Handdyed Fibers, Handspun Yarn & Handwovens

Apparently I do windows

With this free ranging lifestyle I have, it means that for a bit of the year we return to our house in Maine. I love this house. We have been working on it now for eight years, with some years having seen major renovation and upheaval, and others just light touches. We are nearing the end of the renovation tunnel (knock on wood, right) but there will always be the chores to do as we return year after year. One of those is windows.

In the fall, when the weather turns really too cool/cold to have windows open anymore – and when the storms start coming off the water with a fierce wind – we remove the screens to protect them from damage. When we are not in the house it is also nice to know they won’t get torn up from winter weather. So when we return and when weather is beautiful, being able to open up windows is at the top of the list. It isn’t just washing the screens and putting them back in to all TWENTY THREE windows.  (We don’t have a big house, just lots of windows and light.)  Cleaning out the tracks from dirt, debris, and green stuff (don’t want to know) and cleaning the glass becomes a big job.

We also usually put in our garden asap and get the deck (our outside living space) all arranged and pots planted. Working around the weather can drag it all out, but as of today, check, check and check. Now, on to kitchen cabinet painting and furniture refinishing, when I’m not working my day job. With all these distractions, it is hard to block time for fiber even though I love it. But it is nice to have a full day every day and try to “eat life”. (Movie quote – do you know from where?)


I feel I could also have titled this post “Thank you, John Mullarkey”. I took his pocket loom weaving class at the DFW Fiber Festival, having no idea about these little pin looms. When I was little, I had one of the red plastic looms with evenly space pegs to make potholders. The zoom loom is completely different.

Getting started with a pin loom

My interest in this class and a “pocket” way to weave is that my fiber studio has to be portable, or most of it. Also, since we drive for hours across country with my husband doing most of the driving, the idea of having a very compact way to be productive was intriguing.

Pin loom weaving squares.

Stacks of pin loom squares in different color ways with purple in common.

Stacks of pin loom squares in different color ways with purple in common.[/caption]It has worked out as I’d hoped. I see the advantages of how the Zoom Loom was designed, but on a tight budget for new tools I opted to find an original weave-it from the 1940s on eBay. For $16, I had it in my hands in days. I practiced some when we were still in Austin and then on the road for the last few days driving to Connecticut to stay with my in-laws. Thus far I have a little over 30 squares. The current plan for these is a top or tunic where these are assembled on the bias. With the yarns I had, I’m heading towards some kind of ombré in purples mostly.

I’ve done a tremendous amount of dyeing while here in Austin. I have two crock pots of my own and a dear friend loaned me two of hers to use. I ordered a lot of roving when we arrived in Austin in February, 25 pounds to be exact. All the effort was to create enough inventory for fiber shows I had scheduled while here- the Yellow Rose Fiber Producers Fiesta and the West Austin Studio Tour (WEST).

With the former behind me, having been at the end of April, I decided it was time to clean up the dye pots. After all, I have PLENTY of inventory for WEST and we are leaving in a few weeks. So after all the pots were washed I discovered three glass jars with mixed up dye “hiding” on a shelf. Too much to throw out, I decided to shove some silk and vinegar in the jars to use it up.

Solar dyeing silk

I’ve done this before, even sat the jars out in the sun on a warm day, but found the only way to really get all the dye to strike was then to empty it all into a crock pot and bring the temp up quite high. What I opted to do to keep the pots clean, is simply use one as a solar oven. The loaner pots were black and dark green, with the latter having a glass lid. For some reason that seemed better, so I simply tightened the jar lids, placed them in the bowl and put on the lid. The pot sat outside on a brick patio during two 90 degree days.

Yesterday, I opened it midday and the jars were so hot I couldn’t lift them out comfortably. Today, I checked them and the liquid seemed clear. Into the white pan I put some hot water, and then poured all the silk out. To my relief, there is no color in the water and when the picture was taken hours later, still clear. So all the dye struck.

Goodbye Nashville

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What a great city this is.  Chosen because we have dear friends that live here, we decided to spend five weeks here.  We got super lucky on a house rental. A wonderful little house with an even more incredible landlord.  She lives next door and turns out, she knits and felts.  She gifted us a super cool cat bed that our cat claimed instantly.  I gave her a skein of handspun yarn and look forward to hearing what she makes of it.  Just a lovely person.

The house location couldn’t be better with a 3.75 mile loop walking trail from our doorstep and back.  (I said this was a great city.)  A superb yarn shop, Haus of Yarn, was in walking distance also and I decided to buy some needles and do some knitting again.  Might help the miles go faster on our long drives.  Found another amazing yarn and craft shop, Craft South, in the trendy 12 South neighborhood.

Perhaps the wildest connection I made here was happenstance.  Gifted a facial to my daughter for the holiday and she mentioned to the owner of the spa that I do the fiber thing.  The owner insisted on connecting me to another client of hers who does natural dyeing and works with fiber.  Small world and such a strange coincidence.  So we had coffee, the best time talking, and I look forward to an ongoing correspondence.

Aside from the above, we checked out as much as we could in terms of restaurants, historic homes, cool bars, and parks.  There is only so much one can do and the weather has been unseasonably cold.  So, undoubtedly we’ll book this place again and return to explore more.  At the end of the week, it is goodbye Nashville, hello Austin.