Thursday, June 26, 2008

Projects from Done to Far Out


Three skeins of a very soft Icelandic lamb blended with bits of red and charcoal mohair. The sheep was one of our early acquisitions, an Icelandic lamb named "Cream". She was a wild thing as a lamb, and never calmed down. I got one shearing from her, a lovely flowing typical Icelandic fleece with very soft undercoat. I processed the fleece myself, on a (then new) drum carder gift from DH. :-) The batts sat for three (?) years while I decided what to do with them. Finally, I decided to spin them up in a Lopi style single, but 2 ply it for balance. They're very low twist and it caused some drift when I was plying. My intention is to knit mittens, perhaps, then felt them.

Almost Done.

This is the Bird in Hand knit-along that started with the Shetland Sheep Group. I'm not sure anyone actually finished their pair of mittens - mine are ALMOST done. :-) They're knitted with handspun Shetland. The white is from my flock - Daisy and Daphne with some of Acclaim's alpaca fleece blended in. The variegated red-brown is some kool-aid dyed roving that I bought before we had Shetland sheep. It is wondrous, soft and clean stuff. I just 2 plied it and didn't intentionally keep the colors distinct. You can see the subtle variation, especially on the left hand mitten. Even though my gauge is usually spot on, and I only knit these a couple months apart, the left hand mitten is larger than the right. **sigh** More fulling/felting is in order. I hope I can size them without losing the pattern definition. This was a challenging knit. No pattern row repeats. Each one is different. I got most of Mitten Two done in the car on the way to and from BSG.

Just Started.

At Shepherds' Extravaganza this year, Sharon Hayden of Bel Tine Farm (who does custom mill spinning) had these eye-catching skeins of Cotswold yarn for sale! I'd been eyeing the Farmhouse rug in Knitter's Stash for a while, and this yarn jumped out at me as being perfect for the project - lustrous, strong and lively colors! All of the colors were there except for the sky blue and forest green. I had those dyes at home, so bought extra white and dyed them myself. :-)

You can see I haven't gotten far on the project, but it will go quickly once I sit down and just do it. It is an intarsia project, so I've wound each skein on a ball winder and put it inside a ziploc baggie to keep them contained. So far, it's working.


Fair Isle is one of my favorite knits. I just love the natural colors in Fair Isle patterns. This is another pattern from the Knitter's Stash book (one of my favorite knitting books, along with Homespun, Handknit). I include it in the photo as an example, because what I've really been doing is gathering a spectrum of natural colors from my Shetlands and blending them with similar colors of Alpaca in an 80:20 ratio.

All of these samples are from our flock, gathered over the last 4 years. I now have 14 different sheep's worth of roving in the Shetland/Alpaca blend plus four 100% Shetlands. There are 4 distinct shades of brown, white, black, and two distinct shades of grey, with additional more subtle "sheep lot" variations. This is one of EverRanch Farm's products - natural colors of
Shetland blended with Alpaca specially for Fair Isle spinning/knitting.

Gathering this spectrum of natural colors has been a dream of mine since 2003. I just picked up roving at BSG to complete the spectrum, dark brown and light fawn. I don't even have a specific project in mind, though gloves or mittens are high on my list. Sweater... dare I even write that??? DH already has his order in for one of those. :-)

Of course, there are more UFO's stashed hither and yon. Someday, I'll feature more of them.

- Franna

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

What I did at the Black Sheep Gathering

It took all day Thursday to get ready for our mini vacation to Eugene, Oregon. What? Why a vacation in Eugene? Notwithstanding the Eugene Tourist Bureau's glamouritization of Eugene, and that it is a quiet, University town nestled in the beautiful Willamette Valley of Western Oregon, it is hardly a destination resort town. However, the third weekend of June, they host the Black Sheep Gathering, arguably the biggest and best Sheep and Wool event in the Northwest.

