Posts Tagged ‘maple wool farm’

31
Dec

Daily Art Challenge!

Posted under Fine Art No Comments

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For Christmas I received a sketchbook with 500 drawing prompts. I love it and am working my way through it. As cool of an idea as this book is, it falls a bit short of what I want for daily artistic practice and inspiration.

  • I feel constrained by the variable size spaces given to each prompt.
  • I struggle working effectively with the spine in the way. I’ve only done two drawings in the book and already I’ve torn the first two pages away from the binding along the top of the spine.
  • The prompts are on both sides of the pages too so the graphite transfers between drawings. Since the paper is thin, you can also see the drawings through one another a bit. I can only imagine how much worse it would be if I were using ink!
  • The paper is not suitable for any wet media. I definitely need to work on my pencil drawings, but there really isn’t much in the way of media options for this book.

So that got me thinking, why can’t I do something better? And couldn’t it be free for everyone instead of requiring a specific sketchbook? Of course! For Inktober 2015, I used artist trading card size sheets of paper cut from some leftover cardstock I had. I loved working with that size sheet. It’s not too intimidating, and if I wrecked a page, oh well! It’s not like I’m throwing away good art supplies nor spending too much of my day laboring over a picture I’m just not really feeling, you know?

So that’s what I’ll do. Instead of just a month of ink sketches as for Inktober, I’m going to do a whole year of prompts. I’ll use ATC size sheets of whatever sort of paper or board is most appropriate to the media I want to use that day. There’s super heavy oil & acrylic canva-paper or just plain printer paper. There’s textured papers for charcoal and pastels and glossy smooth papers for markers.

Sketchbooks

Any paper, any media in an ATC-sized piece of artwork. The goal will be just to make a little bit of art every day for a year. To step outside our comfort zones. To practice our skills. To learn new ones. To stop hiding behind excuses and let loose the artist we all have inside, even if just for as little as 5 minutes a day. Stay tuned for the details tomorrow morning as we start a year of art! Each day will include a prompt to get you started thinking about what to do and a sample or two from Maple Wool Farm.

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27
Feb

Why You Should be a Knitting Needle Snob

Posted under Knitting, Product Reviews, Techniques No Comments

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It’s all just sticks and string, so why hunt down the ‘best’ needles? Why not just use what’s most readily available? Or those vintage needles you came across? People have been knitting for hundreds of years on all sorts of things. Some of my favorite traditional knits are the Andean chullos traditionally knit on hook ended needles made of baling wire. And I’ve personally knit on toothpicks, paperclips, large dowels, and even porcupine spines! If any old stick will work, why pay more for those needles? It’s the yarn that goes into the finished piece, so isn’t the yarn the only thing you should be splurging on?

NOPE. Your needles and pattern are just as important and very much worth spending a few extra bucks to have quality because it will very much show in your finished object, even if those needles aren’t going to be a permanent part of the project, they’re just as important as the yarn. Good needles can make a bad knitter’s work look better and a great knitter’s work look horrible, just by being good or bad needles!

I’m currently working on designing a new hat using a stitch I’ve created. It’s a lovely hat and I’m sure you’ll all want to knit it when it’s released. The first hat was knit from a ball of variegated bulky weight yarn, a long on color yarn that when used with such a stitch count creates beautiful stripes. I do love the stripes, but it makes it a bit harder to appreciate the detail of the new decrease and how well it works in ribbing. As such, I purchased a new ball of yarn, the same exact brand, but in a solid color.

The first multicolor hat was knit on a set of double pointed needles and I had a bit of trouble with stitches popping right off the ends of the needles until I hit the crown decreases. It was just too many stitches for the needles. When I was out in the snow picking up the solid colored ball of yarn, I also grabbed a set of 16″ circulars in the same size. Of course I had to get a different brand as no big box shop carries the brand double point I’d been using.

The second I got home, I cast on for the new solid color hat. I’d like it done and photographed as soon as possible so I can share the pattern with you all. When I got into the knitting a ways, I stopped. Something didn’t look right at all. I compared the in-progress hat to my completed one. YEP. Something’s horribly wrong. The stitches are all correct and the new color has much better stitch definition than the multicolored yarn,  but the new needles ruined it! I was over halfway through the body of the hat section too, so it’s a bit sad to rip out. That’s probably an hour and a half of work.

