Everything for the weaver, spinner, knitter, felter and dyer...

Everything for the weaver, spinner, knitter, felter and dyer...

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

What are you going to do today to make you happy?

We have a group called "Whorls & Purls" that meets here at Purple Fleece on Saturday afternoons. We usually begin with a bit of show and tell and some of our members are quite prolific and talented.

One thing that happens naturally at our get-togethers is some serious talking and supporting of each other. On a recent Saturday, our discussion revolved around "what are you going to do today to make you happy?" So much of our waking hours are spent doing what we have to do, what we should do, and what we're supposed to do. That might include caring for family and friends, housework, the work that pays the bills, etc. So little of our time focuses on what makes each of us happy. (Oddly enough that can still be caring for family and friends, doing the work that pays the bills, but I don't think it is ever housework!)

Now that the holidays are over and new year resolutions abound, I challenge you to begin your day with answering that question. Today I am going to write on my blog. That will make me happy...

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Bog Jacket

Once upon a time, many years ago, there lived a Viking from the Bronze Age. His body was preserved in the acidic boggy ground water of the village in which he died. When his body was unearthed, he was wearing what has become known as a Bog Jacket. This was essentially a rectangle of woven material folded in various ways to make a piece of clothing.

Leap forward to 2012. I have been commissioned by a woman to reproduce a handmade bog jacket that she purchased decades ago in a California craft fair. This has been one of her favorite pieces of clothing.

I am weaving the material from a soft organic natural colored cotton yarn. When finished it will measure 3 feet by 4 feet. The customer plans to complete the sewing. I meet the most fascinating people at this job!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Life as a yarn shop owner...

I think the image above says it all. It's always interesting to find out what others think I do all day. The most common misconception is that I sit around all day knitting in pure bliss surrounded by pretty colored yarn. In reality, I might get one or two rows of my "checkout counter socks-on-needles" done while waiting for a customer to choose what to buy. That's probably why I haven't completed a knitting project since I came back from a vacation in May.

Owning your own business is a 24/7 deal. You never step away from the shop even when you're not there in person. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with a great idea (or what appears to be a great idea at 3am) or the answer to a question I've been pondering. Sometimes I wake up with a whole new set of things to fret about.

I spend a lot of time answering telephone calls. Some people want to sell me things (really, how many people do you think will become customers because I bought advertising in your softball flyer?). Some people want donations (there are the churches, museums, school fund raisers, town events), either money or products. I know one shop that buys blank books by the case and just donates one of those anytime someone asks. Some people "just have a quick question" which can turn into a class that was better done in person.

I find that I have to multitask a lot and I don't do that very well anymore. I also have multiple hats that I wear during the day. I'll have some hand towels that need to be hemmed and packaged, a student coming for a class, keeping up the social aspects of the business (Facebook, Ravelry, the blog, Twitter), customers coming to the store, redoing a webpage, sending out samples to shops around the country, dyeing roving and yarn for the fiber clubs, daily bookkeeping. So I make lists; lots of them. I keep a calendar and try to remember to enter everything so I don't forget something or someone. I do, and I'm sorry. I apologize ahead of time.

So that's what I really do as a yarn shop owner. Would I trade it in for anything else. Not on your life. I love most aspects of it and try not to get overwhelmed. Sometimes just writing about it helps....

Thursday, July 26, 2012


I'm really not sure what to call this entry. I don't think there's a common theme so it's probably best called "Hodgepodge". Maybe when I'm done writing, I'll have a better name.

Thoughts on the weather...it's been unusually hot and humid here in Maine. I realize that's not unlike the vast majority of the country. I find it hard to believe that there are people who still don't believe that we humans have affected our weather.

Thoughts on the shop...I have an unusual abundance of spinning students right now. I'm wondering why. Is there an article about some superstar spinning yarn that I missed that's prompted this interest all at the same time? Not complaining, just sayin'.

Thoughts on life...it is fragile. One minute everything is great; you're just skipping along. The next, not so much. Before you ask, I'm fine. Just worried about some other people in my life.

