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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Yarn

When you purchase a fleece you can wash and card it yourself or send it off to a mill for processing.  Once it has been carded you are ready for spinning.  Most hand spinners use a wheel, yet some prefer a drop or supported spindle.  (More on this in a future post.)

If you are not a spinner, never fear, there are several small mills around that will spin your yarn for you.  When you get it from the mill it will most likely be on a cone.  
Cones Wool Yarn.

If you want to use it in it's natural state, you can use it straight from the cone or wind it off into smaller balls.  If you prefer to have it dyed, then you must wind it on a skein winder into a skein so you can add the dyes.  

Yarn On A Skein Winder

Yarn Skeined

Sunday, December 18, 2016

How Does Your Yarn Begin?

Love of fiber takes hold early: a fiber artist is never too young to begin
Isn’t it the Beach Boys who, back in the day, sang about “good fibrations?”  Well, those good "fibrations" actually begin with the breeder of the sheep whose fleece will become roving and yarn. Like any other breed characteristic a shepherd wishes to emphasize, breeding for quality fleece requires a well thought-out plan and dedication.
These are things to consider:
Managing waste hay will improve your fiber
 1) Think about why you want to improve your fiber – is it so your sheep look “better,” or is it to increase the utility and quality of the fleece itself? If improved looks are really your goal, perhaps some simple housekeeping changes such as veg management or proper shelter and feed can fill the bill instead of a full-on breeding-for-fiber program.

Quality yarn comes from quality fleeces
2) If you are new to fiber as an artistic medium, you should first decide what you want to actually do with the fiber. Are your plans for sales to others, or for your own personal use? If you plan to sell fleeces, you will need to choose as many pluses as possible, but if you want fleece for your own use, you may choose to focus on a single quality such as staple length, and not worry too much about the various tones of color, for instance. What the fiber will be used for – spinning, knitting and crochet, felting, or weaving, for example – will impact what qualities you want in your fleeces.

Bagged fleece ready to skirt at a community shearing event
3) While you are making these decisions is a great time to get your hands into as much fleece as possible, your own sheep fleeces as well visiting other farms. 
Visiting during a shearing (call and ask first!) is a great opportunity to see fleeces up close and personal and still still be able to match them with individual sheep. Most sheep-keepers who breed for fleece are delighted to have you visit during shearing, particularly if you are willing to help with some of the rough skirting, and that is a great opportunity for you to educate yourself about fleece in general, but also to get a real hands-on feel for what you would like in your own fleece-improvement program. You need as many points of fleece comparison as possible, and you should make honest-to-goodness pen and paper notes about the qualities you like, as well as which individual sheep and fleeces have the qualities you admire.
Sorting skirted fleece for staple length or other qualities.
  4)  Now decide what specific fleece improvements you want to make. For instance, do you want a longer staple length, smaller (or larger) fiber micron, more spring in your fleece, clearer color, darker or lighter color? Next, arrange your changes in order of importance to your goal, and pick one or perhaps two things to focus on for the first year.  From here, you should proceed as you would for any other changes you would make in your flock structure.  Decide which of your own sheep provide the fleece qualities you wish to accentuate and then as you add sheep, choose animals that will compliment what you have as well as add what is missing. 
5) Remember that a hogget (or first shearing) fleece will be different from any other fleece sheared from a sheep, and so a final evaluation about which lambs to keep and which to sell will be more accurate at the second shearing.
Cotswold waiting for shearing

Cotswold after shearing
"Have you any wool?" chants the nursery rhyme.
And that's a different spin on things!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Buying Sheep for the First time?

Looking to Buy Sheep for the First Time?
Some Thoughts to Consider

1) Does the breeder try to convince you to take what he/she wants to sell you instead of what you are searching for?

2) What over-all sense do you get when you go on their place?  Can you see all the sheep? Is the breeder willing to show you everything you want to see? Will he or she only show you a few sheep?  Even if only a few sheep are for sale, it is customary to be able to see all the sheep on the place if you wish, so that you can get a sense of how the flock functions together. Your new sheep will bring flock characteristics with it, and you want those characteristics to be positive ones.

3) Does the number of sheep seem appropriate for the size of the property? Think "puppy mill" – does the breeder appear concerned only with how many breeding sheep he or she can cram on the property to maximize the number of lambs for sale, or does he have appropriate sheep welfare in mind?

4) Are lambs for sale at an appropriate age?  Are they weaned? If you are buying a bottle-baby, do you have instructions and milk-replacer ready to go? Is the breeder willing and able to give you information and instruction that you need to make this successful?

5) Is the farm well-maintained and thrifty looking? Care of property is an indicator of care of sheep.

6) Is the breeder willing to have you visit a couple of times before committing? Does he or she seem impatient with questions, or make you feel that your questions are dumb, or make you feel that you are unknowledgable and "lesser?"

7) Is he or she prompt to refer you to the Registry where you can see if in fact they are registered breeders and that you can, therefore, maintain your own registered sheep if that is your desire?

8) Is the breeder able and willing to show you registration papers for the specific sheep you are interested in purchasing? Sometimes registration papers “to be mailed later” is a red flag that the breeder isn’t providing what he or she says he is.

9) Have you seen other sheep from this breeder on other farms?

10) Does the breeder talk down other breeders in order to promote his or her own sheep?

11) Is the breeder willing to talk about breed standards?

12) Is the breeder willing to show you barn records for sheep you are considering?

13) What about bio-security? Is there anything on the breeder's place you don't want to bring on to your own farm? Barn records, which show care and treatment patterns, can be a clue in this question.

14) While "buyer beware" is the foundation principle for every purchase, is the breeder willing to talk about any potential defects you might have noticed on a given sheep and address how they do or do not fit into the breed standard?

Language of Wool

The Language of Wool Fiber
Every subject has its own vocabulary, and wool is no different. If you know specific terms, you will be able to communicate more productively, either as a buyer or as a seller.

