Category Archives: Fiber

October fiber fun

It’s been quite a month for fiber activities.  It finally cooled down, although the autumn continues to actually be warmer than usual.  Much nicer to work with wool when it’s not humid and hot!

I have had a list of fiber projects as long as my arm for many years.  Some of them on the list are knitting projects, but many more are spinning projects (I am not going into the weaving project list right now, that would be embarrassing!).  And so I have begun to prioritize them.  (Of course, spinning projects turn into knitting or weaving projects in the final analysis…)

Friends Folly Farm singles. I really need to ply these - I need the bobbins for my next project!
Friends Folly Farm singles. I really need to ply these – I need the bobbins for my next project!

First on my spinning list has been to finish a beautiful 50/50 mohair/wool blend from Friends Folly Farm.  Last week I finished spinning up the pound of singles, now it’s in the queue for plying.

Jacob batts on my old Fricke carder
Jacob batts on my old Fricke carder

Second on the spinning list is to card and spin the beautiful Jacob lamb’s fleece that I split with a friend 2 years ago.  As soon as we received it from our friend Debbie at Hearts of the Meadow Farm in West Virginia, I washed it and carefully put it away.  It has been floating around in the back of my mind for quite awhile, and I am very excited to say that I have begun to process it.  (Although, true to form, when I broke out my drum carder, it turned out to be so dirty that it took about a week to finally get it cleaned out.  My husband took it to work and used an industrial grade compressor to blow out all the little bits that were lurking in there for quite a few years.  So that put me back a little on the project).

Shetland fleece on the drying rack
Shetland fleece on the drying rack

Project three in the spinning department is the Shetland fleece that came home with me from NYS&Wool this year.  Yum!  I can hardly wait.  That is definitely #3 in line.

Romney/silk roving
Romney/silk roving

And number 4:  the lovely Romney/silk roving that I brought home from Rhinebeck.  Two pounds of it means that I really need to hunker down and commit to the project, and I feel like that will be a very good mid-winter project.  Particularly if The Polar Vortex returns to darken the doorstep!

Advertisements

Summer ends with a fiber-filled weekend

The Mawata (multiple silk cocoons stretched into a square shape
The Mawata (multiple silk cocoons stretched into a square shape) I stretched at the workshop, then dyed with woad

Saturday, a friend and I were lucky enough to get into a workshop down at PortFiber in Portland. Taught by Robin Russo, it was a day spent learning about the history of sericulture (farming silk worms) as well as a lot of hands-on work with silk cocoons, reeling silk, pulling cocoons into “hankies,” and then spinning wild and cultivated silks. It was an absolutely fabulous workshop, and I would highly recommend any workshop with Robin! She is a wonderful teacher. She even brought in silk moths who were mating and laying eggs.

Intact Bombyx silk cocoons
Intact Bombyx silk cocoons

Yesterday was spent at Hatchtown Farm having a spinning party/end of summer blast. As usual, we had lots of food, laughter and fun. Sitting on the porch listening to the crickets and watching the crazed grasshoppers and dragonflies was very therapeutic!

Spinning party!
Spinning party!

One of our spinning friends, Chris, set up a woad experiment for us to work on during the afternoon. She grew the woad plants over the summer, and got the initial dye pot set up yesterday morning. When we got together, she continued the process and we got to put a bit of fiber into the pot during the afternoon. It was magical! The woad was a lighter blue than most indigo will dye, and it’s beautiful. Chris threw my little misshapen mawata into the pot and it’s turned fabulous shades of blue.

Some of the woad-dyed fiber
Some of the woad-dyed fiber

It was an exceptional weekend to end the summer fun. The weather totally cooperated, and of course, the heat and humidity are coming back just in time for school to begin!

Post-race week

Has been a crazy one! One of our pigeons came in second place in Monday’s race, which certainly isn’t too bad for not knowing much about this whole thing. Next race is on Sunday, from Jackman again. Of course, this week we thought we had lost two pigeons during training runs. They eventually found their way back, but one came in with a damaged leg and a hurt wing. I still can’t believe that they all keep coming back, but we have been lucky in that way. So we shall see.

The other craziness is getting ready for the school year to begin. I worked in both of my buildings this week at least 3 days, and will go in again for a few days next week, and then we start full time on Wednesday. I really have to get into the school groove again, and start getting up earlier than 5:15 or 5:30. Dare I even say that I have lolled around until 6 a few times recently! I will have to get up early tomorrow because I am lucky to be taking a workshop on silk, it’s history, cultivation and the spinning end of it, in Portland. Have to get going early, but it will be a great day.

Spinning, knitting and visiting

Kid mohair, colors not looking quite as well as they do in person
Kid mohair, colors not looking quite as well as they do in person

Today turned out to be a very lovely day. I had some errands to do in Freeport, and our friend Chris invited me to lunch and a spinning/knitting afternoon. So I toodled off and did my errands, forgetting about how much traffic there would be in Brunswick, trying to get from Route 1 to 295. Aargh! But I had my trusty iPad and listened to some good music and some podcasts, so it was all good. And during our lovely visit this afternoon, on a very lovely day, I worked on my new Hitchhiker shawl and we had an amazing lunch.