Thoughts on gardening...I guess you could say I really don't do it. I have flower beds and lots of weeds, two struggling tomato plants, and fruit trees that have to fend for themselves. Nevertheless, I try and take a moment each day and admire a new flower that's bloomed, a pretty weed that has established itself, and a raspberry just asking to be eaten.

Okay, let's call it "Thoughts".

Sunday, June 24, 2012

UFO's in my studio....

Now before you think I've gone off the deep end, consider that UFO means UnFinished Object in craft parlance. Ah, I can see the light go on. Which one of us doesn't have UFO's in our lives? I know lots of people that are excellent at starting projects and fewer that are as good at finishing them. Every now and then I get a project finished and I want a high five, standing ovation, gold star. You get the idea.

Yesterday was a day of finishing. I finished spinning some of my superwash merino "Singing the Blues" fiber that I'd started back in February.
Then I finished knitting a sample of a handpainted silk hankie in the colorway "Caribbean Holiday". One ounce of these hankies will make the lightest, softest scarf you've ever had the privilege of wearing.
And still not satisfied with my achievements, I finished measuring a cotton warp for approximately a dozen sets of hand towels.
Now some would say that the yarn is not yet plied, and the sample silk hankie is not an entire scarf, and the hand towel warp is still unwoven. That would be splitting hairs, in my opinion.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

One of the nice things about a vacation is that it gives you lots of time as well as a different perspective to ponder. So I pondered. I've made the decision to stop vending at sheep and wool festivals and craft fairs. It just feels like the right time. Over the years, I've worn out 3 tents, gone through 2 vans, put on more miles, and tried out more ways of displaying things than I care to remember. This decision gives me more time to focus on building the wholesale part of Purple Fleece.

I've also decided to add another drop in Spin/Knit that will begin on a weekly basis on Saturday afternoons in July. The Fiber Floozies will still meet on the third Wednesday evening of each month. These are simply more opportunities to get together and do what we enjoy.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Last day

All good things must come to an end. This is the last full day of my "trip of a lifetime". Tomorrow we start our trek back to Stockton Springs.....

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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Parque de el Retiro

Just a short walk from our hotel is this huge park with the Crystal Palace. Everybody was out enjoying the warmer weather.

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Monday, May 7, 2012


Athena and Arachne by Velazquez. Spinners rejoice! There are only a handful of art museums like this in the world. I grew up with the Metropolitan in NY and have visited the Louvre in Paris and can now add the Prado in Madrid to my list.

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More performance art

Performance art

Sunday, May 6, 2012


Here's Byron, Janet, and Tom (Byron's frat brother from many years ago) who lives here in Madrid. We've just finished tapas in this old haunt of Ernest Hemingway. I don't usually begin my drinking early afternoon but when in Spain, do as the Spaniards. :)

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Friday, May 4, 2012


Mdina is a small walled city full of history and religious significance. This is the gate to the city and our hotel overlooks the gate from across a small park.

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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Blue Grotto

Today the four of us took a boat ride to see the Blue Grotto. It's one of a series of caves we went inside along the coast of Malta. The water is bright turquoise and crystal clear and fluorescent when the sun reflects off it.

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Valletta, Malta

We have all arrived in Malta. Where we were only 2 for many weeks, we are now 4. It's good to reunite with the husbands after so long. Today we go on the search for Caravaggio paintings.

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Monday, April 30, 2012

Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls is like Niagara Falls on steroids. It's massive. There are numerous areas of adjacent falls like the one pictured above. The last one will dry up in October-November.

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Sunday, April 29, 2012


We arrived at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and had a relaxing afternoon on the back deck of our room looking out towards the Zambezi River. Several kudu, a warthog, and Maribou storks were visited while we sat there.

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Friday, April 27, 2012

Awkward moments

I love this photo of a giraffe drinking. They take turns drinking while the rest of the group, called a tower, stand guard.

