Tag Archives: wool

Olio – 3/28/2019

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things

It finally feels like spring and the weather has been fairly dry for a couple of weeks.  We had so much rain from September until mid March, we are glad for a bit of drier weather.  We don’t want to go into summer dry though.  The nice weather allowed eldest son and eldest grand to visit last weekend and they were able to get the deck rails, ballusters, and rail caps completed on the deck.

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That makes the deck a usable feature again and as soon as it is truly past freezing nights, pots of flowering plants will be added to one side of the wide steps and some corners of the deck.  For now, there are just two chairs out there for sitting in the warm sun on calm warmer days.  Ranger the beast, who is suffering from joint pain, has enjoyed a few days laying on the warm deck boards in the sun.

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Recently, I found a craft event to be held in May and because I am making soaps for two local museums, I decided to register for the event and make more soaps.  Instead of just making loaf molds, some of the soaps are being made using shaped molds, one of sheep, one with a goat, squares, bars, rounds, and smaller ones with geometric and floral patterns on them that are usually used for lotion bars.  The only one I don’t like is a pink Passionfruit Rose scented one, but I bet it will sell.

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In addition to several batches curing, there are two made this morning that are saponifying for tomorrow’s unmolding.

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Those two batches are a sheep and bar mold of citrus scented soap, and a goat and square mold of Goat milk, Oatmeal, and Honey unscented soap.  Tomorrow, I will make a batch of Lavender scented, lightly lavender colored sheep and round bars.  Each batch that has a surplus of recipe is going into the smaller geometric and floral molds as guest soaps.  Special labels have been created for the two museums,  Wilderness Road Regional Museum and Edith Bolling Wilson Museum.

When I attended the fiber retreat at Hawk’s Nest State Park the end of February/early March, I was gifted some raw fleece by a friend.  Yesterday I finally braved trying to wash one and though I have only done about 10 ounces so far, I am very pleased with the process on the Jacob fleece.

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This morning, it looks clean and is nicely dried.  I am separating the white, the darkest black, and the gray into three piles and will comb and spin them separately, hoping to be able to knit a gradient shawl from the resulting yarn.  There is much more of it in the garage for me to wash and as the afternoon is beautiful, warm, and calm, a couple more batches will be washed and set out on a screen to dry enough to bring in for the night.

The pullets have had no more visits from the Red Tailed Hawk, I hope I have foiled it’s efforts to enter the run.  They are now almost 21 weeks old and hopefully will soon start providing us with eggs.  They are a pretty flock, though 3 short of what I had hoped for this spring.

Soon it will be time to pull the mulch back from the asparagus, weed a few beds for peas and onions, the start of the planting season.  Hopefully, bending down by then won’t still result in dizziness from our accident.  It is frustrating how long it is taking to recover from the carelessness of the young lady that hit us.

Until next time.  Be safe and enjoy spring on its way.

Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em – 2/7/2019

I am a spinner, both drop spindle and on one of my 4 wheels that range from ancient to less than a year old.  I started spinning about a decade ago only on drop spindles and using easy to spin, clean, dyed wool and silk.  My knowledge of wool was that it came from sheep, little did I know how many different breeds of sheep there were and how different the properties of their wool varied.  Along the way, I did get introduced to Alpaca and helped with a couple of shearings, being rewarded with some of the fiber to spin.  Alpaca lacks the lanolin of sheep wool and is easier to clean and can be spun directly from the dirty locks and then washed as yarn.  But I prefer wool and have had my preference for the breeds that I spun.

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A couple of years ago, there was a new vendor at the weekly Farmer’s Market and she had yarn and roving as part of her goods.  The wool was a breed I had not spun, in fact, had never heard of and I made a new friend and learned about the breed that was on the Livestock Conservation list, Leicester Longwool.  I enjoyed spinning the wool I bought from her sheep being raised locally.  I have been to their farm, visited with their critters last spring when there were lambs bouncing around and one little beauty being bottle fed as she had been rejected by her mom.

This friend asked me this past late summer if I had any interest in participating in a project that the Livestock Conservancy was putting together that would allow using fiber from threatened sheep breeds.  This was perfect timing as there was so much contention with the anti wool ads that were being publicized. I said yes and she said she would share the information when it was getting going.  She did, the idea that you purchase a minimum of 4 ounces of wool or yarn, spin, knit, crochet, needle felt, or otherwise produce something with the wool.  When the wool is purchased, you get a sticker, and that sticker goes into a passport book that you get for registering as a fiber artist with the program.  The program is scheduled for three years and to earn a prize, you have to use at least 5 of the 22 Conservation Priority breeds.  I fell in hard and immediately ordered several wools I had never spun and finished the first 3 before I could even officially register to get my passport.

