Friday, December 30, 2011

Carding Fiber - Fiber Friday Spotlight

Wool/fiber carding is the process of brushing the wool fibers with wire teeth to align the fibers for spinning.

Hand carders, drum carders, combs and flicker brushes are all used to prepare fiber. All work in different ways to achieve the same results...get the fiber opened up and pointed in generally the same direction.

I started with dog brushes. They work fine, very cheap, just small and can be time consuming if working large amounts of fiber. My next step was a set of Ashford hand carders, love them! I still use them to this day and will never be without a set. They travel with me when the drum carded can't. Hand carding is actually methodical and relaxing to me.
 Hand carders create rolags. The fibers are usually perpendicular to the length of the rolog. You card out some fiber, and then roll the fiber together off of the hand carder.

The next investment was my drum carder. My precious Fancy Kitty Kitten. Made in the USA, right here in the state of MO. She can handle anything I throw at her. I highly recommend the company, their customer service and products.

Batts come off of the drum carder.  Sheets of fiber, that are used to spin from.   In the photo above is white Shetland wool on my drum carder.

My next investment will be combs, not sure if I really need to invest the money to purchase a pair or just have the better half make a pair for me. I have seen homemade combs that use plastic hair picks from discount stores to hand crafted comb sets made of wood and nails. I haven't ran across a large need for combs as of yet, but imagine when I decide to step it up to combing a lot of top I will.

I can see a need for Flicker brushes, since we grow Mohair and long wool locks which need to be opened. A flicker brush looks like a mini hand carder, it is used to separate and tease fibers in prep for spinning by working the fiber against a stiff piece of leather. I use my hand carders to flick open locks though really need to invest in a Flicker brush.  They say a flicker also works well for cleaning the drum carder like a doffer.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

New Year Resolutions

Since the New Year is almost here, I’ve started to think about my resolutions for 2012. Each year I make a list of resolutions, I manage to keep some with seeminly no problems and others fall to the way side. This year I am approaching things a tad bit differently. Instead of making resolutions I am setting goals, SMART goals. Ever heard of SMART goals? SMART stands for “Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound.”
The idea behind S.M.A.R.T. goals is that it gives you something concrete and realistic to work towards, instead of a general resolution you would like to achieve in the New Year.
I have so much I want to accomplish this year, not only on the farm, but with the farm business, also have a couple personal goals. I am looking at 2012 as a year full of possibilities, opportunities for growth and just plain getting more out of life.

Knitting Goals
1- Knit down my stash by creating 1 - 1 skein hat project each week to donate to charity in November 2012. There is a local coats for kids charity I plan to donate the hats to.
2 – Create a Finished Object Book for my knitting. With each finished project (be it hat, scarf, shawl, socks, blanket) I will document it's creation, the yarn, pattern, etc. The book will include photos of the finished project. Begin creating the FO book, January 1st.
3 – Finish “The Blanket”. I have one UFO that nags at me. I started a wool blanket for our bed a year or so ago. I had the idea of creating a reversible blanket from our sheep’s wool. Felted wool panels on one side and patchwork hand spun wool yarn knitted squares on the reverse side. Half of the felted panels are done, a few knitted squares are done. It seems the more I work on it, the less I accomplish. I would like to have it finished by Christmas Day December 25th 2012.

Fiber Goals
1- Organize and create “My Wool Book”. This is a book that will hold the history of my flock in wool; with samples of wool locks that will be stored individually in little zip-loc bags, each labeled with the name of a sheep, type of sheep, and shearing date. It will be organized chronologically, the wool locks will show the direction of my breeding program over the years.

2 – Learn to Spin. This is a subject for discussion at later date.

Personal Goals
Everyone tells me I turn in a hermit during certain times of the year. With all the work needing done around the farm, working from home, lambing/kidding time, tending the livestock, gardens... I suppose it seems that way. I enjoy my solitude, the peace and quiet of the farm and truthfully, I rarely leave the farm. In an effort to show I don't totally isolate myself from the outside world my goal is to:
1 - Blog here at least 2-3 times a week, post once if not twice a week to our farm blog, update the shops status daily.
2 - Read and comment more on blogs, participate more in different forums and take at least 2 online workshops in 2012.
3- Attend one local craft/fiber event each month between April and December 2012.

