Archive for the ‘Yarn’ Category

New Kids on the Block in the New Year

January 4, 2014

I am not sorry to put 2013 in my rear-view mirror. I know that I am up to the challenges that life throws my way, but I am tired of doing it. If I were not such an eternal optimist, I would have curled up in a ball. Not saying I didn’t do that a bit, but for the most part I kept on dealing with reality.

So what made 2013 so hard, you might ask. Lack of work was huge (and continues to be, at the moment). It isn’t that I don’t have plenty to keep me busy. I have never understood folks that can’t find things to do to keep themselves amused. And with the animals and property to care for, there is never a shortage of chores that need doing. But with no paying job, that means no money coming in to take care of those things that require something other than physical labor. I am continuing to look, but am getting very tired of hearing that I am over-qualified. I have never understood why an employer would not want to hire the most qualified person they can get for the money they are offering.

But my biggest challenge was the one that went on for way too long – no running water. My home runs on a cistern. Just before Thanksgiving, it ran dry. When it refilled a few days later, I could not get the pump to hold a prime and run. Yikes! This coincided with a deep freeze that gave us some of the coldest temperatures the area had experienced in a very long time (down to -30!). I spent several weeks bringing home jugs of water from my Mom’s house, and accessing cistern water for the animals via bucket brigade. That is a workout that I am not eager to repeat, but at least I was up to the work. Just call me Pioneer Woman. Just after the Solstice, a friend’s boyfriend came over and got the pump figured out. Yay! I filled the animals waterers, and went off to celebrate with a soak at the Turkish tub.

But of course, that was too easy. When I got home from my soak, we discovered that there was a major leak under the house. So the pump got turned off again, and I went into major denial. I am not afraid of plumbing repairs, mind you, but I had a severe case of the “I don’t wanna’s”. Luckily, my friend offered up her boyfriend again, and a few days later he came back. There was a major break in the metal pipe that ran from the hot water heater to the kitchen sink. He ended up cutting out the old pipe and replacing it. Yes, I could have done it, but it was so nice to be taken care of! The only down side was how much water emptied out of the cistern during the 6 or so hours that the leak went undetected, but time will remedy that.

I know that in much of the world having no running water is the norm. In the grand scheme of things, being without was merely an inconvenience. I am lucky that my Mom lives close enough that I could go over to her house to fill up all my jugs and take a hot shower. Being in an old mobile, I long ago developed the habit of entering winter with at least 15 gallons of jugged water in the house to guard against those times when the pipes freeze for a day or 2. At least I had a roof over my head, and enough wood to battle the cold. My ordeal made me even more thankful for what I do have, and on a quest to figure out what I can do to help those that don’t. I can’t even wrap my head around the idea of being homeless with children in the winter around here.

The New Year has started well. A local farm, Rainshadow Organics, was also hit hard by the deep freeze, which hit their stored potatoes. Rather than seeing it as a complete loss, they invited the public to join them on January 1st to go through the potatoes, sorting out the rotten ones and taking home as many free potatoes as you could carry. These were several beautiful heirloom varieties, and I made the drive out and joined the crowd. Folks were also invited to help sort out spuds that would be donated to local food banks. This is my loot, after I had given away several pounds to friends and family. I don’t know that any will survive to be planted in the spring, but I will be ordering some different varieties to grow.

potatoes from Rainshadow Organics

After I got more potatoes than I could really carry, I went off to gather up 9 gallons (yes, gallons) of raw cow’s milk that had not been picked up from the dairy. No sense in letting it go to waste, so I am playing at cheese again. I have already made mozzarella and ricotta, trying a little different method for each, and now I am ready to try my hand at cheddar and jack. It is nice to have such a quantity to work with, but a bit daunting too. I am being good about keeping notes on what works, which I think will be even more important with the hard cheeses since they have to age for so long before you can taste them.

Yesterday I went to Laura’s. I took her potatoes and cheese and picked up the newest flock members (the “New Kids” referred to in the title) – ducks. A mutual friend was disbanding his farm, and she had collected 13 ducks from him. They are mostly Runner crosses, which makes them a little odd looking, but the females should be laying soon. After doing a bit of research online, I got one of her Muscovy males (the white duck below) to try my hand at breeding moulard ducks for the freezer. We thought we had sorted out 4 females for me to bring home, but in talking with their original owner last night it turns out that the big, beautiful black is also a male. I don’t want the girls to have the option of breeding with him, so I will be separating him out of the group in the next day or so. They are all a little skittish right now, what with 2 major moves in as many days, so I will give them a little time to settle down. I am very excited about having duck eggs to work with, especially for pasta making. Yum!new ducks

I have also made a decision about recreating the shawl that was stolen last summer. I’ve been working on some commission spinning this fall, and talked the woman into letting me do a yarn with silk noil added in. It turned out very pretty so I made up some for me too. I am doing one ply of the black alpaca/black American top/dyed silk noil and one of the American top, both spun very thin. This is a very dense yarn, so I’m not getting the yardage that I’d hoped for, but I think it will be spectacular knit up. This was the last yarn I made in 2013, about 350 yards. Since I will need about 2000 yards, I have quite a bit of spinning left to do! I’d like to get it done in time for Fair, so I have my work cut out for me. I’m hoping I have enough of the black alpaca left (fingers crossed). black alpaca silk lace

I don’t make resolutions for the New Year, but I do set goals. So my goals for 2014 are:

  • Continue my weight loss/get healthier campaign. I am very happy that I have managed to maintain my weight through the holidays. Didn’t lose any more, but I didn’t put any back on either, so I count that as a win.
  • Blog more often. I compose wonderful posts in my head as I’m doing other things, but then I get in front of the computer and do other things. I admire folks that blog every day or so, but that isn’t me. Once a month is too little though, so I will just say “more often”.
  • Make more art. I have tons of art supplies that sit unused, and I need to stop that. It doesn’t have to be great art (and I’m pretty sure I can promise that it won’t be), but I need to get over the idea that it needs to be. I started this morning. Don’t count on seeing any of it shared here, unless I get really brave.
  • Sew more. Again, I have tons of supplies that sit unused. Even if I just make a pile of quilts to donate to the homeless shelter, it would be good to clear out some of the stash.

What are your goals for the coming year?




Ongoing Changes

October 24, 2013

Life is change. I know that, but that doesn’t mean that I always appreciate it. Over the years I’ve had too many changes imposed on me, with no say in the matter and while I can work with necessary change, change simply for the sake of change irks me. At my old job, they would often shift our desks around simply because they could, and I always objected.

Things around here are changing too. Some of it is good and necessary. Some of it is annoying. I will spare you pictures of the crap-tastic pallet and recycled wood fence I built by the pole barn. One of the neighbors (I’m assuming the idiot next door) had complained to the County, even though nothing had changed in over 12 years. I have a feeling that he thought that after Sweetie passed I would sell off and move, and when that didn’t happen he decided to stir the pot. I got a letter from the County about 18 months ago, with a “solid waste” complaint. When I called to ask about it, I was told that the dead cars in the yard had to be removed, and my pile of trash bags. I don’t have regular trash service; I just make a dump run as needed and it was about time for another. So, dump run accomplished and dead cars removed (3 sedans and 2 pickups), I went about my normal life. Until early this summer, when the Sheriff showed up with a summons. He informed me that I would have to pass inspection, which would have been good information to have from the get-go. Again, I asked for specifics on what needed to be done to make them happy. This time I was told that there was too much “stuff” on my front porch, and that would need to be cleaned off. What an adventure that was! After going almost 30 years without being stung by anything, I was stung by paper wasps 5 times. Each reaction was worse than the one before, so now I’m a little paranoid about being stung again. I called for my inspection.  The County guy ignored everything I had already done, and decided that my pole barn needed to be completely cleaned out, or a sight-obscuring fence needed to be built. Argh! How hard would it have been to tell me that in the beginning. It was now the heat of summer, and I was unwilling to risk any more wasp stings. Luckily, I was able to convince him that I needed an extension until we got enough cool weather to quiet the wasps down, and I was able to get enough of a fence built to appease him.

Once that was out of the way, I started looking at my front porch. A hole had developed in the decking at the top of the stairs, and I obtained enough decking to replace all of the floor. Unfortunately, it has developed into a much more complicated job. After looking at it carefully, I’m not sure how the porch is still standing. Turns out, there is no real structure under it, only piles of wood that are holding the deck up in places. The posts that hold up the front end of the roof over the porch aren’t even attached to the porch, just resting on it! So that means that I will need to tear the whole thing down and rebuild it from the ground up. Times like this are when I miss my dad; he would have been a big help in doing the job right. Oh well, at least he trained me well.

The freezer will be getting new residents in a couple of days. In early September one of the feed stores I deal with got in a bunch of chicks. I got 40 Cornish cross chicks to raise and share with Laura. I brooded them in half of the barn, then moved them all outside to a spare pen. Up until last week I’d done a great job, without a single loss. In a week, I have lost 5 of them. It is frustrating to put all the work and food into them and lose them so close to the end, but the remaining ones are looking mighty tasty. They take their trip to the butcher on Saturday, so hopefully they’ll all last that long. I know other producers can have losses up to 30%, so mine aren’t too bad in the grand scheme, but it’s hard losing them this late in the game.line up at the buffet

I’ve been working at the carder too. I’m slogging my way slowly through the commission alpaca fleeces, washing fleeces while the weather is being cooperative. As a break from all the natural color, I carded up some rainbow batts from some leftover Romney cross fleece.  I did each of the colors separately, adding in some sparkle.Individual colors

Then I split them up and thinned things down for another trip through the carder. Ready for final carding

I’m really happy with how these turned out. They are very cheerful in person. Three of them are being bartered for a Christmas present, but the other 6 will be sold if I can resist spinning them up myself. The pictures don’t do them justice.Finished batts Twisted close up

I’ve been knitting on socks. I had started these yellow ones quite some time ago, with the intention of doing some infinity cables on the legs. They had been on the needles too long, and I was having problems wrapping my addled brain around the cables, so I just finished them off plain so I could free up the needles. Then I jumped in to knitting a pair off fairly quickly, as barter for my massage therapist. Didn’t get them done in time for her last visit, but she’ll be back soon and I’ll have this pair done. Hopefully I’ll be able to get the yarn she left for me so I can get another pair started too. We haven’t worked out an exchange rate yet, but I need to get to work on Christmas knitting too.  finished plain Becky sock

