Category Archives: Fiber Arts

Tour de Fleece

Mystery wool singles yarn

Tour de Fleece usually comes and goes and I totally miss joining in.  This year, however, I am having loads of fun with it!  (This is a program for handspinners who spin as much fiber as they can during the Tour de France.  We join into teams and go for it, spinning on all the days the riders are competing, and see how much we can get accomplished.  I am on Team PortFiber, a group associated with a lovely fiber arts shop in Portland, Maine).

I have spent the first 6 days of the Tour spinning up some wool roving that is a “mystery” blend I bought from Jenny of Underhill Fibers.  It was a bit of a challenge, even for me!  The blue wool is a long staple sheep’s wool, and the white bits are fluffy little short bits.  So getting them to all spin up together was a little challenging, but fun.  I love the yarn – it’s bouncy, soft and light.  I don’t know what I will do with it, I only have about 532 yards, but perhaps it will make a nice woven scarf.  Who knows!  I can’t stop for long and think about it, I must get back to Touring the Fleece!

Finished 2 ply yarn

I still have a bit of work to do on my big production spinning wheel, however, before I get back to work. I was nearly finished plying the blue and white singles into a two ply, the wheel’s drive band frayed and jumped off the wheel. I was watching closely and playing chicken with it for that last short skein, and I lost :*<.   But, I hand plied what was left and it all came out just fine.

Anyhow, now on to some new spinning after getting a new band on that big wheel.  I can get going on my smaller traveling wheel, a Jensen Tina II, now if I want, and I just may do that and save the maintenance job for later.  I think I saw some camel/silk roving in my stash, and I also have a pound of a flax/wool roving that is going to be lots of fun.  I will have to let you know!

 

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Three little goaties

Twig and her babies in April

And now we are three.  This past Wednesday, Twig and her doeling went up to live with their new family in Temple, Maine.  They seem like lovely people, and Twig and her baby are settling right in.

It’s definitely much quieter around here, for sure!  Remaining are two bucklings, both Eleganza’s, and one of Saffron’s doelings who is supposed to be going to a woman nearby.  They are busy little bees, and all seem just fine without their moms.  The two boys are quite the boisterous duo, and Olive (which is what I call the doeling), stays out of their way as much as she can!

No interest yet in the bucklings, but we shall see.  Most folks don’t begin thinking about a herd sire until closer in to the autumn when its time to think about getting that started.

And so it goes!  In the meantime, last week I took a lovely class at the local fabric shop (Alewives Fabrics) and learned the basics of English paper piecing (a different type of quilting technique).  I love it!  I will post some photos when I get a little more done.  We are having a lazy Sunday, enjoying the cooler less humid air that came in over night.  Delightful after the humidity and torrential storms last evening!

Is it almost August already?

Happy girls this afternoon

And boy does it sound like it out there!  The crickets and the grasshoppers are playing their music frantically.  I don’t know if it’s the drought, or just the usual.  Whatever the reason, I love sitting and listening to them, it’s a most comforting sound.  The rain is finally making a brief appearance every once in awhile, but the days are growing shorter again, which always surprises me for some reason.

Fergus the wether. Trying to look innocent!

We have had an insanely crazy summer so far.  My husband has been traveling back and forth to NJ.  His dad, 94, was getting feebler, and ended up in the hospital and passed away just before the 4th of July.  And so many trips up and down, alone, with me, with our son and grandson later, it’s been nuts.  Very sad to have lost my sweet father in law, but also nice to have had an opportunity to see much of the family again.

Sam and some of the girls last November. We all miss him!

In the middle of all this upheaval and emotional stuff, my older son, the one who has been with us for a little over 2 years and has been a huge part of the goat farm, had the opportunity to move back to NJ, which he did this past week.  And so it goes!  When it rains, it pours.  Change just is, and I am old enough to not be surprised by it.  But it does every time.

Today John came back from NJ once again, and I think he can stay for a week or two before heading back south.  The summer traffic is epic, and it took him almost 10 hours to get back today (it’s a 400 mile trip, should only be about 6-7 hours).  In the meantime, my schedule has changed drastically, as my son was doing a lot of the feed prep each day, and it will take me awhile to get into a different groove.  I know the goats are standing around scratching their heads wondering why everything is taking so darn long :*)  Ha!

3 cottolin hand towels, Summer & Winter weave

My weaving work has continued well, and we are exploring double weaves right now.  It’s so much fun!  I also finished a set of Summer and Winter weave hand towels a few days ago, which I just love.  I made them from cottolin, and the colors are lovely.  We only have about 2 months left tin the grant timeline, and I have a few projects I need to work on aside from what I am doing with Nancy.  I need to really get cracking on them.

