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Featured Artist: Kate Blaney of Gourmet Stash plus Puni Giveaway

by EBlack on June 16, 2013

KB-GS KateofGS

 

 

 

 

Publisher’s Note: Many say “variety is the spice of life,” and I to both agree and expand on this old adage, after meeting up with an artist who is not only full of variety, but creativity, joy, and ingenuity. Kate Blaney of Gourmet Stash has been creating fiber art for over 10 years.  Not only does Kate create unique pieces and what she calls “dye mash-ups,” she also has mastered punis and rolags — something that many of us are keenly interested in hearing more about!

Spin Artiste (SA): What can you tell us about your journey to and through fiber?

Kate Blaney (KB): Growing up I was very creative in everything I did. My Dad and Nana really encouraged me to express myself through art. So in high school I did a bit of everything:  painting, drawing, pottery, sculpture, jewelry making and mixed media. It wasn’t until college that I wanted to actively learn to knit and crochet. I really enjoyed it right away. It was something artistic that you could wear!

After my daughter turned 1 yr old, I started getting interested in more advanced knitting techniques. KB-GS SupportSpindleWhich is how I came across people that hand spun their own yarn. I got a drop spindle but didn’t like how slow it was. So my boyfriend (now husband) bought me my first spinning wheel! As soon as I got my wheel I became a voracious spinner. I worked very hard at it and practiced everyday for months. A lot of not-so-good looking yarn came out of it. But as long as you can knit with it, it is still yarn right?! I’ve been spinning for 6 years and knitting for almost 11 years. I don’t think there will ever be a stop to the crafts in our house!

SA: That daily practice is just invaluable and a great discipline for a beginning spinner.  What personally drew you to fiber art and how has it changed your life?

KB: It is tactile! There are infinite possibilities with color, texture and fiber content. Playing with fiber and knitting is also very meditative for me. I don’t think a few hours can go by without spinning, knitting or prepping fiber. KB-GS MyfiberTattooIt really has taken on a “way of life” for me. Even my daughter has expressed serious interest with fiber arts. She learned to knit this past Christmas and now she is asking to learn to spin! It is pretty cool to see my daughter finding a love for all things fiber related and seeing it benefit her creativity.

I also have become so passionate about fiber arts that I decided I wanted to get a fiber-themed tattoo! It took me a while to settle on the design, but I really wanted something spinning related tattooed on my inner forearm. I took a watercolor sketch of my first support spindle and had a local tattoo artist re-work it a bit using my favorite Spanish Peacock support spindle as the color scheme. So, it is my own drawing but with a few small changes and I absolutely love the finished tattoo. I think it is pretty obvious that I am committed to fiber arts…for life!

 SA: Love the tattoo! So, I know you specialize in punis and rolags. KB-GS Punis Spring into SummerCan you tell us a little about what punis are and what techniques you use to manipulate the fiber?

KB: Punis are a woolen type of preparation (reminiscent of rolags) that is originally from India. Traditionally, you use moderate to small amounts of fiber on the hand cards, then once blended, the fiber is rolled tightly on a stick directly from the hand cards. This compacts the fiber and allows for very smooth long draw spinning. Punis are excellent for short staple fibers but I’ve found you can use medium to long staple fibers as well.

For making my punis, I use the similar techniques but with some variations. The first of which is that I use a small diameter knitting needle to roll the fiber. With a rolag you transfer the fiber back and forth between the hand cards. With the punis I make, I pre-comb the fiber onto the card and lightly blend it. However, I do not transfer the fibers back and forth between the cards. KB-GS GourmetstashWHATAREPUNISThis allows for a very smooth rolling action and fewer issues when spinning from them.

Currently, I am working on a series of video tutorials demonstrating how I manipulate fibers and make punis.

For additional info regarding what punis are and the differences between them and rolags you can check out my website http://gourmetstash.com/what-are-punis

SA: You are right on target with your exploration of punis and rolags.  What inspired you to create and sell punis and rolags?