So lets see...
Specific, yes each one is.
Measurable, yep.
Attainable, yes, reasonable.
Relevant, definitely.
Time-bound, I do believe so. Begins January 1 and I will review month-by-month.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Twas The Night Before Christmas

‎`Twas the night before Christmas and all around me
Was unfinished knitting not under the tree.
The stockings weren't hung by the chimney with care
'cause the heels and the toes had not a stitch there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds
but I had not finished the caps for their heads.
Dad was asleep; he was no help at all,
And the sweater for him was six inches too small.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I put down my needles to see what was the matter.
Away to the window, I flew like a flash,
Tripped over my yarn and fell down with a crash.

The tangle of yarn that lay deep as the snow
Reminded me how much I still had to go.
Out on my lawn, I heard such a noise,
I thought it would wake both dad and the boys.

And though I was tired, my brain was a bit thick,
I knew in a moment, it must be Saint Nick.
But what I heard then left me perplexed-ed,
For not a name I heard was what I had expected
"move, Ashford; move, Lopi; move, Addie and Clover
Move, Reynolds; move, Starmore; move, Fraylic–move
"Paton, don't circle round; stand in line.

Come now, you sheep wool work just fine!
I know this is hard semi, it's just your first year,
I'd hate to go back to eight tiny reindeer."
I peered over the sill; what I saw was amazing,
Eight woolly sheep on my lawn all a'grazing.

And then,in a twinkle, I heard at the door
Santa's feet coming across the porch floor.
I rose from my knees and got back on my feet,
And as I turned round, Saint Nick, I did meet.

He was dressed all in wool from his head to his toe
And his clothes were handknit from above to below.
A bright Fairisle sweater he wore on his back,
and his toys were all stuffed in an Aran knit sack.
His cap was a wonder of bobbles and lace,
A beautiful frame for his rosy red face.

The scarf round his neck could have stretched for a mile,
And the socks peeking over his boots were Argyle.
The back of his mittens bore an intricate cable,
And suddenly on one I spied a small label.
SC was duplicate stitched on the cuff,
and I asked "Hey Nick, did you knit all this stuff?"

He proudly replied "Ho-ho-ho, yes I did,
I learned how to knit when I was a kid."
He was chubby and plump, a quite well-dressed old man,
And I laughed to myself for I'd thought up a plan.

I flashed him a grin and jumped up in the air,
And the next thing he knew he was tied to a chair.
He spoke not a word, but looked in his lap
Where I'd laid my needles and yarn for a cap.

He quickly began knitting, first one cap then two;
For the first time I thought I'd really get through.
He put heels on the stockings and toes in some socks
While I sat back drinking Scotch on the rocks!!

So quickly like magic, his needles they flew,
That he was all finished by quarter to two.
He sprang for his sleigh when I let him go free,
And over his shoulder he looked back at me.
And I heard him exclaim as he sailed past the moon
"Next year start your knitting sometime around June."

-Author Unknown

Friday, December 23, 2011

Fiber Friday Spotlight - Natural Colored Wool

One of the main reasons we raise Shetlands is the natural color of their fleece.  Shetland sheep can be black, brown toned grey, dark silvery grey, medium or light silver grey, ivory, fawn, golden honey color, a broad range of reddish moorit or dark brown.  I love the variations of the natural greys, browns and blacks.  Yes there are white Shetlands, white is a dominant color in the breed, however we chose to breed for color and spots in Shetlands.

Some of our natural colored woolie boys. Grey, black and moorit brown.

You see thousands of years ago, all sheep were natural colored. Like many animals, their coats blended in with the colors of their environment, to help protect them from predators. Over the years when people found they could dye white wool a rainbow of colors, natural colored sheep became less common.

Primitive breeds such as the Shetland and Icelandic sheep have few dye sites.   Dye sites are the places on the fiber that will accept and lock in the color with the least amount of dye. How well a fiber dyes, depends on how many dye sites or absence of color there are in the fiber.  Very white animals dye easier than natural colored.  Many modern breeds of white sheep have been bred for this specific very white wool to increase dyeing properties with more dye sites.   Natural colored wool will over dye nicely, creating a more muted tone in color. 