Detail of the middle towel which I will probably use as a table runner (a small one)

The hot and humid weather can turn me into a very cranky soul, but so far we have had pretty small doses of it until this past week.  It’s been a tough one, and I know that the animals are feeling it as well.  I certainly am not very sprightly during this hazy, humid stuff, and living in Maine, we do not have air conditioning except in the bedrooms (although living only about a mile from Muscongus Bay definitely helps, particularly when we get breezes off the water).  The next 3 or four days are supposed to be better, and then the stickies make a return appearance.  Ah well, this is summer, and this too shall pass!  I am not wishing it away, the green and the warm don’t stick around for more than a blink.

 

 

 

Leaving home

Finished twill towels

Time is flying by as usual, and this past week has been a doozy.  My husband had to travel down to NJ to help with some things and his 94 year old father, I have been weaving like a crazy person, and 5 of our 8 babies have moved off to their new homes.

It’s so nice to meet the new families that are taking on our little Guerseys, and I know they are all going to new adventures and great lives.  Most of our Guernseys are unregistered, and almost all the families who are taking them are doing so for the same reasons I choose the goats I do:  their temperament, their size and their nice milky butterfat.

Off to NH

Saffron’s girls went off to New Hampshire with a wonderful young family last weekend.  Little Red and Blue are now called Lucy and Gidget!  Great names for these sweet girls.  (Gidget is the darker red girl whose ear tips were bent from birth, pretty perfect name!).  It sounds like they are settling in well at their new farm.

Eleganza resting in the shade with her boys

Eleganza’s boys have gone off to different farms here in Maine.  They are sweet guys as well, and I know they will have lots of girls to keep them busy in the future!

Pippi’s girl giving me the stare.  Her name is now Poppe!

And the last to leave this week is our sweet little doeling, Pippi the Lamancha’s girl (Pippi is our Herd Queen).  If I could have kept any of the babies from this year it would have been her.  I am really happy, though, that she is going to a wonderful farm in Vermont, to a young family with whom we are acquainted.  She will love her new friends there, some mini Nubians and some Nigerian dwarfs.  Who knows, maybe she can aspire to being the new herd  queen!

And so it goes.  Spring is quickly turning to summer, and we only have three little ones left to move along to new homes.  Things are much quieter already, it will be a real shock when these little ones leave!  And now, on to serious milking and some cheese  :*)

 

Weaving apprentice program update

First sampler

I have just finished week 13 of my weaving apprenticeship!  I can’t believe that we have been going for this long already.  I am having a great time and learning lots of good things, many of those things through mistakes, as is true of most learning experiences.

(Samples above on a straight draw threading)

In exploring weave structures I am working on things with Nancy at her studio, as well as doing things on my own at home.  At the very  beginning she reviewed efficient warp dressing methods on which I needed a refresher (every time I warped my loom I did it differently, which never helped me to get projects going).  We very quickly moved to the study of weave structure, starting with a two-part sampler threaded with a straight draw.  Very simple, but even with that there are a gazillion weaves you can achieve by simply using different treadling patterns.  After I had experimented with that for half the warp, Nancy had me begin to use some of the treadling patterns I liked the most from the first half to experiment  with weft texture and color(s).   That was wild!  Lots of very unexpected results from that.  (It really helps that Nancy has a studio filled with amazing and crazy yarns of all unusual textures, colors and materials).

For my second sampler Nancy assigned me a project which I warped with 6 different wool color stripes.  Some of the stripes are solid colors, and three of them are pairings of two alternate colors.  Each stripe is threaded in different Rosepath twill patterns from p16-17, and a Goose Eye from p22.  (I am using Marguerite Porter Davison’s book A Handweaver’s Pattern Book, revised edition, 1944).  The results are mind-bogglingly fun, and again, having access to all of Nancy’s yarn collection has made this a great experiment.  I have a lot of new ‘favorites’ in that sampler.

Scarf

At home I began by using some of our farm yarn, a millspun Coopworth/Border Leicester cross, for a warp (hand dyed), and some hand spun and hand dyed silk/wool weft (mostly silk).  It was a scarf I designed and wove off in March.  Lots of fun, twill threading. colorful!  (Although another lesson learned is that I made it wider than I really wanted it to be because I calculated take-up for when it came off the loom.  With all the silk in the weft, it did not lose even a quarter of an inch!).

At the moment I am weaving a series of 5 cotton towels at home.  I designed them as samplers using a 6 thread herringbone pattern (Davison, p25).  I don’t have a huge supply of yarns at home, but I do have a nice range of 8/2 cottons.  I used most of the colors I have to create warp stripes.  As opposed to the 6 different threadings that I used for the sampler at Nancy’s studio, I simply used the one herringbone threading across the whole warp.  My one mistake, that I did not see until I had woven quite a bit into the first towel, is that on one of the sections with two alternating colors, I accidentally placed two white threads next to each other, which switched the pattern of colors from white/turquoise, white/turquoise, to turquoise/white across.  Which has managed to insert a white stripe down that section of warp.  (There was no threading mistake, just a color bungle).

