Tag: tourdefleece

Mary Lou’s Wheel 18

My friend Mary Lou died.

I would like to write about her here, about what a good friend she was, about all the things she taught me, about what a generous, beautiful, life affirming energy she was in the world . . . I’ve tried to write about those things, but so far, I haven’t been able to do it.

For now, let me just say that I miss her very much.

In looking for some way to adjust to life without Mary Lou, it occurred to me to ask her husband, Tom, about her spinning wheel. I can see her sitting at it, spinning and laughing and listening, barefoot, happy, at ease as only she could be with the wheel and the world. Seriously, she was so good at living.

Tom was kind enough to let me bring Mary Lou’s wheel home with me.

It’s here with me now, and it does help.

I am spinning on it for this year’s Tour de Fleece which started yesterday. My plan is to spin this glorious BFL top that for some reason makes me think of Mary Lou.

I want to use the 2-ply yarn to knit a pair of socks. I think she would like that.

She was extraordinary. I am so thankful that our lives intersected for awhile.








Spinnin’ wheel got to go ’round 7

The Tour de Fleece is underway! So far, I’ve been spinning about three hours a day. I think the time for this must be coming from a parallel universe because the rest of life has been busier than ever.

It’s been so crazy that my BFFF and I had to stage a clandestine getaway so we could actually speak face-to-face for a few hours. This was one variation on my attempt to pack for said spinning/catching up/commiserating.

Two knitting projects–my Hitchhiker and the second The Rain Outside. Three different choices of fiber. Spare bobbins. Bobbin winder. Lazy kate. Chocolate. Walnuts. Chips. Wine. In the end I left the bobbin winder at home and brought more chocolate.

It was divine.

We even managed to take a belated World Wide Knit In Public Day picture.

In addition to having our WIPs with us, we both happened to be wearing handknits as well. I LOVE that.

Since the Tour started, my knitting has mostly been on hold except for car rides and other times when it’s been inconvenient to spin. I’m finding that I tend to either knit or spin and not go back and forth between the two. Does anyone else do that?

Frankie is fascinated by the spinning. He doesn’t try to grab the fiber or stick his paw in the wheel like Augie occasionally does. He just wants to be involved. Sometimes, he’ll actually reach his paw out and rest it on the fiber in my lap. Other times, he’ll crawl up under my arm and literally be right in the middle of the spinning.

It’s hard work being the spinning assistant, though, so he spends the rest of the day resting up.

I’ve got more travel coming up, so I’ll be staying connected through Instagram for the next week or so. If you’re on Instagram and I’m not following you, be sure to let me know so I can.

Happy July, my friends!

I’ll leave you with this gem.




P.S. This is Cari’s packing photo for our getaway. Hahaha!




The World of Leaf and Blade and Flowers 4



Hello, friends! I hope the warm days are treating you well so far.

After a whirlwind few weeks of work and travel, I’ve finally had a little time to start settling into summer. The flowers are blooming.



The blackberries are starting to ripen.


We’ve tasted our first tomatoes from the garden.


There’s been some hiking.



I’ve begun a love affair with milk kefir.



There’s been some reading.*



Some yoga on the porch . . .



Plenty of knitting, of course (though I’m fresh out of pictures) . . .

And now there’s going to be  spinning! The Tour de Fleece starts tomorrow, and I can hardly wait!


Is anyone else joining in this year?

I’ve been loving everyone’s blog posts lately. I’m behind with commenting, but I’ve definitely been reading. I can’t imagine what I’d do without our wonderful online fiber community.

Wishing you peace, happiness, and lots of knitting AND spinning during these wonderful long days!



The title of this post is from John Steinbeck’s The Winter of Our Discontent: “In early June the world of leaf and blade and flowers explodes, and every sunset is different.”


*The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben has been mind-bending in the things it’s taught me about how trees communicate.





Spindle Love 9

I haven’t talked about spinning here in awhile, but the scent of spring–which in my brain leads directly to summer and the Tour de Fleece–is in the air, and I’m getting the itch. Plus, I was lucky enough to get several new Jenkins Turkish spindles recently, so that’s probably another reason I’ve got spinning on my mind. These are my absolute favorite spindles, and they can be ridiculously hard to come by.

One of the new spindles is a tiny purpleheart Kuchulu. My idea is that this one is going to make an especially nice travel spindle, so since yesterday was errand day, I decided to take it for a test drive.

By the time we made our usual stop for coffee at Jemima’s on the Laurel River, I’d managed to start the leader and wind on a tiny little cop.

