Rolling, rolling, rolling….

Everyday this week (well, Tuesday was day 5) Ug and I have been riding our bikes.  The first day we did not go very far.  The second day we went a little further, then a bit further, then a bit more.  Tuesday we put the bikes in the van and went to Carrabassett to the Narrow Gauge Pathway.  This is a series of paths meant for all sorts of uses–biking, hiking, skiing, whatever, all seasons, but non motorized.  It runs parallel to Route 27, but on the other side of the river.  We have wanted to get onto it for a while, and today was the day.

We did come across an ATV trail that crossed the pathway, and part of the access road was also a logging road, which we did not know when we started (we had to stay out of the way of a logging truck), which is a bit sketchy given that the road is only one lane wide with a river on the other side.  But we have figured out a different area to park and ride so next time we can bypass the logging trucks in the woods.  I will say though, the driver of the truck was going quite slow and was watching out for people in the way.

A rather low Carrabassett River.  It’s been a dry Summer here.

Remember the pack basket?  It came along today too.

Yes, there was knitting in that pack.  You never know when you will be stranded in the woods with nothing to do.

A really nice place to ride, and a nice day too.  We figure that we rode about 2 miles today. For other people that might be a warm up, but for us it was the furthest yet.  And each day we go gets easier.  We did leave the water bottle behind on that rock though.  But given where we are, I bet it will be right there when we go again.


Traditional Scottish Dyes

A very big thank you today to Marija.  Marija is a friend and neighbor of my mother’s.  She has very generously sent this book to me.  I’m really excited to start collecting some of the dye plants and try out the methods outlined.


I have another book on using natural materials for dyeing fiber, but that books treatment of mordants (the fixative that binds the color to the wool) is somewhat confusing and I have never been able to decipher their system.  This book is very clear about mordants, amounts of plant materials vs. amounts of wool being dyed.

Several of the plants listed in this book are known to me and grow in our area, so I will have some fun collecting plants and flowers before fall really hits.  I am especially interested in the different lichens mentioned.  We have a surprising amount of lichen growing around here.  By the sides of the road are really pretty clumps of them.  How nice to give a different meaning to restocking my dye box!  A walk in the woods instead of a walk through Walmart.

Thanks again Marija!  I am going to be sending her some yarn.  She says she does not knit but does crochet, so hopefully I’ll pick a nice color for her.  If you do any dyeing, I think this book would be a nice addition to your library.  It was published in 1983 and reprinted through 1988, and there are still copies available on line.

A little bird on the wing


One of my young friends at work has been eagerly anticipating a trip to Texas to see her boyfriend graduate from basic training for the Navy.  The past 8 weeks have flown by–probably for the rest of us but not for those two.  We have all watched her cope with his absence, and have tried to be supportive of her and listen when she wanted to talk about it.

She has picked out a really sweet little (LITTLE) dress to wear to the graduation ceremony, which she will attend with the young man’s parents.  They are travelling together from here, and I would think will use the travel time to become more comfortable with each other.  Jessie is a petite slip of a girl and her somewhat smallish dress will look beautiful on her, but I thought she might want some sort of shawl or wrap or something in case the event is more formal than she was expecting, or if the evenings in Texas might have a slight chill.  We are northern people up here, we expect to be chilly everywhere!

If I had thought of this sooner, I would have considered knitting her something lacy, but as time has been a bit tight lately, I decided to sew something instead.


At first I thought a piece of sheer white fabric was going to be perfect, but the more I looked at it, the more I thought that sheer white draping over a white dress was just too bridal-like.  In a moment of panic I started looking around the sewing room and found this soft pale pink that is just perfect.  Jessie is definitely a pink girl.



I will say that when I gave it to her, she was pleased, but did not seem to know what to do with it.  I showed her how I would wear it–sort of draped in the crook of the elbows, and either she did not like it, or was embarrassed, or just confused I don’t know.  She thanked me and wrapped it back up and put it back in the box.  I’m hoping maybe her mother will show her what to do with it.  It is certainly okay with me if she does not bring it or wear it, I think I really just wanted to give her something for her trip.  Something to say, “We support you and everything will work out fine”.



Oh what fun…

I started out not wanting to dye any of that Lincoln fleece.  The white curls were so soft and shiny and curly that I did not want to lose any of that.  Then I started dyeing.  And I couldn’t stop.  So now there is none of the white left.  Oh…but the colors.  So pretty.  And they retain all of their shine and bounce.


