Thursday, December 11, 2008

Etsy Steampunk Gift Guide

Hello to all,
I finished my finals this past Tuesday. FINALLY. They really weren't awful, though. Most of my finals were kind of like mini-parties with some critiquing on the side. Still, I've been slaving away on final projects and am happy to finally be able to focus on my non-class-related art stuff. And now I have weaving and dyeing to add to my growing collection of things I want to do outside of the classroom...

Sadly, I've caught that nasty crud-bug that always seems to hit the campus, and it's annoying me to no end-- I currently have a few "commisions" I was working on for a few of my professors for Christmas, and they're all at a stand-still now that I'm all sneezy and groggy and just plain nasty.

ALSO, I've been meaning to put up some pictures of all the neat things I've worked on for this past semester, but until I get better that just ain't happening.

Ah well.

At least there's etsy to turn to when I want to share something crafty!

They just put up a "steampunk and noir gift guide" filled with loads of stuff I'd just love to get my hands on. Needless to say, it's filled with cogs, frills, black lace and brass findings...basically, the kind of stuff that makes me salivate and feel rather greedy during the Christmas season.

Now to just BACK AWAY and look at things that my family would like instead of me.

.... Read more!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Spinning at the Fall Festival


Last time I blogged I left off where I had *just* gone to do a bit of demonstrating with my sister at a local fall festival. For about four hours I spun, carded, and crocheted a shawl for myself-- something that I would have probably done at home on any average weekend, fall festival or not. It was our very first time doing a demonstration on our own, without the spinner's guild, but I feel we came well-prepared. Amazingly enough our booth was placed next to the basket weaving booth, set up by the woman who did the hand-spinning demonstration last year, who also happened to be a member of the spinner's guild as well.

And if that wasn't quite a coincidence itself, she also recognized our drum carder. Turns out she was the very first owner, and she had given it to Sharon, who then gave it to my family.


Other than spinning, carding, and crocheting, I had tons of fun chatting with demonstrators at the other booths and doing a bit of shopping. My sister and I both purchased really great face jugs from these kids who made them at the local high school. I was AMAZED that they hadn't sold out, because they were really great pieces and the price they were selling them at was a steal. Seriously, I would have bought everything if I had the money. But I only bought one; it has these two screaming faces on the very top, and the mouths are actually the eyes for the main face on the jug. Very Halloween. I definitely need to share pics of it some time....

Enough talking; here's a bunch of pictures!

Here's Mary at her Ashford traditional spinning wheel.

Here's moi. My louet isn't quite traditional.

Here is our little setup.

Here were Gae's basket weavings. Definitely putting kudzu to good use!

This was Paula, the butter-churning lady. She sewed her whole outfit.

Making apple cider with a cider press...

Here were some hand-made dulcimers.

By no means the gist of it, but my camera was low on memory...

Anyway, hopefully I'll get back to blogging again soon, because I've been doing some spindling with some alpaca I bought over at the John C. Campbell Folk School's fall festival and I've been meaning to blab about how that's all coming out. So until then...

-The Bloated Ewe
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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Natural Dyeing Escapade: The End Result

Well, since the last post not only have I had an overwhelmingly large amount of school work to do, but it also happens to be "Fall Festival" season, which usually keeps my weekends busy--the only time I have to write.

Fall festivals also mean more fiber crap to buy, which also means more stuff to write and rave about...but for now I'm simply going to focus on what I left off on-- that yarn I naturally dyed a couple of weeks back!

On the left is a skein of yarn I spun from Aggie's wool, in it's natural creamy white. To the right are two similar skeins, naturally dyed with alkanet root chips and with alum as a mordant.

While dyeing it I kept worrying that I under-guesstimated the amount of alum and cream of tartar that I mordanted the wool in, so I mixed up some more and poured it into the dye vat. I also let the yarn sit in the dye vat for a couple of days-- not so much to be sure that the dye took, but just because I wasn't able to finish dyeing during the weekend and got busy with school and work.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with the colours; it's like a light lavender-grey.

I took one of my alkanet-dyed skeins along with a lot more fiber-related things on a demonstration I did with my sister over at Smithgall Woods for their "Fall Celebration". Yep, another topic that I'd LOVE to write about right now, but I feel that it deserve a post all of its own, along with all the pictures I took.

So for now all you get is a picture of my alkanet skein along with some more handspun yarns I had on display.

More to come soon.

