Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Painting, Dipping and Dyeing

It was a warmish day today with no wind. A perfect day for dyeing yarns. We've put in some lace and fingering weights this year, hoping to move past the current fascination with bulky and chunky yarns. Alpaca and mohair are such dense fibers and are sufficiently expensive that a bulky weight is overkill--like a bulky silk or bulky weight cashmere. We're hoping that knitters will put a strand of our light and vividly colored yarn with their neutral wools and cottons.

We started with our favorites--hand paints. Our challenges this year are to be more organized and specific about how we produce a color combination so we can reproduce it, and to give names to our colorways. (I had to find out what colorway means on Yarnplayer's blog to be able to use that word...I feel kind of smart for using it now.)

In progress is the combo that we're calling "Thistle". It echoes the colors of the Canadian thistles that infest our fields and ditch banks. It's a hideous weed with spikes and stickers, but it's a very pretty weed when in bloom, just before I spray it and kill it with 2-4-D. It's shown hanging to dry alongside some solid colored lilac yarn.

My daughter put together some nice combinations as well, using pinks and raspberry colors along with some yellow and orange here and there. We've named one "Autumn Sunset" and the other "Passion Punch", named after her favorite flavor of sherbet. She made it by splattering the yarn with color. She also splattered the walls, curtains and floor in my wool barn, so "Passion Punch" will be with us for a long, long time.

We also did some solids we named "Bubble Gum" and "Red Hot". My sister Cookie, painted one that we're calling "Tutti Fruitti" by splattering red, orange and teal on white yarn in quite a controlled fashion and completely avoiding the walls. We thought we may have to overdye the batch because it looked a little odd, but after steaming, it turned out really good. We have another day planned tomorrow to work on greens and blues.

I read in a magazine about using a knitting machine to quickly knit a "blank" of undyed yarn and then hand paint it to create a non-repeating yarn. I tried that for the first time last year and liked the results, but I used one color that didn't mesh with the rest of the color progression. I tried a small sample again today and I'm excited to do more. I used a white yarn and progressively dyed from red to orange to yellow. Because the yarn is already knitted, when it's dry, I'll unravel it, skein it and it will be fabulous as a non-repeater against a black or perhaps brown background. The color blocks will be yards long, rather than inches or feet long. I'd like to do some autumn colors this way and knit some garments with leaf patterns and perhaps some twining cables to imitate the fall foliage. Muted greens, oranges, yellows, browns and reds...I'm actually salivating.

The wind has come up since we came in and it's getting cold quickly. We'll see how we fare tomorrow. After I post good pictures of dye lots I'll need loads of help putting names with them.

Just a quick shot at the very end of our little helpers. Mr. Alf, the guard cat turned nurse maid, was looking after the little ones this afternoon. Cheeseman was kicked out of the barn for disturbing the peace. "Passion Punch" footprints tell the tale.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Sweater-in-the-making and the story behind it

Hello! This is Bethy again!
This is a picture of my first sweater-in-progress. Until now I've been to afraid to do anything other than scarves, hats, blankets, and occasionally a single mitten or sock. But suddenly I had the urge to be brave. What I really wanted to do was make the "wrap" in the picture below. But it never worked out that way.

At first it was too thin to be nice looking. So then I had to double the yarn I was knitting with making it twice as thick. After ripping it out a couple times, I finally finished it. It was just me and my mom and both of us were finishing up some projects. When I had finally threaded in the last loose ends, I jumped up, put it on, and displayed it proudly. After wearing it for a while I realized it didn't fit well unless I put my hands behind my back and then it kept riding up. I guess I didn't notice that the form in the picture didn't have any arms and that does make difference in how something fits.

After a few minutes, me and my mom decided we didn't like it. "What are we going to do?!" I asked. "We'll make it into a sweater!" proclaimed Mama (being the practical one). So now it's going to be a ribbed sweater. If you look closer at the half-done sweater, you'll see it sucks in at the bottom. Luckily for me, I makes it perfect for a form-fitting sweater. The top will fit the chest fine and the bottom will form to the waist.
I'm working on the sleeves now, frantically knitting(or am going to be frantically knitting, seeing as I just started the sleeves last night!) to be done for the Christmas Boutique in a town called Windsor close by. I hope it turns out all right! And I sure hope it will sell! I'll get pictures of the thing when I get the sleeves, neck, and edges done! Woohoo! My first ever sweater! My moms been bugging me to knit a sweater for ages, but I've been dragging my feet about it until now I've forced myself into it! Oh well!

