Friday, September 30, 2011

I See Dead [Knitting]

Every fall, when they cut hay on this odd shaped field, I think it looks like a garter stitch shawl.

Yarn over increases in the middle and everything.

Just like this UFO (unfinished object).

The right side got a little wonky there, but nothing that a good blocking wouldn't fix ;-).

Garter stitch ridges.

The UFO is not only an unfinished object, but also a 'most likely never to be finished object'. I saw this shawl on display at Midwest Fiber and Folk Art last year and fell in love with it. It's a basic garter knit shawl pattern alternating two skeins of yarn - a colorful skein and a gradient light gray to black skein.

So what happened you ask. It looks like you are at least halfway done with it you say. As slow as you knit, there have got to be tons and tons of hours of knitting in there! You would be right.

The colors aren't matching up in the same order as the original shawl. And I noticed that early on but thought it would be okay, never dreaming orange would get paired up with dark gray/black somewhere down the road.

I've thought about just ripping back those rows and picking up a different part of the skein(s), but without starting it from the top in exactly the same combinations there's no telling what the next combinations would produce.

The design of the whole shawl is just based on color combinations. That I don't like. I'm trying to get up the nerve to frog it (rippit out ;-) and start fresh. I really did like the original version.

Any better ideas?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Dyeing With Walnuts...The Results

When we last left our intrepid walnut dyers they'd were simmering a pot of wool roving. For about an hour.

Note: All the wool we dyed had been washed and, with the exception of the handful of Keebler curls, processed into roving. We couldn't tell if the anti-static spray Ohio Valley Natural Fibers uses affected the dye process any.

This was actually a later batch. That is not Keebs on the top, but I wanted to show how dark the dye water stayed the entire time even as the wool got progressively lighter and lighter as the days went on. It looks black in the pot, but when the black water drained off the wool, it was always a good deal lighter...after the first batches.

The first batch. We'd pulled the lingerie bags out of the simmering dye pot (insulated rubber gloves - worth every penny) and let most of the dye water drain back into the pot, then squeezed the bags to remove even more. We then carefully removed all the dyed wool and set it on the handy strainer thingy.

In the beginning we heated rain water to rinse, trying to match the hot temperatures so as not to felt our fiber. For later batches we just let the wool sit for a few minutes to cool off and then could use unheated water for the initial two rinses. Worked fine.

We then carried it into the wool house wash room and ran a small amount of cool water into the washing machine, soaked the already mostly rinsed wool in it for a couple minutes and spun it out.

For one more final rinse in the washing machine I added a small amount of Fibre Rinse. This worked fine for cool water, but on later batches when the water was cold, it didn't disperse as well.

Note: In several places we read that the walnut dye smelled god-awful. We actually thought it smelled pretty good - kind of citrus-y . This may be due to the fact we were using fresh, green walnuts and not black, decaying hulls.

Note: The colors darkened some as the wool dried.

As I said in the beginning, I was really only mildly interested in dyeing wool. You can see that I must have developed a little more interest ;-). By the end of three days I had dyed a little over three pounds of wool.

Part of that was because I hated the thought of wasting the dye, but also because I got curious to see how different types of fiber would react, how much you could stick in the pot, how far you could stretch the dye...

Having the hulls safely ensconced in the painter's strainer bags allowed me to re-cook them for the next two mornings. I'd simmer them for an hour or so and stick some more wool in the pot.

Note: On one batch I got to talking with a friend and accidentally let it boil. I mean rolling boil. I thought that pot was ruined, but it wasn't. It was part of the Clun Forest fleece - a medium to coarse wool.

Slow learner note: I boiled a second batch - some Cotswold. The fiber itself didn't felt, but some did felt into the mesh bag. Most was salvageable.

Possibly helpful hint: I always recommend a less than fine fleece for anyone washing a raw fleece for the first time. Apparently the same is true for dyeing. Set yourself up to succeed. Stay away from a less forgiving fine wool when you are starting out. I think the Cotswold can be a little tricky too sometimes. Those "boring" medium wools are just about fool proof.

So, how did it all turn out?

Here we have a ball of Emerin (the white part of her Jacob fleece), a small skein left from the Buddy lace sample, the Keebler curls and a sample of Keebler yarn spun from the lock. Keebs was in the first batch, the rest about mid way through.

Buddy as a redhead ;-)

Heidi's gray roving in the foreground. You can see the heathery look the gray gave us. The batt and yarn behind is from the first batch of Clun Forest. I only re-carded these two batts. Everything else was left as it came out of the pot.

A later batch of Clun Forest.

