May 16, 2020

MAY, 2020


May 23 (Saturday) - Spinning at the Winery - cancelled.

Ongoing - Monday Spinning via Zoom.  Contact Pam M. for information.


With the cancellations of shows and classes, don't forget to support our small fiber businesses and farms.  Email info to me for any businesses you'd like to highlight here, and look for shopping opportunities in previous blog entries, in the links in the "Ongoing Fiber-Related Classes & Workshops' section & columns to the right in the newsletter.

Lisa W.


From Donna S.:

This is my grandmother who was a nurse during the flu epidemic in Philadelphia about 100 years ago. The other photo is of her Red Cross knitting bag she carried at the time. She met her husband while nursing his grandchildren thru the Spanish flu. A few years later - my mother Anne was born . Some good things come from an epidemic. And now, just as then, we have knitting to feed our soul.

From Dawn J.:

Here's a picture of what happens when you buy flax seeds from Chico Flax at a guild meeting. The flax was planted on November 17, and harvested on May 1. It's currently drying under cover on my upstairs porch.

From Amy B.: 

5000+ yards in the first 35 of #the100dayproject. Have another 8oz bobbin almost filled. That's what I have been doing in the evenings.


Hello everyone. Vilija, it was nice getting an update on life in the heartland and to see the process of getting settled. 

So I last left you with me starting a re-weave challenge on a piece of cotton ikat cloth with a flaw in the warp. In hindsight it seems so long ago, and so much has happened in the world, it feels tiny, but it’s a bit of focus that kept -keeps my interest. Zen, perhaps? I wondered if I could do what my grandmother used to do repairing fine suit cloth. Knowing my grandpa (aka Gramps) she probably had no shortage of work. They fixed and repaired things in their generation. I think there was no fast fashion and no debate about it.

I clipped, pulled and sorted out all the threads that involved the flaw, and I did managed to weave a few threads. 

Then the call to action was made across the nation for people to sew face masks for medical first responders. 

I answered.

I rummaged my small fabric stash and sacrificed my fun Monaluna cottons and large scraps of cotton to start. By chance I shared with my employer and clients what I was doing with my time stuck at home and out of work. A few days later my boss asked for masks for his nuclear family. With one child returning home from the Peace Corp in Europe and another being sent home from college closures (and with an asymptomatic case of Covid-19), they were in medical quarantine. A day later a text asking if I was interested in work sewing for the bread company his brother owns, helping make mask for their employees. I figured it was a win-win since the food chain was important to help protect too. They wanted reusable/sustainable mask to free up relying on the single-use ones needed for the pandemic response, and it would provide me with some much needed income. I accepted and began after I finished my current batch. Fortunately, Steve‘s wife had the foresight to order and provide for me the elastic that was in scarce supply everywhere. 

About 160 masks later,  I was back making colorful mask for friends, family, and medical donation. John Muir medical was requesting mask be made of fabric with 700 thread count. Hmm, am I supposed to go to Restoration Hardware to buy and cut up a set of sheets? Kaiser took awhile to reply to my email and was meh over what I had already sewn stating they’d take mine this time, but referred their own design with ties and please go here  for download (No link, just me illustrating). I sent masks to my brother, sister, niece and her spouse that are all in the medical field. Others went to NorthBay Medical center staff in the north Bay Area, and to some vulnerable friends I know with autoimmune issues. My son specifically requested a splashy rainbow unicorn for a little fun irony. After sewing items in production line quantities, strung together like little Tibetan prayer flags,  I’ve come away in lockdown with a great respect for garment workers around the world. Oh, and pay attention to the width when buying a bolt of fabric. I have all the cotton muslin I’ll ever need in the foreseeable future.

Finished pressing pre-pinned pleats!  (try saying that really fast 3 times)

Ready for more pleating.

I figured out a few hacks on my last batch of masks. I used Hanes girls leggings (L,M)cut in 1” cross sections when I ran out of elastic. Stretch then cut the rings and they roll up into a perfect length strip. To make the mask ear strap design adjustable, instead of sewing the ends of the elastic into the corners of the mask, I sew in the top end as normal and sew in a loop on the bottom corners to feed the strap through. The wearer can pull the strap and knot to desired fit.  

As for the reweave? I had Stonemountain and that ikat fabric item saved on my browser just in case. I’m still picking along, but bought a few replacement yards anyway. And Grandma, you are legend!

I hope you are all well.  Cheers.

Doris B.


