Blog or Vlog 365 Fiber and Fabric

Day 39 of 365 Blog or Vlog

Or — Queen Dido, the Ox Hide, and the Founding of Carthage.

This is a post for Math Nerds, History Buffs, and Crafters that don’t like to have empty heads.

First off, I have to admit that historical accuracy of Dido, the Phoenician Queen of Tyre is questionable, but I do like her cleverness.

After escaping Her city of Tyre instead of being assassinated by Her Brother, she begged King Hiarbas for as much land as could be contained within the hide of an ox.


An ox hide is pretty large – about 55 to 60 square feet. What she actually did is that she had it cut in a long spiral – and probably thread fine – and it ended up long enough to encircle the hill that she founded Carthage upon.

Again, the historicity of this is questionable, but the means of getting long laces from leather is well known to crafters.

I’m applying this to my current project. Since it uses the same method as the clever Queen used, I have even more appreciation of the story.

T-shirt “yarn” is obtained by cutting old t-shirts in a long spiral. This can turn out to be a fairly substantial amount of yarn.

I just got a box of half t-shirts (Rahn’s sister had cut them up for the fronts to be made into a memory quilt)

The back of a men’s t-shirt is about 2 foot by 2 foot. When cut in a half inch wide spiral, one ends up with approximately seventy feet of t-shirt yarn.

Math Nerds can come up with the size of the circle enclosed by an ox hide by applying calculus. They also can prove that the largest amount of area enclosed in this way will always be a circle.

I tend to be a bit more practical minded, as I don’t have a King Hiarbas that I can trick into giving me land. Applying the method to creating a use for the old t-shirts is enough.

Over the years, I’ve used yarn made in this way for several projects.

This little red basket.

A little basket – holding balls of unused t-shirt yarn.

This blue tote bag in progress.

And completed.

And this “Boho” bag.

I plan to re-viist this one for a new small tote to hold a few things. T-shirt yarn is adaptable for a wide variety of techniques and projects. Crochet, knit, weaving, braiding, macrame are all valid. Bags, baskets, hot pads, rugs, hangings, are just a few of the possible projects.

My YouTube playlists include a wide variety of my interests. I like to play history videos, music, cooking, crafting, or my catch-all of “watch later”. I pay the small monthly charge to get my YouTube without commercials. I find that I can let one of my playlists run while I am working on something else.

I plan to start posting my own videos shortly!


Blog or Vlog 365 Fiber and Fabric

Day 30 of 365 Blog or Vlog

Dressing the Distaff

Getting ready to spin flax into linen thread involves preparing the fiber supply. Line flax is very long and fine, and can become a snarled mess if not handled correctly.

When flax workers package the flax stricks, they are twisted in club-like bundles. I don’t have a flax hackle, so I use a hair pick to lightly comb out small bits of the strick at a time.  This lets me untwist the fibers from the bundle.

Next I tie the flax at one end and start spreading out the fiber over a table. I go back and forth across the table fanning out the fibers in thin layers. When I have the fiber spread out, I lay the distaff cage on top, and loosely wrap the fiber around the cage.

I then secure the bundle to the distaff cage with a ribbon. This lets me pull a few fibers at a time from the distaff as I spin.

Flax has been grown for thousands upon thousands of years. I truly enjoy working with it.

Blog or Vlog 365 Fiber and Fabric

Day 28 of 365 Blog or Vlog

Demonstrating Spinning

Demonstrating can be a traffic-stopper.

The changes brought by the Industrial Revolution have taken many skills out of common knowledge. Fast fashion has filled many closets with cheap fabrics and the skill to make them fit or even be repaired has faded from view.

The idea that someone can do the whole range of steps to make an article of clothing is usually thought of as being backward and primitive.

My personal opinion is that this view is pretty short-sighted. Stories in the news and rampant inflation should give us some incentive to think about this.

A local history festival gave me the opportunity to bring my spinning wheel and do some spinning in public.

A few dozen people were exposed to an expert spinster using line flax to spin linen thread. I didn’t have the opportunity to teach anyone how to spin, though I passed out quite a few business cards.

As I get new videos done and posted, my hope is to start the conversation about more conscious decisions about clothing, skills, and resources.

Blog or Vlog 365 Fiber and Fabric

Day 27 of 365 Blog or Vlog

I’ve agreed to demonstrate spinning at the Doc Holiday festival in downtown Denison this weekend.

