Wednesday, October 5, 2011


I've always found time management to be difficult. Seems there are always far more things that I want to get done than I have time to do them in. This is especially true right now, as fall is arriving. My new barn job is fantastic, but leaves me with little time for my husband, let alone my hobbies. And any knitter knows that as the leaves start falling, the needles start twitching.

I suppose I should make a list of things that I absolutely "have" to get knit. Like the gray (handspun) cabled sweater and silvery (handspun) shawl that have been looming in the back of my brain for the past few seasons. I'm actually well on my way to having most of the yarn spun up for the former project, which makes me happy. And I have the fiber carded (from Sequin) for the shawl. But then I also want to knit a riding vest (designed by myself *last* fall), a few hats, and oh.. a couple of surprises. All of this has to wait until I finish the other 2 shawls on the needles....

Not to mention, I have many pounds of fleece in the basement that desperately need to be washed. And all sorts of lovely fiber that I'm dying to spin up. And photos to be edited, food to be cooked, friends and family to catch up with. Oh yes.. there's life to be lived.


I guess I'll get to all of it someday.

Or not.

So it goes!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Cat, I'm a Kitty Cat....

We love our "feral" kitties....

Monday, August 8, 2011

Not so much a catch up post.....

Wow, so.. it's been awhile! Since the last post: Maryland Sheep & Wool, my brother's graduation, a trip out to CO/UT/AZ, a new job... and certainly lots of other stuff that I don't remember at the moment.

There would be far too much to write on and on about to catch up.. and nobody wants to read all of that anyway. So let's just do a couple pictures:

on to grad school!

Timpanogas Cave, UT (notice the Rav shirt!)

Bryce Canyon

camping at Zion Nat'l Park

Grand Canyon

And finally......


..whose face I now get to see every day in my new job as barn manager! She doesn't normally look quite that worried. But she's always that adorable. :)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Three Fleeces

Spring means shearing season.. shearing day at Feederbrook Farm (so much fun!!) and all the posts on Ravelry got me a little excited. I seem to have acquired a few more fleeces.

The first is a Black Welsh Mountain fleece, 3 lbs 1 oz of Mabli, from Desert Weyr. This breed wasn't even on my radar until I saw some black black yarn on Rav. Most "black" sheep fleece is really dark brown, with or without sunburnt tips. But these sheep have rich black fleece, and the particular one I received had been covered to prevent sunbleaching and dirt/veg.

I was a bit wary about working with Welsh Mountain fleece, as it can be a bit coarse and has kemp - short bits of hair in among the wool. However, it's proving to be enjoyable and rewarding to process. The staples of the fleece that I have are fairly short, about 2-3". It's clean, low grease, and washes up easily. After washing, I can sit on the deck and comb the kemp fibers out with a dog comb.. then later I can sit inside and comb the fleece up with my Valkyrie combs. And the sample I've washed, flicked, and combed so far is plenty soft enough for me. (But then, I like wooly wools. And I haven't gotten to the coarsest part of the fleece yet.) I'm loving it.

Kemp hairs on left, flicked wool lock on right.

The second fleece is a touch over 1 lb from a Gulf Coast Native sheep named Chana. She's owned by Margrett of Running Moon Farm. The GCN is a fascinating rare breed that has adapted to living in the hot, muggy south United States. They have a very soft fleece with the most tiny crimp. One of the really cool things about the breed is that they have developed resistance to some gut parasites. Oh, and that they can live and produce spinnable fleece in Florida!

The staple length of Chana's fleece is 3-4", and is low grease. This is the first I've bought that hasn't been covered. That, combined with the fact that the fleece is quite fine, had me a bit scared about processing it. However, I happened to purchase a copy of Margaret Stove's Spinning for Lace at about the same time as I received this fleece, and now have the confidence to work with this fleece. I've washed up 2 test batches - the first, a cold soak overnight and then my normal washing (hot wash in Dawn, 2-3 rinses in water). This method left me with still dirty, jumbled tips, but the remaining dirt flicked out with combing. However! I then watched the above-mentioned video, and tried washing a batch using Margaret's method of lock by lock. This method was super-easy, resulted in lovely clean, open locks, and was actually much quicker.

Cold-soaked, normally washed fleece on left. Lock-by-lock washed fleece on right.

A small staple of the GCN fleece next to my dog comb. It's still hard to see, but look at that teeny tiny crimp!

The third fleece is actually only part of a fleece. I'm participating in a Pound Along (PAL) with some Ravelers on the Gleason's Fine Woolies forum. We're each using a pound of fleece from one of Joanna's lovely Bond sheep to process, spin, and knit into a shawl. The fun will be seeing all of the different results from the same fleece.

The Bond sheep is a much younger breed than the Black Welsh Mountain or the Gulf Coast Native. Unlike the former 2 breeds, which are used for both meat and fiber, the Bond sheep has been bred primarily for its fiber. The staple lengths on this one are 4-5", nice chunky staples, lovely uniform crimp, and soft luster. Drool-inducing. I washed up a few locks using the abovementioned lock-by-lock method, and they turned out beautiful. However, I think I will be washing them in batches (in tulle) when I do the rest. We'll see.