I have also found my hand cards. Sweetie had packed a tote that was on the front porch. In his normal fashion, there was not much rhyme or reason to the things in the tote. I found beads, a steak knife, a flashlight, my cards and an assortment of fleece bits. Most of the fleece was toast, but I played with the cards and some of the fleece that I indigo dyed back in late April. I made up batches that were pure undyed, pure dyed and 3:1 ratios (both directions). I’m thinking a new hat and matching gloves or mittens might be in order, but I haven’t settled on a pattern yet. I’m toying with the idea of doing some color work, but will see what I finally settle on. I do like to colors, and the progression. hand carded variation

The biggest change I’m undergoing right now, I suppose, is self-imposed. Back in late April, I changed my mindset about food. I have had issues with my weight most of my adult life. My weight had held steady for the last 20+ years, within 5 pounds. Didn’t seem to matter what I ate or how I exercised. I’ve always had a fairly good diet. I don’t eat candy, I love fruits and vegetables, I’m just an easy keeper. When I paid attention to how many calories I was taking in, I was holding steady at about 1200 calories a day (most indications are that I should have been losing at least 10 pounds a month at that input).  Until the last few years I wasn’t seeing any real negative issues. My cholesterol levels were fine, and my blood pressure was ok, and so I didn’t worry about my weight too much. Then, a couple of years ago, my bp sky rocketed. In early April, it went as high as 170/100. That is not a number I’m comfortable with. While a simple diuretic was able to control it, I now have no insurance and wanted a chemical free way of keeping it down.  In April, I moved to a mostly raw food diet. I tried doing a juice fast for 3 days, but my body quickly informed me that I needed protein. So I listened to my body. I juice once or twice a day, I can eat whatever I want (just not all of it). Before I dried Myrtle off (for breeding), I was using raw milk and making raw milk cheese. I’ve cut way back on the amount of carbs (bread, pasta, etc), but if I want them I can have a reasonable serving. So far, I’ve lost about 25 pounds, and more importantly, my blood pressure is back to normal! Even if my weight hadn’t changed at all, it would be worth the effort (little as it is) just to have my blood pressure back where it should be. I don’t feel like I’m dieting, which is huge (as any of you that struggle with your weight will understand). I still eat out occasionally, I’m cooking well. I’m not sure how I managed to reset my mind & my relationship with food, but this is one change I am thankful for. I’m not losing pounds quickly, which is fine since I couldn’t afford to replace my entire wardrobe all at once. But my clothes are fitting a bit better, and I’m getting a few compliments when I’m out in public, which never hurts the ego. Still a long way to go to get back down to what most would consider a “normal” weight, but I’m good with that. I may never get back to “normal”. I am more concentrated on feeling better, on making my body last as long as possible. I would like to enter my 60’s healthier than I am now, with less pain. I’ve got this!




July 23, 2013

Anyone else remember that song? Sorry if I planted it in your ear…

Summer so far has been dry and hot, prime conditions for fires especially when we get thunderstorms. The local firefighters are getting more of a workout than I’d like, but are doing a great job.

I finished up the Tour de Fleece in good shape. I accomplished most of the goals I set, and my final counts were over 2 pounds and 1.7 miles of yarn created. I’m still working on the final 2 goals that didn’t get done (spinning the silk cap on the Golding spindle and the moorit Romeldale/alpaca/camel down/silk blend, which has been much slower coming together than I had hoped). The blend is turning out very pretty; the different shades of brown really add a lot of depth to the overall color.   And since I added in spinning up one of the braids that I dyed before Fiber Market Day, I would definitely put this year’s Tour in the Win column. Here’s the final picture I posted on Ravelry, summing up my Tour. Day 23 collage

Last week, Mom finally made the decision to let her old Bull Terrier Ruth cross the Rainbow Bridge. She had been going downhill for a while, but it is always a tough decision to make. Since 1978, Mom has owned 4 Bullies. Ruth was the oldest at 14 years, 7 months. She was born the day after my Dad passed away, and was the last remaining dog from her breeder. This is an older picture of her, but this is how I will always see her. She was a great dog and her passing will leave a big hole. Ruth

Our County Fair starts in a week. I have entered 2 of the yearling ewes, 2 of the ewe lambs and 2 of the ram lambs. I am also hoping to get a mozzarella finished up later this week to take in on Saturday. I hate that we have to do things like that so far in advance (fair doesn’t start until Wednesday).  It means a special trip, and things aren’t as fresh during fair as they possibly could be. Not as big a deal for art work and things like cheese, but flowers and baked goods suffer. Oh well, at least we finally managed to get a separate class for the Romeldales. I decided not to enter the goat girls, which turned out to be a very good decision since the goat barn was filled to capacity about 2 weeks before entries closed. If they have nice udders after they freshen next year I will consider showing them again, but there didn’t seem to be much point this time around. Myrtle unfortunately can’t be shown, since I can’t register her even as a grade goat (she is half Nigerian Dwarf, and grade goats have to be from only standard breeds).

I made the decision not to enter the other local fair this year. I just can’t justify the added expense on my very limited budget this year. I will go and visit a time or 2. It was a hard decision to make. I enjoy the fairs, and I like showing at them.

My biggest news this summer is that I was contacted about judging Angora goats at the State Fair. Of course I said yes! I mailed back the contract this morning. Angoras haven’t been shown at the State Fair before, so they will be showing for ribbons only (no premium money this year). Mom has never been to the State Fair before, so I’m trying to talk her into going with me. My judging gig doesn’t start until 5 pm, so we could make a day of it. I think everyone should visit their State Fair at least once!

