Archive for the ‘blog’ Category

Phil Powell, proprietor of Custom Wood Designs (c. 2009), wood-turner, spindle-maker extraordinaire relocated to a new cyber-space home!

Custom Wood Designs, known for a myriad of quality fiber arts tools, decided it time to carve their own niche on the Internet — a web-shop reflective of the high standards evident in his work and afforded each customer.

Considering his fans at every step, Phil’s research led him to IndieMade — a platform designed to provide artists the means to develop his/her own, self-run, website with domain (customwooddesigns.indiemade.com); methods to promote products and communicate with new and loyal customers; and a convenient, safe way for buyers to purchase items.

In the process of moving boxes, unpacking supplies, carefully organizing one-of-a-kind heirloom quality tools, as well as adding photographs and copy describing the size, weight, and wood-species, of each piece of “functional art” … The doors at Phil & Co. ARE OPEN!

The shelves at Custom Wood Designs contain a range of fair-priced fiber arts tools, including:

  • Russian Spindles* (slim shaft, comfortable flicking points, ideal for spinning any type of yarn — including fine lace!); lengths range from 10”-12”** varied tips include:
    • Metal “faster than a speeding bullet” (my words)

(Lignum Vitae, Metal point, a “rocket!”)

    • Gem bullet-shaped
    • Gem Rivoli’s 
    • Limited Runs:
      • The Queen (4 gems, metal tip) 
      • Gum Drops (Ebony shaft, metal tip)
      • The King’s Spire (unique, long & thin metal tip)
  • Drop Spindles (on average, 2” whorls; 10”-11” shafts, including hooks)
  • Ahka’s
  • “hockey puck” bowls (gradually slopes downward, so slight its barely visible … gem tips spin long and fast!!!)
  • Nostepinnes
  • Niddy-Noddy (1’ or 2’) 
  • mini-Noddy (1/2 size)
  • Orfs
  • Darning Eggs

(from my collection: Exotic B&W Ebony darning egg, shaped like a bone — the wood is absolutely gorgeous and, since I’m unable to grasp a traditional Egg, this shape makes it possible for me to easily hold)


YOU can view and purchase items as they become available on site and, as always, patrons are welcome contact Phil — simply click “contact” at the lower left corner of any shop-page and, you will soon discover, Custom Wood Designs provides “THE BEST customer service, period.”

* Should Phil describe a spindle as a “rocket” — for sure, it will be amongst the fastest spindles you own!

** If you require a shorter shaft, Phil is always willing to accommodate. This writer greatly appreciates the dedication to creating tools that I am able to use with ease. Fewer and fewer wood-turners are open to custom items; for individuals physically unable to use larger tools, try Custom Wood Designs.

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Greetings Fellow Spindlers!

I hope everyone enjoyed a warm fall; here, we are trying to eke out every last day Nature will gift us … I love to be outdoors.

I want to announce a SpindleTalk page, located under the top Navigation (the side bar updates blog posts, but not web-pages … and I’ve yet to find a solution)

Jason Riley, of Riley Wood and Fiber Art, was kind enough to grant me an interview; I’ve done my best to describe my experience when I ordered a spindle from him some time ago, as well as his work. For those that don’t know me quite well, “customer service” or just respect and kindness goes an awful long way with me.

For those who need or want a custom spindle, be it changing the length or width, or aiming for a target weight — whatever it be, if it’s possible, my bets on Mr. Riley! :)

And, if it’s not, in the short time (maybe 6 or so months since I stumbled into his shop) I’ve known him…I can say, with a degree of certainty, he will be honest; and, depending on your request, perhaps offer alternatives.

Please take time to read his “SpindleTalk” page and be sure to check the photos at the bottom or click on the links that will open up his Etsy shop in a new browser page!


Coming soon…

A few “new stuff” blogs:

  • new items conceived by makers that never cease to amaze me with his/her new ideas whether it be an amazing new spindle design, ergonomic tools that make fiber arts more accessible and enjoyable for those with and without limitations
  • new makers on the scene. Perhaps not all that “new,” but his/her work is now recognized on a growing if not larger scale!
  • If time (though I suspect I might need to put off until at least next month) some items and wood that have been floating around, yet always seem new to me each time I see a slight variation in design…or a new wood! The type of “new stuff” that makes you fall in love with a wood you thought you hated; or a spindle type that makes similar styles feel foreign; perhaps experiencing pure JOY from a go-to spindle, spinning for meditation or love versus production; or perhaps finding the perfect spinning surface (as I did, w/my friend Julie’s small spinning bowls she sells regularly in her Etsy shop — Willow Tree Pottery).
  • Maybe you have a “new stuff” experience, item, tool, spindle maker….oy! Anything you think fellow readers or one-time visitors can benefit from. Please contact me and, as long as it relates to fiber arts and it’s not an advert or plug…. I’ll include it (giving you credit, of course) in a “new stuff” blog. Can collect different responses OR just give you a post of your own (my approval of content). Perhaps, you just want to comment — comments are allowed, once approved…but ONLY in reference to the blog part of the website.
  • ~~~~
    From “new stuff” to “cool stuff!” :)

