Charity Spotlight: True Vineyard Ministries

At the Woolery, we believe in giving back to our community year-round, but during this time of year our hearts and minds are especially focused on ways to help those in need. On today’s blog, we’d like to spotlight one of the charities we proudly support by sharing the story behind True Vineyard Ministries, as told to us by the executive director of the foundation, Diana Wiley. We hope it inspires you to give back in your own special way! 

handspunhopeheaderTrue Vineyard Ministries is using the trade of yarn-making to offer hope to marginalized women in Rwanda.

HH1
True Vineyard Ministries, Inc. was established in 2004 with the mission of providing economic based and sustainable solutions to see poverty diminished in the lives of marginalized Rwandan women living post-genocide. If you remember in 1994, Rwanda suffered horrific acts of violence due to civil war. In one hundred days, a reported one million Rwandans lost their lives. Those that managed to avoid death lost their families, their homes, and any opportunity for employment. Today, Rwandans still work to restore their country.

True Vineyard believes that solutions to poverty should be entrepreneurial, innovative and holistic. Through an initiative called Handspun Hope, True Vineyard employs 44 Rwandan widows. The widows are learning the skill of yarn making in order to earn an income and to provide for the basic needs of their families. The women receive an above average fair wage, healthcare, a stipend to send their children to public school, and are receiving counseling services to overcome traumas experienced during the genocide.

HH2

On a small farm near Musanzi, Rwanda, True Vineyard has a flock of 150 Merino sheep. True Vineyard employs a shepherd to keep the sheep clean, safe and healthy so that they produce the best possible Merino wool. The sheep are sheared and the wool is brought to the women’s cooperative, whose job it is to clean the wool and create the highest quality, hand spun organic Merino yarn. The hand spun organic yarn is then dyed using natural dyes from cosmos petals, eucalyptus leaves, indigo and cochineal to achieve various colors. The organic 100% Merino handspun yarn is available at www.truevineyard.org.

HH3 HH4

True Vineyard is further developing the Handspun Hope line of products. This winter True Vineyard released Handspun Hope Jr.’s, handmade knitted baby hats. These knitted baby hats are handmade in Rwanda with the wool yarn produced through the True Vineyard widows cooperative. The widows are then knitting the yarn into adorable soft handmade baby hats.

Handspun Hope baby hats are available at The Vineyard Marketplace located at 317 W. San Antonio Street in San Marcos, Texas 78666 (adorable baby not included).

HH5 HH6

True Vineyard is grateful to The Woolery for making the Handspun Hope initiative possible through the gift of spinning wheels. With the donated spinning wheels from the Woolery, True Vineyard was able to provide ongoing work to widows through the procurement of corporate yarn orders. Most recently, True Vineyard is thrilled to become a yarn supplier to on purposeKate Spade & Company’s trade initiative in Rwanda which is supplying ethically made products to all Kate Spade & Company stores. Using True Vineyard’s signature handmade Merino yarn, Jack Spade’s collections of high-end Merino wool products went on sale in U.S. retail stores last month.

2014 Fiber Toys of Christmas

FT14BANNER

Our annual holiday promotion, the 12 Fiber Toys of Christmas, is in full swing! Each Friday, we feature a favorite fiber toy with a special deal and a chance to win that particular toy (tool). Weekly specials and giveaways will be posted on our Facebook pageTwitter feed, and it will also be included in our newsletter.

These are weekly specials which expire every Friday (when the new one starts), so be sure to check the links above so you don’t miss out!

All the best,

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery team

Handmade Holidays

The Christmas Countdown is on! For crafters who enjoy making handmade gifts for loved ones, this can be a busy time of year. Quite often, we have the best of intentions to start our holiday crafting early, but sometimes, a last-minute craft crunch simply can’t be avoided!

Let the Woolery come to the rescue this year! We have plenty of thoughtful gift ideas which are quick to knit, crochet, and weave to keep everyone on your list happy!