-The Bloated Ewe Read more!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Hands up, who wants to dye!


One of my many studio classes this fall has been textile design. Every Monday and Wednesday I don two layers of protective plastic aprons, rubber gloves, and a respirator, and I play around with toxic chemicals. Like chemistry, but with pretty colours instead of beakers filled with stuff that smells like farts. Or home ec, but more edgy. Anyway, the end result is a bunch of fat quarters (cloth, not lard) that are painted in a wide array of patterns in all the colours I can muster up in three hours.

Why am I writing about this?

Well, all that playing around with dyes and soda ash and fiber has gotten my feet wet (and rainbow-coloured) in a realm of fiber art that I've wanted to attempt for a long time but never quite got the courage for. I bought the natural dyestuffs, I snatched up mordants, I called a big ol' canning pot just for myself, I purchased a couple of "easy to follow" (yeah right) books from the internet...but still no dyeing.

But now, just as I'm writing this, there's that big ol' pot simmering in the kitchen filled with a couple white skeins of yarn I spun up from Aggie's wool, some white cotswold/mystery blend roving I purchased from a spinners destash, and some alum/cream of tartar that I was very careful about fully dissolving before dumping all the wooly crap in it. And notice that it's simmering. It's not boiling. It's simmering.

All I had on hand to measure out the mordants was a tablespoon, but apparently a tablespoon is like half an ounce. So I just guesstimated from there.

I feel kind of nervous about the fact that I guesstimated instead of getting ACCURATE measurements, but I keep telling myself that in the good old days they didn't have measuring spoons and all they did was eyeball the mordant measurements.

This may or may not be true, but it makes me feel a little better. So don't correct me if I'm wrong.


I'm off to go check the fiber. Read more!

Monday, September 1, 2008


At the last spinner's guild meeting, I was talking to a fellow member who has been involved in the craft (and fiber-arts in general) for quite some time.

Somehow the topic went to how I've been searching for a drum carder, but just couldn't seem to get one for a "deal". I explained how I was probably just going to have to suck it up and buy myself a drum carder for the usual going prices, when she said, "How does free sound for a good price?".

For a few seconds I just kind of blinked, thinking that I must have heard wrong. She explained how she had a second hand drum carder that she had been thinking about giving away-- she had gotten to the point where she just could never get the teeth to align the way she wanted to, and at that it was just growing to be more of a nuisance to her than anything else.

Next weekend I went with my family up to where she works to pick up the drum carder; it's like an Appalachian educational center where she works as a weaver. I got to see some of the results of a natural dyeing class that was being held at that time (I even purchased some mordants from her), and my family and I also had the pleasure of getting a little tour of the studio where she worked.

That night I cleaned up the drum carder, pulled out some of Aggie's (our sheep) wool that we had sheared this past spring, watched some youtube videos on how to work a drum carder, and we all set to work feeding the drum carder and cranking the fiber through.

This was the end result.

I am now obsessed with drum carding, and I can't wait to start dyeing and adding extra things like exotic fibers and glitter and Lord knows what else I feel like adding. The amount of creative control I have over my fiber has just increased tenfold; it's amazing.

It's also amazing how just talking to someone can lead to so much. One of the things I've learned from working in the arts (I'm using "art" quite loosely here, denoting anything creative) is the necessity of others. Most know that art isn't created in a void, but when you find yourself working with other people, helping others and being helped by others, you realize the importance of working in a sort of community, rather than in complete isolation. For me, art was about forming a connection with the world around me; a tool to break that isolation that pervades humanity. And little moments like this serve as a reminder of the need to connect.

Off to go card some more!

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Moonflower Choker Pictures and Pattern

Well, I FINALLY got around to finishing up that choker I was working on, and I also finally got around to writing out the pattern of it. It's not by any means perfect, but hopefully it's somewhat legible. I made sure to re-do some of the trickier parts just to make sure that it all ran smoothly, so it *shouldn't* have any major flaws, but if anyone comes across anything, just holler.

Basically, it's a cable choker bordered with a crocheted slip stitch. Because bamboo isn't stretchy, I made the button band (the part you sew the button on) in garter stitch, to give it a slight elasticity. The button is actually a flower that you'll knit, which I was a bit leery of at first, but it really does fit easily through the buttonhole if you pull it out petal-by-petal, and it keeps the whole thing in place. The button band with the button hole is has a decorative picot bind off that peeks behind the flower when you wear it, looking like a little leaf. It's a quick knit, and it'll be perfect for early fall when the weather gets cool, but not nearly cool enough for a neckwarmer.

