Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve and the First Lamb of the Season

 I have started spinning freeform yarns again as well as more feathered yarn. The yarn above is one of two that can be found on my www.uniquedesignsbykathy.etsy shop.
 this is the first lamb of the season. He was born Monday outside. His mother was really good and followed me into the barn when I scooped him up. My theme for names this year is Nuts and Bolts. I am naming him "Washer" since there is so much rain right now. He is only a few days old, but growing vigorously.
 You can see how foggy it is right now. Dreary weather, so I am sitting under bright lights to keep energetic. Hard to tell in this picture, but the Merinos, due to deliver soon, and the kids from this year are fighting to get at the grain. We are feeding them some outside the barn while we load up the barn feeders. This is where all of my earning go. This is about 1/4 of the animals - they are now separated according to sex, breed and delivery due dates.
Christmas Eve is a special day of the year for me since it is my birthday, wedding anniversary and the night before Christmas. My daughter sent the flowers and the cards are from Kyle, Marc and other relatives. Thanks to all who sent me notes, and that includes those who follow me on Facebook.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Winter, New Yarns and Still Shearing Goats

Red, Black and White Freeform
Turquoise Southwestern Freeform

Red Maple Freeform
 I have been spinning between shows and I am finally having time to post yarns on my etsy shop: I have designed a few new yarns with patterns that show them off. Take time to check them out.
 Winter is definitely upon us. We have already had snow once and expect to have 4 inches on Wednesday. The goats and sheep are still on pasture. We fenced in the wooded area behind the back fence and the goats and sheep will be allowed in there after I shear. They are in gorgeous full fleeces now and I don't want them to get burrs.
This was the last colored kid that I sheared this afternoon. I have three white does left and then I will be starting on the yearling does. The fleeces are gorgeous and I washing and dyeing them. Still looking for someone professional to do my adult angora goats and Merinos!

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Big E Fiber Festival

I have already set up my booth at the Big E in West Springfield, Massachusetts. I have new feathered yarns and freeform yarns as well as a new model for the Extreme Lambs Tail hat, since I sold the first one at SAFF. This is the seventh show in a row. I have next weekend at home, but I will be busy shearing yearling and kid does. I will be putting shirts on them and putting them in the barn with a heater for a few weeks. They have some lovely fleeces.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Spinning at Stitches East 2014

Got inspired to spin lamb's tail that are exaggerated today. I have been spinning delicate tails and wondered how huge ones would look. As you look at my wheel turning, you can see the white blur of the tails flying around. I can see an exotic scarf or a bad hair day hat made from it. I am currently spinning a dark version and plan to spin a pink one tomorrow, unless another inspiration hits!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Fall is a busy time on the farm

 I am busy spinning new styles of yarns for the shows that I am attending this fall. Last weekend I was in Pennsylvania for Knitters' Day Out. They were fascinated with my feathered collar, but I sold out of that style yarn, since I only had one set. I spent this week experimenting with different colors and feathers.

Come see me in the Ruritan Building at the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival in Berryville, Virginia, this weekend. Sat 10-5, Sun 10-4. If you have seen me there before, I am in the same spot.
 I have been shearing goats when Marc is around to help me do their bellies and legs. I can do two kids in the time that it takes me to do one adult. If anyone is looking for a great kid or yearling buck, this is the weekend to do it. I cannot over winter them, so they are all for sale.
 I taught a wet felting glass earlier this month. This is my bowl. I always make them reversible. We all had a good time and each of our projects expressed our personalities. lovely bowls and bags.
I always try to have at least one batch of black kid mohair available for the Medieval Collar with a Modern Twist. My bag f black kid mohair from last year is almost gone. I only have one really black kid, so the roving will be closer to silver this year.

Next weekend I will be at the Waterford Fair in Waterford, Virginia.

The weekend after I will be in Hartford, Connecticut for Stitches East.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

New Yarns, New Sheep, New Experiments

I have been spinning more yarns and  listing quite a few online I have to wait until Thursday when our data usage resets. Right now I am at Starbucks in Mt. Airy updating my web stuff. Too many videos that just start playing on Facebook are also an issue. I might have to un follow those who post them. The past two weeks have been horrible with nothing but email.
I have been shifting from art yarns to hat yarns since winter is coming. The three at the front are all from rovings that I just got back from Gurdy Run Mill. I am trying to sample all of the bags, so I can price them accurately. Just because they are mohair, does not mean that they are great!
Can't believe that the leaves are already changing and that I have had to strip out most of my garden to plant fall crops!

