Wednesday, January 29, 2014

fibre blending

In part of my effort to clean up and reduce the amount of stuff I have, I started blending together small bits of fibre then using my diz to remove the fibre from the drum carder into roving.  I make a pile of colours that I think look good together, then see what happens. There are some great results, and some I'm not too sure about.

Here is a brown and white, with left over bits of onion dyed orange.  It has wool, alpaca, suri, and llama.

This is my favourite so far.  It includes wool, silk, alpaca, llama...basically a mixture of mostly home grown fibres with bits of commercial roving for colour.

And here's another one, because I was getting braver.  This one is left in batt (the big flat fibre rectangle that peels off the drum carder) form instead of being dized into roving.  I'm not certain if I like this or not yet, so I spun up a small sample.  Still undecided.

I now have all this beautiful, colourful fibre ready to spin.  However, I have so much else ahead of it in my spinning que, I think I'll measure, photograph it properly and put it on my etsy shop for a while.

Right now I have my 3 fleece blend to finish spinning, plying, blocking and measuring, then I really want to work on Mr Brown's fleece because I'm getting requests to put more yarn in the local fibre arts store (does a little happy dance - people like the thing I make and express this like by asking for more!).  I'm partway through carding the fleece and I've decided to spin it as a worsted or aran weight, single (unplyed), lopi style yarn.  I know it doesn't have a huge amount of luster to it, but I think it would make a great outerwear like a spring sweater or cardigan.  The little bit of grease left in the wool will be great for repelling the rain we get in the spring and fall, but it will breath enough it won't be too hot to wear when the weather starts to warm up.

After that, I don't know.  Maybe I'll spin a bit of colourful something for socks.  Or maybe I'll get another request for specific yarn.  Really I need to do a bit of sewing for events later this summer.  But I can still get an hour or two of spinning done in the evenings.

Then again, there is a lot of llama and alpaca in the house, I'm slowly washing it all.  With shearing coming up in a few months, and with one animal alone giving over 10 lbs of fleece a year, maybe I should start focusing on that?

lovely clouds of fibre from beau

Oh, talking about etsy and my quest for a name, how do you like Trampled by Fleece?  Not a farm name unfortunately, but it ties in with this blog.  Then again, I can only change the name once, so I have to be absolutely certain.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Mr Brown

A few weeks ago I visited a farm just down the road from my friend's house.  It is exciting to visit a new farm, I especially enjoy viewing the set up, fences, feeder, and other infrastructure.  Believe it or not, farmer's don't always talk about the weather (though I think it was mentioned).  More often we talk about fencing and water management (the old hedging and ditching).

My main motivation for going there was to learn about keeping different heritage sheep.  This farm keeps Icelandic sheep, purebred registered.  My goal is to keep a small heritage breed of sheep but what kind and whether or not I want to keep mine registered or pure bloodlines, is yet to be decided.  I figure the best way to learn is to visit farms and ask questions.

Of course, I feel bad pestering a farmer with questions, so I felt obligated to buy some fleece to make it worth her time.  I got a ram's fleece from the fellow (shown above) called Mr Brown.  I love the colour, and believe it or not, the smell is very mild and well, pleasantly sheepy.

There was minimal vegi matter in the wool, but a lot more grease than I'm use to in an Icelandic.  I scoured it three times (once is normally enough to get the grease out as I'm technically scouring it which involves achieving a specific temperature, not just washing) and there was still a significant amount of grease left in the wool.  But no dirt, so I decided to go with it and spin in the grease.  If I leave the grease in after spinning, then the fabric will be semi water repellent.

I tried several different samples.  The yarn on the bottom is simply Mr Brown, carded, semi worsted style.  It has the nicest texture, but also the least luster (shine).  From right to left (opposite of normal, I know), the other samples are: blended with alpaca, blended with llama, blended with a different icelandic fleece, blended with silk, combed and spun worsted, and on the far right, spun semi woolen from the comb wastage.

The two yarns on the far left, the combed and comb waste yarns, would make great weaving yarn (warp and weft respectively).  I think these are by farm my favourite, however, there is a problem.

The problem is that I have the most lovely set of wool combs.

Okay people, listen up!  When I say that the house is not child friendly today and that any ambulatory people with a still developing sense of safety should not enter, this is why.

Roughly 7 and a half inch long spikes, five rows of them, very very very very, VERY  pointy.  It scares me to think of what these could do to a person with diminished capacity for reasoning.  And since I live with a person whose capacity for rational thought is rapidly diminishing, I cannot work with these while he's in the house.

