Wednesday, December 11, 2013

DCF: Handspun Yarn Preview

I'm down to my last day of crafting before the Degenerate Craft Fair this weekend in new york city. The weather suddenly took a steep dive into wintry this week, with not one but two days of heavy snow.

Perfect spinning weather! I'm really into working with wool right now and I'm so happy with the yarns I'm making for this show. I'm incorporating lots of handmade, handdyed felt pieces:

The leaves and feathers are freeform hand cut from sheets of wool felt before being dyed and then embroidered/sewn, and the mushrooms are each needle felted from wool.

I love the little toadstools, but this time I felted a few baby portabella inspired mushrooms as well, with tan wool caps.The mushrooms are spun into my folksy, woodsy Mushroom Collector yarn:

Today I'm spinning up two skeins of a brand new art yarn I'm calling Winter Garden, with felt feathers, frost-bitten brown leaves, and a few natural colored felt balls.

Also on my plate today are a few skeins of Dark Forest, with deep dark greens, browns, gold, and felt leaves, and then some snowy white yarn with hand cut wool felt snowflakes spun in.

I've also been spinning some colorful patchwork yarns for the show!

And of course plenty of bulky single ply yarns from local wool locks carded up with bits of recycled fibers like bamboo and banana.

I'm pretty excited for this craft show! If you're in the new york area, stop by this weekend and see my yarns in person. I'm sharing a booth with my friend Josie of Paper & Plow.

The 2013 Degenerate Craft Fair
The DCTV Firehouse
87 Lafayette Street
New York, NY
(6,N,R,Q,J to Canal Street)

December 14th: 12pm-8pm
Opening night reception from 6pm to 8pm
Featuring music and free beer.

December 15th: 11am-6pm
First 50 guests get a free tote of goodies!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Degenerate Craft Fair in NYC

I have a craft show coming up this month, and it's my first show outside of the MD/DC area! I will be at the Degenerate Craft Fair saturday December 14th and sunday December 15th in New York.

From the press release: "Created for artists, by artists, the Degenerate Craft Fair is not your average craft fair. The DCF transcends the line between art and craft, showcasing artists selling affordable versions of their work, dedicated craftmakers who take unconventional approaches toward traditional techniques, and even small independent businesses that produce their own honey, lotions, and soaps."

I will probably be bringing only handspun yarn due to space and travel constraints, and I'll be sharing a booth with my awesome friend Josie, of Paper & Plow.

Josie makes soap, and we have eerily similar tastes in ingredients and essential oils so I love all of her stuff.

She makes both vegan and goats milk soaps - and her goat milk soaps contain milk from my spoiled little herd of mini dairy goats.

 Oh, and she also makes lip balm. I am obsessed with her lip balm right now and I think I have one in every coat pocket and bag I own. It glides on beautifully, even in cold weather, and it's holding up well over time unlike many completely natural lip balms.

What will I have at the show? I'm in the midst of spinning like crazy to bring as many awesome yarns as possible, but I will definitely have my 32 color hand dyed self-striping/color-changing Yarnbow:

I will also have patchwork yarns. I just dyed up the very last of my amazing super crazy soft recycled sw merino/silk/cashmere blend fiber, plus I'm trying to finish some colorways on lovely pale natural grey rambouillet x farm wool. And lots of bulky single ply yarn and art yarns! Look for another post with yarn preview photos next week. I'm really happy with the yarns I'm producing for this show - as soon as cold weather hits, all I want to do is play with wool!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Behind the scenes: designing a new patchwork colorway

I just finished spinning a sweater's worth of patchwork yarn in a new/updated colorway that is a gift for a friend. Since I was working with her to pick the colors, this is the first time I've really documented the process and I thought others might find it interesting. This all started when my friend Josie and I decided that we both want to knit ourselves basic raglan sweaters from my handspun patchwork yarn. I already had a colorway picked out for me, but we looked through photos of my colorways and Josie was having a hard time picking one. I know her color sense pretty well and I suggested that we take a colorway of mine that I'm not completely happy with and tweak it by swapping out some colors to make it more "Josie". The colorway is Lumos, and I've only ever dyed it maybe 3 times, mostly because I'm not totally in love with it. Here is Lumos in it's original form:

 When we started emailing about colors to change in this colorway, I realized that it might help to have a visual representation instead of just listing colors. I've been dyeing for so long that it's pretty easy for me to visualize things in my head when it comes to my patchwork yarns, but not everyone uses the same descriptive words for colors and I wanted to be sure we were on the same page, so I made this quick chart of the colors in Lumos:

Each of my patchwork colorways has 16 different colors in it, 8 colors in each single ply. So one half of the colorway is on the top, and the other half is the bottom - these will be spun onto separate bobbins and then plied together. I try to keep similar colors (like pale yellow and dark yellow) in the same ply to create more contrast in the finished yarn. It's kind of a permanent barber pole effect, in that there are always two different colors plied together, and results in the tweedy overlapping stripes that I love.

