Author Archives: thewooleryguy

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

Rug Hooking Materials: Backings

Rug hooking is a simple technique that has been around for for many years.  It started as a way for people to use the thrums left over from weaving and any scraps of material they had around the house. Traditionally burlap was used as feed bags were recycled into the backing material for the rugs. These very frugal rugs varied from utilitarian pieces to works of art. Today the rug hooking technique isn’t just used for rugs; it is also used to create ornaments, button covers, chair pads, wall hangings, bags, and much more. Your imagination is your only limit on what you can create using the rug hooking technique. However, in order to look outside the traditional uses you have to understand how different materials impact the final result.

Backings

The first thing you have to look at is the backing you pick.  Even today, burlap is the most economical choice as it is easy to find and inexpensive to purchase. However, it is also the least sturdy of all of the backing choices you have today.

Burlap Backing

Burlap

Burlap is made of jute and when it gets wet (and rugs do tend to get wet!), it will degrade faster than the other backing options. So, if you want to make a rug that you can pass down for generations, burlap is not your best choice. However, if you want to make a wall hanging, ornament, or something else that isn’t going to see much wear and tear, burlap is an excellent choice for a backing. One thing to keep in mind with burlap is that the weave is not perfectly even; the holes will vary in size and the ditch may not run exactly straight. If you are wanting to create a geometric piece where consistency is key to the finished object, burlap is not a good choice for that type of project.

monk's cloth

monk’s cloth

The next step up from burlap is monk’s cloth.  This cloth is a bit sturdier and more expensive than burlap; it tends to have some type of marking system woven into the cloth, either vertical lines or a 2”x2” grid of white lines against the base cream color of the cloth. This makes it very easy to transfer patterns and to keep your rug hooking square in the frame. Each hole in this cloth is framed by a square of two threads on each side. New rug hookers sometimes find that when they go to push their hook through the hole that they split the threads with their hook instead. While it is something that a rug hooker will adapt to, it can certainly be frustrating at first! Monk’s cloth is made of cotton and is decently sturdy, but not stiff.  It makes it a good choice for bags, pillows, and other items which need flexibility in the final product.

rug warp

rug warp

The next choice for backings is rug warp. Rug warp is also made of cotton, but each square is made of a thicker, sturdier thread than monk’s cloth. Again, this is more expensive than the previous two choices, but when you compare the three you can easily see why: rug warp is much heavier than monk’s cloth or burlap, making it a good option for rugs and other items that will see a heavy use. It is easy to hook into as the holes are clearly defined and always run in a straight line.

linen

linen

The last, and most expensive type of backing, is linen.  Linen is light weight, flexible, and sturdy.  The weave is not quite as uniform as rug warp, but it is considerably more uniform than burlap is.  Linen is a good choice for any project as it has all the best qualities of the other backings put together.  If you want to make a heirloom quality item, then linen is the best choice for that piece because linen lasts.

 

All the best,

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery team

Setting Goals for Spinzilla!

Spinzilla is returning this fall, and we’re counting down the days til the festivities begin on October 6. Spinner signups are happening now through September 22, and the proceeds benefit the Needle Arts Mentoring Program (NAMP), which provides volunteer mentors with supplies and educational materials to share the joy of handspinning with children. In 2013, the event raised nearly $6,000 for NAMP to fund the addition of a spinning component to their program; this year, they seek raise even more funds to double the number of children served in the years ahead.

The Woolery is proud to be a Yak Sponsor for Spinzilla this year; sponsor donations such as ours help to underwrite the costs associated with running the event. This ensures that spinner registration fees go directly towards supporting NAMP, and that will help them reach their goal of doubling the number of children served in 2014.

spinzilla

In addition to fundraising, Spinzilla’s goal is to empower spinners to learn more about the craft through hands-on experience. By spinning as much yarn as possible, Spinzilla aims for each participant to surpass their own expectations and break down the their inhibitions about spinning yarn, giving them a sense of accomplishment and perhaps even mastery!

Last year, #TeamWoolery spun a total of 74,593 yards and was in the top 5 teams for most yardage spun. We offered some fantastic, fibery prizes for our team members last year, and this year we’re planning even more exciting events and prizes for those of you spinning on #TeamWoolery!

Team Woolery 2013

Team Woolery 2013

It’s never too early to start preparing for Spinzilla. If this is your first time doing this event, it may seem overwhelming. However, we’re all about setting manageable goals to ensure spinning success this fall! You may choose to set your Spinzilla goals by distance, by weight, or by the clock:

niddynoddySpinning the Distance
This year, each spinner is being challenged to join the Monster Mile Club, which is a new award category for 2014. Any participant who spins a mile of yarn (1,760 yards) will be automatically entered in a special prize drawing for Monster Mile Cub members! Many of our teammates from 2013 spun more than a mile of yarn, so rest assured that this is a very attainable goal! For added insurance, we have created special Monster Mile Spinning Fiber Packs which include 2 pounds of high-quality, easy-to-spin fiber at a great price!

fiberscaleSpinning by Weight
For those who are concerned about running out of fiber during the event (or for anyone with an extensive fiber stash they want to spin through), setting daily goals for Spinzilla by weight is the way to go! Whether your goal is to spin through a 4oz braid of roving or a pound of fiber, outlining these goals now will help you stay focused during the event.

clockSpinning by the Clock
For those of you who are concerned about time management, setting a daily goal in hours or minutes is a stress-free approach to spinning sanity! Weaver and spinner Sara Lamb recently blogged about her experiment with spinning for one hour each day and found that she was able to spin 2,000 yards in that time. Now is a great time to do your own experiments to see how long it takes you to fill a bobbin or spin through a braid of roving, all of which will help you plan your spinning schedule for Spinzilla.

All the best,

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery team