Drop Spindle by Michael Wade via flickr
Need a spinning basics refresher? Come join Ginger for a review of all the things you forgot from those early spinning classes or never learned as you struggled through learning on your own. She will review the basics such as the relationships between twist, treadling and the drafting triangle (remember that?). Expand your drafting technique repertoire and gain more control over the size of the yarn you are spinning. Bring your spinning problems and Ginger will help you find the solutions!
Bring: Your wheel and any fiber you have questions about
Take Home: 2 oz of Ewephoric fiber
When: 1:30 – 4 p.m., July 20, 2013
Where: Yarnworks, Gainesville, Florida
Email ginger (at) ewephoricfibers (dot) com if you have any questions.
Argentina is lovely in the fall! The days were unseasonably warm at the beginning of the trip, but the nights were cool and comfortable for sleeping. Here in Florida we are in late spring but below the equator, April is early fall. The shepherds had already moved their herds of cashmere goats to the winter feeding grounds. The area was still green due to the warm weather, but it is still not a very productive landscape.
I was able to travel down to Patagonia on a grant from Eileen Fisher given to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) to continue work with the cashmere cooperative (Grupo Cost del Rio Colorado). It has been 1.5 years since I’ve been down there. I was greeted warmly, and the shepherds were anxious to see me and show what they had done, despite some significant setbacks. When I was in Patagonia the last time, a primary topic of conversation was when to comb the goats and whether or not the areas of the goat should be separated, ie, body fiber from leg fiber. The cooperative is still figuring out where the accessible points of added value are in the process of going from fluff on the goat to a finished garment. Some questions have an obvious answer. In this country, we wash fibers before processing them. However, if you do not have water readily available, washing is not a viable option. Potable water is delivered by the government to many of the families that live in very remote areas. If a family is fortunate enough to have a puesto close enough to a river then the animals have readily accessible water. If not, then the family needs to share some of their water to keep animals alive.
So where is their value-added point? The answer is combing the fibers earlier in the season and separating the fibers based on what part of the body it came from as well as the color. This time the cooperative separated the combing times, August and September, as well as the body parts, flank (body) from legs. They did this as a result of our discussions the last time I was down and out of curiosity as to whether or not it would really make a difference. This is a significant effort on their part. Unlike our spoiled dogs and cats, these goats do not want to stand still and be groomed; they want to get out onto the pasture to eat! So a few minutes a day per animal is all the shepherds get. Eventually the animal will be fully combed out, but it is labor intensive and the shepherds are very conscious of how much time they spend combing when the animal could be out eating. Food is a very precious commodity.
What a difference it made! Across the board, the quality of the fiber was better and there was much less guard hair which translates to a much smaller loss during dehairing for the combings done in August and from the flank. I purchased almost all they had! I also purchased some combed in September and some leg fiber from younger animals. Colors are separated into white, beige, and gray. The grays are by far much finer than the white or beige. I think that the opposite is true here and in Asia because people breed specifically for fine white, which can then be made any color, whereas on the Steppe, they simply separate the colors. Very interesting! By the way, dyeing beige and gray produces fabulous rich, complex colors that cannot be replicated with white fiber!
I sorted raw combed fleece and determined what I was going to buy and why. I then lined up the bags of fibers from the worst (closest) to best so they could touch and look. I answered questions about the qualities and features I was looking for and how those would impact my final product.
Then they got to see the dehaired cashmere from the last 2 years for the first time. What you see on the table is all of the dehaired fiber from the last 2 years, about 5.5 kg! A fire on the steppe eliminated much of the graze and decimated the herds. The surviving animals had to be moved much longer distances for summer grazing and there was no fiber crop that year. As the coop members were beginning to recover, one of the oil extractive companies had a major spill in the grazing area and many hundreds of goats, sheep, cattle, and horses died from poisoning by the spill. There was a very limited amount of fiber harvested this August and September. It has been a very difficult 2 years for the shepherds.
Some of the Grupo Cost del Rio Colorado cooperative members and Ginger holding dehaired cashmere. They are seeing for the first time the fruits of their labors and Ginger is very happy to purchase those fruits! As you can see this is a harsh, albeit beautiful, environment and it is amazing that the shepherds and their animals survive, even thrive, and are able to produce such a wonderful fiber!