Part of the fun of getting these 3 very different fleeces has been the challenge of figuring out how best to scour and process each one. I'm still learning, and am hoping that I won't seriously mess up any of them. Thankfully, there is a ton of information freely available on the internet, and fleece happens to be more forgiving than not. I think we'll be okay.

Left to right, scoured locks of: Black Welsh Mountain, Gulf Coast Native, and Bond.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Spinnin' spinnin' spinnin'

Lots and lots of spinning going on around here...

Fat Cat Knits BFL in "Buster," 2 ply:

Fat Cat Knits Falkland in "Electra," navajo plied:

Cosy Makes Falkland in "Memory" (club fiber), singles:

Fat Cat Knits (noticing a trend here?) Falkland in "Wizard Island," navajo plied:

Mystery (Ashland Bay?) merino in greens:

And, a very proud moment... my first 6 oz. of Sequin (my first fleece)! This skein is 2 ply, spun from the carded waste left over from combing my first paper bag full of fleece.

I know that the combing waste is normally tossed in the trash, but the waste was every bit as long and pretty as the fiber that survived the combing. So rather than trash it, I carded it up and savored each minute of spinning it. It's really lovely stuff, if I may say so.

The yarn surprised me - it has shine, halo, and is going to drape well. It's also not as soft as I'd envisioned, which is perfectly fine with me. Gonna make some lovely shawls, I think!

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Well, despite the fact that it's now spring-time, the temperature today is in the 30s, and we're supposed to get snow tomorrow. Ugh. But! Ryan and I were in Florida a few weeks ago (very short weekend trip) soaking up the sun... and spring was in full swing there.

I think it will tide us over for a bit.

Here is our spring so far: Buds!!

While in Florida visiting wonderful family, we also got to visit with our other family out at Dragon's Lair. Everyone is looking well, but Dafydd (Addy's sire) was the only one to pose for the camera.

He makes my heart pitter patter.

Spring? C'mon!!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Washing Fleece

A milestone in any spinner's life appears to be purchasing and preparing the first fleece. While I had an interest in doing this, I knew it was a large process that I perhaps wasn't quite prepared for. So, I figured I'd wait until I was ready.

Then I walked into the Juried Fleece Sale at the Shenandoah Fiber Festival.

We were there very early; perfect time to wander around and drool on the fleeces. (This is pretty much impossible to do at the much larger Maryland Sheep and Wool Fest.) Perhaps learn a thing or two.

And then I saw Sequin. A mixed breed longwool fleece in a lovely silver gray. Tons of luster. Beautiful soft, crimpy locks. Love at first sight.

So of course I brought her home.

Thankfully, there is a huge amount of information available on the internet (especially Ravelry) about sorting, washing, and preparing fleece. I spent several days reading up and collecting materials, and then got down to business.

First, I sorted my 7+ lbs of wool into 2 piles: mostly clean, and mostly dirty. The nastiest bits went over the deck railing for the birds. (But there really weren't very many of those, since the sheep had been covered.) I decided to work on the dirtiest bit first, since I'd be least upset about screwing it up.

Next, and very importantly, I locked the oh-so-helpful kitties upstairs.

And then I gathered my materials into the bathroom.

There seem to be 3 main locations to wash fleece at home: the bathtub, the washing machine, and outside in a tub. I don't have access to piping hot water outside, and the thought of putting a dirty fleece into my clean washing machine grossed me out.. so I decided to use the bathtub. This also enabled me to use an open washing method, rather than the common method of putting the fiber into a lingerie bag.

I chose the open method rather than the lingerie bag method because of a discussion on Ravelry. People had been getting what they felt to be superior results (cleaner fleece, better lock definition, etc.) with the former method.

I laid some window screening in the bottom of the tub, turned on the faucet, and glugged some blue Dawn into the rising water. When it was several inches deep, I added 2 stock pots full of boiling water. (To hopefully kill any bugs/larvae.) Then, I carefully placed a lb or so of fleece into the bath.

It was dirty, and smelled like barnyard. Not that I mind, but some would.

After 30 minutes of soaking (no agitation, and careful to not let the water cool too much!), I lifted the screen-with-fleece out of the water and placed it into a waiting container.

Drained and rinsed the tub, then re-filled with plain hot water and the screen-with-fleece.

Since this all happened several months back, I cannot remember how many rinses I did. Probably 3-4. Enough so that the water ran clear after 30 minutes of fleece soaking in it.

Then it was time for the drying. I gently squished as much water as possible out of the sopping fleece, and spread it lightly on our hammock. After sitting on the porch for a day, the fleece ended up in the basement on a makeshift drying rack made from kitty litter boxes and a ladder. It took several more days to dry completely.

The portion above, being the dirtiest part, still has some stained tips. I don't mind so much, because I'm planning on dyeing it. Perhaps the tips would have come cleaner had I flicked them before washing.. but since I have many pounds of fleece to play with, I'm not too concerned. The rest of the fleece came out shining and lovely.

When the time comes to wash my next fleeces (see Whiskey and Tequila!), I'm going to do a little more prep before the washing - including separating all of the locks and laying them in tulle, which will help retain lock formation even better. Experimentation is so much fun, and Ravelry is such a great place for information and inspiration.

Whew! That was quite a post. It has been sitting in my drafts folder for quite some time, so I figured I might as well get around to hitting "publish." Things have just been a little slow around here lately. Ryan's most recent few posts will explain.