Friday, April 27, 2007

Folk Life at Pharsalia Plantation April 07

This picture is of Judy Adams, a friend and talented fiber artist, who accompanied me to Nelson County Days on Saturday where we were costumed and fit to create a little folk ambiance, sitting outside the spinning and weaving house. On Sunday, another friend, Ann Vonnegut, brought wool from her Leicester sheep and she spent the day spinning and inviting people to dip their hands into sacks of raw wool 'in the grease' and then into some cleaned and combed rolags. This all happened at a folk life festival held at one of the last remaining intact plantations in Virginia. I always think it is interesting that men seem willing to try their hand at weaving a throw or two, or at mastering the drop spindle. Several boys took to the drop spindle in lots less time than I did!

You might notice that the gentleman at the loom has on a red/maroon remembrance ribbon, and this is because the festival happened just 6 days after the tragedy at Virginia Tech. Nearly everyone in central and southwest Virginia has a connection of some sort to this school. If your dog or horse is sick, you cart them off to the veterinary school at Virginia Tech. If you need your soil tested, you send it to them. My uncle graduated from that school, and I graduated Radford, just 10 miles away, and at that time known as the women's division of the university. This part of Virginia is a Tech football bastion, and just across the historic James River begins the emotional loyalty to the University of Virginia's Cavaliers. We have attachments to one or both of these schools.
The day of the folk life festival at Pharsalia, I noticed many outfits in the crowd which were put together in variations on the red/maroon Va Tech colors, a reminder of truly awful things while we sat and wove and spun and talked to passers by, all in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains, outside a gracious Southern plantation house perfectly set on a knoll and overlooking hundreds and hundreds of acres of apple orchards, pastures laid out logically to allow movement of cattle across the land, two creeks cutting through the pastures with walnut and locust trees overhanging the bends and curves.

It was a mixture of old and new in so very many aspects.

It occurs to me to tell anyone reading this and who may not have been to Virginia, other than a quick pass-through on the north/south routes, I-95 and I-81, or the east-west Interstate route 64, that this is one of the states in our country where a bit of the old colonial history lies around the next corner. I have lived in Virginia, Italy, Mexico, California, and finally made my way back to Virginia again, and I absolutely love it. I know my roots are in Virginia. Running through my town, the James River winds its way to Richmond in one direction, and through mountain passes to eventually join the New River in the other direction. Every single time I cross the river, I say out loud in my car -- no matter if I am alone, or driving Mr. PeeWee to the dog groomer -- I say, "Ja-a-a-a-mes River!" I love saying that. Sometimes I get a quick flash of a memory of the grade school stories of children walking along a corduroy road to school, or think of the bateau festival that starts here in Lynchburg and winds it's way, literally, to the capital of Virginia, Richmond, when, during that two weeks, the boatmen-and-women are reliving a part of our country's early history, every town and village along the way comes out to greet the floating boats, or to put them up in tents on their land along the banks of the James.
If you come to Virginia -- and you must! -- please get off the interstates and drive the old roads because that is where you will see bits and pieces of history, preserved and lived in every day life. When I stopped at a country store after the festival, wearing my colonial dress and apron and bonnet, and walked along oiled pine floors creaking beneath my feet, made my way to a cooler in the back to buy a Starbucks Double Shot drink, no one looked at me twice. I could have been wearing my usual jeans, but my colonial costume somehow did not raise any interest at all. And suddenly, all those yards and yards of fabric getting in my way and wadding between my knees every time I moved, seemed a perfectly natural dress to wear on a late Sunday afternoon in the mountains.

All of this to say that our crafts are pieces of the old ways, our movements are remembrances of women and men who made those same movements and wove and spun and knit and dyed and sheared and combed wool and nursed new little lambs sometimes to health and sometimes not. What we do is important. Every time we turn towards these fiber arts, we are a little tiny representation of a living folk life festival, all to ourselves.

Friday, April 20, 2007

UPS, Here I Come!

Starting next week, I am going to try out USP as my shipper. Getting out the orders in late afternoons has become a real rush, and so I signed up for a retail UPS account. This way I can leave packages outside the studio door and not have to stand in line at the Post Office.

For the next month, then, I will be using UPS ground service for shipping the orders, unless the mailing address is to a post office box. In that case, I'll continue with USPS Priority Mail.

