A New Yarn

There are so many times in ones life when your level of excitement about something actually makes you feel like a kid. A renewed youthful feeling. I’ve been feeling that was a lot since the first of the year. Today, though, has taken the prize!

I had my first meeting with my fiber processor about creating Breeze Hill Farms’ first yarn line. After spending hours “developing” blends using only natural colors and seeing a sampling of the end result – yep, I feel like a kid and yes, we are ready for this.

It is amazing how beautiful a pile of natural colored wool and alpaca can become when transformed into the perfect rovings and yarn. I took photos but I’m not sharing yet. You must be patient. I’m pretty sure you will agree it was worth the wait.

I love my super cool yarn from Breeze Hill Farm!

I love my super cool yarn from Breeze Hill Farm!

What Happened To The Fiber Samples??

Several months ago, I had posted information about fiber blends that I had on the list to offer this year and I’ve been asked by several, who had expressed interest, where are the samples? That’s an excellent question! The fiber is sitting on my front porch waiting for UPS to pick it up to send to the processor. In all of the craziness with Mom’s  illness, general farm stuff..I forgot to pack up the fiber and send it. This forgetting thing, no doubt, comes with age!

For those who didn’t see or hear what my plans are..here we go. We have approximately 100 Alpaca fleeces (20 of which are black and will not be included in this) in every color available in natural alpaca, 30 sheep fleeces in colors ranging from dark blue silver to white, a fairly large amount of Mohair and a little bit of Cashmere. I have taken 3/4 of all of these fibers and am having them blended and/or variegated, carded into roving, and 3/4 of that spun into yarn (dk weight). I’ve done a bit of this on the drum carder, it’s absolutely beautiful..not sharing a photo because I don’t want to spoil the surprise. I’ve even spun up some and taken it a step further and over dyed a little bit of it. All I can say is “Oh My!”.

If you want to get on the waiting list for samples, just email me at breezehillfarm@verizon.net and I’ll add you to the list. According to the processor, we’ve got about a 2 month wait, so by the time it comes in, I get the samples out and you place your orders..it’ll be a great time of year to start thinking about Christmas projects.

When Is It Too Much Rain?

This has been a burning question for days now. Every time we turn on the news, we see reports about flooding..every time we look out our door, we see flooding. There has to be a point where enough is enough. Our pastures are on the way to lush and green but any grass growth that happens to be under the taller stuff is rotting. Our garden spot is standing in water, not because the drainage is bad but because there is so much water it has no where to go. The sheep and goats are both looking for elevated surfaces to stand on..s.o.p. for a goat but sheep are typically ground dwellers.

On the plus side though, all of this moisture is making for an absolutely beautiful Spring. The herbs are growing by leaps and anything that could bloom, is blooming. There are many new Irises showing this year that we’ve never seen before..can’t wait to see what colors they are. For years we have only had one or two little Lilly of The Valley pop up and bloom. The year I’ve counted 68 individual plants coming up. So from the floral garden standpoint..the rains (and snows) have created a beautiful display.

Talked to my shearer yesterday and we’re scheduled for shearing in two weeks. I know my girls will be happy when that’s done. Two of my smaller (more Romney) girls were actually walking on their side fleece, so this weekend I trimmed up their sides..the fleeces are really nice. I still think that I’m going to do a “pool it all together” processing this year. Since the Alpaca fleeces that I have are so plentiful and our girls fleeces are looking so great, a blended fiber will be nice and something very different. The end result should give me a lot of fiber to dye, over-dye and leave natural, so keep a look out for those to be listed around May or June. I have several people on a waiting list to get samples and if any of our readers are interested in samples too, just email me or leave a comment. When they’re ready, I’ll email you to get your address.

While on the subject of fleeces, all of my little goat crosses (Angora x Alpine) blew their fleeces almost a month early. I wasn’t able to salvage any of it. The fleece that they produce is the equivalent of Cashmere with the luster of Mohair. It’s really pretty, takes dye very well and I love to blend it with my white sheep wool..but not this year.

