For this month, I have decided to write down my little joys, moments of magic, and gratitude and blessings. One of those that I’ve been meaning to talk about here is my Inkle woven bands. The type of loom is called an Inkle loom, and it weaves pretty long straps, depending on how big the loom is. I took a class at the Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair on this type of weaving, which included a mini loom and a lesson on how to get it started and what to use the bands for.
Writing that, it feels relatively reasonable to say, “well, why would you make them if you don’t know what they were for?” Okay, so #1– I do know a few ways to use them, #2– people alllll the time make things just because they like them. That’s my main consideration now when I make things. I’ve completed 180 projects so far this year. If I created all of those with no purpose, that would not really be a useful use of my time. While some of my projects are multiple completed parts of the same ultimate project, it’s a lot of projects. Some I give away, and that’s another thing to consider; if you give people presents, what are they going to do with said present?
Some times, it’s definitely reasonable and wonderful to make things for which their purpose will be beauty and pleasure. But I think, after much meditation and personal experience, too much STUFF of beauty and pleasure is just, when it comes down to it, too much STUFF…
So the reason I create this much is for many reasons. I sell it, I gift it, I donate it, and I use it as my daily wardrobe and personal household use. And I was thrilled to be able to put these Inkle bands to use, as they can replace a lot of commercially store-bought items such as backpack straps, purse straps, shoelaces, hat bands, suspenders, sandal straps, Christmas ribbons, hair ribbons. A really wide one can make a pouch. And I’m REALLY excited to make camera straps and dog and cat collars with them. So, they are one of the most useful things I can create. Already I have had five commissions for hat bands, guitar straps, and bag straps. I’ve even been able to squeeze in some present bands and a hair ribbon for myself into my schedule (I have MANY irons in my personal fire 😂). Which, come to think of it, I really should get back to my other work. I have some wool to process! Anyhow, orders for commissions are open and I’ll start listing finished available products in January. Blessings!
This week, the wool breed I am highlighting is Targhee. All of the sheep breeds I have covered in my Wool of the Week series so far have been older breeds—consider last week’s merino from the 1200’s, consider even the Gulf Coast Native, which evolved circa the 1500’s-1600’s. The Targhee breed did of course come from older sheep breeds—Rambouillet, Lincoln, Corriedale, but it was actually cross-bred and developed in 1926 in Idaho by the USDA (Robson and Ekarius, 307). The breed is dual purpose (raised for meat and wool) and I thought it was really cool to be working with what I would consider a very American wool.
I thought the raw wool had a beautiful crimp to it, not like super super crimpy, but enough that it was unquestionable. The wool was (as it sits) my favorite I have spun in this series. It slipped from my fingers near-effortlessly, catching on itself just enough. I was happy with the evenness of twist, even if I didn’t have the most consistent diameter.
I dyed it with the merino from last week in a purple dyebath. And the same as the merino, there were areas that didn’t have total absorption of the dye—or rather, it absorbed all there was and I should’ve added more dye… but the fiber I dyed with it was even and vivid, and stayed that way spun-up. I spun the bit of dyed wool on my great wheel, which I needed to park and draft in order to keep the drive band on—even though I carded the wool into rolags. Again, could possibly be my rolag technique but I don’t really know…
I do have to say that I’m very happy with it and would definitely look into buying more raw Targhee wool—which is more than I can say for the merino… I would rather purchase that because the commercially available options for that breed are popular and material-relatively inexpensive. The Targhee wasn’t a hassle to get clean, prep was easy, it dized well and made the perfect little sweet rolls for spinning. The finished yarn looked clean and elegant, and made me feel much better about my skill set than last week’s spin. It’s all a learning process though! Thank you for reading this week and I hope you enjoy s but if a transition to weekly updates with this series on my website! I am still on my social media break, and it is treating me well. Hope all my readers are well, blessings!
NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month
Every November, the writing community at large puts on a big, virtual as well as in-person event (all over the world.) The goal is to write a novel, at least 50,000 words, during the 30 days of November. People do it for fun, people do it seriously, people do it to prompt their creativity, and others still do it for professional work. The overall point being, write. Write whatever, for any reason. Just take part in the ancient, sacred action of story telling.
When I was younger I always thought of myself as a writer—nothing ever came of it, but that identity has remained a part of me always. And every November I start to feel the creative urge with this global creative surge towards creating.
Will it happen this year???