What is life really like on the Patagonian Steppe? It is a harsh existence for the shepherds and their animals. Many of the shepherds are Mapuche Indians or descendants of the Mapuche. The families live fairly solitary lives on their puestos (ranch homes) which are often many miles apart. A family with 500 goats may need 5000 hectares (12,400 acres) to successfully graze their sheep, goats, cows, and horses. The land is very sparse and yields its resources grudgingly.
Lolo and Susanna’s winter home sits about half a mile from the Colorado River so they have water for their animals. However, they are also in danger of their home being washed away if flooding occurs. This is their ‘new’ home as the previous home several miles further along the river was washed away 10 yrs prior.
Their home is built on a concrete pad so the house has a concrete floor. Inside there are two rooms, one for cooking, eating, and living and one for sleeping. They have a gas stove with an oven in the house, which is not very common. Most have a cooking pit in a covered area near the house and an adobe oven for bread baking where they cook year round. The ‘barn’ houses the saddles for the horses and a cooking area. Their house is ‘upscale’ and has a baño behind a large bush not too far from the house. The bucket of water is for ‘flushing’ although there is no scoop other than cupped hands. Lolo and Susanna have raised seven children and now grandchildren here. Lolo jokes that he and his wife have been more productive than the goats!
On our way to visit another family, we needed to make a pit stop. The vista is never ending! We were driving through an area that had volcanic activity only a few thousand years ago. As a result there are large black rocks produced by the lava flows that make walking more difficult and the shrubs are not as high, a bit of a problem if you are hoping for a bit of privacy when relieving yourself!
This bathroom comes with a view! A large bush is behind me and this is the view in front of me. What is not apparent is that the shadow at the bottom of the picture is a drop off of several hundred feet to the bottom of the canyon floor. That is the bottom of the cut through and not a level expanse between where I’m standing and the hills opposite! The black rocks in the foreground are lava. This is an area that was created by volcanic activity.
At the next puesto we were greeted warmly, as usual. Lunch was on the spit and roasting.
They sacrificed a goat kid for us, an honor. Notice the little boy, about 5 yrs old, with his asado knife in his belt. He probably helped to slaughter and skin the goat. The young lady in the background is the thirteen-year-old daughter holding a platter receiving the chunks of goat meat. She will be finishing her middle school education this year. She and the family will then decide if she will continue with her education or if she will come back to the puesto to pitch in. Education is mandatory through middle school and then is voluntary. Children from the country are sent to the closest town where they spend the school year in a boarding school and return home for the summer when all hands are needed.
Caro, a WCS veterinarian, is standing in front of a typical house. It is built of adobe type brick from mud and straw. The floors are dirt. To the far right is the ‘kitchen,’ the fire pit where the goat was cooked. The long area of the house with the green door, the only door in the house, is the sleeping area. The whole family sleeps and generally lives in that section. On the left is the eating and cooking area. You can see the table in the doorway. There is a cloth on the table in our honor. This is where the family gathers to prepare foods for cooking, eating and to greet visitors. There is a very small gas stove in the back corner of the room that is used to cook fried bread and boil water for mate. The baño is whatever bush you are comfortable using. There is no running water, electricity, or heat. This family has lived here for many years, perhaps multiple generations. The government has recently made small solar panels available to the country people. It is sufficient to power one light for several hours at night.
It is quite arid, so the skin from the goat that was slaughtered in the morning and eaten at lunch was already mostly dry. Flies are not a problem, as things dry so quickly they don’t get much of a chance to lay eggs on fresh meat. The black circular thing is the fire pit where the goat was roasted.
The little boys, about five and seven yrs old, entertained themselves riding their stick horses and practicing swinging and tossing their boleadoras. This will be a vital skill when they are older and riding out to wrangle cattle, sheep, and goats. In the meantime being able to take aim and ‘capture’ the post will have to do.
I returned with half of all the dehaired cashmere and about 3 kg of raw cashmere. I’ll combine the raw cashmere fluff from the first trip with the fluff from this trip for the dehairing process. I’ll get a much better yield than if I had processed them separately. Once back in the states, I was fortunate enough to be able to sell about half of the dehaired cashmere that I returned with before I even got home! I have made arrangements to get the rest of the dehaired fiber in September.
