Category Archives: Guest Bloggers

Guest Post: A Weaver’s Guide to Swatching with Liz Gipson

Liz GipsonWe’re pleased to welcome Liz Gipson of Yarnworker.com to our blog for a special guest post! Liz is a weaver, instructor and author – you may recognize her from Weaving Made Easy and Slots and Holes, or perhaps you’ve spotted her name on the pages of Handwoven Magazine or over at Knitty.com. 

Today, Liz shares some of the weaving inspiration behind her newest book, A Weaver’s Guide to Swatching.

All the Best,

Wave, Perri and the entire Woolery crew

The thing about writing a book is you don’t have time to fail slowly, you need to fail fast. With less than a year to get together a couple dozen projects and write the accompanying manuscript for my forthcoming book, Handwoven Home, I needed a way to test yarns, colors, setts, and finishes faster than even my rigid heddle could provide.

For years, I hunted for a small frame loom in the setts that I, as a rigid-heddle weaver, use—primarily 8, 10, and12. Occasionally, an 8 would pop up and then disappear again depending on the trends. A single size 8 did me some good, but I couldn’t compare the same-sized swatch in one sett vs. another.

Then I met Angela Smith of Purl & Loop. She was making the cutest little frame looms and I asked her if she could make me a set in closer setts. We talked about the wider issues, threw ideas back and forth, and the Swatch Maker Looms were born!

Purl & Loop Swatch Maker

We put these little looms out in the world and instantly I started getting questions about how to weave a swatch. At first I thought it was about the technique, but then I realized the questions had to do with the whole system: “How do you weave a swatch to get information to make your big loom life better?”

A Weaver's Guide to Swatching by Liz GipsonSo while I was writing the big book, I wrote a little book about the methods I use to get to a final finished project. That little book, A Weaver’s Guide to Swatching, shows you how to use a small frame loom to road test your bigger ideas. I talk about selecting sett; a bit about yarn for weaving; the tools you will need; the mechanics of how to set up, weave, and finish a swatch with lots of tips and tricks; and how to track results for future projects. It’s a tried and true method used by designers of all stripes. Start small. Dream big. Fail often. Do it again.

As summer approaches, swatching is the perfect way to take your weaving with you. I get my best ideas while I’m traveling and I no longer feel I’ll “lose” that idea; I can grab my loom and swatch it out.

It’s a joy to be on this journey and share it with my fellow weavers. You can find me online at yarnworker.com or on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.

Weave happy. Weave often. Just weave!

Spinning with Dyed Fiber + Giveaway

Check out Jillian Moreno's guest post & giveaway on the Woolery Blog! We’re pleased to welcome spinner, author, and instructor Jillian Moreno back to the Woolery blog (click here if you missed her excellent post about spinning tussah silk for embroidery).

Jillian is the author of Yarnitecture: The Knitter’s Guide to Spinning: Building Exactly the Yarn You Wantpublished by Storey Publishing in 2016. She is also the editor ofKnittyspin and is on the editorial board of Ply Magazine. She frequently contributes to Spin-Off and PLY Magazine and teaches all over North America. Be warned, she is a morning person and frequently breaks into song before 9am. Keep track of all of her crafty and other pursuits starting April at www.jillianmoreno.comShe lives buried in a monumental stash of fiber and books in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

I have a new spinning and knitting obsession. I’m entranced by working with dyed braids of fiber, dyed the same colorway, but spun in several ways for different effects. I can’t stop myself from playing.

Here’s a braid of Frabjous Fibers BFL top in the beautiful Cottage Garden colorway, normally I would just split it in two and spin it from end to end and ply it, letting it match or marl wherever it wants.

Spinning with dyed fiber, a guest post by Jillian Moreno on the Woolery Blog.

Today I wanted to do something else. I get really sick of the same old, same old yarns, even when I love the colors.

