Thursday, December 31, 2009

Yarns, Barn, and Hats

I am starting to list more of my yarns and patterns on etsy. I am also in the process of designing a website for my own products, so people will not have to go to other places to find them.
In response to an order for a hat, I designed four to give him options. He chose the one at the top left. All were knitted out of the same skein of yarn, so you can see the natural color variations in a Shetland fleece. I will be listing the patterns for sale on etsy as they are completed. Two have elastic bands. I find that the elastic works really well because the hats stay on.

I had this hat started before the Shetland Hats, but had to spin more yarn to finish it. Above is a close up of the hat and below is the finished hat. It is very similar to a hat I made during the 4th Avenue Street fair, but it has a larger elastic band and different novelties.

Funky yarns are in. I have started knitting a few of them to satisfy the non-knitters. It is amazing what can result from 23 yards on a size 17 needle. It does fit a real person.

I will post photos of the finished barn tomorrow. This was the way it looked on Monday. The doors and roof are now on. We have asked the builder to add 4 foot high panels on the inside of the stalls. I can just see the sheep butting the walls and them all popping off. The builder said he would replace them for free, but I would rather prevent it.
In order to give the barn builders freedom to come and go from the arena, we closed the geese up in their original area very close to the house. One day last week, I suggested that we move them to the old duck area. Marc proceeded to try to close them up in their area, so he could catch and carry them to the new area. I laughed and asked why he was not just herding them. They move away as we spread arms out and make ourselves look big. I refuse to pick one up. It hurts when they bite! Took two minutes to move them to their new home and they are happy. They now have a permanent concrete pond.

See the hole in the shed? The ram below has been busy getting into trouble. Below he is nibbling on a tree that Marc planted this fall. I will know that Marc has read this blog, when he mentions this to me!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Barn, hats, and etsy

The sheep are eagerly waiting for the new barn to be finished. They are not excited about being exiled to the farthest end of the arena.
To give you a perspective on the size of the arena, I tool a picture of Marc while he was out checking the 6 foot holes.

I finished this hat during the 4th Avenue Street Fair and have another one almost finished that is slightly larger with different novelties. I have listed this hat for sale on etsy. I am using my knitting orders time to add to my online shop. Pictures take a while to load, so knitting works well. I am going to write the patterns for the hats that I have been designing and selling. If you are a knitter and buy a hat yarn from my etsy shop, I will send you the pattern as soon as I have made it look pretty!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Thanksgiving and our new barn

Thanksgiving is getting quite comfortable running around the fenced in area. She is now checking out the goats and she follows me as I feed, while her mother hangs out at the front gate - eating and hoping that I am going to let her rejoin the herd. I have decided to keep them in, so I can keep handling Thanksgiving and keep her tame.
My shop was back up on Monday. I rearranged again. It gives me a new perspective and some of the changes were a result of questions at the 4th Avenue. Everyone was looking for the larger skeins this time, so I have put the 300 yard skeins in one area and the 500 yards plus in another. I have a lot more of the larger skeins than I thought.
I am currently spinning skeins with beads and skeins with elastic. I am now a dealer for Rainbow Elastic and have the complete 48 set available in the shop. I am spinning yarn for hats and love how the elastic behaves as a core for the band of a hat. I plan to try it out on a woven scarf next.
The last issue of Handwoven had an article on using elastic thread. I think the yarn will be very interesting in a scarf. I have designed two hats and plan on publishing the patterns.
The other exciting news is that our barn is finally going up. All of the permits are in and 6 foot holes for the foundation were dug yesterday. The inspector approved them today, so the frame work is now going up. It should be finished by the holidays.

This photo was taken yesterday before the barn started going up. The arena looked huge! I lured the sheep to the back pen by dragging the feed wagon to the area. Good thing the builder called early. I did not feed the sheep first like I usually do and I waited long enough that they were desperate. The only sheep that would not go in was the ram. He is smart! I had to have Kyle catch him for me later in the afternoon.

