The mind wanders off and time is forgotten,” confided Florence.

Thrilled, these women of this modern era are already thinking of the future and their next meeting. Perhaps, in Maryland in May for the wool festival. Therese has extended the invitation. They only need to answer. “We would very much like to,” sighed Laurence.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Coverage of Francophone Spinners' Retreat in French Newspaper

Est Republicain, Sept. 15. Same daily that reported Osama bin Laden was dead. Translation to follow.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Spinning Wool in Segou, Mali

Here is a video of Djenaba, a young Malian spinner test-driving the Babe Pinkie. (Loading may take a minute. Please be patient.) This is one of the spinning wheels that I handed to Youssouf in Marrakesh in June. On September 14, it finally made made it to Segou, three hours away from the Malian capital of Bamako.

Also delivered to the carpet-weaving cooperative called Tapiserrie Nieleni, a multi-functional women's cooperative where they process wool from fleece to carpet, were charkhas: the modern kind made of PVC by Nels Wiberg, and the Indian-style one in a wooden box called book charkha.The book charkha was fascinating to the Malians, especially when they saw that the little box also contained a skeiner. Notice how enthralled Djenaba's fellow spinner was.

When I consulted Djenaba about her preference, she patted the Pinkie. Djenaba was taught to spin with a wheel by a German volunteer. In fact, the Malians had fashioned one spinning wheel with bicycle parts. Below, Youssouf checks to see if the metal wheel is for real, while Ina, the cooperative's adviser, looks on.

Ina said that when they use yarn spun with a spindle, the resulting carpet is very heavy and expensive to ship. With the new wheels, they will be able to create carpets of finer yarn and those would be less expensive to ship and would mean more income for the women.This is a sample of the cooperative's products. I would have bought this one, but it was so heavy.

A weaver working on a carpet (above) and wool being spun on a spindle (below). There are 65 women working in this cooperative, from fleece-sorting to weaving. Twenty of them are spinners and almost all of them use spindles.

A generous hank of superbulky being taken off to the loom.

To be continued...

Sunday, September 17, 2006

More Photos from the Lorraine Spinning Retreat

The organizers: Sandrine and Richard. Sandrine owns the francophone spinning forum, Tricofolk, and an online knitting and spinning boutique, Alysse Créations. Richard sells corsetmaking supplies on the same website. He also makes them to order, or will sell patterns. For fans of Sophia Coppola's Marie Antoinette, this is your chance to create your own. Really cool with jeans.

The angora goat farmers and generous hosts of the retreat: Marylene (wearing glasses) and Alain. Marylene takes care of the goats, unless she's on the road selling the mohair products of an angora goat cooperative under the label, Horizon Mohair. When she's away, Alain takes over. They have a large room that functions as an fiber processing museum with old picking and carding equipment for young kids and their parents to learn about a mostly forgotten trade, that of spinning.

All of the spinners drove in, four of them with their pack mules, I mean, husbands. I flew in to Paris on frequent flyer miles and took the three-hour train ride to the farm.

The aspiring spinners: Garance and Amelie. Garance is the daughter of Laurence, a.k.a. Laine Zinzin. Garance learned to spin during the spinners' weekend for the first time because her Apple computer was back at home. Her mom says she's a whiz with PhotoShop. Amelie's mom, Florence (a.k.a. Pouxy because there is another Tricofolk spinner with the same name), is into chiengora and persian cats, which sells under the label, Canilaine. I was pleased that both teens went for my rovings in tresses which I had brought along for the supply swap (we also exchanged handspuns in a raffle). The fiber was dyed with pigments from Morocco and they couldn't resist the bright colors.

The inspiration: Pluckyfluff. Just as in Majacraft's Spinning Magic Weekend, Lexi Boeger's book, Spinning Revolution, was inevitably present. There were two copies being passed around. Since the technical aspect was difficult to understand for most of the spinners, Laurence translated for them.

The new fascination: The Little Gem2. That is Muriel on my foldable little wheel. As with all Majacraft products, the spinner controls the wheel, not the other way around. Moreover, you never need to oil to get it to operate smoothly. There were eight European spinners who came and at the end of the retreat, we were calling Majacraft in Tauranga, NZ, for Little Gems for two spinners. I'm proud to sell the Little Gem -- see the Fall issue of Spin-Off magazine. Spinners in France, Belgium and Switzerland may now order them from Sandrine at Alysse Créations

Finally, Laurence and me test-driving the charkhas for Africa and, at the same time, posing for the journalist of Est Republicain who came to cover the event.

For spinners in the US and Canada interested in the next francophone retreat, it will be in June 2007 in the Cévennes region of France. It is being organized by Joelle (unfortunately too far to make it to Lorraine this year). Cévennes is lovely and provides hiking opportunities for pack mules. Laurence, who has a farmhouse in the region and spends the summer there, is also promoting it.

Next blog: The Spinners of Mali.