I made two 2-ply yarns in Cottage Garden that look dissimilar, but go together perfectly. My idea was to have one yarn match colors when plied and the second be as mixed up colorwise as it can.

Spinning with dyed fiber, a guest blog post on the Woolery blog by Jillian Moreno.

Left: single with clear colors, Right: single with mixed up colors

For my matching yarn, I split my fiber in two lengthwise, dividing it as evenly as I could. I spun two singles starting from the same end. I checked WPI every once in a while using Rosie’s Precise Spinning Control Card.  I don’t stress the spinning when I try to match color, because I have a couple of tricks I use to ply to match.

  • I rewind my bobbins, so I start plying with the same color I started spinning my singles. I find my spinning is much more consistent at the beginning of my spinning and the colors match up better when I ply.
  • I break it to make it. While I’m plying, if my yarn starts to marl instead of match, I break the single with the overlong color run, break out the rest of the color that is causing the marl, join it back together where the color would match the other ply (I use a spit splice to be sure it holds) and continue plying with matching colors.
Handspun yarn - two ways to spin with dyed fiber - click over to the Woolery blog to read more from Jillian Moreno.

Left: 2-ply with clear colors, Right: 2-ply with mixed up colors.

For my mixed up colors yarn, I split my fiber in two lengthwise, one piece for each ply, dividing it as evenly as I could. I spin to mix up colors as much as possible using these two tricks to get the yarn to marl in the single, then I ply it creating a double marled yarn. You can see the marling in the single on the bobbin above.

  • I split each length of fiber a second time and draft the two lengths together into a single.
  • Before I start drafting them together I flip one of the lengths so the color orientation starts at opposite ends. For example one length starts with green then goes to orange, then red, then pink and repeats, the second flipped length would start with pink, then red, then orange, then green and repeat.

I knit swatches of both yarns and they look great, different but the same, exactly how I wanted them to turn out. I love when that happens. One yarn is clear colored stripes and one is a mixed up tweed in the same colors.

Spinning with dyed fibers - get tips from expert Jillian Moreno on the Woolery blog.

What do you do with it? You might ask. Here’s what I’m thinking today.

I want to make a hat, using the clear, matching colors as the main color yarn, then using the mixed up colored yarn as a contrasting yarn to make a mixed up stripe within each solid colored stripe. Fun, isn’t it?

Lower left, matching colors; lower right, mixed up colors, top swatch mixed up colors as a striped within a solid green stripe.

Lower left, matching colors; lower right, mixed up colors, top swatch mixed up colors as a striped within a solid green stripe.

If you want more ideas to spin your dyed fibers or want some spinning suggestions on making exactly the yarn you want to knit, check out my new book Yarnitecture:The Knitter’s Guide to Spinning: Building Exactly the Yarn You Want. 

GIVEAWAY

Enter to win a copy of Jillian Moreno's new book, Yarnitecture, on the Woolery blog!Jillian and the folks at Storey Publishing have graciously donated a copy of Yarnitecture: The Knitter’s Guide to Spinning: Building Exactly the Yarn You Want to give away to one of our lucky readers! To be eligible in the prize drawing, please email contest@woolery.com with the subject line “Yarnitecture” and your first name, last initial & state/province in the body of your message. 

Please note, by entering this contest, you will be automatically signed up for our newsletter list which you can opt out of at any time; if you already receive our newsletter, we will simply confirm the address that we have on file so that you do not receive duplicate copies. 

We will randomly select one lucky winner to announce on our next blog post on Tuesday, November 22, 2016. Good luck! 

Color and Fiber

benjaminkBenjamin Krudwig is a crochet and knitwear designer  from Colorado who also spends much of his time spinning and weaving. Benjamin is the founder and co-owner of Benjamin Krudwig Fiber Arts and Design, along with his wife who sews project bags for knitting and crochet. Benjamin spends his time during the week running the social media program at Schacht Spindle Company. Today, Benjamin shares his extensive knowledge of color, fiber and weaving with our blog readers! 

