Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Spinning For Sock Yarn

3-ply or 2-ply, which do you prefer for socks?
I will be leading a workshop on spinning a nice sock yarn at my local yarn shop and coffee house this Saturday, February 25th.  Instruction time will be from 10 am till noon, but we can have lunch and stay to spin and play with fibers all afternoon!

Fee for the workshop is only $12 and includes handouts and some fiber samples.  You will need to bring a spinning wheel in good working order with at least two empty bobbins (three or four is even better so bring them if you have them!) plus whatever tools you use when spinning (orafice hook, spinning oil, etc.).  You should already know how to spin, this workshop is intended to expand that basic knowledge.  If you have a lazy kate and niddy noddy, please bring those as well.  I'll have a couple of extras me, but it will just be more convenient for you if you have your own.  If you have some fiber (raw or processed) that you might want to spin for socks, bring it along for discussion (that may take place in the afternoon).

Sip 'n Knit, the yarn shop, is located in downtown Ithaca Michigan.  If you are interested in taking the workshop, could you please call or email them to reserve your spot so I can plan for materials ;)  Click on the link to see their contact information and address.  Would love to see you there!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Colorful Lambs, Colorful Sweaters

Well, here they are the first three lambs of the season!  I actually took several pictures but like children they move around so fast and duck and play its hard to get a decent shot.  That and the shadows of the barn...

From back to front we have Imogene in the red sweater; Issac in the blue sweater and in the front is Isobel wearing her green sweater.  Isobel and Imogene are the twin ewe lambs.  And it looks like Isobel is going to be black!

It should be a few more weeks before we begin lambing in earnest with the rest of the flock.  The next big event for us is next Wednesday when we'll be shearing.  Keep your fingers crossed for decent weather.  The lambs were wearing sweaters in this picture because the temperatures had dropped very low and the winds were cold, but it has warmed up the past few days and they no longer need the sweaters.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Lambs! And more sheep thoughts....

A few posts back I wrote about our sweet and gentle Bree, who I was pretty sure would be our first ewe to lamb.  Here she is sunning herself last Thursday, when the temps in mid-Michigan were close to 50! The next morning when I did chores she was preparing - she had "her" spot picked out (a quiet corner of the barn); she wasn't eating and was circling in the straw, pawing it occasionally.  I told my husband that today was the day!

When I checked a while later, she was hanging out with her mother (Violet) at the feeders but still not eating.  To make a long story short, I checked on her on and off throughout the day and sometime between the 2 o'clock and the 4 o'clock check in that dark shadowy corner she delivered her twins, both ewes (girls)!  They were mostly cleaned off and were already up and working on that all important first meal.  One is black with white face markings and the other is colored nearly identical to her mama.

This is Bree's sixth lambing and I've never yet seen her give birth.  It's the same with her mother and sister, Colette.  These ewes are from the line of VerLee family Corriedales we have, I've written about them before.  They are the most efficient brood ewes!  If I were to fault them anywhere, it would be in milk production.  They are not heavy milkers.  But they grow tons of fleece; breed and settle early; lamb with ease and are fierce mamas so I am not complaining!

Saturday, Evelyn (another VerLee line) was a little off feed and hanging back from the others.  She wasn't very big and I managed to sneak up on her and check her udder to see if it was full.  It wasn't.  In fact, I had to search around to find it, LOL!  And yet, Sunday morning the minute I opened the barn door I heard a lamb baaaaing and there she was with a little ram lamb, completely dry and popping around with a full tummy.  He seemed so frail and small, but he nurses with gusto and is very active.  My daughter came and helped me move them to a lambing jug.  Evelyn is very, very wild - here's a picture of her "sniffing the wind" earlier this winter -

Here's a tough one, though.  This is Evelyn's third lambing.  And her third single.  Not just all singles, but all very small singles.  So while she has beautiful fleece, she is not very productive in the lambing department as well as being difficult to manage in the flock - thank goodness she's very hardy and doesn't need much care, but you always have the things like shearing and vaccinations, plus she's one of those sheep where you can have everyone penned up and just when you are ready to shut the door or gate, out she bolts.  Can you see where a decision has to be made?  She has breeding that I hate to part with and again, that fleece!  This is something I have to think hard about....

Not all lambings go so well, as anyone can expect.  After these wonderfully easy births we had one sad thing happen.  A first timer lost her lamb, probably a month or more early.  We'll watch her carefully to make sure that she is okay.  She's eating well now and moving around with the flock.  It happens, but it's never easy.