    A cool surprise from my father came when he offered to take me to Rhinebeck! Didn’t look like things were going to come together…then, everything fell in place!

    I was so proud to introduce my father to people I met last year including: Kevin & Beth Hansen, Steph from loop, Kimber Baldwin from Fiber Optics ; and some new friends: Janet from the Wheel-Thing and Michael & Sheila Ernst (fiber arts tools & fountain pens made of glass!!!! Cool people and creative tools on a nice autumn day…

    I intend to write about my experience this year, hopefully soon.


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    I try to keep up-to-date on different fiber arts tools, esp. new uber-cool spindle designs. Not easy of late, with so many new wood-turners sprouting up! However, I still keep watch on makers I am familiar with — those who made tools I either own or tried.

    In alphabetical order, Neal Brand, Joshua Lynch and Phil Powell all have new, note-worthy items that caught my eye in the sold section of each spindle-maker’s Etsy shop.

    ** correction: below, regarding Joshua’s new spindles **

    Neal Brand

    Known primarily for his Tibetans, Neal Brand’s unique Russians equal in design and spin. Over the past months, I’ve noticed slight changes in the shafts as well as different shapes in his Tibetan whorls.

    I’m not sure (and failed to ask) if this affects spin time or length…however, to me, even slight changes in the shapes of the whorls highlight the beauty of the various woods he chooses.

    Oy. I digress.

    With Neal’s permission, I included 2 spindles in this post — different from anything I’ve seen from him before:

    A brass-tip Tibetan, made of Maple (gold rings carefully painted on the whorl):


    And a hollow Tibetan whorl:


    Neal says we can expect similar spindles to appear in his shop in the future. Cool.

    Joshua Lynch

    Joshua Lynch of TexasJeans began to offer “mini” sized Russians and Tibetans (approximately 8″L give/take) a few months ago; blending boards; and, most recently, altered the design of his Tibetan — creating a leaner, faster spindle.

    Useful for travel, tossing in a purse or project bag, or for persons like myself who need a shorter spindle, “mini” Russians and Tibetans are an exciting addition to the TJ line-up. Like all wood-turners I admire, these shorties are not achieved by chopping a few inches off the top and leaving an acute shaft.

    The spindles are well received because they are miniature versions of their larger counterparts. Tips, whorls and shafts keep a similar ratio, which keeps the well-known spin attributes of a TJ spindle.

    Now, I don’t own one of these minis; however, Joshua is one of the kind makers who made short spindles for me to use easily whilst sitting in my wheelchair (actually, 2 Maples that spin as true as the day they arrived around a year ago) and a Tibetan last winter, also smaller. Photos of my spindles look exactly like any other spindle, which shows me the proportions must be similar.

    Whether well measured or Joshua’s natural eye, these exciting mini-spindles offer many possibilities for those leaving the house, spindle in hand!

    Mini spindles copied from Joshua’s sold items:



    Joshua also began making Blending Boards. I’ve never seen/used one, but it was humorously described to me as “the poor man’s drum carder” (of which I’ve never seen/used either!).

    Made of Maple and Walnut, with a strip of TPI cloth attached to the board; remove fiber with Walnut sticks, using a technique that allows you to form blended fiber into Rolags.

    Joshua makes a limited number of boards; to my understanding, custom made on a first-come basis of which he limits the amount per week. I will try to confirm this in the next week or two.

    Blending board:


    Finally, Joshua amended the process and design of his Tibetans as well as developed a new system for balancing each spindle.

    ** correction **

    Joshua pointed out that I misunderstood the new method of turning his Tibetans; best said by the maker himself, Joshua explained, “I don’t turn the shaft and whorl as a single piece. They are turned seperately and glued together after completely finished. I put the two pieces together without glue for balancing. Once that is done then I glue them up and have a finished spindle.” (Thank you for correcting me; the article continues as originally written below).

