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Paradise Fibers Blog

Tips, Tutorials, News and Reviews. Information for any fiber artist.

  • Picking Your First Spinning Wheel

    Hey Future spinners! Kyle and I have been working together figure out the perfect wheel for you he made an awesome video to walk you through the basic elements and I've brainstormed some questions you should ask yourself before you pick your wheel.

    Kyle’s 4 tips for buying a spinning wheel

    Still want to know more? Here are the questions you should ask yourself first!

    Do you have physical limitations?

    This is a super personal question, but one you should consider. Do you have any health limitations? Are you going to need certain angles for your body or hands to be in to be able to comfortably spin? Think of what you need and go from there!

    What do you like visually?

    Castle style, is often modern looking and upright looking. Saxony wheels are the "classic spinning wheel" where the wheel is to the side of the orifice and you spin off center to the wheel.  Portable wheels or travel wheels are designed for the spinner always moving from event to event and taking there wheel with them. All three have their limitations.

    How important is easy travel?

    Most wheels travel okay, but some wheels are designed for the spinners who travel all of the time and need something that takes up less space in the car. The Lendrum Folding Wheel is an example of a wheel that spinner who travel in shows, work farmers markets, like because it is a full size wheel that allow production level spinning for compact storage. Or the Louet Victoria might be what you need, I know a spinner who travels in a motorhome in the summer and it is a very small wheel. This size makes it so it can be more difficult to have a consistent speed and therefore ply and it also has smaller bobbin that fit less yarn on them. The Victoria is the smallest wheel that we sell, it fits in the overhead storage of air planes. If you think you are going to travel with your wheel here's a compare and contrast of the folding wheels we carry. http://www.paradisefibers.com/blog/travel-and-folding-wheels-comparison/

    Size? How big or small of a wheel do you want?

    This is a personal question for you. Some short people don’t like wheels that tower over them when they are spinning and some tall people don’t like to free like they should bend over to draft. However I have a 6 foot+ friend who spins on an Ashford Joy with an orifice height of 22.25 inches. It is a personal preference issue that should be considered. Also how much space do have for a wheel, they don’t take up as much room as grand piano but you will need some room for some wheels.

    Double Treadle vs Single Treadle?

    This is one of the things that for some people is an easy question, and other much harder, consider your plan for spinning. Is your goal to be a production spinner? Double treadle lets you spin with less work faster, are you going to want to just sit back and relax either works, but I cross my ankles and use a single treadle for lazy day spinning.

    I would really suggest you try a few wheels before picking single vs double.

    What kind of spinning are you going to do?

    If you answer that you plan to spin heavier yarn, you most likely don't need a wheel that has a fast flyer adaption. Lace spinners must have a high ratio. Higher the ratio numbers that faster the flyer will turn, the more twist or energy is added to the yarn and the finer yarn you can spin.

    However a jumbo/bulky/art yarn flyer might be worth your while. The smaller numbers like Louet's Jumbo Art Yarn Flyer makes every treadle of the wheel turn the flyer slower which can let you make fat yarns with low twist. This makes balanced fluffy yarn.

    See if there is a local guild in your area, and remember weavers often spin and if you go there you might learn something. Ask to spin on some different wheels, it is best if you come with a few ounces of fiber so that you can spin without using someone else’s stash, but spinners are friendly and they like to show off their wheels, there will be people there to help out.

    We are also more than happy to help you figure out what you need and what works best for you, so if you have questions please feel free to give us a call at 1-888-320-7746 or email us at either Kyle@paradisefibers or MorganGarratt@paradisefibers.com and we would be more than happy to help you figure out just what you are looking for!

  • Harp Forte Upgrade Kit

    Harp Forte Upgrade Kit: the Kromski up-grade for their 3 different size old style Harp looms

    If you are not sure you need this upgrade look to see if you ratchet and pawls are metal or plastic, plastic and you’ll need the upgrade.

    The Harp Forte solves some of the problems for that the Harp has been having and adds to the durability of your loom. This upgrade creates locking metal ratchet and pawls that work with assistance from a rare earth magnet. The metal allows for a weaver to have really high tensioned projects like rugs. Having locking ratchets is a wonderful part for solo-weavers. When the ratchets lock it is easier to warp alone as well as advancing the warp without assistance.