Luckily they have a really nice and safe storage space, which nicely hides the points.

They make a marvelous result, and I adore these combs.  But given safety and the fact that together with the fact that they are roughly twice the volume of my drumcarder, I have trouble finding time and place when I can use them.

I think I'll start hunting for a more portable solution.  Keep these for heavy duty and large amounts of wool combing, but start seeking a smaller set that can be held in the hand.  Mini combs are a bit small for me, but maybe there is something out there in between, bigger and sturdier than mini combs, but smaller than my 5 pitch, giants.

Friday, January 24, 2014

sneak peek

A sneak peek of the yarn I'm working on right now.  It's a blend of Icelandic, Icelandic and Icelandic wool (three different fleeces).  It's lovely.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A handspun raglan sweater inspired by Elizabeth Zimmerman

Some days ago I finished my handspun sweater, and if I am allowed to say so myself, it looks amazing.

The yarn is a mixture of icelandic wool and alpaca (about 60/40) carded and blended on hand cards.  It took about 10 days to spin, despite being sick for most of them.  The yarn was the first (of what I think will be many more years to come) of my 12 days challenge, where I challenge myself to spin something epic and for myself during the 12 days of christmas (Dec 25 through Jan 5th). It's two ply yarn, spun deliberately textured (which is harder than it looks).  Between the texture and the natural colouring of the finished fabric, I think this is my most favourite sweater ever!

I used garter stitch for the cuffs, bottom edging and neckline.  You can probably notice that the sweater hasn't been blocked yet, but how can I find time to block it when I'm constantly wearing it?

I had to frog and reknit the neckline, but final result is well worth the trauma of being sent to the frog pond.

This sweater is based on Eliabeth Zimmerman's really easy to follow (and adjust) sweater recipe.  It's more a recipe than a pattern, as it starts basically, find out what gage you have, do a little bit of math, then change things as you go along if you don't like how it's turning out.  

It is knit from the bottom up.  I knit the body to the armpits, then the arms to the arm pits.  Then I joined them together.  At this point, I can decide if I want raglan, yolk, colour work, texture, all sorts of other options.  In my opinion, it's the best pattern if you are working with handspun yarn, or any yarn where yardage is uncertain.

The only thing about this sweater that I'm uncertain about is how hairy it's going to get.  I get the feeling that it's going to 'bloom' that is the more I wear and wash it, the more like an unshorn alpaca I'm going to look.

All this destashing (reducing the amount of yarn to a manageable level) I've been doing over the years, is finally at an end, I think.  I have comercial yarn for 7 sweaters in the house, which when you add handspun to it, is enough to keep me happy for at least a year.  Well hopefully a year.

This is one I found while cleaning.  According to my notes, I started it way back in 2010.  But it's a beautiful pattern by Girl from Auntie called Eris.  I knit one of these way long ago, and still wear it.  I was thrilled to discover that I had one on the go.  The yarn is by Lang yarns and called silkdream.  It's 50/50 merino silk, unplyed (single) yarn.  I like the way the yarn makes the stitches pop, it was a really good choice for this sweater - almost like I knew what I was doing.

But it's slow going.  It lives beside my bed and I knit a few stitches every night.  Literally a few stitches, like 5 or 10.  Sometimes a few rows, but mostly it's a slog.  

I've also started swatching for another sweater.  

This swatch hat (it's a gage swatch and a hat) might be the inspiration for a hoodie, if I can find a design I like.  I think I'll just use the raglan pattern above, knit the body and arms to the armpit, then decide how to finish the sweater (hoodie, steeked or not, pullover, cardigan... mixture).

As for the name of the shop, huge thank you for all your comments.

It's an ongoing process, and I'm still mulling over different options.  Nacton Farm is a great name, but for me it's this place where I live now.  There have been many great things, and many emotionally difficult things happen here, and I think when we move in a few years time, I would like to make a clean break from it.  

I've always wanted to live in a place called Nodnol.  Nodnol Farm or Nodnol Acres, or something like that.  It's a Red Dwarf thing so if you know it, you know it, if you don't, you don't.  For me, it has some really joyful memories associated with the word, but of course, it's silly if someone doesn't know the reference, so I don't think that's the name for me either.  

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Thoughts on a new name, what do you think?

