Archive for the ‘Cindy Conner’ Category

I will be at a few events this fall and I hope some of you will come out and see me. First up is the Virginia State Fair. Find me in the Horticulture Pavilion on Monday, September 26 from 10am-2pm meeting folks and answering questions about gardening and growing cotton and flax and taking that fiber all the way to clothes.

The first weekend in October is busy. I will be at Scotchtown, home of Patrick Henry, demonstrating flax-to-linen on Saturday, October 1, from 10am-4pm. The next day, Sunday, October 2, I will be at the Fall Fiber Festival at Montpelier Station, VA., also demonstrating flax-to-linen all afternoon. Look for me at the demos tent.

I have been working on a book about my fiber work for the past few years and am happy to announce that it is now with the publisher, Stackpole Books, working its way through that process. Homegrown Flax and Cotton: DIY Guide to Growing, Processing, Spinning & Weaving Fiber to Cloth is expected to be out in print on July 1, 2023. I enlisted the help of my daughter-in-law, Stephanie, to take photos. I will be wearing my homegrown clothes in all the photos you see of me in the book. In this photo I am wearing a linen dress I made from my flax in 2021. I was a bit short on fiber, but when my good friend Jan passed in August 2020, the flax she had grown came to me. It was enough to finish the project. I dyed the warp with Japanese indigo that I had grown and left the weft natural. I made the shirt from cotton that daughter Betsy had grown as part of our Cotton Project. There is a whole chapter on the Cotton Project in the book. The green and brown cotton had crossed and in the process of growing out subsets of seeds to get back to the original green and brown, we found some white. You’ll have to read all about it in the book.

The message in the book is not only to grow your own clothes, but to think of where the clothes you wear come from and how the earth and the people responsible for their production are compensated in the process. Each action we take affects everything else. We have to not only think about those people on the planet now but look to taking care of things for future generations. To that end, I thought it would be fun to have another generation of Conners in the book, so I included our twin grandsons. However, if they were in the book, they would need homegrown clothes. You will see them wearing overalls I made. Since my shirt and their overalls are new this year, I was quite busy deseeding cotton, spinning, and weaving from January through the spring. Here is a teaser photo of the boys that Stephanie, their mom, took when we were doing our photo shoot. You’ll see that photo and a complete one of me and the boys in the book.

It has been quite a journey getting this book done. Besides all the how-to of going from seed to garment, there will be plans for a tabletop flax brake and for a small swift. You can thank my wonderful husband, Walt, for making that happen. I want folks to have no barriers to getting started. This can be done in your garden. I had a lot of catching up in my garden to do this summer, since I had to let some things go. I am caught up now and it is nice to not be quite so busy, although somehow, new projects seem to pop into my mind from time to time. There is always something to do.


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I have just posted the events in 2022 that I have committed to. You can see the list here or view it on the events page of my website at www.HomeplaceEarth.com. Except for the talk about transitioning from a home gardener to a market gardener at the Virginia Association for Biological Farming conference (VABF), all the talks are about fiber. I love to give the transition talk, by the way. I want new farmers to start out strong. I was a market gardener myself for 10 years and spent 11 years teaching sustainable agriculture in order to put more farmers out there and have seen people jump into selling their produce before they have thoroughly thought through what they need to do to be successful.

I am looking forward to talking about my work with cotton and flax/linen. As you know, the pandemic has changed the way we communicate and there is no going back completely to the way things were. Fiber guilds that have kept active have quickly adapted, allowing folks to attend meetings and classes that would have been prohibitive before. The Central Virginia Fiberarts Guild is an example of that and has attracted new members from further afield. I’ll be speaking on Zoom at their February meeting. When in-person meetings resume I’m sure there will be a virtual component to the guild’s offerings. Nevertheless, I will be doing some in-person events at other places, as you can see. Hope to see you there!

January 12  Richmond Weavers. Cindy is giving the talk The Sustainability of the Fibers We Use.  This is a regular meeting of the Richmond Weavers. Richmond VA. www.richmondweavers.org.

