Thursday, January 29, 2015

Fibers of the Lost Art

We often spin in public, and many people express the desire to learn more. Unfortunately, very few schools offer courses in fiber arts; in fact, only two in Texas offer degrees in it. There are some practical impediments preventing many people from mastering fiber arts on their own. 

1. As a very kinesthetic skill, requiring muscle memory, it is very difficult to learn to spin exclusively from book and internet resources.

2. Most of the equipment is expensive and difficult to acquire. While this is not a problem for knitters, crocheters, spinning wheels alone cost $500-$10,000, making them unattainable for most students and many members of the community. Drop spindles offer a reasonably priced alternative, but without a mentor's help, the learning curve can be even sharper than that of a wheel.

3. Even when spinning wheels are purchased, there is enough variable between models, skill sets, styles and goals that it is very hard to choose a wheel before trying it. Which, of course, can't happen before the basics are learned.

We would love to start the Fibers of the Lost Art Club and meet periodically for fellowship and to share our resources with upcoming fiber artists both within the student body and the community to support the preservation of these long forgotten skills. 

Over the past several years, we have acquired a lot of equipment that we could use in this endeavor. This includes:

A variety of drop spindles (which predate spinning wheels by at least 1,000 years)

A huge array of knitting needles - practically all sizes straights and rounds

An assortment of crochet hooks - many sizes both bamboo and metal

A large amount of yarn that would be offered free to members.

Many books and publications- on spinning, knitting and crochet 

Weaving and Knitting Looms 

7 foot Triangle Loom

Homemade Quill Wheel - based on medieval designs 

2 Ashford Traditional wheels - recommended for beginners

1 Schacht/ Reeves 24" Saxony - advanced wheel

1 Country Spinner 2 - for art yarn

1 Neo Lana Electric Wheel

1 Calypso Kick Spindle - a hybrid between a drop spindle and wheel

Fancy Kitty Drum Carder

and a Box Picker

All of these we would bring to club meetings and encourage members to bring their own equipment so that we can support each other and ensure that the fiber arts never truly become lost arts.

Please email Madeleine at if you are interested in joining. 


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Fermented Suint Method of Cleaning Wool

If you love the yarn from Dancing Dog Dairy, you may have wondered how we get from this, 

to this. Some traditional methods call for harsh chemicals and many hot water rinses. One of our core values is promoting a healthy planet, so we went looking for an ecco-friendly method of cleaning fleeces, and here it is.

First, put several gallons of distilled water or rain water in a tub and add a "high grease" fleece. We used Rambouillet. Let it soak for seven days.

Rinse in cold water. 

Add rinse water to your garden.

Dry the fleece in the sun.

Add a "low grease" fleece to the fermentation vat, we used Shetland. 

Submerge it in the liquid and leave for two days.

Rinse in cold water.

Dry in the sun.


and spin; it's that easy.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Magic of the Artisans


The year begins, and as it does all eyes turn to the best part of the year. All eyes scour for the costumes in the crowded closets, and all hands hand me their laundry to wash. The anticipation of seeing both amazing artwork and fascinating people fills the air. For me, one of the best things is seeing all the small children. "Look it's a goat!" They cry, their voices high with excitement. and I force myself not to answer in the same awe filled voice "Look it's a small child!" Every time parents come in holding a child (Preferably under the age of one) I offer them a perfectly reasonable trade. The goat (Whichever we have with us at the time) for the child. This past February was the third consecutive year I have tried to execute this trade, and so far no one has taken me up on it. The second I see their adorable little faces my heart throbs with love, as I know their parent's do. Twice (Once in October and once in March) have the parents of the small children let me actually hold their children! Twice I felt myself overcome by a warm fuzzy feeling as a pair of beautiful and intelligent eyes looked up at me. I will never forget the beauty of those moments, nor how the father of one of the little angels held her and danced around with her. If I can't have permission to steal small children, then they should have parents like that.

