Author Archives: thewooleryguy

Guest Post: Spinning Wheel Matchmaking with Alicia Morandi

Choosing a spinning wheel can be intimidating. Not only is it a substantial financial investment, it’s a lot like choosing a partner: different wheels will have different characteristics that may or may not mesh well with what you need. You and your wheel will spend many hours working together towards a common goal, so it’s important to make sure that you find a tool suited for the spinning you expect to do. Your wheel needs to feel good, make your life easier, and it certainly doesn’t hurt if you like the way it looks. But where does one begin? If you’re a newer spinner, how do you even know what you want?

A sample of wheel variety: Louet S10, Majacraft Pioneer, Ashford Traveller

A sample of wheel variety: Louet S10, Majacraft Aura, Ashford Traveller

Discover Your Options
When you begin to shop around, you’ll notice that spinning wheels vary in a few keys ways, namely: style, portability, materials, drive ratios, number of treadles, orifice type, and tension system. The Woolery’s website is an excellent resource for getting a sense of what’s out there, and it even includes some videos so you can watch different wheels in action. I’d also recommend reading expert-spinner Abby Franquemont’s blog post on choosing your first wheel.

Style: Saxony and Norwegian wheels are arranged horizontally with the flyer and bobbin off to one side and they often have a very classic look. Castle wheels are arranged vertically with the flyer above the wheel and they can have either a classic or a more modern look.
Portability: Some wheels are small, lightweight, and portable while others are not. Castle or modern wheels tend to be smaller and many are designed to fold for traveling. Increasing portability can sometimes decrease stability, depending on the wheel.
Materials: What a wheel is made of will impact its look as well as its portability and durability. Wheels can be made of everything from hardwoods to MDF, resin to plastic. My first wheel (a Babe Double Treadle Production) was made of PVC pipe which certainly had its advantages: it was lightweight and relatively indestructible; I did not worry at all about damaging it when I brought it to meetings or spun with it outside and it required very little maintenance.
Drive Ratios: The number and range of drive ratios will directly affect the kinds of yarn you can produce. Drive ratios are determined by the size of the fly wheel in relation to the whorls on either the flyer or bobbin, and represent the number of twists imparted to the yarn with every treadle or revolution of the wheel. (I explain this in greater detail elsewhere.) Higher drive ratios (like 15:1) will add more twists per treadle and spin finer yarns or shorter fibers. Lower ratios (like 6:1) will add fewer twists per treadle and spin bulkier yarns or longer fibers.
Number of Treadles: Wheels come with either one treadle (foot pedal) or two that turn the fly wheel via footmen. How many you need is a matter of preference and ergonomic comfort for your body. I prefer two but there is no rule to which is best.
Orifice Type: The orifice is the hole through which the yarn travels to wind onto the bobbin. I figured most wheels had a small hole and that was that. However, some wheels (like Majacraft) have delta orifices (a triangular bar in front of the flyer) and others have much larger openings that don’t require the use of an orifice hook to thread the yarn through. The height of the orifice off the ground can also impact your spinning posture.

Delta orifice on a Majacraft Pioneer.

Delta orifice on a Majacraft Pioneer.

Explore Your Tensions
The tension system is arguably the most important aspect of a wheel, but it’s also the aspect you will know the least about when you begin to shop around. In its essence, the tension system determines how the fly wheel is attached to the flyer or bobbin and how the yarn is wound onto the bobbin. There are three main configurations:

Irish tension / Bobbin-lead: This type of wheel has the whorls on the bobbin, such that the drive band directly turns the bobbin and the brake band puts resistance on the flyer to allow the yarn to wind on. Irish tension wheels are simple to use and easy to treadle, but they do not have the gentlest take-up. This means that they pull rather strongly on the yarn coming through the orifice which can make it difficult to spin extremely fine yarns.  This stronger take-up makes them ideal for longwools and for plying, and I believe they make good beginner wheels. My first wheel, the Babe, was Irish tension and its simplicity served me well as I was learning.

