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"The HUB" Vol. XXI, No. 4
Bimonthly newsletter of July-August 2000


August 5, 2000, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., "The Woods"
***NOTE LOCATION***NOTE LOCATION***NOTE LOCATION***NOTE LOCATION*** The August meeting will be our annual picnic at the Spencers' home ("The Woods") - see directions below.


Judy Mackenroth will teach this program about different sheep breeds and their fleeces. Judy will bring samples from 16 different breeds, and Nancy Washok will bring several more. Bring your own interesting or unusual fleece samples to the meeting for us to study and learn about - Judy will help us understand their characteristics and uses. Judy will provide handouts; bring a stapler or tape to attach fleece samples.

We will have a business meeting at 10:00 followed by the program and playtime. Bring your spinning wheel or projects, your family, a dish to share for a potluck picnic, and your bathing suit and towel. Sue has dishes, silverware, and cups and will make lots of iced tea and lemonade. She will provide lawn chairs and a few straight-back chairs for spinning. There is a hot tub and also a pond with inner tubes and boats (and life vests). Sue adds, "Remember, this is not a real house, it's a cabin in The Woods."

  DIRECTIONS to The Woods: Call Sue if you need directions.


This Hub is a joint production between me and our new editor, Laura Fry. Hopefully, the transfer of editorship will be complete by next issue as we get all the computing problems worked out. Many thanks to Laura for taking this on!

-Ann Sheffield


If it is time to renew your Interweave Press publications, please consider doing it through the guild. It is usually $2-3 less than a regular subscription and if we submit five, we get one free subscription for the guild library. Call or e-mail Barb Lodge at, and she will coordinate the order. Be sure to include the month when your subscription expires.

Guild Library News: We are missing several magazines! Please check out your stuff to see if you have guild issues of Weaver's, Handwoven, or SpinOff.

EGLFC: Chautauqua Weaver's Guild will be hosting the Eastern Great Lakes Fiber Conference next summer. It will be on the grounds of the Chautauqua Institute in October. Keep watching for news of this conference less than one hour's drive from Erie.

MAFA: Because of major renovations at Bucknell University, MAFA will not be able to meet there in 2001. No decision has been made yet, but it looks like the conference will probably meet at Towson University, Towson, MD.

The guild needs a scrapbook keeper. Is there someone willing to organize and maintain our scrapbook?


Treasurer's report:

Checking balance: $1436.63
Savings balance: $1488.94

We earned a total of $308 at the Highland Games in Edinboro: $100 for demonstrating, donation of $78 for one shawl; two others sold for $65 each. The weather was cold and drizzly, but we had a good time anyway.

Sue Spencer thanked her board and the members who participated at the Highland Games. The new slate of officers was nominated and unanimously approved.

President: Karen Fry
Joint Vice-Presidents: Cheryl Geist-Brozell and Kate Arkwright
Treasurer: Bonnie Crytzer
Secretary: Barb Lodge

Laura Fry volunteered to be the new Hub editor. Jill Rouke will continue to print/mail the newsletter.

The Guild Service Award was presented to Elaine Fertig, beautifully framed by Ilene's husband, Bob Elliston. Barb explained that the handwoven overshot motif in the award was designed by Sigrid and is based on the guild name. Sigrid warped the guild table loom and various members took turns weaving the motifs. Ilene says there is only 2 or 3 left and we should think about weaving more for future awards.

Sue suggested that something special should be done for Ann Sheffield in recognition of her seven years as editor. Ruth Walker-Daniels suggested an alpaca fleece from Sandy Volpe. Sandy will give her a choice on color.

Guild equipment rental agreements were discussed. Sue will update the existing ones. Back of newsletter also needs to be updated--Karen Fry, loom; Sandy Volpe, wheel (secretary did not get name of new carder person). Membership list is not done yet and was promised for next time.

