Posts filed under ‘About Cotton Clouds’

My Yarn Candy Store

Why I love owning Cotton Clouds!

Every year I get to take off for a long weekend and attend TNNA (The National Needlework Association) to see the very latest yarns, patterns, books and trends in the industry.

Here are my favorites! Sign up for our e-newsletters for latest updates on when we add these very new and super-luscious products!

Fun with friends & classy hotels!

Irene at TNNA 2016, San Diego, CA   Grand Horton Hotel     Irene & Lois Weaver



Luscious new yarns!

New Cotton Supreme          100% Organic Cotton       Cotton Supreme Splash


Interesting New Designs!

Spirals                         Multi-Stripes                        Classic

Must-Have New Swatch Maker!

Available in 8, 10 & 12 epi to swatch before beginning a project. Great for RH weavers too!

Gorgeous New Patterns!

Stunning designs in cotton, silk, wool, cashmere merino and of course cotton!

My Spinzilla Passion!

The Spinning & Weaving Group was there!

Sprout & Seedling!

Lots and Lots of New Colors added to our line of 100% Organic Sprout & Seedling!

As you can see owning your own mail order yarn business for over 36 years does have it’s perks.  We will be sharing many of these new products through our e-newsletter so be sure to sign up HERE!

Irene Schmoller, Founder & Owner


01/20/2016 at 7:29 pm Leave a comment

Red BUGS!!!

Rocio's scarvesDid you know that you can get a beautiful natural dyed RED from bugs?Cochineal (Dactylopius coccus) grows on cacti of the Opuntia family (prickly pear cactus) and is native to tropical and subtropical South America and Mexico.


from left: Irene (me),  Rocio, Robin

Recently, I sponsored a Cochineal Dye Workshop at Meridian Jacobs Farm with owner, Robin Lynde. Rocio Mena Guitterez (our gal from The Natural Dye Project: see her blogs) came from Mexico City to share her knowledge of the process of turning dead bugs into RED!



First we tried our hand at stamping fabric with varying concentrations of mordants and then immersing them in the cochineal dye bath.  Note that the background on these remain white because the fabric was not pre-mordanted prior to stamping and when immersed in the bath only the stamped areas took the dye. 

Greenhouse-Cochineal-Farm-Oaxaca-IndiaCochineal is grown on farms in Oaxaca, Mexico. The males are separated from the females and discarded since it is only the females that give the red dye. (No one could figure out how they knew male from female!)


bugs 2

Lots of tiny Cochineal bugs ready for us to grind up into a fine red powder.




ground bugs2

Traditionally, a mortar and pestle is used to turn the dried cochineal bugs into a fine powder, but these modern-day gals resorted to their handy coffee grinder to do the trick in a flash!



boiling bugs

Once the water is hot, the fine powder goes into the pot along with a few natural chemicals and is simmered for about an hour.  Although we were all anxious to get our cotton and silk scarves into the dye bath, we took a lunch break and patiently waited for the magic to begin!

liquid cochineal

Ah, pure gold, but this time it’s pure RED!    The bath is strained, removing any residue cochineal powder.

We goofed, and dropped the strainer and cloth and had to start all over again, but the results was well worth the extra labor!  Now the fun of dyeing our pre-mordanted silk and cotton scarves, that Rocio provided, is about to begin!

dyed fabric

Into the dyepot goes our stamp-designed cotton scarves.

We were so anxious to see the results that we kept lifting them out of the pot.  “No, no, no!” said Rocio, “leave them in the pot!”





happy dyers

At the end of the day, we were all very happy cochineal dyers, thanks to Rocio!


Friendship Towel with Tintes Naturales Kit

If you don’t have time to dye your own cochineal yarns, order our Friendship Towel with Tintes Naturales kit to make towels, vests, jackets, baby blanket and more!  The cotton yarns are dyed with cochineal, osage orange, madder and indigo!

06/07/2015 at 8:09 pm 1 comment

My Red, Red Heart

“One out of every four women will die of heart disease” 

Cotton Clouds is sponsoring Stitch Red to raise awareness about the dangers of Heart Disease in women.  We’ll donate 10% of sales through March 1, 2015  to The Heart Truth  on all Cotton Clouds’  exclusively designed Stitch Red kits.