January 23-24  Virginia Biological Farming Conference. Cindy is giving the presentations Transitioning from a Homestead Gardener to a Market Gardener on January 23 and From Seed to Garment on January 24. The Hotel Roanoke Conference Center, Roanoke, VA.www.vabf.org.

February 6  Central Virginia Fiberarts Guild.   Cindy will give the talk Flax-to-Linen: From Seed to Garment.This is a virtual meeting of the Central Virginia Fiberarts Guild. www.cvfg.org.  

March 11-12  Carolina FiberFest.  Cindy will give the talk From Seed to Garment: grow your own cotton and flax/linen clothes on March 11.North Carolina State Fairgrounds Expo Center. www.carolinafiberfest.org. 

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Linen Vest 2020 - BLOG

Homegrown Linen Vest

Work with my homegrown fiber, specifically cotton and flax/linen has kept me too busy to post lately, but I wanted to share my most recent project with you–a vest from my homegrown flax (Linum usitatissimum). I grew the flax, processed it, spun it into linen yarn, scoured it, and wove it into fabric for the vest. The processing involves rippling, retting, breaking, scutching, and hackling. I have used my homegrown linen as weft in my weaving before, but this is the first article of clothing where I used it as warp. Warp has to endure abrasion from passing through the heddles on the loom and, since linen is such a hairy fiber, I knew that I would have to address that if I used it for warp. Otherwise those “hairs” would hinder the weaving. I tamed the hairiness by dipping the fiber in a sizing solution that I made from gelatin. There are many versions of sizing you can make yourself. It washes out easily after the cloth comes off the loom. Although I ply cotton before I use it as warp, I used the linen as singles (no ply).The pattern I used is the same one I developed for my cotton vest and you can find the details here. This linen fabric was woven at 12” wide, as was the cotton vest. Since linen does not shrink as much as cotton, I was able to use ⅝” seams rather than the  ¼” that I used for the cotton vest. I wanted to add a bit of color to my vest, so I dyed some of the fiber with my homegrown Japanese indigo and used it for every other warp thread. The color is subtle and you don’t see it as stripes. The other warp threads and the weft is the natural linen color.

My linen yarn measured 38-45 wpi (wraps per inch). I wove it at 24 epi (warp ends per inch), putting two warps through each space in a 12 dent reed. I wove it on a heavy Nilus 4 harness floor loom. Linen warp needs to be held at a tight tension, which may be harder to achieve with a lighter table loom. It also needs a good shed to separate those hairy fibers. The greater distance from the heddles to the back beam on a floor loom, as compared to a table loom, also helps with that separation. I used 7.5 ounces of homegrown yarn for the warp. or 1,660 yards. The weft required less, since the warp includes loom waste. That was enough for the vest fabric plus the side panels on the lining.

linen vest lining - WEB

intended lining side

I have begun to weave the lining fabric for my garments and wove this lining from my homegrown linen. Rather than spin more flax for the lining, I thought I would use up the leftovers from other projects, knowing that there would be a difference in color. Color differences may occur as a result of different harvests, retting conditions, processing times during scouring, etc. Since I would be the only one seeing the lining, it didn’t really matter. Right?

As you will see, it did matter. The leftover linen yarn that I had  was not enough for all the lining, but I had enough extra outside fabric to make up

linen buttons - BLOG

linen buttons

the difference. I used the outside fabric to make the side panels and one pocket. I didn’t have enough of either fabric for both pockets, so there is one of each. The color difference on the shoulder is from different batches of flax/linen, not dyeing. As I was nearing completion I showed it to friends who said they liked the lining at least as much as the outside, so I made it reversible. For the first time ever I made dorset style buttons. I wrapped my linen around a ½” dowel 30 times to make the core for each button. The loops for closure are made using my linen for a kumihimo braid.Cindy in Cotton Project dress - BLOG The only thing in this vest that I didn’t grow is the cotton thread that I used to sew the fabric pieces together.