Going on Tour

June 30, 2013

Once again, I’m taking part in Ravelry’s Tour de Fleece. For those of you that don’t know about it, the Tour de Fleece is an opportunity for spinners to concentrate on their craft while the Tour de France is going on. You set your own goals, hopefully set yourself some challenges along the way (on the days the riders are mountain climbing), share pictures of your accomplishments, and have a chance at winning some lovely prizes. This year, I have offered up a prize from my Etsy shop.

My goals are pretty ambitious this year.

  1. I want to spin enough lace weight yarn from Merlin’s fleece for a spectacular lace shawl (pattern to still be determined). Merlin Day 1
  2. Blend the rest of his fleece with camel, alpaca, and silk (all shades of brown) and spin it up for a sweater. I still need to figure out the percentages, but I figure I will have at least 1 1/2 pounds of this.
  3. I am blending another fleece with the last of my own kid mohair and angora from a friend (69.4% CVM/14.4% mohair/16.2% angora). I’ve made the first pass through the carder with this, and plan on at least 2 more passes to blend the colors and fibers as completely as possible. There is a pound of this. It is amazing how much room it takes up at this stage. Here you can see the fibers filling the tote (wool at the bottom, kid mohair top left, bunny top right. Once I get the batts finished, I will twist them as I normally do and they will fill a single plastic shopping bag, as will the finished yarn. Air takes up a lot of space! romeldale bunny goat kid fluff
  4. I am finishing up a blue & purple roving I dyed a while back on my Golding spindle. Half is already spun up. Golding Day 1
  5. The other spindle project is a pink and purple silk cap, also dyed quite some time ago. It has been hanging around in my vendor booth for too long.
  6. For my challenge days, I want to create and spin a couple of art batts. I don’t get the appeal of art yarns, but I figure this will be a chance to stretch my boundaries and infuse a little more color into my Tour, which is pretty focused on natural colors.
  7. I am also hoping to make some head way on the gossamer merino/silk which has languished on the elec-spinner for way too long. It requires a lot of concentration to maintain the grist of this yarn, since a few extra fibers make such a huge difference when you’re only using about 20.

If I get done with all of those, I also have 7 alpaca fleeces that I am spinning on commission. There isn’t a huge rush on those, but they will be paying for my firewood this fall, so that is good incentive to get them finished! I’m still not positive how this woman found me (she was given my e-mail address by a yarn shop a few hundred miles away, in a city I’ve never visited), but I won’t look a gift horse in the mouth. I enjoy commission spinning, once I can help my customer figure out exactly what they want in the way of yarn. Many knitters have no real understanding of the yarns that they work with, and it can be challenging to help them understand the possibilities when you are starting with raw fiber. Alpaca is a lovely fiber, but it has little to no memory, which can make knitting with it problematic. I will be trading out some of her fiber for wool, to give the yarn some recall, and we have discussed adding a bit of silk too. I would love to be able to make a living just spinning.

What else is happening, you ask? Well, Kid the Younger is now a college graduate! I am so incredibly proud of his accomplishment. He will be going on to graduate school, but this is a major step. His fiancée has been a huge support for him, and gifted him with a dozen bacon roses and a jar full of “life advice” from several friends and family members, which he read aloud at his graduation party. Many were funny and heart-felt, and he choked up when he got to the one I included from his big sister, “Dance Like No One is Watching”.

Black Sheep Gathering was the following weekend, and despite being slower than normal coming out of my annual depressive state (which has ended about the first of June normally, but has drug on a lot longer this year) I managed to attend. If I hadn’t been the contact person for the Spinner’s Lead I might have bailed on the whole idea, but not showing up wasn’t really an option. Over all, I’m glad I went. I had the opportunity to speak with a couple of friends that are also going through things this spring, and I think that helped all of us to feel better. The Spinner’s Lead was a rousing success, and I need to write up an article about it for the next issue of the Black Sheep Newsletter this week. A couple of us will be revising the rules slightly for the future, to try to encourage more people to take part.

I need to get to work figuring out my entries for Fairs this summer. I’m still not entirely out of my funk, which makes planning for the summer a bit of a challenge, but I know that I will enjoy it when it happens. Sometimes getting out of my own way is the biggest challenge of all!

Dealing With Death

April 24, 2013

Not the cheeriest of titles, I know. But this time of year, that is where my mind goes. Tomorrow is the 5th anniversary of my beautiful Daughter’s passing, and in less than a month it will be the 4th anniversary of Sweetie’s passing also. For most folks, spring marks the beginning of things. For me, it marks ends. The passage of time has not made it easier, and I am a mess a lot of the time though I do a decent job of hiding it from most folks.

It is also an unfortunate fact that, as a farmer, I have to deal with death more often than most people do. It is simply a part of the life that I have chosen. I know that some people don’t want to think about the more unpleasant parts of my life style, and it won’t hurt my feelings if you choose not to read this post. I promise to get back to happier subjects next time.

Some years are worse than others. A few years ago, I grew to dread going out to feed, as it seemed that more often than not there would be a dead animal to deal with. Lambs dropped like flies, it seemed, and ewes too.

