Tuesday, July 7, 2015


(beautiful shibori textiles from India)
(naturally dyed textiles from India)
As I wrote in my last post, I've been on a bit of a workshop bender. Three workshops in four weeks is a lot to take in, but I wanted to learn everything, so my motto became "Do All the Workshops!"

I heard about Shakerag last year when Cal Patch blogged about teaching there. I was surprised to learn that it was in Tennessee, which for me is close to home, as workshop destinations go. For the last two years I've attended workshops at Anna Maria Horner's Craft South in Nashville and have been pleasantly surprised that it is only three hours away and a very easy drive. Shakerag is an hour and a half from Nashville, located outside Sewanee on the campus of an Episcopal boarding school. It's a beautiful campus. The accommodations are in the school dorms, so are fairly basic, but staying in your room is not what you go to Shakerag for anyway. Meals are fabulous and are a great time for getting to know participants in other classes or chatting more with your classmates. The food was simply wonderful. It's mostly local, organic and beautifully prepared. Even the way the food was presented was gorgeous. At every meal the long buffet table was filled with so much goodness, it was hard to choose, so mostly, we just ate all of it!

(a wonderful group of women at Shakerag 2015)
I signed up for the Natural Dyeing class, taught by Charllotte Kwon and her daughter, Sophena Kwon, of Maiwa Handprints, because I'm still trying to get over my fear of dyeing. I've hosted several dye workshops over the years, but what I've discovered is that hosting prohibits being able to fully participate. I just didn't have the confidence to tackle the 350+ skeins of Tanglewood Farm yarn waiting on me. I felt my usual inhibition about going off on my own, where I didn't know anyone, but felt, if nothing else, it would force me to concentrate more seriously on the workshop. That first evening as we went around the room, introducing ourselves, I was feeling seriously intimidated by the number of women in the class who were already teaching natural dyeing, I was ready to put on the dunce cap right then and there. The next morning, when we were given partners for our dyeing assignments, sure enough, I was paired with Carla, who has been teaching at John C. Campbell Folk School for many years. Bless her, Carla was great! Though I made mistakes (being a little heavy-handed when I made our indigo vat), she didn't make me feel bad about it and was encouraging the whole week. This was a class full of the loveliest of women and I feel as though I've made new friends I'll stay in touch with in the future.

(only some of the many samples we dyed)

(pages from my very own finished notebook - I'm very proud of it)
 I honestly don't feel I can do justice to describing Charllotte and Sophena Kwon. The knowledge shared, the organization of class supplies and the amount of information we were given was astounding. These are two women who have a passion for what they do and their enthusiasm is contagious. It was a very hands-on experience and everything was presented in a manner to build confidence. Each person was given a beautiful notebook (full of all the class information) so while we did have informal lecture times each day, we didn't have to be stressed about writing everything down. (By the way, much of the information we were given is available for free on the Maiwa Handprints website.) We dyed samples of various fibers to place with the coordinating information and dye formulas in our notebooks. Upon returning home, I completed my notebook and now have a handy reference to use. In fact, the dye pot has been going for several days now. I'm actually practicing what I learned and it's thrilling to feel so empowered. If you ever have the opportunity to take one of their workshops, don't hesitate .... it was simply a wonderful experience. I'm honestly not sure how I was lucky enough to land there. I had seen the workshop list for Shakerag some time ago and the class was filled. Then I happened to see on a social media site that there was one opening in the class and I immediately sent an email to Claire Reishman, the amazing woman who is director of the Shakerag program. Even though she was vacationing in Italy (I know!), she emailed immediately to tell me the spot was mine. After spending a week at Shakerag, I am even more impressed with her attention to detail. Here's a little example - when I signed in, I was given an information packet that contained my name tag. As is often the case, my name was misspelled on the tag (Diane, rather than Dianne). I'm used to it. When I saw Claire the next day, I thanked her for her quick response to my email and while we were talking, she commented on my misspelled name tag, which was hanging around my neck. I assured her it happened all the time and that was the end of our conversation. I returned from lunch to find a new, correctly spelled name tag on my table! As someone who has gone through my whole life with people not noticing how my name is spelled, I was completely amazed!