The shine and luster that is coming through in this photo is exactly how they look.  These five piles represent 3 1/2 pounds of fleece–or that is the weight I started with.  I am curious to weigh them again once they’re fully dry to see what the washed weight is.

I wasn’t satisfied to stop at dyeing the Lincoln, though.  I have lots and lots of alpaca, so I just kept on going.  There is a little of another wool left over from a fleece I purchased several years ago, I think Coopworth.  So that is getting dyed too.  It was not gray and not white, so now it is prettier and neither not gray nor not white.


I am now limited only by my dye box, which is now in sad need of a restock.  I’m down to blue and green mostly, with a little bit of a questionable pink and a little purple that I don’t want to use all of as it was more expensive than the rest.  I have a couple of Jacquard acid dyes (sky blue and purple) but the rest are mostly Wilton food dyes.  I really like using those paste dyes as they are easy to use, and have a much better range than Kool-Aid.  Kool-Aid is what it is, crazy candy colors with not much in the way of subtlety to them.

Dyeing is an interesting exercise in letting go of expectations.  You can have intention when you fill the pot with water and wool and add the dye liquid, but what you get as an end result has not much at all to do with what YOU want.  It has everything to do with what the dye and the wool want.  You can influence it somewhat, but then you just have to stand back and watch and wait.  I do a fair bit of poking at it with a chop stick, which makes me feel like I am doing something, but really the wool is just tolerating me.

I want to dye more today, but I feel like I will end up with lots of blue/green and green/blue, so I think I will just wait for this lot to dry, label it and admire it.  Everytime I walk by it, I fluff it up a bit “checking for dryness” but really just touching it.

I think what I am doing is really restocking the ingredients bins for a winter’s worth of carding and batt making.

Saturday Morning at the Library

Our library in Madison is pretty small, but the librarian there is really great about getting inter-library loan books for me.  This means that my tiny little library (we go to the tiny little library in Madison because it is much bigger than the even tinier and more limited library in New Portland) can now be anything I want it to be.  I drove to town this morning to pick up this:

I am so excited to dive into it.  But right now I am off to work.  I will save this treasure for Sunday evening.  Perhaps as a reward for getting some much needed yard work done.


Lincoln Long Wool

At the fiber frolic this year I purchased (Thanks, Mom!) half of a Lincoln fleece.


I now wish I had been able to buy the whole thing.  This was the second half, someone else bought the first half.  But I thought that since I am just learning about different breeds of sheep and their wool, I should really not risk a whole fleece on unknown-to-me fiber.  So at the time, a half fleece was a good option.  This is 3 1/2 pounds, and was $5 per pound.  Not a bad price I think.

Last nice, since it was so hot and humid and sticky, I decided was a great time to wash some wool.  Why do I do that?  Anyway, this is what I started with:

The tag says that it will wash up “white, white”.  The tag says to see the white sample, but there was no sample to be found.  I figured even if it didn’t wash up really white, I really liked the honey color that it is already.  That honey color?  Washes completely away to reveal this:


Isn’t it beautiful?  So glossy and shiny, and WHITE.  And super soft.  This was only a half-hearted attempt at washing some of the wool.  I just grabbed a bunch and soaked (three times) then a rinse soak.  I use a salad spinner to pull out a lot of the water.  What a great tool that is when cleaning fiber.  (I have two, both from the dump)  It is still wet–I had it on racks in the tub overnight, but had to take it out so I can take a shower–but in a few days it will be ready to work with.

So now I have a dilemma.  I would like to put this through the drum carder to get it ready to spin, but if I do that, those beautiful curls will disappear.  Does anyone have any experience with Lincoln fleece?  What is the best way to spin this to retain its lovely softness and bounce?

With another nod to buying locally, this fleece is from a farm in Starks.  Starks is not really all that far from where I live.  A 20-30 minute drive maybe.  So theoretically, if I wanted more of this, or something similar, I could contact the people who raise this wool, drive over and get more.  I would like to see what other colors or fibers they might have.  I will definitely look for them again, perhaps at this year’s Common Ground Fair, but definitely at the Fiber Frolic next year.

Now that I started washing this, I can’t believe it has taken me so long to get into the bag.  I bet it takes dye beautifully, but the white is so pretty, I can’t decide if it would be a shame or not to dye over it.  Oh the possibilities.