Year of the Spindle -Just spinning along


I often get asked “If you have spinning wheels and love to make yarn why on earth would you spin on a spindle it’s so much slower?”

So let me answer in one word – Because!

So why after having several spinning wheels in my house would I want to spin on a spindle?  Because! I know I have a wheel that is designed to fold and placed in a bag and take anywhere to spin whenever I want to, but let’s face it a spindle can fit in my purse and I can take it anywhere.  So there is one reason for the spindle.  But if I am honest that’s not why I use spindles.

Some spinners start on a spindle and like to visit that first love once and awhile. Yea that’s not me either. I was spinning on a wheel for 3 or 4 years before I really embraced the spindle.


So why the heck did I start spinning on the spindle? Because the first spindle in my collection stopped me at a fiber fair and told me it needed to come home with me. So of course I bought it.  I took it home and there is sat for a year, collecting dust while it waited for me to get to it. It was the next year that I was attending the same fiber fair that I decided to take a class on who to use it.  And at that point I fell in love with spindles.  So like any other good collector of fiber tools my collection of spindles has grown. I believe I have over 20 at this point with at least one more on the way.

For the most part I use top whorl spindles because that is what I first learned on and for quite awhile that was the only style that I was able to find at fairs and in stores.  However for the past couple of years I have seen more and more Russian spindles and bottom whorls showing up for sale.  As a rule I prefer to purchase my spindles in person, that way I can allow the woods or artistic style to speak to me. Sometimes I will order one online but it’s usually from a maker I already have purchased from in the past and I know they will be usable.

As a rule I like dark and interesting woods so I usually lean towards those. So far I have been unable to find a spindle that I think would be just lovely, an ebony shaft and a purple heart whorl. I have been told that those two woods are on the heavy side so it wouldn’t work, but I bet there is a spindle maker out there that could make it work. So if you are looking for a tester of my idea I am willing to do a bit of quality control for you just let me know.

My favorite spindle maker is Tom Forrester. Sadly because of illness he is no longer making spindles so I prize that two that I have.  I also love Elizabeth Dailey of Greensleeves spindles and have quite a few of hers.  As a matter of fact one of hers was my first.

There are a few spindle makers that I have been wanted to get, however I have not been able to purchase in person thus why I don’t have any Bosworth or Golding’s. Some day.


As I start off my year of the spindle I chose to use one of my Forrester spindles. I have so far spun a little less than an ounce of a wool and silk blend from my stash. I am thinking it’s from Ashland bay but I’m not 100% sure as it’s been in my stash for awhile.  I have a total of 2 ounces and it’s spinning up very fine so that I am thinking it will be for a shawl or at least a lace scarf.

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Free day! What to do?

Today what one of the first free Saturdays that I have had in a long time.  Ok I really can’t remember when I had the last one. So when I woke up I thought a bit about what I wanted to do for the day.  I decided that I would pull out a wool appliqué project and work on it.

I turned on some vintage cheese ball westerns and ended up working on two projects that were in my to do basket.  Don’t you just love Roy Rogers for getting projects done.

I know it’s still winter for at least another month but I can’t help but think of spring projects. My first was a candle matt of cardinals. One of my friends gave me the pattern and I have to say it was fun to stitch up.


Yesterday I found the teeny tiny buttons at a craft store. I didn’t have any idea what I was going to do with them as they are so very small but I think the black ones made great little eyes for the birds.


Another thing I didn’t differently was to use a plaid flannel as the back ground. I am really please with how it turned out.


The second piece is a wall hanger. I have so far made a fall and winter one, so I thought it was time to make a spring one. I go the flower and boarder idea from a pin cushion pattern on Pinterest. I kind of think it’s a little bit for a pin cushion , but it I think it works for  this wall hanger.  Not to mention any time I can use some of my buttons on a project it’s a good day.



Another thing I did differently was I used a fabric glue stick to tack the small piece in place to help with stitching. I didn’t even know there was such a thing until I found it at the craft store.  Ok you guessed it I went to several craft stores yesterday to see what was new. I will say I did find some neat ideas and I also found out why there are some that I don’t usually frequent.  So I can let you know there will be some neat things coming in the next few weeks.