All the best,

Wave, Perri & the entire Woolery Team

There are many elements of design to consider when it comes to creating a woven piece, but in honor of the theme this month, I’ll be talking about color. Color choice can make or break a project, and it is important to know a bit about what to do when it comes to choosing colors for a project.

Color in knitting and crochet is certainly interesting, but you are often limited to alternating colors in your project using stripes, color blocks, or other colorwork techniques. Due to the scale of the stitches (unless you are using very fine yarn with very small needles) there isn’t as much of opportunity for the colors to “blend” visually. Weaving is unique in that you have color “mixing” any time you have your warp and weft overlap, and with the scale generally being pretty small the visual effects can be pretty striking.

Before I go into color-choice, I think we should talk about the basic principles at work in weaving. In a balanced plain-weave (with yarns of the same thickness), one color in the warp and one in the weft, you will see approximately 50% of each color. From further away, these two colors appear to blend. This proportion changes as you use different weave structures, and amount of colors. Take a 2/1 twill for instance, this is a weft-dominant fabric on the right side, and you will see approximately 66% of the weft color and 33% of the warp color. On the wrong side it will be the opposite.

Let’s take a look at the way two colors transform as you take the same proportion of each color (50/50) and change how the color is dispersed. If you look at the following picture at 100%, this will give a sett of approximately 12 ends per inch, so you will get a more accurate sense of how these would look in a finished woven piece.

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As you can see, the colors appear to diffuse into each other as you mix them more, and a new color becomes apparent although you still have two discrete colors present. Colors that are a similar value or a similar hue will blend nicely together, colors that are very contrasting in value or hue will tend to not blend as smoothly. This can be used as a design element, if you want to draw the eyes to a certain place in the woven piece, or if you want the whole thing to be pretty homogenous, this will change how you approach your color choices.

I find that using a weaving program is very helpful. This allows me to study certain color combinations before biting the bullet and buying yarn for a big project. Though this isn’t always accurate, it gives some idea of what to expect when one (or more) colors interacts with others, and I can easily switch up my pattern, so I can see how the color changes based on the structure. Though there are a couple of weaving programs that are free or low cost, you can also do this exercise in excel or on a piece of graph paper. Once you are familiar with how the colors look on screen it may be useful to weave a sample color gamp. This is a woven sample where there a few colors in the warp, and a few colors in the weft, and you weave with each to see how the colors blend. You can create a gamp in any weave structure, and I would suggest using the weave structure that you’ll be using in your project.

To put it simply, there are a few things to keep in mind when choosing colors for a woven piece. Do the colors look good together? Will they mix well with each other? How much contrast do I want in value or in hue? Do I LIKE these colors together? Listening to your gut is just as important as knowing a little bit of color theory.

Below are a few examples of some woven pieces that I have created that have varying degrees of contrast in both value and in hue.

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The Winter Nights Wrap is a monochromatic gradient, so there is very little contrast in hue, but if we look at it in a desaturated image, the contrast in value is very large. With tones very near to the ends of each end of the spectrum. Playing in a limited color palette can allow you to take risks in weave structure and make a great visual impact without worrying if the colors themselves work together. It can also be a fun challenge to take the same color of yarns and create a piece solely based on texture.

2016-04-22_21-24-46

The Outlandish Plaid Scarf was created with a color palette of yellow, green, and blue, which is called an “analogous” color scheme in color theory. This means that these colors reside next to each other on a color wheel (a tool that every fiber artist should either own or be familiar with.) Another reason they all work pretty well together is that they are also in an analogous series of values as well. All of the colors share a similar intensity, and blend well together where they mix.