    The Ashford and Kromski ridged heddle looms have this locking mechanism, which is catching on so don’t be surprised if it’s on every loom in the future.

    Advice: Don’t rush

    You will need every part and the instructions are to size of the part

    This is an easy upgrade that takes time and precision. There is a right and wrong way for most of the part and you will need to know which side is the right and wrong side.

    If you rush you will screw up your upgrade (we know!). Please take your time to make sure you have the right sides and angles lined up! If you have questions feel free to contact us! We are happy to help!

  • Amazing Underwater Crochet


    Amazing Underwater Crochet...You read that right, underwater crochet, where the crocheter is underwater in full diving gear to yarn bomb the world’s only underwater museum the Museo subacuatico De Art. It is considered both a conservation area and public museum on of few that is known as a work-in-progress museum. The art here is most definitely in progress because seeing someone crochet underwater is yarn but aslo because the art installations were created to grow coral and create storm breaks for the weakened coral off the coast of Isla Mujeres, Mexico.



    14893897516_3059fdd49c_zOlek chose The Bomb to crochet her loud camouflage pattern in biodegradable yarn with eco-safe dyes. Jason DeCaires Taylor, the original sculptor of the pieces in the MUSA, compared the global oceans’ health to a ticking time bomb as ecosystems decline from overfishing and pollution. Olek chose to crochet the bomb sculptures as a symbol of solidarity and call for environmental protection. After the completion of the bomb installation Olek collaborated with the marine life-focused non-profit Pangeaseed on a photo series featuring divers donning crochet mermaid tails, camouflage bodysuits and butterfly wings of delicately crocheted doilies.



    Other than thinking about washing our fiber arts most of us never consider the beauty of yarn underwater. But with mermaids and whale sharks Olek’s installation forces us to rethink for a moment, and maybe change how we see the world.

    Check out the full article and many more photos on HiFructose


  • Enchanted Knits: Knits fit for a Fairy Tale

    Enchanted Knits: Knits fit for a Fairy Tale

    This amazing magazine covers some of the quintessential fiber fairy tales, some we know well and others you might not have heard of. A designer discuss why we love trees in stories and reuses their motifs in our knitting. Judith Mackenzie writes a retelling of “The Princess who Spun Nettles” one of the lesser known knitting stories which combines classic elements with “just one more row” moments. There is some talk of Baba Yaga and I’m sure you realized that you can’t talk about fairy tales without a discussion of the Brothers Grim.

    Rumpelstiltskins-Wrap_250_mediumThis is a lovely issue for knitters who love their fairy tales, want a little knitting history mixed and with 27 project inspired by childhood and designed for adults, it gives a tasteful way to express our love of stories with the look of a costume.

    Some of the patterns I am charmed by are the Woodcutter’s socks and manly design with cables, and Rumplestiltskin's Wrap a hooded wrap with a golden color and pattern that brings to mind woven wheat and bales of straw. Both patterns have lovely charting which allows for easy working an modest adaptions as needed.

    Woodcutter-Socks_detail1_medium2I thing I adore most about this collection is the combination of whimsy with real information that is easy to connect to. This collection understands that Fairy tales are constantly shifting to fit our needs just as our knitting does! Pick up this enchanting collection and see how many yarns you recognize!

  • Mantis Farms Sustainable Orgainc Fiber

    Nestled on a hill top allowing them to see them to see the whole valley of Chewelah, Mantis Farms brings to mind a different time in American, when the west was not a manufacturing powerhouse but a series of cottage industries that connected the community together. Ann of Mantis Farms paints a stunning picture of her home. With meadows sheltered by trees of Evergreen and Tamarack the slopes of the hill protecting them, and they work with the land not against it, the farm calls to mind the heritage of the farms that built America.

    Hanging OutYou might be surprised to find the Kevin and Ann have only been there for 3 year, before they moved from Colorado, to Chewelah the land that sounds so lovely was an abandoned dairy that had been used for dumping trash and was falling apart. But Keven and Ann saw something beautiful in the property. After removing truckloads full of trash, they worked to update the building, improve the water conservations systems, and install solar elements. All with the goal to create a self-sustaining farm. Holding to the basic tenants and ideologies of Biodynamic farming they are working to create a farm that functions as a self-sustaining organic ecosystem.