KB: I discovered punis via Instagram of all places! KB-GS Puni Rolag DisplayI met two amazing fiber artists, Holly from Turquoise Owl Fibers and Debra of MichiganSpinning. They were posting pictures of in progress punis and rolags for their etsy shops. I am not a shy person, so I asked them about it and they were happy to share the basics with me.

Things just took off from there. I became obsessed with finding ways to make neater and easier-to-spin punis and rolags. It took me about 2 months to fine tune my methods. While I was working out the kinks with my techniques, friends of mine started asking me if I would sell them or make some for them. It was at that point that I spoke with my husband about starting a home based fiber arts business. He really encouraged me to delve into what it would take to start up an etsy shop. And things just fell into place. Luckily I also have an amazing local fiber community of people that have been so supportive. I don’t think my plans would have moved as fast without their cheerleading or help.

SA: So nice to hear you have a good support group and fan base. I’m curious to learn more about your work with punis and rolags. What have you found to be the benefits of using them when spinning, and which do you prefer? 

KB-GS Punis Electric YellowKB: I found that using punis and rolags are amazing for travel spinning. The fiber is pre-portioned out and it ready to spin. I have being working with a support spindle for the past month and I have discovered that I can spin punis incredibly fine. Finer than I can on my wheel! So my long draw spinning has improved greatly and my lace weight singles are very consistent now. It is fair to say I prefer punis, but I also enjoy rolags.

SA: That is a great tip for travel spinning; I would love to try spinning both in my travels! It seems you have just recently launched your fiber business. What motivated you to start selling your wears?  

KB: I have always wanted to do something creative as a business. The trick was finding a niche that hadn’t really been tackled or done before. Thankfully friends pointed out to me that punis were something unique and different. KB-GS Festival Booth 2I just jumped right in with the support of my husband and friends. Things really took off quickly. I am still very humbled by it all and very thankful.

SA: What would you say is your business model or philosophy? 

KB: My philosophy is really a patchwork of things. One of which is that when it comes to being creative or experimenting, there are No Rules! Who am I to tell you how to spin your punis?! Do what works for you and don’t worry about the “spinning police”, they don’t exist. Also, there is room for everyone in this fiber community. Everyone deserves to share what they’re doing either for personal or business use. We can all make room for the new and the innovative because we all benefit from it.

KB-GS Puni-Style Rolags DyeMashup confettiSA: I totally agree, there is room for all sorts of creativity in the fiber art world, and I’m glad you are so open to share yours with us! What is one thing you would like your customers to know about you and your art? 

KB: Well, I am in love with color, texture and using luxury fibers. My current obsession is hand blending neutrals with bright colors. It really makes for a unique spinning experience because each puni is subtly different. But, when you spin the fiber, the colors shift and blend which creates some really unique handspun that isn’t over the top. It makes the finished yarn versatile for featuring it with commercial yarns in finished knit and crochet projects. You should also know that I am big on sketching with water colors. Anytime I am struggling for inspiration I bring out my sketch book and play with paints. It really does get my creative juices flowing.

SA: Can you tell us a little about the wheel you’re using? 

KB: I use a Majacraft Pioneer! KB-GS My favorite spindleIt is the best lightweight wheel I’ve ever owned. It is a very versatile wheel and easy to travel with. I tend to spin light fingering weight singles with a lot of twist and this wheel just sings at when I’ve got it going at “high speeds”. Though I will be honest, my wheel hasn’t gotten much love in the past month. I fell down the rabbit hole with support spindling. So for fine gauge spinning I will only be spinning it on the support spindle. I finally found my “sweet spot” with spindling and feel so dedicated to it that I very recently got a tattoo of a sketch I did of one of my support spindles.

SA: I hear your studio got a makeover recently! What can you tell us about your new and improved studio?

