Monday, July 31, 2006

My first spinning wheel

So here's a peek inside my house and a look at my first spinning wheel. It's an Ashford Elizabeth and still works 20 years later, though it could use some repairs. The chair with the curly parts was made by my partner out of manzanita and madrone wood. He made the bent wood chairs in the background also. I can't remember what kind of wood he used though.

This is where I cook up my dyes. That's a wood stove on the left. The upper oven has kerosene burners under it, and I've actually baked in it. The other little stove uses propane. There's a counter to the right of little stove that provides some work space.

This is another shot of the inside of the house that shows the 'kitchen sink' and some of the structure of the house. It looks like a big unbrella, with a tree-sized center pole and smaller ones branching out supporting the roof.

This one shows more of the 'umbrella'. The sky light in the background is at the back of the house in the sleeping area. The whole house is 40 feet in diameter and split level because it's built on an incline. So the sleeping area is on the upper level, which is about 3 -4 feet higher than the lower one. The roof boards are all redwood bought way before the current problems with clear cutting. The center pole is fir, I'm pretty sure.

This is some dyed yarn that's drying on the fence outside my door. There are strawberries and some herbs inside the fence. Once I've dyed the yarn and rinsed it in the sink, I throw the water on the strawberries so as not to waste it, and then hang the yarn out to dry in the wind. I like to use whatever local vegetation I can find for plant extract dyes, as well as some of the basics that can be found in most any kitchen - like onion skins and black tea or coffee grounds. Lichens and moss make a nice pale gray/green, as do Japanese flowering plum tree leaves. I have a couple of these trees in the front yard, and they can also be found all around the Bay Area. Another of my favorites is walnut hulls (not the shells, but the green hulls around the outside of the shells). These make a very nice, rich brown. Walnut hulls have a lot of tannin in them, so no fixing agent is needed. For the onion skins, leaves and moss a mordant is needed though. I generally use alum, tin and chrome, depending on what shade I want. Alum makes a medium bright color, tin brightens it more, and chrome dulls the color. Copper sulfate also can be used to make the color browner and darker.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Schedule update

Well, even though we are in the middle of a monster heat wave, temps in Berkeley are still only in the high 70's so I will be out displaying my hats this weekend on Telegraph. If all goes well, I plan to be out every weekend between now and the end of August. I've been making hemp hats with brims and lightweight skull caps for summer, so come by and have a look if you're in the area.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A tour of the boonies

I guess if I'm going to talk about where I make my hats, a tour of the old homestead might be good idea. This is a bird's eye view of my place from my nearest neighbor's hill, which is about a half mile away. I'm about 20 miles from the town of Mendocino on the coast and 10 miles from Ukiah to the east inland. The nearest paved road is about 3/4 of a mile away, and there is a dirt access road about an eighth of a mile up a hill to the right in the photo. This is reasonably passable and connects with the paved county road. However, my driveway is steep and winding and gets pretty iffy in the winter when it rains a lot. Definitely a four wheel drive situation, and even some perfectly functional 4 wheelers have managed to get stuck there. This is one reason I don't live there year round.

Here's a photo of the driveway. It can't even really be seen from the public dirt road - just looks like some tracks through the grass. This has it's advantages and disadvantages. The photo doesn't really show how steep it is, and when it's nice and dry like this it's perfectly passable. My spring box, which is my main water supply, is to the right of the road near the top. I do also keep a big water tank for emergency use in case of fire though. Fire is perhaps the biggest danger in the area where summer wild grass fires can start up and spread quickly.

OK, getting closer to home so to speak, here is a photo I took one morning before the sun was high enough to reach the house. The fog was still in to the west and just starting to move back out to the ocean. This is a common sight in the summer. Very beautiful!

The bigger building is the main house, which is about 40 feet in diameter with a sort of free form roof. The smaller building is my meditation room when I'm there by myself and guest room otherwise.

This is a closeup of the little meditation room. It was built relatively recently by someone with a more conventional approach. It's better insulated and has sheet rock interior walls, so is warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. A wonderful place for a retreat!

I put up all the redwood shakes on the outside myself. What a job - but fun! The original house was shaked, so I figured the new addition should be, too. I guess that's considered more of a fire problem, but we cut the dry grass down to the dirt for 100 feet around, so feel reasonably fire safe. We've just finished the weed whacking for this year. It takes several people about three days to get it all done. Just in time for the triple digit temps that have hit the area over the past week! One good reason I'm sitting in front of a computer in Berkeley, where it's only in the 70's :)

Next is a photo of the front side of the main house. It shows the weird roof, which was under repair at the time. There are two more big windows continuing on around the rest of the front of the house. Looks like we hadn't finished the weed whacking when this was taken! You can see just a glimpse of the bent wood chair inside that my partner made. He also made some free form chairs out of madrone and manzanita. Maybe I'll get some good photos of them next time I'm up there - hopefully next week if it gets a bit cooler. All for now. Cheerio!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Some history

A lot of people ask me if I raise sheep or live on a farm when they see me spinning raw fiber. The answer is no, not exactly. I did start out spinning fleece from my own angora goats, though. I was living on some land out in the hills in Mendocino County, California, where my partner and I had built a house of sorts, and we kept a few goats and chickens. One day a wild angora goat showed up, we fed him, and he decided to stay. So I found someone to show me how to spin and bought my first spinning wheel. I still have the place and it's basically the family home, even though it's a bit too rough to live there full time. I spend as much time as I can, though, and this is where I get my best inspiration and make my best hats. Here's a photo of my house. As you can see, there aren't a lot of neighbors!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Where to buy handspun yarns

I'm posting some links in the sidebar to sites that sell handspun yarn, since I don't sell my own. These are some that I have had personal experience with. There are more which I also believe to be very good on my website at

This is me at my spinning wheel on Telegraph Ave. on a very cold day wearing my very own Rainbow Hat.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Lisa's Intro

Hello, it's me finally doing a blog! Not something I ever thought I'd want to do, but it does seem like a handy way to post news and comments about my hats, fiber art, craft fairs, etc., so I'm giving it a try.

I thought it might be useful for me to post some sort of schedule of where and when I'll be displaying my hats. Generally I set up a table with my spinning wheel on Telegraph Ave. in Berkeley CA on weekends, where I do spinning demos and sell the hats. This is an open crafts market that was originally started by a group of crafts people in the late 60's. It's been a loosly organized ongoing crafts fair every since, where artists and crafts people can purchase a license from the City of Berkeley to display their work in a four block area of Telegraph just south of UC Campus. I've been setting up my spinning wheel there and displaying my hats off and on for a few years now. I also participate in other crafts fairs and farmer's markets from time to time.

So, my schedule for the next few weeks is as follows: I plan to be on Telegraph Ave. on July 15th and 16th and probably on the 22nd and 23rd as well. Not sure about the 29th and 30th just yet. I may be out of town. I do plan to be there every weekend in August, though. I generally set up somewhere between Haste and Channing Streets around 11 A.M. and stay until 5 P.M., though sometimes a bit later during the summer.

I also plan to use this blog to tell a little bit about how and where and why I make the hats, the materials I use, etc., along with whatever other info seems appropriate.

Comments are welcome, too, of course. I'd probably rather not hear about how much you hate the hats and how you can get a cheaper one at an imports store or Walmarts, but I guess if that's what you feel you need to "share" then by all means post it!

I won't be posting patterns because I don't have any. I make everything up as I go along, and even if I did figure out how to write down a pattern, it would never come out right using commercial yarns. I can recommend places to buy handspun yarns, though, and where to buy spinning fiber. I don't sell my yarn because it's really all I can do to just supply myself.

Questions are always welcome!