Stress-Combating Fiber Arts …

For years I’ve appreciated that my fiber arts – particularly knitting and weaving – can combat stress and/or anxiety.  Since 45 entered the White House, my fingers have only reluctantly picked up my needles or warped my looms.  However, I have more thoroughly explored another kind of fiber.

pexels-photo-226615.jpegI have three different kinds of wild yeasts (sourdoughs) in my refrigerator, and one of the hall closets is now filled with food-safe storage tubs filled with different organic grains that I grind, sift (or not) and bake with.

Here are some pictures!  (If you click any of the pictures, you can read a brief description of each baked item.)

I am regularly asked how Thor and I stay thin though our kitchen regularly smells (and now looks) like a professional bakery.  Having 45 in the White House has put a damper on my appetite.  In the late afternoon we start listening to and watching national and international news, which makes it difficult for me to stomach much food after that point in the day.  Our country’s political chaos hasn’t killed Thor’s appetite, so in order that he doesn’t overindulge we share my baked goodies – with friends, neighbors, medical providers, the folks who order my organic grains, repair people, landscapers, etc.

The next post I will share some pictures of the other fiber work.  🙂  I’ve been working a fair amount with Lopi (in various weights) my absolute most favorite yarn to knit with.  I will put aside the Lopi once there is no snow left on the hills near us, which is the time the local farmers say it’s safe to starting planting.


Several friends have said they’re waiting for me to start ripping up our yard to plant grains.  Nahhh, I don’t think that will happen; Thor is sure to stop me if I tried.  (That said, I did look into it – but don’t tell Thor!)


Posted in Cooking, Miscellany | 19 Comments

Indoor Caps for Exposed Pates

Thanks to the fact that most homes in industrialized countries have indoor heating (not to mention running hot/cold water and showers!), the old tradition of women and men wearing knit or woven caps indoors to keep their heads warm and hair clean(ish) has been out of date for a long while.  Nonetheless, you may well know someone with an exposed pate who might well appreciate a hand knit indoor cap.

According to WebMD, “By age 35, two-thirds of American men will have some degree of appreciable hair loss and by age 50 approximately 85% of men have significantly thinning hair.   About 25% of men who suffer from male pattern baldness begin the painful process before they reach 21.”  Over and above male patterned baldness, there are other conditions than contribute to thinning hair, including (but not limited to) people suffering from alopecia, receiving certain medical treatments and even taking certain medications.  Certainly they may appreciate a nice indoor cap.

My Thor certainly does.  Relocating from cool San Francisco, we now live in the even cooler and rainy Pacific Northwest.  Whether in SF or the PNW, we prefer a low set thermometer, even in the coldest months.  Over the years, I have knit Thor several caps.  As he doesn’t want a bulky hat and dislikes the feel of wool on his bald pate, I reach for fingering weight yarns of cotton (at least 80%) blended with a protein fiber such as qiviut, silk, yak, or alpaca.  I have found that 50 grams is more than enough to IMG_6814knit Thor (who has a very large head) a cap patterned with knit and purl designs.  However, his newest cap had cables and used almost a full 50 grams (all but 8 or so inches!).  Here is a picture of it still damp from its wash.

Some of you may recognize the cable pattern I borrowed from Irina Dmitrieva’s “Men’s Ski Hat.”  I say “borrowed” as I adjusted her pattern to fit Thor’s head and my gauge using Classic Elite’s “Gigi” (8-ply, 50g=142y, 85% cotton/10% silk/5% stretch polyester.)

Cables knit with cellulose yarns do not have the “pop” they would have in a crisp wool, but as this is an indoor hat, Thor doesn’t mind them flattening.  (He’s nice that way!)




