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Handmade Cyber Monday Haul

Last Monday morning, I sat down to work on my blog post for the day and edit some pictures for the etsy shop, but when I pulled up my etsy account, I got a little side tracked by the wonderful sales my online fibery friends had going.

Fiber Blending

First, I am in the process of putting together materials to work on my very own homemade hackle.. I have the fiber blending bug. Plus, there is just something so charming and nice about spinning with hand pulled roving. Since a drum carder is out of the question at the moment (where would I put it?), a hackle and hand cards are what I have to work with. Now, I normally prefer to dye my own stuff, but I came across this little bundle of mohair locks

and couldn’t quite resist. This mohair comes from MacGregor Hollow Farm. I plan on returning to perhaps purchase some undyed locks in the future.

A little more definition in this photo. I love how brilliant the color is, and I have some purple firestar that would complement it very nicely.

Sheep Shopping

Next, I have been thinking about what kind of sheep I would like to raise on the Future Fantasy Farm. I have been reading a little about Romeldales and California Variegated Mutant. I like that they are a rare breed. They are supposed to have really nice fleeces, and the CVMs have those adorable little badger faces. To find out for myself, I went looking for a little bit of fleece to test out. (Still thinking about purchasing a whole fleece in the spring) I found someone, namely Stella’s Fiber Farm on etsy who was selling only an ounce of CVM fleece.

It arrived on Saturday. I washed it immediately, and this is what it looks like now

A great big pile of fluff.

The fiber is finer than I expected it to be. For some reason, even though I had read in both The Knitter’s Book of Wool and The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook that CVM was a fine fiber, I still expected it to be closer to a medium wool. I was dead wrong. This fiber is fine fine fine. When I was at shepherding camp, I picked a merino fleece (as in prepping the fiber) and I swear this is finer. Of course, I know nothing about the sheep this fiber came from. The staple isn’t very long, and it doesn’t seem to me, to be in the greatest condition, but I am going to card it and play with today anyway.

Speaking of shepherding camp, when I was at Juniper Moon Farm last month, this one gigantic braid of roving kept catching my eye. It’s dyed in bright amazon rain forest Macaw type colors and did I mention it’s gigantic?

It’s so big I had to wrap it around itself to get a good picture–mostly of the colors–I admit. As soon as I read about the Juniper Moon Cyber Monday sale, I went over and snapped this baby up. It is nearly 8 oz of the strongest, crunchiest medium grade wool I have handled in a while. I keep thinking of navajo-plying it and knitting a big cabled gansey to wear outside in the cold to help out on the farm. Now, I know it’s not enough to make a gansey for me, but if it could only be part of a gansey, the technicolor parrot dye job would still just make my day every day.

Supporting Local Shops

I made my way back to etsy with the notion of supporting one my local sellers. I headed over to Lori Warren’s shop Blushing Ewe and purchased a gorgeous Merino/Silk batt.


(This is one of Lori’s photos from the listing, used completely without permission, because I have already pulled this batt into roving and half spun it up. Pictures of the yarn to come. Plus, this photo is much better quality than any of mine today.)

Lori does a beautiful job of combining texture and color in her spinning fibers. She is also very helpful when a newbie spinner like me starts asking questions about technique and blending. (She even let me come pick this up form her house instead of shipping it–since we live about three miles apart–and I got to see her Cricket loom. Now I must have one myself.) Plus, I unfurled the batt after it sat on my desk for a couple days thinking I just wanted to admire the layers of merino, silk, and firestar. Before I knew it, I had pulled it out into a great big ball of roving and was spinning it up.

I love the contrasting textures available in hand blended fibers over tops where everything is combed together. For instance, I bought this gorgeous merino/silk top which I dyed up and put in the shop. I am in the midst of spinning up a little bit to bolster the handspun section over at Tiny Dino Studios, and it’s just kind of, eh. I mean, it’s gorgeous fiber. It’s soft and fluffy and has an amazing hand, and I know there are some folks out there who just swoon over the ability to spin those two fibers together in a well-combed top. I am not one of them. I am much more excited about the crunchy medium wool stuff. Give me texture over softeness any day–and I realize this is not necessarily a very popular position, so somebody please take this merino and silk top off my hands!

Merry Christmas

Finally, my self-indulgent splurge was another skein of sock yarn for myself. A Christmas present of sorts.