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The first three I spun were Jacob, Navajo Churro, and Shetland.  Shetland is the only one I had previously handled.  I enjoyed all three of these, really falling in love with Jacob.  As I started the fourth, Karakul, they opened the registration and I quickly sent my $15 to get the passport, a lapel pin, and more information which I am anxiously awaiting the arrival.

Last night I finished the Karakul, an ancient Asian breed that as lambs have a decent fleece, it is a primitive breed with a double coat and as they age, the coat often gets fairly coarse.  It is the wool of Persian rugs.  The Karakul 4 ounces was interesting to spin, feeling much like spinning flax or a horse’s tail, but the whole purpose of this is to experience the different breeds and to support them as they are all in need of conservation.

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Many of the fiber providers offer a breed card with information on the breed and how to spin it and some have offered small samples from a sheep of the same breed, but a different color than the one ordered.  I am using the card to hold a bit of unspun fiber, a bit of spun yarn, and either using the sample to make a mini skein or just winding off a few yards of the spun yarn to make a mini skein that I will be able to use when I do demonstrations or teach camps to show the different textures and natural colors of these Conservation Priority breeds.

My fifth breed, Romeldale CVM is currently being spun.  In my basket are Tunis, Clun Forest, Leicester Longwood (from my friend), Gulf Coast Native (which is raw and has to be washed and carded but also from a local farm), and on order is Lincoln.

My goal is to try to obtain and spin all 22 breeds within the three years.  The ones that aren’t so coarse that they must be felted or made into rugs, will be knitted into a blanket, probably a log cabin blanket for our log home.

Supporting this endeavor, the shepherds that raise these sheep, and helping to dispel the horrible inaccurate ads that shearing is wrong is such a delight.  Thank you shepherds for keeping my wheels and hands busy and helping the public see that fleece comes from a sheep, not a roll of plastic cloth.

Yarn setting day – Oct. 27, 2017

After yarn is spun and plyed, it has to have the twist set.  With the Spinzilla competition, the yarn is measured before the twist is set and it was labelled with fiber type, yarn weight, and yardage and piled in a huge canvas bag.  Since Spinzilla, a couple more skeins have joined the bag.  Some of the yarn is designated for my use, some will be re-labelled and put in my shop for sale and taken to the two Holiday Market events at the Blacksburg Farmers’ Market along with the hats, mitts, soap, balms, and salves.

The canvas bag is generally the bag I use to take the 6 or more dozen eggs that I sell to friends each Friday morning but it has been unavailable for a few weeks.  This morning, with Jim off to an appointment, the grands put on the school bus, daughter and SIL at work, it was time to set the twist on all of the skeins.  To do this, the skeined yarn is submerged in a container of warm water.  Because I have handled the fiber and it has sat around, the wash pan contained a bit of wool wash too.  Some of the dyed yarns bleed a little color, some of the natural yarns aren’t as clean as you would think, sometimes turning the clear wash water the color of tea.

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Each pan with a couple of smaller skeins, sits until the submerged yarn is totally saturated, then it is gently squeezed out, placed on a clean towel and rolled to absorb more of the water.  Once done, each skein is given a gentle shake and hung to dry.

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Twenty three skeins of yarn of varying length hanging to dry.  It is a nice sunny day and normally I would put the drying rack on the back deck to dry, but with the deck in partial deconstruct and the deck boards hazardous to walk on, it is sitting on the hearth.  It will take a bit longer, but it will dry.  The barn kitty inhabits the front porch so I don’t want to try to dry it there.

When I started crocheting in my teens, and knitting when eldest grandson was eminent, I didn’t know much about fiber.  I bought what felt good to me and was a color I liked.  I shudder to think about some of the stuff I made afghans from.  With the pending grandson, I searched for organic wool and cotton, undyed for his soakers, tees, and sweaters.  The internet was available and so I wasn’t limited to the local big box stores.  There were fewer yarn stores then and I hadn’t fallen into the rabbit hole of fiber artistry, animal raising friends, fiber festivals, etc.

When I took the drop spindle class many years ago, the instructor brought many different types of wool for us to feel and use.  Who knew that there were so many choices each with their own characteristics?  Unfortunately, that rabbit hole has made me a fiber snob.  I have now experienced many different animal fibers and know what I like and what I don’t.  The twenty three skeins drying represent Coopworth, Alpaca, Merino, Silk, California Red, Hebridean, Targhee, and Cormo.  Some are softer than others.  Some with more crimp making them stretchier.  Some are dyed, some natural from snowy white to dark almost black brown.  I have spun Romney, Pohlworth, Shetland, Mohair, Dorset, flax, camel, and more.  I have spun clean prepared tops and roving and spun raw unwashed Alpaca.  I have even worked with washing, carding, and spinning raw wool.  My spinning started with irregular thick and thin yarn, now it is consistent and fingering to dk weight, fairly fine.  I need to practice making thicker yarn again, some projects just need a thicker yarn.