KB: When I started Gourmet Stash, I had two small tables and half of our dining room table (with the leaf insert!) for drum carding and shipping out products. After a short while, I took over more and more of the dining room table. KB-GS Studio 2My husband and I figured out what I needed in the Morning Room so I was able to work, give the kids their space and also keep an eye on the kiddos. Basically I took over 75% of the Morning Room and doubled my table space! Which now that I have the space it feels amazing.

I have designated spots for two drum carders, storage for supplies, storage for products, open table space for processing orders and a spot for outgoing orders. It is very assembly line oriented, but it works well and is efficient.

SA: A classic case of “fiber creep”!  I love your idea for color “mash-ups”. What would you say is your favorite color mash-up so far?

KB-GS Punis Van Gogh's PaintboxKB: The “Dyer Mashups!” series are a set of hand carded puni or puni-style rolags made from two different repeatable colorways from two different indie dyers. Currently I have Kate of Dragonfly Fibers, Sarah of Cephalopod Yarns and Chris of Threeravens collaborating with me on this project. It is so much fun to take what they do and turn it into something very different and yet you can still “see” their colorways.

I haven’t fully debuted it yet, but my favorite is the Malachite colorway. I used some Dragonfly Fibers Emerald City in Merino/Silk and Cephalopod Yarns Bugga! Fiber in Ariel to make the blend. It ends up being this bright heathered malachite green that just sings when you spin it. Though, I am very much in love with the Confetti colorway too!

KB-GS Bundled Punis ready to SHIPSA: Who are your favorite fiber friends? Has there been anyone who inspires you, creates with you, and/or mentors you? 

KB: There are a great many people that have helped, contributed and inspired me and my business. From the inception of Gourmet Stash, Kate of Dragonfly Fibers and Sarah of Cephalopod Yarns have supported me and been there to answer questions. They’re both so sweet, encouraging and inspire me to grow my business. Also, they’re just a ton of fun to be around! Another friend that I get inspired by is Kim from the CraftStash videopodcast. KB-GS Super Bon-BonsShe inspired a whole new technique for making art punis for my shop! Also, I’ve got an amazing work/personal relationship with Chris of Threeravens. We recently have collaborated on an exclusive series of punis for her shop in Baltimore. Chris is also has a wealth of fiber information and is great at helping with getting ideas up and running. Honestly, I cannot even begin to say how amazing these ladies are in what they do. I am very fortunate to call them all friends and they are truly at the core of a fiber community that inspires me.

SA: I can’t agree with you more, having a  good connections in the community is invaluable. Now, thinking outside of the fiber art scene, what artist do you have an artistic connection to (singer, musician, painter, photographer, etc.)?    

KB-GS SketchingKB: We could talk inspiration all day! Music, Art, Nailpolish, Pantone Colors, Books, History, Thrift Stores, Travel, Graffiti, Tattoos and Movies/TV are all things I love. So I tend to pull a lot of inspiration from the things I enjoy and translate it into what I do with fiber. But to be honest, music is the one thing I can’t live without when it comes to my everyday life. I am a big fan of all kinds of music. Whenever I work I’ve always got some new playlist playing in the background. Currently, I am listening to The Great Gatsby Soundtrack on repeat. It is a very powerful and emotionally driven soundtrack that I just can’t get enough of right now. And I also tend to play a lot of Muse, Daft Punk, Joan Jett and Macklemore when I work.  

 

SA:  Macklemore, now you’re talking!  Thank you so much, Kate, for taking the time to chat with us and let us know more about you.  We certainly look forward to seeing where your creative journey takes you!  Readers, Kate has a very generous and fun giveaway for you: your choice of 2 oz. of her beautiful punis in either the Noir Melange or Jaune Bicyclette  Tour de Fleece limited edition colorways.  

Juane Bicyclette

Noir Melange

To enter for the giveaway, please leave a comment below and tell us whether you’ve ever tried making punis or rolags and if you have, any little tips you might want to pass along to everyone else.  Additional entries for sharing on Facebook, Twitter, etc.  Just leave a comment letting us know that you did.  Entries are due by next Sunday, June 23rd, 5:00 PM.  Best of luck to all!