“Heart Disease is the #1 Killer of American Women”

There are early warning symptoms and ways to prevent this disease from devastating our lives.  Click Here to download “The Healthy Heart Handbook for Women” and Click Here to watch the video “Heart Attack Warning Signs”.  For the story to really hit home , Click Here to view the  video “Just a Little Heart Attack”, by Emmy Award Winning actress Elizabeth Banks, dramatizing our lives as women to to hilt.  Don’t wait till it’s too late. Please do it now!

Cotton Clouds’ Stitch Red Exculsively Designed Kits

Our Stitch Red kits are quick and easy to knit, weave, crochet or spin .

Remember that National Wear Red Day is on February 6 . It’s a great way to show your suport for women’s heart health issues.  Let’s all dazzle them in red!

Stitch Red Chenille Scarf Kit

We asked our weaving designer, Robin Lynde from Meridian Jacobs to design us a soft and luscious chenille scarf kit that would really say red, the color associated with warmth, power and passion. Here are her notes on how she designed this scarf.

Lots of Red Rayon Chenille yarns

    1. I love having a good supply of reds on hand.  Scarlatto, Show Off Red, Scarlet all have subtle color differences. Although I used only Scarlatto in this chenille scarf I also sometimes like to blend them all in one warp. Gypsy Chenille Mini Cones are a great way to get small amounts of a variety of colors. 

      Easy warping multi-colored or multi-shaded warps

    2.  Whether I’m winding a mult-colored or mulit-shaded warp I use an easy method that keeps everything in order.  Click Here for my easy warping method. 

      Rayon Chenille is so easy to weave!

    3. Click Here for all our TIPS on Weaving with Chenille.  Once the Gypsy Chenille scarf is on the loom, it’s easy sailing to weave it off.  I warped and wove this Stitch Red Scarf  Kit in less than a day! And this kit is designed to weave either one thick & snuggly scarf or two narrower scarves, so you can weave one for yourself and give the other as a way of promoting women’s heart health to someone you love!

      Throw your scarf in the washer!

    4. The best way to finish and full this scarf is to put it in the washer on gentle with a very mild laundry liquid.  Throw it in the dryer and remove just before completely dry.  Complete warping, weaving and finishing instructions included with your Stitch Red Chenille Scarf kit!

Be sure to check out all our Stitch Red Kits.  There’s here  something for everyone…knitter, crocheter, spinner and weaver. Plus watch for our cute new Cotton Classic Lite Stitch Red Beret kit coming soon!

RED is truly the color of love, passion and a way of reminding us to STOP, smell the roses, take care of ourselves and do what we love for ourselves and all we love! 

Happy Heart Health Awareness to you!
Irene & Jodi

02/02/2015 at 11:55 am Leave a comment

Make it Happen!

The Olympics got me thinking: What Olympian challenge do I have in my life that could use a little bit of motivation to MAKE IT HAPPEN!
Whatever it is in your life; whether it’s about finishing a knitting, weaving, crochet or spinning project, getting healthy, eating right, losing weight, finding a job, doing yoga, volunteering, starting your own business, it’s all about people who have a dream and work at it until they MAKE IT HAPPEN!  
only you

The three short videos here tell one story from three different angles. Enjoy!

 I love the story of my friend, Jeanne Carter of Imperial Stock Ranch, who had a dream of keeping her family’s ranch alive and how just by being there at the right time and place,  wool from her sheep was transformed into the USA 2014 Winter  Olympic Team’s sweaters for the opening ceremony!

      Meryl Davis and Charlie White, win GOLD at the 2014 Winter Olympics with a flawless program that’s been declared a masterpiece.  If you’ve seen it already, watch it again, this time imagining how you can MAKE IT HAPPEN, whatever your Olympic feat might be!  These kids have been skating together since they were pre-teens.  They kept at it over and over again to MAKE IT HAPPEN!

  My favorite current motivator is Danielle LaPorte who knows just the right words to inspire you to see that you too can MAKE IT HAPPEN!

Make It Happen In Your Life

     I’d love to hear your story of how you have or plan to MAKE IT HAPPENin your own life, no matter what that might be.  Post it on Cotton Clouds’ Facebook page or email me directly!

My Make It Happenings

    Mine?  I’m going to Houston February 27 to become an educator for  Ageless Grace to MAKE IT HAPPEN in my life- to work with baby boomers (myself included) to keep our mind and bodies healthy and active, even if it’s in a chair be-boppin’ to 60’s music!
ageless grace

Let’s all MAKE IT HAPPEN!and see how we can change ourselves & the world!