For your enjoyment here is a picture of the CheeseMan! Go Chester Cheeto!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Goats, Wooly and Otherwise

It's past time for us to shear our goats. Every spring and fall, we shear our angoras to harvest their mohair. It looks like doll hair, and in fact, many doll manufacturers use mohair for that purpose. As for us, we skirt, wash, and process our mohair into yarn to use for weaving and knitting. Alpaca/mohair blends are some of our favorite yarns to knit with and the colors of each compliment each other nicely. Alpaca is a wool, that carries some luster and takes very little to lend a lot of warmth. Mohair is a hair that carries loads of luster and is known for the halo is produces in finished goods. Both take up dye at different rates and the combination of the two together make for some interesting results.

The animals themselves originate in Turkey. Like most goats, they're social when hand raised and they like people, although they're suspicious of strangers. We leave their horns intact, rather than burn them off as babies. This gives us a nice way to handle them, although they don't like to have their horns messed with. Our angoras have never used their horns as weapons against people, but they can do quite a lot of damage to fences and can put up quite a show of head butting with one another. They're very territorial and will butt a fence when they feel that any other animal is encroaching on their turf or threatening their feed.

They're slop hogs, one and all, and seem to be able to eat constantly without ill effects. There's a myth that circulates out there that goats will eat anything whatsoever, but that's not the case at all. They can be quite picky when food is plentiful. The truth of it is that goats are survivors and will eat whatever they have to eat in order to do so. Our goats have never been in that position and never will be.

There's also an idea circulating that goats are geniuses at getting out of their pens and enclosures. This is, unfortunately, quite true. It's a case of the proverbial grass being greener. Our goats love to push at gates and fences and find a way out, which is immediately followed by frantic calls for help to be rescued from their own sins. They don't really want to be out because it's an unknown and they may be exposed to something apart from their routine--and like all livestock, they're creatures of routines and habit. They love their schedules and are the first to remind the care giver that she's late getting out to the barn. What an amazing sense of time they have!! When they get out, we open the gate and they all run back into the pen in a panic to see who is first.

They're actually a lot like children in the way they scrap and fight, in the way they compete to be first, in the way they hoard their food and in the ultimate sweetness of their temperaments. They're a lovely bunch of bickering ladies.

These are some of our kids from this past spring. We had 12 kids and sold all but 4, keeping two blacks and two whites. We don't really want to grow our herd. We already have more mohair than we can keep up with, but we absolutely adore angora kids. They look and act like puppies. They even chew and nibble like puppies. Bottle feeding can be a feeding frenzy and we just love it.

We don't milk our angoras, although you can. We get the milk to feed our babies, our kittens, our dogs and our family from two dairy goats, Nubians, that we keep for that specific purpose. Pansy, our Grandma goat, is 14 and past her prime. We don't breed her any longer and she'll live here until her life is over. I think she's given enough for one goat. Her picture is the one on our title bar above and in the last picture here. She's the nicest old lady I've ever met, and I've met more than a few!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The Ranchers at Work

Hi! It's Bethy again! I am posting some pictures of the Ranchers(do you remember the Ranchers?) hard at work picking, carding, dyeing and needle felting. Picking is the process of fluffing the fleece up with the most wicked machine in the world. The machine is basically just combing the fleece out so it's easier to card. Carding is the process of combing it out again but more evenly so it can be spun or felted. The Ranchers are doing needle felt here. You put the fleece on top of a foam something-or-other and gently poking it until it's felted. Then you cut them out in shapes(at least that's what the Rancher's are doing) like angels, bells, and gingerbread men for Christmas tree ornaments. The last process is dyeing the felted shapes into colors. Although I don't have any pictures right now, I'll try my best to get them the next time the Ranchers do this and I can take pictures.
These are hard working people who I just love with all my heart. My mom probably already told you but these are people that are developmentally disabled adults. Some of them were born autistic, some were born retarded, some had accidents that caused brain damage. But no matter what happened to them, I love them so much. They're all as sweet as they can be!
Well that's all for now(from me anyway). Thanks for reading!