Friday, December 11, 2009

4th Avenue Street and Southwestern Shawl

This is my southwestern shawl. I was hoping that the detail would be more obvious. I will have to take close ups tomorrow

I took a bunch of booth photos when there was a break in the crowd, but it was already too dark, so I took a close up of a few sections of my booth.
Thanks to all who stopped by and said "hi!" I am always surprised at how many people have met me. I discovered that I am now known as the "goat" or "yarn"lady. You can guess which age group refers to me as which lady!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

4th Avenue Street Fair

The shop is packed and my booth is set up on 4th Avenue. It seemed like more work this time. I am in booth number 347 between 7th and 8th Street on the west side. I am directly across from the Fire station and a ways north of where I was last time. Come visit, if you have time.

A photo of me taken at Tohono Chul was in the northwest section of the Arizona Daily Star today. It is among the additional smaller 5 shown on the online version, but a much larger one was in the paper. Kind of cool to see myself in my new vest spinning - and the angle was actually decent. I beat out the animals this time. Usually the photographer loves them and their publisher goes for the animal shots.

My stuff is hidden by all of the people at the back of the picture.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Tohono Chul

Ruby (charcoal kid) and Patagonia (red kid) were a definite hit at Tohono Chul. They were very well behaved and by the end of the last night, they were exhausted. They have never had so much petting. It is always fun to have visitors to the ranch, because they get to see the whole herd. I think Ruby and Patagonia did an outstanding job of representing the ranch.
Ruby is by far the best ambassador that I have had for the ranch. I was not surprised that many people did not know that they were angora goats and not sheep. Hopefully, a lot of the visitors will come out and see the wide variety of sheep breeds that I own - and maybe they will be able to pick out a llama from an alpaca!
My shop is back up and I am working on another hat using the skein of yarn that was a single that I plied to elastic thread. I am going to have to order more elastic. I can already envision a line of singles with matching elastic yarns to with with it. I am making this hat a little larger. The elastic is very easy to knit with and looks like normal yarn. Sure beats weaving in an elastic thread while knitting.
My circular shawl is now 16 inches in diameter. I am now designing 10 to 12 rows ahead, since I have figured out how lace works and know what I want to do. I could get addicted to lace also!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Playing around

I designed the hat above in order to knit something with the elastic thread that I spun up. It made a perfect band for my hat and I have spun more up to play with. The single that I knit the top portion of the hat with is not a total match, so the hat might end up in the dye pot. It fits my head.
This is what the skein below looked like on the swift. You could not see the elastic and it looked like a normal skein of yarn. It was cool to see it kink up. The kid mohair softened up amazingly.

I have the shop half packed for Tohono Chul. Marc just got home from the east coast, so he will be able to help me load on this end. The Holiday nights is from 5:30-8:30 tonight and tomorrow night - hope to see a few of you there.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Youtube videos

My friend, Virginia, has been filming and posting videos for me on youtube. Her most recent posting is one of me demonstrating my method of drop spindling. If you have ever taken a drop spindling lesson from me, this video will be a great way to review. I am going to place the link in my favorite links area, so you will be able to find it easily. I just watched it and think it covers just about all that you need to know! I am also excited because I think I sound more coherent than I thought I was talking! Virginia did an awesome job. Check it out and let me know.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving - REALLY

Winter had her baby this morning. It is a female, so I named her Thanksgiving and will call her Thanks. She looks to be the shade of a pale red angora goat. Winter allowed me to express some of her colostrum to put in Thanks mouth, so I was able to warm up the baby and get her drinking from Winter very easily. All the requisite holes are there and mom and baby are bonded. so I am truly thankful!
I had to put Winter into the fenced area with the goats, because the baby will not be able to run fast enough to escape a coyote for a while. Brillo and Emmy were experiencing baby envy, so I thought it would be safer all around.