    Joshua announced (on Rav.) that the shafts are thinner, spindles seem to spin faster and new Tibetans are easily discerned from his “older” design with decorative lathe work above the whorl.

    Each spindle is individually balanced. If your spindle contains a small round “spot” on the bottom of the whorl, no worries — this is merely a slight adjustment assuring weight is distributed equally across the whorl.

    New Tibetans:



    note the design above the whorl, found in all new Tibetan designs.

    Phil Powell

    Many spindlers like myself look forward to Phil Powell’s OOAK fiber arts tools that show off the rare and beautiful woods of which he enjoys turning (see my niddy-noddy post). Also selling fiber arts tools on Etsy, you can find nostepinnes, darning eggs, metal-tipped Russians and…

    Russians with Swarovski crystals as points!

    Coined his “gem-collection,” as of now, Phil intends this to be a unique line of spindles.

    No worries to those of us who enjoy his faster-than-a-speeding-bullet metal-tipped spindles; and exciting for us collectors, amazed at the interaction between crystal and wood.

    Fine spinners, note that they might not spin as fast as metal — purely due to the difference in the friction that occurs between point and surface. That said, I heard one spinner thought it just as fast (second-hand info, so interpret as you wish)

    Without comparing the two, spinning on a Swarovski crystal…just plain cool.

    Each spindle in Phil’s gem-line will be inscribed “proto,” with a numeric identification and Phil’s customary signature — whether purchasing to spin, collect or both…the validity of each item will be clearly marked.

    With less than 15 made at this time, I am excited to post some of the earliest pieces from Phil Powell’s gem-collection — each spindle skillfully turned to highlight the beauty of an exotic wood that causes a carefully chosen/placed crystal to shine:




    Three talented spindle makers, keeping the world of spinning exciting and spindlers saving to expand his/her collections!

    PS: I don’t have any photos or specifications….however, Ian Tait (IST) has added Tahkli’s to his spindle line-up!! Whorls are either made by hand with brass or with coins — expect to see these on his website soon! Very cool.


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    Phil Powell — niddy-noddy!!!


    Recently, I asked Phil if he’d be willing to take on a custom order — a niddy-noddy.

    I have an old one from when I first started spinning — still can’t believe the lack-of quality.

    I also own one made of PVC — exactly how seller described (esp. ideal for holding cotton over steaming water — best way to “set” the twist). I have no complaints…works fine…however…

    I love handmade items. I love tools made of wood — functional art.

    Excited Phil said “yes,” of course I gave “maker’s choice” — any wood, any style, any design…a Phil Powell niddy-noddy would not disappoint! And, from the photos below, it’s quite obvious:



    Phil Powell; niddy-noddy; Cocobolo

    THANK YOU PHIL!!! :)

    Beautiful. Functional. Ergonomical.

    A genius design — arms slightly tapered, inserting the small ends into the holes until they stop…perfectly centered!!!

    As with everything that comes out of Phil’s shop, he chooses gorgeous woods and turns them…highlighting the intricate beauty of each individual wood.

    And it was no different with this Cocobolo Niddy-Noddy — the light center, comfortable to hold; the dark arms, turned to perfection, stopping at the center. Incredible.


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    Two spindles…Last Opportunity to Own a Student Design Tibetan, Turned by Neal Brand!!

    The last 2 — yes two (2!) — spindles designed by Calculus students and turned by mathematics Professor and spindle maker extraordinaire Neal Brand are up for auction on Ebay this week!!!

    Students were challenged to design an original spindle — developing the shape, size and choosing woods to make them from. Groups of students were tasked to calculate the moment of Inertia of Neal’s well-known Tibetan spindles and use this as the basis their Tibetan designs.

    Whether or not you understand the calculus figures that make for an awesome spindle isn’t as important as knowing this calculation works AND you can trust in the wood-turning talent Neal Brand possesses.

    All proceeds go to a scholarship fund at the University of North Texas (info copied directly from the department website below**)


    Spindle #1:


    This support spindle weighs 1.4 ounces (41 g), its height is 9.5 inches and its diameter is 1.6 inches. The wood is snakewood — a very rare and expensive wood.




    The shaft is purpleheart and the whorl is ebony; this unique Tibetan weighs 1.5 ounces (43 g), is 10 inches long and its diameter is 1.1 inches.


    Should the e-bay links not work, simple go to http://www.ebay.com and enter “Neal Brand” to locate and bid on the spindles.

    Support a great cause — you might end up with a OOAK spindle, bringing you joy for years to come!