Ewephoric Fibers now has enough raw cashmere to be able to plan some unique blends with fine wool and silk. These will be proprietary blends that will be available only through the shop so stay tuned and be one of the first to buy some of this luxurious fiber! A portion of every sale will go into a fund that will go back to the cooperative to facilitate continued production of Patagonian cashmere.
I was scanning through scientific literature looking for something specific and became totally distracted when I saw an article about wool carder bees. Naturally, being a spinner, I had to check it out! European wool carder bees, Anthidium manicatum, are in the family Megachilidae which is home to leaf-cutter bees also known as mason bees. Although originally from Europe, they are well traveled and have been introduced to such varied places as the Canary Islands and several countries in South America. They arrived on our shores sometime before 1963, where they were found in New York State. Since then, they have spread across the U.S. and were documented in California in 2007. They may also have been intentionally brought to the U.S. for their pollenating ability. No consensus on whether the European wool carder bee was accidentally introduced or if it was a government sanctioned attempt at taking over the pollenating duties of the native honey bee (http://www.treehugger.com/natural-sciences/species-of-invasive-bee-leaves-carnage-in-its-wake.html), you will have to decide that for yourself. In their native Europe, wool carder bees are found primarily in gardens in England and are in fact the only Anthidium in England where they consume pollen like other bees, preferring long throated blue flowers of Old World origin. There are also native species, A. maculosum and A. palliventre which live their lives in a similar manner, supporting the theory that was an accidental introduction.
wool bee on yellow flower
wool bee on purple flower
The wool carder bees are a small yellow and black bee and true to their family, they cut bits of leaves and flowers from such plants as roses, azaleas, red buds and bougainvillea to use in constructing their nests. The males aggressively defend their territory and their females from any other insect that enters that space, including honey bees. They are not ‘little terrorists’ as are their African counterparts. They are just pollinators going about the business of pollinating, something they do very well. According to an article from UC Davis (http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/news/article/24881) they do not have 5 stingers or go to war with honey bees. The males do have five small appendages on the end of the abdomen that they use for defense and they are very aggressive about defending their territory.
male wool carder bee butt
But it is the females that earned the name ‘wool carder’ for the species. The female bees will find hirsute (hairy) leaves, such as lamb’s ears, and scrape the fuzz off the surface. She will bundle it against her abdomen and fly back to her nest where she will use it to line the nest for her offspring. She selects a cavity or hole and uses that to line her nest where she will lay her eggs. This is a solitary bee and does not form hives like the honey bees that many of us are familiar with.
bee with fluff
wool carder bee nest
A wool carding bee…now how cool is that?!?
I don’t remember if I ever found what I was originally looking for, I found something much better!
For more information:
drop spindles for sale
Ewephoric Fibers will once again be teaching spinning lessons!
On June 22 at 1 p.m. we will meet at the Peaceful Paths conference room for lessons and communal spinning. It’s a large room, so we will teaching spinning only on one side of the room. Which means the other side of the room is free to folks who would just like to come sit and spin, knit, crochet, or follow their muse in whatever way they choose! Our plan is to do this on a monthly basis so don’t miss out on the very first gathering!
As you gain skills you can join the communal spinners on the other side of the room!
Drop Spindle Group Instruction: $30 per person. Includes one hour of instruction, one of Jane’s painted spindles (pictured in this post), and 2 oz of fiber to get started.
Wheel Spinning Group Instruction: $35 per person. Includes one hour of instruction, use of one of Ginger’s wheels, and 2 oz of fiber to get you started. Ginger will bring wheels each month when we meet so that you will be able to try out different styles of wheels.
Communal Crafting: FREE. Please bring a donation to Peaceful Paths to help support their efforts at eliminating domestic violence. Scroll down this page to see a list of their needs.
Lessons are limited to four (4) people at a time, so it will be first come, first served! Email us to let us know to save you a spot: www-at-ewephoricfibers-dot-com.
We are also available to schedule additional one-on-one lessons. Email www-at-ewephoricfibers-dot-com to make arrangements.
Peaceful Paths is located at 2100 NW 53rd Ave, Gainesville, FL 32653 (link goes to a Google Map).