We often travel to Coos Bay, OR, where good friends have a vacation home and invite the whole card group to a week of cards and food there. Several of us travel and stay in RV’s and the rest fill the vacation house and spill over into VRBO spaces. Most of our days are spent exploring the South Oregon coast. One day we were out looking for blueberry bushes to plant at the vacation home. We looked at several box stores and found a couple small local nurseries. One nursery looked like a “hobby” business, filled with small pots of numerous varieties. There was no particular rhyme to the placement, so we looked through each pot to see what was growing there for sale. Near the front gate was a 6 inch pot with a small green plant, labeled Indigofera tinctoria. I picked it up and asked the proprietor if indeed this was a correct label. By now, she know our group was from California. She said it was correct, but she didn’t think it was allowed in California, maybe a noxious weed? Hmmm. Do I leave it there, unappreciated for what it could become? Do I risk losing it at the California border and have it destroyed? Decisions, decisions! I decided that, if needed, I would fabricate a tale for the California border patrol. We usually came home down I-5 and have yet to be searched after asking if we have contraband. Knock on wood, we squeaked through.

The plant found a home in my front yard. It is planted in it’s pot with the sides of the pot split. The weather in the north side of my yard near the eaves of the house is nothing like the south Asia continent where Indigofera lives, so my little plant has limped along for a number of years. Each year, it bravely puts out some spindly stems and drapes them with lovely oval leaves and light magenta clusters of flowers that look like pea flowers. One year, I tried harvesting a few leaves and putting them to “ferment” in a glass jar. There was just a smudge in the bottom after months, so I just let my plant be a non-productive decoration. A couple of years ago, it sent out a runner, probably looking for the sun. I cautiously turned a blind eye, hoping for more leaves to harvest. The runner has been the only one so far, but the plant must have felt safe, as it has lots more leaves this year. I carefully plucked leaves from most stems, starting near the bottom to let the new leaves mature and multiply.

I had looked through my books on natural dying that covered techniques and recipes. None had any more information or instruction that the monograph from Handeye, written by Michele Wipplinger of Earthues. She says to pick mature leaves and pound them, then let them”ferment” covered in alkaline water. My little plant offered a quart of leaves! Putting them in a flat bottomed plastic disposable bowl, I found a heavy, flat bottomed liquor jug and squashed away. When most leaves looked bruised, I filled a quart canning jar half full of water and put two tablespoons of lye crystals in to dissolve. When the liquid cooled a bit, I carefully spooned the bruised leaves into the jar and filled it to the neck with more water. Covering the mouth with plastic wrap secured with a rubber band, the jar is relegated to the back patio table. It has been there for two weeks so far and the liquid is quite dark, appearing to be a dark green. I have been very careful handling the jar without gloves. The hot weather surely has helped the fermentation process, but I have no idea when to stop it! The next step is to vigorously paddle the colored water to incorporate lots of air. I have seen YouTube scenes of men in India standing knee deep in the blue water, sloshing the mix to a froth, surely they are not in lye water! What pH do I adjust the water to aerate? There are some major holes in the technique’s description. For now, I am just letting the leaves ferment and hope I can find some info on the pH. Let me know if any of you have such information.

After aeration, the water is carefully siphoned off and the sediment on the bottom is the dye pigment to scoop up and dry. I would be thrilled if my forbidden plant could give me a teaspoon of indigo! I will settle for a few seeds.

Linda B.


In March 2020, the last Saturday that the Contra Costa Libraries were open (it happened that the libraries unexpectedly closed before the shelter in place was declared), I was standing in front of the New Books section at the Martinez Library with a friend who is the best person to run into at the library. She reads everything. She also liberally recommends books. She reached up to the shelf and said “You will probably like this one.”

I checked it out, and several days later, the libraries closed, and all due dates were pushed forward to June 1st. For the record, I had eleven other books checked out at the time.

The book I write about today is The Golden Thread: How Fabric Changed History, by Kassia St. Clair. It was copyrighted in 2018, but first American publication was just last year, 2019. As an aside, the author also wrote one of my favorite books, The Secret Lives of Colors. Check that book out if you are interested in the origin of common pigments.

St. Clair writes about fabric from prehistory through the present and discusses in detail the production and historical context for various fabrics and fibers. She also notes that our history tends to be the history of men’s activities, so the eras that are called the Age of Iron, or the Age of Bronze, from the point of view of women might be called the Age of Spindle or the Age of Loom.

