Someone Else Did All The Work..Our Fiber!

I had to share the photo I received from one of our customers. She had purchased this Alpaca yarn from us and made these gloriously warm mittens.

Don’t ya just love it when you have the opportunity to see the end result of a yarn that you’ve produced! With all of the snow and cold weather they are calling for here this weekend..these will be a welcome addition to her winter wardrobe.

I’m out of here to go buy bread & milk, cinder blocks, a clothes dyer heating element, drain cleaner and a zillion other things. Also, delivering an emergency order of soap to Gather and making a trip to the bank..jingle all the way!!

Participating in Fiber Arts Friday.

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Rain & Sog – Enough of A Good Thing!

As we are all learning..too much rain (and in some cases snow) is becoming “enough of a good thing”. After our major down pouring of Tuesday evening our farm could easily become a “rice patty”. There isn’t a square inch of this property that isn’t sog. I’ve actually had to milk the goats outside for two days because even the barn has become a soggy mess. The good news..it’s sunny and beautiful today and should be tomorrow as well. The bad news..the weather people are calling for more “wet” this coming weekend. Spring and Summer should produce crops and gardens that look like they’ve been on steroids! OK, enough about the weather.

I am so happy to see the high volume of sales we are experiencing this Holiday Season. Giving consideration to the economy still not being in that great of condition, I am surprised that sales are up for us. I suppose it’s easier on the pocketbook to purchase a bar of soap or a skein of wool..the person is giving a nice, handmade gift that the recipient can use. I appreciate every single one of our customers who are doing this because they are not just taking care of their gift giving..they are keeping a farm in business. It’s a valuable thing for all of our customers to realize how very important their purchases are to us..and feel good about it!

Remember to buy local whenever possible and handmade always comes from the heart.

Successes

I’m sitting here looking out the window at yet another rainy day thinking how wonderful it would be if it would rain like this in the Spring and Summer when crops are in the ground, or better yet..why isn’t it snow? Today is my birthday and over the last 53 years, it has actually snowed twice on November 23, in Virginia, maybe more but I can only remember twice. It’s been a good day. I won a contest so I’m receiving an Italian Stitch Dictionary which will be so cool. It looks like I might be doing some freelance writing but I don’t want to jinx this one by saying any more. I had to run errands so I took myself to a “to me from me because I love me” lunch (an only child will get this one first!) and I’ve spent some more time working on the website..all in all, it’s been a very good day!

The title of this post is Successes. Basically, I wanted to share with everyone how my last two events went. Last Thursday, I did a “Ladies Night Out” event hosted by Ashwood Gardens. It wasn’t super great but we did OK. Yesterday (Sunday) we did a private Holiday Open House and it was great as usual. Sales were down considerably but it was wonderful to see my once a year friends and spend time enjoying the fellowship that comes from being part of this community.

With me, success is not always about the dollars and cents earned in our business but the people that have become part of our extended farm family (wish I could put a shovel in their hands and introduce them to “mucking”). We have friends that are genuinely interested in what we do here at the farm. They enjoy the stories and share in our good times and sad times. Some of them love our works and our products, some of them are just friends that give us the emotional support. A lot of people don’t get it, they don’t realize that when they see us standing at a table full of soaps, lotions and the many handmade items, what goes into what they see. The ones that do are not only customers but friends. They want to buy from us, they want to be a part, in some small way, of what we are doing. Once that level has been accomplished..success is measured. Make no mistake about it..we brought in the bucks too but luckily we brought in so much more.

On a very sad note. One of our wholesale customers is Grayhaven Winery in Gum Spring, Virginia. Max and Dion are wonderful people and the whole family is actively involved in the Winery..including their dogs. “Mona”, one of their little “Frenchies”, who has been a member of their welcoming committee and over all good will agent, was run over by a truck yesterday and killed. Our hearts are broken for them and wish them love and hugs during what will be some hard days. Cheers little Mona!

Truly Sheep To Shawl

We have several sheep that are a very light shade of gray and I love to over-dye gray wool, so I found a pattern for a shawl that I really liked (wish I could share the pattern with you but I can’t seem to find it!) and decided that I would do an honest to goodness “Sheep To Shawl” project. Armed with 3 pounds of fleece from our sheep Ivy, I set out to find the perfect color..ta da! It was Landscape’s Salmon. I dyed the entire fleece and I fell in love. The spinning process was rather lengthy because I only have time to work on my own projects when I’m not spinning for an ordered or making goats milk soaps and lotions. It took almost six months to finish spinning the yarn..once the singles were done, I had to ply all of it..another month!

Finally, after setting the twist I was ready to start knitting. It took almost a month to complete the knitting process but I have to say, I am very pleased with the result. The next step was to add the fringe and these really cool hand painted wooden beads that I found at a vintage clothing store.

Now that it’s done, I’ve decided that it really isn’t a personal project after all and have made it my feature garment of 2009 to sell as a Christmas gift and unveiled her at the Fall Festival last weekend. I had a couple of skeins of yarn left over, thinking that someone might want to make a hat or mitts to go with it. The first person that walked up to our table bought the yarn to use for a lacy border on a blanket she had just finished knitting. The shawl did not sell but it probably will before the end of the Holiday season.

Here are a couple of photos that I’d like to share.

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Participating in Fiber Arts Friday..click on the link and join in.

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!