Wednesday, October 26, 2011

What I'm Passing Down

This past weekend, I had the privilege of teaching some of my babester's schoolmates how to card a batt and spin it into yarn. One of the girls, C., who is 4, had gotten a handful of locks from the county fair and used food coloring to dye them herself.  Then she wanted to make yarn out of them, so the teachers sent her my way.  She came over with her two sisters and we all had a fun, fiber-filled day!

The girls picked some fiber from my stash, then (under careful supervision) they took turns adding fiber and turning the crank on the drum carder.  They also had their pick of glitz to add, and add they did!  This is a pic of the finished batt they created.  Then it was time to spin!

That's D.  She's only two, but she was fascinated by the spinning wheel!

By the time the day was over, C. had the basics down and was mostly spinning for herself.  I began to wish I had a kid-sized wheel, as my borrowed Louet S-10 is a bit big for the preschool set.

Here's a pic of the finished yarn.  Not only do I love how colorful it is, I love what it represents: three young girls enchanted by the fiber arts!  What a gift to be a part of their learning process, and to pass down my love of this craft to the next generation.  I can't wait for them to come back for the next round!

(extra shot for gratuitous cuteness in background.  That's baby J.  8 months is a little too young for fibercrafting, but I can't wait 'til she's old enough to start!)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sneak Peek - MLP Friendship is Magic Batt Set

Oh yes, I did!  I asked my babester to help me come up with an idea for new batts.  Her choice?  Her favorite thing at the moment: My Little Pony!  So I made a batt for each of the main characters in the first episode of the new Friendship is Magic series.  Here's a sneak peek:

"Rarity" - The fashionable pony.  Her batt is a mix of cashmere, silk, merino and firestar.

"Princess Luna" - The pony who controls night.  Her batt is made of merino, silk, firestar and silk noil.

"Twilight Sparkle" - The main character of the show.  Her batt is made of BFL, merino, firestar and angelina.

"Pinkie Pie" - The bubbly one.  Her batt is made of fluffy cormo, merino and firestar.

"Princess Celestia" - Ruler of Equestria.  Her batt is made of cashmere, merino, bamboo, firestar and angelina.

"Rainbow Dash" - The daring one.  Her batt is made of cormo, romney, merino and firestar.

"Spike" - Twilight Sparkle's assistant/sidekick.  His batt is made of corriedale, merino, huacaya alpaca, firestar, BFL and targhee.

"Fluttershy" - The animal lover.  Her batt is made of polwarth, merino and angora.

"Applejack" - The cowgirl.  Her batt is made of romney, corriedale, merino and firestar.

I had a lot of fun making these.  It was a challenge to match the colors and fibers to each character's personality.  That said, a 9 batt set is a LOT of work, and I'm not sure I'll be letting babester pick my inspiration for a while.  :-)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

More Spinspiration

These are too fun to keep hidden on Ravelry!  Check out the last Babester blog post if you missed the details

The Spinspiration:

The ingredients:
There’s hand-dyed gold merino/silk, hand-dyed corriedale in forest green, spring green and blue, some light blue commercial merino top, and some bright blue hand-dyed cormo. I layered the merino/silk first, added a layer of greens and then topped it off with blue for the water and the sky.  The result:

Be sure to check out the Ravelry group topic for more!

Monday, October 17, 2011


I've started a game on the Babester Ravelry group board.   Anyone can submit a photo, and I'll make a batt/yarn inspired by it.  The picture above, source here, was the first submission.  Here's what I came up with:

I used black commercial merino top, hand-dyed orange-brown BFL, hand-dyed orange romney, hand-dyed reddish-brown targhee locks, hand-dyed green corriedale locks, hand-dyed BL/BFL locks in orange and green, purple silk noil, undyed milk fiber and undyed faux cashmere. This is the result:

Wanna play?  Join Ravelry and then join our group (both are free)!  Then add a photo to the Spinspiration thread.  I'm aiming for a 48 hour turnaround, so you'll be able to see the results of your spinspiration very soon!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Sneak Peek - Autumn Leaves Batt Set

These four batts were made with locks that I dyed, picked and carded!  They'll be up in the shop shortly.