 

 

 

 

{ 53 comments… read them below or add one }

Cherokee June 16, 2013 at 8:07 pm

I haven’t. but I’d love to try spinning them!

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The Crafty Scientist June 16, 2013 at 8:18 pm

Love your work, Kate! Was introduced to it through Chris of Three Ravens. Love the fiber related tattoos…your interview reminded me that I need to get another soon. I haven’t tried to make punis yet (have tried them to spin cotton, which isn’t my fave), but have pulled a mean rolag off my hand carders often and my drum carder a time or two. My tips are to pull slowly (I use a bamboo size 11 knitting needle) and roll carefully–sharp carder teeth tend to go under my fingernails. Ouch!

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ann-marie mackay June 16, 2013 at 8:27 pm

I have never tried making or spinning puni’s before, but now I want to learn!

I’ve hand carded fleece for spinning, but not coloured top or blended fibres….

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ann-marie mackay June 16, 2013 at 8:28 pm

I also shared on FB

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ann-marie mackay June 16, 2013 at 8:30 pm

I also retweeted on twitter (annmariemackay)

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Christiane June 16, 2013 at 8:47 pm

I’ve been looking forward to reading this! Kate is THE BOMB, totally a joy to work with, and her fibers – both punis and Fibery Tribbles – are incredible to spin up. It’s an honor to both have my work associated with hers, and to call her a friend. Whoever wins her punis is in for a TREAT!

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Annie June 16, 2013 at 9:01 pm

I regularly make rolags and enjoy spinning from them, but I had not seen a punis until Kate started posting them on Instagram. I’d really love to try them! Great interview!

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Aileen ( bellasocks) June 16, 2013 at 9:10 pm

I haven’t tried making punis but I have bought them from Kate and I can tell you that she is absolutely the sweetest person. Her attention to detail is impeccable. Her love for her craft really shines through :-) I’m a huge fan of her work!

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Aileen ( bellasocks) June 16, 2013 at 9:12 pm

Tweeted this post :-)

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Natalie Canfield June 16, 2013 at 9:12 pm

What fun! I’ve spun cotton punis before with my charkha. Wool would be a new experience.

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Lisbeth Wallace June 16, 2013 at 9:21 pm

I AM INSPIRED !! I am getting out my stash of wools and starting to make Rolags & Punis. Life has become tiresome & depressing….this is my New Start. Oh ! doesn`t it feel great to be enthusiastic.

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Bethany June 16, 2013 at 9:27 pm

I am a fiber artist/hand spinner and card rolags on my hand cards, as I don’t have a drum carder. For some reason I can’t make punis properly. But I love spinning!

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Julianna June 16, 2013 at 9:44 pm

I have carded rolags before but never took too much time to really hone my technique. That being said, I do have a tip: load the carders with smaller amounts if fiber than you think you’ll need. Too much fibre on the hand carders will only lead to headaches and in the end will be less efficient than doing a larger number of small rolags. Thank you for offering this great give-away, I love Gourmet Stash fibre!

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Julianna June 16, 2013 at 9:50 pm

I also shared this post on twitter :-)

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joanne June 16, 2013 at 9:56 pm

Enjoy reading about things others enjoy creating with fibers. I’m a drop spindle fan but have never made punis or rolags. Bonne soirée!

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Silja June 17, 2013 at 3:09 am

I have triex spinning cottonpunis on a thaklispindle with little sucsess unfortunately, but I recently made my own blending board that I have played with. U
After reading this article I learned that I made punistyled rolags since they were no as fluffy as rolags shoul be.
Love your spinningtattoo Kate, I have been wanting one too for a long time but have not decided on the exact image yet. Thinking about getting my Aura wheel.

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Pam B June 17, 2013 at 7:57 am

I just loved every part of this article. Thank you for sharing and being so inspirational! Great way to start a Monday.

