Monday, September 22, 2008

Back From My Ag Day Demo

I went to Liberty Ridge Farm this morning for their Ag Day, where they bring schools through for different agriculture related stations, along with visiting the farm and going through the corn maze. I have to say, it went pretty well. Cooperative Extension sponsors it, and along with my fiber station, they also had one on grain, one on pumpkins, and one with the Dairy Princess. The kids were really good. I talked about different fiber sources, spun on a spindle and wheel, talked about the history of fiber processing, and showed off some finished products. Not bad for 15 minutes with the kids.

I did get a surprise, though. When I checked in, I was told to set up in front of the llamas, so down into the barnyard I go, and don't I recognize those critters as Paul Wiley's; the same Paul Wiley that gave me the llama fiber from my last spinning demo. Turns out, he lent them to the farm for the fall, along with geese, ducks, goats, sheep, and water buffalo. My favorite llama came right over and gave me a kiss. Boy, I'd really like to buy him and put him out with the girls.

My next spinning demo is for another Ag Day at a different farm on Thursday, and the sheep may be going with us. I'll find out more as we get closer, but Bernadine, our 4-H agent, may swing by with the trailer and take them along, as well as one of their Tunis sheep.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Felted Mittens: Take Three

I'm always looking for a new fiber project, so when my friend Deb showed me her mitten felting form, I decided to give it a try. I've had a lot of interest from people wanting to purchase mittens, and felting sounded quicker than knitting.

I checked around, and wasn't able to find the felting tool I wanted so I bought the whole kit from which came in a very timely manner, so I jumped right in with a very fine tunis lamb fleece from my friend. It was just a fast slick shear at the fair, and it had a lot of second cuts, making it unsuitable for spinning. It didn't take long for me to rip the fiber on the form, and I had the same results when I tried with some merino. At least I was able to salvage the merino fiber.

Last night I spent the time to try again with some alpaca that wasn't spinning up so well, and I embellished it with some wool roving I had left over from some yarn I spun last year ( I still have that yarn, and may make a hat to match). This morning I once again attempted to felt some mittens.

This time I was much more successful. I think the key is to use tons of dish soap and keep it good and slippery. I finished the felting off in the washer. I left the mittens big, because I found when you put your hand in, they just sort of conform to your hand, plus I have tiny hands, so I didn't want to go too small. They are outside drying now, and will need to have some fuzzies clipped off and the thumb needs the wool tightened up just a bit with the felting needle, but I think for my first pair, they are very good, and maybe even sellable in my Etsy shop, especially if they have a matching hat.
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Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Great Schaghticoke Fair

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Fair is done for the year, but I'll give you all a brief recap.
Chris did great with the sheep. Here is a picture of him with Gracie up on the stand. She was much improved with a bit of a rinse off.
For those of you who have seen pics of Athena, we have discovered that there is actually a sheep under the big mop of wool, and a pretty decent one at that. I had no idea how to fit her out, because she was just a big, matted, cottony mess. I ended up just dampening her wool and giving it a bit of a scrunching, cleaned her butt up, and trimmed her belly. As soon as the show was over, she got sheared, and under that big mess, she looked a lot like her mom. Before and after pics will be coming soon.
My dog kids did super, and I'm proud as heck of them all. They grew by leaps and bounds this year with their training ability, and I'm looking forward to what they have in store for me next year.
I talked to tons of people and did many spinning demos, in spite of my wretched bronchitis. I'm still recouperating, and planning fun, new fiber projects. First on the list will be felted mittens.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Current Pics of our Girls

Athena, our Easter Eve baby, hiding behind Gracie, her mom. Both are Cotswolds.
Gracie herself. She's a bit more friendly than her daughter.

Our love bug, Isabella. Izzy is a Romney/Hampshire cross. This girl would rather be with people than other sheep. She also has wonderful springy soft fiber.
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Monday, July 14, 2008

LLamas- And Spinning Them UP

Just this past week I stopped to visit some friends of mine who do promotional work for Heifer International, got a tour of the farm, committed to a spinning demo for a tour group, and left with three whole bags of raw llama.
It's beautiful stuff, very soft, but also full of guard hair. I've been sitting around de-hairing it so I can use it in my spinning demo, but, wow, slow going.
It was a great visit, and they have A LOT of critters: Chickens, ducks, geese, sheep, goats, llamas, pigs, and water buffalo. I've included a few for your viewing pleasure.
I was told that this breed of goose, sorry, can't remember the name, was used for pate in France. The llama was one of several, but all were very friendly.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Wool Washing Pics