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Rowan-ing a long



I have to say as a goal for the year knitting with Rowan is really not hard work at all. It’s a real joy.

I came across this pattern a few months ago and was waiting for the perfect yarn to make it. Well once I received and order of 4 balls of Rowan Fine Art Aran weight in Foxtrot, from eBay, I knew this was the pattern that would be perfect for it.

I really like to knit lace and but not necessarily in fine yarns. Sometimes a simple design lends to heavy worsted to aran weight yarn. The Old Shale shawl pattern does just that. (

And as another rule I don’t like using variegated yarns for lace patterns. I would rather let the lace shine in a project instead of the yarn. Rowan fine art aran is a hand painted yarn that has short bits of color changes that I think in this project works well.



One thing that has come up so for with working with RowIMG_4198an yarn is mohair. For some reason I’m not one who uses a lot of mohair. I’m not totally sure why.  As a spinner I will say cleaning a mohair fleece is a bit of a challenge that I’m not always willing to take on, so maybe that’s one of the reasons I haven’t used much mohair in the past.  Nor are there many mohair yarns available so it’s short of a new for me to use a mohair blend yarn. Rowan has several yarns with mohair and I am looking forward to getting to know them.  Both Fine art and Fine art Aran are a blend of 50% wool, 20% mohair, 5% silk and 25% alpaca. So it’s warm, soft and has lots of body to it, which again is great for lace knitting.

There was a bit of a bummer for this project, not enough of a problem for me to never use this yarn again. Because it’s as hand paint you need to keep that in mind when knitting a project that will take more than one skein, you may have to blend the yarn to keep from having drastic changes in saturation.  Eve in the same dye lots this can happen.  Which was the issue for this project. In this project I didn’t really worry about this, thus the bummer factor. The first skein I knit with turns out to be a bit lighter than all the others. However because the color changes are so short it’s not something I am really going to worry too much about, so the top part of the shawl is a bit lighter than most of the rest.


Over all I will say I really liked working this this yarn and I love the color way. The pattern was a fun knit so it was a wonderful overall project to make.


Rowan also makes a Fine Art sock weight yarn and I can give you a bit of a hint and let you know that there will be some socks as future projects.

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New Year New Idea!



I know we are well into the year 2015 but I am really excited to announce an endeavor for me. I have recently opened an etsy store.  This has been something I have been thinking about and by many asked to open.  I have to admit I was and I guess still am a bit overwhelmed with the whole idea.  When it comes to marketing, selling and promoting myself, all I can say is “I’m a mom, I have no idea what I’m doing!”


But I think 2015 is time to take that leap of faith and see what happens. Who knows where this might lead.  I might end up the next big design house or I might close up and come up with some other way to help support my family.


So if you are looking for a great way to support local USA made products and artists then please check out what we have in the Yarns N Threads Fiber Mill Etsy Store – you never know what you might find us making at the mill.


At this point I have hand spun yarns, hand knit items, hand woven pieces and even some handmade hand dyed items. They are all handmade in Idaho by me or other family members of the Fiber Mill.  There are  future plans for downloadable patterns and eBooks, hand forged items from our resident blacksmith, wool appliqué supplies and kits , punch needle patterns and kits.  So please keep checking back to see what new.

You can also find updates, here at this blog.

Like us on facebook at Yarns N Threads Fiber Mill, so you can be a part of future contests and other fun events that will be planned for later this year.


So if you are looking for some uniquely handmade items then is the place to find all handmade items from Idaho please stop by and see what we have to offer.

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Another Year of Rowan Project – Sort of…



As you know this is my year of Rowan. Just as a reminder I am using for the most part only Rowan yarns or Rowan patterns.  This technically isn’t a 2015 Rowan project, because I knit it back in October for the January/ February 2015 Piecework magazine. So because it was published for I’m counting it.

I normally don’t work with cotton especially 100% cotton.  I’m not really sure why but I mostly stick with wool or other animal fibers so this is another bit of a departure for me. I was able to choose what yarn I wanted to work with for this design so I chose Rowan Cotton Glace. I will say I really like it. As you can see in the picture how the tassels look. If you look really close there isn’t any fraying.  I just got my pattern sample back in the mail and I will tell you it looks exactly the same after all the handling that goes into publishing. So that tells me it’s a very well made yarn.