Visions of haikus dancing through my head…
Well, I can say I’ve printed out and am filling out the Heart Breathings Plot Your Novel and Preptober 2023 workbooks. I’m still in the plotting and planning and prestige phase. But I’m setting up a routine. I have my writing buddy, I have my reward stickers 😂 I can do this hard thing.
And so can you! Radically create!! Create with all your life force, for that is your true purpose,m. Create art, create care, create solutions, create peace, create safety, create love.
I always start out my research of a sheep or fiber animal breed in my Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook, in the index. I like to see what all information will be available about the breed, and how spread out in the book the information will be. I was bracing myself for a flood of information for this weeks breed, as it is one of the most popular wools in the commercial wool clothing sphere. The wool of the week sheep breed this week is Merino.
In the index, I was surprised to see that merino is related to Rambouillet wool (from a flock of Spanish merino sheep that Louis XVI brought to his French estate, Rambouillet.) I have spun this breed before! Well, I have also spun a lot of merino before, but something about it seems less special to me, probably in my thinking that it’s just the most popular. A less popular wool would be more special to me. The Rambouillet I spun was, while being an irresistible color gradient, unsatisfactorily neppy. Neppes are little balls of short fiber that don’t turn into yarn, but stick to the finished yarn—which can be a design choice. It just won’t be a smooth yarn… which was what I had been hoping for. The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook notes that this can happen with larger tine or larger tooth carding (Robson and Ekarius, 148-149).
But back to the Merino index
The merino breed came in the 1100’s and 1200’s from crosses of the best Royal Spanish sheep and these rams from the African Beni-Merines Berber tribe (Robson and Ekarius, 135).
Merino is known for being one of the finer wools of the world in the overall fiber thickness and micron count. The lower the micron count, the smaller and fiber the individual fibers. This matters to the everyday consumer based on what they like texture-wise against their skin. Merino has a lot of times, the phrase “next-to-skin softness” associated with it. Popular brands like Wool & use this for everyday wear; a lot of companies use it for underwear and under layers. Outdoors outfitters use it for base layers, socks, as well as thick outerwear. This sentence is for the person who knows nothing about wool (about all wools): wool is a natural fiber that wicks sweat, insulates, protects from small water droplets as an outer layer, and is warm when wet: choose to wear wool. Merino is the most popular commercially available wool, so I feel like this is an appropriate time to announce that. And not only those great qualities, but wool lasts, and when it, maybe in a generation wears out, it can be composted a lot of the time.
Jumping to My Experience Processing Merino:
I started out my process after inspection of the wool by setting it in a less hot wash, in hopes to not felt. Mistakes were made! The fleece and fiber sourcebook says that you should actually wash this wool in very hot water, not let it cool (and to avoid felting by not agitating the wool any.) Knowing this helps me understand possibly more of what went wrong with this practical breed study. Sadly, by using less hot water to wash my wool, I did not dissolve or melt as much of the lanolin that I could have, and the grease remained in the wool, along with it, making the crushed Vegetable Material (VM) stick to the wool when spinning. Sadness was had. Not like tragic sadness, but just a lost opportunity. My wool didnt comb well, didn’t diz well, didn’t spin as well even though I thought it was beautiful, and I thought my end product looked visibly dirty. I think my spinning is getting better so I’m just going to hold onto that knowledge for future washes.
I dyed it in a purple dye-bath with some Targhee fiber and yarn, as well as a mini skein of a single ply of the merino. It didn’t take up the dye very well but I’m not sure why, the Targhee didn’t either (I’m thinking it wasn’t enough dye powder) and they ended up different tones. The Merino was lighter. If you are a fiber artist, and know what happened here, please explain in the comments. Much appreciated.
I hope you enjoyed my Merino breed study in this edition of Wool of the Week. Please explore my other blogs in the series and on other topics related to homesteading and fiber arts.
On the morning of October 31st 2023, we in Louisville, KY experienced our first hard frost of the season. How fitting ☺️ so, to fit in even more, I thought I’d make some sweaters!
Sweaters are one thing in knitting that has been rather more than just daunting. When I started knitting, I set Intentions--clear intentions to not even worry about sweaters. I just wasn’t going to ever do one, I decided. So that immediately eliminated my worry about all things sweater from the get go. Jumping to today, I’ve been knitting on knitting needles for five years solid. Things have definitely changed.