Inesh after Malcolm napping in a sunbeam  at KelliesThe first picture is Inesh just after I sheared him before breeding season a couple of  years ago. He is the father of all of last year’s lambs. Next is Malcolm as a lamb, then Merlin.

Since November, I have lost him and my other big ram, Kirk. They had been fussing with each other for a while, and I can only surmise that they caused each other some internal damage since they died within a week of each other. This month, I lost both Merlin (last year’s bottle lamb) and his twin Malcolm. Fine in the morning, dead when I went to feed in the afternoon. In reviewing my books, I have had problems with all of their mother’s lambs.

So, what does one do with a dead animal? I have always chosen to treat them with respect. Used to be, they would go into the ground here, with a pile of rocks on top to keep them from being too attractive to the neighborhood dogs. We have quite the graveyard in the back, including Kid the Younger’s horse (thanks to a good-hearted acquaintance with a backhoe).  My back, however, no longer makes it easy for me to dig that big a hole. So now I take a drive out to federal land and lay them to rest there. It is a solemn undertaking. No radio, my thoughts centered on the animal in the back of the van, words said in thanks to all they have given me. Their body goes back to nature, and I am always amazed at how quickly that happens. Within a month or less, there is little left but bones and fiber.

Most areas do not have an easy, inexpensive way to deal with animals that have passed. There used to be a rendering plant locally, but it closed due to new neighbors complaining about the smells (which were there before they built their fancy houses). The landfill does not knowingly take livestock. Some friends compost or burn dead animals, some donate them to zoos or places that keep large cats or wolves. It is a fact that all of us have to face, that none living survive forever. I am glad that I am able to honor my animals contributions to my life respectfully. I just hope that I don’t have to do it again soon.

On to happier subjects. Fiber Market Day went well and several of the bar code towels went to new homes. Last week, I did a new-to-me show, sharing a booth with Laura at the Small Farm Journal Fair. It is interesting how different things sell at different shows. I sold several of the silk scarves I’d dyed a few years ago, as well as some batts and finished items. We did a lot of demo-ing, and I took Myrtle and Naveed as pr animals. It was a fun show, but being on for 4 days straight was almost more than my poor introvert brain could handle. In addition, on the last day of the show I spent the morning at another venue teaching beginning drop spinning. Sunday I spent recuperating, so exhausted I could barely follow the tv show I was trying to watch.

I took advantage of the fact that I would be gone for most of the day during the show to wean the lambs (that way I miss most of the drama and noise). Naveed was the last to get weaned since he was at the show with me. When we got home, Myrtle joined the other 2 goats in with the wethers, while Naveed went back in the main pen with Ashe and the other lambs. Starting Sunday morning, I have been transitioning Myrtle to a milk goat. It is so nice to have fresh milk for my morning coffee! It has been slow going making the switch, but she gave me 8 ounces yesterday morning and 6 in the evening (as compared to 4 ounces each time the day before). I’ve got a jar of milk in the fridge that I am letting sit for a while to see if I can separate the cream off and make a little butter. Wish me luck! Making cheese will probably have to wait for next year, when I will hopefully be milking all 3 of the goats. All in all, I am very happy with my progress so far. Myrtle has a nice little udder for a first timer, and I am keeping my fingers crossed for Clara and Cloe.

Ashe is doing well, working really hard at getting up. I opened up the barn now that it’s just her and the lambs, and she gets herself outside to enjoy the sun. She still can’t straighten her front legs all the way, so she looks strange, but she can get herself a drink of water on her own and her spirit is unbelievable. She is putting on weight and eating like a horse. Even if she never recovers completely she is an inspiration, and she will be auntie to the lambs as long as she chooses to stick around.

Next up on my to-do list is getting all the stuff I didn’t sell listed on Etsy, so keep checking back there if you are interested in any of the bar code towels, batts or hand-dyed top & yarn.

Woven Words

March 10, 2013

Years ago, I had the idea to use a bar code generator to create stripes in woven goods. I finally did it, and I’m pretty thrilled with the results!

There are a lot of free bar code generators available online, so I found one I liked and typed in what I wanted to say. I then traced the code straight off the computer screen and figured out how wide each stripe was. This is a judgement call, so I can’t be positive that they say exactly what I intended when woven up (the bar code reader on my phone has a hard time reading the stripes when they are woven. I’ll try to get it to read the warp only next time I set a bunch up). But I know what was intended, so I will market them as that word or phrase.

Remember all the yarns I got from Laura?red wine and purple cotton blue greens yellows and brown cottonsThey are becoming dish towels. I also had some cotton ric rac cones that are compatible with some of the colors, so I used it for weft on some of the towels.

I set up the first 3 warps (“Believe”, “Laugh” and “Love”), and then discovered that the little Dundas loom that I bought several months ago needs a LOT of work before I can weave on it. Luckily, when I was venting to Laura, she offered me the use of her little Dorset loom, and even delivered it on one of her trips in my direction. So I was up and running.

It has been a long time since I warped a loom, and it has been a bit of a challenge. Each warp I set up was supposed to give me 6 dish towels and room to play a little. The first one gave me 5 and a short towel that I played with different treadlings on (so it will be mine). Finally, after building a raddle and figuring out what I’ve been doing wrong, I did get 6 towels out of the third warp.

believe This is “Believe”, the first set that I did. I took these in with me to my mom’s church knitting group, and the whole set even got blessed by her priest.