Note: we kept coming up with these dark spots and finally determined that was from the bottom bag resting right over the hot burner. We took a glass pie plate, turned it upside down in the bottom of the pot and did not have any further trouble.

I tossed wool into the pot for three days. The light brown Cotswold on the left was the last batch and where I decided to stop. I poured the dye out so I wouldn't be tempted further ;-).

I think the medium/bright red color is my favorite, but would like to try again sometime for more of the darker brown/nearly black. And maybe some more Keebler curls :-).

The driveway still has two black lines in the gravel. Even after a couple rains. Is this a limestone reaction or why is it so dark...without all the cooking?

Final notes (and I'll probably add to this as I remember things I've surely forgotten):
  • We started with a bucket and a half of green walnut hulls.
  • We completely covered the hulls in both buckets with rain water and I don't remember adding any other water - just strained out the hulls and used what we had.
  • We started out with just 4 ounces of wool in the 4 gallon pot. I put up to 10 ounces in subsequent pots. 6-8 seemed like the best amount, especially as the dye water was used up.
  • We started out with two buckets of cooking hulls. We used just the first one the first day and then I added the strained second bucket to the pot on the second day.
  • Did not test a batch with wool that had been pre-soaked in hot, soapy water. Tried to do everything as "good ole fashion way" as possible (well, except for the car driving over the hulls, electric heaters, washing machine parts ;-), but did want to test that and just forgot.
  • It was way more fun than I thought it would be.
  • It was much easier than I thought it would be.
Hmmm - if I wasn't trying to get ready for the Fall Wool Festival, I'd probably go gather another bucket of walnuts.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Dyeing With Walnuts...A Sneak Peek

Mostly because Betsy was being cute :-).

Even though Pugsly looks none too happy!

Dyeing With Walnuts...Part One

I've been mildly interested in trying some natural dyeing. It's one of those things I thought I should at least try even though a. I am not really a bright color person and b. we have sheep of all sorts of pretty colors...without the need for any additional chemicals. Well, sometimes alcohol... ;-)

In my limited research I found that walnuts create the only natural dye that does not require an additional mordant, so between that and the excellent walnut crop we have this year figured that was a good place to start. I gathered a couple buckets full of still green walnuts from one of our trees, a couple of neighbors, church and Reg brought some over from Clark county.

I asked Saint Tim for help breaking the hulls off. And to think I was just going to drive over them willy nilly... This actually worked quite well. Of course.

They were much juicier than I thought they'd be.

One trip under the car wheels and the mostly still intact nuts were easy to remove. Apparently you can leave the nuts in, but it will ruin them. At least this way I can toss them back to whatever animals need them for food this fall.

I collect rainwater off the wool house roof so used that to soak the hulls overnight instead of city water that "may" contain some chemicals that might influence the color.

The next morning Stella and Reg came over and set up shop in the barn. Anything that needs cooking around here needs either Stella or Reg ;-). We cooked two pots full - one on the double burner and the other with a submersible bucket heater - for about an hour and a half. As the green hulls cooked, they turned dark brown, as did the water.

Two things Reg picked up at the hardware store that I can't recommend strongly enough - paint bucket strainer bags that fit over a five gallon bucket and insulated rubber gloves.

We poured the cooked hulls into the strainer bags, squeezed out as much water as we could and then used a heavy metal strainer - something a fellow beekeeper probably "invented" and you probably can't buy, but if you can, is another must have.

That huge bucket of hulls smashed down into this compact bundle.

We picked out four different wools to experiment. That's red Marcel, white Clun Forest, gray Jacob and white something soft/Hampshire cross.

We put a loose bundle (2 oz) in each lingerie bag and started out with two bags in the first batch. It looked like a lot of wool, but once it settled into the water we realized we could probably do more than four ounces at a time.

We also pre-soaked the first batch in heated rain water, but did not do that on any subsequent batches.

And we added some Keebler curls to the very top as an afterthought, but continued to add a small handful of wool on top of every batch because that made it easy to look and see how dark the wool was getting.

We then set the strained bag of hulls on top, put the lid on and barely simmered the pot for about 45 minutes.


Important disclaimer - I'm just documenting what we did as a first time dyeing experiment. I'm not in any way saying we were doing this the right or best way. It did work though and I'll continue this on tomorrow.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sunday Stills - The First Signs Of Fall

Even on the Sundays I don't get a Sunday Stills post up, I always look forward to checking what the next week's challenge will be. I knew the First Signs of Fall would be fun, especially here where we are having a nice stretch of fall weather, enough rain to green things back up and fall crops ready for harvest.

