Friday, September 23, 2011


Hilar is Spanish for "to Spin". Today I thought that I would play around with a tutorial for the blog. Maybe I can get some of my Spanish readers interested in spinning too!

Here is my little spinning wheel it is an Ashford Kiwi. I got this wheel for a variety of reasons. 
First it was pretty inexpensive and a good value. It is good value because all of the parts are interchangeable with the Ashford Joy there is a lot of versatility in the kinds of yarn you can spin on this wheel. Since it was so inexpensive I was able to "pimp it" and I have all of the whorls sizes as well as the new Ashford flyer
Secondly This wheel is small, and lightweight (12lbs/5.4Kg).  I knew, when I bought it, that there was a possibility that I would have to move to Europe in the near future and I wanted something easy to move around the room, and that does not take up much space in a tiny European apartment.
Ok so here is a semi tutorial on how I "block" my yarn. You can take substandard spinning and turn that into amazing yarn if you 'finish' the yarn right. Also you take ruin a perfectly beautiful handspun with poor finishing techniques. I am not going to go into all of the finishing techniques today, just blocking.

First off, I was making a three ply yarn for socks. I got some BFL in  a swap recently in two different colorways and they went so well together I decided to spin them up and ply them together. Plying evenly is very important, if you have question about plying go and get anything Judith McKenzie has written (or said on a video) about it and follow her to the letter.
 After I have plied the singles together I skein the yarn by winding it on my niddy noddy.

Then the yarn goes for a soak for about 10 minutes in luke warm water and a little of wool wash. Make sure that you do not soak different colored skeins at the same time, dye can leak during this process.
 After the yarn has soaked, drain the water from the basin, then lift the skien out supporting as much of it as possible,  and squeeze the water out. Do NOT wring the water out. At this point I now go to my shower, arrange the skien in my hands so that I am holding the middle of the skien and whack the skien against the shower wall. (Two things to note here: One - it is a good idea to have only your arm in the shower at this point and have the rest of you outside a curtain or door as it is a wet process. Two - try not to bash you hand into the wall - it hurts.) I then take the skein out of the shower put my hands through the long part of the skien and tug (making sure first all of the strands are going the skein wise direction - otherwise tangles will ensue. Then I fold it the other direction and repeat the whacking process.

This "Wash and Whack" process not only will open up and 'full' the fibers after spinning (making them fluffier) it will help energy equalize around the skien. Meaning that if you have any overspun areas the extra twist can jump to a less spun area. This simple process of beating your yarn can give beautiful results - AND work out frustrations.
With this process I now have two skeins of perfectly balanced yarn I know this because they are not twisted back on themselves in the skein.

 Here is an example of over twisted yarn:

When I do a 3 ply I often end up with extra singles, so I used them to practice Navajo plying which I am extraordinarily bad at. The above photos were taken AFTER the wash and whack process. The skien does not hang straight, there is so much twist that it has to go somewhere and the skien twists back up on itself.

Back to the nicer yarn. I have some shower curtain rings and the are frightfully useful to hang skien of yarn to dry on. In the US I used to hang skeins off of my shower rod to dry.
Here I hang them off of my laundry line.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Suburban Sprawl

This past Saturday did a field trip to the south side of the city to do some shopping. We needed to stop by a sports store and we want to check out Ikea.

So after a 10 minutes walk to the metro station, an hour on the metro (including one transfer),  a expensive lesson on how to buy our metro tickets next time, and another 10 minute walk we were here:

 I can not begin to describe the culture shock this gave me.
(I do not mean the  American fast food restaurant sign, those are everywhere.)

I have now been in Spain so long I have actually had the thought recently "why is the woman talking funny?" when a woman addressed her kids in English on the street as I passed.
Now I was looking at the kind of suburban sprawl you can see anywhere in the US! When my husband (who lived in the US for about a decade) and I saw this sight we literally stopped in our tracks. So weird! Like taking the Metro back to the USA! Then we turned around and saw the restaurant pictured below it called "Buffalo Grill".

 Really that could almost (with the exception of the "zona infantil" sign which I still find hilarious) be any steakhouse in the West of the States. (Putting sign in English is a common practice and considered very chic here.)

 My husband is from Barcelona, there is no room for urban sprawl there, this took him by surprise too.
 We had such a hard time taking this all in that we almost got ran over in the parking lot going to Ikea 5 times! My entire lifetime's worth of parking lot skill, has been erased in 3 months. HAHA
 Also it is NEVER a good idea to go to Ikea for "a look" on a Saturday afternoon in the 3rd largest city in Europe...just saying. Also if there is anyone out there that has yet to be to an Ikea (this was our first time) there is only one path through the store, there is no backtracking, no way to leave the store until you have been passed everything, just a warning.

For today's crafty note:

Fall seems to be finally here and well I enjoy the fresh air my kitties get cold.

Want a quick kitty cosy? Simply take that crochet purse you made that felted into a funny shape, cut along the seam lines, and wrap it around your cat. TA-DA! Now you are officially the crazy woman that has crocheted a cat cozy. ;)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

crocheting in Spain

Crafting is a very different scene over here, but it is very much alive and it makes me happy to see things like this collection trying to tempt more into the crafting fold.