Here’s a close up of the first hat’s stitches. This bit is plain k1p1 ribbing.

Multicolor hat stitches

It’s beautiful, right? The stitches are even, uniform and straight. Now, here’s the same exact pattern and size hat knit in the same brand of 100% acrylic yarn one day later by the same knitter on different needles. Neither piece has been blocked.

solid hat stitches

 

Can you see the differences? The blue one looks horrible. The stitches are crooked with the left leg dominant. It’s wider and sticks up from the fabric more than the right one. Some stitches are more squat, some are taller, and some are just plain wonky.

The needle change also affected gauge in addition to the shape of individual stitches. The multicolor hat has 9 ribs in 4 inches where as the blue one has 8 ribs in 4 inches.

Gauge of multicolor ribbed hat

Gauge of solid ribbed hat

Changing needle brands means redoing your gauge swatch. Changing brands of knitting needles, particularly if that includes a change of knitting needle material, requires redoing your swatch. While only one rib, two stitches, in four inches doesn’t seem like much, in bulky yarn over enough stitches for an adult sized hat, that equates to adding about two and a half inches to the circumference of the hat. That’s huge!

Ribbed Hat difference with ruler

I know the ruler here only shows one and a quarter inches difference, but you’ve got to multiply that by two since there’s two layers under that ruler. Even if it were only an inch off though, that’d surely be enough for a strong wind to carry your hat away while out walking the dog on a brisk winter day.

What are the things that matter about a pair of needles? Generally the tips and the material. How sharp are the needles? How smooth are they? Do the cables have good flex yet aren’t too soft if they’re circulars? Here’s the needles I used for these hats.

Sharps versus Clover

 

The taper on the tip is nearly identical between these needles which is why I was willing to give the cheap and most importantly immediately available ones a chance. The metal ones have a slightly sharper tip, but almost imperceptibly so. The big failure here is that the bamboo needles are a little sticky. Not sticky like they were covered in toddler hand goo, but more in that the yarn doesn’t slide freely down the needle. You’ve got to stop and readjust the knitting to move more stitches to the top. The stitches don’t slide over the join from the cable and back up over the needle well either.

So, what are these needles of win and doom that are making and breaking such a hat? Surely one cost four or five times what the other did, right? Not at all actually. At regular prices one is $8.99USD and the other is $11.50USD with the $11.50 ones being the better ones. Of course given that the cheap ones are from a big box shop though, you could use a 40% off coupon on them which is exactly what I did as it was the only thing I was buying at that shop. That drops them down to $5.40 which means the better needles still are less than twice the cost of the bad ones! Here they are, the hat-ruining Clover bamboo needles and the wonderful but harder-to-come-by HiyaHiya Sharps made of stainless steel.

Clover and Sharps

So what are your favorite brands? What needles will you avoid at all costs? Do you have any problems with allergies to knitting needle materials? I adore the Addi needles, but I have trouble with the nickel in them. I’ve tried their brass line as well, but the smell drives me bonkers!

Lastly, keep in mind that yarn can vary in thickness even within the same brand and weight, so when changing between colors, you might want to redo your gauge swatch too, even if you’re using the same needles. Multicolor acrylics are notoriously thinner than their solid counterparts. If anyone knows why this is, I’d love to know!

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22
Feb

Fair Projects for 2015

Posted under Charity, Crochet, Knitting, Life, Models, Paper Crafting, Sewing and Quilting, Woodworking No Comments

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It’s getting to be the time of year when you’ve got to start thinking about what projects you’re going to be making for your county and state fairs. Ideally you’d start too as working right up to the deadline is never fun, though it seems to happen more often than I’d like!

So far, most of my projects are rather bland looking, but I promise there are colorful projects coming too!


natural colored projects

Here we have a lace baby sweater which will ultimately be part of a three-piece set, a knit lace doily, and a crochet lace bag all in progress.