Driving up to Stella's one afternoon for the epic table cloth sewing venture, I saw leaves floating down from one of her trees and thought how fun it would be to try to capture a leave falling to the ground. I don't have great manual focus skills though and knew it was probably hopeless.

Hee hee - a spinning sister to the rescue!

For more Sunday Stills...

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Skirt Work

I learned about "skirt work" from one of my favorite blogs, Just Another Day on the Prairie. Stella and I spent the last several day doing some actual skirt work. We sewed and painted new Punkin's Patch table covers and skirts.

The three sheep on the left (our Equinox Farm logo - Boudreaux, Buddy and Heidi) are for a 4' table. Marcel and B. Willard (if he ever grows up ;-) Hank and Comby (who's been feeling a bit neglected since Betsy "took over") will hang on the left side of a 6' table and Iris, Punkin and Handy on the right.

Years ago (we're thinking maybe seven!) Stella and I hot glued the old burlap table cloths together. Seriously. Hot glued. They are still holding strong, but look a bit worse for the wear having survived a couple muddy floods running through the booth, dogs hiking their legs on the corners (!), people setting down and promptly knocking over beverages...

I think these are a nice upgrade. Thanks, Stella!

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Letter From The EODSS

Dear Crazy Sheep Lady,

I am writing you on behalf of EODSS-Equal Opportunity for Displaced Serta Sheep. I am not asking for a donation, so please take a minute to read my story before deleting this.

It has come to my attention that #20 is employed at your farm. His duties are listed as knitting, dressing up and taking roadtrips to football games. Don't get me wrong, #20 was a perfectly nice sheep when he was part of the flock, and I am not bitter, I just want the public to be aware of the inequality in the workplace of displaced Serta Sheep everywhere.

In my current position, my duty is to hold the door open on a front-loading washing machine so that it doesn't mildew inside. An easy job, you might think, but it is quite monotonous, and the constant pressure on my rumen has caused embarrassing intestinal issues. Some have mentioned that my eyes seem to be protruding from the pressure, as well, and that was certainly never an issue before I was assigned to this job. You may also be thinking that I am only a promotional sized sheep, while #20 is a display sized sheep. Size isn't everything, lady.

My goal is only to bring to light the inequality of DSS's everywhere. I hope that the next time you encounter one, you will offer a kind word of encouragement. It can happen to anyone-one day you're a star, and the next, well, see the attached photo for yourself.

Thank you for your time.



I have such clever friends! Love ya, Pam :-D

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Testing My Luck

I am not loving the new slide show feature Blogger has implemented. Normally I'd post this picture and assume we'd be able to click and possibly even double click it to enlarge it enough to see five four leaf clovers. We'll see, but I'm guessing it's going to be smaller and in the LightBox. Maybe not because it's only one picture, not multiples. Let's test it.

That fifth clover is hard to spot. It's on the left, near the top. Can you find it?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fall Flowers?

The recent rains have rejuvenated some of my favorite flowers.

Wouldn't it be cool to hide out under a Dahlia petal?

This could be a beautiful spring picture...but alas is Jeff Foxworthy You Might Be A Redneck quote.

Which one?

Monday, September 19, 2011

And The Winner Is...

Something we learned about your farm favorites: most people can't pick just one. I completely understand. Actually, what I do is whisper to each animal that "You are my favorite, but shhhh don't tell anyone!"

The best I could calculate is the farm favorites are Miss Ewenice (excellent choice), Hank (another excellent choice), Lila (not such a great choice - she grabbed Betsy by the tail this morning and PICKED HER UP OFF THE GROUND!!!) and Renny (yep, always an excellent choice).

Gunky didn't have any much trouble choosing a winner ;-).

#29 Jennie from MN

Jennie, send me an email at thecrazysheeplady at gmail dot com with your mailing address and your Moderne Farm animals will be on their way. We know they'll have a great home with you :-).

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sunday Still - On The Road

Pretty straightforward, any type of pics of roads, straight, curvy, bends, paved, gravel, dirt… If you can, get some interesting scenery in your road shots... :-)

One of my favorite road spots, just up from our farm.

It's pretty obvious what would throw these shadows...

But would you expect all this too?

One of our neighbors planted these a couple years ago and they bloom all summer. I should have taken these during the peak time, but they are still lovely.

There's a prize in this picture. Click to biggify.

The little creek had been bone dry for weeks until the recent rains. Even under here as far as I noticed. But maybe not.

Where would these tiny minnows have come from? Resiliency.

In fact, there were wild flowers all over down there.

A view from (just a bit off) the road.

For more roadworthy Sunday Stills...

The blog giveaway - you can get there from here :-).


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