Ganchillo Facil is a magazine that hit newsstands about two weeks ago. It includes a how to DVD, a booklet with 5 patterns, two balls of yarn and a hook. Note the price it is only 1 Euro. My husband informs me that there are always collections of such magazines popping up in Spain, number two will be more expensive. Each magazine includes a ball of yarn, and a pattern of an afghan square to use up the yarn in each issue. At the end of the series you should know how to crochet AND have an afghan. Plus there are other patterns in the magazine.

I think that this is a brillant idea! Even though the yarn is not the best, I think that this sort of thing can bring crafting into the lives of many other people! I have also spotted a cross stitch series, and a figure painting series. Go Spain. :)

Saturday, September 17, 2011


I finished this a while ago I just need my blocking wires and time and space to block this.
This is Asterope by Romi Hill it is part of her design book titled 7 small shawls.

What makes this Special and ubersoft and squishy is that fact that it is made out of my handspun. It is from a beautiful colorway called "Sweet potato" my Miss Babs. It is Pollworth wool - a very soft but long stapled breed of sheep.

I love the stubble striping effect this yarn has, I love the girl lacy crocheted boarder. I made the large size since I spun over 600 yards, and this is a medium sized shawl.

Friday, September 16, 2011


OK I just could not leave Starry Night alone. It just did not seem "finished" to me. First of all I did not have a good enough photograph and even though I live in sunny Spain where we get clouds rarely (at least in the summer here in Madrid) and my apartment has natural light, I do not get direct sun. I have to take photos fairly early in the day, and I had to take these on my window ledge. It was a fairly daunting task, as it is windy here, I live on the "3rd floor" and these pieces are light weight.

Anyway, yesterday I realized that I had some left over gold colored silk thread and I started to embroider over the piece. The flashes of yellow in the original Starry Night were just not coming across with just the wool. I also took some inspiration from another needle-feltress and added beads to the center of every star to give it that extra flash.

 What I am unable to show you with my camera is the new 3 dimensionally of the piece. The gold colored silk thread picks up the best because silk is shinny but I also put some turquoise thread in the hills.
 Some dark brown thread running up the black plant.
 I am so in love with this piece.
 No one asked, but I thought I would get and share some better photos of some of my favorite (and most accesible) needle felted pieces. HAHA

This next one is of my cat (based off of this photo). I have two cats but I want to "paint" this one as his tabby coloring offers a bit more of a challenge (my other cat is black and white).
I blend my colors with my hands instead of with hand carders and I think that way I can maintain more of the stripy look. (If anyone wants me to post a tutorial - give me a shout.)
I really like how I got the ears to look (working with a fluffy medium really helps here). Also yes, he often has that little smile.
 The next "painting" is of the Delicate Arch in Arches National Park USA (also the arch on the Utah licence plate). I love the color of the red rocks of the Southwest and I wanted to capture it. I was pleased that I was able to get the shadowing right. This was needlefelted on a un-carefully (my fault I get excited) cut piece of felted thrift store sweater. so to frame it I sewed it onto another piece of fabric with turquoise sock yarn and put the whole thing in a hand painted embroidery hoop.
 This one was one I had on hand to photograph. It is titled "Koi pond".
 I really like how the water lilly turned out.
Lastly I have heard that people are having trouble commenting to the blog. I have switched access to allow anyone to comment, no ID needed. Your comments will not show up immediately as I have the "heavy moderation" setting on and all comments will need to be approved by me first. We shall see how this works out.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I won!

This week I was lucky enough to receive as a prize this beautiful skien of yarn from Abstract Cat! I won a contest put out by the Playful Day Podcast!

This yarn is in the Playful Day colourway (it is a UK dyer that is how they spell). It is 100% BFL and a generous 400 meters. Sigh I love this colourway, I love BFL for socks, and it is so nice to get yarn in the mail.

If you get a chance (and you also like hearing about England and knitting) take a listen to Playful Day Podcast she is a very insightful woman and a joy to listen to. (No I am not just saying that because I won.)
Can I just say that I LOVE the logo for Abstract cat. I love simple line drawings and I wish that I could do them myself.

Guess what else I have considered I won? Ever since I was a little kid I have had the desire to paint a copy of Starry night by Van Gogh. One thing that was holding me back is that fact that I can not paint. The desire is there, but the talent is not. Maybe one day I will take a class. It will probably be far in the future, waiting until I have mastered Spanish enough to take a class here.

Anyhoo, I found out about a year or so ago that I CAN paint - just not with paints. I can paint with fiber, more specifically wool. This is an art form called needle-felting, and to borrow an expression from my British friends, "it does what it says on the tin"you felt the wool with a needle.
This painting is felting onto a back ground of fine woven wool used for making suits. I have not figured out a good way to "frame" these yet - but I might try a fabric boarder with mitered corners this time. I can not sew so it might be an adventure. If you put these paintings under glass the reflection of the glass takes away from the image's depth making it look more flat. (I spend a lot of time mixing colors, so I do not want to take away from that.)

I feel like I have checked off a big "to do box" on my mental list of what I want to accomplish in life by  finishing this thing. I think I might copy some Monet next.....

