Saturday, October 19, 2013

Please go to my new blog!!!! Fiber Forays

Please click the link and you will automatically be transferred to my new blog: 

  Fiber Forays

Hope to see you soon!!!!

MOVING!!! A change of pace.. A change of Place

                                           Photo by Jaime Gage-Chavez Photography

My name for those that don't know me is Ercil Howard-Wroth.  I never mentioned it, because I felt my work was more important than my name, but I'm doing more, teaching more and since I've met many of you... I want you to meet me!  

I've been remiss in keeping up my blog.. famous words.. but it is true and I've found that Social Media is time consuming.  I'm making some choices.. LESS facebook, more blogging, More Fiber (always better), and Moving myself forward.  It will take some work to get my new page fine tuned and running so bear with me as I learn a new system.

Since I cannot change the name of this blog or the web address I am moving to a new blog!  Drumroll.......                                                          Mixed-Up Melange is Moving to:

                              Fiber Forays

If you click above you will automatically be transferred there.  However the actual address is:


I hope you will follow me there! I will shortly be going to Peru for the Tinkuy de Tejedores (The Gathering of Weavers) and I will be blogging about it there.   See you soon!!!

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook - The book fiber geeks need!

If you can't have all the cool sheep and you don't have the bucks to visit all the cool sheep then you need to get this book!  Deb Robson and Carol Ekarius have done the footwork, washed all the fleeces, and made all the samples... Plus... they got to meet and photograph Many Many of the worlds most fabulous sheep (and some other fibery animal friends).  This is an amazing reference and just a shear (pun intended) joy to read.  I just wish I could hang out with all the sheep and pet them up close.  I'm odd that way. :)

This book is available here and other places (linked on that very page!).

If you want to keep up with Deb (and she is so much fun to read on her blog)... Go visit her at  She also has an expounding article on the SOAY sheep in Spin-Off Magazine this month!!!  This includes more information (and more photos) than appear in her book.  I love the Soay Sheep, one of the rare breeds.

Here is a blog of someone who raises them (How I wish I could go and play!!!)  The lambs are just adorable (yes, I know all lambs are adorable), but the eyes on these are just beautiful.  I wonder if anyone would notice me carry one off on a plane in my carry on??? They are not that large.  Well, wishful thinking aside, the Soay are simply an amazing breed and quite ancient.  Another post on them another time.

I've been learning about sheep for years and I feel more than spoiled to have this book right in front of me on the table just Tempting me to spend a little more time before I pop off to sleep...reading about all the possibilities. ahhhh.  Thank you so much to Deb and Carol!!!

Another Book Review of her book is at :

Friday, February 25, 2011

So much going on!!!

There are days when I long for a friend next door to go and sip coffee with (or something stronger in the evening) and to bring our wheels and geek out over string and fiber.  My fellow fiber fiends live near and far, but no one is in my immediate area.   Happily there are some guilds and lots of fiber people in my State (and even on the southern end of it... ;)  But it all makes one think... what is going on and where can I go to play???  So it is kind of like giving a Mouse a cookie and he asks you for a glass of milk.... I got to roaming around on the computer and there is quite a LOT going on if you are looking for a place to be.... Not the least of which is your local or semi-local guild...  And there are places to travel to for a weekend... for a week... lots of fiberlicious things going on...

So last weekend I went to the Scottish Fair and spun for two days (with an occasional meat pie thrown in accompanied to the fairly good Scottish pipes).  Free entrance, free parking, spinning with friends all day... what's not to like?  (This is a shameless plug for > Go support your local demos!!! More fiber better!).

I'm going to list some things and you take it from there!  List some things back in the comments...  I'll list some more in the coming months -- we can all get together and have a spin-in this way!

Greater Los Angeles Spinning Guild:  Meets monthly on the 4th Saturday.  There is a pre-meeting mentoring session, meeting, program, and snack.  Tomorrow is a program on Spindling!
Southern Ca Handweavers Guild:  Meets 2nd Saturday of the Month.  They have a yearly SCHG Fiber Festival, Show and Sale that is really a fun low stress time with loads of great vendors.