Apparel Wool - Wool suitable for manufacture into apparel fabrics.
Bellies - Short and often times defective wool from belly of sheep.
Blood - Denotes fineness: "more blood" means finer wool.
Break -The fibers are weak at a certain point, but strong above and below the weak spot; opposed to  “tender”, which signifies a generally weak fiber.
Breech (or Britch) Wool - Coarse hair fibers on lower hind legs; generally the lowest quality wool of the entire fleece.
Bright - Light colored wool relatively free of dirt and sand.
Brittle - Harsh, dry, "wire-like".
Bump – Approximately 16 ounces of roving wound into a large soft ball.
Canary Stained Wool - A yellowish coloration which cannot be removed by ordinary scouring methods. Certain types of bacteria growth are believed to be a contributing factor.
Carbonizing - Removal of burrs from wool by immersion in sulfuric acid.
Carpet - Wools too heavy and coarse to be made into apparel; suitable for carpets and rugs.
Character - A general term describing the total of all characteristics that make wool attractive to the eye such as color, crimp, brightness, and sound tip.
Color - The actual color of the wool; a bright white to cream is most desirable; canary stains, brown or black stains are undesirable.
Combing - Manufacturing process in which the short fibers (noils) are separated from the longer fibers which are combed into a continuous strand of parallel fibers called top.
Condition - Refers to the amount of grease and dirt in a fleece 'heavy condition" means heavy shrinkage.
Cotted - Fibers that are matted together.
Crimp - The natural waviness in fibers: distinct crimp - crimps are sharp and clear - fine wools have more crimps per inch; bold crimp - larger crimp spaces widely apart - coarser wools have fewer crimps per inch.
Dingy - Wool that is dark greyish and lacks luster.
Doggy - Short, harsh, coarser than type should be; lacks crimp and elasticity.
Felting - The process of locking wool fibers together to make felt.
Frowzy - Wool that is dry and lifeless without distinct crimp due to weather and or poor quality.
Grading - Separating fleeces into groups according to fineness and length.
Grease Wool - Wool as it is shorn from the sheep, before any processing.
Gummy - Grease wool that has excessive amounts of yolk which has set and is stiff and sticky.
Handle - Refers to the actual feel of the wool; a good "handle" has great resilience and softness, fineness, length, and is pleasing to the touch.
Hank - A 560-yard unit of wool yarn wound on a spool or reel.
Kemp - Chalky white, brittle, weak fiber which may be mixed with normal fibers in a fleece; kemp will not take dye and is objectionable.
Lanolin - Refined yolk or wool grease.
Lock - A tuft or group of wool fibers that cling naturally together in the fleece; also known as a "staple".
Lofty - "Full of life", springs back to normal position, very elastic, and bulky compared to its weight.
Luster - Natural gloss or sheen in a fleece; very desirable.
Open Fleece - Fewer fibers per square inch; opposite of dense.
Pelt - The skin of the sheep with wool still attached to the skin.
Pulled Wool - Wool removed from the skins of slaughtered sheep.
Purity - Refers to the absence of dark fibers, kemp or hair.
Quality - Refers to the degree of fineness.
Raw Wool - Grease wool in natural state before scouring.
Roving – A method of processing fiber into long ropes which eases spinning.
Scouring - The actual separation of dirt, grease, and vegetable matter from grease wool; usually this is done in a hot, mildly alkaline solution followed by a rinse.
Second Cuts - Short pieces of wool that result from the shearer clipping off the wool left from a previous stroke; these short fibers are what make a wool sweater or fabric “pill” – very undesirable.
Shrinkage - The weight raw wool loses when scoured, expressed as a percentage of the original weight.
Sorting - Most fleeces contain more than one grade of wool; as grading is the classification by fleece, sorting is the classification of wool within a fleece.
Soundness - Freedom of the fiber from breaks and tenderness; relates to strength.
Staple - (has two meanings) 1. The length of a lock of shorn wool. 2. The longest length wools within a grade.
Tender - Wool that is weak and breaks anywhere along the length of the fiber due to poor nutrition or sickness.
Top - A continuous strand of partially manufactured wool, which previously has been scoured, carded, and combed; an intermediate stage in the process of worsted yarn.
Virgin Wool - Wool that is used to make fabric for the first time; not reprocessed.
Woolen - Large amounts of shorter wools, such as noils, wool wastes and reworked wools are used in addition to virgin wool; woolen yarn is not combed, hence fibers lie in an uneven fashion.
Worsted - Longer length wool fibers that have not been processed before are made parallel during combing into a product called top, then spun into a worsted yarn.
Yield - Opposite of shrinkage; the percentage of clean wool fibers after scouring.
Yolk - The combined secretion of sebaceous (oil) and sudoriferous (sweat) glands in the skin.

Flock and Roll's Top Hits

                                                Flock and Roll’s Top Ten (Good Fibrations)
1)    Ewe’ll Never Walk Alone
2)    Ewe Are My Sunshine
3)    Shears on My Pillow
4)    My Heart Wool Go On
5)    I’ll Never Find Another Ewe
6)    Shears of a Clown
7)    Flock of the Bay
8)    Please Refleece Me, Let Me Go
9)    Fleece Me
10) Wooly Bully

And that's a different spin on things!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Best Way To Learn Knitting

The best way to learn knitting is to....
      learn English or Throw method first.
      learn Contintental method first.
      learn in a class.
      learn from a book.
      learn from a video.
      learn from YouTube.
      learn from a friend.
      learn on straight needles.
      learn on circular needles.
      learn on metal needles.
      learn on wood needles.
      learn on cheap yarn.
      learn using wool yarn.
      learn on a yarn you love.
      learn crochet first.
      learn by making a scarf.
      learn by making a blanket.
      learn by....... (you can fill in the blanks from here.)

So which is right?  It all is.  That is the great part of knitting.  There are many ways to approach it and very few wrong ways to knit.