Much of women’s work is fiber-related, and fiber is notoriously short-lived, therefore there are few examples of fiber or fabric more than a few hundred years old, and fabrics five hundred years old or a thousand years old are nonexistent. However, with more modern technology, archeologists and researchers can find wisps of fibers and impressions of fabrics that cannot be seen by the naked eye. Example: fine beads found in the Indus Valley dating back to the 6th millennium BC, when examined under microscopes, were found to have shreds of the cotton thread that they were strung on.

The author covers linen, wool, silk, cotton, and modern threads and textiles. Almost all of the earliest known manmade fibers were made using flax. Wild flax originated in the Mediterranean, Iran and Iraq, and presumably, prior to the domestication of sheep, was easier to gather and process than wool.

Let me tell you a few things that caught my interest, culled from various chapters in the book.

In England, in 1750, the most common paid employment for women was spinning. An unmarried woman could spin six pounds of wool a week. A married woman (who apparently was kept busy in other ways) could spin two pounds of wool a week.

King Tut’s shroud was made of 100 to 200 count linen. When the pharoah’s tomb was discovered, absolutely no care was taken in removing the linen wrappings from the mummy. Interest was in gold, of course, and not in the fabric. Later excavations took some measurements of the linen shrouds. Queen Hatnofer’s shroud was 1.7 yards wide, 5.5 yards long, but weighed only 5 ozs. Now THAT is fine fabric!! Also, paintings on tomb walls circa 2649-2150 BC show the blue flax fields of Egypt.

From paintings and pottery, it seems that distaffs did not appear until Roman times. Egyptian Middle Kingdom representations show women spinning with flax roves wound into balls, and placed in pots. The spinners would draw the thread from the pots, and spin with spindles in both hands. Another interesting note: Egyptians consistently spun an S-twist, presumably in both hands. [Perhaps we could try double handed spindle spinning in a future guild meeting. ]

Egyptians used horizontal ground looms until around 1500BC. In later years there is evidence of upright looms using warp weights, which were apparently in use until sometime in the European Middle Ages.

Then there are the chapters about the Vikings. Did you know (and forgive me if I was the last to learn) that the Viking sails were made from wool? A Norse spinner could spin 30 to 50 meters of wool per hour using spindle and distaff. A single sail was 90 square meters, which would take 2 ½ modern working years (assuming 40 hours per week?) to weave! Entire villages would work spinning and weaving to provide sails. Wool thread production would have been vastly increased through the use of spinning wheels, which seem to have arrived in Europe sometime between 1000 and 1200.

The author suggests that the Vikings began exploring (and pillaging) Europe and England, to find more sheep, since they needed so much wool to run the ships.

There were multiple chapters about silk and cotton, the medieval wool trade, and lacemaking., emphasizing the work of women and the impact fabrics had on economies.

I highly recommend for those of us interested in the fiber arts.

The Golden Thread How Fabric Changed History, by Kassia St. Clair

292 pages, with glossary, bibliography, notes and index.

Sheila P. 


Hidden Powers of a Sheep - shared by Rosemary B.

Colour Your Own Sheep


Contact the seller directly.  No exchange of $$ at the library is allowed.


SOLD - 25" Schacht Tapestry Loom and A-Frame Stand, $125 for both.  Still in original packages.  Total retail $197 + tax.  

Selling together for $125.  No-contact pick up from my porch in San Ramon.  Payment by cash, check or Venmo.  Contact Lisa W.



For any events that aren't listed as 'Cancelled', please check with the organizer or venue.

Spinning At The Winery, Retzlaff Winery, Livermore, May 23, 2020 - Cancelled

Black Sheep Gathering, Albany, OR, June 26-28, 2020.  - Cancelled

HGA Convergence 2020, Knoxville, TN, July 23 - 30, 2020 - HGA Convergence has postponed until 2022:  The HGA Board has determined the safest course of action is to postpone the Convergence® conference we had planned for July 2020 until July 15-21, 2022. It is HGA’s intent to offer the same program in 2022 as we had scheduled for 2020. This includes sessions, tours, special events and more. We will also have twice as many exhibits. Artists who were juried into the 2020 exhibits will be invited to show their work alongside the 2022 exhibiting artists. We hope you will make plans to join HGA for Convergence® in 2022.

FiberEvents - a calendar of wool festivals, fiber festivals, knitting, crocheting & craft gatherings/events in the U.S. and the world

Clara Parkes' Knitter's Review - knitting and fiber events


Black Rock Ranch (Stinson Beach)

Crockett Fiber Arts Studio (Crockett)

Fibershed (various locations)

Fiber Circle Studio (Cotati)

Meridian Jacobs (Vacaville)

West County Fiber Arts (Sebastopol)

Windrush Farm (Petaluma)