Weaving with homegrown yarn is much different than weaving with commercial yarn. I had gotten quite comfortable weaving with my homegrown cotton. Although I love the all-cotton clothes I’ve made, I also love the texture of the fabric I have made with a cotton warp and linen weft. In this photo you can see my cotton warp/linen weft shirt and dress. The color in the dress is supplied by the colored cotton I grew, not dyes. I enjoy challenging myself with these projects. You may not be into producing your own clothes, but I hope you find something you are passionate about. Then jump in and enjoy the adventures that present themselves.2018 Logo

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Cindy in Cotton Project dress - BLOGYou haven’t heard from me for awhile, but not to worry. I am alive and well and have been busy working on fiber projects. In 2019 I made a dress from my homegrown cotton and flax/linen that won Best in Show at the Fall Fiber Festival at Montpelier Station, Virginia. The photo shows me in that dress and the shirt made from homegrown cotton and flax/linen. I have always said that we are living in exciting times. I think I will change that to we are living in crazy times. I could never have anticipated the conditions we are living in now, and that is why I am writing.

market garden012--BLOGWith so many people at home and spring springing, it would be natural to think of starting a garden. It is a big endeavor to undertake and a lot to learn. Learning is the key here. Children are home and, since you need to be the teacher, you might as well teach them how to feed themselves. I would imagine all the subjects they need to keep sharp in will be covered while you and your children decide what you want to eat, what will grow in your area, how many seeds to order, how to lay out your garden, and the list goes on and on. I taught people how to plan a garden to feed themselves at our local community college for over a decade and know that it is a lot to process in a short time.

homeplaceearth imageBesides feeding ourselves, we also need to consider the soil and to grow cover crops to feed back to it. I produced the DVD Cover Crops and Compost Crops IN Your Garden to teach that part. As for the garden planning, I produced the DVD Develop a Sustainable Vegetable Garden garden plan dvd coverPlan. That video shows how to put together a notebook with your complete plan, thinking through all you need to do. It includes a CD with the planning sheets I developed for my college classes. I have also written the book Grow a Sustainable Diet that has information that you will be introduced to in the DVDs, plus more about planning your diet and considerations for planning your permaculture homestead.

grow a sustainable diet coverI made these videos and wrote the book so that people who couldn’t take my classes could have access to the material for their own education. Together you have the book, lectures, handouts (worksheets), and field trips. You see me in my garden and, in the garden planning video, you see seven other gardens and the gardeners who manage them. They range from a very small backyard garden to a half-acre market garden. These materials are part of the curriculum at the college, but you can use them to learn at home.

If you want to take this journey, the DVDs and book are available from my website at www.HomeplaceEarth.com. You’ll see that I’ve also written Seed Libraries. Maybe some of you experienced gardeners may find that helpful to start a seed sharing program in your community. The complete name of that book is Seed Libraries and other means of keeping the seeds in the hands of the people. Besides these basic learning materials to get you started, you will find free continuing education in past posts at this blog. 

I hope you take time in our rapidly changing world to slow down, catch your breath, and enjoy the unique opportunity that is facing you right now. Plant a garden and enjoy where it takes you.
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cindy in cotton vest - BLOG

Cindy Conner in her homegrown, handspun, handwoven, naturally-colored cotton vest

Have you ever wondered if it would be possible to make your own clothes from what you could grow in your garden? Well, I have done that and would like to teach you how to go about it. I am talking about growing cotton and flax for linen in your garden, processing it for fiber, spinning it, and weaving it into fabric to sew into clothes. Or, if you prefer, you could knit or crochet what you spin. In order to pass on what I have learned, I am giving a workshop on June 8, 2019 at my place, Sunfield Farm, near Ashland, VA. It would be just for that day from 9am-4pm.

The day will start with a garden tour. That is a big deal because I don’t normally open my garden to the public. You will see cotton and flax growing there and the flax will be nearing harvest. You will also see the other crops I have growing, including grains nearing harvest and the compost piles that are in the rotation on the garden beds. I will explain the growing conditions for cotton and flax.

flax straw and line-closeup - BLOG

flax straw and the line flax it becomes

Everyone will receive a pound of retted flax and have the chance to work with it on flax brakes, scutching boards, and hackles. You will produce the line flax that you will learn to spin in the afternoon. You will also collect the tow from your flax and learn how to make it into something useful.