Posted in Miscellany | Tagged | 9 Comments

Fiber Lethargy No More

Since I last posted in February of this year, I have received e-mails from other bloggers asking why I had gone silent.  The answer to that question is simple:  The 45th president of the U.S.  After the November 2016 election, I was angry and, worse, despondent.  Since that fateful day two months later (inauguration day), my interest in researching and writing on fiber-related topics seemed, well, irrelevant given the political damage that I anticipated would be wrought by the most unprepared and unsuited president in the history of this country.  As a retired political science professor, I seriously thought about establishing a separate blog focusing on politics.  Yet every time I sat down at a computer, my fears, angst and depression about the future of this country choked my voice.

Sadly, my fears were all too prescient, as substantiated by the outrageous behavior, words and decisions of 45.  In an attempt to loosen the choking panic and anxiety that I had been fighting for months, I decided to read Hillary Rodham Clinton’s new book, What Happened.  Though I have been crying while reading it, I have been able to breathe a bit more freely.  But I still wasn’t able to sit down and write about fiber art.

Three things happened, however, that shook me back into enjoying fiber:  My new friend K; the 2017 Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival (OFFF); and Flora Felts.

First, my friend K, whom I met on a senior van trip.  (Yes, I have become one of those white-haired ladies!)   K – creative, intelligent, determined and energetic – asked if I would teach her how to knit.  I thought “sure,” thinking I could maintain an emotional distance from fiber art.  (After all, it’s just knitting, right?!)

Second, yesterday K and I drove over the Columbia River to OFFF in Canby, Oregon.  I started to feel pulses of excitement and anticipation as we neared the fairgrounds, passing women and men (mostly women) of all ages toting large baskets and bedecked in an array of hand-made creations.   I could smell the wool-producing animals and heard their quiet bleats.  Over the course of the day, K posed an array of intelligent questions (why do these two skeins from the same dye lot look so different?  When can I knit with mohair?  Would this yarn work well for a beanie?  What is qiviut and why is it so costly?), and by the end of the day, both K’s curiosity and my chatting with vendors (both new and old) had gone a long way to prodding me out of my fiber lethargy.

Third, the creations of one vendor specifically sparked my interest:  Flora Felts – the work of a Seattle-based Hungarian-born artist Florá Carlile-Kovács (first pic below).  The photographs below I took with my iPhone fail to do justice to her silk and wool felt work.  Florá’s pieces are colorful, bold, powerful and, well, capture (demand?!) your attention.  She seemed delighted to speak about her work with K and me, two women in their sixth decades – something I’ve learned that not all newer, younger fiber artists are eager to do.  (I discussed that in my post two years ago, The Pisher Paradox.)  I left with one of Florá’s wall hangings tucked securely under my arm (paid for – not stolen!).

As K and I perused the award winning creations on display (the judges awarded Florá’s nuno felt dress Reserve Grand Champion, second pic below), I realized that the fiber lethargy that had been heavy on my shoulders had fallen away.  As last year my political despair had led me to cancel the party I had planned to celebrate my birthday (as well as the inauguration of our country’s first female president), I decided this coming January I would celebrate two birthdays.  With that in mind, I returned to Florá’s booth and exchanged the wall hanging for one of her felted pieces of clothing.  It now hangs secure in my closet, and I will wait four months to wear her beautiful art on my next birthday.  (At the next event where K and I see Florá, one of Florá’s wall hangings will go home with me!)

So thank you K, thank you OFFF and thank you Florá! 


Posted in Fibers, Knitting, Miscellany, Other Fiber Arts | Tagged , , , , | 19 Comments

Cloud & Congress – Part 2

My apologies for the post notice you may have received earlier.  It was a glitch – truly!  I am using Thor’s PC and he’s been having some “issues” with it.  In any event, let me try again.


I haven’t blogged recently; I’ve been too distracted by U.S. political events.  Today, however, I decided to write a post.  First, Cloud, followed by Congress.


