Monday, January 28, 2013

Big News! and a Giveaway!

Hello, my fiber friends!  One of my goals for 2013 was to create a website for Bellalulu Yarn and migrate my blog over to my new site.  Guess what? Today is the day!

You can now find me at:

The link will take you right to the site.  The Blog is on page 1.  And you can sign up to receive email notices about new posts over on the right.

Tell your friends because as soon as I have 50 readers, I plan to GIVE AWAY some hand spun yarn and some other goodies.

Thanks soooooo much for reading and following and all your lovely support!

CLICK IT!  CLICK IT NOW!  (There is a new post waiting for you).

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Spindle for Your Thoughts

Last summer, my love and I (and the two big dogs) piled into the car and drove to California, all the way to Truckee for some parties and a beautiful wedding, and on to the coast, and up to Mt. Shasta and many points in between.  Five weeks on the road and here is what I made: 

Before we left, I decided to teach myself how to spin on a drop spindle so I could continue to obsess about spinning while on the road.  Spindles are old school (like probably millions of years old school), and there is a spindle to represent almost every culture--Andean drop spindles, Tahkli spindles from the Middle East and Asia,  Navajo spindles, Turkish spindles.  I didn't know any of this when I took a pre-trip to Alabama to visit my parents and petition my dad, a woodturner, to make me a spindle.  We spent a lovely afternoon in his shop and after 3 or 4 tries, I finally had a spindle for the road.  I learned to stand over soft grass while I got the hang of it.  They are, indeed, prone to dropping.  In retrospect, a long wool, maybe Polwarth, would have been a better choice than alpaca roving for learning.

The one on the left is the one my dad first spindle.

By the time we got to Eureka, I had a spindle full of yarn with no idea what to do with it.  I mean, how do you take it off the spindle without turning it into a bird's nest?  Can you ply it?  Do you use a spindle for plying or put it on the wheel?  By the time we got to Eureka, we had just spent 6 days camping on the Lost Coast, swimming in the Eel River to get "clean," hiking, getting sandblasted on the beach, drinking instant coffee.  I was ready for some civilization.  I was ready to find a yarn store.  I found The North Coast Knittery.  

While Ralph sat on a fire hydrant watching the parade of colorful people in Eureka (felt like home in Asheville for a while), I spent a hour in this wonderful shop chatting with a young woman who is also a fan of the drop spindle.  She recommended a book:  Respect the Spindle by Abby Franquemont, which truly is a wealth of information right down to the physics of spindling, for the real geeks among us.  

So many books on spinning go on and on about wheels then mention the spindle in passing.  This book is just the opposite.  It goes on and on about spindles, and oh, by the way, you can also make yarn on a wheel.  Abby Franquemont is a true cheerleader for the ancient art of spindling.  I left The North Coast Knittery with another spindle (they are addictive), the book and 8 ounces of the most amazing Australian Polwarth roving EVER in the history of Polwarth.  I can't bear to spin it till I have a project in mind.

Now that I'm home and trying to produce yarn in bigger quantities, I do tend more towards the wheel.  But my spindles are always close at hand, as are my hand carders.  I use them now for exploring ideas.  Sometimes I wake up in the night with an idea for a yarn, and the spindle helps me test out "recipes" without committing to a big batch of something that may not be quite what I intended.  For example, I wanted to make a yarn that was reminiscent of an opal.  I used the carders to blend different fibers, including flashes of fiery orange and teal like you see deep within an opal stone.  Then I spun it different ways on a spindle until I settled on a thick and thin approach.  Once satisfied, I blended the ingredients on my drum carder and spun up a few ounces on the wheel.  Fluffy opal.

And some gratuitous pics of California...

Harbor Seal on Lost Cost, Shelter Cove.

Desolation Wilderness near Lake Tahoe.

Paradise Lake, Marble Wilderness.

Paradise Lake, Marble Wilderness.

On the way down from Paradise Lake.

View from Donner Pass at Sunrise.

My Love.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Sheep of the Week: Polwarth

You won't find many Polwarth Sheep in North America and it's a pity because I am smitten with their wool.  In South America, they are called Ideals, which sums it up pretty succinctly.

To me, they are ideal because I relish anything soft and fluffy and petable, not to mention easy to spin, a sponge for dyes, and plays well with other fibers.

These guys came into being in the 1880s in Australia, Polwarth County.  The breeder had Merinos that didn't fare well in the rainy climate of South Australia.  So he crossed his Merinos with Lincolns (3/4 Merino, 1/4 Lincoln) to give us the heartier dual-purpose Polwarth with long, soft fiber and lean meat.  They produce a 13-15 pounds of fiber (that's a ton of fiber gold!) with an average staple length of 6 inches and micron count of 23.  Polwarths don't have a lot of wrinkles under those wooly sweaters of theirs, so their fleece is very consistent.

The fiber is a dream to work with, easy to prepare and gentle to the hands. Spin it worsted to enhance its natural brightness and sheen and to lend a nice drape to the fabric.  Work it up into knitted, woven or felted items like hats, cowls, scarves, baby sweaters where itchiness can not be tolerated.   Blend it with other luxury fibers like bunny angora, silk, cashmere, kid mohair, baby alpaca for a truly numinous fiber experience.  

Word has it that Polwarth ewes are good mothers.  How hard could that be if your baby looked like this!

Puddles!  Photo courtesy of Shirley Browsky.

This little guy is from the flock of Shirley Browsky, a fiber artist in Ottowa, Canada.  Contact her if you are interested in fleeces.  Maybe Puddles is ready to be your next project.

Photo courtesy of Shirley Browsky.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

First You Make a Sandwich...

It's the middle of the night and you're Dagwood.  There is only one thing to do.  Make a sandwich.  In this case, however, we're not eating our sandwich. We are running it through our new drum carder to make a glorious, fluffy batt full of texture and interesting bits of personality--sari silk, silk noil, firestar, mohair locks, all sandwiched into a batch of Jacob fiber I had on hand.  

It wasn't quite the middle of the night.  More like 5:30 in the morning. Before coffee, even.  I couldn't wait to crank the handle on Maude (as in Harold and...).  She is as lively and outrageous as I knew she would be, and I could give up regular sandwiches forever if I can just keep making fiber sandwiches.  They feed and nourish me more than food itself!  

Top layer pulled back so you can see my sandwich innards.

Ready to feed Maude.

Feed it in slowly.

My sandwich is getting digested.

I wish you could see how fluffy it is!  Almost 2 inches thick.

It's Yarn!

It's not exactly as I'd envisioned, but that's partly due to the materials and the way it was spun.  Three things.  

One--jacob is a lovely strong fiber, easy to spin, so good for beginners.  But it's not a good fiber for garments.  I think this yarn would make a really cool rug, spun super chunky and knit on gigantic needles.  Or woven.  Then felted a little.  But you can't make a scarf because the itching will drive you bonkers.

Two--that itchiness MAY be because I used a batt of jacob fiber rather than individual locks or roving.  And the yarn came out very uniform in base color because I started with such a uniform preparation for my "bread."  You may or may not want such uniformity in your yarn, but it's not something I realized till it was all spun up.


Okay, one more thing.  Would you look at this sunrise this morning!  Today is going to be a beautiful day full of amazing opportunity and joy.

"It is in proportion to our trust in the Divine that the Divine Grace can act for us and help."  --The Mother