This is the prickly pear that was my inspiration for the Tohono Chul novelty yarn. Still have not finished spinning it, but I did remember to walk the dogs out there with a camera, so I could get a photo.
Above is one of my experiments. I spun kid mohair on top of an elastic thread. Turned out really fuzzy. I then tried spinning a yarn and then plying with the elastic thread. That turned out so boring that I did not even photograph it!
Above is a circular lace shawl that I am designing "as I go" using the Knitvisualizer software. Now that I have figured out a few of its quirks, I will be able to design more intricate patterns. I always worry about using just words for a design. I plan to write the pattern for the pink shawl with beads that is in the shop. I have been asked for the pattern repeatedly, but was afraid to just use the abbreviations. It is an easy thing to mess up.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A walk on the Scientific Side

Most of you, who have been out to the ranch, know that I separate artists into the scientific and the abstract/freeform. You have also already figured out that I am an abstract artist and approach all of work in a freeform manner. Well, flipping around in the groups that I like on Ravelry, I discovered that there was a book coming out called Creative Lace by Myra Wood. I immediately went to Amazon to check it out. The picture on the front captured my imagination, since I had just collected the colors for a new yarn. I was thinking coiled, until I saw the book, which I did buy.
I spun the roving up as a lace weight single and was seriously impressed with the yardage that I got - 790 yards in 5.6 oz., so 171 yards per ounce. A record for me! It is kid mohair with a touch of white merino from a fleece I bought from the shearer last spring. I envision a free flowing skirt to be worn over leggings. The Creative Lace book does not have any true patterns of the featured finished items, so I won't be able to use them as a springboard for my own design. I have emailed Myra Wood in the hopes of being able to take her class somewhere or get her scheduled to come here to teach, since I am a very visual learner. Will let you know, if I ever hear from her.
After a trip to Barnes and Nobles, I had a book on Victorian Lace by Jane Sowerby. She has some good instructions in the back of her book on how to design your own lace patterns. Between those two books and a few others on my shelves, I have a pretty good idea of what I want to do. Now, I am just waiting for the Knitvisualizer software that I ordered to arrive. Myra Wood recommends it and the demo looked awesome. I could have had instant gratification with a download version, but I already know that I am getting a new computer, so it makes sense to get the CD. I plan to make up and record the pattern as I go. I don't have what it takes to make more than one of them, but someone else might like the pattern. I also plan to write the pattern for the pink Shetland Shawl with beads, since I keep getting asked for it. It is the kind of pattern that needs a chart!
The above is roving that I carded up after seeing a prickly pear cactus plant along the wash while I was walking the dogs. I keep meaning to take my camera along, but my hands are too busy trying to keep Shep and Herd from playing with each other as we go. I am going to spin it up as a novelty yarn and name it "Tohono Chul." The Holiday Nights are next week end and I am starting to get excited. I won't take as much from the shop as I do for the 4th Ave, but I still need to mentally prepare in my mind what I am going to take. I will also be taking Ruby and Rica. Marc says he will help with that. I am going to scope out my area tomorrow morning and might also take an angora rabbit, if the area is suitable.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Notes from the Withers' Ranch

The Wither’s Ranch Update

Tucson Open Studio Tours 2009: I am part of the Tucson Open Studios Tour that is taking place this Saturday and Sunday, November 14-15, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. I will be here at the ranch demonstrating the process of preparing fiber for spinning and felting. I will be talking about how I come up with my color combinations and what inspires me to create specific designs. My assumption is that most of you have done the animal tour and seen the shearing, so this will be the studio side of fiber process. I hope that many of you can make it.

Tohono Chul Holiday Nights: I have been invited to showcase the “Wool” Arts at the Tohono Chul Holiday Nights – November 27-28 and December 4-5 from 5:30-8:30. I am not raising my prices, so your purchases there will give Tohono Chul a 40% donation. I have invited several of my fiber art friends to come exhibit and demo with me. Look for advertisements around town and in the local papers.