Through the years I have heard all of the logic above and much more.  How does a beginner sort it all out.  Once upon a time I was a beginner.  Lucky for me there were not the choices there are today or I may never have knitted.  I learned at a time when you pretty much did it "this way" or it was wrong.

So what advice do I give to "new to knitting" customers?  It's pretty simple:

1: It's 99% opinion and 1% fact.

2: Find the way you learn best and look for opportunities to learn that way.

3: Choose one advisor until you get past the part of not knowing what you don't know you don't know.  In other words when you learn enough to be able to sort through the information you are getting.

4: Keep in mind that as long as you are getting the fabric/project you want, it's okay.  If your knitting looks like knitted fabric, then it's right no matter how you arrived at the stitches.

5: If you are happy with your process of holding yarn or needles then there is no reason to change.

6: There are always going to be better knitters than you and knitters who haven't reached your level of knitting experience.

7: Even experiened knitters learn new things or see something they haven't seen before in knitting.

8: There really isn't anything new under the moon of knitting.  The odds that knitters somewhere in the history of time have done what you just discovered or worked out are pretty good.

9: If something isn't working for you ask for help from your knitting advisor.


It will always take work to learn something new.  It doesn't matter what it is, but it's a fact, learning takes time.  Give your self time and have fun with your journey.  Knitting can be so rewarding if you just give yourself time to get to that stage where you are past focusing on every stitch.

The part about knitting I love the most, is that I can constantly learn something new.  I have yet to get bored with knitting because there are so many opportunities to challenge myself.  However, for the times I need more calm and less challenges in my life, I can choose a simple basic project that gives me opportunities to do "mindless knitting."  Thus my brain becomes involved in the repetitive motions, freeing it to be creative or sometimes just calm.

Happy Knitting!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Yarn On The Shelf & How It Speaks!

Every time I walk into a yarn store the first thing I notice is how the yarn is displayed.  You may not have thought much about displaying yarn, but as a yarn store owner, that is usually fore front in my mind.

Before Tempe Yarn, I didn't think much about how yarn looked on a shelf or how yarn was put-up.  Which was a better seller, small 50 gram skeins, larger 100 gram skeins or hanks of yarn.? Does the yarn stack nicely or look better hanging up?  Some yarn is happier in a cube than on a shelf.  Other yarn gets over looked because it is in a cube or on a shelf and would show better hung-up.

Right after an order comes in and we restock our shelves at Tempe Yarn I enjoy just sitting and looking at the shelves.

With in a few minutes of sitting there the yarn begins whispering.  It usually starts with "choose me, no me, wait I was here first, choose me...."   (Yes it goes downhill from there and can't be explained to a non-yarn person.)  As I look at how pretty the colors sit on the shelf and all my choices, I mentally begin re-arranging the colors, over and over.  Does the pink go better with the brown or the purple.  Should I choose rainbow colors or more muted, softer colors, natural palette or over the top vibrant?  

Some times guests at Tempe Yarn apologize for taking a while to choose the perfect color or yarn for their project.  I quickly confess that even after all the projects I have done, all the choices I have and all the potential choices from all my suppliers, I too spend a good amount of time choosing my next project.  Maybe if the yarns would be a little quieter, I could concentrate more and speed up the process.  However, they are pretty vocal when they see me coming.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Yarn Play or Playing With Yarn

What happens when a group of friends meet at Tempe Yarn on a Friday Night and discover two shelves of newly dyed Biltmore and Surprise yarns?  They play with color arrangements.

The result is seen here.  What was fun was to see how we fall in love with color combinations when other people put them together.  We started talking about how much fun it is to arrange yarn. Just handling, twisting and untwisting it was soothing.  A couple of us were saying how we sometimes re-arrange and organize our stash when we need an emotional pick me up.

Do you ever sort or organize your stash just because it's fun?

Monday, November 21, 2016

Things I Wish I Knew As A Beginner: Right Verses Wrong & Opinions

When I teach or help a customer choose yarn for a project, I am often heard saying, "In this industry, it's 99% opinion and 1% fact."