I’ve been giving some thought as to which spinning wheel I should bring.

My CPW (Canadian Production Wheel) dates to 1870 – 1890. However, the likelihood of it actually making it to north Texas in that time period is pretty remote. Then too, it is in need of some repairs.

My Appalachian Great Wheel is both the right period, and more likely to have made it to north Texas. It needs even more repairs than the CPW

So I think the best wheel to bring is my Jensen. The design is a variant of a CPW, and i am spinning a more appropriate fiber for north Texas. I’ll be bringing a few spindles with other fibers for discussion.

Blog or Vlog 365 Fiber and Fabric

Day 23 of 365 Blog or Vlog

Some of my fiber tools and projects.

I have a tendency to carry a large tote bag as a purse so I can carry a project or two to work on if I have to wait for something.

I have a metal lunchbox that I use for sock knitting projects. The bamboo sock needles are easily lost or broken, so I made a needle keeper out of some stout fabric and waistband elastic.

A decorative lipstick box makes a great container for yarn needles and stitch markers.

Though my favorite solution to keep stitch markers and  a stitch counter handy is this beaded necklace – a knitter’s chatelaine.

A coin makes a simple way for me to check how consistent my spinning is. After four decades of spinning, this is rarely a problem. Still, when I take pictures of my spinning, the contrast of the coin is effective

While a bent paper clip can do the job of threading the orifice on a spinning wheel, beautiful tools can make the process of fiber art more satisfying.  This orifice hook in black walnut is finished smooth as glass.

My spinning wheel itself is so wonderful to use. It was made for me specifically in 1993, and has some features unique to this wheel.


Art-earnative Life Farm Blog or Vlog 365 Fiber and Fabric Homestead

Day 10 of 365 Blog or Vlog

Updating from older blog

by Ameda Holmes

It seems to be quite ordinary to have multiple projects going at once. Whether it has to do with the multiplicity of chores that need to be done on a developing homestead, updating and repairing clothing, decor changes to the living spaces, improving organization, and creating items for sale, the project list sometimes seems to be getting longer as items are completed.

This doesn’t bother me at all. The production measured against my project list is quite satisfying. I did discover that I do have to create lists in order to keep from getting overwhelmed and confused. While I have received dismissive comments to the effect that the detail in my lists is unnecessary, I have found the detail is not only satisfying as it gets checked off, but needful actions don’t get overlooked.

There is a daily chore list where individual items just get a check mark as completed. Making the bed, feeding animals, doing dishes, taking out trash, etc.

A weekly list includes items such as dealing with leftovers. For example, freezing meals for the next week, making stew from left over meats and veggies. Baking bread, any cleaning and organizing projects, and mending, laundry & putting clothes away. With the guys working on remodeling and painting projects away from the homestead during the week, there is a need for portable meals to avoid additional expense.

A monthly list consists of the bills and due dates. While not actually projects, this is a very important part of our household organization. It is also where we schedule spending for materials and equipment.

While most of the homestead construction projects are on the shoulders and strength of the male half of this partnership, I do have input on appearance, priority and problem-solving. I also have some personal projects that are within my strength and energy level. This is a longer term list, as the time / money / energy equation gets continually updated.

A few items on the current list include:
Porch / greenhouse / dining room on the west side of the house. The entry stairs and first 8’x10′ porch are mostly completed.
We have a pile of reclaimed corrugated plastic roofing for this, and hopefully we have enough for the greenhouse as well.

A 16’x16′ deck / porch on the east side of the house that will eventually (hopefully this winter) get enclosed for my studio space.

An enclosed storage room under the south end of the house. The house mover left the several-hundred-pound trailer tongue under this area. Rahn got help to manhandle this out around the tie-down straps and help to dig out the sand to level the area prior to it getting enclosed.

A much larger rabbitry needs to be constructed to protect the bunnies from predators and extremes of weather. We lost bunnies to both this summer.

The current cages did get moved to where the new rabbitry will get constructed, and a start was made on the construction. More to be done here as well.

The garden:
First iteration of the garden is going to be in 5 gallon buckets enclosed by half-pallet sides. Most of the soil here is composed of sandstone gravel and clay. Very low in organic matter, so buckets of amended soil as we get larger amounts of compost made will do for now. We can get a nearly unlimited number of free pallets and buckets, and plan to get a chipper to chop up brush in the future.

When I was living in an apartment in Irving I had a successful container garden. The containers here at the homestead will be much larger.