The idea of a name change and image makeover for my shop has been simmering in my unconscious mind for a while now.  Nothing hugely inspiring has come up.  I still like Zakuri Fibre Arts, but I think it's not the right fit for what I'm aiming for.  Of course, I don't know what I'm aiming for, and this is still in the idea stage... given the way things have been going this week, it might never make it past being just an idea.

One of the things I would like the name to include is that we have a lot of rescue animals.  Max, the toothless Llama who's hay is chopped up for him every morning, Mutt'n the adorable sheep we bought to save him from the slaughterhouse, and the chickens.  So many 'special' chickens who have been saved from one tragedy or another.

The whole idea of this store is to pay for the upkeep of these animals.  My heart is bigger than my wallet, and if we rescue any more, we are going to need more land, and feed, and medical (because they all have issues).

So what about Saved Sheep Farm with the next line saying something like, "yarn and fibres from rescued sheep, llamas, alpacas, and any other animals that need our help"?  The byline needs work.

I like the alliteration of the two S's.  Saved Sheep.  It's a catchy title and indicates that we are sheep from a worse fate than us.

What I don't like about it, is that it's focused on sheep.  The farm isn't just sheep and I don't like other animals feeling left out.  Also, we don't save every animal that passes this way.  We also raise our own meat (as a way to ensure the animal lives a fulfilling life before we eat it) and I worry that 'saved sheep' would be interpreted as a false promise.

Life and a visit to the Frog Pond

In knitting there is an action called Frogging.  For me it's the single most horrible thing a knitter has to do, I do almost anything to avoid it, including burying the unhappy sweater in the bottom of a box somewhere insuring that it will become lost in the midden that is our basement and never be seen by human eyes again.

Frogging happens when you've knit a section (or an entire project) and decide that it just won't do as it is.  Maybe it's two miles too wide, or three sizes too small.  Perhaps a mistake was made and the lace pattern used to knit the jumper leaving two great big holes right where your endowment is, drawing unfavourable attention to your breasts.  Maybe socks were knit for boyfriend only to discover halfway through that said person hates green so much, it makes him vomit if he ever tried to wear it.  These are imaginary examples, not from real life - at least not from my real life.

What did happen in my real life lately was I knit a sweater.  The most beautiful sweater I've ever seen or made.  It really is incredible.  But it's also a very light colour, almost a foggy oatmeal, and I'm especially skilled at spilling coloured food on my clothing.  So I was afraid to try it on.  When it was finished, and the ends all darned in, I put the sweater on top of my dresser and admired it for a few days, until I worked up the courage to try it on.

Then I tried it on.

After 4 minutes I took it off, not because I wanted to drink coffee (a liquid that stains fabric quickly and with great ease).   The problem was that the neckline was too high at the front, and when I moved it pulled back and choked me.  I realized then that I would never wear this sweater as it is and needed to do something about it.  Only it was too beautiful to be lost in the dark vortex that is our stuff storage.

So I frogged a part of it.

Frogging is when you take the needles out of the knitting, grab hold of the bit of yarn dangling there, and pull.  In an ideal situation (aka, one not involving mohair) the yarn will pull and pull, while the knitting unravels into a pile of kinky yarn.

I frogged the neckline and a good inch down from there (it was a top up sweater).  Then I spent what felt like six hours (probably only one) re-inserting the needles into the knitted fabric.

The next job is to reknit the neckline and shoulders, starting the neck an inch earlier in the sweater.  Wish me luck.

In other news, from time to time I go quiet on my blog(s).  In case you feel neglected, I wanted to share with you why that is.  When I started Trampled by Geese, I chose the name as a reminder to only share with people what inspires me and gives me joy.  Sometimes in life, I have trouble finding anything joyful to write about, or there are joyful things, but I can't find the inspiration to write about them.

At the moment we are going through a trying time, where my grandfather, who lives with us, is having trouble making rational decisions, and is becoming dangerous not just to us (he's been that for a while now) but also to himself.  Most of the time he is his lovely self, but as is common with this kind of problem, he can have and act unpredictably and ...well...other things (a lot of other things) which he doesn't remember ...  I don't want to muddy up this blog with it. This is a big problem and takes over 95% of our time now, leaving only 5% of our time for taking care of the animals, playing with yarn, spending time with friends, sleep, all that good stuff that rekindles joy in the world.