A spider in my house is perfectly safe. This has nothing to do with a love of spiders, or an eco-friendly need to spare bug eating predators, or even a Buddha-like moral sense. No. I have such a phobia of spiders that I can’t stay in the same room or calmly comment about a spider’s presence so someone else can deal with the “emergency.” They are perfectly safe because I can’t get close enough to sweep one out the door — never mind kill one.
Spider Silk Textile Panel (Lamba Akotifahana), 2008. Madagascar. Seven panels joined: spider silk, plain weave with supplementary brocading wefts and patterning warps. Source: Art Institute of Chicago.
Picture, if you will, a large spider innocently walking across a room, blocking the only exit. And then picture a woman standing on a step stool (spider might run across the floor in her direction) with a broom to keep said spider at bay and wearing dishwashing gloves (spider might actually touch the broom). Her heart is pounding; she is sweating profusely. My son was amused, especially since his mother squealed like a little girl as he scooped up the spider and took it outside. I was decidedly NOT amused!
Now imagine the mix of fascination and revulsion I felt when I read about a piece of fabric woven from golden orb spiders’ webs! (Read some amazing exhibition notes from The Art Institute of Chicago and The American Museum of Natural History and the Victoria and Albert Museum on their spider silk textiles.) I had to read the articles and then look at the pictures of the fabric. It is an amazing golden color that shimmers and has a brilliant visual texture. It is absolutely stunning. Simply, wordlessly stunning! Who did it and how? Here’s a link to a high-res photo of the spider itself.
Detail of an embroidered cape made of spider silk, made by Simon Peers and Nicholas Godley, 2011. Source: Victoria and Albert Museum.
A spider’s web is a sticky net in which it snares its supper. And the golden orb spider (Nephila spp.) spins one that can span 15-20 feet, or more! Their webs are elastic and amazingly tough, and yes, they are golden in color. I live in Florida where golden orb spiders are ubiquitous. Here they are called banana spiders because of their large yellow abdomens. The spider that lives in that web is HUGE!
I will never weave a fabric made from the filaments of any spider web. I can’t touch it or even begin to imagine collecting the raw material! But I’m grateful that some else can. I’d love to see the shawl in person but I don’t think I could ever actually touch it. So spiders and their webs are perfectly safe from me…give me a venomous reptile any time!
Wild Roving, Tamed
Join Ewephoric Fibers for an informative and fun-filled day of spinning. In the morning portion of the workshop, we will spin wild roving and batts. In the afternoon, we will work on plying to make the best possible yarns. While we are learning about wonderful fibers, we will also be helping a most worthy cause, Peaceful Paths. This non-profit group assists women moving out of abusive situations into a position of self-sufficiency and strength. Ten percent of every workshop fee will go to Peaceful Paths. Feel free to bring a non-perishable food donation for their food pantry. Details after the jump…
Continue reading “Ewephoric Spinning Academy” →
We all have fiber and or yarn stashes that are squirreled away awaiting that perfect project. We have all had the experience of opening our stash and, horror of horrors, discover a little cloud of moths! Or you find a little pile of gritty dust. Your natural fibers can become dinner for moths, silverfish, roaches and other insects. Mice also find that nice warm fluff a fine place to raise a family. So how do you protect your treasures from unwanted company and damage?
Fiber Moths (Clemson University - USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series, Bugwood.org)
There are many compounds that can be used to protect your fiber or yarn. My grandmother used mothballs made from naphthalene. Whenever I encounter that smell, it triggers memories of my grandmother knitting wonderful items. Naphthalene, however, is flammable so it is no longer used. The current compound used in mothballs — 1,4-dichlorobenzene — smells about the same! These work by sublimating, going from a solid state to a gas state, which means you have to replace them on a regular basis. The fumes are toxic to moths and other bugs, and theyrepel mice. However, the fumes are also toxic to people, so if you are going to use them, be sure to open your storage containers in a well-ventilated area.
While mothballs are very effective, it can be difficult to get rid of the smell. Even washing won’t entirely remove the odor. Placing the fiber, yarn, or clothing in the sun for several hours helps to volatilize the last of the molecules and remove the smell. Mothballs have also been recently listed as a potential carcinogen.