I Here are some of my wash day pics. If you had any doubt about how dirty raw wool can be, look at the wash water. The result of all my hard work is shown here in this huge pile of clean Shetland wool. I've started running it through the drum carder, so I'll try to snag the camera again for more pics. Obviously, getting a camera of my own is high on my priority list. I have it picked out already, just need to find $150 to buy it.
For the rest of the wash day pics, see the slideshow at right. The little girl is my niece, helping me pick over and fluff the clean wool, and the cat is my buddy Patches. He likes to help me knit and spin and makes an excellent lap warmer.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sock Disaster

I'm obviously an idiot. I've been working on those toe-up socks for some time, and knew they were too big, but kept going, apparently on the assumption that I was going to turn into a Hobbit and grow giant feet to fit these socks. The fantastically high stitch count should have been a tip off, but I just kept knitting on. Now I have to rip them out. I think I'm going to cry. They were really looking good.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I Have a Clean Fleece

I got that fleece washed today, little by little, and it looks pretty good, nice and soft, and definitely cool with the variagated black and white. It didn't have a lot of lanolin in it, so it went fast. I'm NOT looking forward to carding it, though. It always makes me feel like an organ grinder.

I took pictures, which I'm hoping my sister can upload today. If not, I'll get them up tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I'm Washing Fleece

It's time to start preparing for my next spinning project, which will be a Shetland fleece I bought ar Rhinebeck. It's actually pretty cool looking, variagated black and white. I'm debating separating the two colors out, or carding it all in together for a heathered look. It does come from an older ewe, but is still pretty nice.

My usual approach to fiber prep is as follows:
  1. I skirt the fleece and pick it over as best I can for VM or whatever other nasties are in there
  2. I handwash in small batches in the kitchen sink with water as hot as I can stand in Dawn dish detergent. It really does cut grease. I use an old dishpan or a bucket and throw the first wash outside, because it has the most lanolin, and I don't want to clog my sink.
  3. I alternate washing and rinsing until most of the lanolin is gone and the fleece is clean. I try to keep the water temp consistent and avoid agitation to keep from felting, but even if you do felt it, just pull it apart.
  4. When the fiber is clean, I spin it out in the washer, fluff it on the kitchen counter under the fan, and let it dry, turning occasionally.
  5. When the fleece is dry, I then run it through the drum carder, or comb it, depending on my needs.
If anyone out there has never made their own yarn, it is a time consuming, but rewarding process, which I do enjoy. I was tempted to send this fleece out, but it takes awhile, so I'll just do it myself.

Thursday, February 7, 2008


At long last, here are some pictures, and let me tell you, getting them up and running was a real challenge. I tried Flickr first, and couldn't get them to load up, so I switched to Picasa, which turned out to be ridiculously simple. Just sign in and load up.

All these pics were taken this morning, and when you see the pics of the goats and sheep (collectively known as geeps at our house), you'll see that we had some snow last night, as well as enough ice to lock me out of my car this morning. I ended up attacking it with the hair dryer. Not fun. I thought I was going to end up with frostbite.

Aside from the beloved geepers, which consist of two pygmy goats, Wayne and Garth, as well as the Romney/ Hamp Isabella, or Izzy, and the Cotswold, Gracie, I took several pics of my wheels and different projects. I hope you like them.

On the Ashford Joy, I'm spinning 70/30 Merino/Silk, in Gem colorway, and on the Schacht Matchless, I have 50/50 Merino/Silk in Cranberry Bog.

The socks are my toe-ups on two circs at different stages knitted in Knitpicks Essentials. You can find the yarn and pattern at The pattern is a free download, by the way. If you've always wanted to try socks, this is the pattern to go for. Two at once, so no second sock syndrome, which I suffer from terribly, and there is no set, detailed pattern to follow. Just increases, decreases, and lots of round and round.

The yarn that you see is all my handspun. The bright multi-colored stuff is Izzy's fleece dyed with Kool-Aid and food coloring. I'm a 4-H leader, as well as a homeschool co-op teacher, and I was experimenting with kid friendly, non-toxic dyes. The rest of the yarn is this and that that I've spun over the last few years.

The purse is Amanda's Squatty Sidekick pattern. Give it a Google. I knitted it out of my handspun, then felted it.

Hopefully now that I know how to post pics, it will go easier next time.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Pictures Up Soon And Lamb Prep

Well, pics should be along soon. I gave up on my digital camera and borrowed my sister's, so I WILL have pics up this week, hopefully a Flickr slide show, little snapshots of my life and work.

