Knitting Tips: How to Make a Twisted Cord

This morning, Berocco posted this helpful video on its e-newsletter, KnitBits. Twisted cord has many uses, such as drawstrings, ties, and garment or pillow trimming. There are other vid tutorials available there as well. Great site, with a free pattern each week.

Alternative Mordants: Iron

Iron has been used for centuries to fix color to wool and to darken, or “sadden” it. It also tends to bring out the green in natural dyes such as

marigold, fern, and comfrey. It is not always necessary to purchase prepared mordants. Most of the time, I simply use an iron kettle to dye wool that has been mordanted with alum or not mordanted at all. Iron nails, old flat irons, and other small iron household hardware can also be used. The drawback is that you cannot accurately measure the actual amount of the mordant, but I’ve found, over and over, that simply keeping an eye on the dyepot, until the color I’m looking for has been attained, is sufficient. The advantages are that the mordant is free, and safer than chemical compounds, but it is still a good idea to limit skin contact. When the dye process is complete, I rinse the wool in dish detergent or shampoo in water into which about 1 teaspoon of salt has been added.

Knitting News: Irish Yarns – a thing of the past?

Many of us learned to knit with dreams of producing a gorgeous, cabled, Irish fisherman’s sweater. The purists among us, would, of course, insist upon wool grown and spun in Ireland. It appears, however, that the dream may soon remain just that –  a dream – because, while plenty of sheep are raised on the Emerald Isle, very little of their fleece goes toward the production of yarns for knitting. The full story that was posted this week on, explains why. It’s an interesting new use for natural fleece, but I wish they’d continue to make that beautiful yarn as well………

Textile Tools: The Niddy Noddy

One of my favorite words! A niddy noddy is a winding tool used to remove the spun yarn from the spindle. Often assigned to a child in the family, this was a simple but vital task. Most old niddies measure 2 yards of yarn per pass. This old song was probably designed as an aid to counting off the yardage.


Niddy noddy, niddy, noddy

Two heads, one body,

Here’s one, t’aint one,

‘T’will be one, by and by,

Here’s two, t’ain’t two,

‘T’will be two, by and by.

Etc., until 50 passes have been made and the niddy holds a 100 yard skein.


When I’m spinning away from home, I bring and use my niddy noddy. At home, however, I always use my reel, which is an umpteen times faster way to make that skein. Whichever winder I use, I leave the skein on it for a few days to to help relax it out and straighten the yarn.

Textile Tools: Medieval Images of Spinning Wheels


Woman spinning on the great or walking wheel.
Luttrell Psalter, British Library, London 14th c. England

The great wheel produced thread more quickly than the drop spindle, but the thread was lower quality. It was underspun (not twisted enough) and uneven. The wheel was turned by pushing a stick against the spokes (above) or by turning a crank. Because the spinner had to use one hand to operate the wheel, she was left with only one hand to draft the fibers, resulting in uneven thread.

Woman spinning on a great wheel which is turned by a crank. MS 17, Musee Dobree, Nantes 16th c. France

British Library, early 14th century

The spinners above are drafting the fibers with one hand and turning the crank with the other. The next step in the evolution of the spinning wheel was to attach a foot treadle to the crank. The spinner could then use her foot to turn the wheel, freeing both hands for drafting.

Knitting/Crochet Tips: Joining 2 Loose Ends

The Weaver’s Knot
There are many ways in which to join yarn ends, one of the best being the weaver’s knot. The ends can be woven in, or snipped very closely, and rolled together to from a nearly invisible, strong join. This is also a good way to tie the drive band on a spinning wheel.

Make your first loop, with the end under and behind the thread. Hold it between your index and thumb.
Put your new thread under and up through the center of the loop made.
Put that thread behind the end piece of the looped thread.
Drop the thread down into the center of your index and thumb, making sure the thread is in front of this thread.
Drop it down in the loop top of thread, and under again.
Grasp the tail end and the ball thread with your left hand. And the tail and the other thread with your right and pull them together.

How to undo any weaver’s knot and know if you’ve tied it correctly

The key to knowing you’ve tied the weaver’s knot correctly is to be able to release or undo it. To undo it, you want to straighten out the thread that makes the “U”in the completed knot. No matter which way you tie it, there is one thread in a U-shape and the other thread winding itself around the first. Pull on both ends of that “U” thread-in opposite directions-to unbend it and straighten it out. The squiggly portion can be slipped right off, and even the squiggles relax so you have two fresh threads when you’re through.

Information from

which also shows additional step by step diagrams.

Roving, Rolags, and Batts

On  some of the fiber arts forums I haunt, some of the members have asked what “roving” is. Well, as Wikipedia explains, a roving is a long and narrow bundle of fiber with a twist to hold the fiber together.  It is created by carding or combing the fiber, and  then drawing it into long strips where the fibers are parallel. Wool fleece in roving form is much easier to spin than wool in rolag or batt form, especially when using a walking wheel. If I am doing a historic spinning demo, I card my fleeces myself using reproduction hand cards. But when I spin at home or at a fiber fair, I use roving. Carding isn’t fun, so I buy rovings in order to get to the fun part faster. I also use rovings at times for dyeing.




Batts are also used for dyeing, quilting, stuffing, and felting.

University Announces Study of Handspinning

Some exciting news for those of us who enjoy spinning yarns by hand!

First study into spinning

A University of Hertfordshire historian has received a European Union grant to conduct the first ever study into spinning before the Industrial Revolution. It starts next week.


Four hundred years of spinning

The grant for €823,150 has been awarded by the European Research Council so that Professor John Styles at the University’s Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities Research Institute can undertake a five-year research project into Spinning in the Era of the Spinning Wheel, 1400-1800, which begins on 1 June 2010.

Undertaken by ordinary women

“When people today think about spinning wheels, they usually think of Sleeping Beauty, a fairytale princess, pricking her finger. In fact, working by hand at a spinning wheel was what most ordinary women in England did for the 400 years before the Industrial Revolution,” said Professor Styles. “This was a skilled occupation, vital to the success of the textile industries that made England rich. Yet historians often dismiss hand spinning as part-time, unskilled work for ignorant country women. They treat it as an inefficient obstacle to increased productivity, ripe for replacement by the mechanical inventions of the Industrial Revolution.”

Read the rest of this article here .