Gifts to Knit

rikkeThe popular Rikke Hat by Sarah Young is a simple, unisex beanie that knits up quick in DK weight yarn. It’s available for free here on Ravelry!

leafwashclothWashcloths are certainly useful gifts, but they aren’t always fun to knit again and again. Megan Goodacre’s Leafy Washcloth is a fun, free pattern you’ll enjoy making each time! Click here for the free pattern on the Tricksy Knitter blog.

Image © Jane Richmond

Image © Jane Richmond

A chunky-weight cowl will fly off the needles, and Jane Richmond’s Marian is a mock-mobius which can be worn in a variety of ways. This design would look fabulous knit up in handspun yarn, too! It’s available for free here on Ravelry.

Gifts to Crochet

SONY DSCThe Triangle Christmas Tree ornaments by Sarah Freeman are a cinch to make! Based on the traditional granny square motif, they will stitch up quickly and are great for detashing. Click here for links to the free pattern and video tutorial on the Ravelry pattern page.

urbanslouchIt’s always good to have a few hats on hand for last-minute gift emergencies, and this unisex design is a great choice which is easy to customize. The Urban Slouchy Beanie is available for free here on the Little Things Blogged blog.

stripyStripy Mitts by Sandra Paul are a colorful gift to make for the style maven on your list! This pattern is available for free and is a great way to use up leftover yarns in your stash, too.

Gifts to Weave
When it comes to speedy weaving , Schacht’s portable Zoom Loom is bar none. We have plenty of free patterns (courtesy of Schacht) to put those woven squares to work this year – click here to view them all! Below are a few of our favorite projects for woven tree ornaments which use just 1 or 2 Zoom Loom squares – click each image below to view pattern instructions!

Evergreen Dream

Evergreen Dream

Santa Sock

Santa Sock

Snow Bird

Snow Bird

To add a festive touch, why not embellish your ornaments with sequins, beads, or needle-felted fiber designs? Let your creativity flow as you put your own unique touches on your Zoom Loom projects!

2014 Fiber Toys of Christmas

FT14BANNER

Our annual holiday promotion, the 12 Fiber Toys of Christmas, is in full swing! Each Friday, we feature a favorite fiber toy with a special deal and a chance to win that particular toy (tool). Weekly specials and giveaways will be posted on our Facebook pageTwitter feed, and it will also be included in our newsletter.

These are weekly specials which expire every Friday (when the new one starts), so be sure to check the links above so you don’t miss out!

All the best,

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery team

 

Rug Hooking Materials: Form & Function

Earlier this year, we blogged about the various types of backing materials for rug hooking projects; on today’s post, we will be talking about the wonderful world of materials which can be used to create your next masterpiece!

sheeppillowWe’ll begin with the basics: wool yarn and wool strips are the traditional materials that were used to hook rugs, and they are still the best choice for hooking an actual rug. Even in a low-traffic area, a rug placed on the floor will need to be sturdy in order to last. With that in mind, we recommend using a tightly spun yarn that won’t pill; another good option is medium to heavy weight wool strips which have been fulled.

Fulling is the practice of washing woolen cloth in hot water to shrink it slightly. This practice tightens up the weave of the cloth and makes for a sturdier end product.  It will also help keep down fraying when you cut your strips!

rughookfabric

Just because you want to stick to sturdy materials when making a rug doesn’t mean you are limited in your design choices! Wool fabric and wool yarn come in a rainbow of colors and patterns: use houndstooth, herringbone, plaids, and stripes to create texture in your design as you hook. You can also get hand dyed fabrics which have natural variations in how the dye was applied to the fabric to create depth and interest in your final project.

Tweedy, variegated, and striped yarns will do the same thing if you choose to use yarn instead of wool strips for your rug. You can also explore dyeing your own fabric and yarn to create the specific shading or textured effect that you desire.

rughookornaments

For creating a wall hanging or other piece, you will want to look at how sturdy you need the finished object to be. A bag, pillow, or seat cover will definitely need to be sturdy to hold up, so you’d want to select your materials in the same way you would when making a rug as outlined above. The last thing you want to have happen is to have all of your beautiful work fall apart due to the stress of everyday use!

santaA wall hanging or other decorative object is a completely different story, however. Making an item for display rather than everyday use affords quite  bit of freedom – the sky is the limit! Do you want to hook a puffy cloud? Get some locks of wool or wool roving and hook that into the shape of your cloud. Do you want to re-create the shine of light on water?  Cut some strips of silk or use a shiny yarn like silk or bamboo to create a glimmering effect.  Do you want to make an animal which looks like it has fur? Use a bulky, fuzzy yarn to hook it; you can even hold an additional strand of eyelash yarn with it to create an even fluffier look.