We emailed back and forth a bit, I suggested some colors I thought might be good to add and Josie told me which colors she liked the least so that I could remove or edit them. I made a new chart to show her my vision of our edited version of the colorway:

I got rid of the white, pink, tan, and violet. The white was replaced with natural dark brown wool that I carded into batts from some fleeces I had on hand, and I moved the gold over to the other ply. I added a deep seafoam and spruce (kind of a smokey dark teal) and changed the violet to raspberry. The only other change I made that isn't reflected in this chart is that I dyed the blue-green shade more of a deep bright emerald, since that particular shade of green reminds me of Josie. Future dyelots might have more of a blue-green instead. 

Next, I dyed the fiber. I dyed 2.25 lbs total - 6 skeins (1.5 lbs) for Josie, one skein for a matching baby goat sweater so we can take awkward matching sweater photos with newborn baby goats, and two extra skeins for my etsy shop. I snapped quick photos with bad lighting to show Josie before I dove into prepping the fiber to spin, the colors aren't completely accurate. The red-orange in particular doesn't photograph well, my camera has issues with red tones and insists on turning it into a blazing neon. It's a much more earthy and normal orange in person.

And finally, the moment of truth, the finished yarn. Since the colors are spun in two separate lots, I never completely find out what a colorway will look like until I finish spinning the singles and ply them together. 

I love it. Lumos was okay, and I do try to spin colors that I don't personally love because not everyone has the same tastes, but this is so much more aesthetically pleasing to me. I have named it Goldmine, after a silly moment/inside joke from when Josie and I were first getting to know each other. I tried to type out the story, but like most inside jokes, it doesn't really translate well.

There are two skeins of Goldmine available in the shop, and I will hopefully have finished sweater pictures to share sometime in the future.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Crafty Bastards,TOMORROW!

Crafty Bastards really crept up on me this year! For the first time ever, it will be two days, this saturday and sunday. I would be perfectly thrilled with the amount of inventory I have if it was a one day show, but I'm super nervous about running out of yarn on sunday. I think it'll be okay, but I'd definitely recommend stopping by my booth on saturday for the best selection! I've spun multiples of many yarns this year in the hopes of having enough for both days and to give the option of buying more than one skein from the same dyelot for larger projects. For some reason, this year I'm really into natural colored wools and white/cream based yarns with pops of color & interest - I almost felt like I was putting together a 'collection' at one point.

 I will also have a small amount of goat milk soaps made with milk from my own little herd, and some hand dyed wool locks from local sheep.

handspun yarns hanging at crafty bastards 

Crafty Bastards will be at Union Market in DC again this year - I really love this venue! I will be in booth #99 Saturday, Sept. 28 and Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013 from 10am-5pm. Click here to visit the Crafty Bastards website for more info, including a vendor map. I believe it's $5 to get in, or $10 for both days. It's totally worth it - 140 amazing vendors, really good food, and this year there will be beer.

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Hand processed farm wool & rare breed fleeces

Every year in early spring, I start shopping around for local wool fleeces to use in my yarns. Finding farms with wool for sale can be difficult, since many farmers aren't great at advertising to potential buyers or even just getting their basic contact information out there. The farms that do have websites and market to spinners are often out of my price range, especially since I like to look for unusual and rare breeds. Sometimes I stumble across a new fleece source unexpectedly, like the time I answered a classified ad for someone looking for a person to shear their two angora goats in trade for the fleeces. "I've never shorn a goat before", I told her, "but I'm willing to buy some hand shears and give it a try." These things are always hit or miss, but that just makes it that much more elating when I find a truly good fiber source.

