three bags full

“Where do you get your fleeces?” It’s a question I am often asked after, “Do you have your own sheep?” And since the answer to that question is no, the next one is logical.

So where do they come from? Most often I pick them up when I’m at a fiber show. I always check out the fleece sale and/or competition if they have one. You just walk up and down between tables covered in fleeces. What more could you ask for? I got two gorgeous fleeces at the Rhinebeck sale last year. And since we aren’t going this year, I emailed both farms about having them shipped to me. Both said they would send samples of their current year’s fleeces. So, now I have found something I love and established a connection with a farm (in New York). One great thing about buying fleeces from a competition is that they are usually skirted and tend to be cleaner, since they are competing. A negative: sometimes the price per pound seems higher. My thought on that: I am getting something that is totally usable instead of paying for poop.

If nothing at the fleece sale speaks to me, I check out what the vendors have. Most fiber shows are attended by farmers/shepherds in addition to yarn shops, so it’s a good time to meet the people who work with the sheep. Last year at the Great Lakes Fiber Show I met Fred. He has a flock of Shetland sheep here in Ohio. I purchased Lily’s beautiful grey fleece and had it processed into roving. This year I returned to his booth, found out he remembered me, and bought two more fleeces. I got Lily’s again and Violet’s. Learning more about where the sheep come from makes it that much more special.

Under normal circumstances I always try to buy fleeces and fiber in person. However, there are times when I am running low and I need something now. That is when I turn to the internet. This winter/spring I bought a fleece through a Ravelry group called Fleece Market. It came from a farm in Iowa and had the most incredible crimp I’ve ever seen. And just a few weeks ago I bought three fleeces from a farm in Virginia, Digging Dog Farm. I had heard about them from Ashley Martineau, inquired, and ended up finding a source for really great fiber.

Sometimes you get crap. It happens. Maybe you didn’t dig deep enough into the bag before you bought it. You find it so full of vegetable matter that it would be impossible to clean, or it’s full of second cuts, or the quality of the fiber is just poor. Next look a little closer before you buy and you’ll start to figure out what you want in a fleece.

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At Woolfest last weekend I picked up a total of three fleeces. Two were from the Farmpark fleece sale, one from a sheep that lives at the park and one from an employee of the park who keeps sheep. The other came from another vendor selling fleeces.

The Farmpark has an incredibly varied selection of breeds. I bought a 5 pound Finnsheep fleece for $5/lb. I was surprised how clean it was, but it had a lot of second cuts. While I had it laid out, I picked up the sides and shook it to help loosen the unwanted little pieces. I also picked many of them out by hand. Still not sure if I’m going to have this one processed or work on it myself.

Finn
Breed: Finnsheep. 5 lbs. Kirtland, OH.

The other fleece that came from the Farmpark sale actually isn’t a park animal. The sheep, Stewart, belongs to one of the park employees. She has a flock of Jacobs and brought her fleeces to sell. I’ve worked with Jacob a little, but never a whole fleece’s worth. Also, I don’t think I’ve encountered any quite as soft as this one. It was 3.5 lbs at $16. Not sure again whether I’ll get this processed. It’s rather small to start with, so I’m afraid I wouldn’t get much back.

Stewart
Stewart. Breed: Jacob. 3.5 lbs. Ohio.

The third fleece I bought is a Corriedale/Border Leicester cross from a farm in Ohio. I bought it Friday night from a vendor before the show started. It is a hefty 8.5 lbs and I didn’t quite realize how long the staple length was until I got it out to skirt. Wowzer! This is the longest staple I’ve ever worked with. Now I know why the fleece was so heavy… I kind of couldn’t help myself from washing some these locks. You know, just to see. I’ll be laying the out to dry when I’ve finished here. It’s just so substantial I can’t quite wrap my head around it!

Orange
Breed: Corriedale/Border Leicester cross. 8.5 lbs. Medina, OH.

another box!

Yep, the boxes just keep coming. And this time it was an impulse buy.

I recently joined a group on Ravelry called Fleece Market. It’s a place where farmers can sell their fleeces and people like me, who just loiter around the farms but don’t actually do anything with sheep, can buy fleeces. Even though I prefer to see, smell, squeeze, and ponder my fiber before purchasing, I thought this might a good way to get ahold of some breeds I haven’t been able to find around here. And without a whole lot of thought, I “popped” on a 5 lb white BFL cross from Iowa. The fleece belongs to Sophie, who has a rather complex lineage it seems. Her mom is 1/2 Romney, 1/2 Corridale and her dad is 3/4 BFL, 1/4 Merino. Phew! Pretty exciting, eh? I was planning on dyeing this weekend, so I’ll wash some up to see how it looks clean. From what I have already seen, I think it’s going to be a good one.

a preview and a thought

I realize this year has not been so great as far as Etsy updates are concerned.  I began focusing on live shows and wasn’t able to keep up with the online portion of the business.  One only has so many hours with which to work and 10 of them each day are consumed by something I don’t want to be doing.  I had planned on doing a massive update once the shows were over, but then it was summer and I am never very fiber-active in the summer.

