September 30, 2011

Angora Rabbits and A Giveaway!

I did the first shearing of my angora rabbits last week to get them used to shearing and help promote fiber growth.  I used a scissors for the shearing this time but, next time I will use an electric shaver (trimmer). Er, I mean Jessie will be shearing them.  I'm not as comfortable with a trimmer as Jessie is (she shaves her cocker spaniel Jazzy).  The fiber I collected this time is too short for spinning but is possible (it just may shed), it much better for felting.  The next time Jessie will shear them in 45 days and their fur will just be for felting as well.  The following shearing I should get some wonderfully soft and long angora fur.

Niblet before shearing.

Niblet after shearing.

Pearl before shearing.

Niblet after shearing.

If you haven't already seen Jessie and I are featured on After the Bump!  Head over to her blog find out a bit more about us and you could win a skein of our yarn.  The giveaway ends Sunday October 2nd so hurry!

September 23, 2011

My Dye Garden

A sunflower from my dyed garden.  Ready to be harvested.

So my plan for the spring was to build a dye garden so I could collect flowers for natural dying yarn and fibers.  Well, things didn't go as planned.  I dug (well the husband helped) a spot on the side of out house for the garden.  There was a regular plant and flower garden in that spot just not the kind used for dying.  I dug up the dye garden spot later in the season then I planned, lets say sometime in June. 

I had planned out where each type of flower would go but when I went to get seeds at a local flower place they didn't have what I wanted so I picked up substitutes.  Insead of planning where the new types of seed would go I just looked at what was tall and layed out those seeds in the back and the shorter ones in the front.  Next year I may have to order some seeds so I have what I want.

The first sprouts in my dye garden.

The flowers finally started to grow but didn't bloom as much as I thought they would.  I didn't get as many blossoms as I hoped but got some.  The sunflowers did the best.  I also got cosmos and a few marigolds.  The black-eyed Susan's didn't do well at all.   There are a few sunflowers, cosmos and marigolds left that I will be harvesting on Sunday.  Then there are a few that I forgot to cut.  It is best to gather your blossoms when they are at full peak which I didn't always do.

The current state of my dye garden.

I am going to freeze the flowers to use when I get enough to dye some fibers.  That may just be after next harvest season.  You need a lot of flowers to dye only a little bit of fiber.  I have however been saving my avocado skins and pit for dying.  I have also been collecting bark from my birch trees.  I will let you know how things turn out when I use the avocado and birch bark for dying.  What natural dying have you done?  Let a comment (with a link if so) I would like to know.

September 16, 2011

Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival

Jessie and I attended the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival this last weekend.  We were VERY excited that we both had a hard time getting a good night's rest on Thursday.  We had a art yarn class with Jacey Boggs on Friday morning and just couldn't wait to learn 4 new spinning techniques.  On Friday morning  we arrived a few minutes before class started found our spot, got our wheels ready to spin and we waited for Jacey Boggs to arrive.  We waited and waited and waited some more.  She missed her flight and was unable to come and teach us.  I was heart broken and just wanted to cry.  I know you are thinking really!?!  You wanted to cry?  Yes and actually almost did.  I was excited about this class as soon as I knew it was available.  I really wanted to expand my spinning ability and grow as a fiber artist, this is my passion, I found it and want to do everything to nurture it.  Also Jacey is kind of a spinning celebrity and it would of be super fun to meet her.

And that's how we felt.

Jessie and I tried to shop our sorrows away.  There were two large barn filled with vendors (and I can't believe I forgot to take a picture to show you).  We brought back mohair locks, bamboo, mulberry silk, new dyes, angelina and oh yeah two German Angora rabbits.  After we tired out from shopping we found a bench and did some spinning.  I spun a coiled art yarn (which I learned how to do from Jacey Boggs Sit and Spin DVD) and Jessie worked on spinning more green (for our Packer wrist-warmer custom order).

Me spinning.

Check out the cup holder and bulky flyer!

The coiled yarn I spun.

Jessie spinning.

On Saturday we took a nuno felting class that was a lot of fun.  I've always wanted to learn how to nuno felt and just looked at books and was always afraid to dive right in.  The class really helped and I'm glad I got to learn something new over the weekend.

The nuno felted collar I made.

The nuno felted collar Jessie made.

Our mission for next year save up and hope Jacey Boggs will come back (she was unable to teach any classes over the weekend) and take all of her art yarn classes.

My new German Angora rabbits (at home).

September 2, 2011

Phat Fiber Fun

So I got the August Phat fiber box (I get a contributor's box sent to me if I send in enough samples for that month) of fluff and yarn.  Well I can always find a use for the fluff but wasn't sure what to do with some of the yarn samples.  I usually knit with thicker yarn (which is why I choose to spin thicker yarn) and most of the samples are sock weight (thin) yarn.

August Phat Fiber fluff "Bollywood".
August Phat Fiber yarn "Bollywood".

I like quick projects (maybe that is why I like chunky yarn) so I decided to use a few samples and knit myself a cuff (pulse warmer).  I used a superwash yarn from Sunrise Fiber Co. (I believe it is commercial spun and hand-dyed) and some cria (baby alpaca) and llama handspun yarn from Plum Crazy Ranch and Fiber Art.

Yarn samples I used in my project.

I think I was drawn to the bright colors of both of the yarns.  Plus they were a little thicker than sock weight yarn.   Both of the yarns are soft (especially the baby alpaca & llama) and very nice to work with.  I came up with a simple pattern for a slip on cuff knit in the round on double point needles.

The Pattern:
Cast on 33 stitches (more or less depending on the size of your wrist), with yarn you would like to use for the edge.
(Use seed stitch pattern)
Row1: K1, P1 until end of row
Row 2: P1, K1 until end of row
Row 3: K1, P1 until end of row
Rows 4-7: Use contrasting yarn for the middles section and knit until desired size (I knit 4 rows)
Row 8: Knit with the yarn you used for the edge
Row 9: K1, P1 until end of row
Row 10: P1, K1 until end of row

This is what I got...

Cuff/pulse warmer I knit with my Phat Fiber samples.
Cuff in action.

Next one I am going to make I will cast on only 31 stitches (you need an uneven number for the seed stitch part of the pattern), since it was a bit loose.  I want pictures if you knit up a cuff of your own.  Also let me know how the pattern works out I am not a professional pattern writter by any means (I leave that up to Jessie).