Don’t be afraid to experiment by using thick and thin yarns, fabric strips, ribbons, paper, or other materials  within your piece. Play with color, texture, and fiber components to see where your imagination takes you!

2014 Fiber Toys of Christmas

FT14BANNER

Our annual holiday promotion, the 12 Fiber Toys of Christmas, is in full swing! Each Friday, we feature a favorite fiber toy with a special deal and a chance to win that particular toy (tool). Weekly specials and giveaways will be posted on our Facebook pageTwitter feed, and it will also be included in our newsletter.

These are weekly specials which expire every Friday (when the new one starts), so be sure to check the links above so you don’t miss out!

All the best,

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery team

 

Guest Post: On the Fiber Farm with Sharon Tree

On today’s guest post, Sharon Tree shares a typical day on her own fiber farm with our readers. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to raise fiber-producing animals, today’s post will give you a peek inside (and outside) the barn!

On my fiber farm, I raise sheep, llamas, alpacas, goats and Angora rabbits for fiber. Each day begins by checking on the animals to make sure that no one is caught in the fence or needs to have their coats adjusted. Many fiber farmers will jacket their sheep (and other animals) to keep the fiber clean and protected from the outside elements; un-jacketed sheep can get into quite a few messes!
sheep1
If an animal is moving slowly, that means it’s time to corral the herd and check for pale eyelids. This in an indicator which means that worming medicine must be administered by injection, a process which is quite time-consuming. After that, it’s time for breakfast, which is either grain or hay from the barn.
sheep2
While the sheep eat, I dump over the troughs and clean them out, then check the waterers in the pasture to remove any debris which may have fallen in since the day before. Occasionally, it’s necessary to empty the waterers out completely in order to scrub out algae that has formed – clean water is always a must!
camelids
A typical morning of checking and feeding animals and cleaning their surroundings begins with the ewes, followed by the rams, llamas, goats and alpacas. After that, it’s time to check on the chickens to collect eggs and clean their waterer.
angora
The next stop is to check on the angora rabbits to make sure they are fed and have plenty of water. Each bunny is checked for mats, mites and weight. If they are plump, I know that they are eating well; if a bunny has matted hair or longer fiber, that means it’s time for a shearing!
fleece2
If I have a request for a purchase of washed wool, I will then pick the fleece and start a soak. While washing the fleece can be time-consuming (one fleece typically takes four hours), I have found that it is much more cost-effective to wash your own wool rather than having others do it for you. The soaking time can be spent spinning or tending to other tasks such as feeding the dogs and barn cats, the studio guinea pig, or doing some gardening or house work.
lambing
Barns are cleaned on an as-needed basis, but I make a point to clean them before lambing, during labor (which can last two hours) and every day after the last lamb is born so that each stall is fresh and clean. Lambing goes on for at least two months in the spring, but it it worth it to spend the extra time cleaning during those two months, as it keeps the lambs and ewes much healthier.
bottlebaby
Once the lambs are born, it’s necessary to check on them several times each day to make sure their tummies are full. If one doesn’t seem to be thriving, I will milk mom and give the lamb at various times throughout the day; if the lamb is not nursing at all, it gets to wear a diaper and live in the house where’s it’s bottle fed and easier to keep an eye on its progress. Once it’s good and strong, it will start getting into trouble, which means it’s ready to join the rest of the lambs outside!
fleece
My flock is cormo sheep, a breed I chose for its fine fleece and hardy nature – cormo sheep are known for having very few health issues in general. Each year, I cross some of my white cormos with a colored ram or a BFL ram to introduce variety and color into some of the fleeces. Not only does it provide new genetics when needed for a proven ewe, it’s also a bit like playing Dr. Frankenstein, as you’re never totally sure what you’ll get!
camelids2
Life on the fiber farm is always filled with surprises and ups and downs. It’s a thrill to welcome new animals to the world, and sad when we lose one to old age or illness (luckily for us, the latter happens infrequently). It’s a true pleasure to share the fibers we raise with fiber-loving folk, and nothing beats being able to spin with fiber we have collected from these wonderful animals who bring us so much joy each day!
 biophoto
Sharon Tree is a passionate fiber farmer who designs yarns & patterns and judges and sells fleeces. She is also a teacher and share many spinning tutorials here on her YouTube channel.