4th Avenue Street Fair: December 11-13, 2009, 10-5. I am once again in the 300 series on the west side of the street in the vicinity of O’Malleys. Come visit! I will definitely have a few new designs in both yarns and patterns.

Tucson Spring Shearing Festival: Mark your calendars for the spring shearing here at the ranch on March 27, 2010 from 9-3. This year I am expanding the spring shearing to include the fall vendors and any new artists that come my way during the next couple of months. If you are an artist and have something fiber related that you would like to sell, please contact me and email photos or swing by with samples of your work. I want to avoid the “hobby and craft” label.

Tucson Wool Festival: The 6th annual Tucson Wool Festival will be November 6, 2010 9-3.

Other notes of interest:

I have a new alpaca named “Winter”, who is due to deliver sometime in December. She is super friendly and gorgeous!

Keep an eye on my blog: for specials and unscheduled classes. If you have not been reading it, take time to do so. You will get a true feeling for the flavor of a working ranch. The stories I tell during the animals tours are just a taste of what life is like!

Visitor tours: They are free. My request is that, if there are more than 5 of you, and you want the area extra raked, that you call me at least a day in advance. Never wear your best shoes - this is a working ranch!

School Tours: Please give me 3 days notice and be sure that there is adequate adult supervision. I love introducing children to the animals. The younger the children, the shorter the tour will be. It is a good idea for individuals in large groups to arrive close together in terms of time. I am in business to feed the animals, so I do have to be around for the shop, unless I have enough notice for a friend to cover for me.

This is a copy of a newsletter that I sent out today to those who have given me their email addresses over the past year. If you did not receive one, and you want to be on my list, please send me an email address.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Pleats, grazers, and sleepers

I am playing around with new techniques for recreating a garment just to see, if I can. Pleats are a prominent feature in the garment. I came up with a method that works very well. In the process, I learned that bigger pleats are required in knitting, if you want them to stand out. It also would probably look better with stockinette rather than the random ribs that I chose. I have settled on the final look of the scarf, so now all that is left is the actual doing and writing out the instructions as I go! That is really the hardest part for me.
I moved a few of the older does into my old garden so they can chow down on the Texas broom for me. Absinthe is keeping them company. These are among the does that will be culled. Know anyone that needs a few goats to clear out shrubby weeds?
I named the puppies Shep (Marc's choice) and Herd. I know. I have been told repeatedly, that Herd is not a good name for a girl puppy. After a week of trying to come up with a name that would make someone else happy, but not me; I decided to stick with Herd. Her name fits. She nips at the heels of anyone walking with me who does not keep up. She recognizes that as her name, so why mess up a good thing? Shep is fat dumb and happy. Here he is asleep protecting his part of the feeder. I don't know, if you can tell, but his bowl is not in the hole!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Global Warming and New Fleeces

Well, you know that it is staying warmer than usual, when the animals are not getting bred. Does are going into heat, whacking the fences, and beating heads, because the bucks are not going into rut. I will be forced to start keeping yearling bucks, because they do go into rut earlier. I would rather not, since I prefer to keep animals that I can handle, but it seems like the does are breeding later every year. I will be surprised, if I have kids on the ground by the spring wool festival on March 27 2010.

I am busy washing fleeces. The one featured below is off a Shetland ram. he appeared all black until shearing. Carded up, his fleece will be a very soft gray.
The kid mohair fleece below is Ruby's and full of trash. She is one of the Witch's kids and has one of the softest black fleeces from the most recent crop. The trash gives me the opportunity to spin it and I am now designing a wrap that I will knit and call Ruby's Wrap. I will keep you posted on my progress.
It is kind of funny how we seem to gravitate every year to the same colors at the same time of the year. I end up spinning black and purple each year in the fall. As I was planning my wrap, I was thinking of purple and charcoal. As I spun up the first batch, I realized that it was the same combination that I used for a vest three years ago. Ruby's is the gray roving on top. I am knitting a scarf with the samples and experimenting with patterns and design elements that I will use in my wrap. I plan to publish the scarf pattern.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

You win some, you lose some

My loss:

When I went out to feed last night, I discovered that my yearling does had killed my kid buck, that I bought in Oregon this summer. He had not gone into rut, so that might have been what triggered the accident. He had been butted and landed upside down in the feeder with a broken neck. He had been in the pen with them for a few months and they had not been messing with him, so it was a complete surprise. Now I am going to need to keep one of my white kid bucks, just in case the yearling white buck does not do the job. Depressing.