    Lamb LoveBiodynamic farming is “holistic understating of the agricultural processes.” It acknowledges basic facts about farming and asks the farmer be aware of them as they address everyday issues. It requires integrated farming, no monoculture approaches to any crops but rather, a connection between livestock and crop productions as an integrated bio-system. It is a step beyond organic farming, it suggests that you likewise have to support your land for your land to support your crop and you. It uses classic farming practices such as wet composting, that improves soil quality and increases the quality of the crops. The issue that most people consider is the uses of organic solutions to pests and weeds known as biological pest control.

    Afternoon GrazingAnn told me that this year they are suffering from a grasshopper infestation that is causing problems for their kale and lettuce, which is regularly controlled by their heritage turkeys and geese. Their goal is to control weeds with seasonal planting plans where productive plants planted in the right season will out produce and kill weeds. They also accept an amount of loss, sometimes, some years they will not get a 100% yield from the crop but that mean is goes back into the soil for the next year.

    Mantis Farms as some other nifty structures on the premise with a 30 foot yurt they have gatherings in and a brand new 70 foot hoop house style green house with the goal of year round greens heated with their wet compost system so they can have fresh greens in winter.

    To The Fiber!

    PlaytimeKevin and Ann admitted when they got sheep they weren’t sure what they really wanted so they currently have a diverse flock they are shifting over to dual or fiber only breeds. Their diversity gives us the chance to experience fiber combinations that we may never have considered like a Tarhgee Merino, which is super springy while soft with a lovely uniform crimp. I would never have thought of that cross. Overall they hope to shift over to Border Leicesters. These sheep are long-wooled robust sheep, with a great fleece and they are rather cute.

    Organically raised sheep means organic fibers and with about 45 head Mantis fibers add a luscious and unique fiber to our local collection here. My favorite that they have brought in is the fibers from their pure breed Border Leicesters. The fleece is stunning, with natural coloring multi-toned greys Border Leicester. With a five to six inch staple length and thick, tight locks but not true curls and has a uniform crimp pattern. Wonderful for texture spins, it is ideally used as picked and flick carded washed locks. Their Border Leicester is a high luster fiber with dense and thicker fibers. It has a micron range of 30-32. It is a dark grey with some sun-bleaching on 315935the tips.

    Kevin and Ann are really trying to make something sustainable and that will take time. They do the best they can and we are really thrilled to support them in their goals. There are so few people who are willing to take and chance and change the world so that they come along and have excellent fiber we are happy to actively support local and organic fibers!

  • A Scottish Yarn on NPR

    I know that many people find NPR All Things Considered to be just about cultural fluff, but for those of us who love the fluff of fiber their resent article and interview with Scottish knitters and spinners was some awesome fluff. In fact you can see that fluff being spun into lovely Shetland lace weight yarn on their page!

    All Things Considered: A Scottish Yarn: A Knit In Time Saves The Fabric Of Shetland Life by Ari Shapiro

    ingirid-eunson01 Ingrid Eunson at her wheel which looks like an Ashford Joy

    Ari Shapiro interviews people on the Shetland Isles that are involved in one of the oldest cultural industries. The Isles are power houses on the oil and gas industry but before that they made some of the finest knitted wool lace in the world. Shetland knitted lace became extremely popular in Victorian England when Queen Victoria became a Shetland lace enthusiast. Want to know more about Shetland Lace patterns check out Sharon Miller on Ravelry or Heirloom Knitting. The Isles are still a destination vacation for textile themed vacations for their current industry and for their unique history.

    Ingrid Eunson showcases her spinning Moorit wool into yarn. She clarifies that moorit is brown. On an island where sheep out number people 20-1 it is no surprise that the industry is part of everyday life.

    Shapiro claims that in the Shetland Isles knitting is a way of life, “not a hobby reserved for grannies or hipsters. It's something people just do because they've always done it.” I personally found this to be a disservice to the strong fiber community found in the United States. I don’t consider myself to be as hipster, but I have a farm and a strong connect to the fiber community and the history that my sheep come from. Personally I am a registered Shetland owner with Moorit sheep and I don’t like being boxed in with hipster knitters because it is not just a hobby but a huge part of my life.