I’ve also been working on filling the first of three bobbin lace pillows I’m making for myself. I really enjoy the bobbin lace beginners kit I got for Christmas, but the failings of a beginner ‘pillow’ are more than apparent. I done some research on the best and longest lasting bobbin lace pillows and how they’re made. Then, I presented this information to my physical therapist and we worked out a stand set up to prevent any undue stress on my body. Now I’m building that stand and pillow set up! This is the first pillow in progress.

bobbin lace pillow stuffing

 

Kaia seemed rather displeased with my pillow stuffing as a few bits of straw landed on her in her bed!

dog with straw

The pillows are filled with natural straw cut into 4″ or shorter pieces. Cutting the straw is a painful and dull process, and stuffing the pillows is painful and slow going as a result, but when they’re done, I’m going to have fantastic traditional bobbin lace pillows, a standard 24″ cookie pillow and a more rectangular pillow with a roller in the back for making yardage. The pillow above is the roller that will go into the rectangular pillow. The exterior is a natural canvas material sewn into a tube with drawstrings on either end. Inside, there is a dowel running the length and I have two discs cut from 1/4″ plywood. One disc is already in place at the bottom of the pillow and the other will go in just before cinching up the other drawstring. The dowel sticks out a few inches on either side which is how it will connect to the support pillow.

The last big WIP keeping me busy lately is a paper craft project. Some friends asked me to make a 4′ tall LEGO minifig as a decoration for a Boy Scout party in March. After that party, the gigantic LEGO man will be a county and state fair entry for me before finally being sold to the highest bidder to fund some new LEGO sets for me! The main framework of the minifig is cardboard sheeting from Costco. Some of guy pal’s friends from work taught me how to use anti-fatigue mat foam to create the complex curves and gave me some foam to use for the project. Atop the cardboard and foam frame is paper maché. This will create a surface I can sand to a perfect finish. With the glossy paint a LEGO minifig has, any imperfections in the body will show. That’s why I’m doing the paper maché coating. There will likely be some spackle to help fill any gaps prior to sanding as well. Here’s the first two pieces being coated in paper maché, the head (which is upside down in this photo) and one of the arms. They’re the most curvy pieces and thus require the most paper maché to get perfectly smooth.

LEGO head and arm WIP

 

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09
Mar

Ravellenic Hat and Mittens Set

Posted under Knitting No Comments

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Something about the idea of a handmade, matched hat and mittens set just grabbed me when I was first learning to knit in 2010. I found some absolutely crazy rainbow stretchy yarn and started experimenting. After a dozen or so restarts, I finally designed a simple hat that fit well using it. I bought some solid black yarn and set it aside as well so I’d be able to make some matching mittens. I certainly wasn’t a good enough knitter to make the mittens yet, much less to do them without a pattern.

While tidying up my office space nearly four years later during the Ravellenic Games, I came upon the hat, still with unwoven loose ends, the black ball of yarn, and the remnant ball of rainbow stretchy yarn. I needed to knit some mittens for my Mittens Moguls medal, so I figured, why not? I whipped up these cute mittens in no time.

Then, I decided I didn’t actually like the hat made using just the rainbow yarn. I carefully picked out the cast on edge, unraveled the hat just enough to remove the brim, and then reknit the rolled brim using the remainder of the solid black yarn.

I love it! It’s just perfect and exactly what I envisioned so long ago when I was planning out my first matched hat and mittens set.

Feeling ready to make your own hat and mitten sets? Leisure Arts has a great book out called Snow Day Sets to Knit. It’s an ebook you can download and start knitting from right away. All the patterns call for worsted weight yarns like Red Heart Super Saver or Cascade 220, so they’re perfect for the beginner to make with easy to find yarn. Best of all? All the patterns are written for both working flat on two needles and seaming at the end OR working in the round on four double-pointed needles. Even if you’ve never worked in the round before, you CAN make your first hat and mittens set with this book! Like this featured set!

And as an added bonus for my readers? How about 15% off the purchase of your Leisure Arts order? Just use this code, ART15,  and save 15% off your entire order from Leisure Arts! Hurry as this discount offer ends March 30, 2014!