    Thank You to Mr. Neal Brand, his students and everyone that takes the time to read & bid on these spindles — the last 2!


    **John Ed Allen Mathematics Scholarship Fund

    In June 1999, Dr. John Ed Allen stepped down as Chair of the Mathematics Department after serving 23 years in that position. Throughout his tenure as chair, the department grew from a small one that focused on undergraduate education and a masters program to a comprehensive research department with strong programs at the undergraduate through Ph.D. levels. At the time Dr. Allen stepped down, he had hired all but two of the current Mathematics Department Faculty.

    While Chair, Dr. Allen particularly enjoyed working with the graduate students. He served both as Chair and Graduate Advisor. Although this took a tremendous amount of time, Dr. Allen found his interaction with the graduate students to be productive for the students and rewarding for him. Over the years, both graduate students and undergraduate students have appreciated his gentle advice and kind help.

    Math faculty members and graduate students contributed most of the money in the fund. You are welcome to become involved in this opportunity to honor Dr. Allen’s contribution to mathematics at UNT and help UNT mathematics majors and graduate students.

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    The Moment of Inertia? Most of us spindlers look at a spindle and see it’s beauty, look at the length of the shaft, the shape of the whorl and consider the moment of inertia… What? Don’t run in fear. You don’t need to understand the physics or calculus formulas that explain whether a spindle rotates fast or slow to enjoy spinning different fibers… …but certain spindle makers, such as mathematics professor Neal Brand not only understands the moment of inertia, he applies it to his spindle-making. And, what better than a real-life example to teach his students? Calculus students were challenged to design a spindle with the same moment of inertia as Neal’s well known Tibetans. Neal turned each student’s design on his lathe (total of 7) and posted them for sale on Ebay — all proceeds go to a math scholarship fund at the University of North Texas! Neal is listing each of the seven spindles one at a time, with bidding on the first spindle ending this Sunday! To read full descriptions and bid on these beauties, go to Ebay.com and type “Neal Brand Spindles” (or link: Neal Brand_student_listings) And don’t be afraid to look at the shaft, the shapes of the whorls, the different woods and beauty of each Tibetan — rest safe the moment of inertia was well-taken care…considered, calculated and applied to each cool spindle design: 20130215-212117.jpg 20130215-212128.jpg 20130215-212137.jpg 20130215-212146.jpg 20130215-212200.jpg 20130215-212208.jpg ~~~~~ Remember bidding on the first spindle posted will end on Sunday — so, don’t miss out on a one-of-a-kind spindle, turned by Tibetan-master Neal Brand based on designs his students created based on the moment of inertia. Thank you!

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    coming soon….PS

    I pressed the wrong command and post was sent out w/o photos or majority of info.

    Please visit the site http://www.spindlers-musings.net to read the post in its entirety.

    Thank you!

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    Intros and descriptions that will lead into interviews (I know, I’ve been stuck…but taking a “fun” approach and words are flowing — just want to post all intros at once)

    New interviews: Shannon Shanks of Broken Pattern (etsy); Phil Powell of Custom Wood Designs (etsy) and Ian Tait of IST Crafts (http://thewoodemporium.co.uk) have all agreed to mini-interviews — all are very busy, but I’m excited to share work by each!!!

    And new items and designs in 2 shops (more info below); and my thoughts on bowls.

    Insights to upcoming mini-interviews:

    Shannon takes a very organic approach to wood-turning and my spindle-collaboration reminded me very much of the process used by artists and artisans I’ve known throughout my life. Broken Pattern contains a range of different fiber arts tools as well as a variety of hand-dyed and hand-spun fibers.

    Shannon created a spindle with a silk-like tulipwood whorl:
    20121211-043524.jpg20121211-043547.jpg (just lovely!) and uber-thin smooth birch shaft ideal for short staples (hoped for a wood spindle to use for cotton, but this works well for silks too!)


    Phil Powell has a shop filled with exciting fiber arts tools, with rare woods and unique designs — nostepinnes, darning eggs like this recent beautifully figured black/white ebony beauty:

    20121211-043153.jpg 20121211-043317.jpg

    He makes beautiful drops and recently developed a design for metal tipped Russians — and they are FAST!!!

    Cocobolo and Burmese Blackwood spindles — my first 2 metal-tips! — with 2 different preps of DebsFibers (etsy); preferring sushi batts over nests (though both are prepared with the care of a friend and eye of an artist):


    I’ve since experimented plying Deb’s fiber — traditional 2-ply and my first N-ply (Navajo or 3-ply) spun/plied on the Hansen.