So what are the alternatives? There are a variety of herbs and spices that can be used to keep unwanted pests at bay. Sachets made of lavender and calendula flowers or rosemary, mint, or cloves will not only repel pests, they will also smell wonderful! Non-moth ball alternatives only repel insects; they do not kill them. Good fiber hygiene is the best way of protecting your precious fibers, yarns, and wool/alpaca garments.
Washed Shetland, Ready to Store (photo by Jane D.)
Some dos and don’ts:
- Just like good personal hygiene, good fiber hygiene starts with bathing. Wash your grease or dusty alpaca fleece before you add it to your stash. Bugs will flock to dirty fleece before clean fleece. This applies to any protein fiber such as wool, alpaca, camel, silk, etc.
- Do not store fibers in plastic where the plastic actually touches the fibers. Rabbit angora, in particular, and other very fine fibers have a tendency to mat if they are against the plastic. Store your fleeces in pillowcases then place them into large zip-top type bags. Smaller items like yarns, roving, and clothing can be wrapped in non-acid, non-dyed paper and then into a zip-top bag. Squeeze out most of the air and your fibers will be protected from outside attack. Use heavy plastic bags as moths can eat through lightweight plastic.
- Check your fibers or clothes on a regular basis and look for infestation. If you have stored your items in zip-top bags, any problem should be contained, literally! If you are suspicious of any item, you can either freeze it for at least two days or put it into the microwave for a couple of minutes. If microwaving, do not use any plastic or acrylic ties or bags. These can melt into the surface of the fiber. If a bag is infested, just throw the whole thing away.
So you have found a moth. Now what? First you need to determine if you need to worry. If the moth is flying around in the middle of the day, it is most likely a flour moth. These small gray-brown moths get into dry packaged goods like dry pet foods, oatmeal, pasta, and rice. You generally find them flying around these items in the pantry. These moths do NOT get into your fibers and are not really a problem to protein fibers, other than being a pest. A trip to your friendly hardware store to get some flour moth traps will deal with this problem. Wool moths look very similar and can be difficult to tell apart, but they do not like the light and, like little vampires, they will avoid it at all costs! If you pull out a woolen item, fiber, yarn, clothing, and suddenly have moths about, it is time to worry and look for infestation.
If you determine that you have wool moths, dispose of the item and carefully check any other material that is nearby. If unsure, freeze or microwave any suspicious fibers then repackage in cloth and a plastic bag. This is a time to be absolutely ruthless!
And Care2.com also has some excellent advice for deterring moths and making sachets. Here’s their recipe for Natural Repellent Sachets (you can find the ingredients in bulk at most health food stores).
2 ounces each of dried rosemary and mint
1 ounce each of dried thyme and ginseng
8 ounces of whole cloves
Combine the ingredients in a large bowl. Blend. Make sachets by choosing a 4″ x 4″ piece of natural fiber with a tight weave, such as silk. Sew three sides together, then fill with the herbs and sew the fourth side shut. You can adapt this pattern to any size you want (2 x 2 is the traditional size for the undergarments drawer, for example). A good idea for small sachets is to fill cotton teabags sold for making your own tea (these are often sold in health food stores). If you are really in a rush, just tie the herbs up in a cotton bandana or handkerchief; place the herbs in the middle, gather the edges together, and tie with a ribbon. Variation: Other herbs that are good for repelling moths include lavender, lemon, sweet woodruff, and tansy.
For further reading:
Cornell University has an excellent article on moths along with a couple of pictures.
What do you do to keep your fibers safe?
Why do you spin? Why in this day and age of readily available, immediate gratification yarn stores and online shops would you want to spin individual strands of fibers into yarn?
Me? Why do I spin? There are reasons I can delineate and many others I simply cannot.
I spin to produce the specific yarn I want for a specific project. Sometimes I find a pattern that I particularly like and plan out the yarn I will use. I select the fleece, wash, dye, card, and then spin to the weight I want. I like to select the different fibers, blend them, and plan out the yarn in advance. Or I select the roving I like that is the appropriate fiber content for the project, sometimes already dyed, sometimes not. I figure how much I am going to need and while I am spinning the yarn I review the pattern to decide how much modification it needs. More often I write my own pattern. You cannot get this kind of start-to-finish satisfaction in store bought yarns. But this is not the primary reason I spin yarn.