Three years ago I used Anzula’s Cloud (100g=575y=525m, 80% superwash merino, 10% cashmere & 10% nylon), to knit Linda Marveng’s “Milanese Shawl.”  (I wrote about it here.  Marveng’s attention to detail and exquisite use of cabling has made her one of my favorite designers.)  I narrowed this pattern, however, because I wanted more of a scarf than a shawl.  That scarf is my “go-to” winter scarf; it is warm, soft and long – and I love a wrappable scarf.  I was left with a full unused skein.

anzulacloudheadband-2Cloud is a fingering weight, and I wanted a heavier yarn for a headband.  After partitioning the skein into four balls to experiment with gauges, I decided I liked the three-ply the best.  Using Chic Knit’s cabled headband in its Elisabeth Collection as a start, I am pleased with this attractive and warm headband – and it matches my favorite scarf!


This morning I was mulling over the Republican-dominated Congress’s rabid obsession with ending the Affordable Care Act, privatizing medical care, and push to employee 401(k) plans.  Curious, I thought, given the cushy health and retirement plans of Congress members.  How cushy?  Extremely generous compared to most workers, even those employed full times.

First, Congress’s health plan.  Congress members (and their families) participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

  • The Office of Personnel Management describes it as “the widest selection of health plans in the country.”  (Click here to read more detailed description from the OPM.)
  • The Congressional Research Service sheds some light for us on this topic. (If you want details, read its nine-page summary report.)

Second, Congress’s retirement plan.  Nearly all members of Congress are covered by the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS).  What does this provide them upon retirement?

  1. Social Security (yes, Congress members have SS taxes withheld from their paychecks).
  2. Thrift Savings Plan (TSP).  This is a defined contribution (DC) plan for federal employees.  (Click here to read more.)
    • TSP is similar to 401(k)s common to private employees.  (By the way, 401(k)s were and are not intended to be a retirement plan.)
    • Federal agencies match up to 5% of a member’s contribution.
    • TSP differs from 401(k) plans in a key manner:  Whether or not the employee chooses to contribute anything to her/his TSP, the government contributes 1% of the person’s base pay to the TSP.  This isn’t a hidden bonus; click here to go to the TSP website and read their own words.
    • A Defined Benefit (DB) plan that guarantees an employee a specified benefit level upon their retirement if they serve five (5) years.  This means recipients receive a lifetime annuity (i.e., series of monthly payments) based on their salary when employed and years of employment.
    • According to the Congressional Research Service:  “There were 601 retired Members of Congress receiving federal pensions based fully or in part on
      their congressional service as of October 1, 2014. Of this number, 351 had retired under CSRS [the Civil Service Retirement System, pre-1984] and were receiving an average annual pension of $72,660. A total of 250 Members had retired with service under FERS and were receiving an average annual pension of $41,652 in 2014.”
    • What does that translate to?
    • Retired Members of Congress Annual Pension Pay* Total Per Year
      Retired Under FERS 250  $    41,652  $             10,413,000
      Retired under CSRS 351  $    72,660  $             25,503,660
      Total 601  $             35,916,660
    • If you feel like reading relevant data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, you will learn that fewer than 20% of private employees have DB plans  Experts believe DB plans are on their way out for private employees.

Are you wondering how much a person would need in savings in order to create a replacement income for the pension income taxpayers are footing for their elected officials?  Here’s how much you would need (thanks to Thor for preparing this for me):

Yield Needed: 0.80% 1% 2%
Amount of principal needed to generate $41,652 per year in income  $       5,206,500  $       4,165,200  $       2,082,600
Amount of principal needed to generate $72,660 per year in income  $      9,082,500  $      7,266,000  $        3,633,000
Yield Needed: 3% 4% 5%
Amount of principal needed to generate $41,652 per year in income  $       1,388,400  $        1,041,300  $           833,040
Amount of principal needed to generate $72,660 per year in income  $      2,422,000  $        1,816,500  $        1,453,200
Yield Needed: 6% 7% 8%
Amount of principal needed to generate $41,652 per year in income  $          694,200  $           595,029  $           520,650
Amount of principal needed to generate $72,660 per year in income  $        1,211,000  $       1,038,000  $           908,250
Yield Needed: 9% 10%
Amount of principal needed to generate $41,652 per year in income  $          462,800  $           416,520
Amount of principal needed to generate $72,660 per year in income  $           807,333  $          726,600

As an example, the following yields show (as of 2/27/17, 9:27 pm EST), the yields currently available to bond investors.  Yields of 10% are not available unless you invest in stocks and it’s a good year.  Higher overall returns thus requires greater risk to the investors.  Investors are not assured a steady income as are our elected officials.