Oh yeah, and you know how we roll. This pattern is for personal use only, any commercial use of this, whether it's selling the pattern or selling stuff made using the pattern, is ILLEGAL. So yeah, don't go makin' money off my freebies.


YARN: Plymouth Yarns Royal Bamboo in a (light) worsted weight in

MC: 003 (a silver colour) and CC: 0013 Garnet. One skein of each, and you'll only use a wee amount.

Needles: size 6 US (4mm)

Crochet Hook: G-6 (also 4mm)

You will also need a cable needle and tapestry needle.

GAUGE: 11 sts, 12 rows per 2 x 2 in square in stockinette stitch. Gauge doesn't have to be absolutely perfect. For the most part it's worked by the inch, not by rows, but remember, if you're going to use the same yarn-- bamboo isn't stretchy!


In MC and on size 6 needles, CO 10 sts.

Row 1: sl 1 knit-wise, p1, k6, p2

Row 2: sl 1 purl-wise, k1, p6, k2

Row 3-4: repeat rows 1 and 2

Row 5: sl 1 knit-wise, C6B, p2

Row 6: slip 1 purl-wise, k1, p6, k2

Row 7: slip 1 knit-wise, p1, k 6, p2

Row 8: slip 1 purl-wise, k1, p6, k2

Repeat rows 1-8 until approx 2 in less than your neck circumference (ideally ending with Row 8, if you like symmetry). BO.


With 6-G crochet hook and CC yarn, join using a slip st in on of the corner of the piece, towards the beginning of the cable, andwork a slip st into all the (knitted) slipped stitches around the border of the choker (it should start coming out the way it looks in the pictures...). On the narrow CO and BO sides, work a slip st into every other stitch-- amounting to five slipped sts on each ends. Once you've make a full garnet rectangle around the piece, finish off and weave in ends.


Now, with your knitting needles and CC, pick up and knit 8 sts on one side of the choker. Work in garter st for approx 1 in. unstretched, then BO.

On other end of choker, pick up and knit 8 sts using CC. K 5 rows of stockinette st (ending in a purl row).

Row 6: k4, BO 4, k1.

Row 7: p2, CO 4 using thumb method, p2.

Row 8: knit all sts

Row 9: purl all sts

Now begin to work a picot BO as follows:

BO 2, *slip st on right needle to left needle, then CO 2 sts using a cable cast-on, BO 3*, repeat to end. A total of five picots will have been made.


In MC and using your size 6 knitting needles, CO 4 sts, leaving about a 7 in tail.

Row 1: sl 1 knit-wise, yo, k1, yo, k2

Row 2: sl 1 knit-wise, k5

Row 3: sl 1 knit-wise, k1, yo, k2tog, yo, k2

Row 4: sl 1 knit-wise, k 6

Row 5: sl 1 knit-wise, k2, yo, k2tog, yo, k2

Row 6: BO 4, k 3

Repeat rows 1-6 until four "petals" have been made, repeat rows 1-5, then on row 6 BO all sts. You will have five petals. Break off yarn, leaving about 7 in tail again. Draw the yarn through the little bumps on the bottom of the petals and draw tight, forming a flower shape. Draw the yarn through again so it doesn't get undone. Now sew first petal to last petal, completing the cup shape. Weave in the ends of that BO tail, leaving the CO tail out. Now using the CO tail, sew flower to center of the garter st button band, sewing through at different angles at the bottom of the flower. Give it a slight tug to make sure it's nice 'n' sturdy, then weave in ends.

Voila! The end result should be a cute 'lil' choker. Enjoy.

Moonflower Choker, With Cables Showing

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Blueberry Pickin'

A few days ago my family and I found out about a local person who has a sort of blueberry U-Pick-Em. We called him up for directions and time, and he told us to come whenever we want, and that he basically has an honor system for the blueberry sales-- a tip jar located on a table in front of the field-- so there was no need to concern ourselves with whether there'd be someone there or not.

The money goes to a charity that helps orphans in Belarus, so really, you'd have to be quite a lout not to pay up regardless of whether anyone's watching or not.