Cotton Clouds can easily help you MAKE IT HAPPEN with our full line of cotton, cotton blend yarns for knitting, weaving, crochet and spinning.
Visit us online at

Join us on Ravelry

Join us on Ravelry to share any project you are working on during the Olympics!
Ravellenics2014banner.3  Irene & Jodi

02/21/2014 at 9:10 pm Leave a comment

Come Behind the Scenes at TNNA!

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to own a yarn business and to go shopping at industry trade shows? Well wonder no more! I recently returned from San Diego and The National NeedleArts Association (TNNA)’s trade show. Take a sneak peek behind the scenes and find out what I saw, what trends are hot, and what new items we’ll be carrying.

These shows are a great opportunity do in-person all the things that are difficult to do from the office – I get to fondle gorgeous yarns, connect face-to-face with suppliers, find out what’s new in the market, and reconnect with friends I’ve made along this 35-year journey in the business. And you know what they say about all work and no play – we had to fit a few zany photo opportunities into the mix!


So what’s looking hot for 2014?


Lace continues to be a big crowd-pleaser – quick and easy lace shawls, gorgeous sweaters, and airy wraps dominated the show floor.


Gorgeous lace projects on display at TNNA.


There are some wonderful new fiber combinations from Berroco, Classic Elite and Tahki Stacy Charles on the way that are perfect for baby projects. Some are of my favorites:

  • silk/cotton/rayon blend
  • cotton/alpaca yarn (an experiment for us adding an animal fiber)
  • A 100% USA-made organic cotton yarn from Appalachian Baby Designs. This was my absolute favorite yarn of the whole show – the softest cotton I’ve seen in a long time!


Get ready for bold! Clear and intense pastels are mixing with ethnic-inspired curry tones. Pairing soft shades with vivid brights in the same project creates unexpected and exciting color possibilities! Inspired by a mixture of blooming flowers, travels abroad, and strong, confident women (that’s us!), designers are using color to refresh, revive, and defy conventional color wisdom.



You’ll be seeing these trends in full force as we put together the new 2014 items in the Cotton Clouds shop. New yarns, new knit and crochet kits, and of course our continued emphasis on weaving and spinning. We’ll be keeping out social media channels updated as we add new things, so check in with us on Facebook and Ravelry for all the latest news.


Looking forward to a happy spring 2014 – thanks for making us your place for all that’s warm and good in the natural fiber world!

01/21/2014 at 4:29 am 1 comment

Spinzilla is Here! Are You Ready?

Irene is spinning without limis at the airport en route to Florida, her base for Spinning and Weaving Week.

Irene is spinning without limits at the airport en route to Florida, her base for Spinning and Weaving Week.

It’s almost time! In just a couple short days, spinners from across the country will jump into a fast and furious week of fiber fun as Spinzilla’s spinning week takes off. Team Cotton Clouds is about 25 members strong and represents spinners from 12 different states!

Our team members range from cotton spinning novices to tried and true expert spinners, and we love how much information is being shared in our official Spinzilla Ravelry thread. We can’t wait to see how people “spin without limits”!

If you’re new to spinning cotton, here are 7 of our favorite things to remember about cotton spinning:

  1. Cotton is short stapled–ranging from 3/4 to 1 1/2 inches.
  2. Cotton wants to be a fine lacy yarn so spin it thin and ply as needed.
  3. Cotton does not have the rebound of wool. It compresses easily which means the less handling the better. Hold cotton with a light touch.
  4. Cotton adheres to itself very easily so drafting a fine yarn is effortless.
  5. Cotton needs a lot of twist to hold together as a usable yarn.
  6. Cotton is almost impossible to over twist–good news for beginners that tend to over twist their handspun.
  7. Sit back and relax while spinning cotton. It loves you to flow with it!
Team Cotton Clouds members suspinz02 is already spinning without limits. She's warmingup with some spinning on the farm and has a stash of cotton ready to go!

Team Cotton Clouds member suspinz02 is already spinning without limits. She’s warming up for this stash of cotton with some spinning on the farm!

You can find lots more handy tips, tricks, and insider know-how on our website, where we’ve gathered up our favorite links into one handy page.

Prefer a video? Try the short video below from our YouTube channel for tips on how to spin cotton on a wheel (you’ll also get to meet Irene’s cat!):


With all this frantic spinning about to begin, it’s important to remember to take good care of your body. And kind of repetitive action can lead to stress, so you should make sure to treat yourself right all week! We found a useful post on Liat Gat’s Knit Freedom blog, and though it’s about stretches for knitting, we think it applies to spinning too.