Soap update..it’s curing nicely and I should be getting it out to my customers very soon. I have cut back on the variety of fragrances for the time being (until I get orders caught up) and am going to start a Garden Collection of fragrances later in the season. I am still experiencing a hold up on the lotions and butters but hope to get started on those soon.

Have a wonderful day and safe day!

Cria Fleece Is No Good..I Don’t Think So!

My post today for Fiber Arts Friday is somewhat boring and possibly a little educational.

6 hour old Cria-Taken at Shady Nook Alpacas

A few weeks ago, someone, somewhere mentioned on Twitter, I think, that rumor has it – cria fleece isn’t really good for much. At the time I responded that this simply isn’t true so I thought I would use my post today to elaborate.

One could use the same statement for many “baby fibers”. For instance, Lambs Wool. Lambs wool is not the 1st years fleece from a lamb. It is the fiber growth from birth to the shearing done just before taking the lamb to market. That’s looking at about 4 months growth on the fiber. The fleeces are very small with short staple lengths and full of stress breaks from weaning, diet change and general growth of the lamb. Lambs wool is difficult to spin but it’s beautiful, soft and very much desirable. The first years fiber from a lamb is called a Hoggatt. This fleece is probably the longest, strongest, best fleece you will ever shear from that sheep in it’s life.

A Cria fleece is much like lambs wool only in that it has a very short staple length. The cria fleece has it’s share of breaks in the fiber from diet and stress changes too. The fleeces are tiny but absolutely gorgeous (as any Alpaca or Llama breeder will agree). When you have one, you want to do all kinds of wonderful things with it but the fleece is hard to work with. Where mature Alpaca and Llama fiber tends to be more difficult to spin, because of the lack of memory, the cria fleece is multiple times worse. The staple length often resembles dust, but keep in mind, that is all cotton is and it’s spun into very strong yarns and thread. So, from this seasoned spinners perspective, I don’t find cria fleece to be undesirable to work with at all. I’ve heard many alpaca and llama breeders, through the years, say, “Cria fleece, oh yeah, we have it micron tested (why I’m not sure), judged and then we chuck it!”.

I think of all of the wonderful things I’ve done with cria fleeces. I’ve spun them as is-makes awesome yarn for baby garments! I’ve blended it with a little bit of mohair and wool. I’ve even blended it with silk. It’s absolutely beautiful dyed and over dyed and added as fine strands to a stronger more mature fiber. If you raise Alpaca’s, and have fleece from one of your animals that’s not so great, cria fiber can be blended with it to soften up the yarns spun from that fleece. What is they say? “The possibilities are endless!” Don’t forget felting too. Tiny little fleeces can always be used in felting projects.

I don’t want to step on any toes here but sometime people will tell you something is no good and it’s simply because they don’t have certain fibers readily available or they’ve had one bad experience. I am not a Master Spinner but I have been a dedicated spinner since 1994. I’ve spun rabbit, chinchilla, kid mohair, sheep, cotton, flax, soy, corn silk, dog and cat. Every fiber has it’s place.

Me personally, I love the baby fleeces the best! There is no garment more beautiful than a baby blanket made with baby yarn. It may take 4 fleeces to complete it but the end result is to die for.

Be sure to check out Fiber Arts Friday and join in!

Fall Fiber Festival & Sheepdog Trials

Yesterday we decided a day off from everything was necessary for mental and physical health. We got up early, took care of the livestock and headed for Montpelier in Orange county, VA, to the Fall Fiber Festival & Sheepdog Trials.

What a beautiful day! We still can’t believe how clear the air was . It was a little cool when we left home but by the time we arrived, it was in the mid 70’s. An added benefit to the trip was the leaves are starting to turn. We took in everything – all 5 large tents with rows of vendors selling everything fiber – beautiful hand dyed silk and wool blend yarns and rovings – there was a lot of yarn. It seemed that the vendors choose to cater more to the hand worker than the spinner.