Current Bond Yields From To
US Treasury Bonds 0.45% 2.93%
Municipal Bonds 0.72% 3.38%
Corporate Bonds 1.21% 3.89%

In conclusion, if privatizing health care, abolishing the Affordable Care Act and starving Medicare and Medicaid are for the benefit of our country and its citizens, Congressional members should set the example.  Let them first get rid of their defined benefit plans, Thrift Savings Account and Federal Employees Health Benefit Program so they can more closely experience what we taxpayers would have to experience.

Let’s remember that elected representatives work for the taxpayers, who are effectively, then, employers of the those elected.  How many employees in the U.S. create retirement and health plans for their employers?  The answer, I would guess, is a very small number or, more probably, none.

It’s time Republicans put their moneys where their mouths are.

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Heddles & the Electoral College

Two topics:  About Heddles and, below that, if you are interested in U.S. politics, About the U.S. Electoral College.

About Heddles

I set up my new (one previous owner) floor loom, a Gilmore 8-harness loom (54″ weaving width), and I saw I needed to lot more heddles. What is a heddle?

A floor loom has at least two shafts or harnesses, and on each are numerous heddles.  The harnesscloseupheddles separate the warp threads:  The warp threads (except for selvedge threads, if used), pass through heddles.  The pattern the weaver uses determines which warp threads go through a heddle on specific shafts and where.  Here’s a close up drawing of a harness and its heddles.

If you look at the top row of printing in the picture below, you can see where the harnesses sit on a loom (behind the beater):

harnessheddlesfullpic(Source of both pictures)

There are different kinds of heddles from which a weaver can choose.


While the mainstay of many weaving devotees, many knitters and crocheters find using a small rigid heddle loom the perfect way to give weaving a try.   A rigid heddle loom uses a single shaft (usually).  The warp threads pass alternately through the eyes in the heddles and through the spaces between those heddles.  The heddles don’t move, just the shaft.  When the weaver raises the single shaft, the threads through the eyes go up.  When she lowers the shaft, they are lowered.

ashfordknittersloomCricket_warped_F (2).jpgTwo popular rigid heddle looms are Ashford’s  Knitters Loom.  Another is Schacht’s Cricket loom that I bought for Granddaughter F.  (I wove two projects on it.  Granddaughter F hasn’t touched it!)

heddlestexsolvTexsolv heddles, made from heat-treated polyester, are very popular among many weavers.  Far quieter than metal heddles, they are also very light, though for some jack looms their light weight could cause problems.  (Click here and here for some useful information on Texsolv heddles.)

Wire twist heddles heddleswiretwistleclercare easy to find, though they can be hard on threads.  Weavers have an option on height of the eye.  Wire heddles slide on the heddle bar more easily than Texsolve heddles.

heddleinsertedeyeleclercInserted eye heddles are similar to wire heddles but easier on the threads:  The eyes have been dipped into solder, creating a smoother eye.  Many weavers working with hairy yarns find the yarn is less likely to tangle when going through these eyes.

In 1920 the Steel Heddle Manufacturing Co. could not keep up with orders for its flat steel heddlesWhen I learned to weave in the early 1980s, they were commonly used.  Sadly, however, the company was purchased by a German company which destroyed the Steel Heddle Manufacturing’s dies.  Heddles are no lonheddleflatsteelger made in the U.S. and more difficult to find.

Though not quiet like the Texsolv heddles, they are a good weight for jack looms.  Further, they lay flat into each other, which means weavers are able to pack a lot of these heddles onto the heddle bars – a benefit for weavers who work with densely packed warp threads.

heddlepicture-2So, which type of heddle did I go with?  I found two source with stashes of flat steel heddles and bought several hundred.  Then a weaving friend generously gifted me with a box of Steel Heddle Manufacturing Co. heddles!  (Thanks, SMN!)