Maybe I should do an entire post of Southern CA guilds.. but these two should lead you to others in your areas.. there are loads of smaller guilds all over.

Some upcoming events over the next few months:

Stringtopia! April 29 to May 1, 2011 Ohio    This weekend event being planned by Abby Franquemont (author of 'Respect the Spindle' and two videos, is a New venue and sounds fabulous!  It will be in Lebanon Ohio -- South of Columbus - Near Kings Island.  Featured will be a weekend of classes by Abby Franquemont,  Jacey Boggs (Insubordiknit), and Morgaine Wilder (Carolina Homespun)... oh, and did I mention shopping! Yes! Morgaine will be stopping and teaching, but also selling her fabulous fiber wares BEFORE she gets to Maryland Sheep and Wool!  Yes, if you go to Stringtopia even just to shop -- you will get to have first pick from one of the primo vendors at Maryland sheep and Wool.  Carolina Homespun carries wheels, spindles, fibers, knitting needles... yarn, books... almost anything a fiber heart can desire (really -- you can get anything there! Even chocolate sometimes).  So check it out and at least stop by for some fiber hugs and shopping.  It will be a fiberlicious weekend.  If I can swing it ... I will go!

Studio 66 Retreat  May 6,7,8  (Near Redlands, CA) An absolutely lovely destination in the mountains - fairly low cost - demos, some vendors I think, and lots of fiber community.  Fairly low cost.  (Southern CA) They still have some openings even though registration technically closed.  If you can go -- you will have a fantastic time!

Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival May 7 & 8; West Friendship, Maryland:  Well, this is a festival you don't want to miss -- and you want to get there EARLY!  Good food, great fiber folk, classes, SHEEP!, and ah yes, the SHOPPING!!!  I could pretend to be virtuous and say -- shopping???  but no, I will admit my weakness for fiber related goods.. ;) and if the fiber has color then I am in deep deep deep trouble! Go check out the website for schedules, classes, and other info.

Griffin Dyeworks Retreat June 24-26, 2011. (held in Castaic, CA) I try to never miss this event (and since I'm teaching three classes this year -- I'd better not!) ;)  This is an event where costs are kept fairly low, there are lots of classes, mentors, and sharing.  We all learn from each other.  It is held at a camp and many classes are outdoors (especially the non-stop dyepots!!!) There will be loads of natural dyeing going on, open studio and class specific; Spinning Classes, Weaving classes, Usually a basket class, crochet, the usual 72 hour Spin-In... Felting, in other words --- FIBER ARTS!!!  This is fiber community ... and yes, there is shopping... we are well fed and there is a pool (and sprinklers if we want).  Pre-Registration is open, Class listings will start to be listed in the next week (and more will be added).   ((Here is the blog entry I did on this retreat in 2009)) 2009 Griffin Dyeworks Blog entry.

There is more out there -- lots more, but this is all I have time for today!  Take care all!!!!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Scottish Festival at the Queen Mary

Yes, a dearth of posts and then a plethora... well, life is busy and then you stay up wayyyy tooo late and put up a few posts.  Really, I wish I posted more, because I'm doing more... but I am out doing --- not posting. lol!

So there was a call from the staff of the Scottish Festival at the Queen Mary for spinners to come demo on both Saturday and Sunday of the festival.  We got free parking and free entrance.  So many folk came and helped out.  There were folks from The Greater Los Angeles Spinning Guild, Historical Re-enactors, and Folks associated with Griffin Dyeworks.  We were all fiber folk and it was great fun!  On Sunday a great Pipe Band from West Minster Came and played for us (we were located on the bottom of the Queen Mary -- which was a good thing since there was a flash rain storm on Saturday and our wheels and spindles would have gotten soaked).  Both old and young were fascinated by wheels, spindles, the miracle of WOOL!  The concept of having to spin allllll the yarn to create a woven garment... mind shattering...   I love that kind of time.  It really makes you feel worthwhile in your endeavors to bring about that kind of consciousness raising.

