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Homespun Living in a New England

More recent thriftings

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Just a few recent buys from the lovely, ever-giving Portland Bins. I really like the southwestern bolo vibe of this little purse. It's real leather on the handles, and a woven tapestry material elsewhere. My only issue is that it has no over the shoulder straps, so I might have to ponder adding those somehow, in the future (maybe a belt?). And the straw bag is nicely summery. I'm feeling like it might make a nice project bag, since it's plenty roomy and it's got a flat bottom. Psyched.

So, I have a big project underway

And that's all I'm saying, for now.

A recent knitting: chunky cowl

So, I made another dramatically seasonally inappropriate item! Hooray for that. I had a few smaller bits of chunky/bulky yarn that needed a home, and I needed a nice and simple instant gratification project. The whole thing was done pattern-lessly, and in one evening of How I Met Your Mother reruns.

From the bottom up: handspun wool in autumny colors, recycled gray lambswool, and recycled over dyed cashmere/wool. I put the cashmere blend at the top because it is absurdly soft and cuddly.

I want winter. Though I'll deny having ever said that.

I used some of the same overdyed, respun cashmere/wool yarn in this batch of handspun, though here I plied it with a crazy batt of craziness. Above, I kept things (comparatively) simple, and just plied the recycled yarn on itself. 

Well, this is something special

Friday, June 29, 2012
Katharine Jolda and the CycloCarder, from
And it thrills and amazes me, is what it does. It is a bike-powered drum carder, and Katharine Jolda is the lady operating it. And she is awesome. And, apparently she can card three pounds of wool an hour with this apparatus. Check it out, here.

Remember the admiration I expressed for Dezy, the Piano Bike Kid? And how I want a drum carder, with all my heart and soul? This, right here, is worlds colliding beautifully.

Another recent spin

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

I was really happy with how this skein came out. I was playing with two ideas here.
Idea the first: plying handspun and recycled hand-dyed yarns together.        
Idea the second: Really extreme, over the top variations in thick and thin wool.
The skein weighs in at 55 yards and 2.8 ounces of (if I do say so myself) pretty.

Inspirations (Arline Fisch)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Sources, from top left 1, 2, 3, 4
One of my favorite jewelry making books, out of a substantial collection, is Arline Fisch's Textile Techniques in Metal. It's not surprising--fibers and metals are my two main crafty passions, so the intersection is really inspiring and exciting to me.

My favorite work Fisch makes are her large neckpieces. To me, these pieces are intricate, bold, tribal, and really amazing. On a technical level, Fisch's style makes me want to try a million different things with fine gauges of wire and sheet. Doing any substantial project with weaving, knitting or crocheting in metal is still on my to do list, but someday I really hope to give this style of work a try.

Two things that scare me, a little:

Sunday, June 24, 2012
1. Squirrels on power lines. Jebus, but I don't like when they cross right over me while I'm standing on the street. There's always that chance, you know: falling and scratching and rabies. I don't know anyone this has happened to. But I could.

Also, sometimes they electrocute themselves. Or, bring down the power grid. Or, in Scotland, sometimes they do both. Just a menace.

2. Small, crowded spaces. And thank you, Beijing, for making me confront and semi-conquer that fear, over and over again. 

Left: line for one of my teaching jobs, elevator. Left: line for the subway, transfer, rush hour.

Until my dyeing day

Friday, June 22, 2012

As regards the post title: sorry. It may have had to happen.

Photo Day, Spinning and a Shop Update at long last

Light box, in action. That skein is ready to be a star.

Well, I've been busy this evening. I'm still working on my product photo skills--I get a little jealous/insecure when I see a super beautiful, luxurious handspun photo. And these are all over Etsy. I find it frustrating, because I feel like my handspun looks much better in person than I'm able to capture it in photos, but I think I just need to ride out the learning curve on this kind of photography. 

I built this here light box out of PVC pipe some time ago, and it does for sure make a big difference. My initial project used this tutorial, more or less. And I finally figured out how to reassemble it today (after an embarrassingly long time in the attempt). 

Things I have learned so far:
1. Never use flash. Seriously. It always looks awful.
2. Some things can be fixed in photo editing later, but definitely not focus. The camera really should be in focus. 
3. Take a lot of photos. An embarrassing amount. You can edit down later.

Either way, I definitely got some good shots, and added a bunch of listings to my shop. So it was ultimately a productive evening. To which I say: neat.

Custom Clothespin Picture Frame (Tutorial!)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

This is a nice, cheap little project for displaying pictures, prints, and what-have-you. I was pretty psyched to actually put up some photos from our time in Beijing, plus this ebay-obtained paint-by-number dealie was ready for its time in the sun.

Repetition is a favorite trick of mine, craft-wise--here, the wooden pieces that make up clothespins are arranged to make a pattern, and a solid coat of spray paint ties the whole thing together. 

Let's see how it's done.

What you'll need: 

1. Strong Glue (E600, or Amazing Goop work well)
2. A pack of clothespins
3. Photos (or other printed materials/images you wanna use)
4. Spray paint--I used metallic copper 
5. A piece of plywood, measuring 16 by 44 inches--I got mine in the scrap pile at the Big Box home improvement place, and got it cut down ($1.01!). You might want to give it some swipes with sandpaper real quick, though admittedly I did not. 
6. Frames (see below)

I got this pile of frames at the Goodwill by the Pound for, like, five bucks in total. You might also check out dollar stores--you can usually find some nice looking, cheap frames there. 

