Valentine’s Day found Awana and I doing one of our favorite things – visiting a local farm to buy wool –
I 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!
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.
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.
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.We bought six Shetland fleeces, four white, one shades of gray and one as black as sheep’s wool can possibly be –
“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!
The Sweatshop Girls* will be at the Spin In at the Wren Community Hall on Saturday from o’dark-thirty until 4:00 with stuff to sell –
- Cotton storage bags for your washed wool – these are fantastic for storage: pack your washed sheep’s wool tight (don’t worry, it won’t felt) pull the drawstring and store in a copier paper box. You’ll be amazed how much you can fit into one box. A handy clear window on the bag provides an easy way to add a label. I’ve stored washed wool this way for years and it was in perfect condition for further processing after a little bit of fluffing. No worries about moths or condensation, either, provided you keep the boxes dry and inspect periodically.
- Nylon storage bags for those fibers that stick to cloth bags – alpaca, angora, silk, etc. The seams are on the outside so there’s nothing for your fiber to snag on – just upend and dump, no wasted time (or fiber) left in the bag and you don’t have to use plastic and worry about condensation problems.
- Our handspun yarns will be in the handspun yarn tent – come see what we’ve been talking about!
- We’ll have a lovely selection of raw alpaca fiber for sale in pretty much every color alpacas come in, from white to almost-black (I kept the one True Black for myself and I’m not even sorry 🙂 ) and every shade in between.
- Knitting patterns, blank greeting cards, stitch markers and stuff I can’t remember right now…
The SOD team has expanded to include Awana, who is learning all about fabric, sewing and cutting and using her powerful sense of color, texture and matching** to drum card some yummy batts for your next spinning or felting project:
* The Studio is quite hot in the evenings right now. Even with fans, we’re all sweating, hence the new moniker. Of course, we’re also not getting paid, so in that sense the name also fits 🙂
** Awana has strong ideas about what “goes together,” something I’ve been told I lack. Letting her have at it and match fabrics and colors has really amped up our product quality.
*** Jeanie used to be an event planner and has an inherent need for a Schedule, a Plan, a Method of Attack – something sorely lacking here at SOD. Stay tuned for pictures of the new white board 🙂
Sunday I hauled the rest of the Big Stuff over to the studio and now it’s all set up to Get Shit Done. Looking at the back room, I wonder where all this stuff used to be. I also wonder WTF I’ll do with the stuff that’s left. I want to get a bed back there so I can quit sleeping on the fold-out couch* and get some paint on the walls. I have some ideas that I’ll share as they get closer to realization. Just let me say that having all the Crafty Stuff elsewhere is good for my mood.
The first project to be completed is a set of skirts for the table at the craft show this weekend – no pics because they are just tan twill and boring.
I haven’t talked about the craft show? Oops. Awana and I are going to have a table Black Friday and Saturday at the Lincoln City Cultural Center’s “Not Quite 11th-hour Santa Holiday Fair” where we will be selling our wares in the hope of de-stashing some of the great stuff we have no room for. We’ll have washed wool and carded batts for spinning, stitch markers, hand knit hats, hand spun/hand knit shawls, handmade soaps, and knitting patterns. If I can find my sewing mojo again there will also be an assortment of wool project bags. Come on out and see us if you’re in town!
* It’s no longer the adventure it once was. I woke up Sunday morning with all the teeth on the left side of my mouth hurting. I mean, really hurting. Like I need to get to the dentist ASAP hurting. I need some work, so my thought was that finally everything is going to hell and the dentist will be able to buy a new car just from the cost of my new mouth. Monday I woke up with the upper teeth on the left hurting. Biting down, I can feel what happened – I think I’m grinding my teeth in my sleep. Probably because I’m cold. Another blanket on the bed and the heat turned up a few degrees should take care of it. I hope so – my dentist’s office is closed until December 2…
Every Wednesday evening from 6:00 – 8:00 (or even later) you can find me over at Knitty Gritty, the local shop for all things fiber, knitting or spinning with a fabulous group of ladies. This was last week –
I plan to take the new wheel and spin the alpaca/angora/merino blend I picked up at the Midsummer Spin-In a couple of weeks ago.
If you’re in the area, do stop by – there’s plenty of room to bring a spinning wheel and you’ll find yarn, fiber and accessories for sale. We’re a very friendly group who welcome all fiber enthusiasts.