 BL/BFL locks, cotswold locks and commercial merino/silk top hand dyed in shades of gold and brown
 BL/BFL locks, corriedale locks and hand-pulled merino roving dyed in reds and browns
 BL/BFL locks, corriedale locks and hand-pulled merino roving dyed both greens and browns
 BL/BFL locks, lamb wensleydale locks and hand-pulled merino roving dyed in 6 shades of brown and orange

Friday, October 7, 2011

Spinning Service

I'm thrilled to announce that Babester will now offer a spinning service!  For right now, this is limited to Babester batts and batt kits only, but since I've already done custom spinning work for one client, I remain open to that possibility.  I'm not making a listing for it yet, but feel free to contact me on Etsy and let me know what you're looking to have spun and I'll work with you.

Alas, the spectacular location in the pic above is not my home.  It's the lovely Laurel Lodge B&B in Harpers Ferry, WV.  It's only about an hour outside of DC, and the hosts, Ed and Chris, are amazing.  The breakfast is beyond delicious and the view, well, you can see for yourself how gorgeous it is.  I highly recommend you stay there if you ever get the chance.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

When The Dye Bug Bites

Oh, it bit me!  On the toe and on the heel!  I ran out of locks to dye, so I ordered more from the lovely Beth at Blue Mountain Handcrafts.  Then I decided to dye some top while I waited for my new locks to arrive.  Most of that is locally-sourced Merino purchased from Jenny Fields Fiber on Etsy.  Jenny is a sweetheart and answered a lot of my newbie questions.  There's also some hand-pulled Romney (from Ann of Color Bug on Etsy) and some milk fiber just for kicks.  Some of it was dyed with food coloring, but I had the amazingly good fortune of being given some samples of Jacquard Acid Dyes from Amber at Taylored Fibers, the shop I purchased the Corriedale fleece from.  She also mentored me on their use, and continues to enable me when it comes to all things dye. 

I'm hooked, ya'll.  I've got it BAAAAAAAAD!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Buy Handmade

You could easily think I'm posting this just because I have a small shop and I make art.  Not true.  In a culture that pimps consumerism and mass production, buying handmade is a subversive act.  I like those.  You will, too.  Try to take it beyond art.  Get to know your food makers/growers.  Get to know your local mom'n'pop shops.  Find a local clothing designer, or try Etsy for a ton of handmade goodies.  Vote with your dollars.  Want a more ethical world?  Find ethically sourced products made by people paid a fair wage to work in ethical conditions.  Want to build community?  Fund your community by buying locally produced goods.  Can't find it new?  Buy secondhand to reduce waste (and save money).

If you're having a hard time finding a local source for something, feel free to let me know and I'll help you search.  Yeah, it's that important.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Adventures in Dyeing

It is a cold, gloomy day here in Takoma Park, MD.  The perfect kind of day to try out a new project!  Today, I tried my hand at dyeing.  I had some nice, scoured Corriedale to work with, and a new, tiny crock pot (that I "bought" with tickets at Dave & Busters while on a date with my husby - how romantic!), so I decided to give food coloring and vinegar a try.

Here's the first mini batch of variegated greens drying on the rack (in my tub).  I'm very pleased with how they turned out.  They're not perfect, and I'm definitely going to be purchasing some professional acid dyes next, but they're not felted so I'm considering them an excellent start.

Here's what I did:

1) Soak the fleece in cool water with a "glug" of white vinegar for 30 minutes to open the cuticle of the wool.
2) Gently press the soaking water out of the fleece and place it in the crock pot.
3) Cover the fleece with a 1:4 solution of vinegar to water
4) Pour the dye over the top of the fleece
5) "Cook" the wool on low for an hour and a half.  At that point the dye was exhausted and the water was clear (though tinted blue)
6) Gently pour the contents of the crock pot into a plastic tub.  This was just so I could use the crock pot again for the next batch without having to wait for the cooling process.
7) Run hot water (matching the temp of the wool) over the fleece until it ran clear, being careful to aim the water at the side of the bin so as not to agitate the wool and felt it.
8) Spread the rinsed fleece out to dry on a drying rack
9) Start another batch  :-)

Any tips from other dyers?  Critiques of this process are certainly welcome; I was just making it up as I went along!

Edited to add a pic of all 8 ounces:

The turtle belongs to my babester, of course!