Monday, February 21, 2011

A Small Dye Event

You would think that snow up to my chin would be perfect weather for dyeing...not so much!Not only is the snow deep, but it is too cold out there to open the window for ventilation! But, I was getting REALLY BORED spinning white cotton. I was getting good at it, but it looked like I was making kite string...and who wants to run around in chin deep snow with a kite? Well, who COULD anyways!

But then, I remembered my Procion dyes. They do not require cooking. So, I grabbed the 3ply cotton yarn I had spun, some carded cotton roving and some random Tencel roving and did a tiny dye session.

Cotton is very hard to wet down. I had to squeeze it under water the push out the air and encourage the water to penetrate. I painted one hank of cotton roving, the hank of tencel and the 3 ply cotton I had spun. I also dyed 2 other hanks of cotton by pouring color onto them in a zip lock bag.

The dye did not penetrate to the core of the rovings, but, so far, they are spinning very nicely. The white core, when it comes to the surface, just forms white tweedy flecks. It is really very lovely on my bobbin. I had wondered if the roving would be hard to draft after the harsh compression...but, no, it is easy peasy. I am spinning the cotton on my Hansenn eSpinner while I read a novel. I saw Rita Buchanan do it, so I figured I would try it.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Spreading the joy through KIVA

Sues's Luxury Fibers has made KIVA loans to
Sebastiana Gutierrez Quispe to help her buy paint and canvas and to

Anush Baghdasaryan to help her advance her sewing business.

Thank you so much for making this possible.

Friday, February 11, 2011


The first order of ribbons has arrived! SO PRETTY! They will be appearing on the aprons and bags any day now!

Monday, February 7, 2011

PEACE: a dream & an aspiration

I have always been a multimedia artist...always!
I have always worked in series, in themes, working toward meaning.

Materials and process excite me. I love to manipulate and build things. I love to enter the deep history of a material and feel myself as part of a larger story of making that goes back for millennia.

I worked for many years in clay, inserting myself into the twentieth century segment of the history of clay that began around the fires of hunter gatherers. I understood, in my fingers, the importance of the discovery of fired clay and how it helped to preserve food stuffs in an ever changing environment.

I then worked many years in handmade paper and books...inserting my work into the continuum of the dissemination of knowledge that exploded with the invention of movable type! Oh my! How that changed the world!

And then, sheep happened!
No, I do not own sheep. I live in the middle of a big city and I don't really relish the idea of husbandry ( sheep, crap, you know?) But, when I learned to spin, I became part of an innovative history that allowed us to clothe ourselves more efficiently.

Wool, cotton, silk...they all fascinate me. ( I haven't tried linen yet, but it is coming!) How on earth did someone discover that if you twisted some fibers together, they would lock and hold their form. And then if you knotted them, interlaced them, agitated them they would hold together in a sheet that you could wrap around yourself...How on earth did humanity DO this, over and over again, in all areas of the world? Wow.

And then there was Mahatma Gandhi, using the spinning of cotton to overthrow colonialism in India. Peaceful resistance. Hmm. The power of a simple thread.

PEACE! It is a dream and and aspiration. What if we really could achieve world peace? Grandiose, incredibly unlikely. But, I have noticed that when I spin, personal peace descends. Spinning fibers makes my shoulders settle down, the frowns leave my forehead, and I forget the minutia that were driving me crazy a few moments before.

So, in Sue's utopia, perhaps we would all spin as a way to connect to our deep shared human history and as a way to find, even for a moment, personal peace.

Cinnamon Baby Llama

You can almost smell the cookies baking! The natural cinnamon color of this baby llama fiber is remarkable! $4.50 per ounce....and an ounce will spin 40 + yards 2ply sport weight. Just think how many yards you could spin laceweight! Available from Sue's Luxury Fiber and Susan Hensel Gallery

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Taming Wild Camels..and cashmere and alpaca and mohair...

Most common spinning fibers, even Merino, are not too messy to deal with. You get a few fibers on yourself, easily handled with a lint brush or a ball of masking tape. But, whenever I spin the camelids or the cashmeres, or even adult mohair, I am covered head to toe with fiber...A LOT OF FIBER. At the last WILD WOOL MARKET of the season, I was spinning cashmere. Now cashmere costs more than most fibers, even when it is a deal. I got up to service a customer or put on the coffee for the exhibitors or something... I think there may have been more cashmere on me than on the bobbin! Most of the fiber on my leg was reclaimed, but not in the lovely aligned manner in which it had begun! So, I began to think about what was needed to tame these wildly luxurious fibers.

