Sunday, February 15, 2009

Valentine's Day at Rising Meadows Farm

Bobbie, Catherine and I spent Valentine's morning at Rising Meadow's Farm in Liberty for their biannual "Shearing Day."

Of course I had a great time, since I really like knitting and have been curious about the wool process. Bobbie and Cat assured me that they had a good time too. But, on one occasion, I noticed Bobbie standing in the smelly barn of sheep and poop and thought I detected a glimmer of a forced smile. She assured me it was nothing and that she absolutely loved being in a sheep barn. (Is she the sweetest sister or what!)

At the end of this post, I'm going to jot down some of the details I learned about the wool process. Right now, I'm thinking that the whole idea of spinning my own wool is a silly romantic notion and that it seems like way too much effort when there is lovely yarn for sale everywhere.

Here's a sheep in the shearing pen waiting its turn.

Master shearer Kevin Ford doing his thing.

The sheared among the unsheared. On the unsheared ones, you could feel the sticky lanolin in their wool. On the sheared ones, their coats (?) still felt a couple inches thick...and soooo soft.

Careful, Kevin!

Bobbie and Catherine observing the shearing. Love Cat's new do!

I thought shearers used electric razors, but these shearers used manual scissors.

After each sheep was sheered, its fleece was put on a wired table outside the barn where people picked off some yukky, unuseable pieces (called skirting the fleeces). Then, they put the good parts (95% I guess) in a bag and weighed it and offered it for sale at $8.50 per pound.

Master Shearer Kevin Ford on the right and one of the farm family members on the left. Kevin was on USA's shearing team in Norway last year.

Undyed rovings for sale.

Yarn for sale. They also had sheepskin rugs for sale.

Cat and Bobbie = BobCat!

The farm served a free lunch (dessert donations appreciated). We ate outside the farmhouse kitchen steps on a little rock wall. On the menu: lamb chili, corn chowder, sandwiches on homemade bread, fruit tea, and lots of desserts.

They also had lamb meat for sale and Catherine and I bought some. Joe's mom was going to make something special for dinner.

Me and the original Bobcat.

Bobbie got some variegated orange/yellow and plain yellow wool for a scarf.

I chose some variegated green wool for mittens.

Hello Yarn.

When I dropped Bobbie back at home, we winded her skeins into balls, played with Maggie (Magpie to me) and then my sweet sister gave me most of her stashed yarn!!! Now with my JBW gift certificate, my recyled sweaters and Bobbie's yarns, I have a treasure trove stash. What recession?

At home, I made some lamb stew for dinner and then knitted the night away watching a movie with Jim. Stupid movie but I didn't care. I had a great Valentine's day!

After weeks of asking questions on Ravelry and viewing tutorials, after just a few hours at the farm, I have a much better grasp of the process. Here's what I learned.

1. People buy the fleeces and then they wash it in their washing machine. They fill up the machine with hot water, put in a little shampoo, then lower the fleece into the water and let it soak awhile. No agitation. Drain the water. Clean out the grimy machine. Do this again at least twice I think. One person said they add hair conditioner on the last washing.

2. Card the wool. Brush it for hours and hours and hours with a comb to get all the fibers going in the same direction. Get out the twigs and briars, etc. I might have missed something...but I think they now have "rovings."

3. Use a spinning wheel or a spindle to make yarn from the rovings.

4. Yarn can be left natural color or it can be dyed. (Rovings can also be dyed.)

OR . . . wear slippers and bathrobe while sitting at computer and shopping at Jimmy Beans Wool. OR, visit Common Threads yarn shop to examine all the yummy yarns where all this work is already done.

While I see how this whole process could be satisfying and even fun...I think at least for now, I want to concentrate on the knitting and designing parts of the process.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Cashmere Coup

It's the holy grail of unravelers and I found it...a light-colored cashmere sweater with knitted seams! I had looked at the Thomasville Goodwill, Bloomingdeals Consignment, Oak Hollow Thrift Store, and finally found this one at the High Point Goodwill. Can't you even see the softness?

As soon as I touched it, I knew it was special. Then, I looked at the neck tag...Ann Taylor! Oooh, good sign. Then, I held my breath while I found the fabric tag on the side seam...100% cashmere! Then, I did a cartwheel (in my head). Then, I saw the sign above the rack of sweaters. "Management reserves the right to increase prices on name brand items." Then, I made a note to self: Do not gush to the sales clerk. Toss it on the counter as if it's nothing. Be cool, Carol. Be Carol Cool.


I think it's a DK weight yarn...a nice pale green color, suitable for dying whatever colors I choose!

It unraveled beautifully. This picture represents the entirety of the sweater. Very little waste yarn as you can see. In fact, I don't think I can bring myself to throw even that away. I'll use it for test dyes or maybe to have on hand in case I need an extra few yards to finish a project.

See the braided skein of yarn on the left? That skein alone would be about $15 retail! I think I've got at least $175 worth of yarn. I'm thinking 3-4 pairs of socks, a pair of fingerless gloves and maybe a hat or two. Or maybe a small scarf and 2 pairs of socks. Decisions, decisions!

There is one thing about unraveled yarn. It tends to be a bit unplied. That is, the four plys that usually make up a strand of yarn is looser than on new yarn. I've read about in on Ravelry and it seems the solution is to re-ply it with a spindle. They make it sound simple. I'm going to look into it.