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The Log Cabin Scarf uses a technique called “color and weave” which creates patterns depending on the order in which you place certain colored yarns in both the warp and the weft. This particular scarf relies entirely on the “complementary” color scheme between the teal and orange. These colors are found across the color wheel from each other, and when they are seen together, they play off of each other to create a stunning color contrast. The teal brings out the orange and vice versa. They are both “high-key” meaning bright and vivid, but when you look at the desaturated image, they are around the same value, so again, one doesn’t stand out much more than the other, they work together to create the balanced pattern.

2016-04-22_21-18-20

The Density Plaid Scarf used the same variegated yarn in both the warp and the weft, so I changed up the weave structure instead of adding another color. It’s important to know when to stop and take a look at your project to make sure it doesn’t get too busy. However, if busy is your style, then do what makes you happy!

At the end of the day, there are no hard and fast rules about color in weaving, and much of it relies on personal taste and desires. There are many resources out there on color theory, and the color-and-weave method of weaving. The possibilities are endless when it comes to how to use color in your weaving. I find that I work quite a bit in blues and greens because I like those colors, but every now and then I like to break out of my comfort zone and embrace something new. Many years ago, I wrote a guest post for the New York Institute of Art and Design on Color, and stepping out of comfort zones. Though there are books and classes on color and design, I feel like there is no replacement for getting out there and doing it. Go create something colorful, without fear, and learn a little something in the process.

Ply Away With Us!

This spring, we’re excited to sponsor (and attend!) the first-ever Ply Away Retreat in Kansas City, Missouri. As you may have guessed by the name, this retreat is being put on by the folks who publish PLY Magazine, a wonderful community-driven quarterly publication that’s all about handspinning. Recently, PLY’s Editor-in-Chief (and wearer of many hats, including event planning!) Jacey Boggs Faulkner took a few moments to give us a preview of the retreat. For more information,  please visit www.plyaway.com.

If you plan on attending the retreat, be sure to stop by the Woolery booth in the marketplace to say hello, we look forward to seeing you there! 

All the Best,

Wave, Perri and the entire Woolery Team

ply-away-lg-logo

PLY Magazine is holding its first annual PLY Away retreat April 21, 22, 23, and 24, 2016 in Kansas City, MO at Crown Center’s Westin. We chose this location because it’s near lots of great restaurants and attractions, yet still provides us with that tucked-away feeling of being at a private retreat with a cozy group of spinners and fiber folk.

We’re thrilled to welcome many esteemed teachers such as Beth Smith, Deb Robson, Jillian Moreno, and many more. Christina Pappas is consistently mentioned as our readers’ favorite writer and she’s so knowledgable. She’ll be combining her job as an archeologist and her love of spinning and teaching a half day class about Twist and Twine – how ancient yarn was made. It should be fascinating and one of those classes that’s fun and educational while kind of feeling like a break.

We are welcoming two teachers from Canada, both regular teachers in the Old’s master spinning program (and there are still a few openings in their classes for those who dare!). Coleen Nimetz is teaching a Silk Tasting Class that will be amazing — all the different kinds and preparations of silk in 3 hours. If you’ve been wanting to experiment with silk, she’s the expert you want!

Michelle Boyd, aka the most technical spinner we know, will be teaching 3 classes about twist, grist, and combing fiber on mini combs. Just being around her will make you a better spinner!

As for the retreat in whole, all of the 2-day classes sold out very quickly, as did most of the 1-day classes. However, are a few spots remaining in the Technically Twisted class by Michelle (again, a mind-blower of a class) and just a few in Patsy Sue Zawistowski’s Illegal Yarns class, which is a great way to spend a day – breaking the rules of spinning and learning a ton each time you do.

Downtown Kansas City, as seen from the Westin Crown Center. Imagine yourself spinning here!

Downtown Kansas City, as seen from the Westin Crown Center. Imagine yourself spinning here!

All of the classes are great: they were picked, curated, and built especially for our first ever PLY Away and correlate to the first 2 years of the magazine – and if you need a refresher on all of the amazing topics PLY has covered in that time, click here to check out our back issues.