I will need some more felt but there are a ton of stores that carry felt (some have real wool felt) here, including a felt store on Calle Mayor I am going to have to check out soon.

Monday, September 12, 2011


I made a rug. :)
It is the size of a standard door mat. I used all sorts of little bits of wool that I had on hand. I am not sure that the camera can catch the way the colors play off of each other, but it is a thing of beauty and many hours of hard work. It is 98% wool (there is some sock wool with nylon content in there) and it feels marvelous, luxurious.

There are not many yarn shops here in Madrid, there are craft stores. They are called "Labores de Hogar" or "labors of home making". They commonly carry a little bit of yarn, needlepoint, cross-stitch, and fabrics for sewing. I have had cause to visit a great many of them recently , and giant cross-stitched rugs were at each one. "What a good way to use up leftover yarn" I thought to myself and promptly started making this.

What personally constitues "art" to me is: 
A.) if it is an oil painting hanging on a wall, or 
B.) it is a piece that make you think, makes you wonder, you can lose yourself in contemplation of it.

I find myself falling into the shapes, colors, and those little points when I crossed the stitches the other direction.

Now I need to find a place where the cats can not destroy it. ;)
Plus it is going to be so warm during winter.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Hello everyone!
I have been usure of what to post recently, as I have not had the time to visit anything exciting.

I have now come to terms with the fact that finding a job is hard in Spain and that I should suspend the search until I receive my working/residency permits in October (hopefully). I am also looking into going back to school to become an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher. For now learning Spanish is my full time job. The more Spanish I know, the more job options I will have.

I have several resources to help me learn:

  • I bought levels 1-5 of Rosetta Stone Spain Spanish before I left the states. I highly recommend this program. Learning a language is difficult, and Rosetta stone really has paved the path and made it easier. I am almost done with level 5, but I am thinking of going back through again for some serious review and taking more advantage of the online resources. My Rosetta Stone is all in Spanish, and helps you earn through images. It also has different sections that helps you speak/write/read/memorize.
  • Intercambios. Intercambios are ideally a language exchange. One hour of one language for one hour of the other. It is an intense and quick way to learn and practice the language. The only reason I did not start them sooner, is that it is a little daunting meeting strangers on their turf. Plus there is the anxiety that you will not be able to communicate. I started intercambios in ernest (every day) about a week and a half before my SIL came to visit, to get my Spanish to a higher level as quick as possible. I have now meet some very nice people and should be able to have intercambios with familiar people on a regular basis. I have also found ways to trade knitting/spinning instruction instead of English for some intercambios.
  • Verb Drills. Enough said right? Spanish has so many ways to say one verb - it is all memorization and practice with them.
  • TV - there is a lot to be said for learn a language through immersion, and watching TV is a way to do it. However there is not always something good on. ;) Recently I have taken to watching game shows. My favorite right now is "Ahora Caigo" mostly because they put the questions up on the screen as they read them. It IS an intense game show though as the name "and now you fall" suggests (the contestants stand on a trap door and will fall if they do not answer the question correctly).
  • Novels - I am reading "the Murder of Roger Ackroyd" by Agatha Christie in Spanish. I got the recommendation from a friend of mine here. She pointed out that Christie writes very clearly and with little slang. If you are familiar with her writing style it makes it quite easy to figure out what is going on. I am currently reading this sans dictionary, and it is going better all the time.

As of yesterday I have finally start talking in Spanish with my Husband! It is only for an hour at a time, but will nicely augment my intercambios. He is from Spain but we have aways talked in English together. Talking in another language with your spouse is quite challenging. I know some of you wonder why we did not start talking in Spanish together before. To which I have to answer: sometimes it is easier to learn from a stranger than those you love best. I have finally made it to the level where I can make myself understood to him with out having to resort back to English for explanations. :)
Small victories sometimes feel large.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


Besides seeing Escorial on Saturday we went to Segovia. One thing is immediately apparent when you are in Segovia, that it is an old city. Not only was it my first time ever in Castile and León but it was my first time seeing a Roman period aqueduct. I have a million photos, but I have narrowed it down to three for the blog. If you want to feast your eyes on more photos of the aqudeuct and the town visit my flickr page.
Below you can see where the aqueduct buts up against the medial wall of the city. The only thing that was less-than-awesome about visiting this city was the fact that we were already so tired, we did not get to see much. There is so much more to see and I definitely see a day trip in our future.
 Well I ever get sick of Spanish tile roofs? Probably not.
 Below is a picture of the "La Mujer Muerta" the mountain range looks like a woman laid out for burial. With her head to the left, her feet to the right, and her stomach being the highest bit. The road we took home had her in view for a long time. It is a shame that I was to tired to try to take pictures en route. Up close you can see where her eye and eyebrow are. Very cool.
 All of the photos here were taken by my husband. He has a good eye, by it does not hurt that Spain is so photogenic. Here are some lovely medial city photos:

 Segovia has it's very own Disney-eske castle: Alcazar. I do not know much more about it than it is pretty, it is definitely an incentive to come back for a visit. I hear the high speed train runs there from Madrid......