There will be an hour lunch break at noon. Iced tea and water will be provided, but you will have to bring your own lunch and snacks. I am located only a few miles from the small town of Ashland. If you don’t pack a lunch you could get something to eat there. Of course, if you don’t need the whole hour for lunch, you are welcome to go back to working with the flax after you eat.

spindles for workshop - BLOG

spindles you will receive in the workshop

The afternoon will be filled with spinning and learning what to do with the spun yarn. You will receive raw cotton and a metal tahkli spindle to spin it with. Spinning on a tahkli is not something you learn quickly. It will take a lot of practice to get proficient at it. However, the lesson and practice you receive that day will get you started. You will also receive a wooden spindle to spin the flax you processed yourself. Once flax is spun, it is called linen. In the future you can use that spindle to spin tow and to ply the cotton that you spin on the tahkli.

homegrown-handspun- cotton shirt 2016

closeup of Cindy’s homegrown cotton shirt

There is much more to learn besides spinning before you can weave and sew and you will be exposed to all of that in the afternoon. I will be showing the garments I have made from my homegrown, handspun, handwoven fiber. You will also witness fiber being scoured, learn about shrinkage during scouring and weaving, see the looms I use, and learn about the equipment I have acquired and how much of it is actually necessary.

white cotton warp linen weft shirt - BLOG

Cindy’s shirt with white cotton warp and linen weft

That is the tentative schedule for the day. Of course, if it rains, the schedule of events will change, but we will get it all in. Canopies will be set up outside for the flax processing if rain is threatening. The garden tour can proceed during a drizzle, so dress appropriately. Spinning lessons will take place inside or out, but the show-and-tell for equipment will be inside the house, which will be open all day for participants to use the bathroom when the need arises.

The class is limited to 15 students. The cost is $115 for the day, including the spindles, retted flax, and raw cotton. To hold your spot, I will need a check from you for the full amount. If you prefer to pay in two payments, the cost will be $120 with $60 due as a deposit to hold your spot and the remaining $60 to be paid by May 8, 2019. Email me (Cindy) at cconner@HomeplaceEarth.com to let me know you are sending a check and I will tentatively put you on the list and give you my mailing address.

If you are coming from a distance, the charming town of Ashland, VA offers services you may need. There are a variety of hotels and restaurants near Interstate 95 and Rt. 54 at the edge of town. The historic district includes restaurants and the train station where Amtrak stops daily. If you should choose to arrive by Amtrak you could stay at the Henry Clay Inn and we could arrange to pick you up for the class. I have no connections with anyone there, but mention it because it would be convenient if arriving by train.

I am giving this workshop because of the interest that has been shown in my work growing cotton and flax/linen from seed to garment and I want more people to join in the fun. Unless you have acquired some of these skills on your own already, you won’t be able to go home and do all of this right away. However, you will be exposed to the process and learn what equipment you may or may not need. Although you may eventually move up to using a spinning wheel, you will have the spindles to get you started. I spun all the fiber for my first garment, a homegrown cotton vest, on a tahkli spindle. For a preview of what you will experience at this workshop, check out my blog posts about cotton and flax/linen.

I am looking forward to a fun-filled day and hope you will join me. Since the class is limited to 15 people, don’t procrastinate. Once it is filled (everyone’s check clears) I can only put you on a waiting list in case a spot opens up.

See you in June!

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My homegrown, handspun, handwoven, naturally-colored, cotton shirt is in the latest issue–April/May 2018–of the Mother Earth News!

Seed to Shirt-article - Copy  Mother Earth News April/May 2018

You can access the article online here, but it is prettier to read in the print magazine.


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Homegrown cotton vest with black walnut-dyed shirt.

Fibershed is the name of a non-profit organization started by Rebecca Burgess in 2010 in California. Her goal was to “develop and wear a prototype wardrobe whose dyes, fibers and labor were sourced from a region no larger than 150 miles from the project’s headquarters.” Since then her work has expanded and other Fibershed groups around the world have signed on to explore textile production in their own regions. You will find their Facebook pages and activities on the Internet. It is a fitting name for a group looking close to home for their fiber sources. Just like watershed is concerned with where the water comes from for a region, and foodshed looks at our local food systems, I can see the word fibershed becoming a buzz word anywhere someone is talking about clothing themselves locally.