Ginger and Bunny
I spin because I am very tactile. I love the feel of the fibers, especially very soft fleeces still warm from the sheep or alpaca they were just sheared off of. I love the sensation of warmth or coolness the fibers exhibit. I love the sweet hay smell and feel of lanolin from a clean, fresh sheep fleece. I am amazed as I watch the twist capture fragile individual fibers and make them into a strong, stable yarn. Fiber is a feast for all the senses, except perhaps taste!
I spin to connect with a distant past that is very hard to define. When I spin, I feel a connecting thread that stretches back through time and space to the first woman who figured it out. I feel as if I can close my eyes, open them, and be in some other time and place and I would not be surprised at all! As the fibers flow through my fingers, I experience an internal calm that is unique to this particular activity. Spinning feels as natural to me as walking. I am sometimes amazed that I have not done it my whole life, only the last 30 years! Spinning is my Zen. It quiets and calms my mind. The day’s tension drains away as I spin.
Many years ago I had Lyme Disease. During the course of the illness I became severely neurologically impaired. I could not walk without help, brush my hair, feed myself or do any of the many things we take for granted. I lost my long-term and photographic memory as well as my short-term memory and I was aphasic, the wrong words came out of my mouth. I could not remember how a sentence started so I could not carry on a conversation for many months. On the other hand, I could think and reason, I just could not say the correct words! I spent a year relearning basic skills and speech.
One of the first physical things I could do once I could get around on my own was spin. I still couldn’t carry on a conversation, could barely brush my hair or feed myself, but I could spin. How glorious that was! It was a huge part of my recovery. As I look back on it now, I realize that I had close to my 10,000 hours of ‘practice’ in spinning before I became ill. According to Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers: The Story of Success, you need to spend 10,000 hours of doing something before you can truly become an expert and really excel in that field. I don’t know that I excelled at spinning, in fact I feel like a merely competent spinner most of the time, but the physical and mental memory was present even if the rest of my brain had not caught up yet! So for a year I spun for the simple joy of spinning.
I spin to connect to the most basic part of my being, to be sure the that the connecting thread stretching back to my very origins is still intact. I allow the tactile part of spinning to take over and carry me through the most difficult parts of my life. It helps to keep me on an even keel. It is my lifeline.
So, why do you spin?
Golding Drop Spindle By Molly Stanek via flickr
Hello fellow spinners!
It’s time for me to stop talking about wanting to do a newsletter and start writing a newsletter! I’ve been spinning for a long time now, about 30 years. I got my first spinning wheel for Christmas the first year on the NJ farm. My then husband gave me an Ashford Traveler and told me that he wanted a wool sweater from one of the sheep in the yard. Not to be defeated by a box of kindling, I stained and built the wheel and did a pretty good job! Along with the wheel, I received The Joy of Spinning by Marilyn Kluger. I do not recommend learning to spin from a book, but it certainly is doable. Pictures in a book do not convey the same clarity as a YouTube video, or much better, a one-on-one experience. After a frustrating couple of weeks I started to ‘get’ it and then found a small shop about an hour away where I was able to take a lesson. The “aha” moment happened and I was hooked!
Continue reading “Ewephoric Newsletter, The First” →
What can you do with the sock yarn you’ve spun with our sock batts? How about a new sock pattern?
Introducing Chiaroscuro: Double-Eyelet, Twisted-Rib Socks.
Named for the contrasts of highlight and shadow formed by twisted ribs framing delicate eyelets, this top-down pattern is written for knitting on two circular needles. It features Priscilla Wild’s short row heel (No muss! No fuss! No wraps! No holes!) and a kitchener-free toe.
Size: Women’s Medium/ U.S. W8-9. Yarn: Approximately 350 yards of fingering weight (shown in Aslan Trends Santa Fe — two skeins required). Allow more yarn if you want a taller sock or if you are knitting for longer feet. Gauge: 8 stitches per inch. Needles: Two 24″-long circular needles in U.S. 1 / 2.5mm or size needed to obtain gauge.
Visit the pattern’s Ravelry page, or download the pdf directly from our site.