As an aside, are you wondering about the origin of the word “heddle?”  According to Merriam-Webster, it is “probably alteration of Middle English helde, from Old English hefeld; akin to Old Norse hafald heddle, Old English hebban to lift.”

About the U.S. Electoral College

The U.S. Electoral College is a conundrum to many people, whether or not they’re Americans.  What is it and why does the U.S. have it?  First, some background.

When the Constitution was signed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on September 17, 1787, it didn’t automatically go into effect.  It first had to be ratified by the states.  It would be 3 years before the 13 states ratified the Constitution and, as this chart illustrates, not all states overwhelmingly supported its ratification.

State Date Votes for Votes against
Delaware December 7, 1787 30 0
Pennsylvania December 12, 1787 46 23
New Jersey December 18, 1787 38 0
Georgia January 2, 1788 26 0
Connecticut January 9, 1788 128 40
Massachusetts February 6, 1788 187 168
Maryland April 28, 1788 63 11
South Carolina May 23, 1788 149 73
New Hampshire June 21, 1788 57 47
Virginia June 25, 1788 89 79
New York July 26, 1788 30 27
North Carolina November 21, 1789 194 77
Rhode Island May 29, 1790 34 32

The debate over whether to ratify the constitution came to a head in Virginia and New York.  It coalesced around two opposing factions: people favoring a republic – that is, a democracy where people were best represented by elites – and those who sought a popular democracy – where all citizens (errr, i.e., free white male property owners) should have a equal voice in governance.

Could or should the “masses” (most of whom were uneducated yeoman) be entrusted with democratic tools?  Opposing the creation of a strong, centralized federal government, the Antifederalists thought they could.  The Federalists thought not and feared the instability of the democracy by the masses.

The Federalists won, in no small part by the arguments of Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison crafted in a series of persuasive essays called the Federalist Papers (U.S. Library of Congress), wherein they argued for a strong, centralized republican government with controls on popular democracy.

One control on direct democracy was that U.S. Senators were not popularly elected; they were appointed by the state legislatures.  This changed in 1913 with the 17th Amendment.

Another control on popular democracy was an “intermediate body of electors” as outlined by Alexander Hamilton in Federalist Paper No. 68.  Why?

[So] that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications. Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union, or of so considerable a portion of it as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of President of the United States.”

The result?  The Electoral College was a compromise between electing presidents by a popular vote of citizens and electing the president by a vote of elite representatives (i.e., Congress).

I’ve read Federalist Paper No. 68 many times.  Trump certainly is “not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications” and has displayed – boasted of! – his “[t]alents for low intrigue and the little arts of popularity.”  Nonetheless, when the Electoral College met last month, Donald Trump received 304 votes and, though she won the popular vote by almost 3 million votes Hillary Clinton received 227 votes from the Electoral College.

I suggest that in casting votes for Trump, the Electoral College blatantly failed to fulfill its role.  According to the U.S. Library of Congress, there have been 700 attempts to reform or abolish the Electoral College in the last 200 years.  The Electoral College is way past its expiration date.



Posted in Miscellany, Weaving | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Best Wishes for a Happy New Year

Happy New Year!

I have been mulling over closing over this blog and starting one on U.S. politics and public policy (reasons therefor explained in my last post).  I decided not to.  Here’s why.

I follow some very good fiber-related blogs written by people who are religious.  Most (sometimes all) of their posts include something religious.  As a person who is most definitely non-religious, I just skip over those parts.  Other fiber-related posts I follow are written by people who regularly talk about their children or pets.  I’m more interested in reading how they solved a tricky problem in designing a sweater than reading about how cute their child or pet looked in that sweater, so, as I have a lot to read, I skip the those parts too.

So I decided to keep but will include links to U.S. political or policy information that I think may be of interest to those who appreciate political information from an empirical and rational basis.  If a reader isn’t interested, s/he can just skip over that part.  Voila!