Irish tension set-up on the Babe Double Treadle Production

Irish tension set-up on the Babe Double Treadle Production

Scotch tension / Flyer-lead: This tension set-up has the whorls on the flyer so the drive band turns the flyer and the brake band slows the bobbin. This configuration is more sensitive than Irish tension so it allows a finer adjustment of the brake band and subsequently the take-up strength, which improves comfort while spinning fine yarns. However, the drawback is that you will likely need to adjust the brake band as the bobbin fills up, since the change in diameter changes the physics of how the yarn is winding on.

Scotch tension set-up on the Lendrum DT.

Scotch tension set-up on the Lendrum DT.

Double drive: These wheels have one long drive band that is doubled up around the fly wheel such that two loops go over the bobbin and the flyer. Through the magic of physics, this set-up allows for the most consistent pull-in that does not need adjusting as you go, but can be finicky to adjust initially. I do not have personal experience with double drive wheels because when I went to a shop to try some, the person helping me couldn’t get the tension set up properly. However, my impression is that double drive wheels offer a lot of flexibility and some models can even be converted to Scotch tension, further increasing your options.

Play the Field
During my search, I created a spreadsheet within which I recorded all of the things I wanted to compare from the product descriptions at The Woolery, which included: wheel maker, materials, price of wheel, price of additional bobbins, drive ratios, tension system, and accessories included in the package price. I browsed Ravelry for wheel reviews and recorded comments from other spinners that detailed what they loved or didn’t love about a particular wheel.

My handy-dandy spreadsheet categories.

My handy-dandy spreadsheet categories.

I knew I was interested in an upright/modern style wheel for space concerns, and I didn’t particularly want a folding wheel as I was more interested in stability. Aesthetically, I wanted a more modern style and a more solid material than plastic so that the wheel would feel substantial. Functionally, I wanted either a Scotch tension or double drive wheel as I felt that the strong take-up of the Irish tension wheel I had was limiting my spinning. After gathering data and determining options, the only thing left to do was try some wheels.

Giving the Schacht Ladybug a spin, with the Lendrum DT behind me.

Giving the Schacht Ladybug a spin, with the Lendrum DT behind me.

I traveled to shops up to 2 hours away to try a good variety of wheels. If I had been more patient, I could have waited until a guild meeting or a fiber festival to try several wheels at once. I can’t stress enough how important it is to try the wheels in person. In photos, I did not like the angle of the Lendrum DT and I thought its style was somewhat boring, while in person I found the angle to be quite convenient and its clean lines to be simply lovely. Both the Schacht Ladybug and Schacht Sidekick seemed larger and more solid online than they felt in reality, and while they are popular wheels, they weren’t what I was looking for. From reviews and other spinners’ comments, I had expected to adore the Majacraft Pioneer, but it turns out that that I strongly disliked spinning with the delta orifice as the triangular point was all wrong for the angle at which I was comfortable spinning. While I loved the wheel otherwise, the orifice type—which I had barely considered before—ended up being the tie-breaker of my search.

The Honeymoon Period
Ultimately, it was the combination of tension system, aesthetics, ease of use, and value that led me to choose the Lendrum DT. I particularly loved that the complete package came with three flyers (fine, regular, and bulky) that expanded the drive ratio options from 5:1 to 17:1. With so many options and with the more adjustable Scotch tension system, I felt like it would serve whatever spinning need I encountered. While it is a folding wheel, it is made from solid maple and is plenty sturdy. Finally, it was simply comfortable for me to use. Of all the wheels I tried, it was one of the few I sat down to that required no fiddling or physical adjustment on my part: I sat and spun smoothly from the get-go.

The first skein of yarn spun on my Lendrum DT.

The first skein of yarn spun on my Lendrum DT.

I couldn’t be happier with my new addition and look forward to many years of peaceful spinning with it. I hope that laying out my thought process will help you think about different things to consider when finding your perfect wheel. If you’re still overwhelmed, then just try whichever wheel appeals! The most important thing is that you look forward to using it. And remember, nobody said you had to own just one.