    **NOTE: Metal points have the potential to ruin wood bowls, esp. softer woods.

    I personally use stoneware (over regular ceramic) surfaces in the form of spoon-rests or small spinning bowls. The ones in the photos below were made by Julie Cavender at Willow Tree Pottery (etsy). Her spoon-rests are the perfect size to slip in your purse or project bag and these small spinning bowls contain a smooth thumb-sized divot in the center perfect for support spinning. She was able to make a mini-version to fit inside me S-shaped “lap bowl” Joshua (texasjeans) designed so that I could spin sitting in my wheelchair (my goal was to spin outside, his creation works everywhere for me; and, now with Julie’s help, I can use any spindle anywhere too!)



    This last bowl, much larger than the others, was a recent gift from my mother. She brought it back from a trip she made to Argentina when my Grandmother was reunited with her sister after 40 years! They were born in Sicily and immigrated to two different countries to marry; my Grandmother never saw other members if her family. A beautiful bowl from such a significant trip! :)

    I only store fauxlogs and small nests of fiber of projects I spin from bed — I'd never risk using this for spinning!


    Ian Tait started out making tapestry and lace bobbins, but soon started selling drop spindles. Concerned about the environmental impact of using certain woods, he tops a sycamore base with a thin slice of exotic wood — his way to offer the best of both worlds. He also makes Russians (with or without metal tips), Turks — with the option of brass weights in the wings to elongate spin and, most recently, added a Tibetan, with a tulip-shaped whorl:


    Sycamore bowls w/a trim to match the wood of the Tibetan are also available.

    I started spinning an AWESOME Merino/SeaCell blend prepared in easy to spin pencil roving by Kimber at Fiber Optics — Once the stock is replenished, I recommend no-one purchase any….until I have enough time to buy more for myself! LOL

    I seriously recommend giving this blend a go…I’m not often blown away by new things, but colors, prep, package…the team at Fiber Optics is very talented. Here is my attempt at a “neat” turtle with this super cool roving, spun on an IST Turk with bog oak wings, ash shaft and a reinforce tip for spinning semi-supported in the wheelchair Ian was kind enough to add for me:



    So, I rarely make shop updates listed on Ravelry — even if I do, most items fly off virtual shelves too fast; if a 30 second window exists…well, most spindles are too long or heavy for me to just outright purchase.

    Yet, I still look at recently sold items and try to keep up on different trends and styles.

    First, I must say Enid Ashcroft seems especially inspired in her work over the past few months. I admire her as an artist and person; and certain designs of late…well, the wood, the attention to detail, the courage (Paduak Russians with sap wood! How is that possible?!), new designs — beehives in almost every style, and, although not a new item, Enid has included drop spindles (made in the Blossom and Pagoda styles that give her other spindles a unique artsy flair and, most recent to appear, a beehive drop) in her shop almost every week.


    Art. Functional art.

    And, No Worries — she hasn’t stopped making the lovely spindles that first caught the eye of spindlers like myself; as seen here with 2 spindles gifted to me — a sheoak Russian with matching bowl and a mini-Turk, with a purpleheart shaft (not as purple as photo suggests) serving as a backdrop to Yew wings:


    (yew is so very cool; fiber optics pencil roving — closest for my first test spin!)
    And, last but not least, Joshua Lynch of TexasJeans (etsy) has added 2 new spindles to his line-up: Tibetan and Victorian Lace Spindles!!

    His Tibetans are made with the same thin flick many of us enjoy using, with attention to speed, balance and longevity — and they spin impressively long! Shafts are maple, curly maple, walnut and cherry, with 2 styles of whorls in a variety of wood choices.

    A few examples from his sold items:


    Made ideal for me to spin in bed, car or my wheelchair, Joshua made a custom Tibetan with a curly maple shaft and maple burl whorl — completely “wowed” and grateful for the care he took in creating this spindle for me, I fear my photos do not do justice:



    Stay tuned for these and other updates coming soon to a blog near you!

    And, thank you to everyone for your patience — although out of my control, I hope things will start moving along quickly…

    Feel free to leave a (kind) reply below.

    Suggestions are always welcome as are guest writers — feel free to e-mail me at spindlers_musings@earthlink.net


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    As sure as Mel Brooks failed to offer History of the World: Part II, this spindler has yet you bring you Rhinebeck: Part II; whilst not a sequel, health, family and life in general has resulted in more delays…frustrating, but out of my control.