I kept spinning as we drove to Asheville.

As I’d hoped, the Kuchulu is perfect for spinning in a confined space. There was no awkwardness at all as I spun in the car.

It turns out it’s also super convenient for dropping in a bag or purse and pulling out when there’s a bit of down time. I spun for a few minutes after lunch while we figured out the game plan for the rest of the afternoon.

On the way home, I was needing to knit, so I put this little guy away and pulled out my Inlet cardigan. I love it, though, and I can see taking it with me everywhere so I’ve got it when I find myself in the mood to spin.

If you like the idea of traveling spindles and want to see some great pictures, check out this thread in the Jenkins Ravelry group for instant happiness.

Does anyone else have spinning on the brain these days?

See Ya Next Year, Tour de Fleece! 16


Aaaaand another Tour de Fleece is in the books. Do you know about the Tour de Fleece? It happens every year at the same time as the Tour de France.

It was the brainchild of a vey cool woman named Star, the blogger behind Keep on Knitting in the Free World. The idea was that while the Tour de France riders spun their bicycle wheels, fiber spinners could spin along with them on their spinning wheels or spindles and cheer the cyclists and each other on.

For the first two years, Star actually ran the whole Tour herself. The idea took off, though, and what started out in 2006 as a handful of spinners chatting in the comments section of her blog had by 2008 become 15  organized Ravelry teams, sharing daily photos and competing for prizes.

These days, there are a well over a hundred teams, maybe even two hundred, and people all over the world take part. It’s crazy to think about thousands of people out there spinning their hearts out for 23 days, but it happens. I just love that!

tour-de-fleece singles 2

For the second year in a row, I spun with a team organized by the fabulous Dorothea of Spinfoolish Designs. She is ahhhhmazing! I know for a fact that she was born knitting, and she probably would have come into the world spinning, but her poor mother (“Saint Mummy,” I know you’ve heard of her) had to draw the line somewhere.

Every day, Dorothea sent us an email with info about the Tour or some interesting spinning topic. Plus, she organized all kinds of contests and games to keep things fun and keep everyone in touch since some of the team was pretty far flung.

With everything I had going on this year, I only managed to spin a tiny bit, but even that was nice. I also entered the team yarn swap. My swap partner lives in Canada (so cool), and I’m sending her the batch of alpaca/BFL in the photo at the top of this post. It’s some of what I spun last fall. I’m hoping she’ll like it.

Dorothea asks a few people to join her in writing the Tour emails each year, and this year I contributed an article about knitting with your handspun. As I was writing it, it occurred to me that I never posted a picture of my finished handspun pillow on the blog! I actually had to go back and check to be sure. I posted about making the pillow, but I never showed you the final result.

Here it is!



I can’t tell you how much I love this misshapen, lumpy bumpy pillow. It’s from my very first handspun, and everything about it makes me happy.

Speaking of happy making:


Augie is exhausted from the Tour frenzy. He’s so tired he can’t even guard the tummy.

And more happy making:


Banana cake with cinnamon cream cheese frosting. Also known as dinner. Yes, I did. Found the recipe here.


Spinning, Knitting, Summering 6

This is what I’ve been spinning for the Tour de Fleece.


It’s Finn in the colorway “Little Islands” from the Spunky Eclectic fiber club.

Finn from SE Fiber Club

These aren’t colors that I’d normally pick, but I’m really enjoying the shades of blue and cream. One of the great things about being part of a fiber club is expanding my color horizons. I’ll probably end up chain plying this when I’m finished with the singles. Then I was thinking I might use it for the yoke of the Garter Yoke Cardigan. What do you think?

I’ve also been working on Checks and Balances here and there. This was porch knitting this evening just before a major, much needed rainstorm rolled in.

Porch Knitting

I got this new project bag from Fringe Supply Co recently, and I love it.

Fringe Supply Co 1

It’s sturdy, so I feel like I can drag it around all over the place with me without having to worry about messing it up. It’s also got several nice pockets inside–a big one on one side and several tall narrow ones for needles and pens or pencils on the other side.


In other news, I’ve been pickling.


Picking blackberries.


Making banana bread.


And opening packages of fun things that have been arriving for the goodie bags for The Knotty Ladies fiber weekend on Roan Mountain that’s coming up at the end of the summer.


I have a little work left to do tonight, and then I’m going to get back to spinning the Finn. I’m trying to ease the pain of returning to work after my nice break by interspersing plenty of knitting and spinning. Oooh, and I’m watching The Wire. Don’t know how I missed it the first time around.