We arrived early in the morning, before the sun was harsh. I still brought my hat, of course. Despite my usual hatred for doing anything before 8:00 (including waking up), I still had enough of my wits about me to remember to take my cameras, digital point 'n' shoot as well as my clunkier, more professional, manual Pentax K1000. In my opinion, though, all the greenery looked far better with my simple point 'n' shoot, so that's what I used to take most of the pictures.

Here's how a small family-owned blueberry field looks in the morning.

Here's what some of the blueberry stems looked like, all grey and hazy.

Look at how colourful blueberries can be.

Here's my sister, Bebe, and my brother, David, picking blueberries.

You can see the table with the buckets in the backround.

We're still drowning in blueberries, despite Mom's incessant canning.

More adventures to come soon?....

-The Bloated Ewe

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Thursday, August 7, 2008

Green Feets

My green socks are finally DONE.

I decided to suck it up and buy a second skein of Colinette's Jitterbug yarn in Popsicle...and since it was only the very tip of my right sock I needed to finish, I have enough a second pair of socks; maybe I'll knit some anklets in the future?

Until then, I'm just happy to have these babies all finished up.

Though in the future, if I ever do the pattern again...I'd probably alter the toe so that I'd be able to just draw the yarn through the remaining stitches instead of grafting. Yech.

There's so many things I'd like to write about and post pictures of, but this week has been insanely busy. I relatives from south Florida who are currently at their vacation home up here, and we've been doing alot of things with them. And when we're not, my family and I are out and about, enjoying the last leg of summer. Today has been one of the more peaceful days for me. Hopefully I can get some snapshots up soon, before saturday at least... when both my spinner's guild meeting AND last summer contra dance just happen to coincide.

Gah, I need to do so much before my courses start up again. I need to call up financial aid and make sure all my loans and scholarships and stuff are in. I need to see when I have to attend the student work-study workshop. I need to get my books. I need to contact disabilities and get my tardy exemption sheets and e-books. I need to get art supplies. I need to figure out where the heck my classes are going to be held....

But this blog is a HAPPY place, so I need to get away from the boring university moaning and back to art and knitting.

I finished the choker, and next time I write of it, there will be pictures and a free pattern to boot.


-The Bloated Ewe
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Saturday, August 2, 2008

Bike Riding

The weather this week has been quite balmy lately.

But despite that, when my brother asked me if I wanted to bike ride with him down our road, I decided to tag along.

I also took my camera.

I took pictures whenever I stopped for breath.

I took a picture of what I've always assumed to be an abandoned shack, but have never been totally sure.

I took a picture of the road, which isn't much of a road if you're used to pavement.

I took a picture of the mountains, where we decided it was time to head back.

Then I took a picture of the little church graveyard, along with SPECTRAL EVIDENCE.

Just kidding. It was a guy on a lawn mower.

Then I took one last picture, as we headed back home.

-The Bloated Ewe

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Choker in the Making

For the past year I've had a few skeins of (what I now believe to be extinct) Plymouth Royal Bamboo yarn in a deep crimson and silver. They sat there. I occasionally squished them, loving that bamboo silky feel. But nothing really came of it.

I knew I wanted to do something cable-y with them, but knew that cables alone wouldn't be enough. I wanted to pair the colours together somehow.

I then began thinking up a choker. It was to have a single rope-like cable in the center, in silver, bordered by the crimson. Which then lead me to how I was to achieve this effect. First I thought intarsia. But how would I do the crimson border? I then figured simple garter stitch, but knew that the natural drapeyness of bamboo would easily make it wonky, and the end result could look very sloppy.

Despite just learning how to crochet, I then settled upon crocheting a border. A single row of treble crochet would give a lovely trellis-like appearance for my cable-vine.

So I set to work. Simply doing a treble crochet right into the main piece would make little spikey parts where I would crochet a stitch, so I did a row of slip-stitched around the edges....and liked it. Alot.

Once again, I scrapped an old idea just to replace it with a new one, and here's my work in progress:

I know this sounds a bit dorky, but the silver yarn kind of reminds me of mithril. For those of you not familiar with J. R. R. Tolkien's work, it's the silvery metal highly esteemed by elves in the LOTR trilogy.

I plan on buttoning the piece together with a knit flower in the silver yarn, but I'm still trying to figure out how to make that work.

Off to tinker around some more...

-The Bloated Ewe Read more!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Flowers of the Garden Club at Hiawassee Fair

Although my lousy point 'n' shoot snapshot photos can in no way capture the all the amazing colours and textures in each flower, I still felt like sharing some of the inspiration.

