Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. Thomas Merton

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Bunnies and Spinning Wheel

I often sit and spin in the backyard when I put the buns out in the playpens. We have several hawks and owls in the area, so I have to be on guard for bunny snatchers.

My little Kromski "Mazurka" spinning wheel. You can see Matilda in the background and Lillie's head just peeping out from her hidey.

Lillie checking things out to see what's going on.

Mazurka detail

Matilda thinks she', too.

Another Mazurka detail

Mopsy disapproves of the whole thing as she perches on her favorite hidey, a recycled cat litter bin painted to blend in a bit more with the surroundings.

A wad of fiber--wool and silk blend. I'm calling it Cinnamon Swirl. I got this at Little Barn fiber shop in Harvest, Alabama back in January.

Lillie stays in her hidey.

Flyer and bobbin--the parts that twist the fiber into yarn and wind it into a controlled mess.

Another flyer and bobbin shot. Both parts turn, but at different rates, so the fiber gets twisted, then wound onto the bobbin. The flyer is the twister and the bobbin is the spool for winding. The "strings" on the back side of the unit (left side of photo) are the drive band. The drive mechanism works sort of like the chain and gears on a bicycle. One goes into a groove on the bobbin and the other in a groove on the flyer. The smaller one on the bobbin turns faster than the larger one on the flyer. This flyer has two grooves (some have more), graduated in size, and the smaller one spins the flyer at a faster rate.

Closeup of spun yarn

Mopsy says, "Are we done yet?"

Friday, April 22, 2011

Have Fiber Will Travel

I almost always have some fiber and something to twist it with in my van. The van has become my traveling fiber studio. Having ready access to spinning gear is a great way to both pass the time while waiting for appointments or people and to get more spinning done. Sometimes I have my spinning wheel with me, but most of the time I use a drop spindle because of its portability. On this particular day late last summer, I was at one of the Marshall County Parks on Lake Guntersville for a couple of hours and decided to blend some pink, blue, and gold wool to see what the outcome would be.

The traveling studio. Left to right: large Ziploc bag of assorted fibers; basket with some of my spun yarns from a recent craft show, a few drop spindles, a mini niddy noddy for skeining yarn; another Ziploc bag with more fiber and yarn; a birch bark basket for holding whatever needs to be contained, also good for display purposes; shoebox with sundry spinning tools, wool combs, and other supplies; clear plastic bin with carders, pens, paper, bags for storing fiber or yarn, and miscellaneous stuff; a rug that serves as a ground cover for my spinning wheel when I spin with it outside, to keep it from sliding on slick surfaces, or to mark my space when spinning at gatherings, shows, or demos; two things that aren't really part of the spinning studio--a plastic bag of books to go to the Friends of the Library bookstore and a critter carrier left over from taking one of the cats to the vet, but good for transporting wooler-type bunnies if I happen to be enticed to buy one at a fiber festival (generally, I'm pretty good at resisting temptation, but it is becoming increasingly difficult; I almost came home from the Tennessee Fiber Festival last May with a beautiful grey Angora bunny). Not shown: folding lawn chair and folding TV tray/table, essential for a variety of uses besides spinning.

Another shot of the studio.

What a great place to sit and spin.

Closer view of some of the sailboats

Partial contents of my spinning emergency kit: twine--especially handy when a drive band breaks; drop spindle parts including small bag of paper clips and cup hooks for spindle hook repairs; hand lotion; snacks; and a bottle of musical instrument oil for spinning wheel lubrication. In the upper part of the photo is the bag containing the fibers I blended during my visit to the park and the birch bark basket with a little bit of wool I blended before making the photo. Not shown: assortment of small jewelry pliers and wire cutter, emery boards, small pieces of cloth, pocket knife, rubber bands.