I have been working on spinning some hand-painted kid mohair, in a range of reds, oranges and golds. I am almost finished with it, and it is beautiful. I have to find just the right thing to ply it with, and then see if there is enough to make a small project. (The photo does not show off the colors as well as I would hope, but the iPhone did its best!).

And so the day was a good one. I have plenty of work to do here on the farm, but a lovely day out was truly a gift.

 

Fibery week

Silver Coopworth roving
Silver Coopworth roving
White Coopworth/Beigey Alpaca roving
White Coopworth/Beigey Alpaca roving

In addition to our lovely, fiber-filled weekend on the island, I have had a very fiber-filled week at home as well. Early in the week it was quite a surprise when I received an email from our fiber mill that part of the order I had sent in early in June, was finished. I can’t even say how surprised I was, and the next day two boxes arrived. Roving made up of white Coopworth fleece that had been mixed with some beigey alpaca from my husband’s cousin in North Jersey. It is much more beautiful than I even imagined!

Silver and brown Coopworth yarn, sport weight
Silver and brown Coopworth yarn, sport weight

But that is not even where it ended. All of the fleeces came back this past week. Part in roving, part in sport weight yarn. Wow. So now we have the white/beige roving; beautiful silvery-grey roving; silver sport weight yarn, and dark brown sport weight yarn. It’s amazing. Next job is to get to the washing of all the skeins. And then finding folks who want to share in some of the bounty!

Traveling Woman shawl
Traveling Woman shawl

On the knitting side of the week, I have gotten a tad farther on the Traveling Woman shawl that I started on Vinalhaven (using our farm sock wool that I dyed), and for some easier, social knitting, I began another Hitchhiker shawl with some Crazy Zauberball yarn. It’s very colorful and fun to work with.

New Hitchhiker shawl in progress
New Hitchhiker shawl in progress

Still washing wool

A nearly perfect summer day
A nearly perfect summer day

I am sorry to have been absent for this past week. My husband had a little medical scare, so I was busier than I had imagined I would be during this first week of school vacation. I think things are pretty much back to normal now, so I am continuing to wash skeins and skeins of wool. Fallout from the Great Wool Moth Invasion of 2014.  Eek. The only way to make sure that no eggs are left alive in wool is to wash them at a certain temperature water with soap. So I am. It’s not a heinous project, as I enjoy being home now that school is out. The weather has been perfect: breezy and not too hot. Just right. I have gotten a slew of stuff done since last Friday, and I can say that I am on the winning end of the deal at this point. And, as a bonus, in the big cleanout I came across a box of some handspun that I am very happy to have found!

Wet handspun
Wet handspun

Aside from the wool, the goats are offering up some very good entertainment, even though Bagels tripped me Tuesday night and I think I sprained a finger on my right hand. (I had my hand through his collar and he wanted to go one way, I was going the other way, and we landed in a heap, jamming my fingers in the process.) Ah well, such is the life. But in general, when I am home during the day, I can open up the goat paddock to a very weedy, grassy area, so they are going great guns on that. We have a loam pile right in the middle of this area and the kids are very engaging as they jump and do back flips onto and off the pile. The best King of the Mountain game yet!

This weekend looks totally gorgeous, and I am looking forward to the good weather. More haying on the schedule, I think.

Winged Weekend Warriors Part 2

The sorting mess in the driveway
The sorting mess in the driveway

It’s no longer the weekend, although I had great intentions of getting a blog post out by Sunday night. I am burning the midnight oil getting ready for this coming weekend’s Maine Fiber Frolic. I always think I am going to be better prepared to pack up my car on Thursday afternoon, in readiness to blast off directly from work on Friday to set up at the Windsor Fair grounds. But as usual, even yesterday afternoon, I was most definitely not prepared.

One of the reasons that I am so ill-prepared is that about two weeks ago I discovered a wool-moth infestation in some fleeces I had upstairs in my fiber area. This is one of the fears that all fiber folk have, and sometimes even constant vigilance is not enough.

Inside the freezer.  The wool mess takes over!
Inside the freezer. The wool mess takes over!

The offenders in my fiber loft were a few dirty fleeces housed in plastic bags that I had left open slightly so that they would not form condensation and felt. Near-hysterical panic set in and I had to weed out all the affected items. To start with, I just took everything outside and lined them up in the driveway for an inspection and sorting (thank goodness for a nice stretch of weather and a holiday weekend). Anything that was infected went on the compost pile and John turned it under, many times. Everything else went into the freezer, and every day as I came home, I took more out and washed and washed, in extremely hot water, and then dried in the sun, not to return to the house until it was in storage bins. Interestingly enough, nothing that was wrapped up tightly in cotton sheets was affected. Nor was anything closed up in brown paper.