My win:

This past weekend I was offered some Aussie/Golden Retriever crosses. I took one look at them and decided I would adopt them. They are 8 weeks old and have personalities already. The sable and white is a male and super friendly. He will already follow. I plan to train him to herd the sheep and keep me company while Marc is gone. The chocolate colored one is female and a lot slower to respond. She was likely the runt of the litter. I am keeping them in a pen, when I am wandering about, so they will have a place to associate as their own. They are not barkers (thank goodness) and have already been out to see the llamas and alpacas. Brillo snorted and then lost interest. When the llamas first got a whiff of them, they trumpeted. I imagine they will tolerate each other some day.

They are going to be lovely companions. I was raising collies when I met Marc. He is going to love the sable and white one. Now I need names and I am not going to stick with the Arizona theme.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Winter, New Yarns, and Herd Dynamics

This is a new style of yarn that I am experimenting with. It has mohair locks attached at 12-15 inch intervals. I made a small next scarf out of my first experiment. The numbers of stitches cast on really affects the layout of the locks. Might have to knit this skein up also!
No, it has not turned wintery here, but I did adopt Winter, the alpaca shown above. She is a lovely Chestnut colored Huacaya. She is possibly pregnant and due in December. The cria's sire will be moving here shortly. He is bay black. Winter is friendlier towards women than men - judging by her reaction to offerings of grain.
It is interesting how adding one new element really changes the dynamics among the animals. The llamas and alpacas had been hanging together until Winter arrived. Now the llamas have moved off and created their own little group.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Ram for sale and The Tucson Wool Festival Shawl

This is a gorgeous, soft fibered, 2 year old black Rambouillet ram. He is currently for sale at $300. He has given me 3 lovely ram lambs this year.
Ellie has claimed her shawl and I did not have to add anything to make it fit!
My daughter, Kristie, the harpist, has started a blog It is going to deal mostly with her preparations for the USA International Harp competition. She will be posting a photo soon. Most of what she writes will be musical. Those of you, who have heard her play before might be interested in reading it.
I have been invited to exhibit at Tohono Chul for their Holiday Lights Nights. I will keep you posted as I prepare. The dates are November 27-28 and December 4-5 from 5:30-8:30. I am going to scope out the area on Monday, because they would like me to bring a few animals. Ruby and a rabbit will probably work out well.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Nuno felting

In order to keep up with felted finished goods, I will be nuno felting with a friend this Thursday about noon. There is room for 4 more. If you are interested, I have to know, since tables are limited. The cost is $50 for the smaller scarf and $70 for the shawl.

I will be posting classes with short notice periodically due to requests to take the class. I always feel like the camaraderie of a larger group is more fun.

I am doing traditional wet felting this Saturday from 10-1. You can choose to do a landscape background or a felted bag. Instruction is free. You just have to pay for the fibers you use.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Tucson Wool Festival

Below is what the military would call an after action report! This is a small portion of what you missed, if you were not able to make the festival. So you can have something to look forward to, there will be a Spring Festival on March 13, 2010, when the shearer returns - the vendors currently listed on the Tucson Wool Festival page will all be returning. We have also set the date for next year's Tucson Wool Festival 2010 as October 23, 2010.
Same hours for both of them: 9-3.

The winner of the Raffle Freeform Shawl is Ellie. She has been notified and will claim it sometime this week. I told her that she will have to be photographed and she has agreed.