What to do: 

1. You'll need to remove the little metal piece that holds the clothespin together--just a little gentle prying should get these off pretty fast. Make a pile of these wooden clothespin halves. I ended up using pretty much the whole pack, since a few were in somewhat rough shape and had to be tossed.

2. Start glueing the wooden pieces along the plywood edge, flipping them back and forth to create a pattern (and of course, you can feel free to play with this arrangement). Just spread a thin layer of glue along the edge and start filling it in. 

3. After allowing the glue to dry, and removing the glass from the picture frames, give everything a thorough spray painting. Two coats seemed to do it, for me. The plywood grain isn't going away with this method, it's just getting nicely gilded. If you want a more thorough cover, a coat of primer could get you there. 

4. After everything's dry, put the pictures in the frames, and glue the whole shebang in place. Don't forget to remove any hardware on the back of the frames that will keep them from being flush with the plywood. This type of glue will take a little while to dry, so you have some wiggle room to reposition things before the decisions become final. When you're satisfied, let the glue dry overnight.

I may also have gilded my hands, a little. I don't necessarily recommend that. 

Thrifted, of late

Wednesday, June 20, 2012
So, I hit up the Bins a little while back, and picked up some random bits of vintage-ness. I'm working (constantly, since forever) on being more organized--and also, of course, on justifying my hoarding.

So! A new camera bag might help. This pleather beauty still had a hotel check slip tag on it when I fished it out of the pile, and some old film and a light meter in the front pocket. I'm not totally sure I'll have use for either of those, but you never know. 

And this lovely little cassette case should be useful for "filing" paper goods, or small fabric scraps. I've been using teeny tiny bits of fabric in jewelry recently, so this thing might help me keep them neat and clean. Also, it's adorable. It maybe needs some stickers/stencils/somethin' somthin' still, though. 

(And this is the part where I proudly list my bill--$3.00, which included several not-pictured items. Bless the Bins, for serious).

Seen, in Seattle

Inspiring graffiti, in Seattle's University District, a few months ago
Obligatory and blurry Space Needle!

A Delightful Evening...which included:

Tuesday, June 19, 2012
1. carding, spinning and plying two awesome skeins of yarn, with wool, merino, angelina, polworth. The ply is a recycled, re-dyed, re-spun cashmere/wool blend. I was thinking, soft and gaudy. I think i got there.

2. watching quite a substantial amount of Star Trek, Next Generation on Netflix.

3. making and eating (really good) red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese icing

I am a lucky and contented lady, is what I'm saying. Not bad for a Monday.

In the Random and Just for Pretty category

Monday, June 18, 2012

Just some pretty textures and details, of late. This is what happens when I'm bored. 

Handcardin' some wool

Sunday, June 17, 2012

My carders, at rest. 

I've been really surprised, lately, at the difference carding makes in handspun. It's a step I didn't employ terribly often until recently, when I've been noticing that it really can be worth it. I love the look, and ease, of a dyed roving, but a batt is so much more textural, and can so easily be full of randomness. The pictures above show the basics of the handcarding process, as I tend to employ it.

Here's what I do:

1) Load the carder. In this case, I used merino, wool, sparkly angelina, mohair and lincoln locks.
2) Brush it all together (for an actual tutorial, try here).
3) Repeat until tired and/or out of fibers.
4) Admire the fluffiness--like you shaved a muppet.
5) Spin, by plucking up little bits of the batt at a time.

For now, I'm working with these combs, as shown (they're Ashford Student Handcarders, like these). Someday, when $500+ dollars appears magically to me (or I learn to save it), I will get one of these:

Ashford Drum Carder

When I attended an awesome two day spinning workshop a few months ago (Camp Pluckyfluff!), I was blown away by how great a drum carder can be--in SAT analogy style, a drop spindle is to a spinning wheel as handcarders are to drum carders. As in making the upgrade to a spinning wheel, though, patience is gonna be key.

For now, I'm happy with the results I can get handcarding--it would just be nice to increase the efficiency of the operation.

Places I Have Been (Imperial City, Hue, Vietnam)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Peter and I took a two week trip to Vietnam during China's Spring Festival, on a break from teaching in Beijing. The visual contrasts between Beijing and North/Central Vietnam were incredibly striking. At one point during our time in China's capital, we had a stretch of almost 100 days with no precipitation. In Vietnam, especially south of Hanoi, it rained almost every day. It was lush and green. But also, Beijing is a very managed place. Its apartment blocks are large, symmetrical and similar; its colors in the main are predictably neutral to brick red. And Beijing's highlighted historical places and tourist sights (the Great Wall points outside of town, the Forbidden City, the Lama Temple) are organized and crowded, with explanatory plaques in multiple languages, and evidence of huge restoration projects.

Coming off of that, Vietnam felt chaotic and unpredictable, colorful and lush.  No one would deny that both Vietnam and China have undergone massive economic and cultural changes in the last few decades. What was fascinating to me is how differently those changes manifest themselves.

Hue's Imperial City is one of the most fascinating tourist attractions I've ever stumbled upon. It's beautiful, and much decayed (though being restored). Construction was begun on it in 1804. What I didn't know, due to my usual medium-low advance research, was that the decay and destruction in evidence there was not natural or gradual--it was bombed very nearly to the ground, by Americans, in 1968.

You may have heard about, or experienced, Vietnam's tourist boom of the last ten or fifteen years. It's an easy and welcoming place to travel as a Westerner. No one ever made me feel that I should not be there; in fact, quite the opposite.  Finding out this truth later, these pictures and that day, wondering around a destroyed Imperial Capital, take on a different, more complicated cast.