On the Fibershed website I found the term soil-to-skin. I have often used the term seed-to-garment, but I like soil-to-skin, since it takes the concerns further. I also found soil-to-soil used on the website. If your clothes will compost, just bury them at the end of their useful life and let them replenish the soil. Twenty years ago not so many people were as concerned about the source of their food as they are presently. Now, I hope they start talking more about where their fiber comes from—their fibershed. As with their food, it all starts with the soil to produce cotton, flax/linen, and wool. Synthetic fibers are not part of this conversation.


brown cotton boll

Many of the Fibershed groups deal heavily with wool. That could be because there are more farmers with small herds of fiber animals than there are farmers with small plots of cotton. I don’t say much about wool because I have my hands full with the cotton and flax/linen from my garden. So much of the cotton grown worldwide is genetically modified that you might think that non-GMO organic cotton is not available to the consumer. I sew my own clothes and set out to see what I could find. It would be wonderful to have sewn a whole wardrobe by now from my homegrown cotton and linen, but so far I have only a vest and a shirt. Spinning the fiber takes time, but it is mindful and enjoyable work. I have learned about the toxic effects of textile dyes and have been exploring those, also. There is a black walnut tree in my backyard and I eat lots of onions from my garden. Walnuts and onion skins are both terrific for dyeing.


Shirt dyed with onion skins.

I like to use Kona cotton for shirts because it wears so well. When I did some checking I found that it met the Standard 100 by OEKO-TEX certification for human-ecological requirements. That doesn’t mean it is organic, but they are moving in the right direction. You’ll find Kona cotton in fabric stores and quilt shops. I wanted to make a shirt to wear with my homegrown cotton vest, but couldn’t find a color in my fabric store that would do. However, this fall I had experimented with the black walnuts and realized that produced just the color I needed. Furthermore, I discovered that Dharma Trading Company sold Kona Cotton PFD (prepared for dyeing); meaning that it was not treated with optical whiteners. I bought enough for two shirts. You can see the black-walnut dyed shirt in the first photo at the top of this page and the shirt dyed with onion skins here. Obviously, this shirt took the color well from the onion skins. I’ve already rinsed out any extra color, but it may fade a bit over time. The buttons were in my stash from previous projects or cut from old clothes.

I needed a new turtleneck shirt to wear with my new homegrown cotton shirt. It is hard for me to find cotton turtlenecks in the weight of fabric I want (they all seem to be too thin) and ones that have cuffs and enough length in the body and in the sleeves. My search for organic cotton led me to Organic Cotton Plus, a company started in Texas by organic cotton farmers to sell directly to people like you and me. It has since entered the global marketplace. I found nice organic cotton interlock for my turtleneck shirts! You can order swatches (99 cents each) of the fabrics you are interested in if you want to see and feel it first, like me. I bought enough fabric for two shirts and made a pattern from an old turtleneck that fit me best, making adjustments as necessary. I love this new shirt. It is a recent project, so sorry, I have no photo to show you of the turtleneck I made, but you’ll see it eventually. I will make the second shirt when I decide what I want to dye it with. Organic Cotton Plus had this interlock in colors, but none that matched what I needed.

I initially took an interest in Organic Cotton Plus because I was looking for organic cotton grown in the U.S. I had already bought naturally brown denim for jeans from Sally Fox at Vreseis.com. Although that’s how it started out, not all the cotton for fabrics sold through Organic Cotton Plus comes from this country. I see that the organic fabric for my turtlenecks came from India. Maybe I’m helping to support the Indian farmers that Vandana Shiva worked with to overcome their experience with Monsanto and GMOs. That would be a good thing.


I knitted three pairs of wool socks this past year from yarn I bought from Kathy Oliver of Sweet Tree Hill Farm. Kathy is a shepherd and we are both members of the same handspinning group. I bought the first two skeins at the Powhatan Fiber Festival in April and knitted the first pair in the natural color. I grew Japanese indigo last summer and used it for my first dyeing adventures, resulting in the blue socks. It was so much fun I bought a third skein when I saw her at the Fall Fiber Festival in October. I used that skein to play with indigo, onion skins, and black walnuts to make variegated yarn.

