Monday, September 28, 2009

Felting in its various forms

It is amazing how a thick pile of wool can shrink up and become so flat. This was a three inch layer of wool designed to be a rug or the base for a wall hanging.
This is what the fiber looked like before being felted.

The same layout from another perspective.

The finished piece is shown in four different positions. Any one of them could work as the background for embellishment of an autumn landscape.

A second view.

A third view.

My personal favorite. It is always interesting to see how different the finished piece looks. I could needle felt it all into position, but I love the abstract surprise of the finished piece.

A batch of green batts and rovings carded up to go with the grays.

Saturday was my felting workshop day. I decided to wet felt a blanket. The idea was to make a lightweight blanket and see how far one of the batts from the Elsa carder would get me. I used one side of the batt to create this side and I added white mohair locks to give it some texture. It has a wintry look to it.
The reverse side of the batt had more orange in it and more the look of fall. I added yellow mohair locks to this side.
I was talking to my friend, Judy, about pricing the blanket and she suggested turning it into a shawl or wearable art. This was our final take on the blanket. It is reversible and can be used as either a blanket or wrap. A tall person could wear it as a skirt with a belt. Using silk as a middle layer helped keep the felt supple and allows it to drape beautifully.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Carding Batts

I have been busy carding batts and rovings. Yesterday was all shades of gray and today all greens. I am amazed at how many variations there are and I was just choosing from piles of fiber that were recently washed.
Show season starts in two weeks. I have the Patagonia Fall Arts Festival October 9-11 followed by my own Tucson Wool Festival the weekend after - the 17th of October. Hope you all have it on your calendars. It should be a lot of fun. I am getting calls from people who are listing it in their newspapers and newsletters. Pass the word. If they type in Tucson wool in their search engines, the wool festival page of my website will appear among the top places. A quick and easy way to route them to the information.
Have to go hit the gym. After raking an hour this evening, I am not in the mood. I decided to knit the Red Hat Society skein into a scarf. I used the best fibers in it and it is knitting up lovely.
I could knit my way through all of the fun yarns very quickly. I am going to do a music or a medical skein next. Want to help me decide?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Everyday chores

When I take visitors out to see the animals, I always worry that they will glamorize my lifestyle. I thought I would share some of the routine chores that I face here at the ranch. First of all, there is the feed bill. That whole truckload is for my ranch and will only feed my animals for three weeks. Those who have pasture really do not want to know how much it costs. I break even on my feed bill and most of the other expenses that are involved in raising the animals, but shelter and equipment will eat up any profit I have at the moment.Here you see me giving the llamas and alpacas a treat. Most people think that I spend the entire day out petting animals and enjoying their company. I wish it were true, but washing, dyeing, carding, and spinning take up the bulk of my time. Feeding the animals takes 30 minutes in the morning and 30 more minutes in the evening.

Sitting to hold an animal is unusual. I was posing for my sister, Shirley, to take a picture. This is Ruby, for those who have been following her development (daughter of the Witch.) She is the smallest kid and still super friendly. Gorgeous hair.

I was struck by how many times I change my shoes throughout the day, when I saw this picture that Shirley took. You don't want to wear sandals out with the animals because you could get stepped on. I have one pair of exercise shoes and one pair of "going off" shoes that never go into the animal area. Sooner or later I have to run out there with them on and they get relegated to "goat shoes." I go through a lot of shoes!

The most boring and unrewarding chore on the ranch is raking. If you are planning to begin raising livestock, you have to know that what goes in, must come out. And there is always more coming out than you would imagine. I challenge you to come out and rake to see how long you hold up! Several of my friends signed on to rake in exchange for fiber and, by the end of a month, their routine visits to rake taper off and disappear. No one is going to keep at it, except yourself, so you better be willing, or don't sign on. It is a daily chore that cannot be ignored. That is why I always ask tour groups to call in advance, if they want to see the animals. Depending on what is happening around the ranch, I might not get the whole area done. Then I take incidental visitors to the tree that the goats hang out under and no farther. As the animals are placed into pens for breeding, the raking shifts from the common area to the pens. Better for visitors to visit then, but the pens still have to be raked!
Are you still wearing the rose colored glasses? Come out and visit!

Sisters' Visit

My sisters were visiting earlier this month and we were out talking. Absinthe hung around - you would have thought she was listening, but she was actually hoping for a treat. I gave her my hair bow, so she could see us.

I can't take photos of myself and I don't photograph well, when I am posing. It is better to catch me in action. Some of the photos, which I will NOT share, had me looking like an old hag. So, when we were out in the workshop and I started mixing dyes in the pot, "Witches Brew" became a perfect title for this shot.

The sign I ordered from Oregon arrived while my sisters were visiting, so I can finally include a photo. They said that it represents all I do. Next time you come to visit, take time to check it out. I will gladly pass his info on to anyone who is interested in unique artwork. I know it is cool, because Marc had just filled in the holes and one of my neighbors, who was driving down the road, did a double take and backed up to check it out.