Post-Spinzilla Wrapup: Handspun Project Inspiration

Spinzilla has come and gone, and we’re pleased to report that this year’s event raised over $13,000 to benefit the Needle Arts Mentoring Program (NAMP), which fosters the spinners of tomorrow through education and outreach efforts! Team Woolery spun an impressive 121,710.260 yards collectively, which put us in the #6 position of the top ten teams! We’d also like to congratulate Tracy Hammond of Team Woolery, who spun the most yardage of any Spinzilla Spinner with a whopping 30,830.76 yards – what a superstar!  We couldn’t be more proud of everyone who spun with us for this year’s event; thanks for being a part of Team Woolery! You can view more Spinzilla results for 2014 here.

Of course, now the question remains: what do I make with all of the yarn I just spun!?

To answer that question, we’ve selected a few great patterns to knit, crochet or weave, and we’ve also included additional resources to help you find the perfect project for your handspun yarns!

KNIT

knitting

Top Left: Happy Handspun Hat by Tara Swiger; written for 7 WPI handspun yarn. Available here on Ravelry.

Top Right: Quaker Yarn Stretcher Boomerang by Susan Ashcroft; written for 9 WPI handspun yarn. Available here on Ravelry.

Bottom: Handspun Spiral Rug by Donna Druchunas; written for 8 WPI handspun yarn. Available here on Ravelry.

crochet

Crochet

Top Left: Easy Handspun Shawl by Joanna Stephens; written for 9 WPI yarn. Available here on Ravelry.

Top Right: Artfully Simple Infinity Scarf by Tamara Kelly; written for 9 WPI yarn. Available here on Ravelry.

Bottom: Simple Beanie/Cloche by Mirtooli Golino; written for 9 WPI yarn. Available here on Ravelry.

weaving

Weaving

Top Left: FatCatKnits’ Nerds Li’l Lizzy Tote Bag on Ravelry.

Top Right: Chinders’ Mallard Scarf on Ravelry.

Bottom: SerialSpinner’s Collapse Weave Handspun Scarf on Craftsy.

Additional resources for patterns & inspiration:

2014 Fiber Toys of Christmas

FT14BANNER

Our annual holiday promotion, the 12 Fiber Toys of Christmas, is in full swing! Each Friday, we feature a favorite fiber toy with a special deal and a chance to win that particular toy (tool). Weekly specials and giveaways will be posted on our Facebook pageTwitter feed, and it will also be included in our newsletter.

These are weekly specials which expire every Friday (when the new one starts), so be sure to check the links above so you don’t miss out!

All the best,

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery team

Measuring & Keeping Track of Spinzilla Skeins

TDFyarns

How much yarn will you spin during Spinzilla?

Spinzilla is here! The spinning frenzy has begun as each team vies for the Golden Niddy Noddy. We’d like to take a few moments to share some of our best methods for measuring handspun yarn during this week’s event; there is sure to be an option listed below which works best for you!

Some common ways of measuring yarn include:

Also, don’t forget that that this year, plying will count towards your total yardage. The formula for calculating your plied yardage is:

plied yardage + [plied yardage x # of plies] = yardage for which you can claim credit

Note: chain plied and navajo plied yarns count as 3-ply. 

IMG_7887Label those skeins!