Eventually most of the property will have gardens. Food is the first priority, of course. Some of the plants I want to grow for fiber and dye are quite decorative and will be sited with an eye towards enhancing the overall appearance of the property. I also want to get some wild blackberry starts to plant along the edges of the property, some fruit trees, and perhaps some nut trees.

I did get a dozen small trees from Arbor Day Foundation. I’ll be getting them sited this week.

The “Making” list has sub-headings of clothing, household, and trade goods. This is probably the largest list, though the homestead construction projects are individually larger items. This is also the list that gets longer as I work on items. I have a quirk where I’m working on a project, and a variant occurs to me. I’ll put it on the list and write down any details that pop up.

A couple examples of this:
I was knitting one of my favorite edgings on the lace wristers I was finishing. It occurred to me that I could use some of my acrylic yarn stash and knit panels to be mounted in reclaimed wood frames as fencing for the front yard. There was a FB post a few years ago where a knitter in the Shetland Isles made a fence around her garden using fishing net cord and over-sized needles. She used the same edging pattern as I was currently knitting.

Another variant of this was a project I did a few years ago as display panels. The panels I did then didn’t survive the multiple moves of the years between then and now, but I plan to get some of these done this week. Reclaimed lumber frames, and twine to make dream-catcher centers.

Other “Making” projects include clothing for both of us. I currently have several historical re-enactment items cut out that just need sewing.

I am also cutting up a number of old pairs of jeans and piecing them into fabric to be used for covers for furniture and a cowboy duster.

Reclaimed denim is also a great resource for the trade goods list. Little bags, medium bags, quilts, wall hangings, are all on the list to be done.

Then there is my sizable stash of fabrics, yarn, jewelry supplies, and the creativity that gets splattered around my work space.

An on-going item on the “making” list is regular time spent spinning yarns to be used in future projects. I can sometimes get some production done as part of public spinning demonstrations. Honestly, there is a lot more explaining of the process than actual spinning happening.

Blog or Vlog 365 Fiber and Fabric

Day 7 of 365 Blog or Vlog

Updating from older blog

Trying to be my own camera operator for a video like this was a bit challenging. I hope you can see well enough!

There will be other videos to show more techniques, knitting, spinning and more…

Here is the YouTube:


Fiber and Fabric

The Answer Is…

I just had a conversation on a spinning group that I think applies to any new skill we decide to learn.

I was responding to someone’s worries that she couldn’t learn to spin.

Everyone’s early yarns have more lumps and bumps than a chocolate chip cookie.

The answer is to spin.

Everyone discovers the reason for the name “drop spindle” by dropping it repeatedly.

The answer is to spin.

Everyone has trouble coordinating their hands and feet on a wheel.

The answer is to spin.

You can go to youtube and watch videos, take classes, and discuss technique.

Still, the answer is to spin.

The more you spin, the more your fingers will relax and discover the texture of your fibers.

The more you spin, the longer your drafting will become, and the more even your yarn.

The more you spin, the more you can spin during a session – either spindle or wheel.

The more you spin, the fewer times you drop your spindle.

The more you spin, the fewer times your yarn breaks or drifts free of your fingers.


Fiber and Fabric

Some Examples of Simple Design Changes

Over the years I have knitted a number of wristers or fingerless mitts.

They have taken a number of forms.

I’ve used wool, silk, cotton, alpaca, mohair, and blends. Some are hand spun, more have been done with commercial yarns as design experiments.

In the past I have done these as a fingerless glove pattern, just stopping before finishing the fingers and tip of the thumb. These were knitted in the round.

My current experiments have been less structured, as my main idea is to experiment with lace stitch patterns. For example – the pair pictured right is a rectangle and the bottom border was knitted on sideways. The sides were then sewn up just leaving an opening for the thumb.

This design canvas is simple and effective.

The green pair was sold before I even finished seaming the second one.

This pair in red wool will be done soon. This “non-pattern” allows one to simply pick an attractive stitch, cast on and go. Makes for portability and a simple project.

Here are a couple more shots and options

My yarn bowl and knitter’s chatelaine add to my enjoyment of the process. The yarn bowl allows the yarn to stay contained and feed without snarling. The knitter’s chatelaine keeps my stitch markers and counter handy. One can just see my magnet board and pattern line magnifier.

I sometimes use a lighted magnifying lens to make reading the patterns easier for my “mature vision”. It’s a useful tool.