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10
Jan

Spinning Study Group

Posted under Spinning No Comments

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On the second Thursday of each month, I’m lucky enough to get to join a spinning study group at Table Rock Llamas. The ladies in the group are wonderful and I’ve learned so much just being around them. Almost every month, we have a dedicated thing to work on learning. Two months ago, we had a workshop taught by a study group member on how to spin coil or beehive yarn. Here’s my beehive yarn from November being modeled by my older dog, Sketcher.

In December we just goofed off and held a gift exchange. I ended up with something I had no idea I needed so badly, a yarn bowl! I’ve been using it non-stop since I got it and I’m considering getting one made from the same local artisan for holding two separate balls so I can use it for fair isle work, particularly as I’m planning at least two stranded projects for my county and state fair entries this year. If you haven’t tried a yarn bowl, you need to!

As for this month? We did a study of Blue Faced Leicester wool. Blue Faced Leicester is pronounced “blue faced lester,” and commonly referred to as just BFL. BFL is a fantastic fleece for the handspinner. It’s got a magnificent crimp and shines almost as though it contains silk. BFL is known for it’s luster. BFL is considered a longwool and the narrow locks range from 3-6 inches on average. The wool I’m spinning today has some variance but lends itself toward the long end of the spectrum. While the wool is rather soft and could be worn against the skin, I’ve gotten a bit spoiled with affordable Merino wool top and if I’m going to really splurge like I had to on the BFL, I’d rather just save a bit longer and snap up a bag of cashmere or higher micron count Merino than I usually buy.

The shop owner where we hold our meetings bought two BFL sheep fleeces for us and washed them. Here’s the view into my sack of BFL after today’s spinning. I’ve got a ton left to card and spin. Just look at that shine though! Wow!

Washed BFL

Members of the study group could buy as much as they wanted for $4 an ounce. That’s a lot more than I usually pay for sheep’s wool, but it was a matter of wanting to spin with the rest of the group.  I’ve spun BFL before, so it wasn’t a huge deal, but I’m very, very glad I splurged on some of this local wool from a sheep named Poppy! (my donkey’s name is also Poppy) BFL is fairly uncommon in our area so fleeces command a higher price. I ended up buying 4oz. That’s about as little as I ever buy of any spinning fiber because 4oz provides plenty of freedom to decide how to spin the yarn and a multitude of possible projects. I could make a lace shawl, a pair of fingering weight socks, or a worsted hat. The only time I buy less than 4oz is when I buy little bitty 1/3oz bumps of fiber for spinning hexipuffing yarn, but that’s for another post.

Given the high crimp of the BFL in our study group fleece and the burning desire I’ve had to try out the Majacraft lace kit my brother D got me for Christmas this year, I opted to spin my BFL into a lace weight yarn which will then most likely end up knit into a shawl of some sort depending on the finished yardage. Due to the quantity of vegetable matter in the wool even after washing, spinning is a bit slow. I’m carding my wool into woolen rolags and picking as much VM from the wool as I can both while carding and while spinning. With the high crimp and the wool’s luster it is working up to be a fantastic fine thread of a single even if it is slow going due to the relatively dirty wool.

IMG_4333

I will later ply this, likely a chained 3 ply, to make a finished lace yarn. I will probably also dye this fiber as I’d like to see first hand how the BFL takes up dye. I’ve heard good things about BFL’s receptivity toward acid dyes and that the wool’s natural luster makes the colors shine from within.

 

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13
Jul

Tour de Fleece

Posted under Holidays and Celebrations, Life, Maple Wool Farm Products, Spinning, Yarn No Comments

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I’ve been participating in the Tour de Fleece this year and having a blast. This is the first time I’ve ever been really happy with my spinning. I’m making real live usable yarns! Here’s my favorite shot so far. It’s a blend of various colors of wool into a single top. This is the single which I later chain plied (Navajo plied) into a 120 yard single. It’s a light fingering weight when plied like that. My camera is on it’s last legs, so it’s a challenge to get nicely focused close-ups of my handspun yarns.