We just bought two dairy sheep, so I can experiment with their milk for cheese and soap next year. Most East Friesians are white, but as a fiber artist, I just had to go for the color. Their fleeces are not quite as nice as the Shetland's, but they have the advantage of being heavier fleeces and being dual purpose. If you are looking for lovely Shetland ewes for a spinner's flock, please come and pick some out really soon.

My latest experiment involves making soap using goats' milk. It was not as hard as I expected. I don't really plan on selling it. I cannot sell the blue green soap, since I did not use cosmetic grade dye. I plan to felt that soap and see whether it holds the dye. I don't want to have a blue body!
The huge squash is one of seven that are in my panty. The seeds were labelled as winter spaghetti squash. They look like butternut, but they taste like spaghetti. The largest one I have picked so far weighs almost 14 pounds. I am in the process of baking them and freezing them. I researched and this type of squash is supposed to turn orange when ripe and weigh between 15 and 30 pounds. The see package says between 2 and 3 pounds. Something must have been packaged incorrectly. I have a 20 pounder in the garden that has just started to change color. Any excuse for a new freezer!
And, I am still waiting on the alpacas to deliver. They are super spitty right now, but a week over 12 months. Maybe they are just trying to keep me feeding them grain! Will let you know, if they deliver! 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Farming is not just animals

In three days, my plants grew 3 to 12 inches. I did a show in western Pennsylvania, which is not worth doing again, and came back to find my garden is almost a jungle. Some seeds from last year sprung up as volunteers, so the chickens will have more to enjoy. wouldn't you figure that they would be the vegetables that tasted horrible? Lots of pumpkins! 
Winter and Thanksgiving are due at the beginning of August They are getting testy, so we are keeping a close eye on them.
The chickens that I bought for feathers are doing well. I love the color variations. I am fairly certain that a few of them are hens.
The latest project on my Majacraft Dynamic loom. Using a 10/2 in the weft sure adds time to the weaving, but the end result will be worth it.

Hope everyone is enjoying their summer. Very weird on in terms of weather.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Catch me on Facebook

I am still waiting for my new computer to arrive. Hopefully, any day now and then the laborious task of downloading everything off an online system that we had been storing all but my photos to. I think I lost two months of pictures, but the best have been stored on my remove able disk and I had not deleted from my cameras for ages.

Trees branches are still everywhere and more keep flying with each thunderstorm. The goats keep eating the leaves, so it does not look as bad as when it first happened.

I really enjoyed my class with Esther Rodgers of Jazzturtle Creations. I am back to my own style of spinning with a new twist or two, but I was really inspired by the weaving portion of the workshop. I bought a Majacraft Dynamic loom for the workshop and was really impressed by the fun variations that you can get. Look for some new designs and styles. I have been posting on my Facebook page: Kathy Withers. You are welcome to follow me there. Unfortunately, my iPad will not allow me to post photos on this version of my blog, so I will post a few when I am finally up and running again.

I am now spinning a series of yarns that include large beads and texture. It is a slightly modified version of my freeform yarns. If twisted, they make gorgeous necklaces. I am trying to keep the yardage down, so they will be more affordable.

Tomorrow morning, I am off to New Castle, PA, for an art show at the Hoyt Arts Center. It is open from 4-8 p.m. in the evening and then Saturday from noon to 8 p.m. If you live in the area, please stop in.

Hope everyone is having a more settled summer than we are!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Always something

I just finished designing a new shawl and I have actually spun two different color ways for it. They will all be listed as soon as we get our computer back.

We had a tornado touch down yesterday night and several trees were taken down. The electric line coming into the house had the neutral destroyed, so lots of circuits got burnt. Most of the surge protectors were burnt out. The one for the computer worked for all but the hard drive. My studio door was shattered and so was the windshield on the Avalanche. It will not keep me from heading out to the Jazzturle workshop in Oxford, CT, today. Marc will drive me to a friend's and she and I will drive her car.  Terrible of me, but I feel no guilt leaving it all to Marc. I had wanted one of the trees cut down because every time the wind blowed, it sounded like a freight train was in our room. When we had all of the trees trimmed in mid April, the arborist said it was a healthy tree and would not cut it. That is the tree that landed on our upstairs porch and had huge branches fly across the roof to land on my truck.