    The unfinished addendum focused on my time with Kevin and Beth Hansen and their electronic spinner. I learned a lot that day, my time with the Hansen’s a great finale to meeting so many interesting people and seeing the variety of items that make up the world of fiber arts.

    Following a hands-on demonstration where I was able to practice using this well-made spinning machine, agreement from my friend and her sisters (whom all seemed impressed with The Hansen’s and their namesake device), I felt fully confident investing in the Hansen e-spinner.

    Already, A++ for customer service; most recent: Kevin’s super-fast e-mail reply answering questions regarding battery recommendations. Once I knew I could easily operate the e-spinner home-alone, extra bobbins, a narrow orifice tube and quill attachment easily ordered from the Hansen website also arrived in super-fast speed.

    A beautiful maple exterior, simple design, easy for me to pick up on (if you don’t recall, only mere hours earlier I saw a real life spinning wheel for the first time!) and the ability to use from bed, makes this another “tool” that allows me to spin on days I otherwise would not be able; I hope it will increase my production of finished yarn ready to knit or crochet, as it physically takes me longer and longer.

    So, yes. I invested in an e-spinner.

    Yes, me — self-proclaimed spindler that I am.

    And, yes, I like using it.

    Yet, it cannot replace my hand spindles.

    I feel lost the mornings I am unable to spin in MY living room chair, which, BTW, is in the wrong spot! An issue I have struggled with for many years now. My mother, one of THE MOST caring, loving human beings I will ever know, decided “change is good” and moved MY chair over a year ago. I suggested we move HER chair, so she could reap the benefits of rearranging the living room, but no…she respectfully declined. Just like the only change in congress, the only change in our living room had no benefit to me.

    In fact, the power of feng shui is dead in my world…a quick demise for a victim lost in the throes of a struggle in the name of change. Specifically, when it comes to moving MY favorite chair from it’s corner, where all MY favorite chairs spent their days from the time I was a young girl to the present, where I now live at home as an adult…change is NOT good.

    I’m not bitter or upset though.


    So, I sit in front of the picture window, looking out toward the dining room (table’s in the wrong spot now too! oy.) with one of my three favorite spindles — 2 Russians and a Tibetan. Always, my morning meditation involves spinning one of Loop’s bumps — this particular one is only for mornings. I keep 2 spindles in the bag the fiber came in and grab an S-shaped “lap-bowl” Joshua Lynch designed so I could spin from the wheelchair. It easily works from anywhere — wheelchair, bed, car, LR chair in the wrong spot …

    I used to do yoga. Starting off every morning centered, energized; ending my days in poses that drained away the stresses of the day. For awhile, I worked with someone on modified poses for home and sessions in her office, where ropes built into a wall supported and enabled many poses I thought no longer possible. This was pre-wheelchair and other health maladies.

    I miss yoga. I miss it very much.

    In it’s place, beginning my own meditation of sorts: spinning. Using one of two spindles special to me — in part, because the kindness of the talented individuals that made each; in part, because they are so beautiful; in part, because they bring me the most JOY.

    We all have gems in our collections. The one made with your favorite wood. The one that seems to spin forever, effortlessly. The one that fits you hand just so, as if it were literally made for you. The one that came unexpected, that you had extra money to buy, that caught your eye, that has an OOAK property….

    I enjoy spinning a great number of my spindles, but two more than all others.

    (And, no, I won’t reveal which 2 they are!)

    But these 2 spindles helped me accept an important change. (Not the mis-placement of MY chair.)

    Maybe choice is a better word.

    No longer able to do yoga left me 2 choices: lay in bed missing yoga or find a new way to start my days. I struggled with this for the longest time, until the second of the 2 spindles arrived.

    I was lost in the act of spinning. Relaxed, loving the beauty of this new spindle and how soft it felt against my hand — a perfect fit! — watching it spin (it was/is so smooth and fast I sometimes can’t even tell it’s spinning until it slows down! I’ve experienced this with others since, but at that time….this spindle was, well, meant for ME, for my hands — how COOL is that?).

    Like saying a mantra over and over, the act of flicking the thin shaft, drafting, another flick to allow the singles to wrap around the shaft just below my fingers. Over and over, like holding a pose to release the stress of the day in my muscles OR painting — brushes in each hand until, viscerally, I knew my work was done.

    Singles butterflied onto an ever-growing cop — I knew I found a solution.

    All kidding aside, every day I am able, I ask for help to sit in the (ill-positioned) chair and start my day spinning. Not a traditional meditation, but I’ve never been much for conventional ways — in my life, they seem to serve as a place of which to jump off. An understanding of the results of practices like meditation and yoga and an openness to discover I don’t need them to center myself.