(first batch of roving dyed with logwood)
The workshop was a life changing experience for me. I finally feel as though I have a grasp of the steps to achieving the colors I want from natural dyes. There are 350 skeins from previous year's wool clips, that are ready for the dye pot and more than 100 pounds of wool that I'll be taking to the mill soon, to be spun into more yarn. My goal has been to present my yarn to knitters in the most eco-friendly manner possible and I believe I'm going to succeed now.

(and then there's these two, Judith and Lisa - who kept me laughing all week - miss you two and Amy Lou so much!)

Monday, June 29, 2015

Living it up

(Meanwhile, back at the homeplace, Aslan and Peegee contemplate nature)
 I've been absent from this space so long, you might be justified in wondering if I've had a relapse or become incapacitated, when in fact, it has been just the opposite.  If there is anything this past year has taught me, it's that I want to seize opportunities when they present themselves. So, I've been living it up. Sometimes that means stepping outside my comfort zone, pushing on through some discomfort and extending myself beyond what I think I'm capable of at the moment. That's exactly what has been happening this past month and I believe I'm better for it. I've been participating in a workshop extravaganza! Three workshops in four weeks!

(Nicola demonstrates lay-out for eco-dyeing)

First, I took a two day eco-dyeing and felting workshop with fabulous Irish felter, Nicola Brown. Nicola is not just a wonderful teacher, but someone who is a friend and I'll seize any opportunity to spend some time with her. (Mike and I spent four days at Clasheen, her beautiful farm in Ireland, last September, on our way to Scotland, and hope to go back in the future.) The first day of the workshop was spent felting a vessel or purse and the second day was eco-dyeing our felted items along with silk scarves. Eco-dyeing is so much fun because you can never quite predict the results. Nicola encouraged us to bring different plants and leaves to press onto our felted items. I gathered leaves from our Catalpa tree, some sprigs of crown vetch growing on the roadside, ferns and rose leaves. We dipped the leaves in iron water before arranging them on our items, then rolled them into tight bundles and steamed them. The results were fantastic - all different, all equally beautiful.

(the "hinge" is the secret to the bust adjustment)
Next up was a trip to Nashville to Anna Maria Horner's new shop, Craft South, for a workshop on pattern fitting with Liesl Gibson. If you ever have the opportunity to take this workshop, do it! Don't even hesitate to sign up if you are at all interested in making garments that actually fit you correctly. I've complained here often enough so that most of you know, fitting has been my downfall in sewing endeavors. Now I know why and believe I have the knowledge to prevent my mistakes. (Ever heard of a full-bust adjustment?) Liesl also has some great classes on Creativebug that should keep me from forgetting everything I've learned. I can hardly wait to get back to my sewing machine (and I might have made a few fabric purchases in Anna Maria's beautiful shop). Oh, the fabric ... beautiful Liberty, Nani Iro, Cotton and Steel!  It was too much good stuff to resist.

(And here we are, proudly displaying our perfectly fitted muslins)
(a little detail on my muslin)
The workshop was filled with the usual mix of beginning to very experienced sewers. I would guess I fell somewhere in the middle and I tried not to be intimidated. I met some really nice women (Hi Karen!) and thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. One of the bonuses in spending time with a group of like-minded women is the generous sharing of information and sources. It was also a joy to spend time with Anna Maria, Liesl, and the young women who work for Anna Maria (Pierrette and Anna Michelle).

(here's a hint)
As soon as the Nashville workshop was over on Sunday afternoon, I loaded my car and drove straight to Sewanee, Tennessee. Until recently, I had never even heard of Shakerag. Cal Patch taught there last year and it was her blogging about it that got my attention. Here was an incredible workshop resource within 4 1/2 hours of home!  I'll save the details on my week-long natural dye workshop for next time and I promise it will appear in this space within the next week. (I promise!)