The drop spindle I used for that day's spinning session. I make these spindles using wooden toy truck wheels, wooden dowels, and small cup hooks or large paper clips worked into a hook shape. I like to have spindle parts with me in case someone wants to learn to spin. Rather than starting prospective spinners on one of my many other purchased spindles that I often have with me, I make them their own spindles that they can take with them. I sometimes make up starter kits that contain a spindle and a small amount of fiber for purchase when I attend craft shows or demonstrations because of the frequency of requests for on-the-spot lessons.

A carder loaded with the pink, blue, and gold wool. I had these various colors of wool with me and decided to have some fun blending them rather than spinning the colors separately.

After a few passes to blend the colors.

A roll of blended, carded wool, commonly known as a
rolag, ready to spin.

Some of the spun fiber. Single-strand, unplied yarn, known as "singles". The lighting made it difficult to capture the colors properly.

Finished two-ply (two-strand) yarn on the niddy noddy (skein winder).

Skein of completed sample of blended two-ply yarn ready to be wound into a ball for knitting.

Finished swatch of blended yarn, stockinette stitch with garter stitch border. I only blended enough fiber to spin a few yards of yarn, so the color distribution would be somewhat different in a larger swatch. I think I like it. I'll need to dye more yarn if I want to make more of this particular blend.

One of the things that I enjoy about having spinning as a hobby is that it is so portable. I can stuff a few essential items in a backpack or a large purse and be ready to spin just about anywhere. Here around Lake Guntersville is of my favorite spinning spots.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

International Space Station Sightings

(I hope these links work)
I watched the International Space Station (ISS) Thursday morning at 5:19 as it passed over Huntsville. Had a nice, clear sky and more than 5 minutes of viewing time. It was also visible over Huntsville the past few days, but the weather has been uncooperative. Here is a website that will let you find sightings for your location:
Click on your state, then the city you are closest to. It will give viewing information. For locations outside the US and territories, use the NASA Skywatch link here

ISS will be over Huntsville tonight 7:49 p.m. 5 min. duration, approach 10 deg S, max elevation 24 deg, departure 10 deg ENE. Also 9:27 p.m. less than 1 minute duration, approach 20 deg NW, max 20, depart 20 NW. Monday 8:14 p.m., approach 10 SW, max 69 deg, depart 10 NE (this one will not be directly overhead, but will give a good, high viewing).

Having trouble figuring out the elevation of the ISS? Your fist at arm's length measured from top to bottom is about 10 degrees. Stack your fists one on the other to get the elevation you need. Here is a helpful website:

I have observed that the times of duration of sightings here in Huntsville are actually longer than listed, so it is worth it to try even the short duration flyovers. I suppose it depends on where you are viewing and how far your location is from that posted on the website. Best location would be a high spot with low light and no trees or buildings to block your view. ISS has a magnitude of something like -4.5 or more (very bright), so it it quite bright. However, the moon might make it appear dimmer these next few nights. If you point yourself in the general direction of approach and scan the sky, you will see it pop into view. It moves along at a pretty good clip, but you will usually have time to spot it before departure when it will usually diminish in size and then just wink out.

It's cool.
Give it a try. If your night sky is too light, try driving a few miles away from urban locations and see if the dark sky quality improves. Pack some snacks, lawn chairs, and take a friend or a few. Have a sky party.

Friday, April 8, 2011


Buns were out in the playpens today and I was able to get some photos of Matilda enjoying the fresh air and sunshine. Click to enlarge--if you dare.

I'm not sure what the deal is with her coloration. Although I did not buy her as a purebred, she is supposed to be a Californian, but the intensity of the coloring on her points changes seasonally and with almost every molt. She ends up with interesting color patches and little dark rings at the base of her ears.

This one has a sort of portrait quality about it. I think it might become one of my favorite photos of her.

I like the way the sun shining through her ear shows the veins in this one.

This one speaks for itself: The End.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Spring Beauty

I just couldn't pass up getting a photo of these beautiful blossoms from a tree at a friend's apartment complex the other afternoon.

Here is the tree, one of many that line the sidewalk along the parking lot. It was a lovely sight.