Aside from scrambling around for all of our usual craziness and activities, we are starting to get ready for our first lambing. We have two ewes, a Cotswold, and a Romney/Hampshire cross, which we sent to a Cotswold breeder. Hopefully, one of them will have a lamb or lambs, if not both. They are due the beginning of December, so that will mean big excitement!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Green Knitting?

Yesterday, My sister and I went out shopping together. Our plan had been to go out, Barnes and Noble, browse around the store for an extended period of time (think hours, not minutes) I would hang out in the craft section and drool over the half dozen or so knitting books I've been coveting, and she would wander around and look at everything. We would drink cappaccianos and leisurely spend the day in a non-child, non-stress environment. Unfortunately, this dream was derailed.

We both ended up taking our dear sons, hers age 11, mine age 13, because they both needed clothes. Hence the dash from store to store, and a very short (only an hour, and no cappacciano) visit to the book store. Not so fun, and I didn't even buy a knit mag.

We did, however, get to a Chinese buffet for lunch, a family favorite. That's where my green knitting fantasy began. They pop up now and then, whenever I get my hands on something that can be used as knitting tools or knitting yarn. Chopsticks look very much like knitting needles, and I started thinking about recycled knitting projects that people could use them for.

I know at some point I saw an episode of Knitty Gritty, where they used old plastic shopping bags, cut them into strips, and knitted them into a tote bag, or something like that. You can look it up. Anyway, I had visions of people all over America recycling their chop sticks to recycle their old bags. Maybe I should start a Green Knitalong if I don't get laughed off the internet for my daydreaming.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Spin Cental

You all have an idea of what it is that I'm knitting at the moment, but not what I'm spinning. I've got two wheels, a Schacht Matchless and an Ashford Joy, both of which get regular use. Both of them are great to work with.

I'm something of a silk addict. I love to spindle straight silk, and right now I'm working on a couple of silk caps on my Bosworth featherweight. For those of you who haven't worked with silk in this form, I highly recommend it for building up the old arm muscles. Yowza, you draft for miles and you really work at it. It's worth it, though, because you can literally draft it our to frog's hair.

On my wheels, I currently have two silk blends going. On the Matchless, I'm doing 50/50 merino and silk in a cranberry bog colorway. It goes from a pale pink, up through a smoky reddish purple. Really spectacular. That's destined to be a scarf for my mom. On the Joy, I have a 70/30 merino and silk blend in a gem colorway that will hopefully be a pair of socks if I've managed to draft it out far enough. Otherwise, I'm thinking about a pair of mitts.

On the picture front, I did get some pictures of my socks yesterday on my sister's digital, and the batteries died, so it had to recharge. I promise, I will get pictures to you within the next few days, hopefully not just of my socks, but my wheels and maybe even my geeps (goats and sheep).

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Blogging Ain't Easy

I spent significant amounts of time yesterday trying to figure out how to get this blog off the ground, and hopefully I'll be able to get it in shape sooner rather than later. If anybody who reads this is a talented blogger, PLEASE tip me off as to where to find all of the great little gadgets and such that everyone else seems to find, because I'm afraid I'm hopeless.

On a brighter note, I got some work done on my Montego Bay scarf and my toe up socks while I watched Idol and Law and Order last night, so the day wasn't totally lost in chasing kids and surfing the net.

I'm at my sister's house right now working on her high-speed connection, and am hoping to take a pic of the socks I'm working on and the yarn I'm using, so we'll see how that goes.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Busy Week for Me

This past week has been very exciting for me. I taught my first handspinning class. I taught it over two nights, which worked out pretty well. Night one consisted of a brief history of spinning, fibers, fiber processing, anwd demonstrations both on the wheel and on the dropspindle. We then made dropspindles out of two inch wooden model car tires, dowels, and cup hooks. Night two consisted of demonstrations of different drop spindles and spinning practice. All of this took place at the local library.

I also got an order of yarn from and am learning to do two socks at the same time from the toe up on two circular needles. It's a bit rough for the first two rounds, but after that, it beats out dpns hands down. I love it. You can find the free pattern here.,%20Toe-Up%20Sock%20Pattern_PD50417220.html#

I also signed up for Lime and Violet's Knitwars. You can find them here. They just overflow with knitting naughtiness.

I'm hoping to actually get some picks on this sight soon, so stay tuned. I'm babysitting for my sister now (infant and preschooler) so things are a bit crazy. I love to blog, but I just have a hard time finding time. I'll try to do better.