Over the years I have learned one lesson well.  There are many right ways to do the same thing.  At least once a week I meet a customer or student who tells me they are doing it wrong.  "How did you come to that conclusion?" I ask.  If it is possible I have them show me their project or what they think they are doing wrong.  The majority of the time, what they are doing is perfectly acceptable and I have seen it done their way many times before.

The difference between me and the average knitter/crocheter out there is I see quite a few people in a week.  I see all the ways they can hold their needles and hooks.  I hear from them or observe the many different ways they were taught to approach the fiber world.

Where does the message "I am doing it wrong come from"?  Many places....but most often it is from someone that hasn't had the exposure of hundreds of customers a month bringing in projects, issues or concerns.  Thankfully the availability of information on the internet is helping us Instructors squash the idea that there is only "one way to knit/crochet".

The most fun part of my work is when someone shows me something that is new to me.  Then it ends up that several of us "play" and "experiment" with another variation of an age old craft.  We get so excited when that happens and then we file the new experience away for the next time we have encounter it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Australian Wool and Shearing

I have been reading about the development of various sheep breeds in Australia -- breeds associated with some of the finest wool in the world including varieties of Merino, Cormo, and Polwarth. This reading lead to learning about associated sheep activities such as shearing, and that lead me to reading about Frederick York Wool-sey (no joke about the name) who invented Australia's first mechanical shearing device. 

Image result for frederick york wolseley
Shearing at Yandilla Station, Queensland. Photo: State Library of Queensland #115404

 You can read more about him at The shearers were suspicious of the newfangled device and it took him a while to get his mates to agree to try it out. With a contract to shear 180,000 sheep he finally got 40 men to agree to use it and eventually each man could consistently shear 100 sheep a day with the new tool. Woolsey died penniless having made no money on his invention. Someone has calculated that since his successful mechanical shearer was first used about 1884, as many as 400,000,000 sheep have been sheared using his invention or similar machinery based off it.

Portrait of legendary shearer Jackie Howe.
Jackie Howe wearing his shearing medals.
Jackie Howe was an Aussie master shearer from the same era and an example of why mechanized shearing had such a slow start and reluctant following. In 1892 Jackie sheared by hand 321 sheep in 7 hours and 40 minutes. Since a shearing day was 8 hours long, he could have sheared more, except he ran out of sheep! His shearing medals were auctioned off in 2008 and brought $360,000 (AU). 
And that's a different spin on things!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Storage of Knitting Needles & Notions

Storing knitting needles, crochet hooks and other notions becomes somewhat of a challenge for most of us. To date I haven't found a "one size fits all" solution.  

Over the years, I have collected many styles of notions and needles.  I have stored them in cases made specifically for them, inexpensive and expensive ones, old cups or vases,  fishing tackle bags, notebooks with sleeve protectors and a plethora of home made solutions.  I have even gone so far as to assigning them to various WIP’s (work in progress) and forgetting I have them.   Out of sight, out of mind, right?

I have purchased interchangeable kits and that was a fantastic way to organize a great portion of my needles.  (A story for another day…)

I know my habits, so I am okay that no system will make me put everything back where it belongs.  Periodically I go through projects and find all my loose needles and return them to the their rightful places.  The solutions that I employ currently, seem to work for my lifestyle today.  Who knows what lies ahead?  For now the following seem to fill the need.

First, I use the interchangeable needles and the cases they came in to keep them neat and organized.  These are great for grab and go if I want to start a new project.  I love them for swatches, because you mark the needle size difference with a stitch marker and then just change tips. 

Second, I have the case pictured below by Knit Happy, Fold n’ Go.  (We sell these at Tempe Yarn). I love it for classes and traveling.  It’s great for taking to the shop because I have all I need for helping with most projects. (Emergency rescue needle, crochet hook, dpn’s, stitch markers, tape measure, yarn needles, etc.)  You can see from the picture how I use each section.