The animals were up in that area and Chowing down on leaves as it poured. I spent half hour checking under all of the tree to make sure none were stuck under. All are well! Will post photos when I get to the hotel. Verizon wireless on my IPad is just too slow!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Massachusetts Sheep and Wool Festival

 We have two geese that have decided that we are not going to bother them. They now wander all over the front yard with the chickens and watch me as I work in the garden. They lost their nest to the flood and must be bored.
 Finished knitting my last collar. I was hoping to finish putting together the pattern, but I could not get motivated. Allergies are making me weary.
This is my most recent freeform yarn. It is mostly Merino and some black kid mohair and all from my animals. The fiber is so fine that an 11 US needle will be too large. I sure hope there are artists in Massachusetts!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Flooding and New Class List

Since the barn and small shed areas are flooded, the sheep are back on the far pasture and the angora goats with kids are in what most people would call our front yarn. The kids are loving the tree stumps, steps and the rocks around a small spring. We plan to leave them these despite the hassle of having to open and close gates as we arrive and leave the property. This weekend, Marc is going to put moveable fencing around the surviving fruit trees, so we can let the goats into the only area that we have kept them off. The grass is several inches there, so they will be happy.

In preparation for the Maryland sheep and Wool Festival, I have drawn up a list of the classes that I teach and put dates to a few of them. To sign up, I need a 50% deposit. Let me know and I will send you an invoice and my Paypal account info.

Art Spinning  May 13 10-3 $100 includes supplies

Freeform Knit and Crochet May 28 $75 10% off yarns on class day.

Nuno felting May 31 10-1 $75 includes supplies

Wet felting a bowl/bag June 7 $25 instruction fee plus materials fee

Wet felting a landscape June 14 $25 instruction fee plus materials fee

Beginning Spinning on a wheel $100 for 2 hours.

Abstract Lace $55—set your own date.

Art Weaving—set your own date.

Call to set up your own class. Art spinning and weaving minimum of 1 student, all other classes 2 or more.




Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Around the Farm and Maryland sheep and Wool Festival

 In preparation for the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, I wandered the farm looking for the perfect picture to use on my banner. This photo appears to be close, but I found a better one. Come check it out. I will be in the sheep dog area in the northwest section of the fairgrounds.

 The kids are enjoying  being out on the front yard. they are running around climbing on rocks while their moms are grazing.
 This mom had twins. They are really heavy kids. They were among the first born. All are keepers.
 The Shetland sheep were also out. The two little white blobs are twin lambs belonging to the sheep at left. The sheep and goats are in the same fenced area but they hang as separate herds.
And there always has to be one. This doe is one of my oldest and she got pregnant last. She never got pregnant by the black buck, so I put her in with the white buck. She is a drama queen and waited till the second round to let the buck catch her. Kids any day now?

I am busy pricing roving, carding large batts and spinning art yarns. I am down to one freeform yarn, so I need to sit and focus. Good thing that it is raining, so there is not a lot of temptation to run around the farm. Marc was kind enough to do all of the feeding and milking this morning.

I have a new flock number for Maryland. Ran out of the Arizona tags and finally found the right place to order new ones. Another part of my past life is being left behind.

See you at MSDW!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Off to Powhatan Fiber Festival

Was supposed to set up my canopy and grid wall this afternoon in Powhatan, Virgina, but thunderstorms and tornado watches made it impossible. I am in a local hotel, so will get up super early to go set up. If you are in the area, stop in and say hello.