The Dahlias

The Weird Succulent With Really Cool Star-Shaped Flowers

Now to somehow take these colours and textures and translate them into something fibery.

-The Bloated Ewe

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Hiawassee Fair

Quite recently I attended the Hiawassee fair with my family. It's something that's held biannually; once in the summer and once in the fall.

It's a cute little fair up in (you might have guessed already) Hiawassee. They have a whole bunch of little shack-like booths filled with craft vendors of all sorts, along with the typical fair foods. There's always a couple of bluegrass bands scattered about, and a few artisan reenactors to boot, like a blacksmith or the quilting bee ladies.

This time around I actually took the time to go visit some of the old buildings.

And I took many pictures.
Some were of this barn:

Here's a picture I took while inside the barn:
And inside it had the coolest stall door, with a whole bunch of etchings in it done sometime in the 1930's by the children of the man who once owned the barn.

Inside the place where they were holding the canning and honey competitions they had a wall devoted to pictures of moonshiners:

Farther down in the main exhibit hall, I came across this gorgeous Linotype printing press:

And here are all the little letter blocks:

I now want a Linotype printing press of my very own. Or at least the letter blocks. Definitely want the letter blocks.

I also rode more fair rides than I ever have...probably since I was little. Possibly even more than when I was little.

Apparently I am in one of these barrels. You can't see me, so just use your imagination:

Next post: the flower show! I took tons of pictures of that; I figured I'd end up overwhelming the average person if I posted them along with the all the other pictures I've just put up.


The Bloated Ewe
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Monday, July 14, 2008

Finishing with my Drop Spindle and Second Sock Syndrome to the Enth Degree.

Well, I seem to have both good news and not-so-good news to share today.

To start of with the not-so-good....

Second Sock Syndrome has been forced upon me. Okay, so I bought a lovely skein of Colinette Jitterbug sock yarn in "Popsicle" a gorgeous colorway. 100 grams, typical sock yardage. Should definitely be enough for a typical sock pattern.

This is where I made a grave error.

Just because sock yarn weighs a certain amount doesn't mean it will give you average sock yardage.

Now I'm left with one whole sock and one almost whole sock without the tip of its toe.

Now the yarn was about 22 dollars. I'm not sure whether I should a) just suck it up and buy another skein, b) beg the LYS owner if I there might be any scrap yarn in the same colourway that's left over from one of her sock classes, or c) substitute the toe with some of my (not at all similar) regia sock yarn I have left over from the socks I made for my father.

I really don't feel like going with option c. So I'll probably try options a and b, starting with b first, despite its pathetic lameness.

Onto the good news: I'm finished with the navy and fuchsia I was spindling! It's a pretty nice-sized ball, definitely would be enough for a pair of handwarmers if knit as a single.

Though I still definitely want to ply it with my spindle...I think.

Ah. Decisions, decisions.

-Cat Read more!

Thursday, July 10, 2008


I've finally plied all that rambouillet-finn roving I was spinning up; thank God I didn't put it aside for later. It came out pretty nice, even though I kept freaking out about whether I was over-plying or under-plying it. Whenever it seemed like it was balanced it would come out all wilty and crappy looking, but when I finally gave it a tight enough ply so that it looked nice and beaded it would started coiling on itself. But since I'd rather block a garment to remove whatever energy is left than have to deal with ugly yarn, I decided to give it some extra twist.

It reall came out nice, didn't it?

It's 16 wpi, basically a fingering weight yarn. Finest I've ever spun. The little Bauhaus-esque block on my hand next to my handspun helped me figure out that little technical detail. I picked it up over at The Spinner's Emporium on etsy. Really nifty, and yeah, I know I could have just wrapped the stupid yarn around a ruler and ended up with similar results, but this little poplar wpi gauge looks way cooler than a ruler, and the price didn't make me suffer. Plus, it matches my louet. Rulers don't do that.

Now that I'm done with the rambouillet-finn, I've been working alot more on my drop spindle. It used to feel really awkward, but now that I've been spinning so much with the wheel it no longer feels difficult. I just grabbed some chunks of fuchsia and dark navy corriedale I had floating around and decided to spin random pieces of them together; once I finish that I'll spin up some other wierd colour combo and Navajo-ply them together, because I've been really wanting to learn how to Navajo-ply.

I'm still not quite sure what to make of it, I'll wait 'till it's completely done before I make up my mind.

Now I'm off to work.


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