Are you interested in HOMESTEADING LIFESTYLE?  Then you might find one of these articles handy:

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Home Winterization Anyone Can Tackle by Doug Smith

The Actively Passive Home by Sheri Dixon

Crofting Life by Magdalena Perks

Dutch-oven Cooking by Catherine Lugo

He Who Shall Not Work Shall Not Eat: Part One of the History of American Homesteading by Barbara Bamberger Scott

Easy as Pie: The Myth of Simple Living by Sheri Dixon

Time Traveling with the WPA: Missouri by Barbara Bamberger Scott

Weather Lore and Superstitions by Sherrie Taylor

Fishing Without Chena by Clark Johnson

Non-Electric Dreamin’ by Barbara Bamberger Scott

I’m From the Universe, and I’m Here to Help by Sheri Dixon

Signpost to Simplicity - Wanda Urbanska Points the Way by Barbara Bamberger Scott

Laws of Attraction by Sherrie Taylor

Natural Alternatives to Chemical Household Products by Diana Barker

The Plain Paper - Letters From The Budget by Barbara Bamberger Scott

What I Learned From Poultry by Diana Barker

American Farmers Today - Part One by Karyn Sweet

What is Your Homestead $ Number? by Tony Colella

Homesteading in Appalachia by Karyn Sweet




Getting Started with Spinning

by Allena Jackson

One of the questions that I get asked a lot is, "Why should I spin my own wool, and knit a sweater, when I can buy one for $20 at the store?"  That’s a fair question, but it demonstrates a lack of knowledge about the benefits of wool, and why people are taking time to spin and knit their own clothing. 

Wool is a natural and renewable fiber—that makes it good for the environment.  Wool is also extremely warm and durable to wear—that makes it good for you!  Cotton is also a natural renewable fiber, but lacks the warmth qualities of wool.  High quality, 100% wool products are difficult to find, and often quite expensive.

So, why not buy that sweater off the rack at the local clothing store?  A wool garment from the store generally comes from the worst grades of wool.  Usually it is scratchy, and often people think that they must be allergic to wool because of this reaction.  The wool in these garments usually comes off the belly or haunches of the sheep, and is of the poorest quality.  These low priced garments may also be made from the wool of rougher coated sheep breeds from farms that raise market lambs. 

Another factor in the softness of wool is the method used to process it.  Commercial wool is processed in an acid bath.  This eats all of the vegetable matter, manure and other debris out of the fibers.  It is a very efficient process and the wool that is treated this way is very clean, however the process also roughens the wool somewhat.

The wool you get off your own sheep is much softer and nicer to wear, handle, and use over all—so a sweater that has been grown, processed and spun naturally, then knit by hand into a sweater is not at all on the same level as the sweater you might see in the store.  These garments are more comparable to couture clothing, and a sweater of this kind would cost several hundred dollars to purchase. 

Lastly, spinning and knitting provide very valuable entertainment.  If you enjoy using your hands, and don't like sitting still, then a spinning and knitting hobby will forever change long car drives and waiting in line.  Part of the enjoyment of this hobby is the process of creating the end product.  So not only do you clothe your family in high quality warm garments, but you also provide yourself with lots of entertainment.

For those of you who would like to try spinning, you might wonder how to get started.  When someone says "spinner", your first thought may be of an older lady, sitting sedately in front of a beautiful Saxon style spinning wheel.  She has a cup of tea nearby on a table with some lovely cookies and baked goods.  That’s a nice image, but is not the reality of modern spinners.  Today’s spinners are very young as often as not (and I’ve known more than one with pink hair and tattoos).  Spinners today, are men, women, children and people of all ages and walks of life, and you can easily find a spinner that has interests similar to you own.

If you want to try spinning, then your best bet is to go to a local spinning supply store, and take private or group classes.  There is nothing that can replace good quality instruction from a knowledgeable spinner.  For some however, there is no such place within hours and hours, so you may have to muddle through on your own.  If you think you would like to learn to spin, and don’t have easy access to a local instructor, then I would suggest that you make or buy a small hand-spindle to learn with.

The spinning wheel was first invented around the year 500 A.D. in the region of modern India.  Before that, the humble spindle is how all of the thread and yarns were spun.  Just because it's humble doesn’t mean it’s not versatile.  With a spindle, you can spin super fine yarns, threads, heavy yarn, or any other type of yarn you can imagine.  If you don't have a wheel then this is the ideal place to start, because you can make one for practically nothing, or buy one for very little.  The only disadvantage to the spindle is that they do not spin the yarn as fast as a wheel, but for a beginner this is a big advantage!