I chose the color 730 Oyster because I felt it looked more antique then a white or cream. It comes in 38 shades so I am sure there is at least one that will work for whatever your project might be.



The pattern was translated by me for the “Tell them of us” project. The original pattern was first published in 1902 in Fancy and Practical Knitting by the Butterick Publishing Company.  Because this is a bib a nice tightly spun yarn works great for the purpose intended, because its cotton it’s still soft so great for next to baby wear.


So my assessment is Rowan Cotton Glace is a great all around cotton yarn. I would love to at some point use it for a summer sweater or shell.

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Let the year of Rowan begin!


As you might have read, one of my goals for 2015 is to make it the year of Rowan. I plan on concentrate on either Rowan yarn or Rowan patterns for the year. Now I know there will be a few projects slip in that aren’t going to be Rowan but for the most part they will be made from Rowan yarns or from Rowan patterns.

So now that 2015 is here it’s time to get started. My first project is a cowl made with Rowan Chunky Print. This is a discontinued yarn that I picked up on EBay. Normally I usually don’t work with bulky yarn or large needles or bright colors, so this was a bit of departure for me. As a matter of fact I had to dig out my size 15 needles to make this cowl. But I figure if you are going to mix things up at the New Year this is the project that fills the bill.

I found the pattern on Ravelry   for free, and it was well written and very easy to knit up. I was able to start and finish this pattern while watching a movie. Yep it’s that easy.

You can find this pattern at;


Rowan Chunky Print, like I said is discontinued however it was easy to find on eBay and other online places. I used color 77 which is a bright color way. I wouldn’t say its rainbow as to me it doesn’t really look like rainbow, but it is very colorful.  It’s a plied super bulky 2 ply yarn and is 100% wool. Each ball comes in 110 yards, which was plenty for this project. I wouldn’t say its super soft as maybe merino however it’s not really scratchy either. I don’t think it will be a problem to wear in next to the skin.  Even though it was super bulky and not my normal colors it was fun to knit and the yarn was great to work with. I was even able to add a couple of vintage buttons to close off the total look.



For more information on this project you can find it at my Ravelry page here;

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And I asked myself – How did I get here?

Cast members of Tell them of us

As a fiber artist I have had the great honor to work on some really cool projects. For years I was a test knitter and crocheter for high end yarn companies. I worked for an online website designing over 30 patterns .I have worked with designers helping with their tech editing. I have also been blessed to teach quite a few people to knit, crochet, tat, spin and weave.

Crocheted Motor cap crocheted by Melanie Smith

Each student and project has taught me to be a better teacher and fiber artist which in turns have made me a better person.

Behind the scenes of Tell Them of Us. Shawl knit by Melanie Smith

Having accomplished all these things when ask what was the greatest project you are most proud of, I would have to say the Tell Them of Us project.  Working with great knitters and crocheters and producers, this past summer has been such a blessing to me. Then to watch my work along with others on film and to contribute to a pattern book, really raises the cool factor. Although my part was small it was still my proudest so far in my fiber arts career.


The song lyrics from and old 80’s “and I asked myself, How did I get here” comes to mind.

When I think about the Tell Them of Us project it’s not just the knitting and crochet but more importantly the whole idea of the movie. It’s a rememberance of the fear and loss that the war to end all wars, came to all the families of Europe, the British Empire and North America.  And it was for nothing really, so much loss of life. Such a sad time in our history. The movie does such a wonderful tribute to not only the Crowder family but all families and I am so honored to be a small part of it.



From this project I was able to write a bit about it for Piecework Magazine (Jan/Feb 2015), which has its own cool factor. I just got my copy of the issue in the mail today. I haven’t seen it until today and the editors did a great job on my article, which just adds to the fun of this entire project.


If you would like to order a copy of the DVD of the film you can get it from here.


If you would like to purchase a copy of the pattern book with 74 turn of the century patterns re-written in modern terms you can order here.



If you would like to check out the Piecework issue you can find it at most books stores newsstands or order from here. IMG_3986

There is also a really cute pattern I worked on for both the movie and Piecework  magazine after the article in the same issue.

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