Monday, December 31, 2012

Pygora Goat Fleece

Jack and Mackenzie both have beautiful fleeces that are nearing "harvesting". I am watching the two of them closely, since the fleece must be shorn just at the right time, since it WILL begin to felt on the hoof within a week or two of it being ready to sheer. The cold weather is an issue, since I don't want to shear too much off. They need to keep warm in this cold New England climate! If I can leave a good inch and a half or so on them, they will be warm and toasty. But, I run the risk of felting the fleece if I leave it on too long, in an attempt to grow it longer. Ideally, I would like at least a three inch staple on the shorn fleece. That means they need about a for or five inch staple growth...

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Italian Ricotta Christmas Cookies

These Italian Ricotta Christmas Cookies are fabulous. Enough said.


1 cup butter, softened
1-3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 15oz. Whole milk ricotta cheese
2 tsps vanilla
4 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda

1/4 cup butter, softened
3-4 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
4 tablespoons milk
Sprills or chopped nuts

Cream sugar and butter. Add eggs and blend. Add ricotta and vanilla. Blend in the dry ingredients gradually. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto a parchment lined pan. I like to lightly roll the dough into 1" balls, to keep them consistently sized. They should be about 2" apart on the pan. Bake @ 350 degrees about 10 minutes, watching carefully, as they burn on the bottom quickly if left too long. Cool on racks. Mix frosting ingredients with a mixer to a fluffy smooth consistency. Frost cookies when cool. Add sprills or nuts immediately. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

German Gingerbread House

A"Lebkuchen Hauschen" stands in the keeping room this year for the holidays. What fun, and how wonderful the house smelled during the baking process. This gingerbread becomes rock hard, as does the frosting, as it sits. I plan on storing it, to save for as long as possible. I cut a plywood base the size of the bottom of a large plastic storage tub. That way, I can seal it up, and pop it in the tub for the next year. Of course, you cannot store it in extreme temperatures, but as long as it is sealed against moisture and humidity, it should be fine in the basement. I made the dough in three batches, over the course of several days, cut the pieces while slightly warm, then assembled it over the course of several more evenings, with three batches of frosting.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Mohair and More!

This weekend, I had a chance to try out a scouring product that I won as a door prize this past November at the "Gathering" (a Handspinner's conference, held biannually throughout the Northeast Handspinner's Guild)! I gave the mohair locks I had washed a couple of weeks ago another bath, since they were so very soiled. The product is called Power Scour, put out by Unicorn Products. I was pleasantly surprised. The mohair came cleaner, and I was able to use water from the, of course. I usually use Orvus WA Paste, available from livestock or farm and garden establishments, generally used for washing sheep before showing them. Also a good product, but I like the fact that Power Scour can be used with a slightly lower temperature, and it is lightly scented, which I personally like.The mohair is ready for some sampling. Before I wash any more mohair from this particularly soiled fleece, I will attempt to remove more of the chaff and loose dirt and debris, by willowing it (beating it with sticks, for the uninitiated!). I found a Rambouillet cross fleece, in dark chocolate, in my cellar this morning. I confess, it is one of the casualties of my fleece stashing habit, which many handspinners are privy to! A lovely fine soft fleece.....I cleaned some of it with the Power Scour, and as you can see, it looks great! Smells nice, too! A couple of rinses and no agitation, yielded good success with both fleece samples.

Monday, November 19, 2012


I had been searching for a mohair fleece for a couple of years, and found a small third clip yearling fleece at Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival last month! Imagine my delight to find one that was not too large, and the price was right....! One drawback, though, it was heavily soiled as you can see in the photo on the left. But I took the chance, thinking that if it did not come super clean/white, I could obtain some muted shades by dyeing it, at the very least. I asked Robin Russo, spinning instructor extraordinaire, how I should proceed with washing it, when I attended The Gathering last month (for those uninitiated, this event is held biannually through the Northeast Handspinners Guild. Two days of spinning/fiber arts classes, spin-ins, a vendors market, lectures and so on). She suggested placing batches into a net bag, soaking in hot water with Orvus WA Paste, rinsing several times in the bag until the water runs clear, with hot water and no agitation. Add a couple of tablespoons of white vinegar to neutralize the rinse, and lay out to dry. This method should maintain the lock structure of the curly mohair. I followed her advice, and I was pleased with the results! You can see on the right that it lightened considerably, and, I suspect it will spin up whiter than it looks. It is fine and lustrous. I bet I have lost half the weight in dirt! Robin had 2 articles published in the Fall 2012 issue of Spin Off magazine that I recommend to beginner and intermediate spinners. It is about her experience working with and East Freisian fleece. She outlines the process she used to clean and prep the fleece, and how she experimented with it to determine what her end use would be, based on the results. Se tried some blending with other fibers too. The second article discusses the sweater she designed and created with the yarn she spun from that fleece. Thank you Robin, for sharing your knowledge and expertise. I purchased a sinful amount of several species of silk fiber in all sorts of preparations from Robin's booth at the Gathering! Can't wait to start spinning it, I can just picture it blended with some of Mackenzie's cashmere-like Pygora fleece! I am sure he would approve! I will post my experiments in mohair soon.....

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Lowell Quilt Festival 2012

During our visit to Lowell, Mass., we stopped by an art studio and saw some beautiful art quilts.....

Boot Cotton Mill, Lowell, Mass. August 2012

We spent the day in Lowell, touring the American Textile History Museum and The Boott Cotton Mill. This was fascinating! The mill had a small fraction of its looms running, and the sound was deafening. At the peak of production in the 1800's, there were 1000 looms running per floor.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Rigid heddle experiments

I have been sampling warp and weft floats to explore pick up techniques for this type of weaving. It is so much fun! I am following Jane Patrick's book "The Weaver's Idea Book", which is a wonderful resource with very clear instructions and colorful, inspirational photos. I highly recommend it!