At this point I cannot accurately compare the costs of shipping between UPS and USPS, but if it does prove to be cheaper -- as UPS assures me! -- the shipping costs will be changed on the website.

Hopefully, this will put a stop to the mad afternoon rush to ship and the frustrations of wasting time standing in line. I will give UPS a one month trial and if all goes well, will change over to them permanently.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

American Bald Eagle: Live camera shots

I know, I know that I say all of the posts on this blog will be about Wool2Dye4, but today I make one exception ... the American Bald Eagle's nest at the Norfolk (Virginia) Botanical Gardens. This is a link to a live camera trained on a nest of three, and it is fascinating. I don't know how long the link will be active, but here it is for now.

New! Superwash Blue Faced Leicester Roving

I am expecting an order any day now from England and the Blue Faced Leicester folks. This time I am trying out the BFL Roving in Superwash.

Several spinners of sock yarn have been asking for superwash BFL rovings, and now we have it. It will soon be posted on the website, but until then, just email me ( to order.

Cost: $25 /pound.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Knit Simple magazine Features Hand Dyers!

I was recently contacted about advertising in Knit Simple magazine's upcoming issue, and am happy to report that they are featuring hand-dyes in the Fall issue. Here is the blurb for that issue of Knit Simple ...

TO-DYE-FOR KNITS You won’t be able to resist these classic sweaters in delicious yarns from the industry’s best hand-dyers.

Now, which hand-dyers would a Vogue publication consider 'the industry's best hand-dyers?'
Is it you?

P.S. on May 10th ...
Just found out that Lorna's Laces is one of the featured dyers for this issue!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Kona Fingering is coming .. I promise!

Today I heard that Kona Fingering is soon to be on it's way to Wool2Dye4. Hooray! When it arrives, I will take the blocked order key off the website, and insert a message across the top of HOME page (where the messages crawl across the page). It's been a long wait for this merino from Australia, and we have all been faced with either changing our choice of wool, or learning to wait. BUT the good news is that it will be here in about a week.

Many customers decided to swap their backorders for Kona Fingering for the new BFL Ultra! yarn, and I am hearing back from them that they love the Blue Faced Leicester. Thank you to everyone who was so gracious through the backorder wait. Let's see ... that would be everyone except for one person who seemed unable to wait and needed someone to blame. That, of course, turned out to be me!

Emails: Help me Identify you

Here's a simple request and one which will absolutely help me out. When you write with a specific request, please sign your emails with your first and last names. Many times customers have creative email addresses which have nothing to do with their names, and they sign their emails with their first name only.

This will save me searching through old emails trying to find a place where you might, just might, have given me your full name. Or, worse, searching through PayPal to match your email address to a name. If you are requesting that I send you something, please give me your address in the original email. That helps!

This simple act will save me hours!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Compare dyed / undyed Konas & BFL Ultra! yarns

One of the most frequent questions I get from new dyers is about the thickness of the yarns, so I thought I would post a picture of the three most popular sock yarns side-by-side. The top two are the Kona yarns. Yellow is the DK/light sport weight; green is Kona Fingering. Pink is BFL Ultra!

All three are superwash yarns.
All three bloom/expand/fluff up when dyed or given a very hot bath.

Kona Fingering has 2,240 yards per pound, and is a 2-ply.
Kona Superwash has 1,120 yards per pound, and is a 4-ply (Basically double the weight and plies of the Fingering)
BFL Ultra! has 1,900 yards per pound, and is a 3-ply.

Kona Fingering and Kona Superwash are merino yarns from Australia.
BFL Ultra! is Blue Faced Leicester from England.

Which one you choose depends on your preferences. I have read in people's blogs who have written that the BFL Ultra! is thinner than the Kona Fingering, and I'd disagree with that observation. The difference in yards per pound is one clue, but the most telling difference is in the number of plies. Kona Fingering is actually much more loosely twisted than BFL Ultra! making it not as firm and round a yarn.

I know I keep talking about round firm yarns because it is important to understand how a yarn will act when knit into fabric. Round firm yarns give more detail to the stitches, especially if there are cables or ribs involved. Also, the fabric itself has a better hand.

Of course, it all comes down to personal preference. Price may figure into the equation, too. Remember, though, you pay for what you get, and while the BFL Ultra! is a little more expensive than Kona Fingering, it is a different breed, a different ply, a different twist.