Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Perfect Pot O' Color

If you "follow me" on facebook, you have probably seen these skeins already. They are a random act of color craziness that I had to get out of my system. What you do not see is the frenzy of designing, the how to do it this way, and step three and four shouldn't take too long as to leave enough pigment for step five, and I really should be doing something else today psycho -nutjob that I become when I think about new techniques and designs. I am after all, a super huge control freak ... I have accepted that.

Only one dyelot turned out as I planed. But there are no mistakes, only a lesson learned and a new note to take. In my eyes, the perfect pot of color would be very boring. I don't believe in perfection, or normal for that matter. A normal day? No such thing. And if it did exist, it would not have been filled with any sort of surprises that make me say "holy cow, how did that happen?" I am as excited by my experiments in dyeing as I am in the day to day colors that need to be replenished.
In the middle of my dyepot frenzy,
a mama hen arrived as proud as a peacock with her brood of 10 peeping chicks. You can imagine my surprise, then panic to find them all, then my surprise to find a second hen in the process of hatching out the rest of the clutch, sitting protectively over the last of the eggs, two of which had tiny beaks protruding through the escape holes that they were making.
Normal day? Nope, but I'm not complaining.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Fashion Show Featuring Joe!

Two years ago the realization that Joe was getting old hit me. I consider him the beginning of my shepherding adventure. I have learned so much from him over the years. So in early spring, when we sheared, I kept his fleece separate from the rest of the shearing and had my friend Nancy of Newaim Fiber Mill turn him into "just Joe" yarn. Over 3,000 yards of silvery- grey, worsted weight yarn was returned to me on cones. Then a friend, with incredible knitting skills, was hired to knit me a sweater of just Joe. I chose a pattern that I felt would serve the yarn well. Joe is a Romney -a long wool breed of sheep. Longwool is a bit heavier than down wools. Projects knit with longwools have a beautiful drape. So I chose the pattern for The Ursa Sweater and modified it a bit.
My Joe Sweater is a treasure to me. I pack it safely away when warm weather comes to Maine, but look forward to wrapping myself in it's warmth when the air turns crisp and cool.

In a few weeks I will be attending the Fiber Festival of New England in Springfield, MA. At 3 p.m. on Saturday there will be a fashion show. What fun! I am entering my Joe Sweater in the event as well as two other projects made from my yarns. This is the first year of what I hope will be a successful event. Check out the website for the dates and times, as well as the many wonderful vendors attending this event.

Friday, October 01, 2010

The Right Stuff

"May I ask what will you be making with your yarn?" I ask my customers that question frequently. Yes I am being nosey, but more than that I am interested in making sure they are happy with their purchase, and if they are new to knitting, I want to help them to choose the correct fiber or combination of fibers for their project.

There are so, so, so many things to consider when you purchase your yarn, with end product being the #1 factor. Our super-soft Angora and down wool blend knits into a wonderful hat, scarf, pair of mittens, sweater or vest. Sure it would make warm socks, but being composed of fine down fleeces, and even though it is spun at a worsted weight, they would be extremely thick. Without a stronger longwool type fleece such as Romney or the even stronger Mohair fiber in the blend, I would be concerned that it heels would wear out. So softness does not always lend itself to durability in a garment that would see the type of constant use as socks.
Our Romney Mohair blend would make very durable socks. It is spun from adult and lamb fleeces and adult and kid mohair. Our Romney fleeces range from medium to fine grade as does our mohair. It has been spun into a light, almost DK weight, so - less bulk, and soft and durable. For some people though it might feel itchy. So a sweater or vest, more of an outwear garment might be a better choice depending on their skin's sensitivity. The heavier long wool and mohair give better drape to a knit fabric than the springy down wool. This brings us to what I consider the #2 factor. Your sensitivity to fibers.

I get a little tickle from folks who say that wool is itchy. Well it is wool after all and it's structure, with it's tiny overlapping scales, can feel itchy to some folks. But it those little scales that can cause irritation to some, are important to the structure of the fiber. Wool is the only fiber with the natural structure of overlapping scales which allows the fibers to cling together and create felt. No synthetic equal has ever been created.

Wool is flame resistant, warms and cools you, can keep you dry, and is just plain wonderful. If you are super sensitive to wool but love to knit and have woollen pieces in your wardrobe, then knitting outwear is a good choice. I suggest to my customers when they aren't sure of their own sensitivity to rub the yarn under their chin on their neck - a very sensitive part of your body. I also suggest that you sew a small strip of flannel around the neckline of a sweater or vest, or headband of a hat creating a soft barrier for your skin.

The third factor that I consider very important to a finished piece is drape. The weight and content of the yarn determines this as well as the way the fiber is spun. Woollen spun yarns are "poofy" and "fulled". A mohair blend will lay much differently that a 100% wool yarn that has been spun from down fleeces. The weight of the mohair makes for more of a flowing garment, where the down wools knit into a lighter weight end product. Longwool fleeces tend to have better drape as well, but can be a bit less soft than the down wools.

So if you visit our farm and I seem a bit nosey, it is only because I want you to leave satisfied with your yarn purchase. Your satisfaction with your finished project it as important to me as your experience here. Leaving excited about the piece you are about to create means I have done my job well. And please remember to send me a picture of what you make with our yarns to showcase on our website!:)