Then came “Laugh”. laugh in white,

and “Love” Love

Every towel in each set has a different color of weft, so even though they are all related, they look completely different. Here’s the whole group, ready to be hemmed.

towels washed and dried

They’ve all been through the washer and dryer, and I’m doing the hemming by hand. The plan is to have them all finished by the last Saturday of March, when I will have a booth at the High Desert Wool Growers Fiber Market Day. I still need to design and make labels to sew in while I’m hemming, and some hang tags to attach so folks that are gifted one will know the story, so the work isn’t done yet. But I can’t wait to get back to the loom and make up some more towels, and some scarfs, and I’m even thinking of weaving some fabric to make myself a vest to wear to the fiber festivals I vend at. So many ideas, so little time!


Progress Is Good

October 20, 2012

I’m making good progress on the Eartha & Etta sweater. The body is done, and last night I picked up stitches for both sleeves. It will be a nice, light weight sweater, and at this rate I should be done in less than a week! There is more variation in color than I noticed in the skeins. Not objectionable to me but it might bother someone else. Maybe it helps that I know the animals that it came from. I’m already mentally making plans for my “Ode to Neville” vest, based on the sweater that Neville Longbottom wore in the last Harry Potter movie.  There are several gorgeous sweaters in the HP movies, but this one really caught my eye. I’m leaning towards a double-knit Fair Isle vest, which would be reversible, but nothing is set in stone yet. Of course, I should be setting my sights on Christmas knitting for those on my gift list. We’ll see.

I made some major enhancements to the stash last week. Laura had commented the other day that she has decided that she hates weaving with 8/2 cotton. Of course, she made that decision after she had purchased a bunch of it. She made me a deal I couldn’t refuse and I relieved her of it. 16 pounds of it! Very pretty colors, and I am looking forward to weaving a bunch of kitchen towels. I’m playing with bar code generators online to come up with stripes that actually say something.


I woke last Sunday to a lamb crying. When I finally looked out the window, I could see Mary all by herself in the movable pen. Yep, the rest of the little girls were out. Clara had gotten out several times on Saturday, so I had already put her in the barn pen by herself after I gave the little girls their wormer. When I went out, she was in with the boys! I haltered Mary and moved her over to the big pen, then got all the little girls in with her. Clara put herself back in with her buddies. Since I was outside already, I decided to get everyone resettled. That meant worming the boys before I could put the big girls in with the little girls. The catch pens I set up using my welded wire panels worked great. Even Midge didn’t freak out. The big girls and I had a bit of a disagreement about which direction they were supposed to head when I opened up their gate, but the crook & I were able to get them going right. Love it when things work right without any major headaches! And it does make feeding easier now that the weather is turning nastier.

The turkeys only have a month to go. Their date with the butcher is just 2 days before Thanksgiving. While growing them up in the barn was easier and less messy than having them in the house, they aren’t as friendly as last year’s birds were. Not a problem with these guys since I’m not keeping anyone, but something to possibly consider next year since I’m hoping to get heritage birds and keep a breeding trio. Decisions, decisions.

First County Fair – Done

August 5, 2012

Home from my county fair. I’m exhausted and sore, but it was a good week. There are folks that I normally only get to see at this event, and it’s always fun to catch up with them and the ones that I get to see more often. I didn’t take any pictures while I was there (sorry) and this will be a short post because bed is calling my name.

I took both of the goats and 4 lambs (2 boys and 2 girls), plus some hand spun yarns and hand knit items, and I am happy with my results. In the sheep barn we had the same judge as last year. I didn’t show then, but I helped my friends show and kibitzed with the judge (we all do, if possible) and he remembered me from that. Last year he took a few of us out to breakfast after all the showing was done, but this year he brought his girlfriend instead, and he had told her all about us. She said we lived up to the hype. It will be fun to have him back in a few years now that we have him broke in.

One funny thing about showing the sheep was that I showed in one class, and my friend Correy (who has the same breed of sheep, except hers are much better animals) entered different classes. It worked out great, because that way I got to win too. She had entered hers as Natural Colored, and I had entered in Other Wool Breeds. The judge commented on it, and I told him it was because we didn’t have a breed class of our own. Manny ended up being Reserve Champion Ram, and Mary was Champion Ewe. He also commented a lot about how much he liked Maggie’s fleece, but he thought she had an issue with her back legs. One of Correy’s ewe lambs took overall champion ewe.

The goats showed the next day and while they didn’t do quite as well we all had fun and the goat people seemed to enjoy having us there. In their class, 6 of the 7 had the same father. Clover’s twin was second, Clover was 4th, and Clara was 6th. I relaxed and quit fussing about leg placement. Even Clover seemed to be enjoying all the attention, getting lots of petting from people walking by.

Of the hand knit items, I took in a pair of socks, baby booties and the Neibling shawl. The socks took 2nd in their class, and the other 2 both took blues. The hand spun yarns did well too. I took in skeins of alpaca, silk, mohair, and the tiny thread of merino/silk I shared last time. I wish the clerks were better about writing down the judges comments since the judging is closed to the public. I have no idea why the mohair didn’t place at all. The others all took blue ribbons in their classes, and I was thrilled to see that the merino/silk got a Superintendent’s Choice ribbon.

