Sometimes what first seems like failure is not failure at all.  Last night I tried to make yarn from two small bobbins of spun singles, Shetland wool, and it was a disaster.  The singles were so badly spun – uneven thickness, terribly under spun – and it just fell apart in my hands before I could twist the two together.  I managed to get about 10 grams plied, and then I gave up and just unwound the rest into a ball of grey wool.

But I will never throw it or give it away.  This failure represents something valuable to me, in memory and symbol.

I spun the singles about 10 days ago (can it be that long ago already?) while staying in a little house with DB and my mom, in Chico, California. We had originally planned to arrive later, nearer Christmas, to spend it with Mandy and John.  But we got a call from John telling us that Mandy’s fight with cancer was about over and we’d better come sooner.  So we changed our flights, but she left us the next day.  We arrived in Chico in time to say good-bye to her in spirit, with family and friends and all the love we could muster for each other.

While waiting for the day of the memorial service I tried to stay busy.  And spinning is like meditation for me, so I spun this wool.  I was really struggling with it and the wheel.  Everything seemed jerky.  My hands weren’t able to smooth out the wool very well.  I thought it was bad wool.  I thought it was the fault of a new wheel that needed to be broken in.  But I continued on and finished this little bit of 20g of grey Shetland and I set it aside.

It was spun with grief and sadness.  It was spun with no chance of being useful for anything other than a meditation on that grief.  It was never going to be used for anything other than what it was – a way to focus my mind on the turning of time and the world around me and to try to stay centered in the hub of that turning.

And grey was the perfect color! I felt grey. The world felt grey and still does.  Fog and rock, rain clouds and big bad wolf fur.

Yesterday, 8 days after Mandy’s memorial service, I started spinning in color again.  Red Shetland.  Red as roses, red as big bad wolf blood.  Red as the blood in my veins as long as that blood flows.  Color will return to my world slowly, I’m sure of that, because anything else would be contrary to Mandy’s voice in my head, nagging me to “Carpe That Fucking Diem Auntie”.

For Mandy I will spin colors of vermillion, and chartreuse, periwinkle and blaze orange.  For her I will do my best to seize each day and live it like she lived her life – full of more color than most of us can imagine.

She was the color in my life, manifest in a person who shone so bright, like all the colors of light combined into one beam.

The grey wool will stay with me always.  It is grief and pain that I can hold in my hands.  I can touch it and see it and put a shape to it.  And I can slowly, so slowly, put it in its place in my heart and in my house.  And begin to find color again – Mandy colors – unexpected and true and unique and fine.


My patterns, hat, cowl, mittens, are up! They are published at Twist Collective and didn’t Twist do a great job with photos!?

photo: ©Crissy Jarvis
photo: ©Crissy Jarvis

All the details are there in the pattern page, so I won’t repeat it here.

Just today I finished a cowl in some hand dyed and hand spun yarn. The fiber is Blend A, soon to be available in the new web shop.


Of course since it’s Brioche, it’s reversible.

DSC_0347 DSC_0349

I wore it this afternoon, when it was ALMOST snowing outside, but inside this cowl it was fuzzy and warm and cozy!

Pop Up Shop @ Stephen & Penelope


The announcement above says it all – come on down to Stephen & Penelope on the 7th or 8th of November and participate in Spin Days!

I’ll be there all weekend with spinning fiber to sell and a couple of spinning wheels for you to try out.

The very talented Christopher Kale will be giving spindle spinning lessons on Saturday.

Myself, and a few others, will be there with different kinds of spinning wheels, spinning flax into gold. Come see for yourself.

If you have a spinning wheel, or a spindle, come on over and join in the fun.  And buy some fiber of course!

Dyeing Days

There has been an explosion of color chez UDS.  Above is 2kg of fiber dyed during one day.  The day before I dyed 2kg of rainbows.