In short, these aren’t classes that will be offered next year – classes for Ply Away 2017 will be all new!

If spinners want to come just for the weekend, there are enough half day spots open to accommodate a few more people, though we expect the number of available spots to decrease as the event draws near. Even if you don’t plan on registering for any classes, you can still join in the fun by attending the free-for-all spin-in on Saturday night and the free-to-the-public marketplace from Thursday at noon to Saturday night!

jacey boggs faulker - get the scoop on the ply away retreat on the woolery blog!Jacey Boggs Faulkner has spent the last decade falling in love with fiber, writing a book (Spin Art, Interweave, 2012), writing for various fiber and spinning magazines, producing a spinning DVD (Sit & Spin, 2009, self), and teaching all over the world. She is the editor-in-chief of PLY Magazine, which is putting on the eagerly-anticipated Ply Away retreat this spring!

An Interview with Syne Mitchell

syneheadshot2On today’s post, we’re pleased to share an interview with Syne Mitchell, author of one of our favorite new books here at the Woolery, Inventive Weaving on a Little Loom. In addition to being an author, Syne also teaches, blogs, and hosts a podcast. Today, she talks about weaving and other crafts, sharing some of her best advice along the way. Enjoy! 

How did you learn to weave? Do you do any other crafts?

I learned to weave at a week-long weaving workshop with Judith MacKenzie. I was 8-1/2 months pregnant at the time and saw it as my last great hurrah before motherhood. Little did I know that I was embarking on a craft journey that would change my life.

Having Judith MacKenzie as my first teacher was a stroke of luck. Not only did she teach me good weaving practices, but she taught me how to continue learning about weaving after the class ended.

She pointed me at Marguerite Davison’s Handweaver’s Pattern Book and Peggy Osterkamp’s first three books, among others.

But the best advice she gave me was this: Keep records of what you weave. Samples of the yarn, samples of the fabric off the loom and after washing, details about sett, warp length, shrinkage after washing. By doing so, you can learn from yourself, the loom, and the weaving.

Other crafts? Bwah-ha-ha! Yes. Before I learned to weave, I had a tendency to have the craft of the month. I’d get excited about polymer clay, or jewelry, or glass bead making. I’d get all the equipment and supplies, do it enough to get proficient, and then move on to another craft the following month.

I used to feel bad about this, but after a while, I realized that my true passion was learning. Once I’d gotten good at something, the steep learning curve was over, and I’d start to get bored.

When I got bitten by the weaving bug, my focus turned to the fiber arts. The great thing about weaving, is that there’s more there than you could learn in a lifetime. There are so many variables that affect the cloth: weave structure, yarn, twist, sett, finishing, humidity, etc.

It also cuts down on the amount of equipment and supplies you bring into the house. Yarn can be used for knitting, crochet, and weaving.

But to answer your question, and limiting it to the fiber arts to keep things from getting out of hand, I’ve learned the following crafts (in order): crochet, needlepoint, spinning, basketry, knitting, weaving, dyeing, lucet, kumihimo, temari, sprang, and bobbin lace. I’m currently teaching myself to sew. In the past I’ve tried, unsuccessfully, to learn tatting–though I will try again.

The only fiber art that I have not clicked with yet is quilting, though I imagine I’ll get around to that someday.

The great thing about learning several different crafts is that eventually you start creating projects that combine them. For example, learning to sew help you make bindings for your blankets. You can crochet a lace border on a handwoven silk handkerchief, etc.

Instead of feeling bad about “not being able to settle down to one thing”, I now think of it as fiber arts cross-training.

Inventive Weaving on a Little LoomWhat was the process like for writing Inventive Weaving on a Little Loom? What inspired you to focus on this area of weaving?

I began teaching on the Rigid Heddle loom several years ago as a way to introduce new people to weaving. Jumping in with a multi-shaft loom that can cost a thousand dollars or more — before you even know if weaving is something you want to do — isn’t for most people. With a rigid heddle loom, the investment is small. Also, as a teacher, I can bring my own rigid heddle looms for students to learn on.