The third way I store needles is simple, convenient and is pictured below.  Most of my knitting needles hang out here.  Since I really only use circular or double points these days, this solution is very helpful.  
Here is the logic behind my storage solution.  They hang behind my door.  I keep a needle gauge handy to check the sizes quickly.  I sort by length and use binder clips to keep them on the hooks.  The large clips hold more needles and the smaller ones keep the needles from slipping through the clip.  I can quickly sort visually and return needles to the proper hook.  If I am in a hurry, I can just hang them and put them into the clips later.   

If you have a favorite storage method please share it in the comments section below.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Counting Sheep Doesn't Always Make You Sleep!

In historic times, a shepherd's first job in the morning and last job at night was counting sheep.  At least in Great Britain, shepherds had their own language of counting which used a Base 5 system -- 5 fingers on a hand, and the other hand to grasp the crook. (We use a Base 10 system). This particular system and language coupled with knobs, notches, lines, and grooves created in his crook to act as an abacus allowed a shepherd to keep track of up to 399 sheep and, historically at least, there weren't many flocks larger than that. 
The language is at least as interesting as the concept. The count begins, "yan, tan, tethera, mether, pimp, citer, liter, ova, dova, dic." Adding in the numbers we know as 11-15 gives you yan-a-dic, tyan-a-dic, tethera-dic, methera-dic, bumfit. Then with a new group of 5, he would continue yan-a-bumfit, tan-a-bumbit, tethera-bumfit, methera-bumfit, and then Giggot. You can see how this goes -- Giggot will get each of the words added to it, and so on -- but the concept, the words, and cadence are fascinating.

And by the way, do any of you old movie fans find these words tickling a memory somewhere? It is a variation of this counting system that Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn of Music Man fame uses when she counts "in the Indian tongue" during her unforgettable Talent Show presentation.
                 And that's a different spin on things.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Weaving Techniques - What's Old is New Zoom Loom

Was browsing though my cherished 1947 Good Housekeeping book of Needlecraft and began reflecting on cycles.                                                                                                    It is amazing to me how not only the techniques come full circle over and over through the generations, but how the presentations are cyclic as well.  I remember back when most needlework books contained multiple crafts such as weaving, knitting, crochet, macrame, crewel, embroidery, cutwork, sewing, quilting, rug making, hairpin lace, applique and so on.  These books were precious, contained valuable information and a few pages were dedicated to each of the particular techniques.  Sometimes a whole chapter was used for a topic like sewing, knitting or crochet because more space was needed to give you a solid foundation.  Today, most crafts are separated into individual publications.  We have many choices on publications but most seem to be craft specific.  We are in the information age, so we pack our publications full, but geared more towards one discipline.

Currently we seem to be in a weaving cycle.  Weaving in many forms are everywhere I look.  Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook,  books and magazines, 

So back to what caught my eye when I was browsing through my Needlecraft book--- the tiny looms, pictured above and which you can still see advertised in vintage magazines as Weave-its. 

You use them to weave small squares that can be assembled and arranged in any manner  so you are limited only by your imagination.  They are often sold as ways to use up small amounts of yarn left over from other projects.  If you want to plan a specific project, dedicate a projects worth of yarn, then begin creating and planning as you would any other yarn related project.  (PSS -Plan project, Shop for enough yarn for your entire project, Start project.)

If quilting is one of your hobbies or passions, then you can use some of the same quilt patterns or designs and substitute woven squares. Sew them together or if you prefer a different look, crochet or knit them together. 

There are ideas galore on how to use the mini squares you weave on these cute portable looms.  The modern version of this mini loom, is the Zoom Loom from Schacht Spindle Company which comes neatly packaged with a loom, the needle and basic instructions. Added are directions for 3 sample projects to get you started.  

The best part of these little looms is how portable they really are.  All you need is yarn, your loom, a needle and yarn cutter and you are off and running.  They are small enough to fit in a medium purse so you can always have a project with you.  I am a great fan of having some sort of mini project or a component of a larger project with me in case I end up waiting somewhere.  Those moments which could often be a source of frustration become my "stolen" project moments.

