Episode 204

In this very special episode, I join my friend Hope at her shop and we talk over our visit to Quiet Valley Farm, where we spent the day in period costume and learned about the harvest and preparation of flax to make linen thread. The photo series here is a companion to our description of the process on the audio episode.  If you have any questions or wisdom to share, I hope that you will participate in the discussion thread on Ravelry.

Flax harvest: Quiet Valley’s extensive gardens included a small planting of flax plants. These photos also show the period clothing that Hope and I wore so that we could really take part in the hands-on activities of the day.

Here is Mr. Oiler harvesting flax.  Once harvested and dried, flax can be stored indefinitely before retting and the remainder of the processing.  It just needs to be kept dry and protected from rodents. Large scale flax harvesting involves stooking (tying the flax in bundles for easier handling) and rippling (removing seeds from stalks).

Something we didn’t see here, but is an essential part of processing, is retting.  After the initial thorough drying of the plant, it is then retted (rotted) so that the outer fibers break away from the inner core.  There are two methods of retting: dew retting, in which the flax is spread over the ground and left to wet and dry over a period of a few weeks; or vat retting, in which flax is submerged in a tub or pond. Vat retting is risky in that it is easy to overdo it and start rotting the inner core.  There is also the consideration of where runoff from vat retting ends up because some of the enzymes can be harmful to farming or animal life. Another consideration is the finished product: vat retted fibers are pale in color; dew retted fiber is often brown or green in appearance.

Here we see a flax break in use.  It’s a simple lever, a reproduction made by Mr. Oiler.  The top is lifted and then lowered as a bundle of flax is drawn through it.

You can see the difference in the flax from the previous photo to this one as the outer pith breaks away.

Next comes scutching, in which a scutching knife is used to scrape unwanted fibers away from the desirable flax.

The hackling process involves repeatedly pulling a handful of fibers over some very daunting nail combs to remove more unwanted waste and to straighten and soften the flax.

In the photo sequence above, Hope’s distaff is prepared, or dressed, with flax and tied with a ribbon to secure.

Here I am taking a turn at Hope’s wheel.  Can you see the little water pail at my right knee? In this photo, I appear to have the hang of it, but mostly, I struggled to keep the wheel spinning in a counterclockwise direction to achieve the S twist that is recommended for flax singles.

Most of my spinning was on my Jenkins Aegean, a Turkish spindle.

This was my view for the afternoon: an assortment of smart and very interesting women in period dress, sharing knowledge, and working at various stages of the process.

As you may have guessed, flax processing yields much more waste than beautifully-spun linen. One of the stations was devoted to turning this waste into toe rope.

Several strands of spun toe can be plied together on this wheel to achieve various strengths of toe rope.

Some resources that we discussed on the episode.

Episode 203

The Back Porch

  • Iris by ririko in Elsbeth Lavold LinSilk
  • I-cord + tassel necklace in Samite yarn with copper hardware
  • a variation on the Humblebee sock pattern


97 grams of spindle-spun battlings and assorted bits.

800 yards of indigo-dyed 3-ply yarn from Hog Island fiber.  I split this fleece with Emily of the FibreTown podcast at MDSW 2017.

The Front Porch

  • Lotta by Marie Green in Beaver Slide Dry Goods 2-ply sock yarn
  • Lovage by Marie Wallin

Ever-expanding Skill Set

I’m inspired to keep working with Dori Sanders’ recipe for no-churn lemon ice cream to see how far I can take it from the original. In this version, I reduced sugar to 2/3 cup, substituted lime rind and juice for the lemon, kept the heavy cream, but substituted coconut milk for the whole milk.  Scoopable, creamy, and delicious.


With Mom’s help, I started a vat of fermented pickles.  They should age to taste over a period of 4-8 days, and can then be stored in the refrigerator.