That said, I love all kinds of weaving, I can get as excited about a color-and-weave pattern on a potholder loom as on a 24-shaft loom.

I’d never written a non-fiction book before, so it was a learning experience. When writing a novel, it takes about a year, but after the words are done, you’re done. With Inventive Weaving, finishing the words was just the beginning, then there was all of the weaving to do.

Fortunately, my editor, Gwen Steege, and all of the other talented people associated with Storey, helped me through the process.

Which loom(s) do you have in your craft room?

No one could learn all there is to learn about weaving in one lifetime, but I’m giving it a good try. Since I love learning new things, and have applied this to weaving, I’ve amassed quite a collection of looms.

In the center of my studio is an AVL 16-shaft Production Dobby loom (mechanical dobby). Around the edges of the studio are an 8-shaft Schacht Baby Wolf and a 24-shaft AVL Workshop loom (computerized dobby.) I also have a Robyn Spady inkle loom, a Mirrix tapestry loom, a Schacht tapestry loom, a hand-made Navajo loom, several Weave-It and Hazel Rose peg looms, a Harrisville potholder loom, six Schacht Flip rigid heddle looms, a Schacht Cricket rigid heddle loom, an Ashford knitters loom (also rigid heddle), and an unusual rigid heddle loom from Clover with a square heddle that rotates.

Um yeah, I have some looms.

What are the weaving yarns and tools that you can’t live without?

I am a big fan of wool and silk. Both are so versatile.

Wool can be soft and lush, or shiny and strong. It can felt, and is warm even when wet, a useful feature in the Pacific Northwest. I love that it’s a renewable resource and a natural fiber. It’s also very rewarding to go to a wool festival, pick your own fleece, wash it, spin it, and weave it into cloth. I used to have Shetland sheep and working with wool brings back good memories.

Silk is amazingly strong, even when it’s ridiculously fine. It usually is smooth and shiny, but in raw silk form is wonderfully soft and subtle. It’s expensive by the pound, but if you purchase it in 60/2 or 140/2 form, a pound can go a long way. I’ve not raised silk worms, but I have reeled silk from cocoons and spun yarn from matawa.

As for tools, it depends. The shuttle that works well for a large fly shuttle loom is not the shuttle you want to use for a loom with a narrow shed. The threading hook that works wonderfully on one loom might not fit through the holes on another loom. With that caveat, here are the minimal set of tools I like to have on hand when weaving.

  • Solid and strong loom.
  • Threading hook long and fine enough to reach the heddles.
  • Shuttle that feels good in the hand and weaves well in the warp.
  • Sturdy warping board / peg / or warping wheel
  • Sharp embroidery scissors
  • Tapestry needle, sized to the yarn
  • 4-lb neoprene coated dumbbells
  • 50-gram brass weights with hooks on the end
  • Cotton carpet warp

What is the best advice you have for new weavers? Intermediate weavers? Advanced weavers?

I’ll pass on a few bits of advice which work for all weavers:

Weave. There is no teacher, no book or video, that will teach you as much as your loom.

Keep records of what you weave. Note down the yarn and sett, the picks per inch you wove it at, the pattern. The measurements of the cloth before and after washing. Keeping records will let you look back and predict how new projects will turn out, and let you repeat projects you especially liked.

Design your own projects. Push yourself to try new patterns, colors, and yarns. You may discover that things you didn’t like in one project positively sing in another one.

Happy weaving!

Guest Post: Claudia Chase of Mirrix Looms (Part 2)

We love sharing the stories behind the unique products we’ve sourced from skilled artisans and innovative makers; last fall, Claudia Chase shared the story of how Mirrix Looms came to be – click here if you missed it! Today, she will share some of the most recent challenges this family-owned company has faced and how they have evolved to meet the needs of an ever-changing marketplace. Enjoy!