I’m being very systematic about this – dyeing with only one method and one or two types of fiber in one day.  Before dyeing I’ve pulled off 105g pieces to dye and soaked them overnight in water.  I’ve also bought a small centrifuge machine to spin all the water out of the fiber before laying it to dry.  That makes a huge difference in drying time!

This might sound like work but I really love doing it.  I love seeing the colors emerge and how the fiber feels after dyeing (SOFT!).

I’ve also been busy spinning up 150g of Blend A to make a shawl.  I finished the spinning and plying last Wednesday, gave it a good soak and let it dry. It’s not perfect spinning, but pretty darn good for a beginner.

I’m going to make “Love on the Edge”, a shawl pattern by Monique Boonstra.  (Ravelry link) I don’t know if I will have it finished in time for MidWinterWol, but I will do my best to have it on display.  Here is Monique’s version.

Meanwhile, the dyeing continues.  More color will be posted in the coming weeks.

Also in the meanwhile, Fall has arrived and I’ve taken a few photos of local color.

Cat out of the Bag


I might as well let the cat out of the bag (or, as the Dutch say, “now the monkey comes out of the sleeve”).  Above is the logo image that will appear in the program for MidWinterWol 2015.  Ta Da!

Between now and 11 December I will be busy dyeing spinning wool to sell during MidWinterWol (along with keeping up my regular day job of course).  This two day event, in the far north of the Netherlands, has been going for 5 years already and gets bigger and better every year.  I’ve been there as a shopper for the past 2 years and really enjoyed it.  It’s quite a long drive to get to Winschoten from Haarlem, but it’s worth it.

The event is organized by those friendly people Hans and Gerrie from LowLandsLegacy but the vendors come from all over Europe.  Last year I bought a Shetland woven blanket from the UK and a kilo of BFL top that came from Germany.

Between now and then you can follow along on the blog as I dye up a storm.  My house is filling up with bags of un-dyed fiber:  BFL, BLF/silk, Texel, Shetland, Blend A, and some raw fleece I might also throw in to the pot (Polwarth from England and CVM from Washington State).

The lamb in the photo above, by the way, is a Texel sheep.  I took the photo a few years ago during a weekend on Terschelling.

Introducing Blend A

I’m very happy to introduce you to Blend A.  On the left is the un-dyed fiber, worsted spun and 2-plied.  The skein on the right was spun in the same way after dyeing in a succession of color from dark green, light green, yellow, orange and finally dark pink.

What is the blend? BFL, Oatmeal BFL, Merino, Silk, Mohair.  I love the shine and softness of this combination!

Now that the yarn is finished, what should I make with it?  I want to make something to use as a sample for this blend.  I’m thinking that a cowl would be nice. With the un-dyed background and color work green leaves and above that, flowers.

What do you think?  Any other ideas?

White is Boring and Other Experiments

Wednesday I finished with mordanting all the yarn and fabric for my workshop next week.  Mordants are chemicals used to prepare materials for natural dyes.  They change the chemical surface of materials so that they more readily accept dye and different chemicals are used for different materials – plant or protein fibers.  So, since we’re going to dye both plant and protein fibers next week, I had to do two types of mordanting.  It’s tedious.  It’s not interesting since you don’t see anything really happening.  And it’s just white.  Ho Hum.

So after I finished with that and since I had all the dye pots out, I thought I’d do something fun with the rest of the afternoon, using acid dyes and wool.  Of course the weather did not cooperate and it started to rain so I had to do it in my kitchen sink.

My aim was to end up with speckled yarn like those commercial brands that are so popular these days.  I think it came out pretty good!

Then I wondered how this would turn out if I dyed spinning fiber using the exact same technique.

Not the same!! The dye really spread around and left no speckles at all.  The colors blended and I lost all the pop of the bright colors.  I thought this might happen.  After all, since yarn is twisted it tends to resist dye more than fiber.  Fiber is open and welcoming and soaks up dye easily.

Still, I like them both and it’s amazingly quick and easy to get these results.  Beats the heck out of plain white.