The day after the gruesome discovery, a Saturday, good friend Chris came to my rescue and helped out all day, toting and organizing. Our driveway resembled a disaster zone, thank goodness not on a larger scale of any kind, like a real natural disaster.

There haven’t been enough hours in each day for me to feel like I am not running faster just to keep falling behind. But anything going to the Fiber Frolic either was not in the house at the time, or has been washed to within an inch of its little life and put into containers. No more open-air wool hangouts in our house for sure!

The upshot of it all is that I have a lot of fiber loft organizing to do. It’s time. The Weekend of the Wool Moth Warriors is over, but the battle and the preventive planning will continue for a long time to come. However, before anything goes back upstairs, even in containers, we are going to be doing some spraying. I hate chemicals and avoid them at all turns if I can, but I do not think we can eradicate lurking bugs without it. Ugh. I cannot believe that after almost a lifetime of living with wool and fiber products openly in our house, that we got hit. Luckily, the problem came to light before packing up for the Frolic. The alternative doesn’t even bear contemplation.

Winged weekend warriors 1

Young homing pigeons eating out of John's hand
Young homing pigeons eating out of John’s hand

I have been a very bad blogger this past two weeks. The weekends have been full to overflowing with activity, and not all of it has been of a pleasant nature.

First, though, on the pleasant and positive side, John has become a newly fledged homing pigeon flyer. That’s probably not what they are called, but there it is. We have 18 homers, young ones, that he is training for eventual racing. They are fascinating creatures! I love them too, as I am a sucker for most animals. The whole homing pigeon thing is very involved, and we are lucky to have two or three really wonderful mentors in the area. The birds get “flown” every time it’s nice weather and we are around (and we plan ahead and don’t feed them first thing in the morning), which usually means on the weekends. It’s been up and down crazy, as during the first flight last weekend we weren’t sure they would all return. They flew around and around above the farm, and then perched in the trees above the loft, and sat and sat. But return they finally did, finding the correct door in the building, and with each successive flight the majority of them have learned to get home with more alacrity.

Roosting in the window
Roosting in the window

This past Thursday, however, 3 of them failed to come back. John has to close the loft up at night so that no predators gain entry, and the ones not back are left to their own devices. A friend of ours from Round Pond, about a mile away, called last night and told us that 3 of our birds were eating like little piggies under his bird feeder! We couldn’t catch them then, but this morning two returned, looking the worse for wear, and then amazingly, the other one returned late this afternoon! I really didn’t think it would happen. They are so young, and they were not born here, so it makes it difficult for me to comprehend how they do it.

The pigeons are quite beautiful, and of course, I have my favorites. It’s always the way. Learning about their phenomenal ability to navigate and get back to our little speck on the map is quite the adventure. More on our winged adventures tomorrow :*)

It’s all about the wind

Zelda the Curious
Zelda the Curious

The weather, again. Still. Winter and blowing. Although this past week’s promised Nor’easter blew the gale they said it would, it thankfully delivered no snow here. Yesterday morning was much warmer, (a balmy 30F), but the wind was still hanging on, with some sleety stuff thrown in.

But the weekend is upon us and I have great hopes for today. Warmer and no weather. (Unfortunately it looks like we are going to get hammered with rain tomorrow). I sincerely hope none of the goats decide to have their babies. None are actually due until later next week, but you never know. We have a lot to do today, and it looks like we may have a pleasant day to do it in!

Washed Fern fleece
Washed Fern fleece

This past week since shearing has been a full one at work, and then there were the fleeces that I cycled through the living room so each had a chance to be laid out on the nice, warm floor. Just making sure that they all were thoroughly dry. And so perhaps tomorrow after I work on the taxes (ugh) I can get some of it spun up. Doesn’t sound like it’s going to be an outside sort of day.

Shearing day, 2014

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Phew! All went well. The day began cold and bright, and is ending a little warmer and with a few clouds here and there. In between, we got a torrent of rolling giant-flaked snow followed by a little bit of rain, but we were already finished with the shearing and safely inside, gorging on a great potluck spread. Everyone who came did a lot of work, and before we got the meal going, Pam of Hatchtown Farm made an extremely lovely toast with some yummy Prosecco to our last shearing day.

I am sore and achy, but we got a lot done in a very short amount of time. Emily the shearer did a wonderful job as always, and we have 7 more beautiful fleeces to process or sell. I do not think I will ever run out of fleece! The only issue we had today was weather-related: Fern’s fleece (the big white ewe) was damp all the way through, a reminder of the downpours the other day. So the lovely ladies tagged the fleece and I already have it inside, spread out on the floor to dry. As the temperatures are due to go down in the next couple of days (down into the single digits tomorrow night, ouch), the heat in our floor should take good care of that. But as I sit here and look at these beautiful, lustrous locks (6″ average), I may just have to wash some up and do some spinning tomorrow!

And so goes the last sheep shearing at Ruit Farm North. Great excuse for a party. But I have plenty of other excuses that work just as well, no shortage there  :*)