I keep seeing red!

It’s that time of year when all the tomatoes are ripe at once. We have a ridiculous number of plants. I think there were 50-60 planted in all. I’m not entirely sure how many survived but most of them by the looks of it. That means it’s all about canning. Stewed tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce and salsa…. so much red.

I’m not complaining. We use this year round so it’s worth all the effort it takes and it’s really not too much effort, just time. That means today before I head out to WEBs to teach at the Spinning Summit, I’m working on pizza sauce. We start by taking the tomatoes and run them through the sieve juicer attachement on a Kitchen Aid. This removes all the seeds and skins really quickly and we’re left with juice and pulp. Fun part about the leftover bits is that we feed them to the ducks. They’re messy eaters so they end up looking like they went on a murderous rampage.

We cook the juice/pulp down on the stove top. Once half cooked down, I usually add all the spices to them if they’re getting spices. I keep the pizza sauce pretty plain. If you have ever asked for a recipe from me you’ll know there aren’t too many measurements so I’ll tell you what goes into each batch of spaghetti sauce and it’s always to taste. Tasting is the best part, right?

Heaps of Basil
Smaller bunches of Oregano and Rosemary
Gobs of Garlic
Olive oil and Balsamic Vinegar

I take all those ingredients and blend them together in a blender then dump them into the sauce and finish cooking it down. It’s really about the most perfect sauce I can imagine. I add veggies and whatnot when cooking. I like having a base that I can add different things too. Ya know, just in case we’re having sauce more than once in a week, I can make it different right then and there.

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Fiber types…

I get asked this question a lot and yet, I’ve never written a post about it so here goes.

You’ll see them often rolled up like this:

And unrolled they look like this:

These are the products of a drum carder. It’s like a blanket of fibers all jumbled up and worked together to create this form to spin from. You can break off pieces in many different ways or just spin from a corner of the batt itself. Depending on how a particular batt is made the fibers can be more straight or more jumbled.


Many mills produce this type of product. It’s jumbled up fibers produced and made into this long ongoing length. There can be many lengths of fibers as well but you might never notice as it’s all jumbled up. As it comes off the milling machines it has a slight twist given to it. Not a twist like you’ll do in spinning but it is a twist as it goes into it’s bump or milling can and it does help hold it together some.

Similar to the way a batt is and depending on the mill can depend on how much the fibers appear to be jumbled up. It is generally very airy and some people find that easier to start spinning with. You can make a batt into roving by attenuating it.

Pin Drafted Roving:
This stuff may not look remarkably different than roving in a photo but it feels differently. It’s simply roving that’s been put through one more mill process that is a series of pins that further opens up and makes the roving airy.

This is made on hand cards generally or you can make what has become known as Fauxlags by making little rolls out of a batt or combed top. These are usually spun from one end and are of jumbled fibers since they’re carded. You can see here some batts and rolags:

Commercial Combed Top:

This is a flat piece of fiber rolled into a continuous length like a tube. Easily opened and laid out flat. You can see the crimp but also that all the fibers are in a straight formation, not jumbled like the roving. All the fibers are well aligned and all short cuts are gone. The fibers are more homogeneous.

It also feels more substantial and dense than roving. Like Roving this also has a twist given to it because of the way it comes off the machines and goes into it’s shipping form of a bump. This is the stuff that you will most often see as handpaint.

It should be noted that once it’s been dyed, the crimp has been activated and the fibers start to jumble themselves up a little bit. It’s still not roving at that point but if we’re being technical, it’s losing some of the qualities of straightness that combed top has. Ever so slightly, though.

Hand Combed top:
This is similar to the Commercially combed but it’s a lighter more airy form depending on how you make it. It’s still got all the fibers aligned straight. It’s still a continuous length and all the fibers are similar lengths and it’s cleaned up. It’s just a little bit straighter and some might say a little more perfect.


It is similar to roving but it’s a thinner example and often has more of an appearance of top in that the fibers are more aligned. It’s slightly less processed and rarely has a twist given to it. Some mills call this a pre-finished stage but some fibers you’ll often see sold this way like silk and cotton.

Pencil Roving:
This stuff comes in all kinds of varied thicknesses. Some places you will see it like this:

This has no twist in it and it’s fairly thin but it can still be drafted and it definitely needs to still be spun to be super usable. It’s airy and light.

The other most common way you’ll see Pencil Roving is in the knitter’s section. It’s thinner than the other version (thinner than a pencil) and it has a little twist to it and feels a little dense in comparison to the other kind. This stuff is ready to knit.


This is one of the traditional ways that you will find cotton for sale. I borrowed the picture from an Amazon listing. It’s cotton that’s been carded like a rolag and it’s been taken off the carder (usually hand cards) with a dowel or rod and made dense but attenuating and wrapping it on the dowel tightly.