This young man was extrodinarily captivated and so excited!  Here he is spinning while I am treadling from the side.

Bridget's plaid was hand woven for her.   Her great wheel is a true wheel and dates to the Civil War.  It is approximately 150 years old.  It spins true and like a dream.  It was such an asset to have at the demo and Bridget as always was completely generous with it.  I am happy to report that NO ONE pricked their finger on the spindle!

Here are more Saturday Spinners with a multitude of wheels and unseen to the right an entire table of spindles!

I have to thank Bridget since all of these photos came from her camera.  As always she is generous with everyone.  

Lastly, one other piece of magic at this festival were the older people who came to talk and tell us of their mothers or grandmothers whom they remember spinning or carding or knitting... once again fiber is a common bond.

Home School Co-op -- Fiber Artists everyone!

Just by chance I told someone that I loved working with kids and I'd be happy to come work with their kids for a few hours.  This blossomed into an entire semester of teaching 12 children about the Fiber Arts.  They are my fiber artists, every one!  Once a week about 80 home school kids get to take classes organized by a home school co-op.  It is mixed age groups and 12 of those kids come to me.  They are learning to spin.  They started with thigh spinning, moved to hook spinning.  They made their own spindles and next week they will start using them.  We had a camelid day and last week on Valentine's Day we had a fiberlicious Day!   3 stations of activity and they were just enthralled.  We did dry felting (needlefelting), wet felting (felting a bar of soap), and a paper weaving activity.  I will  show some photos here of  young happy fiber geeks.  More Fiber Better!!!!

In this two dimensional needle felting activity the budding fiber artists used the cookie cutter shape of their choice and any of a multitude of colors to fill the cookie cutter prior to felting it.

                                    I was really lucky because I was missing some supplies (imagine my stash being low ... on ), but I called on Mielke Farms in WI and they got wool and needles to me right away.  Mielke Farms is a great and reliable resource for needle felting supplies and lots of other things as well.

Here some sudsy felting is going on !
More felting and some great color choices.  
I didn't get a photo of all the finished felted soaps (I wanted too, but we were stressed for time), however I will note that the kids had great senses of color, proportion, and composition with both the soapy wet felting and with the dry needlefelting.

This next photo is of their first weaving activity.  It was a simple paper woven heart basket (being Valentine's day), but the idea was two fold.  First, provide a weaving activity, and second utilize two colors and see how they interact in a woven item.  Eventually, they will spin yarn, dye it, and weave with it.  But that is a few classes down the road!  

Right now... I'm looking for a field trip to an alpaca farm, (gotta find one) and for someone with an angora bunny to come visit.  Working with these kids, really with any kids and teaching in general is energizing!  It makes me happy.

Teaching Times... Griffin Dyeworks Fiber Frolic!

I've been incredibly lucky and I'm having a blast!  So much fiber!!! so little time! I taught some great classes in January.  This post is about the day I had at the Griffin Dyeworks Fiber Frolic.  In June they will have their annual weekend retreat, which promises to be another fabulous event of fiber community, sharing, teaching, and playing with fiber and string... more fiber better!   I've submitted 3 class proposals to teach in June.  Lots and lots of fun!!! (did I mention the pool???).

Griffin Dyeworks held its Annual January Fiber Frolic in Monrovia, CA.  More people than ever and they changed the site to accomodate the larger numbers.  There were some very good spinning classes, several dye classes, some great multimedia art classes, card weaving, nalbinding, and some others... I was teaching all day except for lunch and clean up so I saw some other classes, but it was a drive by smile and moving on.  Everyone had a fantastic time.  Lunch was provided (which I really appreciated), there was spin-in space for visiting, vendors, a beautiful day outside.  This is just a great day and the cost was low to participants.  These days it can get hard to access these types of events, because the costs are going up.  I have really appreciated how Griffin Dyeworks works to figure out how to keep their events at a fairly low cost.