We have been carrying the Zoom Looms at Tempe Yarn for some time now.  For our long-distance customers we are adding them to our on line store so they too can easily join in the weaving trend.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Weaving Trends


Weavings with Yarns & Fibers Available At Tempe Yarn 
Weaving is back and it comes in all forms.  From the simplest weave structures and tools to the most sophisticated fabric and computerized looms.  So much to explore and if you are like little time. 

The weavings pictured above are more free form or artistic weavings.  The top weaving is really a fiber collage done on a pvc frame, which one can make for $10-$15.  (This is a really inexpensive way to make a frame loom any size you want.  When you are done with your weaving, if you choose you can recycle the pvc pipes in another craft project.) This weaving is considered a fiber collage because it contains weaving and knitting/crochet in a free-form style.  In other words- NO Rules!
If you look closely you can see beads, buttons and some stitchery used as surface design.

The other three were woven on a small rigid heddle loom.  The lighter one was woven on the 10 inch Cricket by Schacht.  The other two were woven on the 15 inch Cricket.

All three of the weavings have been embellished in some manner.  The one on the left includes Needle Felting, beads and buttons.  The one on the right has been decorated with shells and beads.

The trend currently seems to be weaving with shades of natural fibers and yarns.  We are so lucky at Tempe Yarn (and Arizona On Line) to have Woolhalla Tunis offering 20 plus breeds of fibers and yarns.  Since so many of them are breed specific and sometimes sheep specific, the variation in shading are obvious. The picture doesn't do it justice, but when you look at the weaving pictured below you may be able to see an example of what I mean by natural variations in color.  I can't wait to see this piece finished and fulled.

Clun Forest 2 ply fingering Warp & Weft

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Sheep words

Today it's sheep words in my mind, so think about these:

There is rambunctious, rampage, ramble, ramification, rampant, cram, and trample -- yup, those describe male sheep.

Then there is lambast, clamber, flamboyant -- and those words certainly pertain to lambs.

Next there is beweary, chewed, and strewed, chewer -- all describing ewes, and I am not even going to discuss the word-plays like unusual.

And then there are the random words such as bellwether and crook.

Or there is the description of Shepherd's Pie as "hash covered with mash." (What?? 
You have never tasted Shepherd's Pie?? It's a ba-a-a-a-nquet).

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Year the Spinner's Flock Began

For any number of reasons, docile heritage-breed Tunis are the perfect small farm, small flock desert sheep. But with a number of requests for additional breeds to provide local wool for spinning and yarn, 2016 turned out to be the Year the Spinner's Flock Began at Woolhalla Tunis.
Mistress Quickly and Barbara Ann, a California Red.
First, we added Mistress Quickly, a yearling pure-bred Cotswold who needs shearing twice a year! Those lovely, lovely curls offer a great medium for felters, dollmakers, spinners, and others. They wash up beautifully and are so extraordinarily silky soft. The rasta hair just adds to her personality, although now after being sheared, she has acquired a rather Punk look!

Feeling good about our success with Mistress Quickly, we next opted for a bred Cormo ewe and a Cormo cross Merino lamb. Tassie, the Cormo, is bred for February lambs, and Toffee the cross lamb is a really luscious creamy toffee caramel color that comes from her Merino dad who carries a moorit (or brown/red) gene. Cormos are a Corriedale/Merino cross, so that means our Toffee is genetically 3/4 Merino and 1/4 Corriedale, which equals fantastic wool possibilities with the color as an added bonus.

Tassie, named for Tasmania where the breed was created.

Our girl, Toffee, joined us from Prescott Valley


 So what's next?  We don't want to add too fast because there are so many factors to consider. First, we will be careful to have only the number of sheep our farm will support. We purchased the property in a very degraded condition and don't plan to let that happen again. Second: all the sheep have to get along together: maybe there are considerations between breeds and individuals that we will only learn by careful observation. And third: we have to have a market for the lambs and wool because the flock needs to make a healthy stab at paying for itself. And there's a different spin on things!