I started by scrubbing and rinsing small pickling cucumbers in cold water, removing the blossom end of each one and trimming the stem off. In a clean glass jar, I layered some grape leaves, whole fresh dill heads, peppercorns, and peeled garlic cloves.  Then I added all of the cucumbers, one whole jalapeño pepper, and the garlic, peppercorns, dill heads.  After filling the jar with salt brine (1/3 c salt to 1/2 gallon water) I covered the top with grape leaves and added a glass weight to keep all of the contents below the level of the liquid.

Every day, I will skim the “scummy stuff” from the surface and after a few days, I’ll start tasting the pickles.  I can also remove, rinse, and replace the grape leaves to keep the top of the jar clean. This is my mother’s recipe.  For companionship on your fermented foods journey, join in the chatter on our thread.

And Sew Forth

Here is my first go at the Matcha Top from SewLiberated.  I love the look the collar creates.  It is perfect for framing a pendant necklace.  I also love this fabric, but I’m not sure what it’s called.  Any guesses? If I were to make this top again, I might lengthen it by several inches and belt it at the waist.


Episode 201

It was so hot that I didn’t do much knitting.  I was busy with a number of other projects, however, and managed to find some air conditioned crafting situations over the course of the past two weeks.  As I’m typing up these show notes, it’s a dark and stormy morning here in Delaware Water Gap.  The region is finally getting some much-needed rainfall.

On the Porch

Iris tank by ririko in Elsbeth Lavold LinSilk

Tour de Fleece spinning

  • Hog Island batts
  • Hobbledehoy battlings and assorted fiber samples

Ever-expanding Skill Set

For summer grilling and cooking with lots of produce, check out the Dishing Up the Dirt website or purchase Andrea’s book.  There are simple, nourishing recipes to help you get familiar with veggies you may not have encountered before. I tried the grilled kohlrabi and broccoli with a dipping sauce — delicious off the grill and as a cold salad the next day.

Yes, you MUST try Dori Sanders’ No Churn Ice Cream!  I’ve made the recipe three times. The mouthfeel is rich, but the flavor is a bright and bracing lemon to zap away the heat and humidity. And, there’s no fancy equipment necessary.  All you need is a bowl, a whisk, and an 8×8″ metal pan.

And Sew Forth

Over the course of two days, we worked our way from taking measurements to nearly finished Uniform tunics.

Episode 200

Thank you for your part in the Yarns at Yin Hoo community. It has been nearly five years and I’m so grateful for the friendships, knowledge, skill, and inspiration I’ve acquired as a result of deciding to start a little audio podcast about the fiber arts and other post-apocalyptic skills.  This week, I talk about returning to crochet with Cal Patch’s Boxet Bag.  My entry into the fiber arts was the occasion of learning to crochet in a staff development workshop. I feel so fortunate to have discovered fiber arts through the lens of crochet because it has brought out the best in my technique and understanding.  What is your foundation craft?  How does it continue to influence your making?  I would love to read about it on the Ravelry thread for this episode.

The Back Porch

The Front Porch

Ever-expanding Skill Set

Dori Sanders’ No-Churn Fresh Lemon Ice Cream

Off the Shelf

Episode 199

On Thursday, July 19th, I’ll be facilitating an introduction to spinning on a Turkish spindle at Hope’s Favorite Things near Bangor, PA.  If you’re interested in the class, contact Hope’s shop!

The Back Porch

The Front Porch

Ever-expanding Skill Set

A Mindful Summer

Last summer, I completed the Mindful Educator Essentials course via mindfulschools.org.  Some podcast listeners were curious about my learning, so I created a separate series of audio content on the topic of mindfulness.  You can access it HERE.  This summer, I will participate in the Mindful Summer free online community, which is support network for starting a mindful practice or renewing your commitment to a daily practice.  From July 2 – August 12, there will be weekly inspiration posts and practice tips.  You can get more involved in the community with the APP.  Follow this LINK to sign up or find out more.

a podcast about the fiber arts and other post apocalyptic skills