    My classes at the Griffin Dyeworks Fiber Frolic were fabulous and full!  In fact my dye class was overflowing... I just could not say no to that hungry look ... 'PLllllleaassseee let me come play!'  Everyone was great though.  I had extra sample sets put together in case... in case of ??? disaster or more students!  Fortunately, it was the latter! lol... So much cochineal was used and delighted upon.  I think it must be a human tendency to love color; be seduced by color; be enthralled by color... maybe it is just me... I don't know, but I love it and it calls to me!  My friend Theresa was kind enough to take this photo of one of the dyepots (and let me use this on my blog) ... disadvantage to being happily busy... I can't get the photos I'd like to get of my own classes.

The students were great and really pulled together as we formed an extra group divided tasks and Theresa gave me an extra burner and space for another dyepot... that made the numbers very managable.  After all the class samples were done... the cochineal dyes were descended upon for personal projects ... it was a fun mad frenzy... of Reds, Magentas, pinks, and some oranges too!!!  Everyone had fun and the class was a great success.

My first class of the day (cuz I love to go backwards!) was a class on spinning silk.  It was a great group of students and we really enjoyed sitting with our wheels and luxuriating in this incredible fiber.  It has so many preparations, so many different facets.  It was hard to accomplish all I wanted to in a mere 3 hours.  It is an art to be able to select only a portion of the subject.  I was talking to Stephenie G. about this very subject and she says you can't give everything.  You have to leave more for later.  One has to accomplish your goals in class, because often students don't finish half started projects. Fine tuning and selection.  It is great advice.  I  love teaching these classes because it continues to be a learning experience for me.

Teaching is the greatest way to learn!  A teacher learns more by preparing for a class than the student will from sitting in the class.  I had a friend ask me if I'd taken a workshop on silk so I could teach it and I laughed, because I have been playing with silk (and silkworms) for the past 15 yrs... a long time.  I was just helping out in the Kindergarten science unit on silkworms... I was just doing a 'little' research for the kindergarten teachers.... and now I will do most anything with silk and silkworms... well, I won't eat them!  Did you know that silkworms make great pets??? they don't live a long time and they are easy to take care of.  My kids used to read to the silkworms.  They would take them from the boxes (one or two) and put them on the book or their wrist and read to them.  It was sweet.  Brings back some very old and very fine memories.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Passing.

It has been such a busy time since early December.  So much has gone on that I have a hard time keeping track of it all.  One thing that was significant and very hard was the passing of my dear beloved Aunt for whom I was named.  She died quite suddenly with no warning on Christmas Eve.  Life and the family will not be the same without her.  When my Father died in 2005 the family dynamic radically shifted.  Again the family dynamic shifts and changes and we re-adjust.  She was a graceful amazing resourceful and beautiful woman inside and out.  I think of her every day.  Word just cannot express it, but I miss her.  At some point when I get my other hard drive back I will post her photo.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Teaching... It's what I do.

I've been a teacher since I was a little girl. I think I fought against it. And then when I was in my late 20's and announced to the family I was going back to school for my Master's in education, Absolutely NO ONE was surprised... I was surprised, but that didn't count. I think my father sat back and said, 'At last, she has come to her senses!'. He seemed a lot more relaxed at any rate. So I teach all the time, but not necessarily for money and often not in a formal setting. Life is more or less informal until we try to wiggle around it. The opportunities to teach however are caught in life's everyday 'teachable moments'. Catching them is an art even more so when you catch them and teach yourself.

I have been shying away from teaching trying to see if I was someone else or something else and guess what... I'm coming back. I love teaching kids, grown-ups, teenagers (you know the kid-quasi adult person). And I miss teaching. I want to teach more so I am pursuing that goal.

+ January 29th in Southern CA, I will be teaching at the Griffin Dyeworks Fiber Frolic on (kind of a belated Roc Day celebration -- very in-expensive, loads of fun, classes, some vendors, & great fiber people!!!). You can take classes or just take in the atmosphere of Fiber Community and spin, knit, weave all day! I will be teaching two classes (one on Cochineal and the other on Silk). (Registration is now open for the Fiber Frolic).

