More on the Winter Retreat


I came back from the winter retreat with lots of ideas, fiber and the flu.

Yesterday, while recovering in bed, I managed to knit up a swatch from one of the sample skeins that I created in Deb Menz’s class. Just in case you’re wondering, the swatch was knitted from the third skein (from the left).  I’ve got to admit, the swatch turned out much nicer than anticipated. During the class I was having a difficult time trying to imagine what my yarn would eventually look like. Although it’s really beautiful I don’t think I’ll run out and buy a $500  drum carder. Hopefully I can get similar effects with hand cards or mini-combs.

… And speaking of mini-combs, here’s Judith MacKenzie McCuin demonstrating how lash multi-colored Lincoln locks onto mini-combs.

Judith_mackenzie_mccuinThis photo was taken during her class called “Three Bags Full: Spinning for 3 different types of yarn”.

We spent the whole morning spinning her wonderful Rambouillet top into a very fine lace weight yarn. In the afternoon we sampled some Lincoln, and possibly some other fibers. Honestly, the second half of this class went so fast that I don’t remember everything we did.

Judith is a wonderful teacher and I would highly recommend any of her classes.  Not only did she supply us with a multitude of  fiber samples to enjoy, but she also found time to talk to each student and critique our spinning styles and wheels.

After her discussion on worsted spinning techniques, I found out that I’m should probably switch hands (in snowboarding terms, I’m goofy-handed).  So, since I’m right handed, I should have my right hand pinching the twisted strand and the left hand holding the fiber bundle. She swears that the dominate hand should be forward, but understands that it might be difficult to switch.  I tried very hard to switch during class but I’m still not completely convinced that I can.

I also took one of her other classes called, “The Great Sock Caper: Hand-spun yarn for hand-knit socks”. This was another wonderful class where she taught us to create three ply, four ply and cabled yarns.

She started us out with three pieces of merino top, each a different color, and  instructed us to hold all three in our fiber hand while we consecutively spinning from each one. We were also told not allowed to strip or draft any of the fiber! Of course, we all asked why she was so adamant on this point.  Her response was, that stripping and/or draft of the fibers will get them out of alignment and thus we wouldn’t be able to achieve a truly worsted yarn.  I believe she mentioned or at least implied that if you want durable socks only worsted yarn will do.

I found it entirely too difficult to manage three pieces of top at once and could only manage to two. After we struggled a bit, she pulled out the mini-combs and showed how this can easily be done right off a comb. I did indeed find  spinning three  colors off one comb much easier although, as Judy would say, my yarn ended up potage de canard (duck soup).

In the sock class we not only talked about spinning but she also went into great detail on how to get a good fit. I even modeled a recently finished pair of crew socks, hoping to understand why they tend to bulge above the ankles. The answer was simple; the top of the cuff needs to be bigger than the circumference of my ankles.  I clearly need to add decorative increases so my socks can fit my rather large calf.

Now on an entirely different subject. I caught a glimpse of a niddy noddy that I’d love to have but fear is no longer being made. The owner kindly allowed me to take a picture.


Although it is really simple design, I think it’s much more functional than any other niddy noddy that I have found to date. Why?  Well, for one simple reason; the cross bars can be easily removed.

I always seem to wind my yarn on tight and have a heck of a time getting it off.  If I only had one of these ….

Oh, I just love coming across interesting spinning tools.

Plying for Color Effects

Dmenz_plying_classJust got back from the first day of the Madrona Fiber Arts  Winter Retreat.

Look at all these fabulous balls of fiber that Deb Menz brought for us today.  All were hand blended on a drum carder by the master herself. She says it’s a lot of work so this  probably was her last plying class. It sounds like she wants to  focusing on selling her art and just teach a classes  from her new studio.  She currently working on a website which will be at

By the way, the second printing of her book, Color in Spinning,  has just been released. She had some interesting tidbits about how this book finally got back into print.

The goal of the class was to help students learn how to use plying as a design element. While looking at these rovings you might think, wow what beautiful stripes, but that’s not what she’s after. She avoids creating striped yarn (why create yarn that is easily purchased)  and tries to develop yarn that gives an impressionistic feeling.

I’m not quite finished with my last sample but hope to share all of them when I get a chance.