First such post:  With No Warning, House Republicans Vote to Gut Independent Ethics Office (source: Moyers & Company’s “Morning Reads,” 1/3/2017).   According to CNN:

“House Republicans voted 119-74 during a closed-door meeting in favor of Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s proposal, which would place the independent Office of Congressional Ethics under the control of those very lawmakers, a move that outraged Democrats and outside ethics organizations. The full House of Representatives is expected to vote on it as part of a larger rules package up for consideration Tuesday.”

What is the Office of Congressional Ethics?  Its website explains:

“Established March 11, 2008, by House Resolution 895, the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) is the first ever independent body overseeing the ethics of the House of Representatives. The OCE was formed after members of a congressional task force proposed an independent entity in the U.S. House to increase accountability and transparency. The OCE’s mission is to assist the U.S. House in upholding high ethical standards with an eye toward increasing transparency and providing information to the public. The OCE reviews allegations of misconduct against House Members, officers, and staff and, when appropriate, refers investigations to the House Ethics Committee for further review.”

Any U.S. representative supporting such a move should be ashamed – and shamed!  This morning I wrote my U.S. Representative, Jaime Herrera Beutler.  If holding our representatives to high ethical standards is important to you, I urge you write your representative immediately.  (Click here to find your representative.  You’ll be able to email your representative directly from that site.)


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Kakistocracy* on the Horizon

* Government by the least qualified or most unprincipled citizens. (Origin:  Greek kakistos: worst, superlative of kakos, bad; kratia: power, rule.)

I started the Sweaty Knitter blog in 2012 and have enjoyed researching and writing fiber arts/crafts posts that I hoped were engaging, informative and educational.  Since the recent U.S. presidential election (November 8), however, I have lost my interest in sustaining a blog on fiber, arts and craft.  Don’t worry; this is my first and last post of a political nature on this blog site.

As a former professor with a doctorate in political science (U.S.), I endeavor to stay current with politics, policy and economics – daily listening to PBS’s Nightly Business Report and NewsHour and reading an array of reputable news sources, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, The Economist, The Atlantic Monthly, and Mother Jones.  I value the economic and political insights of knowledgeable experts and columnists such as Robert Reich, David Brooks, Paul Krugman, Mark Shields and Noam Chomsky.  (In fact, Chomsky’s “Requiem for the American Dream” and Reich’s “Inequality for All” are two films I believe every American should view.)

On the morning after the election, after only a few hours of fitful sleep I stared at the ceiling stunned that a candidate without political experience, with scant political and/or policy knowledge, openly hateful and discriminatory (not to mention predatory) who mocks the scientific community’s warnings on climate change, will be sworn in as the 45th president of the U.S. next month.

I understand why many people voted for a candidate they saw as having no political baggage or history: They were tired of, among other things, “politics as usual;” of seeing a once attainable (or at least hoped for) standard of living (depending on race, sex and ethnicity, of course), slipping away; of feeling they have no say in political decisions; of politicians making decisions that benefited the wealthy (especially the extremely wealthy) – to the disadvantage of every other socio-economic class.  They didn’t like or trust Hillary Clinton for various political or personal reasons, real or imagined.

What is difficult to fathom, however, is why these people swallowed Donald Trump’s ludicrous campaign promises and tolerated his open hate speech and insults.  How the same people who claimed they didn’t trust Hillary Clinton were willing to trust Donald Trump.  Skipping over his failed business ventures and his status as a complete political neophyte, Donald Trump is unlikely to be their savior if only because he is a vacuous, a filter-free, narcissistic showman.  I assume his supporters expect him to fulfill his campaign promises (including his oft-repeated promise that if elected, Donald Trump would then release his tax returns).  When he doesn’t, what will they do?

I expect this unabashed plutocrat will cause more failures than solutions.