 

 

 

I’ve spun various wools, flax/linen, and baby llama so far. The baby llama was by far my favorite. It drafted like a dream into a super fine thread that when Navajo (chain) plied made a perfect light fingering weight. Lovely! My big goal is to be able to reliably spin a 2 or 3 ply sock weight yarn. If I can manage that, I’ll reward myself with 8 oz of Knit Picks Stroll top to dye and spin. I’ll need more stuff to spin anyhow. It turns out spinning regularly in the right chair with the right posture is helping with my hip pain. More spinning it is! Talk about the most fun physical therapy exercise ever!

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27
Jun

Paper Class Trash To Treasure Fair Project

Posted under Miniatures, Paper Crafting No Comments

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My local county fair has all kinds of fun classes for creative competition each year. Last year I only entered knit and crochet pieces. This year I’m trying to branch out. One of the areas I figured I could excel in is the “trash to treasure” department. There are classes based on materials, plastic, wood, paper, fabric, metal, and combination. I’m working on a fancy metal piece, but it’s not ready to photograph yet. Hint: It is something fantastic for the 1:24 scale castle dollhouse I’m working on with friends who also each have a castle kit. I need to figure out one more piece first. Thank goodness for E600 glue though!

My paper class item is coming along faster. I started with cereal boxes. I used most of a cheerios box and a few snippets of oatmeal box to make my treasure.

breakfast cereal boxes and crunched paper from a printer jam

I used the pattern from here and made a few modifications to substitute in Cheerios box for mat board…which I shockingly enough don’t seem to have in my crafting lair. So far I’m quite pleased with the result.

progress

I just couldn’t resist getting a shot of my table with a little mug rug my mom has upstairs either! This table is going to be so darn cute. I hope to use it in the 1:12 scale yarn shop that I’ll get around to building someday after I’m done with building my life size house.

Table on rug

Time to decide on a faux finish of some sort and get this table finished. I’m thinking I’ll coat it in gesso tonight, sand it tomorrow, and then figure out paint. Surely something in my acrylic paints stash will take this table from looking a little too ‘green’ living recycled everything and make it a bit more shabby chic yarn shop sit and knit corner like! The most surprising thing about the little table is actually how much it feels like it is made of real wood. The glue soaked into the paperboard cheerios box layers incredibly well and made essentially a dollhouse sized plywood. I used plain old Elmer’s Glue-All, but that hardens up so nicely that it really does feel like I made a wooden table! All-in-all, I’m so pleased with it that I plan on designing miniature versions of several of my actual furniture pieces to make in miniature out of Cheerios boxes. I think I’m going to start with the coffee table my grandmother passed down to me. I love that table and my dollhouse just isn’t ever going to be complete without one. 

 

 

 

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07
Jan

Hexipiuffs 2013 Week 1

Posted under Hexipuffs, Knitting No Comments

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I’d like to make more progress on my hexipuff quilt this year, so I’m trying to make at least one hexipuff per day. I doubt I’ll hold that rate all year, but I did manage 8 hexipuffs for this first week of 2013! That’s a great start, and even if I can’t keep it up all year, I’ll still have more hexipuffs than I started out with. Here’s this week’s hexipuffs:

puffs 2013week1

 

This puts my hexipuff total at 248 puffs. However, I’ve got a small problem I wasn’t expecting. I’m a better knitter than I was last year–significantly so. It’s an exciting revelation, but I’m not sure what it means for my hexipuff quilt. Is it going to be okay to mix the horrible old ‘new knitter’ puffs with my nicer, new, experienced-knitter puffs? The look terrible side-by-side. Not good at all. Here I’ve pieced old puffs around the new puffs from this week. They don’t even fit together. Look at those gaps!

compare 010713

 

Most of my old puffs just can’t play nice with the new ones. Up close, the differences between old and new puffs is even more apparent. The older puffs are on the left and the new ones on the right.

differences2

 

The puffs are the same weight yarn with the same number of stitches. The old larger ones on the left even have visible stuffing, which I hate. I really prefer the new, slightly smaller and tighter hexipuffs. I just can’t decide what I should do with the old ones. Some of them have rather special yarn. I dyed the purple and pink one in the photo above and the large green one is yarn my mom and step-dad gave me. I want those puffs in my quilt, I just don’t want them to look horrible! I guess on the bright side, I need over a thousand hexipuffs and including my new ones, I’ve only got 248 puffs. If I keep making nice new puffs, the old ones will be over run and hopefully hidden due to their sparse numbers in the finished quilt!