We're supposed to clean barn today and the wind is bitterly cold.  The sheep are still in full fleece (that job comes next, I'm a little behind on getting it done before lambing started) so they'll be comfortable, but the humans are going to have to work hard to stay warm!

I'll end this post with another sheep picture, this one of a home bred ram lamb we kept over from last year as a potential flock sire.  He's the father of the three lambs born so far.  His face is a bit woolier than I would like, we'll see if he keeps that or not.  But his conformation is pretty good and his fleece, well you can see just a bit of it in the photo, but I can't wait to get my hands on it in a few weeks!!! 

I'm sending this post out to my friend, Carole, who faithfully reads this blog and who also has VerLee Corriedales.  She sent me the sweetest note this past week, so this if for you, Carole ;)  I appreciate all of your kind words!  Do any of your sheep look like ours?

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Hat Quest 2012

I am of the opinion that there are two types of people in the world - those who can successfully wear hats (any style of hat) and look fabulous (or at least cute) and those who just look like a dork trying to wear a hat.

I fall into that last category.  I mean I look really awful in a hat.  Beanie, beret, baseball cap, garden hat - you name it, I look bad in it - as bad as that fence post above modeling the Elizabeth Zimmermann Maltese Fisherman Hat (a brilliant pattern, by the way)!  To top that off, I have hair that conforms itself to weird, ridiculous shapes the moment I put anything on my head, making it look like I totally forgot to use a comb when I got out of bed.  Do I care?  No, not particularly.  Hats are to serve a purpose in cold or windy weather when I'm working outdoors.  However, not only do I look terrible in a hat I guess I have some odd shaped head that makes it very difficult to find or make a hat that fits me properly and comfortably.  Sadly, the hat that fits me best is usually a purchased acrylic hat.  ACK!!!!

I am a lover of wool.  I raise wool, I spin wool, I knit and crochet with wool.  I'm determined to find a hat pattern that works for me, made from my own hands!

Along comes the knitters friend, Ravelry, and tons of groups formed to knit/crochet or spin twelve of something for the year 2012.  I figured there must be someone planning to work on twelve hats, and sure enough there is.  So I joined the 12 Hats in 2012 group for pattern suggestions and to be quietly working along with over 300 other Ravelry members on hats this year!  I am determined to find a hat that I like, is interesting to me to make yet easy and that fits me well!  Determined, I say again...and I figure that along the way if I make a hat that doesn't work for me, I can donate it to the outreach charity at my local yarn shop.

Phannie was one of the two hat patterns chosen by the group to do in January.  It's crochet, and when I was reading over the pattern I literally had a skein of yarn and the right size crochet hook sitting next to me at my desk!  I decided to give it a try (here is a photo of the "in progress" hat):

I know the basics of crochet, but not a lot.  There were some things in this pattern I had never done before that I wanted to try, like increasing and decreasing in crochet and also the "post stitch".  Can I just say that I am in love with how this looks?!?  I guess I did it right, I followed directions in a crochet book I have and whether its right or wrong I really like how it looks.  You can see the detail pretty well in the photo above. You start at the top with this hat and finish at the brim.  It didn't take long at all to finish.  And though I did the body of the hat in purchased yarn, the brim is handspun Corriedale and Shetland.

It fits great!  It looks - on me - terrible.  Sigh.....

I would definately make this pattern again, in fact I am going to make this hat again in handspun.  I enjoyed the crochet and learning something different.  It only took me three days to finish it, working a little bit at a time.  The pattern is free from the Berroco website (a great place to visit, by the way!)

So now you have endured reading a very long post about hats and my head, LOL!  The posts about hats over the course of the year won't be quite so long, but I will share my journey with you.  I would love to hear about your favorite hat pattern if you have one!

I've already cast on for February, this time I started on the East Falls Hat from Knitscene Spring 2012 magazine.  This wasn't one of the patterns chosen by the Ravelry group, but I had just picked up the magazine because I liked the looks of this hat.  I'm thinking that this type of design, where  you knit the band first and then pick up stitches to do the body of the hat, might work well for me.  I want a snug fitting "band" around my ears, but the body of the hat to be more roomy.  This one is showing great promise and I'm almost finished with it, so will have something to show you soon.

On a side was completely daylight here in mid-Michigan by 7:40 am!  And, today is my baby brother's birthday!!!  I love him to bits and hope I get to see him sometime over the weekend!

ETA ~  Anyone near by (mid-Michigan) who would like to join in on the hat project, I've convinced my local yarn shop, Sip 'n Knit in Ithaca to do a montly knit-a-long, too!  Check out the link if you're interested.