 The green yarn in the photo above is over dyed emerald green on a natural light grey wool, the orange is white domestic wool dyed orange, the bottom three skeins of yarn are natural colored Shetland wool.  Moorit brown, grey and fawn colored wool.

 Natural colored Fawn brown hand spun Shetland yarn

 Natural colored grey hand spun Shetland yarn

Natural colored black and white spotted Shetland drum carded batt.

Now if you really want color ~ a natural colored white Shetland
will give you a beautifully dyed rainbow!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cross Breeds Wool

The majority of our fiber is considered to be from long wool breeds. This year we are planning to cross a select few of our girls to different breeds of rams in hopes of producing a shorter, finer and more lusterous fiber. We are hoping that the cross will bring out the best qualities of each breed in the offspring.

Cheviot wool - The Cheviot has a medium fine fleece (50-56's spin count) and a generous staple length (4 to 5 inches). For the hand spinner, Cheviot wool is durable, easy to spin and they say impossible to felt.

Dorset – Considered to be a medium wool with a short staple of 2-3 inches

Southdown Babydoll Wool- The wool of Babydoll Southdown sheep has a short 2-3 staple with a 19-29 micron count. The wool is fine and dense with a medium crimp. The grade is 55-60. The wool is great for blending.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Shetland Wool

The majority of our sheep are Shetland Sheep. The Shetland is a small, fine wool breed of sheep originating in the Shetland Isles. Shetlands are classed as a landrace or  an "unimproved" breed, retaining many of the qualities of the original imported stock.

Our Shetlands have a dual coated fleece; an undercoat of soft, short, downy fibers, with a soft and strong outer coat. Their fleeces can be up to 8 inches in length and wavy. Most refer to this type of Shetland as the "primitive-style".
The primitive fleece is quite multipurpose, the over and undercoats may be separated and spun separately or combined and spun together.

Grey Shetland Handspun Yarn by Phyllis

Our foundation sheep are direct descendants of those from the original importation. Their fleeces are soft and lustrous, with each sheep's fleece being unique to the animal that grows it.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Bluefaced Leicester Wool

The Bluefaced Leicester is very distinct with its Roman nose, long, upright earset, and deep blue skin contrasted with soft, white, semi-lustre wool. They have a clean head/face, legs, and belly (free of wool).The BFL is classified as a Longwool breed. It is one of the three Leicester breeds of sheep… the English Leicester Longwool, the Border Leicester, and the Bluefaced Leicester.

Blue Faced Leicester wool has excellent qualities for hand spinning, is fine and dense with a good luster. The long locks are well suited to combing. The Blue Faced Leicester fleece is highly prized for its likeness to mohair.

Sherlock our BFL and Adrian one of our Shetlands

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Week Before Christmas

Here we are a week before Christmas. I know I have totally neglected the blog. I had such high hopes of updating and posting on a regular schedule. A little explanation...since there is no true down time on the farm, computer time which includes not only blogging, reading blogs on my blog list, checking and responding to email, having my daily Face Book fix, researching, reading, etc... is all crammed into a brief time during the wee hours of the morning with my morning cup of caffeine. I have to admit I am not my best or brightest at this time so the blog suffers.

I have been busy. Surprisingly with customer order hats and scarves along with my personal knitting (family gifts and my own projects). I have 2 more quick knit Christmas gifts to finish, ha, a week to finish, maybe pushing it, though I have faith I can finish them.

We are spending Christmas at home on the farm this year. Just us, our son and my parents. This year I plan to take a break from my normal routine the week between Christmas and New Years. Doing only the “have to do” farm chores which include caring for and feeding the animals and milking. I plan to spend what free time I can find resting, enjoying family and the sheepies preparing for the New Year. 

Lots of new changes coming in 2012!  New sheep, new fiber, new yarn, new barn, new shearer... so stay tuned :-) 

Wishing each and everyone a very Merry Christmas!