    Complicated? Never as much as I make it out to be.

    Difficult? Yes, sometimes it is difficult when no longer able to do something I love. Something, like yoga, that I would never choose to let go.

    Sad? No. Not if my life is defined by limits.

    Limitations, like convention, can be a place to dive into the water, with open heart and mind to discover all that is possible.

    I’m rambling; it’s late, I’m tired and still want to finish editing more content for the website and blog…but I cannot stop thinking about the importance of possibility. Of how, especially at first, the moment life changes, the moment we look down and no longer see the foundation of which we thought secure to stand upon…

    What does one do without ground to stand on?

    We fly in the air,
    We dive into the water,
    We call aweather the wind,
    We recognize the earth below.

    We realize our feet are never firmly planted in the ground,
    They can’t be.
    They never were; but —
    We know we are OK.

    Comfortable in the groundless-ness,
    We can see possibility.

    Maybe possibility isn’t yoga today; maybe not ever.
    I remind myself THAT is OK.

    And spin.
    Starting over again, each day I am able, with a bag of fiber in the mornings and a spindle.

    One of 2 that are so special to me; spin perfect, soft against my hand and bring such JOY — I become lost in the process…

    (so lost, some days I forget…the chair on which I sit, is in the wrong spot)

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    Got Milk?

    Expecting to lose power a la Sandy, I decided today was not conducive to polishing off Rhinebeck: the Sequel.

    Each time I went to do any time-consuming activity that involved electricity…power: off.

    Aside from a few flickers, to my surprise the lights are still on.

    I should quantify the significance of this — we ALWAYS lose power:

    Rain: blackout.
    Wind: blackout.
    Ever so slight northwest breeze: blackout.
    Sneeze outside: blackout.
    Hurricane: no blackout. what??

    Well, there IS still time.


    Rainy days and mondays, feeling pretty tired, joints swollen and painful….

    Overall, not a productive day.

    And, now that it’s time to power off, the juice is flowing fine. Not even a slight flicker — my lamp or my eyes!

    This evening I spun Milk Protein for the first time. I felt it before, but not enough of a sample to bother spinning.

    I plan to use a Russian turned by Mark at Pumpkin Hill Farm from a piece of Panga Panga.

    I know, Panga what? At first appearance, it looks like the negative of wenge. A brief internet search…it’s a relative of wenge! Sibling? Cousin? Second-generation once removed? … Panga and wenge are family. Both from East Africa, with similar hardwood traits; Wenge is notably darker.

    My Panga Russian, chosen from my collection for its light weight and fast spin — two traits I find essential when spinning silk on a support. Although my first time spinning this fiber, I am approaching similar as I do silk.

    Surprisingly, fiber from milk protein (casein) is not a new conception.

    In fact, the use of casein (not as a fiber or beverage component) dates back centuries! An artist, history buff and somewhat nerdy, this exemplifies the sort of tidbit of useless information I carry around in my head. I have a near-photographic memory; “near” as medication, health, possible old age results the occasional wayward tidbit of (useful) information. Sans the opportunity to buzz in questions on jeopardy, the majority of my truly intellectual conversations of late occur with Murph…my dog (shh…it offends him when I call him the D-word).

    Oy. A master of segue….


    Centuries before the advent of an alternative fiber, casein served as a “binder” of sorts in paints commonly referred to as tempera (not to be confused with tempura, another protein, derived from a Japanese fish dish).

    Tempera paints were made by mixing a pigment, egg yolk and something like casein or vinegar or water — the latter three or similar substances meant to prevent cracking by extending the time it takes an egg yolk to dry. Adding substances like casein enabled artists to control the consistency of paint; unlike water-based acrylics, I used to know artists that used tempera as a base layer to conserve on oils or, better, conserve on money). Although not completely passé (I used as a kid!); I don’t recall seeing tempera as the primary medium in a work of art for decades — last that comes to mind: Andy Warhol….think early Warhol? My art history regarding such facts is limited and this blog is about fiber arts.

    Still, it’s art and if not interested in a few facts I’m overjoyed to have a use for, kindly skip the next few paragraphs.

    The casein extended the life of the tempera; many community buildings with mosaics or maybe it’s merely murals (?? see, a detail I cannot recall!) that have stood the “test of time” (ugh. I’m so tired I resorted to cliché) contain casein in the paint.