Bonnie Crytzer reported on the Forest Fiber Fest. Brochures are printed and available through Sue at the church to be distributed. Take packets of them to other guilds; put copies in public places. Barb will notify area newspapers (except Bonnie will do Oil City). Bonnie has vendor applications for people interested in selling. Sue, Ilene and Ruth will take turns tending the guild sale table (10% of sales go to the guild), Barb will set up the coffee table and Karen Fry will organize the games. Members were reminded to bring cookies for the coffee table.

Meeting place rental was discussed. It was agreed that it was worth more than the $35 we paid to Boro Hall and $100/year was proposed and approved. Sue, Ruth, Elaine, and Barb have moved the library to Christ Church and it is now in a closet off the meeting room. A key to the library cabinet is at the church--see Sue.

August meeting. Elaine reported that Judy Mackenroth will present samples from 18 sheep. Bring staplers or tape to append samples to the handout. The guild will underwrite cost of handouts.

The October meeting will be a celebration of our 20th anniversary. It was suggested to have a luncheon and "war" stories by older members and "dreams by younger members.

Workshop 2001: Amy Albrecht suggested we try to engage someone from the list of artisans provided by the PCA. She will prepare the next grant proposal. A news item was read regarding a free workshop to inform local artists of apprenticeships/fellowships in folk and traditional arts in Oil City, June 13. Cheryl asked for program ideas for next year, especially for input from weavers.

Show and Tell: Janet Smouse showed a twined purse; Laura Fry a stack of twined samplers she and Karen did at the Bobbie Irwin workshop.


This year's Forest Fiber Festival will again be held at Two Mile Run Park in Venango County. Brochures (with directions) will be available at the August meeting and can also be picked up from Sue Spencer at Christ Church.

On Friday, Sept. 8, Joyce Rose will teach an afternoon workshop on Rainbow Dyeing. Afterwards, there will be a potluck dinner and dulcimer concert. On Saturday, Sept. 9, there will be a variety of games, activities, demonstrations, and workshops. At 11 a.m., the Mercer Guild will teach a class on "Spinning Core and Ply". Judy Hanninen of the Mercer Guild will also lead a natural dye workshop. If you have them, several supplies will prove helpful: a hot plate or camp stove; enamel or stainless steel pots used for dyeing only; pre-soaked dye materials (flowers, roots, etc.); yarn or fiber to dye. Yarn for dyeing can be marked by attaching a label cut from a plastic milk jug and inscribed with indelible marker. From 1-3 p.m., Nancy Griffin will teach "Spinning Basics". Participants need a wheel or spindle, hand carders, and an extra bobbin or spindle. The $10 fee includes materials. Register in advance for this class by August 15 by contacting Bonnie Crtyzer at We will also have a Guild sale table where members can offer fiber and related items for sale (10% of the sale price goes to the Guild). Finally, please remember to bring COOKIES for the coffee table!


The Tuesday Spinning group continues to meet the third Tuesday of the month at Christ Episcopal Church on Diamond Park in Meadville, 10 am - 2 pm. The next meeting will be on August 15. As always, all are welcome to attend, with beginners especially encouraged. Bring a project, a wheel or handspindle, and a bag lunch. Beverages are provided; bring a treat to share if you wish.


Your fleece wants you to know it completely, so it can do its best for you. So analyze your fleece.

No. 1: Staple Length. We speak of wool parts as a staple. This is the lock's length. Its length determines the type of spinning for which the fleece is best suited. Long-staple wools are generally suited to worsted spinning (fibers all lying in one direction). Short-staple locks are best suited for woolen spinning (crossed fibers). So let's measure our locks for length. The length is also a pointer to fiber size. Longer fibers are usually larger in diameter and therefore coarser. Look at the tip - pointed tips usually appear on a coarser fleece and flat ends on a finer fleece. Lamb's wool is an exception. The tips are pointed or tippy before the first shearing.