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What am I doing?

I posted a link to Melanie Falik’s blog post this morning on Facebook. If you didn’t read it yet, CLICK HERE.

She so succinctly put what many of us might be going through. Changes in our industries and our jobs. I see so many more of my fiber business friends branching out and changing. It’s the nature of the beast and also as we age, we change. What we want to do changes and we also start to realize there are more things we want to do that maybe we haven’t gotten to yet. The clock is ticking y’all.

I’ve always found comfort in lists, though my goals have always been these loosey goosey sort of ideas that come and go as my life goes on. Like the dream from when I was a grade school kid to get full tattoo sleeves because I saw some guy in McDonald’s one day that had full sleeves and a snake. Also I wanted to own snakes. Check and check. I didn’t really realize that my loose (and maybe silly) childhood dream was being fulfilled until I was in the tattoo chair finishing up the last arm and I had a realization moment.

Not a pic of the actual guy of course.

Then there are other ideas like getting skydive certified that once I started I realized, that’s really not what I want to do with my time. I had bigger fish to fry. Or at least, different fish for me. I think skydive certification is a valid goal but for me, it wasn’t going to put me where I really wanted to be even if I wasn’t sure where that was.

Here I am at some transitional points in business and life with one kid entering her senior year of highschool (she’s strongly looking forward to college) and the other going into 7th grade (still being homeschooled). BUT What am I going to do when I grow up?

What do I want out of life? What are my whispers and what am I doing?
1. Keep on fibering. I really love the business I’m in and I hope to be able to keep it running a good long time.
2. I want to “Make” more things. I love teaching and enabling others to make stuff but in the past few years I’ve made precious few pieces that I would consider amazing pieces. This means more silk painting and weaving for fabric.
3. I want to finish my herbal certification courses. I’ve already started working on that and I’ve been doing herbal healing for myself with herbs and nutrition since my early twenties. I can’t say the first course load has given me any new insight but I know the final years of study to come will and I’m excited.
4. More yoga. Not sure what the more is but I’ll find it.
5. Get rid of the lawn. There is a lot of lawn around here between my house and my Mom’s house and the open lot between the two where I started an herb garden this year. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll see that I’ve earnestly started to remove lawn to expand my hosta garden. This is an easy spot to work on since the trees don’t foster a lot of good looking grass so it’s coming out easily and I just need to spend time working on it and planting. My goal is to have very little lawn at the end of it all. low maintenance. Though I may just be fooling myself. It’s ok, I do that often.
6. Travel…? I don’t have the wanderlust like many have. I don’t have a strong desire to visit any particular place and I suppose that’s good since the farm is a big thing (another check list item for me, the farm). I do enjoy travel but only in the way that I get to meet new people. Not that I don’t enjoy visiting sites too. So travel teaching works out so perfectly for me. I have a destination and I have new people to meet and the best part is that they all love fiber too. For this, I’m happy to go where the winds may take me.
7. Build my daughter a little roadside stand to sell her eggs out of. Right now she has them in a cooler with a little sign.
8. Raise bees.
9. Make pots again (pottery). I still have one potter’s wheel and other equipment and clay sitting there waiting on me.
I know there’s more but it’s not coming to me. I have my little list and I’m sure I’ll add to it in time and change or remove things as needed.

If you decide to make your whisper list, please link to it, I’d love to read what everyone is whispering about in their own heads.

Posted in family, life | 6 Comments

Coconut Oil Soap

In the last weaving club we shipped, I sent out a little guest soap with the kit. The kit was for soft washcloths so it seemed appropriate to give out a little of the most delicious facial soap. I don’t usually use soap on my face but I use this soap all over. And if I work out hard or I’ve been cleaning the barn, I do indeed wash my face with this soap. It’s not drying and so I’m ok with using this on my aging face.

I’ve made larger bars to sell in the online store and maybe I’ll bring them to shows too. They’re really pure and simple.

I know some of you make soap yourself so if you want to make your own, the basic recipe is:

33 ounces of Organic Coconut Oil
12.55 ounces of Filtered Water
4.84 ounces of Lye

In a crock, start melting the Coconut oil on low while you take the water and lye outside, add the lye to the water and mix until clear. Let it sit for 15-20 minutes. Once the coconut oil is fully melted and the time has run down on the lye/water mixture (it’s ok if it sits longer) add the water/lye mixture slowly to the coconut oil giving it a few stirs. Then taking an immersion blend, blend to trace. Then leaving the crock on low, let it cook until it’s done. You can tell it’s done by PH testing it to be between 7 and 9. This is a thick mixture that I spoon into my mold and I let it sit to harden. This stuff hardens really really hard. If you’re making a large block mold, you want to unmold earlier than you would for other soaps and cut it. It’s a bear to cut if you let it sit longer.