AliciaMorandiAlicia Morandi lives in Rhode Island with her husband (a.k.a. the Fiasco) and two feisty cats. She works as a biologist by day and she knits, spins, blogs, and creates natural body care products by night. You can read more about her fiber exploits at Woolen Diversions and peruse her handmade lotion bars featuring the sheep-y goodness of lanolin at Sweet Sheep Body Shoppe.

 

 

3 Unusual Materials To Use For Your Next Craft Project

Image © Homestead Weaver Blog

Image © Homestead Weaver Blog

Necessity may be the mother of invention, but sometimes it’s fun to try something new just because. This month, we’re exploring ways to think outside the box, no matter which craft you prefer! While commercially-available yarns and fibers are always a wonderful choice due to their plentiful supply and ease of use, perhaps it’s time to shake up your usual routine with these three unique materials you most likely already have lying around the house!

  1.  Plastic Bags: Plastic bags kind of have a bad rap; many cities have voted to ban them completely, and it’s true that they can cause quite a problem for wildlife and vegetation if they are improperly disposed of instead of being recycled. However, this clever tutorial shows just how easy it is to turn an ordinary plastic bag into a ball of “yarn” ready to be woven, crocheted, or knitted. A rug made from plastic bags can not only be chic, but it’s a wonderfully waterproof way to greet visitors at your front door! Click here to see more examples of rugs which are woven out of plastic bags.
  2. T-Shirts: Breathe new life into old t-shirts by converting them into a long continuous strip of fabric which can then be woven, crocheted or knitted into a variety of useful items! Rugs, baskets, and more will look just dandy in those colorful tees you no longer wear. Here are a few free project ideas to get you started: Knit T-Shirt RugBraided T-Shirt Rug, Crochet T-Shirt Basket.

    Image © Callaloo Soup

    Image © Callaloo Soup

  3. Newspaper: This one even took us by surprise, but newspaper can be spun into some rather striking yarn! We first came across this idea here on the Resourceful Nomad blog. While it does take quite a bit of time and patience (click here for a step-by-step photo tutorial), the resulting yarn is pretty nifty. From there, it can be integrated into a weaving project (click here for some inspirational ideas), used to knit or crochet a variety of objects (click here to see a crocheted paper necklace on the FreshStitches blog), or just put on display because it looks so lovely on the bobbin!

    Image © Green Upgrader Blog

    Image © Green Upgrader Blog

All the best,

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery team

Guest Post: Teach Yourself (and Others!) to Spin with Jenn Zeyen

When I spin around people, non-spinning people, I get all kinds of reactions. I’m sure anyone who spins has gotten them too. They range from:

– confusion as to why you actually choose to spend your time this way,

“So you do this for fun?”

– to personal greed,

“Hey that’s so cool. Can you make me some yarn that looks exactly like this $45 a skein silk cashmere stuff?”

– to silent amazement.

“…”

That amazed person? The one who will watch you for as long as you are willing to spin? That person wants to learn how to spin. You should offer to teach them how.

I’ve taught lots of spinners (and knitters and crocheters). I love to teach. I would do it for free if I didn’t have to pay rent and buy cat food. Here is something my students have taught me: teachers don’t have to be perfect, they just have to be patient. So, if you know how to spin, you can teach (at the very least) the basics to someone else. Then you’ll have a spinning friend and how wonderful would that be? You could swap roving and trade spinning stories and try out each other’s new lazy kates and join a Spinzilla team together.

Okay. Maybe I’m getting a little ahead of myself.

You, the spinner, are the best resource a newbie could have. Sure there are plenty of in-print and on-line resources out there. But none of them can give what you can: on the spot help and lots of encouragement. In this post I’ve outlined my standard lesson for first-time spinners and I hope you treat it like a salad bar; take the stuff that you like and leave the rest.

Leave Distractions Behind

You’ll need some time of un-interrupted quiet. No one can learn with kids and phones demanding their attention. Find some quiet time with your friend before you get started.

Skip the Vocabulary Lesson

No one likes to learn vocabulary. (Maybe someone, somewhere out there does but they are a rare species.) Work in the important terms as they come up but skip the part where you talk and student listens. Spinning is about doing. Put some fiber in their hands!