We have arrived back in Johannesburg for the evening and leave tomorrow for Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Road rhino

We have seen an amazing number of animals, birds, and plants here at Kapama. Our ranger is very knowledgeable and eager to share all that he knows. Before becoming a ranger he was a tracker for many years. This mother white rhino and her baby were foraging in the tall grass just moments before wandering towards us on the road. They only absorb about 40% of what they eat, so they eat frequently and a lot.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012


We flew to Hoedspruit on a small propeller plane and were met by Collin, our ranger while here on safari. On our 30 minute drive to the camp, we saw zebras, water buffalo, warthogs, and impalas. How great is this?

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We arrived in South Africa after an all night flight from India. Our hotel is located in Nelson Mandela Square and here is his statue. We leave in about a half hour for safari.

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Monday, April 23, 2012


Among the many sights that we visited in Delhi this was one of the best. It's a Hindu temple. According to our guide, Hinduism is a way of life rather than a religion. There are 3 major gods and then there are their wives who are also gods. Then there are millions more. Yes, I said millions.

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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Taj Mahal

Our driver and guide picked us up at 5:30am so we could see the Taj Mahal just after sunrise. What an amazing place. It is as spectacular as you imagine.

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Friday, April 20, 2012

Sharing the road

Here in India one has to share the road with cars, trucks, buses, tuk tuks (3 wheeled vehicles), bicycles, motorbikes, goats, cows, horses, donkeys, wild dogs, camels, and people. Luckily we've had some excellent drivers as there are no rules of the road that we can discern!

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Painting in Jaipur

We had the opportunity to visit an art studio where they make there own paints by grinding up stone and adding oils. The father/son business has a number of men that have been training with them since they were children. They use a paintbrush made of squirrel hair and their stroke is so fine that they were able to write each of our names on grains of rice.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Juhu Beach

Amid the decay and poverty of Mumbai there are a few real jewels, one of which is just a few short blocks from our hotel. This is Juhu Beach. We took a walk here this morning after breakfast but by 9am it was already so hot we had to return to our hotel and cool off a bit. We fly to Jaipur later today.

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Gandhi and spinning

Arrived in Mumbai this morning and immediately left for an afternoon tour of the city which included a visit to the home Mahatma Gandhi stayed in while here in this part of India. His room has been left untouched and includes the upright charkha spinning wheels he used plus a more modern folding box one. You can see cotton punis in the foreground.

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Monday, April 16, 2012

War Arun and Wat Po

In Thai, Wat means temple and today we visited 2 temples. Wat Arun means temple of the dawn. Wat Po is the oldest and largest temple and has the Reclining Buddha.

The Buddhist monk is wearing a saffron silk robe and, in this photo, is splashing holy water on a visitor to the the temple. Today is the last day of the water festival for the new year. Getting splashed with water is good luck and washes away your sins of the past year. All of our sins have been washed away quite a few times over the past few days!

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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Floating market

Took a ride out into the Thai countryside to the floating market. There's a little of everything here including snakes. We bartered and bought dresses for us to wear in India which will be our next stop. Also rode an elephant today. A little rocky especially when she went wading. :)

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Saturday, April 14, 2012


We are here in Bangkok over their New Years celebration. People douse each other with water at every turn whether by the cupful or with water guns. We visited the palace and Buddhist temple this morning after catching a few hours of sleep after our 2am arrival from China to our hotel. Our guide set up 2 hour Thai massages for us in the afternoon. Rather than feeling like a limp noodle, we're more like pretzels from all the work with elbows and feet.

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Thursday, April 12, 2012


Traditional clothing

More silk

We toured Shanghai yesterday from the Expo Center to the Museum to the French Concession to Chinatown (yes there is a Chinatown in China). We went to a factory that weaves silk carpets and though we were sorely tempted to get one we talked them into selling us some silk thread instead. I'm sure this was the first time they had been asked to do this as it caused quite a commotion. They were eager to please however and we came away with an unknown quantity of spun and indigo dyed silk.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012


We spent the day touring Suzhou. The city is about 1 hour from Shanghai and known for its beautiful gardens and canals and embroidery. We took a few minutes before a canal boat ride to watch this young woman doing her embroidery.

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