Next weekend is the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. I will have a 10 by 15 tent in the sheepdog area.  I am looking forward to it, since it is one of the largest fiber shows in the US. I live only 10 minutes from there, so I am hoping people will come visit the farm. I will be bringing lots of roving, handspun yarn, patterns, batts and some mill spun yarn. Think color!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Spring, New Designs and Art Yarn

 I am hoping that this will be our last snow for the year.
 I thought Rosemary, one of our dairy goats, was due March 17. Guess she did not get bred that time. She has the blank stare that a lot of the goats get right before delivery. Of course, she has had this look for a few weeks. She is now enormous. Last year we could not tell that she was pregnant and out popped a kid. Definitely twins this time around. Good thing I saved a lot of her milk from last year, because most of my sheep and goats have delivered already.
 Winter is a good time for designing. I started the sweater around Christmas and then decided that it needed a hat and cowl to go with it. I finished it just in time for spring, when I won't need it!
 I have been playing around with new yarns and this is what happened to my feathered yarn. The pattern is available as a digital download on my Etsy shop: I have one yarn kit spun up and custom colors may be ordered.
 Spots has given me the cutest lambs so far, They are both ewes and have the modern style fleece. It will be very crimpy.
I have also been busy spinning. The above batch has already been sold, but I thought I would share what I have been doing. I have lots of yarns on Etsy, if you are interested.

Upcoming Shows: Carolina Fiber festival, Stitches South, Powhatan Fiber Fest, Maryland Sheep and wool Festival, and Massachusetts Sheep and Woolcraft Festival.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Spinning a Feathered Yarn

 Until I decided to actually sit down and spin my chickens' feathers, I never realized exactly how many different types of feather a single chicken had. I raise Black Sussex chickens because they are cold hardy, produce an above average number of eggs and excellent foragers. I allow them to free range during the day and close them in the coop at night to protect them from predators.

My goal was to produce a soft yarn that had feathers dangling from it. My first attempts involved several different ways of wrapping the feathers into the yarn using a core thread as well as threading the feathers on a thread. The wrapping method caused the feathers to be wrapped unevenly and parallel to the yarn. The threaded feathers kept splitting where the needle had gone through the feather. Neither method worked for me since, besides not hanging the way I wanted, they looked sloppy and I did not feel that they were anchored securely.
I then came across some jewelry crimps with a hole in the top. I could crimp the feather inside the metal and thread each of the feathers onto a core thread and then place the feathers as I spun. I selected some of the softest feathers which were 3-4 inches in length.

I found a roving in my stash that coordinated with the feathers: a blend of alpaca and kid mohair in natural colors.
Spinning the yarn was a challenge, since the feathers were wispy and periodically got hung up in the holes.
When I wound the yarn off into a skein, I got some interesting effects. I made sure that I put enough twist in that the weight of the feathers would not cause the core thread to hang outside the yarn.
 Different lighting cause the feathers and yarn to look much lighter in color.
 Above is the yarn before I set the twist.
 The twist has been set and the yarn is now balanced.
A close up of the feathers attached to the yarn. My next challenge is to knit/weave or crochet it up into wearable art. I have spun a single to give me enough yardage.

Things to consider when spinning feathered yarns:

Commercial feathers available in craft stores are not the same as natural chicken/bird feathers. You have to read the fine print on the packaging to be sure that they are not dyed and that they can be washed. You have to be able to set the twist as well as remove the oils that your handling the fibers leave on your yarn. My test skein was washed and the feathers looked sickly until it dried and they fluffed back to the original state.

Some feathers are going to be too small to be held by the crimp and others will need a much larger crimp to be held in place. I used 6mm crimps for this skein.

Crimps come in several different colors. Be sure to pick one that coordinates with your feathers and yarn or the whole skein will look off. Art can very quickly become craft and crass when colors don't work together.

Let me know what you think! I have already come up with a few other ways to spin feathers, but I will save them for my freeform art yarn class.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

New Lambs and Yarns

 Above: Black Eyed Pea with her lambs born this morning. Cloudy and Showers are the names. Bet you can picture our weather!
 Sweet Pea and her lambs are out in the front yard with the rest of the sheep. They have figured out that they need to keep an eye on their mother. They are now sprinting around the field. I have handled them enough that they will let me pick them up. I could not catch them otherwise.
 It is supposed to rain and then snow again. We closed the farm gates so the sheep could get out of the barn for a while. It does not look like there is much to eat, but they seem to be finding something.
On Thursday I head off to the Ocean City, MD, for their first fiber festival. I have loads of new yarns and colors, so come check it out, if you have time. It closes on Sunday at 2 p.m. so don't wait till the  last minute.