No. 2: Crimp. The crimp is the wavy texture of the lock. With few exceptions, the smaller the crimp, the smaller the fiber diameter and the finer the wool. More crimp also means greater elasticity. You may have heard of microns or another measurement of wool fibers called a count. These numbers are obtained when a single fiber is viewed under a microscope. The higher the count, the finer the wool. But with microns, the lower the number, the finer the wool. This all becomes very technical and is only useful if you know what the fleece seller is referring to or if the fleece is marked in this way. We can figure out fineness by looking at the crimp. It won't have the accuracy of a microscope but will give us a good idea what we are to spin. Wool with 13 or more crimps per inch is fine, 10-12 crimps/inch is fine/medium, and 7-9 is medium/bulky.

No. 3: Color. Check the fleece for color. The normal yellow on a fleece is called yolk. This will wash out. The second component of the yolk is grease. There are also a number of greases in a fleece. Coarse breeds usually produce less grease. Tips badly stained with urine will remain a light yellow. There is also "canary stain", where the fleece has a very yellow look. Heavy rainfall, heat, and humidity cause canary stain. It does not wash out. In white fleece, color can be an indicator of the coarseness of the fibers: fine fleeces tend to be whiter than coarse fleeces.

No. 4: Bulk. Spinners need to know the bulk of a fleece before it is spun. Bulk is the factor that gives wool yarn and fabric the desirable attribute of not creasing easily and retaining its original shape after washing. The degree to which wool springs back will affect the diameter of the finished yarn as well as the end use of the yarn. When we spin, we compress the wool. Some of the compression is released when the yarn is washed. If you try to spin a fine yarn from fleece that is telling you, "I'm a high-bulk fleece," you may be disappointed. Your sample will look just right. You spin your yarn; checking your fine yarn against your sample shows that all is OK. Now wash your skein: the fine yarn suddenly becomes a medium-fine to a medium yarn. To judge bulk, take a handful of fleece and squeeze it between your two hands, pushing out the air. Open your hands and see how much the wool springs back. High-bulk fleeces such as Cheviot, the down breeds, or Perendale will spring back. Low-bulk fleeces such as Border Leicester will not.

No. 5: Cleanliness and Soundness. Clean fleece will mean less preparation and less loss in quantity. If the wool is too soiled, repeated washing will make the fibers become harsh. Hay shafts and certain particles will be almost impossible to remove. To check for soundness, take several fibers and gently tug between your two hands. Put it close to your ear and listen for the snapping sound of fibers breaking. Fibers that give slight breakage may still be used for woolen yarns. You will have different lengths. If there is a definite break, it may be due to illness or feeding problems in the ewe at some time in the growth period.

No. 6: Luster. Luster or shine is the ability of wool to reflect light. The fine wools are generally less lustrous, and the coarse longwools like Lincoln and Leicester have more luster. Move the fiber around under stromg light and see how it reflects the light. It is easier to get a true test on washed fleece. In unwashed, it may be the grease giving it the sheen.

No. 7: Breed. Most animals of a breed are similar in fleece. You may find a list of breeds telling you the average count or microns for each breed. Within the breed, there will always be various individuals that are finer or coarser than average. Some shepherds have bred for a certain type of fleece. There are also many crossbred animals that have the characteristics of two different breeds. This may give the spinner a very interesting fleece to work with.

Now, what has your fleece told you? It has told you the length of its fiber, shape (pointed or flat tips), fiber size, color, luster, bulk, cleanliness, and soundness.

Now let's see where we want to go with these facts. Match the crimp pattern to the twists per inch of your yarn: if the fleece has 7 crimps/inch, this tells you to put 7 twists per inch in the (washed) yarn. We can break the rules, but our fleece will also tell us how to do it. Spinning worsted will increase strength, luster and smoothness for material for a skirt, but you will lose the sponginess, softness and bounce of the original fleece. You will also have to work harder to spin that fleece. If you have a choice of fleece, why not choose the one for the job?

I hope you have learned to listen to your fleece. The best book that I have found that gives you the full story from the fleece to the finished yarn is Spinning Wool: Beyond the Basics by Anne Field.

[From the Black Swamp Spinners Guild via the Western Reserve Spinners and Weavers Guild. Additional editing by Ann Sheffield.]

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