I want to mention how grateful I am to the Canadian Health System - though we have had our differences on other issues - the health care people have been amazing with this situation.  This is one of the things they excel at and I can't imagine how difficult this would be without their constant advice and support.  Having a professional who can come evaluate and give advice, someone who sees this sort of thing on a daily basis and knows what to do about it - this is amazing.  What's more, I'm joyful that there is a system in place to help care for veterans, and give them the support and respect they deserve for defending our way of life.  My Grandfather fought every day of the second world war, and suffered many physical and emotional problems from it.  Without the help of these services, he would not have been able to keep his independence and health for this long.

What's more, both Veterans and the Health Authority have given so much help, enabling us to care and maintain a high quality of life for him.  Now, they are guiding us through what comes next, and evaluating when it will be time to begin the next stage in his care.  I cannot express enough how wonderful it is to have this kind of resource available.

(Hopefully, that put a more positive spin on a very unjoyful topic - 'though I'm worried I gave a false impression that things are better than they really are.  Let's just say I'm having a great deal of trouble finding enough motivation to write about joyful things these days)

If you are one of my real life friends, I have a favour to ask you.  If I start complaining about the situation at home, just gently remind me, 'he's not here right now' so that I can break my behaviour pattern of taking my troubles with me and re-focus on the joyful things (namely you) that are right in front of me.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Lots of fibre prep lately

Lately I've been working on carding and blending wool.

I'm working with three beautiful and very different Icelandic fleeces.  I put each one through the drum carder once, then mix them and pass them through the drum carder, twice more.  A total of three passes is about all the more fragile of the fleeces can handle, but it makes a nicely organized fibre which I can then use my diz to remove and make a roving.  Diz is an object with a hole that the fibre can be drafted (pulled) through.  A roving is a 'rope' or fibre organized in a long length that makes it easier to create a consistent yarn.

It's loads of work to get it ready and taking much longer than I expected.  The thing I like least about this method is that it requires you be attached to a table, with lots of room to work.  So basically I have to actually dedicate time instead of multitasking.  The thing I like best is that it's an absolute dream to spin.  When I sit down at the wheel and start working with it, the joy it gives to spin, and the finished result makes all the work worth while.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Distaff Day celebration

The Celebration of Distaff Day was today.  It's my first time going and I had loads of fun.

There was a lot to see and take in, most of the day was taken up with show and tell.  I love show and tell, well, the look and listen part.  I always just mumble through something when it comes my turn to talk, get so nervous I don't know a thing I said.  But I make the effort if only because I enjoy what everyone else has to show, I feel obligated to contribute something, even if it means speaking in public.

Because it's late, I'm not going to tell you much.  Instead, I would like to show you some of the things that inspired me today.  I apologize because the batteries on my camera were low and things turned a bit yellow during the day for some reason.  Thankfully the computer was able to return some of the colours to normal.

Begin the day by packing a lunch

We saw a double rainbow leading the way to where we were headed

An inspiring sweater made from old sweaters
It's very soft, and the woman dyed it after putting together

Lovely yarn that Kitten was spinning beside me

She took this which are some alpaca merino and silk merino fibres

used a blending board and made lovely rolags


Someone had found cotton at the local florist Up Island
however, the florist down where we live doesn't have them in.
I felt envy, but got over it when I saw what she did with it

The cotton carded and being spindle spun into lovely yarn/thread
It was less work to be inspired by seeing it in action,
then envious that I didn't have any cotton to play with

another mesmerizing spindle
 More photos of the event for later, as I saw all sorts of interesting wheels and other goodies I want to talk about.

On the way home we had to stop here of course

The Loom is packed full of lovely things

It's like someone thought it was a TARDIS
and tried to fit a universe of fibre and yarn inside it.

something I saw

Behind the Loom is a studio for weaving and fibre arts

"You must answer me these questions three,
ere the other side you see
What is your name?
What is your quest?
Where did they put the kitty treats?"

Inside there was all sorts of beautiful things.
but before we could admire them all
the power went out and it was spooky.
I think there are ghosts there.

We also stopped at the local grocery store to pick up a snack on the way home
and we saw
Cotton I can take home to play with.  This made me pleased.

The boat arriving to take us home.

Had a fantastic time, got a fair bit of spinning accomplished, met lots of lovely people, and got filled up with inspiration.  Not half bad for a days enjoyment.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Name change and opinion wanted

The basement is full of fibre: alpaca, sheeps wool, all sorts of different fibres, most of them grown on my farm.  It might just be time to open my etsy shop again, not just as a way of destashing (cleaning out the excess) yarn and fibre, but as an actual business, with a plan and proper name.  Maybe even go to some of the fibre arts events as a vendor if I can get everything ready in time and find someone to help man the booth.