I applaud the groups that are working to develop textile systems that are environmentally safe and people friendly. It is when we take a closer look at our systems that we can detect ways we can change them—or, maybe do without. You probably know that I’ve worked with growing food and looking closely at what it would take to grow a complete diet. In my blog posts on Homegrown Fridays I share my experiences of limiting what I consumed on the Fridays in Lent to only what I grew myself. That was definitely an eye-opener, so I can see that if someone decided to limit their clothes to what could be produced naturally in their region, they have an adventure ahead of them. Rebecca and her group are working to change the system. I am on a personal journey to produce my own clothes as close to home as possible. If I have to buy fabric or yarn I want my purchases to do the most good they can. Meanwhile, I hope that by sharing my experiences, others will start a journey of their own. There is so much fun stuff to do in this world on our way to making it a better place!homeplace earth

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SeedLibraries covergrow a sustainable diet coverAfter being away from this blog since I broke my wrist in March, I’m back! To celebrate my return, I am offering a 25% discount through January 1, 2017 on my cover crop and garden plan DVDs and on my books Grow a Sustainable Diet and Seed Libraries. As always, shipping is free in the US. My DVDs and Grow a Sustainable Diet are educational tools and used in the sustainable agriculture program at Reynolds Community College in Goochland, VA where I used to teach. When I produced them, I had in mind those who couldn’t take my classes in person. So, if you have been wanting to learn more about cover crops, garden planning, garden plan dvd coverplannicover-crop-dvd-blogng your diet around your garden, and planning your permaculture homestead, take advantage of this opportunity to purchase an educational  program that will walk you through the process and help you apply your new found information to your own situation. Or, you may have someone on your holiday gift list that would benefit from these materials. You’ll find these sale prices on my website at www.HomeplaceEarth.com, along with deals for a few great books that I didn’t write.


flax flowers in the garden

I did enjoy my time off from writing. No matter what you are involved in, it is always good to step back now and then. My wrist has healed nicely, although I am still a bit careful with it. My husband and I took a long-awaited trip to Ireland in May and it was nice not working blog posts around that. In spite of working slower due to my injury, I grew several new crops this year. Flax for linen has been harvested and retted and is


wool yarn nestled among the Japanese indigo plants it was dyed with

waiting for me to build some fiber tools to process it (next on my to-do list). I trialed two kinds of rice this year. I also grew Japanese indigo and used it for some dye work, part of my new focus on fiber and textiles. Once I was sufficiently recovered, I was back to spinning my homegrown naturally-colored cotton for a shirt that I intended to make, weaving the fabric on my small table loom. It’s finished and I wore it for the first time on Thanksgiving.

Working with homegrown fiber is important to me in so many ways. Of course, there was the challenge to see if I could grow, spin, weave, design, and sew garments for myself to wear, and now I have a vest and

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAa shirt. Hurray! I’ve used my time away from this blog to read and learn more about the history of textiles. What was once local production fueled the industrial revolution and the exploiting of people and resources has continued ever since to bring us cheap clothes—way too many cheap clothes. When you shop for clothes I would like you to consider how the people who produced them and the earth that provided the raw materials were compensated to bring you such bargains. There is much to talk about on this subject, so stay tuned. I will be telling you all about my new homegrown, handspun, handwoven, naturally-colored cotton shirt in a future post. I will also be sharing my adventures with the flax, rice, Japanese indigo and other natural dyeing, while I continue addressing the many topics you have enjoyed in this blog.

Learning about my new shirt, however, will have to wait until I fill you in about what has been happening in the seed library world. Seed libraries have been deemed exempt from state seed laws, by the way. You can learn more about that in my next post, which should appear next week. After that I will go back to my old schedule of posting every two weeks.

The video Seed: The Untold Story has been making the rounds and will be shown in Charlottesville, VA on December 8. You need to reserve your ticket ahead of time and you can do that here. After the film there will be a question and answer period with a panel staffed by folks from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and ME. If you go, be sure and catch me afterwards. I’m always happy to meet the people who read my words.homeplace earth

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