Saturday, March 30, 2013

Shearing Day 2013!

We clipped Black Jack today! Here he is, below, looking slim and trim! He took it well, was not a squirmy worm this time. We think he understood that it doesn't hurt, and my, we always feel so much better after the haircut! The second photo below is of Jack, with his twin brother Mackenzie cautiously inspecting the new haircut. We sprayed Jack with Bug Block, rubbed it in to the skin, using disposable rubber gloves to protect ourselves. He is being treated for lice (not uncommon), and he is bothered by them. We will be shearing Mack tomorrow. The girls, Violet and Luna, have been sprayed as well. Once we shear Mack, we will spray him as well. Then, the big job of disinfecting the goat shed will be next on the list. Empty the shed on a warm day in the morning, strip it completely, spray with Sevin, close it up, goats outside for the day while it dries, then fresh bedding in the evening when goats are allowed back in. What a job!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Can spring finally be arriving at Huntington House?

Can it be? The coldest, snowiest, cloudiest March like a lion, out like a lamb? It is 52 degrees today, a warm watery sun up in the sky this March 29th...beautiful day. As I went to do chores this morning, I noticed the hyacinth poking their little green shoots up by the lamb here in the herb garden! What a true country dwellers treat! Mack, one of our Pygora goats, is beginning to blow off his winter down. Sadly, I lost this fleece, since I could not shear him when the fleece was ready to be taken, the end of January. Too cold out. Even inside the goat shed. I just recently invested in 2 Amish made goat coats. The next fleece WILL be harvested when ready, sometime in December or January. If you wait even 2 weeks from the time you see that the fleece is ready for harvesting, it will begin to mat and ultimately felt before blowing off. You can see in the photos below that the silvery down has started separating from the dark under coat. This undercoat is actually the guard hairs, wiry and coarse. These need to be separated before spinning the downy fleece. They will become the outer coat of the goat once the fleece comes off. The goat will wear this darker coat as the new downy fleece starts to come in over the summer. When the days start to get shorter, it signals the downy winter coat to start growing in in earnest! Lauren and I will begin clipping off the goats' fleeces, and put them in the compost bin this weekend. The boys will be sporting their new Amish blankets tomorrow night! This will keep them toasty until the warmer nights have arrived. They will look very different once they are shorn. I will post pictures soon!

Very Good Friday!

I scoured yet another fleece that I picked up for 6 dollars at the Connecticut Sheep Breeders Fiber Festival in Tolland, Ct several years ago. It is a "Heinz 57 variety fleece", that I purchased because of its soft, springy feel, and lovely silvery gray color. I noticed a small area of old bug infestation, removed that part, shook out the whole fleece to allow any dirt, chaff and "ABC" fiber (already been chewed! By the long gone bugs, that is....). I did not sort the fleece. I did remove the skirtings, and then gave it a pre soak in 125 degree water, in the sink. Then, I washed it in 3 batches, on top of the stove to get the temp up to about 140-150 degrees, with an appropriate amount of Power Scour. Love the light scent. This was followed by 2 rinses in hot tap water. Then, I rolled the gently squeezed out wool in a cushy towel to extract any remaining water ( see photos), and layer it out on the patio, on top of some old screens to air dry in the sun. There is a batch of 3rd clip yearling mohair next to the screen of gray wool in one of the photos. I had previously washed it, but it still felt a little greasy, and did not look as bright as the rest of the mohair I had washed from that fleece, in smaller batches! Next time I will wash smaller batches, it does make a difference when there is plenty of room for the dirty fiber to swish around in the water....the pot was too full, I guess! The mohair is squeaky clean, and as bright white and lustrous as it can be.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Interesting blogs
Fabulous photos and scenery from South America! Very inspiring. I will add more as I find them.....

Friday, March 8, 2013

Handspun Tunis Neckwarmer

The Tunis neck warmer is finished! The DK weight (light worsted size 3) yarn that I spun from it definitely has plenty of memory and is crisp enough to hold the neck warmer in place, aided by the 2x2 rib pattern. The yarn is soft enough for next to the skin wearability. I am so pleased with the process and the end result. And to think, I almost threw the fleece away, having found it packed away in my basement...who knew?
Here are the pattern directions:

You need about 2 ounces of DK weight yarn for this project.
Cast on 112 stitches with size 5 needles. Gauge is about 5-1/2 sts to the inch.
Work in knit 2 purl 2 ribbing for about an inch. On the next row, work 4 stitches in pattern, then yarn over, knit 2 together. This will be the first buttonhole. Finish the row in pattern, k2p2. Continue on until neck warmer is about 3 inches, and then work another buttonhole as before, knitting 4 sts at the beginning of the row, then yarn over, K2 together. Continuing on until the work measures about 5 inches, work the third buttonhole. When piece is about 6 inches, cast off. Weave in ends, place buttons and sew on corresponding to the knit buttonholes you made. I like to wear it with the bottom button left open, but it works either way. I would like to make these up to give as gifts. They would be beautiful in dyed color ways, with variegated handspun yarn....or pretty in a commercially produced yarn as well. I am very partial to handspun, though, and I enjoy the process of selecting the fleeces, using their best attributes for the projects I have in mind, sorting the wool, cleaning and prepping it, sampling yarn production on my spinning wheel, and creating the finished work. The possibilities are endless!