Learning the Fiber

Speaking of fiber, start with something decent. Talk the newbie out of the low quality roving they acquired on the cheap or for free. There is a reason it was free. Short staple length, poorly combed/carded, mystery fiber is hard to spin. Save the both of you lots of frustration and go with a quality merino.

Learning the Feel of Fiber

My method is focused on doing not explaining. You could describe in great detail how to draft fiber and it would do the learner very little good. But as soon as they try it for themselves, they understand. The learning is in the feel of it.

Have them to pull the fibers apart, over and over, until there is a small mass that can’t be pulled (lengthwise) apart anymore. Point out that your student has now determined the length of the individual fibers.

 

Have them do this again. And again. Let them learn how far apart their hands need to be to start the fibers moving and how much force it takes.

Piles of drafted fiber

Then, you can be a bit mean challenge your student by adding some twist to the fiber and asking them to draft it. This will be helpful to point back to later when they, inevitably, let the twist travel up into the un-drafted fiber and find that they can’t draft.

Learning the Spindle

Once they have played with the fiber as much as they want, its time to learn the drop spindle. I have a few different types but I prefer Turkish spindles. They have a nice balance and are easy to get started. Easy to get the yarn off of them too, of course!

A choice of drop spindles Show your student how to attach a leader with some tough, commercial yarn. Then take it off and make them to it. And again. Repeat until they think they can do it without you watching them.

Attaching a leader to a drop spindle

Next is making that wonderful, helpful, little half hitch. Again, repeat until they can do it without you.

Making a half-hitch knot to the top of a drop spindle

Spinning with Commercial Yarn

I know. It seems silly but I’ve gotten good results by having students “spin” already-spun commercial yarn with the spindle. I call it pretend spinning. Its a good way for me to impart the following skills:

  • How to spin the spindle and keep it going
  • How to always spin in the same direction (and what Z-twist means)
  • How to wind on

With commercial yarn, I can demonstrate these things, and students can practice these things, without having to also draft. This is my method to get all of the skills that are not drafting, taught and out of the way.

Putting it all Together

Now we add in the drafting. I break off that commercial yarn, tie a loop, and have them get started. Except…

While all the stuff above is going on, I’ve been pre-drafting fiber. I get it fluffed, stripped and attenuated. I want my students to have success and lots of it. So I prep the fiber such that it needs some, but not too much, drafting.

We start with the woolen draw, inch worm method. I show them how to pinch down with the lead hand and pull… and all that stuff you already know because you know how to spin. Here is a list of things that might happen when a beginner spins for the first time:

  • Beginners always let the twist travel up into the roving. Point out that when fiber resists drafting, its because they are trying to draft twisted fibers
  • Breaks happen and the spindle drops. A beginner always thinks this is because the yarn got too thin. Experienced spinners know that yarn can be ridiculously thin and not break. Breaks happen because there is not enough twist.
  • Beginners will have trouble with, and be intimidated by, joins. Get them over this quickly by showing them how to fluff up ends and overlap them.
  • Beginners can and will do those wonderful techniques you find in art yarns. They will do all of them. Their yarn will be thick and thin, slubby, have wings and anything else you can imagine. That’s ok.

Spinning a slub Practice, practice, practice. The way to get better at spinning is to spin. The more fiber I can move through a student’s hands, the better they get.

Even so expect a beginner to be a little disheartened. What they are making will (probably) look like this:

A beginner's single

 

and that is nothing like what they have seen you spin. They will be frustrated but there is a simple way to get past this. You ply their yarn.

Take what’s been spun off the spindle and break it into two balls. Then ply. This is a good way to demonstrate how Z-twist singles will wrap around each other when spun S-twist. Even better, it’s a way to prove that the lumpy, rough single they spun is in fact, actual yarn.

A beginner's yarn Nothing breeds success like success. When they see their finished yarn, they will be motivated to keep spinning. When you see their face go from disappointment to wonder, you’ll be motivated to keep teaching!