Ah the changes that were to come!

My first partner, who had quit his Fire Engine building job to both run the manufacturing end of Mirrix and a landscaping company, decided that landscaping was enough; after two years of long-distant business together, he wanted out. I called a friend (in Wisconsin) who just happened to be flush after having sold a lucrative business and gave him the sales pitch of my life. Within a month he had both bought out my original partner and moved Mirrix to its current location: Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.

Sunshine House, home of Mirrix Looms

Sunshine House, home of Mirrix Looms

Mirrix now lives within a facility that employs adults with mental and/or physical challenges. We are the only resident business and we love that status. In fact, we love everything about our new digs from the amazing folks who work there, especially the beautiful open spaces and a general sense of joy that permeates everything.

The only catch is that I had probably over-sold Mirrix at this point. I didn’t really want to grow it into a multi-million company and that really is the point of investing in a company: to grow it and sell it. However, I wanted to keep it forever – I considered it to be my third child, and I love it!

After a year, I bought out my second partner, leaving everything except the formal name the same: we became Mirrix Tapestry & Bead Looms, Ltd.
In 2004, my daughter Elena decided that it wouldn’t be such a bad thing to join the family business, and who was I to resist? Especially since she had been our website mistress ever since she was in high school. Armed with a Communications degree and all her energy and enthusiasm, Elena became Mirrix’s first-ever Marketing Director (and boy, did we need one!).

The Spencer Power Treadles from Mirrix

The Spencer Power Treadle

The changes to Mirrix since Elena came on board have been daily – a whirlwind of change on which we both thrive. The website is updated so frequently I can’t keep up with it! Our social marketing efforts has sent us to the top of the charts. And best of all, I get to work with Elena every day, although often through facetime since we live on different sides of the country.

You know how they say it’s all good (often in response to it being all bad)? Well, it really is all good! Mirrix now boasts eight different sizes of looms as well as kits, hand-painted silk and a bunch of wonderful accessories. Most recently, we added The Spencer Treadle which is an electric treadle that makes the very slow art of tapestry weaving a lot faster. We also supply a host of free ebooks and tutorials (found here on our website), sponsor fun events like weave-alongs on a regular basis, and have a constantly evolving YouTube channel.

As we grow, we change in fun and exciting ways to further serve the needs of our ever growing customer base. I am still amazed at all that Mirrix it has brought me, my family and our wonderful employees over the years. For us, the bottom line is not how much money we can make, but how much joy everyone who touches a Mirrix product can feel. From the world’s best employees to the world’s best customers, Mirrix has a lot on its plate and for that we are grateful!

Guest Post: Things I learned from Rosie with Jacey Boggs Faulkner

jaceyThis week’s guest post is by none other than Jacey Boggs Faulker, editor of PLY Magazine. She has spent the last decade falling in love with fiber, writing a book (Spin Art, Interweave, 2012), writing for various fiber and spinning magazines, producing a spinning DVD (Sit & Spin, 2009, self), and teaching all over the world. We are very much looking forward to the PLY Away Retreat happening in Kansas City, MO next Spring, which the Woolery will be sponsoring! 

We recently sent Jacey our new Rosie Blending Board to try out, and she was good enough to put together her thoughts to share with our blog readers. Enjoy! 

All the best,

Wave, Perri & the entire Woolery team

I learned three things this past week. The first thing I learned is that I hold (or rather, held) the belief that because I’m good at many fibery things, I will have an immediate affinity for all fibery things. This assumption of skill was previously an unexamined and not-too-attractive part of my psyche. It’s been corrected now.

The second thing I learned is that I’m not always as good as I think I’m going to be at everything.

The third thing I learned is that blending boards are fun, but like all things, they do take time and practice.