Handknits In The Garden 3

Pink Stripey Socks

I thought you might like to see the pink stripey socks in action. I love them! When I cast off Sunday morning, I couldn’t resist wearing them even though I was headed out to work in the garden. They were super comfy. I’ve already washed and dried them, and they look as good as new, ready for next time, which might just be today!

The garden surprise on Sunday was that one of my poppies bloomed! It’s a Florist Pepperbox. It’s the first poppy I’ve ever grown from seed. I hadn’t noticed that it was about to bloom, but the second I stepped outside Sunday morning, I saw it waving in the breeze among the marigolds. It was looking a little tentative when I took this picture, but as the day went on, it opened up and started to act like it belonged. 


And there was this guy. He stayed for quite awhile and kept me company while I weeded and poked around.


Here’s what I brought in from the vegetable garden.


This is the first year we’ve grown the foot-long beans. My aunt actually sent the seeds for these from her neighbor’s garden in Texas. With all the amazing things happening in the world today, one of the very most amazing to me is that a little brown seed from Texas could arrive in the mail, sit in my filing cabinet all winter, be sprouted and planted in the spring, and turn into these crazy, yummy long beans in my garden this summer. Nature will not be outdone.

Sunday night, I used zucchini and thyme from the garden to make “Creamy Zucchini, Walnut, and Thyme Soup.” It was pretty tasty, but this soda bread from the Eat Cake for Dinner blog was to die for. I seriously think I could eat it for every meal for the rest of my life and not get tired of it. 

Soda Bread

While I watched the Tour last night, I started plying the singles of the Hello Yarn Shetland I’ve been spinning. It’s a little barber poley, but I love it anyway. I think I’m going to end up with close to 400 yards, which will definitely be enough to make a nice shawl or cowl. I’m considering Xenia. I actually prefer Appia, but that design needs a less colorful yarn, I think.

Minerals 1

Minerals 2

Minerals 3

 Hopefully, I’ll finish up the plying today and be able to give the yarn a good soak tonight.


Summer Days 2

We’ve been having some crazy weather over the last couple of days—nonstop rain and lots of wind and lightening. We lost power last night, so I got to knit by candlelight.

Lights Out

I actually have a headlamp for precisely this kind of situation, but the batteries were dead, so candles it was. I’ve done five reps of the lace repeat on CeCe so far. Eight more before it’s time to start the sleeves. I’m getting there slowly but surely. It’s a nice pattern to knit, so I’m not particularly anxious to be through with it.

My big news today is that I tried spinning cotton for the first time. This was the first mountain stage of this year’s Tour, so I thought I’d get into the spirit of things and challenge myself. 

Stage 10

Spinning this was entirely different from spinning wool. There’s no elasticity or crimp to cotton, so it wants to slide apart if you’re too slow about letting the twist run in. It was fun for a change of pace. I need to work on maintaining a nice, even singles, though. Today’s effort was a bit thick and thin.

I came across an interesting article online about a woman named Melanie Gall. She’s a singer and actor who has written a couple of musicals about  knitting during the World Wars. Both are one-woman shows and feature some of what are apparently thousands of songs written about or that at least include references to knitting during the period. In addition to the songs, the shows present interesting bits of knitting history. One thing mentioned in the article was the impact of the knitting craze on women’s clothing: 

Knitting even altered fashion: Dresses were designed with large pockets so women could always have their yarn and needles on them; and, for the first time ever, women carried tote bags instead of little clutch purses.

I like this. I remember speculating one time about what Queen Elizabeth, who was often pictured knitting during WW II, carried in the little purse she always has with her. Wouldn’t it be awesome if it were her latest work-in-progress?! 

On a completely unrelated note, look at this gorgeous flower. It’s growing outside the door to my yoga teacher’s studio. I snapped a picture so I could show you.


Thanks for stopping by. Be well!

Le Grand Départ 4

Le Tour de France is underway, and I’ve been spinning along with the riders! The first day I picked a fun batt from my stash simply because I loved the color. It’s two ounces of Rambouillet/Bamboo/Angelina from Luthvarian Fiber Arts and came out to be about 44 yards of 3-ply.

Day1 13

For day two, I chose some bright blue Spunky Eclectic Polwarth that I had left over from last year. Lola and Augie both wanted to help with this since it involved the twirling sky thing.

Day2 3 crop

Yesterday, I spun two ounces of Huacaya Alpaca top on my Ladybug and a little bit of Cotswold on the spindle.

Day3 1

And so far today, I’ve plied the Alpaca. The squish factor is insane.