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Deila June 17, 2013 at 8:05 am

Going to share this on FB. Our guild is looking into a program on blending boards and I am anxious to learn this new way of blending fibers and making puni and rolags. Would love to win a few from you. I have a wheel and several spindles. I love the reactions from others when I spin on my drop spindle at doctors offices. Punis would be the way to go.

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Marion June 17, 2013 at 8:07 am

I made rolags recently with a blending board.
A very fun technique that gives you great control over
color and texture placement. Love it :)

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Chelsea W June 17, 2013 at 8:37 am

This is so cool! I have never spun with rolags or punis, but I am a total newbie. Just started spinning 2 months ago on a drop spindle. Love it! Thanks for the chance :-)

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Allison Ninabuck June 17, 2013 at 8:57 am

Hi! First of all, this was a fantastic article. I learned a lot and it was nice to meet Kate :) I actually have not tried to make punis or rolags as of yet. I do not have a drum carder and have just started to make plans for a blending board … which is probably why I learned so much from this article. Really fantastic and now I am looking forward to trying out some rolags or punis even more! :)

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debra June 17, 2013 at 9:06 am

great interview…..hope we will get to meet each other soon

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Diana Ross June 17, 2013 at 9:14 am

LOL this is so timely! I just made my own blending board yesterday and this morning broke up TPT club BFL into color gradients and rolled “punilags” :D funtimes!

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Andrea June 17, 2013 at 9:17 am

Beautiful work! When working on a large project, I like to make rolags out of drumcarded batts. I use two rulers, and pinch the short end of the batt between the rulers, and roll a few times, then use a third ruler, or long thin board, to hold down the rest of the batt while I pull the rolag off. Slip the rulers out of the center of the rolag, and viola! A rolag. I first read about this in an old issue of Spin Off, and have since seen it explained in one of Anne Field’s revised books, as well.

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Rhonda Rogalski June 17, 2013 at 12:46 pm

Beautiful fibers and colorways! I have never made punis or rolags and don’t have any plans to, but greatly admire the work of those that do. Thanks for the chance to win some of this yummy fiber!

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Rhonda Rogalski June 17, 2013 at 12:46 pm

I shared this post on Facebook :D

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Rhonda Rogalski June 17, 2013 at 12:46 pm

I shared this post on Twitter!

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Helen Hart June 17, 2013 at 1:19 pm

In 1978, at Convergence in Ft Collins, CO, I learned how to spin punis on a tahkli. It is so much fun. I finally learned to pull the tip apart so the fibers would “unwind” and not try to spin from the center. I think I will order some punis from Kate. I know I have some put away. Even have cotton carders. Hmm. I will do this. But I am going to sign up for the Noir Melange. Thanks so much for the interview. Good luck with your business. Helen Hart

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Melisa Morrison June 17, 2013 at 2:20 pm

I have made rolags and spun from them before as well as big fluffy batts. but I have never made or spun punis. I have seen others but not tried to date myself yet. :-)

Melisa

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Kathy Lambert June 17, 2013 at 2:40 pm

Your interview was great, but what has stuck with me is those incredible photographs of punis! Please make them into note cards, a calendar, or address book, and put me on the order list!

Very beautiful colors, workmanship, and arrangement.

Thank you!
Kathy

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Jessica June 17, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Would love to give these a try!

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Eileen June 17, 2013 at 4:51 pm

I relish in the beauty colour and texture that fibre art offers. I am always learning how to incorporate something new into my art by seeing other artists creative adventures.

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Judy June 17, 2013 at 6:36 pm

Fascinating! I had only heard of cotton punis. Looks like great dying possibilities.

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Betsy June 17, 2013 at 7:17 pm

I can’t wait to try some using hand cards, and then a blending board when I make one. Maybe I’ll get it done sooner now that you have inspired me. Gorgeous colors!

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MistyD June 17, 2013 at 9:32 pm

I’m a new spinner and I haven’t tried punis or rolags yet but I have to say I love her colors!

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MistyD June 17, 2013 at 9:37 pm

I shared this on Facebook!