Let me go back to the beginning. I got a big box-of-beautiful in the mail from one of my favorite places that sends big-boxes-of-beautiful – the Woolery. You know the feeling, right? The anticipation, the excitement, the quick rip of tape, the reverent unwrapping of plastic, and then you see it, your most recent fibery purchase. In my case, it was a Rosie Blending Board, some yellow merino wool, a few packets of sari silk waste, a yellow silk cap, and a bit of sparkle. My plan was easy – I would master the blending board and make perfectly blended rolags right off the line.

I have seen other fiber lovers use blending boards with laughing faces, unfurrowed brows, and beautiful results. I assumed I’d be just like them. I assumed I’d somehow morph into somebody having Gwen Powell–like blending board talent in no time, blending the perfect ratio of this to that, making stripes, and rolling my perfect rolags off at an angle.

I was not, and it was nobody’s fault but my own.

I invited my best fiber friend, Christie, over so I could show her the glory and magic of blending on a board (instead of the handcards she and I have toted to fiber classes or the drum carders that get shuffled back and forth between her house and mine).

blending2

I set up the station before she arrived. I didn’t even practice because I wanted her to see it all unsullied, fresh, and pristine. I didn’t do any research, read any manuals, or watch any videos. Like I said, I assumed success.

I immediately grabbed some fiber, loaded the board to the tips of its tiney teeth, and rolled it off. There, I thought, no problem, that was easy. And after pushing and pulling with all my might, I finally got if off the wooden dowel and held out my first board-blended rolag for Christie to ooh and ahh over. She did not ooh and ahh; she grimaced and then guffawed. Christie thought it looked like a giant mustache rather than the delicate fiber it was, destined to be spun. I didn’t disagree as we both bent over in peals of laughter.

Fun with Fiber - check out Jacey Boggs' guest post on the Woolery Blog!

Fun with Fiber - check out Jacey Boggs' guest post on the Woolery Blog!

After a few more attempts (I’m embarrassed to say exactly how many), she suggested that maybe I was putting too much fiber on the board. If you’ve ever used a blending board, you probably spotted that problem right away. She also said that I might be wrapping it too tightly around the dowel. Then she whispered that maybe there was a YouTube video that I could watch before I tried again. 

Fun with Fiber - check out Jacey Boggs' guest post on the Woolery Blog!

Less fiber and not rolling it as tightly as was humanly possible went well. Perhaps it was because my first few (many) were such a mess, but I was as proud of this rolag as any I’d ever made. 

Fun with Fiber - check out Jacey Boggs' guest post on the Woolery Blog!

Fun with Fiber - check out Jacey Boggs' guest post on the Woolery Blog! I went on to make several that were more and more on the good side of the rolag–giant mustache continuum, and after I did a little research, read a few blogs, and watched a few YouTube videos, I managed a few that I even want to spin.

So if you’re considering a blending board, for portability, cost, and ease of rolag construction, I can say this:

The Rosie can deliver all of these things – it’s super light and portable but also sturdy and comfortable to use. It’s very affordable and, once you understand a few simple things, very easy to use.  And finally, the super fine blending brush it comes with is super nice!  I couldn’t stop touching it!

Don’t use as much fiber as I did. Seriously, my first few rolags weigh in at over an ounce while the latter ones are an eighth of that weight. What was I thinking?

Don’t roll the rolags as tightly as possible. When I did this, even the rolags that would have been decent took so much abuse as I pushed, pulled, and screwed them off the dowel that they were a disheveled and misshapen mess.

Don’t assume just because you’re a great handcarder or drumcarder, or have skill with any other fiber work, that you’ll immediately make perfect rolags on a blending board. This isn’t the fault of the tool or you; it’s just that it takes a bit to grow and fine-tune a new skill. 

Read instructions and watch videos. Other people have tons to teach, and we should never forget that we each have tons to learn.

Fun with Fiber - check out Jacey Boggs' guest post on the Woolery Blog!

As for Christie and me, we’ve got another date with the blending board, and this time, we’re going to be ready!