When we aren’t showing our animals and helping each other show theirs, we sit in the sheep barn and knit or spin. It’s a great opportunity to educate people walking through on the things we enjoy. It must be working because we had to correct a much smaller number of people this year (I am NOT sewing string on my spinning wheel!) It’s fun to see how different people react. Some are interested in the mechanics of the wheel, others are attracted to the fiber. We spend a lot of time repeating the information over and over, and I handed out lots of business cards to folks that expressed an interest in learning to spin or getting fiber. We also people watch and comment on the outfits that some of them think are acceptable. The first day we had a girl walk by with her friend. She was wearing a short dress and a back pack. The pack was making the back of the dress hike up, and it was already so high that we could see what color her panties were! Really, people, get a mirror and use it, or ask someone you trust to tell you how you look. I don’t want to see your under garments, see through probably isn’t a good idea, and if you’re a little over weight  tight clothes don’t do you any favors.

I get a little rest (starting with not setting my alarm tonite), and it all starts over next week at the fair for the next county over. It’s a more laid back affair, and I’m looking forward to it too.

Where Does The Time Go?

June 4, 2012

The kiddos and I always twisted the standard saying, so we always say “Time’s fun when you’re having flies”. Funny how many people just nod, not realizing what I’ve really said.

It’s been a busy couple of weeks. I’ve continued to do a little baking for Kellie, usually at the last second (which is normally just fine). Driving. Knitting. Dealing with the beasties.

Let’s talk about driving first. For the long weekend, Kid the Younger came over and we went up to North Eastern Washington. He hit town Friday and we went and saw The Avengers. He’d seen it already, but I hadn’t. It was a fun movie, but then we like that kind of thing. Saturday morning I caught up all the sheep, haltered the ewes and treated them all with ivomec (the pour on I applied apparently did nothing, since my shearer found plenty of creepy-crawlies). Then we left the lambs locked in the barn and Kids Younger and Elder helped me move the mommies to a new pen. I love weaning when I won’t be there to hear the worst of the noise. Unfortunately I didn’t have a place to put the ewes that would be out of sight of the lambs, so weaning is a bit louder. By 2 pm, Kid the Younger and I were on the road. The plan was to get about half way to the wedding site (about 8 hours north of us), but the back cooperated and despite a little side trip that my phone GPS sent us on, we got to the party about 10:30. A few of the kids were drinking and dancing, so we joined them for a little while, and I got to swing dance with the groom (he’s much better at it than I am).

The wedding was lovely. The weather the day before had been rainy, but Sunday was beautiful if a bit windy. Friends of the bride’s family had done the flowers, and each table had a bouquet. During the ceremony there were 2 big gusts of wind, and when we came back around to the reception area, 3 of the bouquets had been tipped over. Only 3. And they were at the table that Kid the Younger and I were sitting at, the table where the bride for the next wedding was (she’s also Daughter’s college roommate), and the bride’s table. They were not the most exposed tables. We agreed that it was Daughter making her presence known (as if we thought she would miss the occasion).

I also managed to make the young lady who was Daughter’s roommate cry. As we were saying our goodbyes, I told her I had something in the car for her. I told her I would have knit Daughter a wedding shawl, and if she wanted one, there was one in the car for her. She could not have faked her reaction – she totally melted. I gave her the Snowflake Peacock, and it fit her perfectly (I was a little worried because she is very tall).   (pic is of shawl on my mom)

We didn’t go by the accident site because Kid the Younger was having an allergic reaction to something blooming in the pretty little valley. We got half way home that night, and back into town in time to go to the movies again. This time we saw Men In Black 3. Again, not a movie likely to win Oscars, but we both love the MIB movies.

The whole drive there was a little hiccup in my steering wheel. At high speeds it just shimmied. Didn’t feel like the car needed realigned, but something was weird. Well, on my way home from baking on Friday, the tread just peeled off one of the rear tire. Luckily I was almost home! Saturday morning Kid the Elder helped me put on the spare and I took it into our tire shop. Shimmy was still there, so I mentioned it. Tire guy said it sounded like I had another tire getting ready to fail. Short story – I now have 2 new tires. The other 2 look ok. I’m so glad this didn’t happen on one of the long trips!! Last weekend’s would have been bad enough, but this week we are headed out to the middle of nowhere, and if they had both failed at once it could have been really ugly.

Kid the Younger will hit town really early Friday morning, so rather than letting him sleep for 3 hours I’m just going to load him into my car and we’ll head out right away. We are facing a 13 hour drive, so I figure if I nap heavily on Thursday I can drive while he sleeps and then he can take over for a while. That way we’ll get to the party early enough to enjoy ourselves a bit that evening and get a good night’s sleep before the wedding. Sunday we’ll leave after brunch and head into Yellowstone. Not sure if we’ll take the side trip to see Old Faithful.

The sheep all survived my absence, but the ewes have figured out that the fence on their pen has been weakened (alpaca kept pushing through it when he was in the pen to get to grass on the other side). We have had several break-outs. The ewes left behind always rat out the escapees, and we round them up and I lace up the holes with more baling twine. It’d be funny if it was happening to someone else. The lambs are all fine. When I get back from Montana I’ll tackle halter breaking them.