AN APRON! But not just any apron. It had to be long enough to cover a reasonable amount of your lap. OK, that kept the fibers on your lap, getting tangled and sticking, waiting to be brushed off. HMMM.

Eureka! a pocket!

DANG! The fibers stuck to the cotton pocket.

DOUBLE EUREKA! A satin lined pouch to hold the fiber! Less fiber sticks to satin, less waste, and it is contained in one small area.
I'm starting to make them and soon they will be in my Esty shop.

Alpaca silk!!!!

The Alpaca silk is a dream to spin with! Holding it in your fiber hand is a cloud-like experience! Talk about luxury! And an ounce only sets you back $4.50! Such a deal!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

KIVA loans

One of the most amazing gifts I ever received from my son was a KIVA card for Mother's Day last year. Although we do not live in the same state, John and I are close. We talk often. But gifts? for Mother's Day? Not so much. I'm usually working on Mother's Day anyways. But last year, he blew me away with a KIVA card. What a superb gift!

I loaned the $25 gift to Ana. She is 27 years old, a widow and has a young child. She lives in the jungle of Ayacucho, where she has her own house made of wood. Ana had wanted to study agronomy, but due to her economic situation, she couldn’t finish her secondary studies, and her plans never worked out. She understood that she could not depend on her parents, so she began work as a laborer on her neighbor’s farm. All the money that she earned, she saved up. Now she has her own land to cultivate, produce and sell cacao and coffee. “It’s not possible” does not exist for her. For this reason, she has already found her niche in the market, generating quite a degree of success for her young age. Her success is due to her early mornings at her farm, to give it needed attention. In general, she works Monday through Saturday, from 5:30am until 6:00pm. Normally, her products are sold at centers in her community. In the future, she plans to put in a grocery store to diversify her market. ... Ana invested this money in fertilizers and other consumables, with the goal of improving her cacao and coffee plantations.

Ana's story appealed to me because, like me, she was widowed very young and had to figure out what to do next. I had far more luck than she, being born where and when I was. When I was widowed I already had my education and deep roots in my community.

Ana paid back her loan right on time. I have subsequently re-loaned the original amount to Sebastiana Gutierrez Quispe, an artist, also form Peru. She is right on schedule with her payments as well.

I want to expand my activities on KIVA with your help. I announced a few days ago that I will be lending 5% of the gross sales of Sue's Luxury fiber to women associated with the arts at KIVA.ORG. The minimum loan is $25 and we have already almost reached that benchmark! WOW! THANK YOU! I'll keep you posted!

Meanwhile, you, too, can make a difference. go to KIVA.ORG and see.

Silver Baby Llama

The silver baby llama is a dream to spin with. I spun around 40 yards of sport weight 2 ply from one ounce of fiber (The tag on the yarn is inaccurate! I wrote down the revolutions on the swift rather than the yardage! duh!). The fiber cries out to be laceweight though! Think how much yarn you could get from an ounce then!
At $4.50 per ounce, it is truly affordable luxury. Come to the Susan Hensel Gallery to shop or shop on Etsy!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

I've been thinking...

Since the fibers have been occupying more and more of my imagination, it seemed like time to begin working on the mission and planning . Here's what I have so far. Any comments?
The Mission of Sue's Luxury Fiber is:
• to spred the joy of fibers
• to offer affordable luxury fibers for spinners, knitters, weavers, felters, dyers
• to donate 5% of each sale to

What is KIVA? is a micro loan agency that helps people in third worl d countries start-up or maintain businesses. Sue' Luxury Fiber lends to women in the arts or crafts. The re-payment rate at Kiva is very high, enabling the lender to re-loan and pay it forward.

How does Sue define Luxury?
soft, fine, shiny, colorful, and sometimes rare

What might you find at Sue's?
beautiful baby llama roving
lustrous yearling mohair top
merino/silk blend top
BFL/silk blend top
Alpaca/silk blend top
sparkling Firestar
twinkling Angelina
hand dyed tops and roving of various sorts
silk noil
handspun yarns
hand dyed scarves
handmade bags and aprons

The Sampling has begun...with the baby llama

Over the last few days, I have begun sampling the new fibers. I withdrew one lovely ounce from each of the three balls of baby llama top. OH MY! What a treat! I spun the yarns on my Hansen e-Spinner. I set the machine to allow me to spin a moderate, sort of sport weight, reasonably fluffy yarn. When you spin from top, you are spinning well aligned fiber with little air, making, generally, a firmer, smoother yarn. I attempted to maintain a certain drapiness and luxury, and succeeded. My favorite may be the three ply I did with one ply of each color: cinnamon, silver & grey. The silver reads as sky blue when plied with the grey and cinnamon!