Did I mention it was 100% cashmere?

Stinkin' Tarheels

Dukies in Chicago: Be glad you are in Illinois today no matter how windy or cold it is. The stinkin' tarheels are out in full force today in North Carolina. Wearing their stinkin' blue t-shirts and their stinkin' blue hats, walking around all smiling and stinkin' and stinkin' and smiling like they solved the economic crisis or something.

It started last night. My "sweet" "friend" Kelly emailed me right at the buzzer. She's turned dark. Don't know what happened to her. She must have been hanging around Scott. He is his usual insufferable sarcastic self . . . two emails already today . . . accusing me of avoiding him this morning . . . (ha! I was busy! volunteering at a nursing home . . . so there!) And accusing the Blue Devils of misdeeds and foul mouths. He obviously thinks he's a master lip-reader or clairvoyant or something.

These people were my friends! You'd think they'd show some sympathy for a laid-off Christian grandmother. They probably are part of a group on FaceBook . . . "Harrasses sweet Christian laid-off knitting Grandmothers." Stinkin' tarheels.

And I know what Scott would say . . . He'd claim I started it with a trash-talking email to him yesterday morning. For the record all I said was that I hoped he was having a nice day. And maybe something else . . . but that was the gist of it. You just never know how people's minds are gonna twist the most innocent of comments.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Super Baby!

Bobbie and I went to see Carter on Monday. I was eager to take him the Steeler hat I had just finished knitting the day before. Right after we walked in the room, the nurse started talking about how much Carter looked like Joe and that Carter needed a Steeler hat to match what Joe had been wearing. I felt like Glenda the Good whipping it out of my bag.

We so enjoyed playing with Carter and taking turns feeding him. (But Bobbie was just way too forceful . . . don't know what I'm gonna do with her ;)

Cutest Steeler fan ever!


Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Hat for the Steeler's Newest Cutest Fan

It was so much fun holding Carter during the Super Bowl and seeing Joe's Steelers win. I got to thinking . . . "This newest little Steeler fan needs his great aunt Carol to make him a hat!" I thought it would be fun to try to koolaid dye some yarn yellow and black. Here's the process I used . . .

I found a 100% wool sweater at Goodwill for $3.75. I washed it and then unraveled it. I was able to harvest all of the yarn except for the two front panels and the collar. Probably got about $25 worth of wool from this sweater.

I wrapped a hat's worth of yarn around a couple of kitchen chairs in order to get a skein that wouldn't get tangled when dying. I tied white cotton waste yarn about every 16 inches.

I soaked the skein of yarn about 30 minutes in a water-vinegar mixture (one qt. water to 1/4 cup vinegar). I added the vinegar because I was planning on dying with food colors. When dying with koolaid (which has citric acid already in it) you don't have to add the vinegar for acidity.

I squeezed water from the yarn and then put the soaking water into a stainless steel pot and added about six drops yellow food coloring. It looked too bright yellow (I wanted a dark yellow), so I added one tiny drop of red hoping that it would just darken the yellow (to match the Steeler's jerseys), but it made it orange!
I kept it just below a simmer for about 30 minutes.

Here's the peach yarn after about 30 minutes of simmering. You can see that the water is now clear and all the dye has been absorbed into the yarn.

Since the peach yarn was now orange, I started over with some off-white Cascade 220 wool and repeated the process with a packet of lemonade and a few drops of yellow food color.

Now for the black. I simmered some of the peach yarn in 6 drops red, 6 drops blue and 4 drops green. After drying, the yarn was just dark gray, so I repeated the process and finally ended up with a suitable black.

Since I wasn't happy with the dark gray recycled yarn, I thought I'd try dying some cranberry colored wool using the same ratio of food colors. (This is the yarn during the presoak.) It ended up having too much red still in it, so that's when I went back and re-dyed the dark gray recycled yarn.

After gently squeezing out the water and blotting with a paper towel, I hung the skeins to dry. I hung a coat hanger from the orange recyled yarn to help get out some of the kinks.

The finished dyed yarns.

Here are the final colors I'll use for Carter's hat.
Next post: Carter in his Steelers hat!!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Thank you, Miss Nonie!

I was 9. She was 84. It was the summer of 66. Dylan released Blonde on Blonde and U.S. planes were bombing Hanoi. NOW had just been formed and John Lennon had finally (sort of) apologized for claiming the Beatles were more popular than Jesus.

These events would one day become more (or less) meaningful to me, but at the time, I was blissfully unaware of them . . . except of course the Jesus thing. My sisters and I were shocked. We loved Jesus. Didn't John Lennon? Didn't the Beatles rush straight from church to the Ed Sullivan Theater on Sunday nights . . . like we did?

My Granny Norman (Miss Nonie to her friends) was the only one wanting to hold my hand that summer. Her veined, graceful and gentle hands guided my little nail-bitten ones over each stitch to teach me the ubiquitous stockinette pattern.

After many insignificant afternoon hours on the front porch's metal glider, the scratchy red ball of wool was gone and the thing finally (sort of) resembled a scarf. Of course, it curled in on itself almost like an I-cord and so even then I wasn't too satisfied with the results, but I had learned to knit! I was a knitter! Thanks, Granny!