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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Stitches West Delivers!

I had an amazing time today at Stitches West. I was there for about two and a half hours and walked the whole show floor. I kept myself to a modest budget and got a LOT of stuff for very little.

I walked away with new hand carders, two new spindles, a bunch of dyed locks in various colors, huge amounts of shetland, merino, blended wools and more. I got home and started carding a batt and dying a new skein of sock yarn a beautiful purple.

Talk about a super fun day!

Take a look at the haul from the day.

And here's the first art batt in my Goddess series.

Now to get the yarn out of the dye vat. I tried lac and logwood grey. I think it's going to be a fabulous deep purple. We'll see once it dries!

If it wasn't for my wonderful husband I wouldn't have been able to go today and have such a fun day working on fibers. Thanks baby!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Stitches West

Well it's almost here! Stitches West starts today for workshops and circles but the show floor will be visited by thousands this weekend. One of those thousands will be me! I'm super excited to just walk the floor and see all the goodies.

I'm hoping to try my hand at carding and making some art batts so I'll be on the lookout for fibers, carding paddles, spindles and actually some cotton yarns. I have a special project for those and want a much nicer variety than I can find in the local craft shop.

Then I'm going to PLAY. I am also awaiting the arrival of a natural dyes kit I ordered which will have madder and weld and other things I cannot find in my yard or at the grocery.

I have a lot of undyed merino fiber and undyed merino yarn to dye so I'm really excited to get moving on this as soon as the colors arrive.

I'm also going to be experimenting with some odd stuff from the yard.
Oxalis, also known as wood sorrel and for most people, WEED, is a nice light yellow dye. I will be testing this since we have an abundance of it in the yard right now.
(photo courtesy of the UC IPM website)

I've also heard stone pine pinecones impart a lovely pinkish color. I'm going to test that as well. Worst case scenario nothing happens.

If you are going to Stitches West, drop me an email at or visit me on facebook. Maybe we can get some coffee and tour the floor together!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Of NDE's, Homesteading and Technology

I'm finishing a book called Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander, M.D. He's a neurosurgeon who had a near death experience and has written about it in this book. It's an interesting read as it talks a great deal about science and how he relates that to his experience. The part that interested me more than the actual NDE he experienced as how he resolves his experience with quantum physics and other sciences.

He talks about how as a Western society we have become so enamored with technology and science that we have gotten further and further from the true nature of our existence, our human spirit.

"The shadow side of high technology--modern warfare and thoughtless homicide and suicide, urban blight, ecological mayhem, cataclysmic climate change, polarization of economic resources-- is bad enough. Much worse, our focus on exponential progress in science and technology has left many of us relatively bereft in the realm of meaning and joy, and of knowing how our lives fit into the grand scheme of existence for all eternity." (Alexander, pg. 152)

Personally, I think this is the reason so many of us are turning to homesteading. This is the reason so many of us are interested in getting back to our roots as a species. Learning how to do crafts and trades that have almost disappeared from our culture. Did you know there's a big resurgence of apprenticing in skills like blacksmithing? It's making a comeback. Many people want to feel connected in a non-cyber way. They want to feel a connection to the earth, to actual subsistence other than working hard at a job they hate so they can buy food from a store that trucks it in from thousands of miles away.

Think of all the things that are becoming vogue again: gardening your own food, raising chickens in both rural AND urban settings, homesteading small farms, starting small business of handmade and not mass produced products, learning trades like blacksmithing.

We are truly all connected. The basic tenants of quantum physics show us this. We are connected to everything and everyone. There is no separation of objects, it's just how we perceive the world to be. The homesteading movement and others with similar ideals give me hope that we will not become a species that is completely controlled by the technology we've built.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A Day of Spring Colors

Today was a day of beautiful spring colors. This morning I got up and took some photos of my bulb garden because the light was just right. In the fall I removed grass from a nice 2x8 strip in front of the brick planter in my front yard. I double dug the soil and then added compost and then placed bulbs according to height (tallest in the back, shortest in the front) and covered with about four inches of new soil. Then I prayed the squirrels wouldn't run off with all my bulbs over the long fall and winter months.