Personally, I have never been one to buy clothes regularly. I have clothes, they fit okay, whatever. This has been really emotionally taxing on my journey as a woman in a changing body in an unhealthy world. With lifestyle, life (in general), and diet changes, came size changes. I went from 11 years of staring at my anorexic body in a mirror for multiple hours a day, exercising 40+ hours a week and a restrictive militant vegan diet, to a period of being lost and being in limbo for 5 years. My size changed, my diet…. Hmmm… yeah…., my values changed. It took me multiple years to realize after 70 lbs, 80 lbs— my clothes didn’t fit. Most distressing was that my child large Dale of Norway Christmas sweater I scored at goodwill no longer fit. Tragedy! (With everybody else’s problems in this world.) But to me this was a tragedy. This was a loss of self.
This year has been a year of great leaps for me. I don’t fit into my Dale of Norway, nor am I close to it. But it’s okay because the community I never realized I would find from knitting and fiber arts has pushed me to believe I can make a sweater. I will have a more special Christmas sweater, and it will be made for me, by me, with every stitch a meditation of how far I’ve come, with every stitch a protest to the meaningless fast fashion industry, with every stitch a proclamation of my values (and high among them, self love.)
This sweater is the journey I never knew I would take. It is long awaited now. I am prepared. I an more than prepared. I took a class, made two baby mock ups, made a baby version, started another baby version, got started hastily on my own, got real and…yes, frogged. Now I’ve found all the right supplies. I’m ready.
I’ll update you!!
Happy November, friends!
I wanted to take a minute to let my social media followers know I will be taking a re-centering break from Facebook and Instagram for the month of November. I will take this time to focus on my blog and YouTube as I shift the vibe of my small business towards more of my passionate values—being wool-focused, and marketing more of my fiber arts educational opportunities (free online information and paid in-person classes.) I hope this will allow me to focus my zone of speciality, and do what I do better.
Don’t worry, there will still be chicken hats!
My most beloved products will remain, and the rest will be focused towards wool.
This was a jam-packed month. I started off my month with a big flamenco dance event, flamenco has been one of my passions for 15 years now, but I’m heading into a time-crunch season where my focus needs to be elsewhere, so this was just a really beautiful time for me to savor before my break.
The next week I had an action-packed time getting ready for the fall festival I was vending at, and seemingly right after that, my mom and I were off on our way to the SAFF fiber festival. There, I attended four classes, shopped, networked, and picked up my Great Wheel spinning wheel a friend had been holding for me for a few months. It all fit into the car and we made it back home, and had a much more calm week back at home.
I did a lot of crafting this month, with getting ready for the fall festival (I also did quite a lot of baking 😊). Then I had a wild hare to wash as much raw wool and process it as I could before the festival, just to get a handle on it before I picked up my big wheel. I filmed a lot of content for my wool of the week project. Each week I walk through processing a different breed of sheep’s wool from raw wool to a finished yarn. At the end of the series, I will knit a sweater with all of the handspun, hand dyed yarn.
I worked on several personal projects in October including my fall “Close to You” shawlette, and my “vanilla” Earthies socks.
Additionally, I got in on some Preptober action for NaNoWriMo (National novel writing month).
Along those lines, I not only planned for my November novel, but I also did some planning for my next feature project on my blog and YouTube, The Southern Roots Alpaca Project with my cousin, Angel Rockwood and her farm, Rockwood Farm, LLC. This is a collaboration of farming and fiber arts across southern states.
The first phase of this project was when Angel sent me raw alpaca fiber. After initial testing and familiarization of the fibers, I created the finished products, educational examples of drop spindle hand spun yarns, which all won a ribbon at each festival they went to. The second phase will consist of blend studies and knitwear tests with spinning wheel spun yarn. So we hope you will join us for that.
In preparation for the holiday season, things always seem to intensify. But that can be hard on us. For this month I want to have special focuses on presence, gratitude, care, listening and communication, and radical joy. If you can feel joy today, you must. Feel it for others, deeply and truly. Blessings.
Please enjoy my video of our yearly trip to the fiber festival! It is the highlight of fall for my family—I have been going since 2018 and have shared my love for the festival with family and friends from around the country, as well as made new friends. Every year I learn so much, and get so inspired. I hope to share that with you, so thank you for watching!
Gulf coast native was the first raw wool I worked with on my own. I purchased it via a wool group on Facebook from a woman in Alabama. I decided to comb the raw wool before washing, just because the dust, dirt, and VM were very heavy.