Back to the deck.  Eldest son after we took the railing down and stepped through more boards, suggested I block off the door.  It already had a small post it note that said not to use the deck due to its hazardous nature, so I used paper painters tape to tape across the half that opens.  That didn’t really slow anyone down from going out there.  Yesterday, the post it note and the tape came down.  Sturdy cotton string was tied from hinge to hinge and a “Stop” sign that says “Whoa” on it was hung.

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Soon we will redeck the portion outside of the doors, finish deconstructing the large rotting part and build new steps to the ground.  Maybe next summer, I will start on making a patio at the bottom of the steps for my kitchen herb garden and for some flowers.

Olio

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Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things.

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Now that the silk is spun, plyed, and ready to knit, I have returned to spinning Priscilla. She is a Leicester Longwool sheep that belongs to a friend, owner of Sunrise Valley Farm, raised locally.  I stumbled upon her delightful wool at our Farmers Market one Saturday morning.  I purchased a small bag of 8 ounces of the roving and fell in love. At the time I didn’t know it came from Priscilla, but after I bought the second 8 ounces, I was told and I asked for more.  I have spun many ounces, dyed some with Annatto seed and with Country Classics wool dye.

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The yellow gold and the lavender are some of what I dyed and the white is the natural roving.  Initially, my plan was to knit a Fair Isle pull over sweater to wear on a ski trip to Colorado this winter.  Those plans have had to be aborted and the yoke of the sweater was so heavy that the yarn was pulled out, rewound, and is now being worked into a Fibonacci Infinity Scarf instead.  You see the beginning of it in the photo above and more of it below.

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I am working the third sequence at this point and will switch to lavender and natural at the end of this sequence.  I am much more likely to wear the scarf than a very heavy sweater.

That said, I have enough of Priscilla to still knit a sweater for me, but I will use a different pattern and larger needles to make the fabric lighter and more drapey.

I have hopes that this spring, once the lambs are born, that I may have the opportunity to drive to the farm and see the lambs and perhaps finally meet Priscilla.  I was invited last year and never made it over.

Night before last, another friend, a country neighbor that is the lead blacksmith at the Smithfield Plantation House where I sometime get to spin, came over with his wife and he was able to straighten the metal crank part of my antique spinning wheel so that the vertical part of the footman no longer walks off when I treadle it.

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It still requires a leather washer, but each repair gets the wheel closer to being a working wheel.  The parts that I had to ship to Bobbin Boy have been repaired and are in the mail back to me.  I had hoped that they would have arrived today, but not yet. The split in the upright that hold the wheel has been glued and if that doesn’t hold, I will try some lashing near the point where the shaft of the wheel hub rests.  The last resort will be to ship that off to Bobbin Boy to have a new piece manufactured by them.

Today is another day of mud and gloom.  The prognosticators indicate that it may partially clear off this afternoon, but expect heavy rain on Sunday and Monday.  The chicken pen is a muddy mess, the coop not much better.  I think a bale of straw is needed in the coop instead of the pine chips I had to use last time I cleaned it, and a heavy layer of spoiled hay around the outside of the coop to try to tame the mud and muck.  To walk into the pen is taking your life in your hands right now as it is sloped, slick, and soft enough to suck your boots clean off.  Most of the spoiled hay that was put down after the snow has been scratched into the mud.

No more mice have been caught in the car fortunately, but with the wet warm weather, they are trying to get into the house now.  The utility room trap has been busy of late. This morning, after dropping granddaughter off at preschool, I stopped to get the oil changed in my old lady.  I’m really trying to keep her going over 200,000 miles and we are getting close to that.  She will be a dozen years old in a couple of months.  The mini lube place that I took her always try to sell you more services and when the guy brought the cabin filter in for me to see, it was truly fowled between the dusty road and driveway (when we aren’t in monsoon season) and the contributions from the mouse that I caught earlier in the week in the car.  They did vacuum the cab and remove the last remnants of the little mouse’s nest that I had removed prior to setting the trap.