Color placement mistake is very evident here in the turquoise and white!

Despite the color placement mistake, I am loving the way the towels are shaping up!  They are a lot of fun.  So far I am in the middle of the third towel and have experimented with a lot of the different colors, and a lot of different treadlings.  Turning the herringbone direction makes a nice effect, and I took one of the Rosepath treadlings and applied it to this threading and came out with a very nice turned twill pattern.

I am also working on a bit color interpretation project at Nancy’s, but more about that another time :*)

 

Spa 2018 coming up

Winter sun winning the day

Well, I am packing tonight to get down to Freeport, Maine tomorrow.  New England Textile Arts Spa weekend is upon us!

The vendor area at the Hilton Garden Inn will open up on Friday night at 5 PM.  It’s a great weekend, and I can’t wait!  I hope to take some great photos and share them with you after the event.

On another note, I can’t believe we had a 50+ degree day today!  It was luscious :*)  All the goaties ate outside and everyone was cavorting and kicking up their heels.  When the fog finally lifted and the sun came out midday, it was heaven.  I know that not everyone in the country had such a day, so I feel very grateful for the little bit of sun and warmth we got this afternoon.  Quite a bit of the hard layer of ice in the driveway and in the paddocks melted.  Let’s hope the temperatures stay up a little and that any bad weather we get (cough, Sunday) does not hang around long enough to turn into ice.

Some fun news

Masham fiber that I got from Into the Whirled at Rhinebeck, 2016. Lovely springy fiber!

Lest anyone think that I have been idle all winter, I have not!  I have been alternately messing around in and re-organizing my studio loft area.  I can get so easily sidetracked with all kinds of things, like book binding, embroidery, quilting, and of course, spinning, knitting and weaving, that I can make chaos in a very short amount of time.

Before I retired I knew that one of my very biggest goals in retirement was to get back to my weaving.  I have been fooling around with looms, both simple and multi-harness, since I was about 12 years old.  Nothing fancy and nothing complicated, but always I come back to it.  I learned everything from books, and now that YouTube and online tutorials are so widespread, I have used some of those to get my feet wet again in weaving, but I really wanted to do a more organized and thoughtful study of weave structures, not just fool around with the odd project here and there, to really learn how to design and weave what I want to.

I had met a local weaver a few years ago when I was driving to Bethel, Maine to pick up a buck from my friend Jane, who is also a production weaver.  The local professional weaver, Nancy, was picking up a loom from Jane at the same time, so we caravanned over in a snow storm (what else is new).  At the time I had only spoken to Nancy a little bit, and asked her just in passing if she would be willing to work with me after I retired, and she said, “Sure!”

When I finally got in touch with her last November, we had just heard about the Maine Crafts Association and Maine Arts Commission opening up the application process for grants to artisans wishing to apprentice with a master artist (Maine Craft Apprentice Program).  We talked about it and decided to give it a try.  It was quite a process, but we got the grant application in before the December due date, and then promptly forgot about it with the holidays and the bitter cold weather ushering in the new year.

Waffle weave dish towels, cottolin

When we got the notice in mid-January that we were finalists, I really couldn’t believe it, and a week or so ago we found out that we are one of two master/apprentice groups to receive the grant for 2018!  I am very honored to think that the committee liked our proposal and am very excited to get started!

In the meantime, I finally warped and wove off a set of waffle weave towels that I have been trying to goose onto my Macomber loom for over a year.  I know there is a threading error, but I can’t find it, and I am very happy with the towels, perfect or not!

And so the adventure begins.

No sun yet

Bobbin full of single ply Romney/silk yarn

It feels like it’s been forever since we saw the sun.  For a moment or two this morning the sky brightened, but in the end it just led to more clouds.  The temperature feels like it is inching up, though, which is definitely a plus!

2-ply skeins of the Romney/silk

On these gloomy days I have been catching up on herd paperwork, and doing some plying.  I have spun up quite a bit of my backlog, but I hate to ply, so I frequently put that off until I can’t find another empty bobbin to put on the wheel.  I know, silly!

While spinning, I have been listening to Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising sequence audiobooks, and am on the 2nd one, The Dark is Rising.  I read this and the prequel, Over Sea, Under Stone, many years ago, but am enjoying it again.  I had never read farther into the series, though, so I am looking forward to the others as well.  Susan Cooper is a wonderful author who has written more than just this series, one of my favorites being The Boggart.  I am not a serious fan of heavy duty fantasy, but the battle between The Dark and The Light in many of her books is a timeless theme, and she does it very well, with believable, complex characters.  It also helps that these books take place in some pretty dramatic places, like Cornwall!