Only one bulb suffered destruction and a few weeks ago my tulips started to bloom.

I've also got iris and crocus coming up. I'm so happy to see all these lovely flowers every day and I look forward to the continuing evolution of the planting as the spring arrives. I hope I can get just as pretty a display next year.

Then the post arrived this afternoon with a very special package. I ordered two BEAUTIFUL art batts from my very talented fiber artist guru and dear, dear friend Drucilla at Petit Bones.

This is the first one I'm spinning.

And I'm spinning it on this AMAZING gift from Dru.
Her husband hand turns these lovely spindles. I had a blast using my new toy today spinning the first part of this gorgeous art batt. I can't wait to see how the final yarn turns out. It's going to be tough to part with! I might have to keep this yarn for myself and a new project.

Thank you Dru!

Friday, February 15, 2013

It's a Work in Progress

Tonight I went to a great local consignment shop for a free knitting 101 class.

I had so much fun. The women were so nice and it was just great and easy conversation. Each woman brought something interesting to the table and all had cool experiences to share.

Some of us know how to crochet and learning to cast on and knit took a lot of practice and repetition to feel comfortable. I purchased a nice set of bamboo number 8 knitting needles to start and of course my cast on stitches are too tight. It took me a LONG time to get my crochet stitches the right tension. So the instructor suggested I use two needles as one to cast on and it worked beautifully.

There are two more classes where we'll learn to purl and how to increase and decrease and read a pattern.

Two and a half hours there just FLEW by. I'm looking forward to our next class together. For me, knitting, crochet, dyeing fibers and yarn, spinning, it's all a work in progress. I love that I'm constantly learning something new. I love that I'm constantly experimenting and not freaking out about the results if they are not what I intended.

I'm already thinking ahead to the next projects and I'm excited about the prospects.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Evening Primrose Oil

Evening Primrose is an herbaceous flowering plant, native to the Americas in the Oenothera Genus. It is aslo called suncup and sundrop.

(Photo courtesy of USDA)

Evening Primrose Oil contains a high concentration of Gamma-linoleic acid, aka GLA which in conjunction with the amino acid phenylalanine is said to be useful in treating a variety of conditions. Herbalists list it's benefits in: treating PMS, breast pain due to hormonal changes, joint pain and the reduction of swelling due to rheumatoid arthritis, the prevention of diabetes related nerve damage, the reduction of eczema symptoms, the treatment of rosacea, reducing Alzheimer induced memory deficiencies and for boosting the immune system. (

The NIH agrees there are some benefits but as is typical, suggests more studies are definitely needed to get a more accurate picture of it's values medicinally.

I started taking EPO a month ago in the hopes that it would help my truly awful PMS symptoms. Over the past few years I've spend at least two weeks out of every month with daily headaches, chronic nausea, heartburn and irritability, only to be relieved with the onset of menses.

So I tried EPO knowing it could take a few months to really notice a difference. I take one capsule with each meal daily. It can cause stomach upset if taken on an empty stomach. So I get 1500 mg a day.

This month I experienced far fewer and far less severe headaches. I experienced very little nausea, not the usual morning sickness like day long and sometimes night long misery I've been suffering.

Was it all related to the EPO? I'm not sure. I think at least half of it can be connected to that. I also changed my diet radically this month. I removed sugar (though I cheated a bit this past week), and I removed caffeine. I eliminated processed foods and have been eating only whole foods like veggies, fruits, whole grains (not even bread or pasta but truly whole grains like barley, oats and wheat berries), nuts (especially almonds), and legumes and beans. I add in chicken I cook myself and fish where possible.