    However I will agree that a history of isolation creates patterns and traditions unique in a culture and  creates knitting skills that transcend time. This article proves that in today’s world of the internet these skills and knowledge can transcend location as well.

    One local notes that they have a strong tradition of knitting with “teenagers and young people walking around with Fair Isle hoodies” but they fail to take into account their greatest virtue. If they have a strong tradition it is because they took the time to teach it to their youth and loved ones which is really how heritage and traditions live on.

    A question for you: how would you pass on your love of heritage craft skills?

  • Roving and Silver and Batts! Oh My!

    web-mixed-fiber Hand cranked drum carders create batts, while larger industrial ones will create either batt width roving or thinner.

    There seem to be an outstanding number of words that define the world of spinning fiber. Each one was developed to concisely inform about the steps and stages the fibers have been though. Some terms have evolved to have developed into general terms while others are still very specific to the steps that go into making it. Here are the terms you might or might not run across and how they are different from each other.


    CombedCombing fiber is one of the ways to process raw fiber into many different fiber preparations, it can also be the only stage some spinners use. When you comb locks you take and remove the nepps from the spinning fiber. Combs remove the shorter hairs and align the fibers. This step must be used to create top and silver.

    Carded: Carding blends the fibers together and to a degree  aligns the fibers if used with combed fibers. Carding aligns some of the fibers together; however, this is not a perfect alignment and often creates lofty woolen spinning. Carding can be done with hand cardsdrum carders or commercial drum cards.


    web-silver-and-pencil Lowest brown fiber is batt style roving, Red NortherLights Sunset Pencil roving, Golden Tussah Sliver Dyed Cinnamon.

    Roving: The fiber world is transitioning to call any processed fiber ready for spinning Roving. However "roving" defines a specific process in its creation. Roving can be carded or combed, but as it is drawn into a continuous strand the entire ‘rope’ has a small amount of twist added to it. It is sometimes referred to as a rope or coil of roving. This helps keep the fibers together and prevents larger numbers of flyaways and the fiber binding back onto itself when resting. Most rovings are 2 to 3 inches thick

    Batt: Today there are two types of batts, commercial and from hand drum carders. Commercial batts are generally used in quilting as “wadding or filler” between the layers of quilting, they are often 1-2 inches thick and up to 120 inches wide. Hand drum carder's batts are an effective way for spinners to blend fibers together. Custom batts are created by layering different fibers together and then passing them though the series of tines or teeth, which pulls and aligns the fibers together. Batts always have loft and spring to them. A non-quilting batt can be see here, as it is removed from the drum carder.

    web-combed-fiber Still on Paradise Fibers Double Row Wool Combs the combed fiber is a true top that is then pulled through a diz to create roving or silver.

    “True” Top: Top is a combed fiber, separating the out the longest fibers, which are then pulled though a diz and a slight twist is added to create a roving. At this stage all of the fibers are parallel with all of the extra air compressed out. Spinning fibers like these creates true worsted yarns. When you squeeze these fibers they will feel compressed and not squishy.

    Commercial Top: Most top seen today is commercial top, which is a variant of top and is always a roving. Nearly all of the fibers are going in the same directions; however, there are many more fibers and there can be considerable differences in fiber length. Commercial top is great for versatile spinners it can spin a fair woolen or worsted yarn as well as a range in between.

    Silver: The term is often used for cellulose fibers, such as cotton, flax or linen. Silver is layered strips of fibers that have been combed and layered so that the fibers are parallel but no twist is added. Think of pulling the fibers off the comb and layering them in a strip and compressing them down. It is almost always thinner than top.

    Pin-drafting- This is the stage after roving, after wool has been drawn into a continuous rope the rope is then sent through a pin drafter. Which uses a series of fine combs or pins to produce an open, lofty roving. This step also aligns the fiber more than plain roving as it functions as a series of small combs that closely work the fibers.

    Pencil Roving- Pencil roving is a general term for any fairly slender, “long strip” preparation of fibers, requiring minimal drafting by the spinner. Silver, Top, Commercial top, and pin-drafted roving can, depending on thickness of the rope, be referred to as “pencil roving.” The general difference between pin drafted and pencil is how dense the fibers are. Pin drafting creates loft while pencil roving is generally dense thin commercial top.