What Comes Next

Next you take back your spindle! Show them where they can get their own, recommend some roving to buy, and tell them to come back when they have a few ounces spun up. Then you can show them how to ply for themselves.

After the lesson I make a pest out of myself apply gentle encouragement to keep the new spinner going. I demand pictures of what they have spun. I bully them to come to my weekly group, the Roving Crafters, and show off their beautiful creations. I forward links to helpful websites and on-line fiber sales. I have even been known to offer bribes of candy for status reports.

I hope you will give teaching spinning a try and tell me how it went. To spin yarn is to connect with the past. To teach is to connect with the person right next to you. To comment on this post is to connect with me and I live for feedback.

JennZeyenHeadshotJenn lives in Austin, Texas with two Feline Overlords, two spinning wheels, and a fiber stash that grows every time you turn your back on it. She’s taught math and science for years and took up teaching spinning, knitting, and crocheting to pay for her yarn habit. She designs knit and crochet patterns mostly for fun but every now and then a publisher will buy one. You can find her rambling about her yarn-y adventures at rovingcrafters.wordpress.com.

 

 

Sheepy Resolutions for the New Year

IMG_5224The start of a new year is always an exciting time! It’s also a great opportunity to evaluate the year before and set new goals for the time ahead. Since 2015 is the Year of the Sheep (according to the Chinese zodiac calendar), we’d like to share some of our own sheepy resolutions for knitting, spinning, weaving, and rug hooking. We hope they inspire you to expand your crafting horizons in 2015!

  • Knitting: Now more than ever, knitters are able to find a variety of breed-specific yarns to explore the wonderful world of sheep. Even if you aren’t a spinner, the range of options has increased exponentially in recent years to move beyond generic “wool” which used to a common sight on a yarn label. Challenge yourself to seek out yarns with new fiber content in 2015: Masham, Blue-Faced Leicester, Targhee, Tunis, Corriedale, and more! To get you started, there are some fantastic resources for sourcing breed-specific yarns on Beth Brown-Reinsel’s informative website here.
  • bookoffleeceSpinning: The world of breed-specific fleece and fiber is well-covered territory here on the Woolery blog, and we know that many of our customers have been using such excellent books as The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook  and The Spinner’s Book of Fleece as their guide. Now is a great time to take stock of your past spinning projects and make a list of goals you’d like to accomplish in 2015. Perhaps you’d like to explore spinning with more unusual sheep breeds such karakul or dorper; click here and here for more sheepy suggestions from our blog archive. Another goal might be to try your hand at combining a variety of fibers to create unique batts or art yarns; click here for more art yarn inspiration from the Woolery blog archives. If you have a lot of natural colored fiber, playing around with DIY dye techniques might be in your future: click here for a tutorial from our blog archive featuring traditional dyeing techniques; click here for a guest post from our blog archive featuring natural dyeing techniques; and click here  for more specific instructions regarding the dyeing of fleece and prepared spinning fiber using kool-aid dyes from the Knitty archives.
  • Image ©Hello Hydrangea blog

    Image ©Hello Hydrangea blog

    Weaving: Many of our customers delight in weaving projects made with their handspun yarns, many of which are spun with breed-specific fleece or roving. What’s a non-weaving spinner to do? We spied this clever tutorial demonstrating how to incorporate roving and uncarded fleece into a tapestry piece to achieve a stunning effect.

  • Rug Hooking: Though rug hooking is traditionally done with strips of wool fabric or yarn, we have seen some very interesting tutorials and projects featuring spinning fibers recently. Click here for a photo tutorial on the Spruce Ridge Studios blog demonstrating how to use both fleece and roving to add texture to a hooked rug project. Our friends over at Strauch have shared a photo tutorial here on Flickr showing a locker-hooked rug project from start to finish which uses carded fleece. We also have more rug hooking inspiration on this post from our blog archive!
Image © Strauch

Image © Strauch

We look forward to making 2015 the sheepiest, most fibery year yet. Thanks for joining us!

All the best,

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery team

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