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The young Buffy roo is testing his voice. I don’t name the hens, but I do name the king of the coop.  He is replaced each year or so as his spurs get long and dangerous and he gets more aggressive.  There is always a new cockerel out of the hatchlings that can be put in with the girls after breeding season, and the old tough guy goes to the stew pot at son’s house.  We have had B’rooster, Cogburn, and a couple others.  This guy is Mr. Croak.  Maybe his voice will mature, but now he sounds like an adolescent male whose voice cracks.  He is about 7 months old, beginning to show spurs, has a nice plume of a tail and a funny voice.

The Retreat

Thursday morning, I departed, leaving Mountaingdad home to care for dogs, chickens, and for part of the weekend, also Son #1 and Grandson #1, while I traveled two hours west with a spinner friend to Hawks Nest State Park for a 3 day spinning retreat.  And a treat it was.  In route the other 4 of the other spinners from our local group met us at Tamarack, a delightful juried craft market with a cafe run by The Greenbrier.  We wandered and ogled the wood, glass, pottery, weaving, prints, and quilts then had our lunch in the cafe before making the last half hour trek to the park.

There we were treated to rooms, most that overlooked a long section of the New River Gorge.

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The view from our room and from the conference room of the retreat.
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Check in area of the lobby.
We didn’t even unpack before we set up our wheels and started to spin, Shetland, Mohair, Cotswold, Dorset, Alpaca, Yak and Silk.  Many vendors with more fiber to tempt this hungry group of fiber artists.

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Spinners and weavers, tables of fluff, chatter and knitting, all lots of fun stuff.

At night we partied on goodies brought from home and pot luck shared with beverages of choice.  To town we zipped for lunch at the Cathedral Cafe for homemade soup, salad and bread, then homemade Chai tea and carrot cake.  Another evening to town for pizza, salad and beer or rootbeer.

Three days of new friends and old, food, fiber and fellowship.  Each of us leaving with a goody bag of fiber samples, notebooks, pens, pencils, patterns and a door prize each of wonderful donated weavings, fiber, photo frames, salsa and chips, bags or other wonderful surprises.

In spite of the chattery good times, much yarn was made, much was woven or knit.  I succeeded in over 400 yards of a mixed fiber skein.

This will be added to my growing mixed fiber yarn of naturals and colors that will be a blanket someday.
This will be added to my growing mixed fiber yarn of naturals and colors that will be a blanket someday.
This hot mess of overspun Merino that looks like a 106 yard long hair scrunchy.
This hot mess of overspun Merino that looks like a 106 yard long hair scrunchy.

And 100 grams of beautiful Merino that is awaiting the other 100 grams to be spun and plied that will become a gift scarf for some lucky person.

The Hot Mess was Merino purchased there as is the Merino that is only half done and the 8 ounce bag of Dorset Lamb fiber the Hot Mess is sitting on.  I will enjoy more spinning reminders from the weekend and look forward to the next retreat in late winter of the one next fall.  I will return.

 

Rainy Wednesday

This is the 4th consecutive day of rain and we are sitting in the middle of an area showing the potential for some very severe weather this afternoon.  We should start seeing some sunshine again tomorrow, I hope.  The coop is nasty and the hay is wet, so I can’t add more.  The wind blew the tarp off the round bale just before the rain started.  It will have to sit in the sun for a few days before it will be dry enough to add to the coop.

Each morning as I put my rain jacket and boots on and slog over to the coop, I find all 10 chicks in the smaller third with Cogburn and his Queen, the Olive Egger and the two Buff Orpington hens in the larger 2/3 section.  This amuses me because as soon as I open the pop door, several chicks are pushed out to the ground by the two adults trying to get out.  Usually one of the BO hens comes out too, but the second one seems to have difficulty returning to the small side to exit and needs help.  The chicks then all come over to eat, including the ones who were pushed out.  They gather in the pop door and poke their heads out, but still won’t venture outdoors on their own.

The runs are muddy, thus the eggs are dirty each day.  The garden is soggy.  I hope we aren’t facing another cool wet summer like last year, I really want to get a good supply of tomatoes, salsa, pasta sauce, chili tomatoes, pickled peppers, beans and hot sauces canned this summer for next winter.

The wet weather has turned me to books and spinning.  I discovered a local author and am working his newest book after reading his fourth book last weekend.  One was great, this one is too dark, but both are set in our area which makes them interesting.

Spinning is progress on the 4+ ounces of red carded Tunis wool that I purchased at The Olde Liberty Fibre Festival a few weeks ago.  This is my first experience with Tunis and I think I like it.  I am debating plying it with the Finn that I bought at the same festival, creating a red and dark tweedy yarn.  We will see.  That would give me about 6-7 ounces of yarn with which to knit.

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Tonight is Knit Night and I will go if we aren’t under a tornado warning.

Life is an adventure on our mountain farm.