Our Spinzilla team member Knitgal53 has a bag of punis ready for this lovely charka and spindle. Go Clouds!

Our Spinzilla team member Knitgal53 has a bag of punis ready for this lovely charka and spindle. Go Clouds!

If you have limited time, try a simple forearm stretch:

  • Make sure you don’t have on any hand lotion that might make your arm slippery.
  • Unlike most massage techniques, you want the skin to “grab,” not slide.
  • Grasp your left forearm with your right hand. Squeeze just tight enough to prevent your skin from slipping, and push down towards your wrist.
  • Note: If your right hand is too sore or weak to get a good grip, you can stabilize your left forearm between your legs (still hold onto the fascia with your right hand) and pull your left arm towards you.
  • Maintaining your hand grip, now push your hand towards your elbow. Your skin (and fascia) will move, about an inch. That’s how much room your fascia have.
  • Work down your forearm (just a few places will do), holding each stretch for 90 seconds.

If you have more time, try the full set of 5 fascia stretches from Liat’s blog post and you’ll stay nice and limber.

With that, let the Spinzilla rumpus begin! Be sure to share you photos during Spinning and Weaving Week in our Spinzilla Rav thread so we can stay inspired along the way. I wonder how many miles of yarn we can make!

10/05/2013 at 6:03 pm 1 comment

Weave a V-shawl by guest blogger Robin Lynde

My tips & hints for weaving a V-Shawl

Robin Lynde, Meridian Jacobs Farm

I’m always excited once my V-shawl is  finished, off the loom and unfolded to get my first view of how warp and weft converge to create a unique plaid design, created by this double weave technique.

My newest design was just published in the March/April 2012 Handwoven magazine and is available as the Parallel Fushion V-shawl kit woven in Bambu Lace from Cotton Clouds. Once you experience weaving this V-shawl, you’ll be ready to design your own.  Let me share some tips on weaving and then designing your own V-shawl.

Warp becomes weft to weave the back of the V-shawl

What is a V-Shawl?  It’s a double weave shawl with a V-shaped back.  A V-Shawl stays put on your shoulders and covers the back.

Front of the V-shawl

I have taught dozens of students to weave their own V-shawls in my “Weave a V—and Learn Double Weave at the Same Time” classes in Northern California.  Click Here if you’ll be in the area and would like to join a class.  If not, here are some of my tips (also highlighted in the March/April 2012 Handwoven)

Tips for Designing Your Own V-shawl

  • Use graph paper to draw a miniature of your shawl. You will have two fronts that join at a right angle.  Draw your desired warp threads. Each drawn thread will go straight from the front edge through to the back. You will see that the warp threads from each side cross each other at the midpoint. Cut out the paper pattern and fold it in half to mimic the layout of the warp threads.
  • If you’re happy with the randomness and chance of how the warp don’t bother with the graph paper.
  • Pay attention to which stripes you want on the inside of the V and which will be on the outside. You will want to make sure you dress the loom with the warp threads in the right order. I always have the inside stripes (the fold of the V) on my right while I’m weaving.

Center of V-shawl begins to form

  • Plan on warping from back-to-front. Even if you are used to winding multiple threads at a time, wind each thread individually for your first v-shawl project. You will want to have each pair of threads joined in a loop on the back stick.
  • Plan on a warp of 88” for most looms and weavers. Extra warp will be wasted as you cut warps in back of the heddles.
  • Use a sett for each layer in which you can weave plain weave with picks per inch that equal ends per inch. This will be doubled for your warp.  Sett becomes important as you begin to join the layers. If you beat your weft more densely than your sett, your shawl will be shorter in the back and the design formed by the crossing threads will be flattened. If you beat your warp less densely than the sett the back of your shawl will be longer and the design elongated. An elongated shawl may look fine (especially if there is not an obvious plaid design) but you risk running out of warp. [Ask me how I know this!]

  • Consider your weft! Unlike most woven pieces your weft will impact the front of the shawl, but not the back. Choose a weft yarn that is already dominant in your warp or one that is similar enough in color and grist.


 A special thanks to my students for sharing their V-shawls in this blog.

Front of V-shawl

Back of V-shawl

Parallel Fusion V-shawl photos copyright Handwoven Magazine 2012.
Photo by Joe Coca.

Used with permission. All rights reserved. Not to be reprinted.

04/02/2012 at 6:57 pm Leave a comment

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