    Rolag Rolag with loft created with hand cards

    RologsHand cards create rologs, or “poofy roll of fiber.” After carding to align the fibers the wool is carefully and evenly rolled back off the card. This fibers is spun from the end to create woolen yarn.

    cotton punis Cotton Punis on of the classic cotton preparations.

    Puni – this is adding an extra step to the rolog. It is prepared on hand carders, then the fibers are rolled on a stick and compressed by rolling this stick on a flat surface. This makes a tight tube of fiber that makes excellent long draw worsted yarn. It can also be pre-drafted to make semi-worsted yarns. This technique is often used for cotton and other fine fibers.

    Noils & Neps- These are what are usually separated and tossed out at the combing stage. Often these are the super short bits, the damaged tips and the less desirable elements removed when creating top. After being washed and slightly felted they are often added back in to art yarn projects. These are the short balls that create textured bumps in yarn. They can be added in after being dyed to created color and texture affects.

    Lopi: Official lopi is made from the fleece of the double coated Icelandic sheep, and contains their longer outer coat and the downy undercoat. Lopi is the dual fibers pulled into a thin roving which is knitted directly into projects. It has very little twist, and is a step between silver and roving. The two different length fiber allows for better strength and cohesion yet holds less twist than yarn.

  • Last Weekends Event

    The Adventures of Travis and Sara!

    Ever wonder about what our glorious leaders do on their off weekends? Why they go to yarn parties! This last weekend was the Northwest Needle Market- it is one of the casual regional events where needle arts distributors, manufacturers and their representatives network with the yarn shops of the northwest. Travis and Sara of course went and represented all of us here at the shop, but the day before was the fun stuff!

    warehouse 7In a pre-event Cascade Yarn Co. hosted an open house to invite yarn stores to see their new facility. Cascade Yarn moved this March to a larger facility and shared its new location with warehouse tours, drinks and snacks and a “calm” get together for the Northwest’s carriers of their yarns. Only about 3 miles from the convention center it was a lovely integration of Northwest events,

    travis and rob the owner 2 Travis celebrating with Rob, the owner of Cascade Yarn Co.

    At the event, the focus was casual celebration, also known as chatting and drinks as well as allowing yarn shops to learn about Cascade. Vendors explored the floor and met the human element, aka the people like me or the rest of the team here, who make a business run from their customer service representatives to the shipping and receiving teams. It was a celebration of Cascade moving forward with cake, gift bags, and games. Trivia at the event included “how many miles of pacific were in the store?” Sara Reports that Travis guessed way too high. (If you leave a comment below with your guess and first and last name there will be something nice in store!). There was also Raffles of past model garments and Sara won a lovely shawl!

    sara and clif Sara and Clif - our rep for Cascade Yarn Co.







    Overall, the event was a fun adventure for Travis and Sara, and we got to hear about it and see photos, but I guess the rest of us have to say to keep the shop running, we can’t all go to the fun events instead we’ll just have to host some awesome events here in the future!

    Any Suggestions?

  • Noro Knitting Magazine: Color!

    Ever wonder how to make those crazy interweaving patterns of color projects with Noro Yarns?

    When you look at a skein of Noro you see amazing colors –and an overwhelming fear of NORO_SS14_ACC_01_RET_medium2working with them? Here is a solution- An issue of Noro Knitting all about Color!

    The best thing about Noro is the color, hands down. Colors make all of the difference between a beautiful project and a stunning one. However if you are anything like me the colors of Noro are a little mystifying. My projects never provide me with a color effect as I planned. Furthermore, until now I always limited myself to two different ways to work with Noro; using drastically different colorways so when I had to change skeins it look like it was on purpose or one skein projects. In my mind there was no smart way to have multiple skein projects in the same colorway. Wrong!

    Fear not fellow doubtful users of Noro! This month’s Noro is all about Color! Including a masterful way to outsmart the colors of Noro. These are just some of the questions Spring/Summer issue 4 cover. “If every colorway has the same repeat, why don’t all balls of the same color look exactly alike?” or “How do I combine two different colorways of a Noro yarn?” “What do I do when I hit a knot?” and finally “Do I really have to worry about all of this stuff?”