    During the first world war, casein paints were used to create camouflage. My Uncle Mike, a proud Marine, talented artist and mentor of sorts — art and life — helped to create camouflage during WWII. He was a well respected and known local artist, but I’m not sure if he designed or actually helped paint it…just know he was very proud to share with me the non-violent contributions to the US war efforts.

    What does this have to do with spinning fiber?


    Well, a little. During the WWII, when many families were still struggling as a result of the depression and other families needed to watch pennies with so many husbands overseas milk fiber was a common textile.

    Produced in Italy and the US around the WWII (possibly earlier) casein was used as a more economic alternative to wool. Not as successful, I assume, as it hasn’t been used for this purpose in any major way of which I am aware.

    I read this long before I ever saw or felt a sample of milk protein fiber; so, when it arrived, I was very surprised! It doesn’t feel or spin like “wool.”

    Milk protein is soft and light and the fibers….well, you know how silk fibers seem to easily part? Say, if you grabbed a length of mulberry silk and brought your hands together — you can see individual fibers…they don’t “cling” in the same way as Merino or Corrie wool.

    Yet, the attractiveness of the fiber is obvious — it’s lovely, takes color, has moisture-resistant properties similar to wool (a factoid I read in a recent shop’s description). I can’t say whether it drapes similar, if it feels breathable if you wear an item or the care needed to wash it.

    I must say, knowing it was used as substitute to wool, I expected it to look, feel and spin similar to wool. Yes, wool is a broad term; maybe baby alpaca or something similarly slick. However, to me, it looks and feels like silk — not as shiny as a Mulberry/Bombyx, but possibly a Tussah — the kind I recently heard described as “creamy.”

    Yes. Milk protein fiber is like an unpasteurized, creamy, opaque Tussah.

    Now, a day later — storm, not feeling well or blog-erly — and too lazy to try to find the source of these facts when I first heard about milk fiber for spinning a few years ago. Milk fiber is not the eco-friendly dream granola nuts like myself assumed when first hearing about “alternative” fibers.

    Myth: Milk fiber does not use chemicals.

    It does. Same as rayon. Same as Acrylic. Well, maybe different chemicals..
    I don’t know. The chemicals listed…well, don’t eat your milk fiber.

    Myth: Milk fiber is good for the environment.

    Nope. Not even a little. From cow to liquid to binders that make it a solid fiber — it is not a completely eco-friendly process. Whether it’s more/less harmful than making a rayon…I don’t know.

    Myth: Milk protein fibers are similar to wool.

    Um, not really. Certainly there is some overlap in properties….however, if you want to wear/make a woolen item, buy wool.

    Myth: Milk protein fiber should be avoid if you have lactose intolerance.

    That’s just me being silly!
    In all seriousness, my sense is sheep need not be concerned spinners, crochet and knitters and weavers will abandon all love for a nice fleece or the fiber and yarn made from it.

    That said, I am enjoying this lovely sample of milk fiber I’m spinning. I was surprised with how well it took color. I’m not sure how to set the twist when finished though!

    I received this truly generous sample Roo, from Moonwood Farms, placed in the box of a recent order. Truly generous in size, as well as the time she took to dye the sample — the sample-braid is just as lovely as every other item I ordered.

    Where most would send un-dyed or a surplus of whatever fiber/colorway on hand — and that’s fine — my lovely milk is dyed in my favorite (greens), a color that matches other items in my order.

    I LOVE when sellers include fiber samples in my order — fiber and spindle purchases. The latter, I have fiber in hand to spin the moment I remove the spindle from the box. Malcolm Felding (The Lace and Bobbin Shop) has given the largest sample of a single fiber to date — TAZ Corrie…which changed my mind about Corriedale!

    And I can easily list five shops that gave me samples of fibers I hadn’t used prior and, because of this, I made purchases I otherwise would not have made.

    Sometimes, if unsure about a shop or fiber, I will ask for a sample; many oblige and each time, I’ve purchased the fiber. Sometimes, if it’s a shop I frequent and I know they include samples, I ask to try something new.

    And sometimes, on my fiber-bucket list, sits a fiber I really want to spin, but I put it off — money, availability, a large fiber stash — and a talented fiber artist (like Roo) throws a sample of the very fiber sitting atop your wish-list.

    Got Milk?

    Yes, Indeed I do.


    (between the storm, not feeling well and other goings-on…seems my musings are posted days after writing. I still need to finish Rhinebeck, but with tired eyes, hope this doesn’t have many grammar errors!)

    PS: Getting REALLY close to announcing the site — maybe next week. Depends on how I’m feeling and whether I can complete the writing I want to in that amount of time…almost there.

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