We’d like to make it easy for our fellow spinners to keep track of their finished Spinzilla skeins by providing some handy free printable labels for your finished handspun yarns! Not only can you view the yardage and number of plies at a glance, which will make it easy to calculate your grand total at the end of Spinzilla, but you can also make note of the tools, settings and fibers you used for future reference!

SpinzillaLabelsClick here to download your printable PDF labels!

Join us for the 2014 edition of the Fiber Toys of Christmas

FT14BANNER

Have you heard about our annual holiday promotion, the 12 Fiber Toys of Christmas? Each Friday, we will feature a favorite fiber toy with a special deal and a chance to win that particular toy (tool). Weekly specials and giveaways will be posted on our Facebook pageTwitter feed, and it will also be included in our newsletter.

These are weekly specials which expire every Friday (when the new one starts), so be sure to check the links above so you don’t miss out!

All the best,

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery team

6 Ways to Get Ready for Spinzilla!

Spinzilla will be here in just a few short weeks, and all of us on #TeamWoolery are gearing up for a successful event! As we all know, practice makes perfect, and Spinzilla is the perfect way to challenge yourself to take your spinning to the next level!

Last month, we shared some suggestions for goals to set during Spinzilla; today, we’d like to share our top 6 suggestions to help you prepare for a monster of a spinning week!

Ravtar-spinzilla-transparent_FAQ-answers1. Check out the Spinzilla Blog Tour & FAQs. This year’s blog tour topics include plying, estimating how much fiber to have on hand, photographing your finished skeins of handspun yarn, and more. We also recommend reading over the Spinzilla FAQ‘s to make sure you are familiar with the rules, especially since there have been a few changes since last year’s event. Most notably, spinners who choose to ply their yarn this year will receive a plying credit to count towards their total yardage (more on that here). You can review the entire Spinzilla FAQ here.

2. Clear Those Bobbins! Now is a great time to make sure that all of your bobbins are free of leftover singles and ready for use. Depending on whether or not you plan on plying your yarn during the event, you may also wish to stock up on extra bobbins or storage bobbins to accommodate all of your singles. For those of you who plan on plying throughout Spinzilla, click here to read our blog post from earlier this year which discusses various plying options!

3.  Prepare Your Fiber. Doing your prep work ahead of time will make it a breeze to spin like the wind! Here are some common preparations you may wish to try:

  • Predraft Roving: Perhaps the easiest of these three options, predrafting your roving ahead of time will allow you to run it through your wheel quickly. There is a fantastic photo tutorial demonstrating 3 ways to predraft roving here on the Craftsy blog.
  • Hand Cards

    Hand Cards

    Rolags or Punis: An ideal preparation for woolen-style spinning, rolags or punis can be made with the use of hand cards or a blending board. Another benefit of spinning from rolags or punis is that they are easy to take on-the-go!

  • Batts: If you have access to a drum carder, batts are a rather versatile option to explore for spinzilla. There are number of ways you can spin with the resulting sheet of fiber created, and they are also a great way to use up leftover bits and bobs of fibers from your stash (click here for an excellent article from the KnittySpin archives to explore this topic a little more).

 

4. Be a Master of Measuring Yarn. There are many ways to efficiently measure your handspun yarn such as a yarn meter,  yarn balance or niddy noddy. Below you’ll find each of these three options, plus links to tutorials to help you learn how how to use each one to measure your yardage!

5. Perform Routine Maintenance. You’re about to ask your wheel to do a lot more work than it’s probably used to, so make sure it’s up to the challenge by performing a little routine maintenance beforehand! We have an easy-to-follow guide to spinning wheel maintenance here in our blog archives; at the very least, we recommend oiling your spinning wheel throughout the week of Spinzilla to keep things running smoothly – watch our video below for a quick demonstration!

6. Clear Your Schedule! Before Spinzilla starts on October 6, make sure you’ve taken care of as many chores and other tasks as possible. Clean the house, prepare some meals in advance, or arrange to have planned activities for the kiddos to allow maximum spinning time during the week of Spinzilla.

Avec Joie,
Chris, Nancy and the entire Woolery team