Now it is September again, the weather is cooling down and I hope to restart the Etsy and get it moving before fiber fest season starts again.  Part of the problem is just finding time to update the thing!  Adding items to one’s Etsy shop is time-consuming and I am rarely home weeknights.  And no one spends time surfing the web on weekends.  So therein lies the problem.  Do I update when I have time and hope you find it or do weird sporadic weekday updates and still just hope you find it?

Regardless, here are a few items you can expect to find in the Etsy shop this week.  The current fibers are Corriedale, Romney, and Falkland.  More to come!

 

in the queue

After my last fiber show of the season, I went through all that I had left over and picked out a few to spin myself.  Either I’d been wanting it all season or I had a specific project in mind.  Now they are piled up next to my wheel waiting patiently for the time when I wander back over and pay attention to them.  Can’t say I’ve been giving them much attention lately!  But I realized it’s getting dangerously close to craft show season and I need to ramp it up – so I’ll be spending more time at the wheel after dinner.

to be spun

I also bought a new book at Pennsic: The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook by Deborah Robson & Carol Ekarius.  I saw it there at the booksellers’ row and decided to pick it up along with a book on cheesemaking and selling your handmade crafts.  Somewhat redundant, I suppose, but one can never have too many books!  You never know who might have that bit of inspiring information you’ve needed all your life.  This book had great photos in it, which is one reason I liked it.  And they have a map in the front cover – I totally dig maps!  I’ll have to let you know more about the actual contents when I have a chance to look through it more thoroughly.

new book!

spindle spun

With 9 hours of my day being spent in an oatmeal box (that’s what I call my cubical because it’s a box and it’s the color of oatmeal), I don’t get much time on my wheel.  This has helped me rediscover a long-lost friend: my spindle.  After I bought my first spinning wheel in 2005, my spindle was set aside and used only for SCA events.  However, I’m beginning to see how it can come in handy.

Mostly I’ve been spinning at work.  Sometimes I stand up, but normally I just sit there in my chair.  Usually no one notices.  Except this week, I decided to stand up because I’d already been sitting all day.  I had wrapped the fiber around my arm.  At some point during the process, the yarn length was so long I had to lift up my arm and it could be see over the top of my cube.  The bright orange fiber (seen on the spindle below) drew the attention of my supervisor and I found him peering around the corner, inquiring as to what I was doing.  “Making yarn.”  And he says, “I never really thought about how yarn is made.”  He left and I continued spinning.

turkish spindle

I also took my spindle to the Knit & Crochet Festival.  It kept me occupied when things got slow and it attracted a lot of attention.  Also made me realize how I need to be selling spindles!  All these yarns were spun on my Turkish drop spindle.  Of the plied yarns, two were plied on my wheel and one was plied on the spindle.  I find plying on a spindle awkward, plus I tend to run out of space – the ball just gets too big.  It might be a slower process, but I’m really enjoying spinning on my spindles again.

spindle-spun yarns

 

“the studio”

The living room has been turned into a studio in order to prepare for Pgh Knit & Crochet which is happening next weekend.  Totally jazzed!  I’ve been dyeing several weekends in a row, mostly Falkland top and Corriedale roving along with different types of locks.  Unfortunately I haven’t been spinning as much as I’d like, but my table will not be lacking.

living room/studio
Living room chaos
totes of fiber
Totes full of fiber ready to go
yarn and locks
Yarn and bags of locks

colors in the camera

Why is it that some colors photograph beautifully without any assistance from me or my editing software; but other colors ALWAYS look pitiful and washed out? Blues and greens have a tendency not to stand up to the camera. Does that have something to do with the light? In contrast, reds and oranges are so bright, sometimes they’re unbearable to look at. I just took pictures of a few new yarns for tomorrow’s shop update. There was a nice variety of color. The pink and orange skeins came out great, but the blue-green skein is just blah.

Here are two of the pictures I took today. These have not be altered on the computer. However, I did make adjustments in the camera including increasing the contrast and saturation. Changing the latter seemed to help boost the colors significantly. If I hadn’t done that, these would be awful – like the Falklands top I added last week.

Anyone who has been reading my blog for any length of time knows that I am constantly struggling with my camera. Getting satisfactory photos has been elusive. At times I will be thrilled with what I see, and other times I just want to give up entirely. I don’t know what I’m missing. Right now I’m using light bulbs because there are no good natural lights spots in this apartment. Sometimes they come out good, other times not so much. I’ve found that using the supermacro setting always gives me good pictures, but there are just occasions when that is not an option.