Peanut with her morning bottle

Peanut is continuing to do well, staying outside all day with the others, and coming in about dark.  She hasn’t made the transition to a three bottle a day schedule yet, but I think she is close.  She knows where to go when she wants a nap, and plays hard with the others when she wants.  I don’t fear for her safety with the others, but we will wait until after the Mother’s Day rain deluge to leave her out at night.

Oh my, I can see a slice of blue sky in the distance!  Shocking!

 

Winter returns

Handdyed, handspun cashgora yarn (by a spinner in Tajikistan)
Handdyed, handspun cashgora yarn (by a spinner in Tajikistan)

I can truthfully say we are still waiting for our goat babies.  The spring-like weather is disappearing tonight, and we face some crazy windchills in the next few days, and I am down with the chest flu (milder than it could be if I had not had my flu shot, but it’s punched me up a bit).

And so we hope that we do not have to have babies arrive with 20-40 mph wind gusts, but if we do, we will manage.  I do not use heat lamps, as straw, hay and inquisitive goats all make for a very volatile situation.  We rely on windbreaks, getting babies dry quickly, and getting them fed up with colostrum ASAP (and lots and lots of straw).  And so we continue our sleepless nights, but tonight I have a reprieve and Sam is doing the late night and early morning checks.  Maybe by the end of the day tomorrow I will feel better :*)

Kiwi Pop Studio yarn
Kiwi Pop Studio yarn

In the meantime, I am resting and ogling my NETA Spa purchases, and also my raffle win.  I am totally over the moon with my Tajik handspun/handdyed cashgora yarn from Casey at Port Fiber, my purchases from Cari Balbo/Ridge Pond Herbals, and also my very unexpected skein of yarn from the raffle at the Spa Fashion Show (Kiwi Pop Studio)!  I have to consult Ravelry for a nice project that will make the most of my cashgora yarn, and for my raffle prize, I am beginning to picture it as an accent to a larger shawl project.  Not sure where I will go with that one, it is not one of those skeins that would have called to me all alone, but now that I have it home, I really see the potential of the sparkle and the glitz and color!

Cari Balbo's Ridge Pond Herbals eye balm, hand cream, tallow face cream, and solid bar skin cream
Cari Balbo’s Ridge Pond Herbals eye balm, hand cream, tallow face cream, and solid bar skin cream

It’s all good, and the whole point of the Spa weekend at the end of February is still just as compelling as it was 15 years ago:  it’s a great break during the winter to meet up with fiber friends and just have a great time relaxing, spinning, knitting, crocheting, and generally having a good time, with a lot of laughs.  The spur to keep up the good spirits until the warmth returns late in the spring.  And so it goes.  Nice.  Very nice!

Almost there, I think!

Betsy waiting for breakfast
Betsy waiting for breakfast

I spent a lot of time early last week worrying about being away in Freeport for the NETA Spa event.  Leaving my son to carry on the late night and early morning checks, which we usually split between us, and worrying that Betsy the First Timer might run into a problem.   In the end, mid-afternoon last Thursday, I took off and headed down to Freeport.  (I am one of the Spa event organizers and there was work to be done setting up the vendor areas, and some put-our-head-together meetings as well).  I ended up staying through the Saturday late afternoon fashion show (I am the emcee, so it was something I needed to do if at all possible) and then came on home.  To no babies in progress :*/

Delta's bum
Delta’s bum

Sam and I texted many times every day, and he posted me photos of goat bums galore.  Over thinking these things is tough.  You want to be observant and ready for anything, but then all the little signs you think are significant just turn out to be little bumps in the road, showing progress, but not a predictable finish line.

Eleganza scratches an itch
Eleganza scratches an itch

There are three girls that should be having their babies anytime now.  (Did I really just say that again??!)  Betsy, Delta, and Eleganza.  Eleganza’s udder has blossomed in the past few days, Betsy’s and Delta’s as well, although Eleganza is outpacing the other two in that department.  Delta and Betsy have had totally slack ligament bands at the base of their tails for at least 10 days, so that hasn’t proven to be a help either.

Delta picking through some promising straw
Delta picking through some promising straw

Betsy is so miserable.  The poor thing can barely move her back legs.  You can tell that the baby is pressing on the nerves in her back end and she can only walk in a very stilted manner.  I feel for her and wish that she would get to it, already!

The beginning of every kidding or lambing season always begins this way.  Exhaustion sets in from doing the late and early checks, and eventually we go away and sleep in a little, only to find the little ones out there with mom, clean, fed and dry.  And so it goes!  I think I will get back to my knitting now…