Day4 1

This is also le grand départ for another sort of journey in that I’ve started a spinning class. I jumped in on a whim because fun friends were doing it. Almost immediately after I registered, I started wondering if I was crazy. Work has been nuts. I’m involved in “Basics, Basics, Basics” through TKGA. It’s summer, so there is blackberry picking, gardening, hanging out with the chickens, going for walks . . . plus all the normal things.

I’ve spent some time with the first part of the course material today, though, and I think this is going to be very good thing. It brings spinning together with book making and an opportunity for some serious introspection. I hadn’t realized it until I began to get into the material a little, but taking stock of things could be exactly what I need right now.  

We moved to the mountain just over two years ago, and in some ways it feels like my whole life has been leading here. The world has been offering up some very important lessons, and it’s taken me nearly half a century to get a clue. A few things might actually, finally be sinking in, though. As I think more about all of this, I’m sure I’ll share some of it here, and I’ll definitely post more about the tangible parts of the course as it goes along. In the meantime, it’s back to Tuesday work. And the Tour!


Oh, Nature . . . Why Must Thou Be So Slithery 2

It’s going to take a LOT of knitting to get past this evening’s adventure. My amygdala (reference this post) is now set to high alert for about the next five years. When I went to collect eggs just before dusk, I opened the hen house door to find not one but two (two?!!) snakes in the chickens’ nest box. Big, fat, really long snakes. My first thought when I opened the door was, “how did the water hose get in the chicken coop?” About one zillionth of a nanosecond later, I revised my assessment and freaked the hell out.

Now, in my own defense, I’d like to say that there have been a number of challenges since we’ve moved to the mountain, and I’ve risen to the occasion every single time. I’ve managed black widow spiders, gigantic hornets’ nests, the idea of a local bear, and quite a few other things. But the snakes (with an “s”! TWO snakes!) . . . let me just say that I can still feel them crawling up the back of my neck. It’s clear to me that back at the dawn of everything when the frog brain was in its heyday, my people were on very bad terms with the snakes because I am clearly hardwired to lose my mind when I see (two of!!) them.

So anyway . . . I think my husband felt the seismic jolt of my freak out from inside the house because somehow he was instantly there, and he managed the situation. Thank heavens. Here’s one of the snakes after it was ejected from the chicken coop. 


Now, I can see how you might be thinking, “That guy doesn’t look so bad. The face actually seems kind of sweet.” Do not be fooled by the sweet expression, my friends. That snake and its compatriot were out to kill us all. I am certain of it.

Moving on . . . What I had intended to tell you right away was that Eudora is doing much better! She’s back to being her normal curious, active chicken self. She’ll be on antibiotics for a few more days to hopefully stem any infection that could arise, but that’s it. Here she is looking for bugs with her sister:


I’m immensely relieved. She’s such an amazing chicken girl.

In other news I’m starting to get excited about this year’s Tour de Fleece. I’ve been testing out my wheels and thinking about what I want to accomplish. This is some of the Shetland Wool Top from Hello Yarn that I used to knit the pillow cover I blogged about a few weeks ago. I’m spinning it on my Louet Victoria.


When I got this fiber last year, the plan was to spin a sweater quantity of yarn and make a cardigan. As it turned out, though, my spinning wasn’t as consistent as I’d hoped, and there was no way I was going to get a regular gauge with the yarn. Once I realized that, I put the project aside. Having picked it back up over the last couple of days, I’m feeling like the result is fairly even, but who knows. It’s too late for the yarn to become anything sweater-like now because I’ve already turned part of it into a pillow cover. I’ll probably just enjoy spinning the rest for fun. 

That experience has got me thinking, though. I’m wondering if my goal for this year’s Tour should be to practice spinning a consistent worsted-spun yarn. Last year, I spent the Tour trying out a bunch of different things—different fibers, different spinning techniques, spindle spinning, wheel spinning, all kinds of variations . . . It was a lot of fun and definitely kept the three weeks of Tour spinning interesting. Lately, though, I’m feeling seriously anxious to knit something wearable with my handspun, and for that I’ve got to be able to produce a consistent yarn. I sat down with my Ladybug today with this in mind, and here’s what I came up with:


I’ve got several weeks to think about it, but I’m warming up to the idea of focusing on worsted spinning with consistency as my specific goal. I’d like to know that I can aim for a particular weight of worsted-spun yarn and produce it in quantity.

Next stop . . . Ravelry. Maybe seeing what everyone else’s plans are will give me some more ideas.