 Apart from baby stealing, the Renaissance Festival holds many wonders for me. I love seeing the beautiful creations that my friends have made, the laughter they seem to spread like a virus wherever they go. I love the magic on my sisters' faces as they see wonders that they never dreamed of, the laughter of them and their friends as they run around with the goat on her leash, frolicking along behind. I believe I have more friends at the fair then I have ever had before in one place. No matter where you turn the people are smart and work hard, they all have something to say and just when you think that you know all there is to know about something, you receive more information on the subject then you could have thought possible.

Another one of my favorite things about Faires are the costumes, they are beautiful! The ability to see a dress and know automatically what pattern it was made from is a wonderful feeling, although I am not as good at it as I wish, I am getting better. The faires also offer a fantastic excuse to dress my seven year old sister with long blonde hair and vibrant blue eyes as a Dalek and have her run around the faire exterminating kilt clad Storm Troopers... Ahh, The beauty of it all. The place where people's 'Faire names' Are learned at once and the people I see today after knowing for four years call out  "War Cat!, um I mean NikKi!" There are people who call me Sherlock, equip me with foam swords and teach me to defend myself after knowing me about two week. Still more we name something entirely different from either their real name or their faire name by accident.

I cannot express to you the excitement that I feel before the start of a faire, the feeling that keeps me awake the week before. The knowledge that these people are not only the kind of people that I want to surround myself with, not only the people that I feel the most myself around, but these are most certainly the kind of people I want to be. The kind of amazing people who listen to you and take you seriously no matter how old you are. There most certainly is a magic about Renaissance Festivals, I have seen it twice a week for four months for four years. The magic is held not only in the charm of the shops, and the shade of the tall trees, but held dear to our hearts by the sheer wonder, no, the magic of the artisans who inhabit it and make it all that it is.

~ Olivia McQuilling

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Grogan's Mill Baked Chevre

Pour some olive oil from Texas Hill country Olive into the bottom of a loaf pan. Add some chevre from Hammond Farm

Add rosemary and sea salt.

Add green onions and garlic

Bake 20 minutes in a 300 degree oven. Serve on bread from Angela's oven or with fresh vegetables from Atkinson's produce.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Opening Day

Opening weekend at the Texas Renaissance Festival was a undeniable success. Our displays were so effective at getting the customers' attention that no fewer than 28 people attempted to buy them from us. Guess what we will be making more of this week?

Here are a few of our products including wool, yarn and drop spindles.

A shelf rescued from the side of the road houses sugar scrub, quail egg ornaments and gift baskets.

Beauty, one of our Nigerian Dwarf millers marched in the festival parade.

Louisa targeted the male patrons. They all bought soap despite their protests that our salesgirl was "cheating".

This is how we ALL felt by the end of the day!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

When Your Soap Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade

This week we were soaping about 90 pounds of Frankincense and Myrrh soap. Unfortunately, some of that soaping was late at night after Louisa and Vivienne were asleep, and one batch turned out badly mangled and just plain ugly. There is no way we could throw out 10 pounds of soap, so we started frantically looking for a way to make lemonade.

We ground it up in the food processor, and added a little milk before starting to melt it down in the double boiler. In another bowl we started melting some scraps from a Fresh Ginger soap that overheated and developed holes in the middle of each bar. Man, that stuff is expensive.

Why do these things always go wrong when we are using the expensive oils?

When it started to get translucent, we added some Vanilla Essential Oil to the Frank and Myrrh to darken it and because everything is better with a little vanilla. When it was fully melted, we glopped it in the mold, added some melt-and-pour glycerin "crystals" and sprinkle with activated charcoal for good measure.
Next, we added some dried mint from Marygrace's garden to the ginger soap because everything is better with mint from Marygrace's garden.

When that was almost melted, we glopped it into the mold on top of the other layers.and added more "crystals" and some brown sugar because Louisa suggested it, and well, can you think of anything that isn't better with brown sugar?
When we cut into this hodge-podge concoction, we were relived to find a soap that is a far cry from the ugly lemons we started out with.