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sarah in the woods June 17, 2013 at 9:50 pm

I was taught to make rolags when i first learned to spin, but at the time it was just something I had to get done so I could spin. Now with all the beautiful colors and textures and fibers I know about, i think making rolags or punis would be fun. I would love to try out the lovely blue ones.

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Carol June 18, 2013 at 12:18 am

I’ve never made or spun rolags but my husband has promised to make me a blending board so hopefully they will be in my future! Love following Kate on instagram. I always love her photos!

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Michelle DeWinter June 18, 2013 at 5:00 am

Yay Kate – what a great interview!

I have never tried to make punis or rolags, I don’t have any carding equipment (YET!) However, I recently purchased some of Kate’s GORGEOUS Tribbles and have been eyeing up those punis since she starting posting them on Instagram! <3

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Rachel June 18, 2013 at 9:51 am

I haven’t tried making rolags or punis, but I’d love top try spinning them!

Tweeted, posted to personal facebook, posted to business facebook, pinned, and blogged. :)

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Eutrapalia June 18, 2013 at 12:41 pm

I love to buy Kate’s punis as a fiber treat. Her prep is amazing. Kate taught me to make them a few months ago. This form of fiber prep is creative, fun and definitely addictive! Kate is a very talented and knowledgeable fiber artist and business woman, and I have to say… The most amazing, fun, loving, generous, inspiring friend.
Loved the interview:)

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Laurie June 18, 2013 at 12:45 pm

This is the first time I have heard of punis. They look beautiful and fun to make but alas, I have no carding equipment so will have to settle for spinning them! They look like the perfect size to take along with a spindle.

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Eutrapalia June 18, 2013 at 12:51 pm

Tweeted cuz Kate is THAT awesome:)

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Eutrapalia June 18, 2013 at 12:52 pm

Facebooked, too, so Gourmet Stash gets all the love <3

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Myra June 18, 2013 at 1:40 pm

love your colorways in puni style. Will be purchasing at some point to try spinning yours. Love how the colors are consistent and pristine. I used to create rolags back in the day. However, I often spin straight from the fleece or just flick. Not patient enough for rolags, but will buy your punis…!

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Holly June 18, 2013 at 11:19 pm

i have carded rolags, but not well. I’d love to spin punis!

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tricia June 19, 2013 at 6:30 pm

I have not made punis or rolags, I am a new spinner and got my first wheel in april! I would really love to learn how to make them though, they are so beautiful:)

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Grace Shalom Hopkins June 20, 2013 at 12:13 am

I am very much into carding rolags and puni-style rolags since I don’t own a drum carder its a perfect way to mix fiber. Turns out that the rolags are great to store and great to spin! I love how some really awesome things come from creative constrains.

I shared with my facebook fans as soon as I saw because I fell in love with the photography here right away. Then I read the article and wow! :)

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Diana June 20, 2013 at 12:59 pm

One brief session of hand carding and rolling punis on skewers has opened the door for me. I need practice, but what fun that word brings in this case! Thanks for all the incredibly helpful information.

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Diana June 20, 2013 at 1:00 pm

I shared this article on Facebook.

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Terry B June 22, 2013 at 7:10 am

I am in love with the colorways in this article. I’m a big fan of bright color in my spinning (glitz never hurts either) and your punis talk to my heart. Great job with them.
Cheers,
Terry

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Rose Duke June 22, 2013 at 2:00 pm

I am new to spinning & had the great fun of taking a class with Christiane of 3 Ravens.
I raided Christiane’s shop yesterday for new, better top & bottom whorl spindles & all kinds of wooly fun fibers. Christiane was very sweet & gave me some punis to try, told be about you & sent me the link for this article.
Oh, too much fun!!! I’ve managed to spin some amazingly fine yarn from the punis. And I’m just a beginner. Much thanks!
Rose

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Melissa June 23, 2013 at 1:43 pm

lovely! looking forward to seeing you and your punis at SpinQuest in August!

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