The best beginner spindle I have used is made with two CDs and a dowel.  It spins for a very long time, doesn't spin as fast as some of the lighter spindles that are available, and is easy and inexpensive to make.  To make your own, you will need the following things: 

1. A dowel: size is not super important but I recommend a 3/8" diameter dowel. It should be cut to about one foot in length.

2. A cup hook or wire that can be bent into a hook, if you wish to use one.  You can also make a notch in the shaft and use a half hitch knot if you don't have a hook on hand.

3. Two CDs: although many free CDs come in the mail, I prefer to use good heavy ones.  I use those that I buy in bulk for personal computer use.  You can recycle these and use the old ones.

4. You can purchase rubber grommets at farm stores and auto parts stores.  You need to choose one that matches the size of your dowel, so the inside hole (bore diameter) should be 3/8", the panel hole should be 5/8" to match the hole in the CDs, and finally the outside diameter about 7/8 ".  Look for one that will fit the CD hole, and comes close to the dowel size.

5. Electrical tape: if you couldn't find the exact grommet you needed you can add some tape to your dowel to enlarge it a bit.

6. A serrated knife, or small saw and scissors.

Cut your dowel to be about 12 inches long, and use a push pin to make a pilot hole as close to the center of one end as possible.  Now screw the cup hook into this hole firmly. 

You will notice that the grommet has a groove around its middle.  This is what holds the CDs tightly. 

Stack the CDs, one on top of the other, then take the grommet and start pushing the grommet into the holes of the CDs.  This is not an easy process since the grommet should fit very tightly. 

Just keep trying to get the CD holes wedged into the slot in the sides of the grommet.  Once it is started then you can pry the edges of the grommet up and push it into the holes as you go around.

Once you have manhandled and forced the grommet into the center of the CDs, slide your dowel inside.  If you were lucky enough to get a grommet that was just the right size you're done!


If not take your electrical tape and start wrapping it around the dowel, about two or three inches below the cup hook carefully (lining up the edges) until it looks big enough, cut it off and try sliding the CDs on.  You want a nice snug fit so keep adding layers of tape until it doesn't slip.

You’re almost ready to spin with your new CD spindle, but first you will need some fiber, and you will also need to properly prepare it.  We are going to begin with commercially prepared fibers, and there is a list of places to purchase them at the end of the article.   

We will start spinning using roving.  Roving is a continuous rope of carded fibers that are ready to spin, you may want to break off pieces about 12 inches long.   

The roving is often too large to work with for a beginner, so take your roving and carefully split it down the middle to form two strips instead of one.  You can do this again with each half to make four pieces or more.

Try for a size that is somewhere around the size of your little finger.  This is called pre-drafting, and it will let you concentrate on getting a good twist in your yarn without worrying about the thickness of the yarn.  Once you become accustomed to spinning, you will learn to regulate the thickness of the yarn while you spin—this is called drafting.


This is a great time to talk about what types of wool to begin with.  Most people have heard of Merino wool.  Spinners LOVE Merino, and it is wonderful wool, but it is not the easiest to spin for beginners.  I always recommend good quality Shetland roving, but Blue Faced Leicester, Border Leicester, Rambouillet, Romney, or any of the medium length wool breeds are also good.  My favorites are Shetland, Cotswold, Wensleydale, and Blue Faced Leicester.  You can purchase these in many places, and a small amount to get started with is not that expensive.  Look at the breed registries and check the members list for local suppliers, also contact a local spinning guild, or yarn shop.  You can spin, wools, mohair, synthetics, metallic, silk, soy silk, bamboo, alpaca, llama, angora and even yak fiber... The list goes on and on.  You can shop online and get some really wonderful products delivered to your door.


The first thing you will need to master is twist.  Twist refers to how many times the spindle turned in a given distance on the yarn, usually one inch.  So if you spin the spindle 6 times for each inch of yarn, you get a tpi (twists per inch) of 6.  Twist can be very challenging to control for a beginner.  You want to aim for yarn that doesn't easily pull apart, but isn't so twisted that it wants to knot up and look like a big mess. 


This is hard at first, because the thin areas will absorb more twist than the thicker places.  As long as your thicker areas are not coming apart you should have enough twist, and needn't worry about the thin areas because they will have more twist than the thicker places.  In the beginning, you want to get control of the twist rate, try not to worry about the yarn being big and thick in places, and tiny and thin in others.  Just try to keep the twist under control.


Above is an example of a good twist on the yarn.  Notice the thick and thin areas?  They will knit up and lend a beautiful texture to the finished product so don't worry about that.  This is what most beginners will make for the first few hundred yards, it is very soft and lovely when worked up so enjoy spinning and avoid frustration by accepting that your yarn will look like this for a while and THAT IS OK!!!


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