The goal is to raise enough money for a flock of sheep of my very own, and then keep making enough money to pay for their upkeep.

The first thing I want to do is to get a good name.  Something inspiring and happy.  I love Trampled by Geese as a blog name; however, the word 'Trampled' has a negative connotation, and if you don't know me, it might be offputting as a word in a shop name.

Some ideas I was thinking about:

Nacton Farm.  This is the name of the farm I live on right now.  It's small, only 5 acres, but we make the most of it.  It's named in honour of my Grandfather who lives with us.  It's the name of the house where he was born in the UK.  The advantage of Nacton Farm is that it has the word farm in it.  It also makes it part of the farm income which makes the paperwork easier and helps to pay for the animal's upkeep.  The downside is when we move (a few years from now), we would have to change the name.

The other name on the short list is Zakuri Fibre Arts.  Zakuri is the name of an old Japanese tool used for reeling silk.  Since I hope to be raising native silk moths soon, I'll be using a zakuri on a regular basis.  What I like best about this name is that it is fun to say.  Za-ku-ri.  Also, I can keep the name if/when I move.  The down side is, it's not a word familiar to English speakers, the sound is fun, but strange.  And people can make funny rhymes with it:

(said to the rythm of Hickory dicory dock)
Zikuri, zakuri, zock
the sheep ran over the cock
the hen crowd once
the sheep ran off
Zikuri, zakuri, zock

The first person I told the name to made this rhyme.  Is it a sing this is not a good name for a shop?  Or that it's a great one?  I can't tell.

So what do you think would make a good name for my shop?  The focus will be on locally sourced and produced fibre, handspun yarn and other textiles.  With hopefully native silk - grown from a moth that lives wild around these parts.

I don't know if this venture will work or not, as things in my life have a habit of getting out of hand, what with health issues (mine own and others in the family), and other things.  But I don't mind dreaming about it.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Happy Distaff Day 2014

Distaff Day is officially tomorrow, though the local celebration will be held in Cowichan this weekend.

My Goal to card, blend and spin two fleeces during the 12 days of Christmas, was successful.  Even without the setbacks, that was one heck of a challenge, but very rewarding.  I think I'll set myself a 12 day challenge next year as well.  Make it something of a tradition.

The icelandic sheep Dune is a lovely sandy colour, at least on the sheep it is.  Once it was washed, it was disappointingly white.  So I blended it with fibre from our rescue alpaca Herman who is sadly no longer with us.

It's roughly 40% Alpaca and 60% Icelandic wool.  Made 9 skeins of 2 ply yarn at between 8 and 12 WPI for a total of 1040 yds.  I spun it in a deliberately handspun texture because I wanted to knit a sweater that shows off the yarn.  I noticed most of my sweaters that I knit over the years show off the knitting skill, but now I'm interested in a more rustic look.

I'm not entirely certain if I have enough yardage for the sweater, so I'm knitting Elizabeth Zimmerman's sweater from her book The Sweater Workshop.  That way, I can change the design as I go along.  I can have a colourwork yoke or a simple raglan cardigan steeked up the front - depending on how much yarn I have.

It's knitting up very quickly on 6mm needles, at a gage of 3.25 sts per inch; however, when I measured the actual garment, I think I may have gotten the gage wrong.  It seems to vary from 13 sts per 4 inch all the way up to 14.5 sts per 4 inches... After 5 inches of knitting, I need 4 more inches around... so I think I'll take Zimmerman's advice and increase along the side seams, instead of frogging the whole thing and starting again.

But still, it's pretty.

The down side of this yarn is that it doesn't have much spring to it, the upside is that since it doesn't have much spring to it, the drape of the fabric is really nice.

I'm still not decided if I like the colour.  I really wanted it to look sandy like the sheep, but no such luck.  When it's in skein form, it looks a bit like a dirty white, but the knitted fabric looks better, almost like a sandy white with a glow to it - not a shine, but like the wool captures the light and projects it out again.  Maybe oatmeal would be the right way to describe this colour.  Mmm... I like oatmeal, now I know what to have for breakfast.

Friday, January 03, 2014

chicken and sheep

I was out trying to get a good photo of Dune, the ever-active sheep, and source of the fibre I'm spinning right now....

When this happened...

I think the chicken thought that the sheep was some sort of new table or roost to play on, but then the sheep started to move and ... well... 'let me down from here'

All it takes is for one chicken to do it by mistake and the others will see this and learn.  Chickens are smarter than you think.  We will see what happens tomorrow.