I chose to work with this breed for two reasons: availability, and conservation. The breed caught my eye—gulf coast native is a critically endangered sheep breed on the Livestock Conservancy conservation breed lists. For sheep, the movement to support demand for these endangered sheep is s campaign called “shave em to save em” or “shear em to save em”. Conservation of heritage and ancient livestock breeds is a bit different than with wild species. Livestock differ from wild animals as there is a demand to grow more of them in a domestic setting. If there’s no reason to utilize these animals, sadly, there’s actually no reason to have them. Luckily, sheep are happy to give us their wool once or twice a year, to cool off from their heavy heavy sweaters and bounce around the fields all clean and free. Also, I chose this breed because it was available, and better yet, for a low price.
I got a small fleece, 1.8 lbs and was so thrilled. It washed up beautiful in Unicorn power scour , and after drying, with a second comb it was absolutely beautiful. After processing a few breeds, I decided that adding some rosemary essential oil to the wash really conditioned the wool better than unicorn alone—which felt like maybe it stripped some of the natural oils from the GCN rather than just removing excessive lanolin.
I wasn’t that surprised that this fleece had a lot of VM as GCN is a native landrace, survival breed of sheep. The early North American explorers who came to the gulf coast brought over some of these sheep which adapted to the climate and pretty much naturalized themselves. They are hardy.
I was surprisingly thrilled when the finished yarn showed a beautiful luster, and as the Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook says, it does take up dye well. I gifted my first skein to our fiber friend, Nancy, who watched over my great wheel for a few months.
Welcome to this month’s discussion of my crafting adventures! Again, this month was a mid-month discussion, so I went over both Finished Objects (FO’s) and unfinished objects (UFO’s). Who all here would be interested in a UFO Night?? A crafting night of togetherness? Comment if you’re interested! Enjoy!
Suffolk are a “Down” wool breed, which means not that their fibres are technically (in the scientific ecological fiber world) the same as “downy fiber” like goose down or qiviut. The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook reveals the “Down” name comes from a county in Northern Ireland.
One of the interesting things the Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook talks about is breeding and genetics. The Suffolk breed is also related to Norfolk and Arcotts.
The Suffolk I have was most likely grown in the US. Suffolk is one of the two most popular wool breeds in the country because they are a good choice for a dual purpose breed. The wool, however, is apparently not very popular for hand spinning. I can attest, at the KY state fair, one farmer came up to our Spinning group as we were demonstrating and said, “is there even a market for wool nowadays?” (Talking about his Suffolk wool) Every one of us was like— “YES!!” Then, he mentioned they were Suffolk, and several of the women said “well, that’s only good for felting”… this week I got up close and personal with some though, and spun it a few different ways, so I do have a happy report!
The majority of US Suffolk wool is sold in wool pools which kind of work the same way tobacco sales worked before the Tobacco Program. It is gathered, combined, sorted, and sold to industrial mills, and the wool pool managers distribute the funds…
But imagine if it was all processed by small scale mills—think how many people we could employ, the quality of hand made wool products, and the beneficial environmental impacts.
I started off my adventure by looking through my fiber to check for moths as I always do. Passed the test 😂 so into a hot wash of 125+ F water and Unicorn Power Scour with lavender essential oil. After three washes in my salad spinner, I dried it on my solar (diffused) drying rack for 18 hours. I combed it on my wool combs and the rest of the Vegetable Material (VM) fell out easily (wear an apron!) combing was a little difficult because the fibres meshed together really well with their kinky crimp. I had actually been working on several combing and dizing projects, so my hand STILL HURTS… dizing was also hard to get started (I pulled the wool through a hole in a seashell to pre-draft, prep the fibre so it will be easier and neater to spin) but once I hit my sweet spot, the fiber came off beautifully into a lovely combed top. I spun most of the combed top into a beautiful, lofty skein probably a DK weight yarn. After it was finished, I dyed the yarn and remaining fibre in Cushings Perfection Acid Dye and washed it clean, leaving it to air dry after a spin in the salad spinner. With the remaining fibre, I carded some rolags and spun it up on my new-to-me 1800’s Great Wheel spinning wheel. The Suffolk wool was very well-suited to the great wheel due to its short staple length and general poofyness. (That is a technical term—okay fine, loft). I was very happy with each of the steps of this process and am very glad I was able to do this experiment and share my experiences with you! Hope you enjoyed the wool of the week Suffolk edition 💙💙💙
Disco Chicken of Love
sTate fair ready!
seed starting 2019
ky state fair quilt
A sustainability major at U of L, beginning farmer, crafter, and writer.