After unmolding (and cutting) let your soap cure on racks for 2-3 weeks. It does work as soap after 24 hours but curing it ensures you have a good solid bar of soap. You can clean up your tools (that are now dedicated to soap making only, don’t use them for food) with white vinegar. It neutralizes any uncured lye in your measuring cups and it will also help clean the soap off your other utensils.

This is a pretty straightforward and simple recipe but if you haven’t made soap before please read up on how it’s made and all the precautions. I’ve given only basic instructions here and learning about all the ins and outs of soap making will help ensure your safety. Lye can burn until it’s properly cured as soap. So wear eye goggles and proper gloves while working with it. Just be safe and you’ll have some great soap after all this.

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There have been some events in the news that made me think about community. Our global community is changing and shrinking much like our fiber community is. It made really think about the people that I’ve spent time with over the years. The business started some 14-15 years ago or so. I wish I had kept better track of all of that but my business started fairly organically and I’m not great at anniversaries, just ask my husband.

Over the years I’ve met so many amazing people and we’ve been a community.

Without this community I don’t know where we’d all be. Do you feel the community around you even if you’re just online? If you have a question, does someone not come to your aid with the answer?

When a fellow vendor at a show needs help, there’s often someone there that can help or at the least be a sympathizer to whatever issue it is.

No, not everything all the time works out the way we want it to. What in life does? To expect to have it always our way isn’t the way life nor community works. Shop owners, teachers, students, spinners, knitters, hookers…. we’re all in this together.

A rising tide lifts all boats.

So let this be a formal thank you – to all the rising tides in my life.
(not all of you are in the pics I found, you know who you are)

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About me?

I haven’t done any of those meme things that get passed around and it’s been a while since I’ve done anything like this on the blog.. A friend posted this on FB so I’m filling it out here.

1. Person you were named after?
No one. My mom said she gave me the shortest name she could think of because she wasn’t sure if I’d be smart enough to handle a long name. (yeah, she’s funny)

2. Last time you cried?
Yesterday – I got sappy at my daughter’s dance recital.

3. Do you like your own handwriting?

4. What is your favorite lunch meat?
My favorite is to have NO lunch meat. Even when I ate meat, I didn’t like lunch meat.

5. Do you still have your tonsils?

6. Would you bungee jump?
Yup. I’ve always wanted to. Never had an opportunity.

7. What is your favorite cereal?
Oatmeal. I know. Boring. In a perfect world, I’d still eat Cap’n Crunch PB

8. Do you untie your shoes when you take off?
Nope. And later me curses past me almost every time.

9. Do you think you’re strong?
Mentally, maybe not so much on the physical.

10. Favorite ice cream?
Black Raspberry or Strawberry Feta

11. What is the first thing you notice about a person?
Any knitwear? No? Eyes… unless they’re walking away then butt. What? I can’t see eyes from behind.

12. Football or baseball?

13. What color pants are you wearing?
Leggings aren’t pants

14. Last thing you ate?
Baby Bel

15. What are you listening to?
My dog being weird.

16. If you were a crayon, what color would you be?
Burnt Sienna

17. Favorite Scent?
The smell of outdoors on my skin

18. Who was the last person you spoke to on the phone?
Good chance it was Beth Smith.

19. Tattoo or piercing?
Yes please.

20. Hair Color?
Blonde through the middle and brown on the sides and a little grey throughout

21. Eye color?

22. Favorite food to eat?
Pizza or Tacos.

23. Scary movies or chick flick?
Scary. RAWR!

24. Last movie you saw?
Parent trap (the old one)

25. What color shirt are you wearing?

26. Favorite holiday?
Halloween (my kids are already working on this year’s costumes)

27. Beer or Wine?
Coffee? Tea?

28. Night owl or morning person?
Perky, annoying, morning Person

29. Favorite day of the week?

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Spring Show Season

As a dyer and fiber worker there are times it’s hard to let things go. Really hard. My spring show season has come to an end. It’s now time to load the online shop, and decide what I get to keep.

This batt. Did I mention that LilBoog has started to make them?

This Cormo roving

These locks from Romney (green) and Angel the CVM (orange)

This Romney roving that I had to sample a little that really should be a sweater.

And I haven’t even really got into all the yarn I wanted to keep.

There is one colorway that people kept touching and I secretly hoped they wouldn’t buy. Two of them were sold. It’s a OOAK color and there’s one skein left. I think we know what’s going to happen. Maybe I’ll show you when I make it into a shawl. I don’t want you to try to talk me out of my last skein.

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