I have been overwhelmed with catch-up work since my return. Of course, Mike kept all the animals alive while I was gone, but this is an extremely busy time of year for him, so not much else was done. I spent all day Monday mowing. The garden has a glorious assortment of healthy weeds. (Have I mentioned how much I hate wild morning glories?) and I'm not at all sure I will ever catch up with the laundry and ironing, not to mention filing all those patient records. It is taking all the discipline I possess to stay away from the sewing machine and the dye room until I can bring some semblance of order to the rest of my responsibilities.

(Then there's Midgie, always looking for a little attention)

Friday, May 8, 2015

What have I been doing?

It's been a long, cool spring here in Kentucky, but based on our 86 degrees today, I'm guessing we're straight into summer now. These poppies have lived here longer than we have and seem to be spreading their happy color around to more planting beds. I've always yearned for those lovely pink poppies, but have been unsuccessful at getting them established here.

(recently sewn tops - still hanging in the studio)
I know lots of folks who are participating in MeMadeMay. Though I am not one of them, I could be, because I've been on a sewing binge that has lasted for a while. The new Bernina has encouraged me to attempt making myself some new, simple garments. My most troublesome issue with sewing is choosing the correct pattern size. Somehow, my measurements don't fall into one specific size range, but more likely will involve three different sizes! As a result, I've discovered the wisdom of making a "muslin" before cutting into the expensive Liberty fabric. My muslin is not usually an actual piece of muslin fabric, but rather an inexpensive piece of fabric that I can possibly wear, if by some miracle my first attempt actually fits me well enough that I can wear it for barn chores or garden work.
(Scout -original version - not my color, but will work for barn chores)
I've been inspired of late to analyze my (so called) wardrobe of clothing by Karen Templer (Fringe Association) and Ellen Mason (Odacier), among others, and from my reading and embracing some of the wisdom from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I recently went through my clothing and purged all that did not fit, was too shabby for even barn work or for whatever reason, I just never seemed to wear. Needless to say, there is not much left. I'm actually okay with having not much left. It kinda feels good to only have things I really like to choose from when I'm getting dressed. The whole exercise helped me to focus on what I need and which styles I prefer. My daily outfit is usually jeans and a tee-shirt because it suits my life here on the farm. When it's hot, I wear shorter pants and sleeveless tops. When it's cold, I add wool socks and sweaters to the uniform. Lately, I've been inclined to wear cotton or linen blouses or tops, rather than tees and so the things I've been sewing are mostly tops, with a few tunics added. (I do love the idea of wearing tunics over jeans or leggings in the winter.) At this point, I've made three different Wiksten Tovas, three Grainline Scouts and three from Butterick B5356.  The Scout woven tee is a super simple pattern that fits great. The original version has very short sleeves. I made two more versions; one in a print with a longer short sleeve and a natural linen one with 3/4 sleeves that I love for a little dressier look. I can highly recommend it.
(Wiksten Tova)
I've been seeing Wiksten Tovas all over the place for years and finally decided to give it a try. It takes a little finessing to get that inset sewn in just right and I was marginally successful on two and finally got it just right on the one above. I think I've got the confidence to make one in my Liberty Tana Lawn now!

The Butterick pattern was surprisingly my favorite. I've made it in tunic and top lengths and really like the ease of it. I tapered the sleeves some, but otherwise the medium fits me perfectly. The sleeves and the yoke are of one piece, so construction is really simple.

(Butterick B5356)
Next up, I have a few pieces of fabric that want to be sewn into Wiksten Tanks.  I unsuccessfully attempted making a real muslin of the tank last summer, but with my new-found confidence, I'm going to give it another go. Wish me luck!