On the knitting front I’ve made some progress on the monster socks. It’s a whole lot of plain white.  I’m most of the way done with the legs, but I set them aside for a while because the Muse struck. Yes, I knit both socks at the same time. That way when I’m done, I have a pair instead of having to start all over to make the 2nd sock. I alternate back and forth between the 2 so I can keep track.

So, what did the Muse demand? Four years ago, after Daughter passed I happened to have a cone of sock yarn waiting for color. I took the whole thing and dyed it in her honor. I call it “Dance Like Nobody’s Watching” (that was her motto in life). From it I knit socks for all the important people in her life (except Kid the Younger, who requested gloves). There was slightly more than 6 ounces left, and Thursday the Muse insisted that it become a shawl for me to wear to the Montana wedding. No pressure! I used the formula I came up with for the Ochoco Memories shawl and substituted leaf and rose patterns. I’m done with the first 2 points of the edging now, and I should be able to crank out the edging in a day and a half, so there is hope. The variegated yarn isn’t the best for showing off the lace, but this yarn makes me smile every time I look at it, and I know that the kids at the wedding will recognize it. That makes me smile too.

 Like most lace, it doesn’t look like much yet, but you can see how colorful it is. It won’t be a big shawl, since I’m dealing with a limited amount of yarn, but it will be super special. A bigger version will follow, probably with handspun during the Ravelympics.

Experimental Spinning

May 19, 2012

I am working on a commission job, a pair of historically accurate pair of handspun, handknit socks for a gentleman who does mountain man rendezvous. I started with about 9 ounces of washed locks from a Romney cross fleece. It was a pretty gross fleece, not at all skirted and full of veg matter, but it makes good sock yarn. I’ve been sitting and picking it by hand for a while, then ran it through the Patrick Green carder in 2-ounce batches.

Recently, I saw a Youtube video on pulling roving off the PG, so I decided to give that a try. As long as I was playing, why not see how the different preps spun off compared to each other, right? I prepped 6 ounces, and did one as a batt, one as roving drawn off the carder, and one as a roving pulled into roving by hand from the batt.

     I know, boring pictures. I spun them all on my electric spinner. Not as fun as the wheel, but the bobbin is much larger, so it’s no problem spinning and plying a single large skein.

 This is the single, and this is the yarn plied 

My observations are pretty straightforward – I couldn’t see any differences in the finished yarn. Most of that is probably that I’ve been spinning for a long time, and fine yarns are a specialty of mine. I did notice a few things though.

I started with the batt first. I spin from batts a lot. I rarely bother pulling strips off the batt, just manage how the fibers enter my hand. In a very colorful batt that may require paying a lot of attention, depending on how I want the colors to blend (or not). Color was not an issue with this trial, of course. Veg matter was easily flicked out with a tap of my finger as I spun. This took the longest to spin, but there was no prep time after the carding.

Second up was the roving I pulled off the carder. Granted that this was my first time doing this, but I was not impressed. There were a couple of things that I didn’t like. First, I don’t clean the drums on my carder every time, so there is always a bit of stuff left over from previous batches. Not a problem when I’m taking off batts. I may get a fiber or 2 that lift off with the batt, but they are easily removed later on. When I was pulling off the roving, I noticed that a lot of the those base fibers were coming off in the roving, and they were pretty firmly imbedded in it. The second problem was how long it took me to pull the roving off. It wouldn’t have been as much of a problem if I could have done it sitting down, but I had to stand, which really made my back unhappy. Thirdly, I could not get a consistent size roving, and it broke in 3 places. This may just be a matter of experience, but given all the other problems I don’t know that I’ll work on getting better. The last problem showed up as I was spinning – the veg matter was firmly imbedded in the roving. I would have to stop and pull it out.

Years ago, I learned how to pull a batt into roving, and this was my favorite of the three preps to spin. I can pull a consistently sized roving fairly quickly, seated in my comfy chair in front of the tv. Because I pulled it off the carder as a batt there were only 2 fibers that didn’t belong (both angelina), and the veg matter flicks out easily. It was the fastest to spin, but if you figure in the time spent pulling it out I don’t know that it saved any time over just spinning the batt.

Now on to the knitting. These are going to be big, boring socks – size 13 and calf high! But I’m getting a ton of hay out of the deal, delivered, so it’s worth the work.

This morning when I took grain out to the creep I tried getting fleece pictures from the lambs, but they weren’t having any of that. This is the best picture of the lot, and you can see how fuzzy it is. The babies were not at all cooperative!

 I’ll try again when I halter break them all after weaning.

But I did get some decent shots of lambs. At one point all the lambs were in the creep. I am no longer the big, bad boogeyman their mothers told them. They don’t all come up for cuddles, but I can scratch everyone from behind at least.

 It’s hard to get a good picture of Merlin, since he is sure I’ve got a bottle hidden somewhere. He’s down to one bottle a day, but he is an optimist every time I come out.

 When I first poured out the grain, Malcolm had the farthest bowl to himself, while 7 lambs were trying to fit around the nearer bowl. Silly children!

 Then they all shifted, and the 4 blacks lambs had this bowl to themselves.

 Mary is the last one to one to get the hang of the creep, at least in my presence. Not that she really needs the grain; she is the biggest lamb of all.

 Manny is the biggest boy (also the oldest). Pretty sure he will be going to fairs for showing this summer. Love when they naturally set their feet nicely. Still haven’t decided who the 2nd ram will be to show, but there’s time for that later.