This year, I stumbled across a farm only 15 minutes away from me that raises a rare breed of sheep called Harlequin. I wasn't looking for wool when I found them, I was researching breeds of miniature sheep because I am still considering adding sheep to my tiny farm and I was certain there had to be another mini breed out there besides the Babydoll Southdown sheep. The Harlequin breed was started about 30 years ago in the US by Kathleen Sterling, with the goal of producing a sheep similar in size to the Babydolls but with fleece that had more variations in color and texture. There are only 8 farms listed as breeders, and the farmer told me he has to regularly trade rams with the other farms because the gene pool is so small. All the Harlequins I've seen so far are spotted. The lambs start out black & white spotted, but the fleeces on the adult sheep can range through every shade of grey, cream, white, and browns - all in one fleece! Although it seems like white and brown spotted is the most common Harlequin coloring. And the texture variation is pretty wide too, from loose long silky longwool locks to short crimpy springy fine wool. I'm in love!

I ended up splitting up the fleeces by color and carded up two pounds of natural gray batts, one pound of gray wool blended with 20% recycled soysilk, and two pounds of "almost white" (cream/white with hints of gray) wool. The natural browns will make their way into other yarns, but they don't need as much prep since they can't be overdyed. The gray and white batts don't feel like they are from the same breed of sheep, let alone the same fleece - the gray is silky and slightly drapey and reminds me of romney or a border leceister cross, while the white is much more springy, matte, and softer.

The downside to working with lots of straight-from-the-farm raw wool is that it takes a ton of time to process. It has to be washed (I do a minimum of a long cold soak, two hot washes and two hot/warm rinses, but greasier fleeces can easily take twice as many washes), which involves lots of heavy lifting since I dump the water from the first two washes outside rather than down the drain. Then the fleece is carefully picked through by hand to fluff the locks open and remove any vegetable matter or second cuts, and then either dyed and run through the drum carder once (for chunky art yarns) or carefully run through the drum carder 2-3 times before being dyed (for patchwork yarns). It usually takes me at least a month, usually much longer, from buying a bunch of fleeces to having fiber ready to spin, because the washing, carding, and dyeing takes more time the more I'm trying to do at once.

All that prep feels like it drags on forever, but at least there are many different steps. By the time I'm truly sick of one part of the process, it's time to move on to the next. It's worth it to me because I enjoy working with these fibers so much more than lifeless commercially prepared top and I feel an immense amount of pride in the finished yarn when I can recall the stinky, dirty raw fleece I started with and also the name of the sheep that it came from. I also really love working with the huge variety of different breeds of wool available and supporting farms that raise little-known breeds. Fine wool are popular for a reason (and I will admit that I am obsessed with a good fine wool), but my true love is all the workhorse medium wools out there.

Gypsy Boy on 'almost white' Harlequin

Eyebright on gray Harlequin

Lirael on gray Harlequin

I have a few other farm wools I'm working with right now. I have some nice white blue-faced leicester, my first time working with a BFL fleece, and also a gorgeous variegated pale gray and white Rambouillet cross fleece that was my MDSW fleece sale purchase this year.

Oh, and I carded up 8 oz of a blend of 40% pygora locks from my goat Aoife with 60% Romeldale x wool from a sheep named Tofu (last year's MDSW fleece). So I just finished up my first skein of patchwork yarn spun using my own pygora fiber:

That's pretty awesome, right? There are a handful of farm wool patchwork yarns in my etsy shop now, but there will be more in the next few updates.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Goodbye, Nymphie

RIP Nymphie

A few weeks ago I lost Nymphie, our special favorite and the first kid born here. I always knew that I would lose a goat one day- after all, "if you have livestock, you will have dead stock". I thought that when it finally happened, it would be illness or kidding complications or injury or old age. But Nymphie went into anaphylactic shock after getting a shot of vitamins, and she went from happy and healthy to dead in seconds. I knew what had happened, it is a rare reaction but a tiny risk every time a shot is given to a goat although it happens most often with vaccines and antibiotics. The only way to save a goat in that situation is to already have a syringe of epinephrine (which is prescription, so you would have to have convinced a vet to sell you some) loaded and ready to go in order to be able to administer it in time. I haven't worried about it much because I've never had to use antibiotics and my goats get a bare minimum of shots - anything I can administer orally instead, I do. Now, I have a bottle of epinephrine on hand, for my own peace of mind.

Not only was it a shock to lose a goat like that, but Nymphie was my baby, the one goat that we would keep no matter what because she wasn't livestock, she was family. She didn't suffer, and she had a wonderful life, but it took a while for me to grasp the concept of a world without her. I was heartbroken. I still am.


new sweater

grown up nymphie

queen of the spool

The thing I loved most about Nymphie was how joyful and in the moment she always was, and I am trying to take that lesson to heart. I have raised many goats at this point, and I am certain that there will be more goats but never another Nymphie. She was the best.