I am calling it my sparkle yarn. Hot pink and black, self striping sock yarn with little flecks of sparkle here and there. It’s like Laurel from Spinning Fates was reading my mind when she dyed this yarn. I applaud her clairvoyance. And I can’t wait for January and the chance to cast-on.

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Critters and Fleeces

It is almost that wonderful, magical time of year that is the Tour de Fleece. I love Tour de Fleece. The internet goes from housing some pictures of beautiful hand-spun yarn, to brimming over with said photographs. On top of being beautiful, these photos are inspirational, motivational, get-off-your-butt-and-make-something-spectacular-tional. I know, I know, I know. You are all saying, but you have never participated in the Tour de Fleece before, and really, what’s the big deal anyway? The big deal is that I learned to spin during last year’s Tour de Fleece, seeing all those gorgeous pictures is what convinced me I could afford to shell out the $50 for the class and to take a Saturday off work. And it was so much fun. My wheel came in the mail six weeks later (which felt like an eternity) and then school started and I didn’t have any time to spin. And then my lovely, brand new spinning wheel become more a piece of furniture rather than the well-crafted tool it was meant to be. I was practicing maybe 20 minutes a month, and since I wasn’t very good at it yet, it was a frustrating experience every time. Then, sometime during February or March, the spinning wheel and I came to some sort of unspoken understanding, all of a sudden I was making yarn. I still haven’t made very much yarn, but my skills have greatly, if slowly, improved over the last year. Now, I see the Tour de Fleece as a way to finally force myself to incorporate spinning into my everyday life.

For those wondering what the heck the Tour de Fleece is. . . It’s kind of like the Tour de France in that it runs from July 2nd through July 24th and it involves wheels. That’s about it. While in the Tour de France top cyclist in peak physical condition challenge themselves to ride through France in three weeks, in the Tour de Fleece, any spinner of any skill level challenges themselves with a set of goals, usually to improve their spinning or to work through the fleece and roving that has built up in the stash over the last year. Spinners typically do this in an air conditioned room, possibly in front of the tv. The really dedicated spinners might actually watch the Tour de Fleece…(I’ll probably watch Dr. Who or listen to Jeff Buckley.) The general idea is to push yourself and your skill as a spinner. In that spirit, I have made a few small goals for myself for this year’s Tour de Fleece, one of them a bit unusual.

1. Spin at my wheel for at least 20 minutes everyday of the tour
2. Work my way through the alarming amount of wool I have acquired in the last few months, spinning and plying as much as I can in two weeks, blogging about it (almost) daily.
3. Start a daily spinning/blogging habit.

And for the Unusual one:
4.Actually ride my bike for at least a few miles every day Sunday-Thursday.

Yup, I am including actual biking in my Tour de Fleece goals. I love my bike, and I haven’t been riding it enough lately. In fact, I haven’t ridden at all for a week, when I was riding at least four times a week there for a while. The main reason I stopped is because of the giant (and I mean giant, it grew to the size of my face before it started to heal) spider/insect bike I got on my leg a week ago. Everything, especially heat and activity seemed to aggravate it. I finally broke down and got drugs on Saturday when my leg started to feel as though it had a fever. Four days, lots of money, and too many pills later, I am feeling better, but the drugs have kept me nice and dopey. I have wanted to accomplish many fibery and blog related things, but have been giving in to the desire to sleep instead.

And because I have been sleeping, I haven’t had the chance to tell you about the Alpacas!

Last Friday we went out to visit the Alpacas at Orchard Hill Farm. Not only was the farm beautiful, but the alpacas were friendly and lovable as well. However, they seem to have a sense of when you are about to take a picture of them being friendly and lovable, so the above photograph is the only one I came away with. They loved Athrun though. Loved him, gave him a couple of kisses once he got used to them. I am still not sure I would want to add alpacas to my future fantasy farm, especially since there seem to be so many in Kansas already, but I do ever so much enjoy spinning their fleece, so who knows.

This is some of the black roving I bought from Marcia at the Farmer’s Market a couple of weeks ago spun into a lovely light fingering weight.

And this is what I bought from her at the farm.

The fawn colored fleece came from an alpaca named Maya, which Athrun picked out. It’s only about 3.5 ounces, but he seems to think he’ll get socks, mittens, a hat, and whatever else he wants out of the bag. He is so eager for me to spin it that he started changing the bobbin on my spinning wheel himself the other day. The dark brown is from an alpaca named Frankie (a female), and will hopefully make up Brock’s gloves for this winter. I am going to attempt to get Athrun to help me clean this fleece a little bit today. We’ll see how it goes.