We passed by the outside tents and went over to the Livestock Exhibit tent. They had a good example of various different fiber producing animals – the Angora Rabbits, Llama and Alpaca were not represented very well in this exhibit but I later found more of them in the outside tents. After looking around we found our friends Magi & Jay from Magi’s Wood Farm, you know, where we just got our Icelandic’s from.

Magi & Me

Magi & Me

She was happy to see me because she had let a child play with her wheel and it wasn’t working. She’s been having a problem with it every since she got it but it was worse. Later in the day, hubby found the same wheel and discovered her problem is incorrect set up. Hopefully the pictures he took of the correct set up will fix her problem.

Hubby wanted to take in the sheep shearing demos and I really did want to check out those outside tens, so I left him. My first stop was the Fleece Sale tent. Lot’s of beauties in there.  I found a CVM Sheep fleece that was really beautiful – when I looked at the price, I came very close to passing out – 2.2 lbs./$102.00. Needless to say that didn’t come home with me.

As I walked by the outside tents – something caught my eye – A spinning wheel! It looked to be very much like an Ashford Traditional but then again..it didn’t. I’m not going to tell you the price yet. This wheel had suffered a child assult on Saturday and it was broken. I got a handful of roving and a chair and set out to fix this cool little wheel. Whatever this child had done to it, I don’t know but it would not spin at all. Hubby came to find me and got involved in the fixing process. An hour later, I walked away with a fixed $60.00 spinning wheel! It is a mystery wheel though. I’ve added a photo, maybe one of you may have an idea about who made it. It does need work but it will spin yarn.

The New Old Wheel

The New Old Wheel

Armed with mystery wheel, we set out for food and Sheepdog Trials. I was a bit disappointed in the food options. In years past there has been lamb chili and fruit plates. Not so this year, so we got a heavy BBQ, set up our chairs and became spectators. The dog trials were great! We stayed to the end and we got lots of photos.

At The Pen - Look real hard..see the green on her shoulder? It's a Parrot!

At The Pen - Look real hard..see the green on her shoulder? It's a Parrot!

Trial Shot

Trial Shot

Trial Shot

Trial Shot

"Nice Job"

"Nice Job"

This lady works without a crook or a whistle..she's amazing!

This lady works without a crook or a whistle..she's amazing!

"The Shed"

"The Shed"

"The Pen"

"The Pen"

It’s so enjoyable watching a dog work..they take their job seriously. I am so happy we have 7 Border Collies of our own to work with.

We left the event feeling invigorated and hungry. In the town of Orange we went to a restaurant called the Silk Mill Grille. As you may have guessed from the name, it is an old Silk Mill and the place is decorated much of the old salvaged accessories and processing equipment. Had a great meal and we were home by 7:00.

I have a lot of readers that know very little about this side of my life – they know me for the goats and goats milk products. You see fiber and fiber arts is my true passion. Any opportunity I get to do a day like this, I will put all else aside to do it. My only regret – Didn’t go both days!

I’m going to add an events page to my Blog so everyone might have an opportunity to see and possibly attend what’s going on the rest of 2009. Some I will be a vendor..some I will just visit.

Parting comments and a little rant! Please, if you bring your children to events like the Fall Fiber Festival, try to pay attention to what they are doing. One of the wheels that was messed up yesterday is a several thousand dollar wheel. We want everyone to come to these events..especially children, they are the ones who will keep this going in the future but vendors and demonstrators put their life into this and it shouldn’t be destroyed by an adults carelessness of not watching their child. At this event, I saw big pulls of rovings run off with, a driveband ripped right off a spinning wheel, Angora bunnies being plucked through the sides of their cage by uncontrolled little fingers, hand crafted wooden knitting needles being used as swords and a grape snow cone dropped on a beautiful silk scarf. Please bring your children and please be good, aware parents! Rant is done.

Have a wonderful day!