It’s frustrating to have so much work done on such a wonderful project and realize just how poor quality my knitting was only a year ago, but at the same time, I feel quite privileged to be able to see such a difference in my work. I’ve come so far! Who knows where my knitting will go next!

 

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24
Oct

Finished Blanket…Finally!

Posted under Knitting, Product Reviews No Comments

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In February, I started knitting a baby blanket for my step-dad’s brother’s child who was born later in July. Of course with how hellish things have been for me lately, and a passionate hatred for the yarn mom bought for the project, I didn’t finish until October. Oh well, it’s been mailed off to Japan where it can be enjoyed properly by a sweet looking little girl!

I spent quite a while deciding on the pattern to use for this. I wanted something that felt both American and a bit Japanese, as dad is American and mom is Japanese. I settled on the pattern Feathered Baby Blanket by Kaye Smith, but of course I had to make a few modifications. First off, why feather and fan? When I think knit afghans, I think of a feather and fan pink blanket my grandmother made me when my parent’s got divorced. That blanket just screams comfort to me, even if I’m not a ‘pink’ sort of person. Feather and Fan is a pretty basic traditional afghan pattern in the USA, and when I think of Japan, I think of the beautiful fans I ogled as a kid. Then, knowing how important numbers are in many of the Asian cultures, I used the number 7 everywhere I could throughout the pattern. Each band of feathers and fans have seven repeats. There are also seven repeats across the width of the blanket and seven garter stitch bands going up the blanket.

The pattern itself was a quite easy knit, but the garter stitch rows don’t have any shaping in them and thus tend to pucker a bit as the feathers and fans pull them into waves. If I knit a similar blanket again, I’d write a new pattern that took this into account.

Mom had originally planned on knitting the blanket but became frustrated, so I offered to take over…after she’d already bought the yarn. I HATED this yarn. It’s Kraemer Yarns Tatamy Tweed DK. In general, I don’t like acrylic and just barely tolerate working in cotton. This yarn is an easy care acrylic/cotton blend…and I found it to be horrifically splitty. It seems the cotton and acrylic are made into separate strands and then plyed together rather than mixing up all the fibers before spinning. I think that’s part of what contributes to so much ply splitting while knitting. I even tried several types of knitting needles to combat the splitting and the poor sliding of the yarn on the needles. I used both ChiaoGoo Knit Red and Knitter’s Pride Dreamz circulars. I decided the Knitters Pride Dreamz worked best, but only if the wooden needles were kept freshly oiled.

Keep checking back for more updates on the service dog front and how Sketcher is doing. Things have been VERY crazy here, but we’re making great progress and are over 1/3 of the way there! I”m now hard at work getting thank you notes and donation reward from the GoGetFunding page put together to go out. I’ve been slowed down drastically by how sick Sketcher has been, but I’m starting to make some headway!

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31
Mar

Spring is starting to bloom!

Posted under Hexipuffs, Holidays and Celebrations, Knitting, Life, Maple Wool Farm Products, Yarn No Comments

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All of these mini skeins and hexipuffs are from Maple Wool Farm’s own Soda Pop Dyed series of yarns! Enjoy a bit of spring blossoming on your doorstep by ordering Maple Wool Farm mini skeins!

Little mini skein buds nourished with last fall’s hexipuffs!

To make your very own spring tee, simply find a well forked branch and ‘plant’ it in a pot full of small rocks or decorator marbles. Cover the rocks in hexipuffs and gently slide mini skeins in spring colors onto the tips of the branches of your yarn tree. A little tree like this would be stunning as a centerpiece on your Easter or Spring Celebration table!

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