Category Archives: Local Shepherds

“The Speed of Sound”

I’m calling this pattern “The Speed of Sound” in honor of the handsome llama who donated the fleece, Mach One of Llama Dreams Argentines.

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The fiber is wonderful to work with, not at all like llama I’ve spun before, but it does have the camelid characteristics of being heavier than wool with a magnificent drape but little “memory.”

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This shawl is not large, but it is very warm! It hangs to mid-back on me and that’s plenty.

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The semi-crescent shape makes it naturally want to wrap around the neck in soft folds. Held in place with a pin or shawl stick, it’s perfect over or under a jacket during this season of layers.

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I separated the colors before spinning and created a graduated pattern – my favorite!

It was very interesting to see how different the fibers of each color were, even though this was all one fleece. The white wanted to spin the finest, while the grays got progressively more coarse (it’s all relative – none of the fibers are really “coarse” except in relation to each other) as they got darker. The very darkest gray would have been happier spun up as a worsted weight two-ply, which is what I’ll do for the next project.

Stay tuned…

Have you tried Argentine Llama yet?

A(nother) Sneak Peek

20150915_185634That’s the first bobbin of the epic project that I’ve been working on, but, sadly, not blogging about. Time has gotten away from me and I haven’t been taking as many pictures as I should have been.

What’s on the bobbin? I’m glad you asked! It’s Argentine Llama from right here in Oregon, just over the mountains from here. The wonderful llama who donated this fiber is Argentine Mach One, or Machie to his family:

Mach OneI’ll be posting in detail about Machie and friends another day, but I will say that you don’t know llama until you’ve felt Argentine llama! The only llama fiber I’d had any experience with is the coarse, hairy, nasty stuff I’m sure you’ve all seen. There’s really no comparison with Argentine llama fiber – it feels like a cross between alpaca and silk. Really.

So the Sweatshop Girls brought home a car full and got to work. I decided to separate the colors from Mach’s fleece and carded and spun them up separately. I’ve finished a small shawl and am working on a lacey scarf. Pics to follow later in the week!

Catching Up

The Summer of 2015 has been the busiest yet in this little Oregon town.

Remember the fleece sale back in February? Well, we hauled all that alpaca and wool off to the Snow Peak Fiber Mill here in Lebanon, Oregon and Kathy worked her magic and turned it into 36 pounds of the most wonderful sliver for spinning –

Sliver CollageClockwise from upper left: light gray, dark gray, creamy white and dark brown. Please forgive the crappy cell phone pics – more will be added as we start to spin up all this wool-y goodness!

Not pictured is a creamy/gold batch that has a bit of Honey Silk added.

And here is my personal favorite –

BlackjackBlack fleece is impossible to photograph, so you’ll have to trust me when I say that this alpaca fleece is as black as black can be – not a hint of red highlights or a brown tip to be found. Blackjack’s fleece was combined with a 20% dyed black bamboo and 10% dyed black superfine Merino for a sliver that is, well, let’s just say I doubt I’ll be sharing this batch with anyone else 🙂 JK, girls! I might have some to spare after I spin enough for a sweater for myself…Maybe.

The Sweatshop Girls have all been very busy this Summer, hence the lack of posts. We made a trip over the mountains and met some new friends, leading to a Great Fiber Adventure that I’ll be writing about very soon.

We also had a Dye Day (where, oh where, did I stash those photos?) and have been making soap, as time and weather allow, for the Holiday craft shows coming up very soon.

I’ve also started a blog for The Sweatshop Girls and hope to entice Awana and Jean into posting because this isn’t all about me. Really 🙂

Stay tuned for more updates and some current events – the weather has turned here and Autumn is on her way, “forcing” us to come inside as dusk comes earlier every day and bake bread, spin and knit late into the evening…

First wool sale of the season

Valentine’s Day found Awana and I doing one of our favorite things – visiting a local farm to buy wool –

2015 Wool Sale FlyerI was under the impression that the sale would involve last year’s fleeces in order to clean out the barns for the new shearing, but most of the fleeces were fresh off the sheep, Bide-a-Wee having sheared the week before. The weather here in Oregon has been crazy mild – we’ve already got Spring flowers blooming and the trees are leafing out.

There are few things in life I like more than a freshly-shorn sheep’s fleece!

Navajo-Churro Ram

Navajo-Churro Ram Photo used by permission of Bide-a-Wee Farm

I met Karen from Bide-a-Wee Farm many years ago, in a muddy field outside Scio, Oregon, back when there were actually sheep at the Lamb & Wool Show. Up to that point I had not spun any Jacob wool and only one Navajo-Churro fleece, which was hairy and horrible and colored my opinion of NC fleece for a couple of years.

Jacob Ram

Jacob Ram Photo used by permission of Bide-a-Wee Farm

That year I bought three small Jacob fleeces and one shockingly soft Navajo-Churro. All four fleeces were amazingly soft and I enjoyed every minute working with them. Whenever someone asks me about Jacob or Navajo-Churro fleece I direct them to Bide-a-Wee Farm.

Baling twine wreath and Karen's cool dred-lock hat

Baling twine wreath and Karen’s cool dred-lock hat

This year we bought three Jacob fleeces and one Jacob/Border Leicester cross fleece. All are multi-colored and soft, soft, soft!

Awana introduced me to Brandy of Whistlestop Shetlands a couple of years ago. I had bought several of her fleeces over the years but never met her in person.Riding ShotgunWe bought six Shetland fleeces, four white, one shades of gray and one as black as sheep’s wool can possibly be –

20150215_131430“What,” you may ask, “are you going to do with all that wool?” Good question! This time we had a plan. Not that we don’t usually have a plan, but THIS time we had a Real Plan – to purchase enough fine wool from shepherds we know to combine with alpaca we already had to make large enough batches to take to our local mill for blending and carding into sliver for spinning.

We took about 25 pounds of wool to the Snow Peak Fiber Mill here in Lebanon back in September. The wool was nice, Romney and Romney crosses mostly, but it wasn’t fine wool and it was dirty, so dirty we feared Kathy wouldn’t take it unless we washed it first, but she said it was fine (for the record, it was dirty, not poopy – we skirted very well 🙂 ) and would be ready in a couple of months.

A couple of months went by and the call finally came in. Three huge boxes of the most fabulous sliver, one a lovely cream color and the other two the medium gray I love so much.

We’ve been spinning it up a bit at a time, loving every minute and decided we were never going to be able to process all the alpaca fleece laying around and the search for the perfect blend-able wool began. It’s not as easy as it sounds because the wool has to have similar staple length and crimp as the alpaca, and we wanted to match colors as much as possible so as not to end up with a muddy brown that nobody likes.

Most of the blends will be about 50/50 wool & alpaca, but one batch will have silk added and one very special batch will be mostly alpaca with only a bit of wool and bamboo. The black fleece is from a male called Blackjack and it is a True Black and it’s mine, all mine!

Updates as events unfold…

UPDATE: Finally tally for this shipment to the mill is 41.5 pounds! Pictures when it comes back in a month or two. We can’t wait to get spinning!