What else have I been up to? Knitting, of course. I knitted two hats for the Fringe Hatalong No. 2 (which I'll try to get photos of for next time), finished up my Kate Daviess Peerie Flooers. Then I fell down the rabbit hole that Maya pushed me into! If you've been shopping for cotton clothesline lately, I expect you know what I mean.  Those baskets are so easy and addictive.  You just can't stop making them!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

A spell of smalls

(Green grass and dirty sheep!)
Well, yes, I've actually made it back to this little neglected space. It seems as though my current life revolves around doctor appointments, blood work appointments and physical therapy sessions, so there's not so much interesting blog fodder these days, but I'm hopeful that the day will come when I can call myself a full time shepherd again, instead of a rather passive observer of my husband doing my work.

As promised, I do have a few small knitting projects to show. I had a spell of hat knitting before I went in for surgery and it would appear that my box of finished smalls is well stocked. My "finished smalls" consists of a large box full of hats, scarves, cowls, mittens and mitts that can be offered for sale, if I'm doing a fiber festival or opened for the perusal of children and grandchildren, so they may choose something they would be willing to wear. I've discovered this is the best way to insure that what I gift to my grandkids is actually liked and worn, rather than conveniently lost or stuffed in the back of their sock drawers! I consider this a double win for me because I love knitting smalls and don't feel the necessity for having a recipient in mind when I feel the urge to knit yet another hat!

Now that I'm looking at this picture, I believe that none of these hats have had a bath and a little blocking. That would certainly smooth things out a little, but I like all of them, nonetheless. Starting at the top is the Audrey hat that was part of Karen Templer's (Fringe Association) Hatalong #1. (She's planning a second Hatalong to start this week.) I used some of the Shalasdair Naturally yarn that I brought back from the Isle of Skye, Scotland last September. It's a nice, sturdy kind of yarn that will hold up well. The pattern is fun, with just enough going on to keep it from being boring. The black marled hat (Imperial Yarn Anna) can also be credited to  Karen's influence. It's the Stadium hat and it's a free pattern on her blog. I love this thick, 70% Columbia wool, 30% American cotton yarn. It has a bit of a rustic look that suits me. The multi-striped hat is from a bag of bits and pieces of handspun, naturally dyed yarn that I bought somewhere last fall (maybe Rhinebeck? - wish I could remember). I loved the colors, especially that weird pea green, and wanted to use all the colors to make something I would enjoy wearing. This was strictly and grab and knit project, no planning which colors should be used in which order. I used the same basic pattern as the Stadium hat and it worked out fine. The last hat is a little of my own Tanglewood Farm wool/alpaca blend yarn from 2 years ago, with a tiny bit of my own handspun used as the edging. I used Ann Budd's The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns to come up with the simple hat pattern.

I confess to having several (many!) other projects still on the needles. My Hitchhiker is languishing in time out right now because I made the mistake of knitting on it at times during my hospital stay when I felt unwell. Now, I have some sort of weird mental association with feeling poorly and knitting on Hitchhiker and every time I pick it up to knit on it, I get a bad feeling! I'll just have to wait a little while till that wears off. I did knit the Nordic Wind shawl, after reading about it on the Woolful blog and their Ravelry page for the KAL. I missed getting the small batch farm lopi that was part of the KAL kit, but bought the pattern and used some unspun Icelandic I already had that came from Schoolhouse Press (I think I should get extra credit for using stash!). This shawl was a fast knit and the unspun Icelandic is enjoyable and interesting to handle. If you tug the tiniest bit too much, it drifts apart, but spit splicing was made for this stuff and it takes only an instant to be knitting on your way again with rejoined fiber. The nature of Icelandic wool is warm and insulating, yet the finished shawl is light as a feather (mine weighs 4 1/8 ounces). A quick wash and light blocking softened the wool into something I know I'll be wearing for years to come. .

Next time, I'll have a few finished sewing projects. I seem to have an overwhelming urge to sew right now. I've had great fun picking patterns and fabric, which is at least half the fun, right?