Monday, January 18, 2010


It snowed for days, dropped to -10 degrees, and David's been out of work for weeks...BUT when life gives you snow, you build snowmen!

Spinning A Yarn

Here are my first attempts at spinning...

This is the first spinning on a hand spindle.

A Merino and Corriedale marled yarn - the first ever on my Ashford Traditional.

My lovely spinning wheel.

A blend of leftover wool from a dye class.

"Kendra's Yarn" - a circus blend of primary colors.

Romney Wool and Bamboo Silk spun to sock-weight.

Coming Soon...Icelandic Wool (which is like trying to spin the cotton out of the Tylenol bottle!)

Dyeing To Spin

One thing always leads to another. First you want to crochet, or knit. Then you want to make your own yarn, so you learn to spin. Next comes the desire to make yarn with custom colors. I even secretly want to raise my own wool - but David draws the line at live sheep. (Not to worry...I'll wear him down like water on limestone.) But for now, I enjoy the fruits of other people's sheep - scouring, rinsing, carding, spinning, and sometimes dyeing. Here's a little sample and tips on how I go about it.

This is raw fleece from an Icelandic sheep. It has dirt, grass, and poo caught in the locks, but has a lovely soft texture and springy curls. It must be teased apart with a little shake to get the finer particles out, then washed in a bath with shampoo. No agitating, or it will felt (fuse) together!

The fleece has been washed, rinsed, and spread out on a towel overnight to dry. It is now a lovely frothy white, and even softer!

Grab a good handful of wool and drop it in the pot! You need a good size stock pot, filled with 2 inches of water, 1/4 cup of vinegar, and heated to a simmer.

Press the wool into the water, making sure the water never comes to a boil. (You've heard of a boiled wool coat? That's not what we're making here.)

Sprinkle the dye over the wool and press lightly into the water. Don't forget to wear gloves, or you'll be wearing your new colors for a few days. Cover the pot and simmer for 15 minutes. You can carefully press the wool down into the water occasionally to ensure total saturation.

Now you can add another layer of wool, enough water to cover, and a sprinkle of dye. You can use the same color, or a different one.

Press the wool into the water, cover and simmer for another 15 minutes. Repeat this process until you have dyed all the wool you want, or the pot is full. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. (This can be left to sit overnight.)

You can now drain the pot (on a gravel driveway is good - just not over a septic tank or garden area). Fill a bathtub with a few inches of lukewarm water and place the wool into it. Let it soak for a few minutes, drain the tub, and repeat until the water is reasonably clear. Carefully press the wool to squeeze out excess water and lay out on a towel or rack to dry.

Here's the finished wool! A gorgeous Apricot and Rose variegated color - ready to card and spin!

And another attempt - this time in Deep Violet, Bahama Blue, and Sky Blue.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Homeschool Projects

Ahoy There, Matey! The last few months have had us studying the Greek and Roman civilizations. We've met Julius Caesar and Cleopatra, sailed with the Phoenicians, and tried our hand at masonry. Drew needs no encouragement to turn any cardboard box into a vehicle for his imagination. They both enjoyed making their greek costumes and eating a typical greek meal, and Drew's mill with tiny bricks and mortar really turned out great. The mill was a kit, but after making it by the directions, we tried building aquaducts and roads just like the Romans did!


This summer we learned to make soap. And bath salts. And sachets. And all other smell-goodie stuff. Kendra became quite a pro at choosing essential oils to add to the soap base. Her best idea was making a honey and clove bar using Uncle Fred's Wild Flower Honey - smells and feels divine!
Of course, the finishing touch was a pretty label and tie - all ready for gift-giving!

Pumpkin's First Snow

Our toy schnauzer, Pumpkin, is thrilled with her first snow! At five months, everything is a new experience for her. Each time she comes inside, her little chocolate beard is dusted with white. I'm not sure what she's looking for under the snow, but the tracks are too cute!

Farmville Addiction

I know, I know. I sneered and scoffed and threatened to end my FaceBook account if I ever saw another blip about Farmville. But then Kendra wanted to play. I let her use my I.D. and away she went, happily plowing and sowing and reaping and collecting animals. I didn't pay much attention other than to make sure it was all safe, until one day she ran into a glitch. In my efforts to help, I got hooked myself! Of course, she wouldn't give up her farm on my account, so I had to confiscate David's I.D. and start my own farm there! Now I'm figuring my maximum return on soybeans, estimating the time until it's time to harvest the latest crop, and praying for someone to send me a cow! It's especially ridiculous since I almost never play games that don't come in a box with dice and pawns and a board. The upside is that we're all learning how to choose the most profitable investment, having some fun with layouts and measurement, and of course, looking for a golden chicken!

First-Time Blogger...Long-Time Writer

Okay, so I've been writing for more than a few years now, but never jumped into the blogging pool. Now the time has come to join the many...but with a purpose. We will be using this blog to record our learning journey as homeschoolers, preserve the projects and many things we learn each day, and remember our days together.
Please be patient as I learn the ropes...and let me know what you think!