The drawing winners are:
Judith Fragomeni - the yarn
Patricia Wheelis - the cell phone bag
Sally Spira - the roving
Kathy Jensen - the batts

If the winners have won something they can't use, or don't want to learn how to use, they can trade it with someone who can. I will send emails, but one person did not include hers. They have until Friday to let me know that they are claiming their prize. Congratulations and thanks for participating!
I like to begin the first animal tour every year with feeding the animals. It saves me time in the morning and I am feeding at their regular hour between 9 and 10 A.M. I like to talk about what I feed the animals and why. We are in front of the fence over which I toss the food for the Shetlands. I figured the Shetlands would come close enough to be seen, if I fed them.

I always have a very attentive audience. They are very kind and laugh at the appropriate times! One of my visitors was very gracious and acted as my personal photographer for the first tour. If she sends me her name, I will give her credit.
The llamas are locked into the main pen for the day, because cars are parking in their hangout. They are looking for a grain handout and very curious about all of the people.
Here we are admiring the lovely "red" goats, who are awaiting their haircuts.

We all looked a lot more professional this year. Practice does make perfect. The vendors and demonstrators are buying canopies to protect themselves from the sun. Good thing, since it was a record 99 degrees yesterday.

Several people, who have attended every year, said that this was our best show ever in terms of turnout and quality. Marc says he agrees. He was the guy riding the bike and directing parking. He is my husband, in case you did not know and spends a lot of time labouring to make sure that all goes smoothly. It is important that people don't block the road and other cars. We don't want people getting frustrated, because they can't get out or through. Marc is going to be working with the shearer next year, so we are looking for two energetic people to take over the parking. If you know anyone with traffic management skills who would be available in March, could you let me know?

We are always looking for friendly new vendors to add to the festival. One of the new ones this year was Leann with organic fibers. She was a lovely new addition and came from New Mexico to share her wares. All of the vendors contact information is on the website:

For me, the whole festival revolves around the animals in some way. Between the tours and the shearing, I did not get a chance to check out the fleeces till this afternoon after the shearer finished. Two of my friends came to share in the excitement of fondling the new fibers. 87 new fleeces to play with and the only one that I consider to be rug yarn is Absinthe's (the friendly shaggy goat that will remind you of a dog.) Barbara, my oldest goat at 6 1/2 years old, had her 13th fleece shorn and it is gorgeous. Holly put her hand in and was saying what a gorgeous fleece it was when she realized whose it was.
I have pulled three fleeces to make myself and Marc something: the blackest black kid fleece, the pewter colored fleece, and the Rambouillet ram fleece off a ram that got taken off the dinner list as soon as I saw what was under his outer fleece. Desert Rose is now for sale, but not as dinner.
This ram appeared to have a black head with a white fleece. Imagine my surprise when I saw his fleece pictured below. I had gone back to the shop when he got sheared today. Talk about an awesome fleece. Soft and gorgeous coloring. When washed, it will be a very soft gray. I plan to blend some with the pewter mohair for myself a vest and blend some with the black mohair fleece for a vest for Marc. I have been promising him a vest for 6 years. Maybe it is about time that I make good on my promise. I am itching to start spinning it, but it has to be washed. I can't do the "in the grease" thing with my allergies. Also, I know what he has been sitting in all year!
All of the yellow/tan washed right out into a soft gray. Judy had to sneak a piece and wash it immediately. I did not recognize the coloring, so I had to run out to the sheep to see whose it was. Anyhow, I am thrilled and the ram now has a name "Thrilled."
My friend Caroline has sent me pictures, so I will post some tomorrow of the yarn judging and other scenes that I missed, while I was out with the animals.
Thank you to all who came out to the Wool Festival yesterday. It was a lot of fun and great to meet with so many other fiber addicts! A special thanks to those who ran my shop and demonstrated. I could not do all of this on my own. I have to admit, that without the fleeces today, it would have been a flat feeling day!