    All these answers and more! This was well worth the read and has been added to my ever growing collection of reference material for the fiber arts world.

    NORO_SS14_Socks_02_medium2NORO_SS14_Socks_06_medium2But I would have to say that my favorite thing in the whole magazine were the socks. They combined colorways, stitch patterns and the natural stripping of Noro to stun me into getting some of their Silk Garden Sock yarn…

  • Texsolv vs Steel Heddles

    The debate between Steel or Aluminum heddles and Texsolv is an ongoing one. For the most part it is personal preference combined with a little physics and science.

    20140715_133959 Texsolv heddles on Tensioned 8 shaft loom

    A quick primer for those new to the weaving world. Texsolv is a machine made Polyester heddle that uses a tie-up system. This means that you literally tie your heddles to the shaft (aka harness) loom to create the heddles that your warp is strung though creating division and allowing for weaving.

    As the warp is strung through the heddle a shed is created and by changing the shed by using the shafts different patterns or weaves are created.

    The debate of the heddle comes occurs only in non-ridged heddle looms. Every loom has a shaft that the heddles are attached to, the number of shafts changes how different strands of the warp can be lifted or lowed to create patterns in the shed. If a tea towel has 350 warp thread then there are an equal number of heddles.

    The debate between Texsolv and metal heddles comes from 2 different places and what you need from your loom and your weaving. Here is a basic out lay of the pros and cons of both different types.

    Texolv Heddles

    20140715_134147 Tensioned warp with Texsolv heddles showing the shed

    There is less weight, no jingling. These heddles are flexible and soft so they make little noise and are considerably lighter for manipulating the shafts when weaving. Their construction is a ladder formation and therefore don’t stretch but break with extended wear and tear. They are while but you can color them with sharpie or paint to differentiate from the shaft. They are usually used for shafts that have no side supports.

    Texsolv System heddles are made in joined 100- heddle bundles. Heddles slide easily on harnesses or shafts. The open construction of heddles facilitates threading and eliminates friction on warp. Because they are tied on and designed as such there are series of Loop cords and a peg locking system. This allows for maximum adjustment in the height of the heddle.

    There is very low fiction with Texsolv and therefore often less breakage when working with fine fibers like silk. There is often less breakage with handspun or varied warps. Because the heddles have flex and give they can be set up to exert less stress on the warp fibers.

    The heddles tie onto place so if you miss your count and need a heddle somewhere in the middle of the warp. This is a disadvantage too as precision is what makes weaving so lovely. This is not a magic get out of trouble warp.

    Some of the downsides… they are not as easy to move along the shafts so if you need to slide them it will take time. they are flexible so finding the perfect tension takes time, and practiced manipulation. Furthermore fluffy yarns are more likely to catch, when working with mohair the halo is more likely to wrap and bind with the heddle.

    Metal Heddles (Aluminum or steel)

    20140715_134224 Metal Heddles on Tensioned 4 Shaft Loom

    Metal heddles are useful for their ability to move with ease across the shafts, this makes sliding heddles across for balance and set up much easier. Furthermore when excess heddles are moved to the sides they fit with each other which takes up less room. (Note: All metal heddles eyes should face the same direction they twist to a slight angle to the left or right and all of the heddles need to match to have even tension across the piece)

    These heddles are heavier than Texsolv and therefore often used on Jack Looms where gravity is used to drop the shafts. This extra weight gives the sensation of a firmer drop. That firm drop comes with noise as the heddles click against each other. Some people find the sound soothing while others are annoyed.

    Heddle1 Metal Heddles, blue warp is without tension

    The metal heddles have some downsides, they lead to trouble with splitting fine fibers like silk warp leading to more breakages. However, they almost never bind up with over twisted or haloing yarns.

    They can withstand more stress and use while lasting longer than Texsolv but are likewise more expensive. Some people find that warping on metal heddles is easier as the heddle has less flex and that tensions can be more easily set both on the different shafts and the over all warp without adding extra stress on the warp.

    You should know that neither is perfect for every loom, project or weaver. You can make either work as you need to sometimes it takes some adjusting. Try either and figure out what is perfect for you and your project.

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