+ Starting January 24th I will be teaching a 12 session set of classes to a local Home School Co-Op. 'Sheep to Tapestry', starting with making their own spindles and moving on to spinning, dyeing, weaving, mixed with a bit of History, chemistry, and lots fibery goodness.

+ In April I will be teaching a Silk class again for an Historical Re-creation group.

+ At the end of June I plan on teaching at the Griffin Dyeworks Fiber Retreat in Castaic, CA.

That's is all that is scheduled for right now, but I am looking for more teachable moments in the fiber world!

Go Olympiads GO!!!

I am not a competitive person by nature. I really despise 'contests', but when Ravelry held the Ravelolympics even though I didn't sign up on a team; I had to participate along with myraids of others doing textile type activities around the world together while we watched a common thing and cheered for the blood, sweat, tears, and joys of the Olympics. It is fun being part of something larger than myself. Sooooo I got out a troublesome project that I'd been working on for a year (almost two now, but I have only 6 inches left). The selected project is a cardwoven band using a variation on one of Guntram's patterns based loosely on the theory of the Egyptian diagonal. In February of 2010 here is what I worked on with fellow Ravelry Enthusiasts .

Yes, there are some serious errors and the warp being wool is very sticky. I have six inches left to go. Hoping to finish before the first of the year, because really this is ridiculous. It's just another UFO hanging around NOT getting done and cluttering up my loom (that has new projects WAITING!

And that is one of the things I did in February (that immediately come to mind). ;)

It's been awhile...

For some fun I will post this photo that I love. Corrupt them while they're young.

Time is a problem... not having enough of it, ever. I always need just one more day even when I'm doing well on time management. The fact that my time is not really my own means that at any time any thing can happen... and often does. And then there is FaceBook... and I have a farm on FB with sheep of my very own (and some llamas, reindeer, and assorted chickens... and a dog) well, a fair number of critters, but please, it was not having sheep of my own that did me in. The area I live in will not allow a sheep or chickens even if I hide them. If they find them on your property it is a $500 per day fine and they aren't messing around. Hence my somewhat obsession with my farm on fb. And I found out that I could communicate with loads of people I care about, but just don't have time to call and ask, 'how are you doing?'. However, you can hang out there for hours and hours wasting precious time. It is addictive and one has to police one's self (and one's children).

Here I am pining away for my blog and all the fibery goodness I can spill out onto its ethery pages. So I am stepping a little bit away from the obsession with FB (I will still take care of my sheep). I need to focus my goals for myself and my own work and figure out some things ... like.. what do I want to do when I grow up or perhaps when my children grow up??? And when will that be? I need to lay some groundwork now. I need energy and I need focus. I am hoping to find both in quantities greater than I have now.

Tomorrow I will post some of what I have been up to this past year... since the year is quickly coming to a year.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

What has been on going....

Many things, many projects, growth, and good things are what I have to report. A good piece of advice was handed to me just recently... try to post once a week. Well, I shall endeavor to do something like that, something approximating that... Wish me luck!!!

I've been up to some interesting projects, interesting for me at any rate, but I did have a great time this past weekend at the Griffin Dyeworks Retreat Near Castaic Ca. I will do a full blown post, but suffice it to say that it is invigorating, energetic (except you come home, shower and sleep! ) ,and it is a time of sharing with like minded and similar souls.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Medieval Image of the Day

I just love this image. The Virgin painted around 1420 is busy spinning, but she does have help. Angels hold her niddy noddy and her distaff in place. Note also the lovely skein winder with a dyed skein of homespun thread for weaving on it... matching her gown perfectly. I love this for its beauty and I love it for the fabulous depiction of tools. Thinking about our tools I marvel at the fact that things haven't changed very much in all that time. We still value the shape and efficacy of the niddy and love the beautiful woods that craftspeople use to create them.

Sorry to be failing at posting more often. It has been an interesting year and continues to contain surprises and riddles to puzzle out. I will endeavor to be more present here.