Shepherds from all of the western states bring their nicest sheep and lambs to be shown and sold at BSG. All types of fiber and related vendors bring their wares from all over the West. Many and varied classes are held. Add a huge wool show and sale, and fiber folks are in seventh Heaven at BSG.

This year I went with no particular wish list - I was just going to enjoy, conduct the Gotland Sheep Association meeting and socialize. HAH!

Just before the event, Dave and I decided to look for a second ewe lamb for the 2008 summer shows. We only had one Shetland ewe lamb born here this season, and it's nicer to show two of them. I contacted Lois Moore of Stonehaven Farm who was packing to leave. She was bringing several ewe lambs for sale, at least two of which were already sold. We got on her list. :-)

Several weeks ago, we'd traded the yearling ram, Franjean, for a future choice of ewe from Marybeth Bullington-Bury, who would also be at BSG.

I also had given Robyn West of Kalaya Farms several fleeces to process late in 2007, which were now ready and going to come to BSG with Robyn.

We arrived at BSG about 10 pm on Thursday and found a great place to camp (in the asphalt paved parking lot - "great" because it was close enough to power, in a fairly quiet location, and on the edge of camperville).

This little cutie caught my eye in Lois's sheep pens. Her name is Astrid.

This gal also caught my eye after sitting with her and her pen mates for a while. She has such wonderful, creamy, soft and wavy fleece. She was always near to hand, ready for a scratch. Her name is Marissa.

By Saturday evening, we'd arranged to bring both Astrid and Marissa home with us. :-)
They're enjoying the lush grass in their quarantine pen, and are anxious to make the acquaintance of the other sheep that they see and hear, but can't touch.

Not that sheep were the only items that "followed" us home. I found a nifty combination creep gate and walk gate at Shaul's that will nicely fit our moveable setups. I found some soft, white BFL roving from Tumblecreek Farm. (Our BFLxBL ewes Hortense and Lindy came from Robina.) I found some soft mystery roving in grey, black and red, at the Rowan Tree Woolery that just kept calling my name. I didn't feel bad about that at all since they'd supported our Benefit Auction for the Black Sheep Creamery :-)

Oh, the myriad of spindles, silks, hand painted rovings, lace weight yarns, baskets and wheels that I didn't buy. Look, Honey, how much I saved by leaving them for other folks :-)

- Franna

P.S. HUGE CONGRATULATIONS to Tina and John Park for their FIRST PLACE, BLUE RIBBON win in lamb/yearling Shetland Fleeces with Luna's fleece!!!


"Construction" at ERN started with a driveway... a LOOOOOONNG driveway... and a well. We've moved on to excavation of building sites - the first is the site for the Garage/Shop. But, in order to prepare for the Garage/Shop foundation, the upper part of the property needed to be graded to allow electrical lines to be buried deep enough they wouldn't be in the way of the future arena. All this equated to moving many tons of dirt!

The panorama photo looks from left (north) to right (south) across the building sites. (I loaded a bigger version, but it won't "biggify" for me :-( The close in excavation is for the "top" of the arena which contains an equipment shed... or WILL contain an equipment shed. After it is in place, you'll see ROOF rising toward the East from this vantage point. Straight ahead is the driveway which basically bisects the 20 acres. In the center right, just to the right of my truck, is the House site. It'll be a while before that one's in work. ($$$$$$!) On the right is the shop/garage site, which will be the first building.

This is my rendering of what the shop/garage building will look like. The windows on the left look toward Mt. Baker. :-) The upstairs extends over about 2/3 of the downstairs. There will be a woodstove in the front corner, a bathroom on the left corner and a kitchen... oops, I mean "wool processing" area between them. ;-) We'll be "living" in an RV under the awning shown at the back.

Of course, Clifford and Villa just love going to ERN. They get to run and run and run, chase birds and rabbits and generally get tired and dirty doing "dog stuff". Villa is growing up! She's taller than Clifford now and almost as fast. What a cutie!

- Franna