I shudder and my eyes tear every time I think the of the world, with Trump at the helm of the U.S. government and the posse of mean-spirited Republicans currently dominating Congress, my grandchildren could inherit:  Revitalized institutionalized sexism, racism, religious discrimination and nativism; health care affordable only by the wealthy; clean air and water for nobody; corporate giveaways extraordinaire for business; a tax code benefiting a minority of citizens.

This morning I read Charles Blow’s column in today’s The New York TimesHe argued that “resistance isn’t only principled, but essential and even existential.”  Blow captured my feelings with these words:

“We are not in an ordinary postelection period of national unity and rapprochement.  We are facing the potential abrogation of fundamental American ideals.  We stand at the precipice, staring into an abyss that grows darker by the day.”

People who share my concerns face two options:  Either ignore all things political, social and economic and float along hoping things will work out somehow until the embrace of death, OR become more politically, economically and socially aware, involved and active.

The first option is morally and ethically repugnant to me.  As I decide how I can be actively involved for positive change, you will understand if my fiber-related posts to become sporadic (and no, I won’t post any more posts of a political nature to this blog).

I, of course, am still weaving and knitting, but my thoughts are preoccupied with my grandchildren’s future.

Posted in Miscellany | Tagged , , , , , , | 21 Comments

In the Midst of Chaos …

… a lot of fun!

Despite the fact that we are gearing up to move a distance of several hours drive north to our new home, I am busy with fiber-related projects.  I can’t knit as all my knitting supplies are safely packed away.  However, I have been busy with another fiber-related project.  My Schacht Mighty Wolf loom now has company!

gilmoreannieI recently purchased a (previously-owned loom) loom:  8 harness, 14 treadle, with a 54″ weaving width. Can you tell its maker from the picture? 

The original owner was pleased to find a good home for a loom she bought 30 years ago but hadn’t woven on for the last 17 years.  I was thrilled to find a wonderful loom that had been stored somewhere dry and smoke free for all these years at an affordable price.

I haven’t yet woven on the loom – though I gaze at it longingly and lovingly all through the days.  In addition to gearing up for our move, however, I have been cleaning and paste waxing it, checking the action and all the parts, putting in new treadle ties, removing rust from and cleaning the heddle bars, adding hundreds of heddles, installing a few parts for modifications or renovation, etc.  It’s definitely been laborious, but it’s a labor of love.  I am learning so much about this loom in the process.

All this is going on as the living room (now dominated by the new loom) of our rented condominium is filling with packed moving boxes.  Needless to say, we’re sort of wedged in!

movingtruckillbeback2We start moving into our new house soon.  I am sure you will understand that due to the demands of moving I’ll be on a short hiatus from blogging!


Posted in Bulky Lopi, Rug Making, Weaving | 18 Comments

Working With Bumps

alpacabumpsHave you seen the “bumps” of alpaca rug yarn that seem to be popular at fiber fairs and events?  Some are all alpaca, others have cotton or rayon blend cores.  (These cotton-cored alpaca bumps are from Las Flores del Altiplano Alpacas in southern Washington state.) I added several bumps of Las Flores alpaca rug yarn to my stash.

ramsheadbumpsLast month I met Tracylyn Robertson of Ram’s Head Station at Oregon Flock & Fiber Festival; her small basket of rug ramsheadbumps2yarn (cotton-cored Icelandic wool), caught my eye.  Of course I just had to buy some, but she didn’t have enough of the color I wanted.

A few days later I drove out to Ram’s Head Station to buy icelandic_blackrug yarn.  I also got to meet her sheep.  Meet Dot, a particularly friendly Icelandic sheep!

Strolling through the last couple of fiber gatherings I’ve attended, I’ve had the opportunity to see what people are doing with such bumps of yarn.

At the Black Sheep Gathering last June, I watched an alpaca breeder demonstrate how to “hand crochet” a rug using her bumps.  Hmmm … the resulting rug looked okay but given the vast amount of space between the loops, it was not destined to wear well (and certainly provided too many opportunities to get a toe caught in a loop).  I decided to these bumps would be better put to use in tightly packed into a woven rug.