It is still pretty hot here in Tucson. I spent over an hour locking up goats based on breeding criteria on Sunday and then decided to let them out this afternoon. They were too hot and I don't want to go buy more fans. My friend, Judy, helped me round up two of the older does who were beating up on other does. I doubt that any of the bucks are fertile with it so warm. I know that the does are in heat and the males are not showing any interest. At this rate, all of next year's babies will be born later than last year. I don't expect any till early March and possibly later. Is this the greenhouse effect?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Fiber Lottery

I went outside the studio this afternoon and discovered that the mailman had dropped off two large boxes from the mill. Since the fiber was sent well over a year and a half ago, I figured I had lost a bunch in processing. I felt like I had won the lottery. I had already paid for it, so I was already out the money. Since a portion of it was dyed, I am excited to see it back. Some is llama, some mohair, and the dyed is Rambouillet and some mohair.
All Rambouillet and the nicest of the batches - both in feel and color.

A real mix of fibers in this bag - mostly mohair.
All kid mohair that was dyed gold and purple with some teal thrown in. If it does not sell quickly, I plan to blend it in with other fibers.
Of course, I now have my carder, so I won't be needing the mill's services for a while. It is nice to know that they are honest, even though awfully slow!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Finishing projects and shop news

Above and below are two ways to wear the Landscape Shawl that I just finished. I used two skeins of my novelty yarn for a total of 173 yards. I had no real plan in mind when I started knitting, but once I finished the first skein and realized that I needed the same amount again to finish it, the sky as the neckline was a natural. It is southwestern again - the buttons have horses, boots, and hat.
Below is what I can the Evening Blues Scarf. It is approximately 200 yards of nothing but knit (garter stitch.) The novelty yarns show themselves off the best that way.
Just a reminder that the roving and batt sale ends on Saturday. I have been experimenting with the new carder and have figured out how to create an entire freeform Hidden Treasures roving on one carding. Sure is a lot more fun and gets me to the spinning faster. You can still buy by the ounce. The bags are to help keep the fiber organized and clean. A few of the landscape rovings are in the shop.
Some of my freeform mix and match landscape yarns. Each skein is a sky or an earth, so they can be mixed and matched. Some are southwestern, some are autumn, and some are the fields in other places.
Below is a picture that was been the inspiration or the skein of yarn surrounding it. I am currently knitting it. I usually use only garter stitch. I have been experimenting and have come up with a few new techniques. I am drafting a pattern that will be free for anyone who buys the freeform yarn which details different ways of using the yarn.
And, last but not least - things are never dull here. I went into the studio this morning to get my cell charger. I saw a movement on the counter and discovered that a bunny had hopped up. He had nothing to use as a springboard, so I have no idea how he managed to get up there.
Isn't he pretty? He must have just done it, because there were no signs of him having messed with anything no chewing, etc! The picture below is to give you some perspective of what a jump that must have been. I have a SuperRabbit!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Changing Seasons

Despite the continuing heat, it is obvious that fall is almost here. The sheep and goats are seasonal breeders and they are getting antsy. While feeding last night, I saw 4 kid bucks chasing a 2 year old doe. She did not want to have anything to do with them. She was in heat, but they did not meet her standards! By November she would have been desperate and any buck would do, but not yet. I decided last night that I would put all the bucks in a pen this weekend with Marc's help. When I found the same 4 bucks cornering the doe again this morning, I decided that I would not wait. Some of the older does could turn on the bucks and I did not want any of them hurt. I caught the first two bucks by surprise and then decided to see how many I could catch. Turns out that they are all so comfortable around me, that I was able to put all 19 in the pen. I did not have to chase down a single one!
Later this afternoon, I went out to check on them and was not one bit surprised to find several of the bucks with their heads stuck in the fence. Hopefully they will learn quickly. Each time I checked there were at least two with their heads stuck and they were not the same two. There is the real danger that a doe in heat could bash the buck's head and possibly break his neck, so the checks are a necessity for a few days.
The pens are in a constant state of repair. We were supposed to have a welder come out tomorrow to redo this pen, but he had to reschedule, so it will look like this for a few weeks. Unfortunately, animals have to go in pens during the breeding season to protect them from each other and to ensure that I know who is bred to whom. I try not to breed back to parents which is why I bought two bucks in Oregon this summer. Tor is in Oregon right now and will be bringing them back next weekend. The older does will be happy!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Paperwork and Deadlines

Paperwork is not my strong point. I finally found the cameo that I was looking for, so I have now listed my pattern for sale on etsy. The collar itself is also for sale for $245. It is a one size fits all and from a first kid mohair fleece and Merino blend. One of a kind! Doubt that I will make another. The ruffle almost did me in!

Now I am going to update my website for the wool festival page. Can't believe that it is just a little over a month away.