Not only have I dropped ten pounds but it is definitely changing the way I feel. I'm sleeping better. And for a lifetime insomniac that's a very good thing. I'm waking less grumpy. Of course I still wish I could linger in bed longer but there's still an improvement.

I noticed this week in having a few Girl Scout Cookies and eating a little dark chocolate, none of it tasted as good as I remember. In fact fruit tastes WAY sweeter than it ever has before and a handful of chopped almonds and chopped dried apricots is a real treat for me now.

I am going to continue my use of EPO this month and see if there's an even further reduction in PMS symptoms. One more thing of MAJOR note.

My husband and both my sons have had two nasty upper respiratory infections this month, one after the other. I haven't caught either of them. I'm really, really surprised at this since there's been much sneezing, coughing and general germ spreading going on here for weeks. Now whether it's the EPO, the diet or a combo of both, I really think there's something to this.

EPO is also suggested by some herbalists as being a great immune booster and even offer child dosage recommendations. I'm tempted to try it for them and see what happens.

You can read more about Evening Primrose Oil at some of the links below.
and of course via your web browser.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Fingerless Mitts

I tried a really nice openwork crochet pattern for fingerless mittens, also known as fingerless gloves or wrist warmers.

The yarn is really lovely 100% merino, dyed in these beautiful purples and greens. As you can see, I'm clearly NOT a hand model.

But these worked up quickly and I have another yarn from the same company in blues and greens which I think would be lovely for these as well. They'll be great this spring when the weather is warmer but you still want a fun accessory and a little coziness on your hands.

The variegated yarn and the stitch style makes me think of flowers.

Okay off to find a hand model. I need to upgrade my photo process and get much better work in the shop.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Study in Yellows

Yesterday was dye day here at The Merry Spinster. It was a trial day with about 4.5 ounces of pure undyed Merino to test.

The first half was dyed in turmeric and came out a lovely goldenrod color. I'm spinning that today and it's coming out beautifully.

The second half I tried in red cabbage. The dye color was a beautiful blue green. I used salt as the mordant but it didn't set. As gorgeous as it was, the dye didn't take. So I tried a second option, red chard.

This dye color was beautifully red but on the wool it became a lovely butter color. Really soft and pretty.

Once I spun them both and plyed them together I got this lovely yarn I'm calling Hello Sunshine.

I have a bunch of merino coming and can't wait to try a bunch of new dyes and experiment with colors and combinations.

Happy Spinning Everyone!

Spinning with Spinners

Tonight I'm going to a brand new spinning group at a local yarn shop. This is the first meeting of the group and I'm very excited to join them. You would think that in a place like the San Francisco Bay Area there would be lots of guilds like this but sadly, I've yet to find them.

There seem to be plenty of knitters and crocheters and yarn lovers but this is the first I've really heard about spinners. There is some spinning community happening over in Oakland but if you live where I live, that's a long way to go.

So I'm bringing a lovely braid of Corriedale with me to spin tonight.

I'm really excited to see how this spins. The merino was a DREAM to spin the last few days and I'm really happy with the dye colors and how they came out plyed together.

So now I'm off to crochet some wrist warmers to add to the shop. They'll be light weight so they can be worn in spring.

Happy Spinning Everyone!

Monday, February 11, 2013


Well after much internal dialog and a lot of support from family and friends I've launched The Merry Spinster. It's an eclectic mix of products but what ties it all together is the guarantee that everything is handmade/homespun by me.

You'll find handspun yarns, naturally dyed yarns, all natural beauty products, hand made wearables and much more. Check out my shop at Etsy to see what's in store.

My dear friend, fiber artist and mentor Drucilla Petitbone, owner of Petitbones on Etsy, taught me to spin and thus enabled my obsession with fibers, yarns and dyes. It's a constantly evolving art and I'm loving everything I'm learning.

Owning my own business has been a dream for a very long time. I'm pleased the doors are now open.

Welcome! Come in and sit a while. Have a cup of tea and some cookies. I'm looking forward to chatting with you.