I also visited the booth of a vendor selling alpaca rug yarn along with what might have been the biggest (in diameter) knitting needles I had ever seen.  Her rug yarn and needles flew off her shelf, but my wrists ached just thinking of what it would be like to knit or crochet with that yarn and those needles or an equally large crochet hook!

I was happy to finally stumble across another Black Sheep vendor who was showing rugs he had woven from alpaca bumps.  Hmmmm … definitely not a tight enough pack (I could easily poke my fingers through), and it clearly had not been woven under a tight tension.

At OFFF I browsed through the alpaca-created wares of another breeder.  Oh dear, the woven rug on display (and for sale) was worse (in technical structure), than the similar woven rug I saw at Black Sheep.

I am very pleased with the many bumps of rug yarns I purchased from Las Flores and Ram’s Head.  From perusing what others have made – and how – from similar yarns, I have a good sense what not to do.  The bumps I selected are destined to be woven into tightly packed rugs. 

Have you ever worked with a similar bulky rug yarn?

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Introduced to a “New” Fiber @ OFFF

Last weekend I attended the annual Oregon Flock & Fiber Festival (“OFFF”).  It was a lovely event!  My attention was caught by kitchenbroomsa vendor display I’d before never seen:  Squire Brooms of Bay Center, Washington.  The owners, John and Margaret Simurdak, had a beautiful display of handmade Shaker-style brooms.  Like all of the vendors at OFFF, John and Margaret were happy to chat about their craft and demonstrate some of their techniques.


Broom Tying Box

I learned, for instance, that what I’ve always thought as “straw brooms” aren’t made from straw.  They’re made from broom corn.  Surprised, I asked if they were made from actual corn tassels.  No, explained Margaret, they’re made from a  sorghum plant.  I came home with a beautiful kitchen broom and, being me, curious about the sorghum and history of American made brooms.broomcorn

There are over 200 varieties of sorghum.  The sorghum Margaret was referring to is Sorghum vulgare, commonly known as broomcorn.

According to Washington State University Extension, “Broomcorn (Sorghum vulgare) is not actually corn, but is instead related to the sorghums used for grain and syrup (Sorghum bicolor).”  The Sorghum vulgare variety is used for making brooms because, as explained by broomcorn2the University of Wisconsin Extension, “It differs from other sorghums in that it produces heads with fibrous seed branches that may be as much as 36 in. long.”  (Picture from Root Simple, which, by the way, notes that according to the OED,  it should be written as “broom corn” not “broomcorn.”  Oh well, maybe the Americans prefer the later!)

On the website of Lorenzo’s OK Seeds I read that “Benjamin Franklin is recognized as introducing broomcorn to the United States in the early 1700s.  In 1797 farmer Levi Dickenson from Hadley, Massachusetts, used a bundle of broom corn to make an extremely good broom for his wife and word of mouth took over.”  Wikipedia notes that Dickenson soon “invented a machine that would make better brooms, and faster than he could. In 1810, the foot treadle broom machine was invented. This machine played an integral part in the Industrial Revolution.”

I wondered why the plant is called “broomCORN” if it is actually a sorghum plant.  According to Broom Shop, “By about 1810, the sorghum used in brooms, had acquired a new name, Broom Corn, as the British called all seed bearing plants, ‘corn.'”   On this website I also read that the U.S. “broom industry flourished until 1994 when foreign brooms were permitted into the U.S., duty free. The remaining small factories struggle to compete with Mexican-made brooms, while individual broom makers … make a few thousand high quality brooms each year and tell the interesting stories of our history.”

I am happy to own and use a Squire Broom.  Interestingly, Lorenzo’s OK Seeds also notes that broomcorn is “now being used as a fashionable ornamental plant in garden beds and for borders by discriminating landscapers and gardeners. The gently waving, colorful and heavily-laden seed heads will add visually stimulating dimensions to your garden that are difficult to achieve with other plants.”

Well, I know what I’m adding to my new garden!  Has anyone grown this?





Posted in Miscellany | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments