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Stash Appreciation-Types of Wool

There are four broad categories of wool: fine wool, medium wool, coarse wool, and longwools.

Fine wools are just that. They have a micron range less that 17 microns. These wools are perfect for items that you will wear next to the skin.  Because it is fine, it grows more slowly on the animal. Therefore the staple length is shorter. My cormo fleeces are typically 3.5 to 4 inches in length. They have amazing crimp and some luster.  These fleeces also have a lot of lanolin in them.  They are delicate fleeces. Both of these characteristics make them very hard to wash well by hand without felting.  Breeds in the fine wool category include merino, cormo, rambouillet and polwarth.

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Medium wool is the most prevalent and most affordable wool.  The wool grows very quickly and so staple lengths in the 4-6 inch range can be easily found. There is a wide variety of micron counts in this category of wool. There are fleeces that are next to the skin soft and others that are on the more scratchy side. This differences in fleeces and yarn come from the care the sheep received, processing of the fleeces and the twist of the yarn.   This category also has breeds with a large number of natural colors of browns, grays, and blacks. Breeds in this category include perendale, romney, shetland, corriedale, targhee and southdown.

Coarse wools mostly come from primitive breeds, those that have been on earth for eons.  Some of these are double coated with a long outer hair and a soft downy undercoat, like icelandic sheep.  These can have quite long staple lengths of 7 inches or over.  There are many colored sheep in this category. The wool can be used for outerwear or household products such as rugs, tapestries and felted items. The wool and yarn is very durable and can take a lot of abuse.  Besides icelandic sheep, breeds include karakul, Navaho churro and Scottish blackface.

The Longwool category is aptly named. The wool of these sheep grows very quickly and can be sheared twice a year. Or when sheared only once, they produce locks of up to 12 inches in length, which is highly prized by art yarn spinners and doll makers. This category is highly diverse in fiber diameter.  There are fleeces that are next to the skin soft or those that should be used for household products like rugs and wall hangings.  Breeds in this group include the Leicester group, coopworth, lincoln, teeswater, wensleydale and cotswold.

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I’m definitely a fine wool girl with my love of cormo. I also have blue-faced leicesters with a micron count less than 25. I want to have fleece and yarns that aren’t itchy and scratchy.  Do you have a favorite type of wool? Leave a comment and tell me what wool you love and why.

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I Love Wool

breeding group

Wool has a bit of a bad rap. So many people tell me they can’t wear wool because they are allergic or it is itchy. Yes there are some itchy wool yarns that shouldn’t be worn next to the skin. There are many wool yarns that have been treated gently and make fabric with lovely drape and softness.  There are many benefits to using wool. In my opinion, it is totally worth the time and trouble to find a wool yarn that works for you. Even my itchiest mohair wool blend sweater loses it’s itch factor when I wear a cotton turtleneck underneath and I get the benefit of beauty, comfort and warmth. In a future post, I will be talking about matching specific breeds to appropriate projects.

Wool is a totally renewable, sustainable fiber. It grows back year after year. Processing wool does not have a large carbon or chemical footprint.  Cleaning takes hot water and some soap.  The rest of the processing can be done totally by hand, but even if it is processed at a mill, there is just electricity used in most cases.  Superwash wool has the least “itchiness”. It has been highly processed to remove the scales on the individual fibers. But it also has the highest environmental impact. I do like to use superwash wools for socks, knowing that it is a little less ecologically friendly.

Wool is biodegradable. In fact, it can be used as an excellent nitrogen source for mulching. Some shepherds use the skirtings (dirtier wool from the bellies and legs) as mulch for their gardens or orchards.

Wool is flame resistant so it naturally defends against fire.  When exposed to a flame, the fibers extinguish themselves.

Wool is a great insulator. Some new “green” homes are using wool as insulation.  As insulation, wool wicks moisture away from the home and reduces the presence of mold and bacteria. It also acts as a filter for odors in a home.

 

As outerwear, wool keeps you warm in the winter by insulating and cool in the summer by being breathable. It wicks away moisture from your body, so the moisture is evaporated. It also repels water since the outer layer of the fiber is hydrophobic.

For garments, wool is very easy to care for. Of course you shouldn’t put it in the washer and dryer, but handwashing and air drying is all you need to do. Stains are easy to remove as well either with soap and water or dry cleaning fluid for oily stains.  It is highly durable so it is a smart investment for your wardrobe.

puck

 

Puck says “Try wool! Ewe’ll like it!!”

Do you love wool? Why or why not? Post a comment to share your thoughts on wool.

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Stash Appreciation–What Kind Of Stasher Are You?

Here is a repost of a summer time post that I think is a good place to start your Year of Stash Appreciation.

What Kind of Stasher Are You?

 

What kind of stasher are you? Whether you use yarn, fabric, beads or paper, your art requires supplies. How do you handle your stash?

  • Type 1—Do you only buy materials for your current project so you don’t have a stash or any UFO’s (unfinished objects)?

  • Type 2—Do you try to only buy for a current project but look forward to your next project while you’re working on your current one? So you have no stash to speak of and only 1 or 2 UFO’s.

  • Type 3—Do you only buy materials for current and future projects? You like to get the supplies and pattern together then you know you have everything for the pattern. You have a small to medium stash, some UFO’s.  All your materials are matched with a pattern for easy access to the next project

  • Type 4—Do you buy the materials you like and don’t worry about which pattern it will go with? You know that eventually a project will emerge for the supplies.  You have a medium to large stash and some UFO’s that you work on industriously to complete.

  • Type 5— Do you buy anything and everything that calls to you? The yarn or cloth speaks to you and you listen.  You have a large stash that you sometimes feel guilty about. But you also get a lot of creative satisfaction when you visit and pet your yarns, beads, and textiles.

  • studio shot

 

I am a Type 4. I do have a medium stash of beads, quilting fabric AND yarn.  I try to just buy for projects but I also buy materials that call my name.  Since I’ve founded Flying Goat Farm, I have not bought ANY quilting fabric.  I haven’t sewn either.  I do hope to get back into my sewing room soon and finish one or two of the 8 unfinished quilting projects.  OK….maybe now that I think about it I’m a Type 5!

Leave a comment here or on Facebook to tell me what stash you collect and what type of stasher you are!!

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The Year of Stash Appreciation–WOOL

fleece

The theme of FGF blog this year is a celebration of your stash. I want you to get to know what is in your stash. I want you to be able to make good decisions about which yarn should be used for which project. So I will be writing about the types of fibers and what kinds of patterns and projects will match the yarn you have. You will find information about animal fibers, plant fibers, and fiber blends of all kinds. I also want you to know how to most effectively use your hand dyes and semi-solids.

So this month WOOL is the topic. It is a fascinating, diverse fiber that can be used for so many different kinds of projects.

So let’s start at the beginning. Even if you know a lot about wool, I hope you will learn something new! I learn new things about wool all the time.

Wool is the fiber from a sheep. Duh, right? Well, there are people who call any animal fiber wool. But that isn’t accurate.  There are over a thousand breeds of sheep and each breed has wool that is characteristic for that breed.  Then there are crosses of those purebreds and their wool is a combination of the breeds that they come from.

Wool characteristics are classified by the variables of crimp, staple length, fiber diameter and the mix of fibers within the wool.  Crimp is the zig-zaggy nature of the wool. Fleeces with a lot of crimp tend to be softer next to the skin. This is because when the fiber touches a barrier, like your skin, the fiber will bend and not feel prickly on your skin. Crimpy yarns are also more elastic yarns, so they are great to use for items where elasticity is important like hats or socks. Crimpy yarns also tend to be from fine wool sheep.

Staple length is the typical length of each fiber. It usually represents one year’s growth for sheep.  Shorter staple lengths can give a yarn that will pill, since it may not be twisted well enough in the yarn.  However, longer staple lengths can at times yield a coarser  yarn.  Fleeces that are in the range of 4-6 inches are usually the easiest to make into a nice soft yarn.

Fiber diameter is measured in microns. A micron is one millionth of a meter. Some producers measure micron counts for their fleeces. Micron counts are done on a 2 inch sample of the best fiber (shoulder area) of the animal. The report shows a graph of all the different fibers in that sample and what most people talk about it the AVERAGE micron count.  What you need to know is that 2 fleeces could have the same average micron count and yet FEEL different.  One could still feel softer than the other even though the average fiber diameter is the same. This is because the blend of fibers within those samples is different.

The last variable for wool is the mix of fibers within that fleece. Every fleece is made up of diverse fibers. However there are many breeds that are called double coated, where there are 2 very distinct fibers within that fleece. One maybe more hair like and the other a soft downy undercoat. Some breeds also have kemp fibers in their wool. These are hollow fibers that are shorter, coarser and more brittle. They take dye differently so can give the wool a heathery, tweedy look.

When buying a fleece, roving or yarn, you can use these variables to make your purchasing decisions. You can pull out a small sample or just look at the ends of the roving or yarn. You can “eyeball” the fiber. Does it look fine? Can you see any crimp in the individual fibers? Can you see some fibers that are significantly different? And finally, how does it feel? Put it next to your neck. Is it soft enough to wear next to your skin? If not, is it the kind of yarn that you would want to make a sweater or other outerwear item?  Or is it something that you would want to spin and weave into a rug, pillow or other home decor item.

What do you have in your stash? Is there yarn there that you bought because you loved the color but now you think is just too coarse? I have a few skeins in this category that I purchased over the years. If so pull these out, look at them and put them into a separate boxes marked wool–outerwear or wool-home decor.

Tell me what you found in your stash. What have you been collecting?

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10 Great Gifts for the Spinner in Your Life

Here are some of the wonderful gifts that would be perfect for the spinner in your life.

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1. Spanish Peacock spindle–This craftsman makes the most beautiful spindles in many different styles: top whorl, bottom whorl and supported. Check out his gallery to find a great gift for the spinner you love.

2. Sarah Anderson’s book– Have you always wanted to spin cocoons and boucle? This book is informative and stunningly beautiful.

3. A cup holder for a spinning wheel–This is definitely for the spinner who has everything! I found it at The Woolery.

4. Gradient dyed roving–One of my guilty pleasures is buying wonderful roving to spin, even though I can dye it myself. Melissa at Wild Hare Fiber Studio dyes wonderful gradients that are so fun to spin. Check out her latest offerings here.

5. A blending board by Clemes and Clemes is a really fun tool to have. The spinner you love can use it to make unique color and fiber blends.

 

6. Spinner’s Control Card–This tool is great for the spinner who is working to make different weights of yarn. With it, a spinner can check the weight of their yarn. It will make a good stocking stuffer! You can find it here.

 

7. An art batt or two!  You can make unique and beautiful yarns with an art batt.  There are lots of ETSY makers. One of my favorites is JazzTurtle. You can find her shop here.

 

8. A McMorran balance–This is another great tool for a handspinner. With it you can measure how many yards per pound your yarn is. This measure will let you calculate the yardage you have made as well as help you to translate your handmade yarn into commercial yarn lingo, such as sport or worsted weights. I found it at The Woolery.

9. Subscription to Ply Magazine–This magazine is merely 2 years old. I love the photos and the information presented. The articles are written by a wide array of spinners.  A gift subscription will be enjoyed all year!

10. A gift certificate to FGF–We have wonderful natural colored and dyed rovings for the spinner you love. If you don’t know which one might be most loved, give him or her a gift certificate and let them pick.

What’s on your wish list? Please share your favorite gift idea for a spinner in the comments!

 

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10 Great Gifts for the Shepherd in Your Life

Here are some great gifts that I would love to have.

1. Muck or Bogs boots–These are not only necessary when it is rainy, muddy and snowy, but you will be in STYLE while farming!!

2. Hand knit hat– If you don’t knit, then ask a friend to make one for you. This one is made from my Puck’s Choice yarn which is naturally charcoal yarn made from Puck’s fleece (border leicester), Stripes (Angora Goat) and a black alpaca fleece from VA. Each skein has 200 yards, enough for a hat. We sell it for $22 per skein.

 

handknit hat

3. Carthart overalls and jacket– This is absolutely necessary in the winter. These are so thick that you stay warm and dry in the worst weather.


4. Handwarmer packs– Cold hands make working outside really hard. And there is always outside work to do in the winter.

5. Premier feeder–I really need a bunch of these so that I stop getting “in the way” when feeding really hungry sheep and goats. Premier1 sells plans for these.

 

6. Rocky coats–These coats are durable and colorful.  Rocky makes coats in a number of sizes that just fit sheep better.  Our Cormos are covered year round so that we have the whitest, cleanest fleeces.  See Demi in the back? She is sporting a wonder Rocky Sheep Cover.

breeding group

 

7. Field Guide to Fiber–This is a small field guide that you can use when you are dreaming about your future flock. There is great information about so many breeds, their history, fiber types and great pictures.

8. Heated water buckets–an absolute must have in the winter here in the East. This is about the limit of what I can carry.

9. Lambing Supply Bucket–This is a great starter kit for your first lambing or kidding season. It is available from Sheepmen Supply here in Frederick, MD but they do ship all over the country.

 

10. Animal Care Class at FGF–We do offer sheep and goat care classes here at the farm. Our next session is January 25th in the afternoon. If you take some time to learn, you will be prepared to have your own flock.

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Wishing you a fantastic holiday season from all of us at Flying Goat Farm!

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Swatching and Stash Appreciation

stitch samples

Do you swatch? I hear all the time that people do not like to swatch so they don’t swatch.  I suppose if you are making a shawl or scarf that doesn’t need to be a particular size you don’t need to. Or if you buy the yarn that the pattern says to use, you don’t need to. Or if you have a head, feet or hands that are “normal” size for most hats, socks or mittens, you wouldn’t need to.  But if you are making a fitted garment, like a sweater or using custom spun yarn from a farm or if you are “shopping” in your stash, you need to swatch.

But if you are like me, swatching can save you time and heartache in the end.  I do have a small stash, but more importantly, since my yarn is custom spun, I have yarns that aren’t the same as the yarns you can get at your LYS or craft store.  I want to use it and I want to share it. So I need to make sure that I know what it will do and how it will knit up.  Sorry crocheters, I really can’t figure out crocheting. I need to know what special mojo my yarns have so that I can share them with the world.  So I must swatch.

yarn swatch

For my famous Celtic Cardigan, I wanted to use my Fernham’s Choice yarn. It is a 80/20 blend of Blue Faced Leicester and kid mohair. It is a wonderful squishy worsted weight yarn, perfect for a warn cardigan.  The pattern called for 18 stitches/26 rows + 4 inches on size 8 needles in the stockinette stitch. and each cable had it’s own gauge as well.  I swatched and swatched until I got that gauge, but the needle size was different.  If I hadn’t figured that out, I would have ended up with a sweater that was totally the wrong size.  Even with this swatching, when I started knitting in earnest, my gauge loosened and I ended up  about 6 inches too wide. This would have been devastating if I wasn’t already having to take out the sweater for the million other things I didn’t like about my knitting.

The lesson for me is to swatch before I make any larger project.  I will also be swatching for my customers, in order to get a good idea of the gauge for my custom yarns.  What I like to do is to make a 5 inch square that is surrounded by about a half inch border of seed stitch with a 4 inch area of stockinette. To determine needle size, I use a spinner’s control card to get an idea of the WIP (wraps per inch) which I can then translate to the standard yarn language of lace, fingering, sport, dk, worsted, etc.  That gives me an appropriate needle size to use for my swatch.  If I start to knit and find that the needle size isn’t quite right, I simply take note of that for my swatch tag and change the needle up or down.spinner's control card

 

So when you see my gauge on the labels that is your jumping off place.  Each knitter has their own “gauge” as well.  Are you a tight or loose knitter? So you throw (English) or pick (Continental)?  After some time knitting, you will know your knitting “handicap”. At the trunk show recently, a group of knitters came into the shop. They began to talk about going up or down a needle size (or two) from the posted gauge of a yarn.  I haven’t gotten to that point yet. I do know I’m on the tighter end of knitting.

I hope you are inspired to do some swatching before starting that sweater or using that luxury yarn like our Zephyrette.  What have you learned about your knitting style through swatching? Do you have a swatching (or not swatching) story to share? I’d love to read your stories and learn for you too!!

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A Year of Stash Appreciation

A Year of Stash Appreciation

The theme of my blog this year is a celebration of your stash. I want you to get to know what is in your stash. I will also teach you about the types of fibers and what kinds of patterns and projects will match the yarn you have. You will find information about animal fibers, plant fibers, and fiber blends of all kinds. I will be writing about how to most effectively use your hand dyes and semi-solids.

Here is the first installment:

What Kind of Stasher Are You?

 

What kind of stasher are you? Whether you use yarn, fabric, beads or paper, your art requires supplies. How do you handle your stash?

  • Type 1—Do you only buy materials for your current project so you don’t have a stash or any UFO’s (unfinished objects)?

  • Type 2—Do you try to only buy for a current project but look forward to your next project while you’re working on your current one? So you have no stash to speak of and only 1 or 2 UFO’s.

  • Type 3—Do you only buy materials for current and future projects? You like to get the supplies and pattern together then you know you have everything for the pattern. You have a small to medium stash, some UFO’s.  All your materials are matched with a pattern for easy access to the next project

  • Type 4—Do you buy the materials you like and don’t worry about which pattern it will go with? You know that eventually a project will emerge for the supplies.  You have a medium to large stash and some UFO’s that you work on industriously to complete.

  • Type 5— Do you buy anything and everything that calls to you? The yarn or cloth speaks to you and you listen.  You have a large stash that you sometimes feel guilty about. But you also get a lot of creative satisfaction when you visit and pet your yarns, beads, and textiles.

 

I am a Type 4. I do have a medium stash of beads, quilting fabric AND yarn.  I try to just buy for projects but I also buy materials that call my name.  Since I’ve founded Flying Goat Farm, I have not bought ANY quilting fabric.  I haven’t sewn either.  I do hope to get back into my sewing room soon and finish one or two of the 8 unfinished quilting projects.  OK….maybe now that I think about it I’m a Type 5!

Leave a comment here or on Facebook to tell me what stash you collect and what type of stasher you are!!

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Purple Munsell Exercises

This is the last of my exercises in the Munsell Color book. I have learned a lot doing these exercises. Probably more importantly is that these exercises have trained my color “eye”.  There were three exercises, “purple”, “red-purple”, and “blue purple”.   You can see from these photos that there are various concentrations of red and blue in these 3 color exercises.   Here is what I started with today.

 

5rp pre5p pre

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next,I sorted out the most gray of the chips. These belong on the value scale. Next I matched the color chips to the saturation of the gray chip.  Unfortunately, I’m missing one chip….I did look and look, but it vanished….

5rp

5p

 

 

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Green Color Exercises

 

green munsell1

It’s been awhile since I pulled out my Munsell Student Color Book.  There is a green exercise though.  So I pulled apart my color chips and pulled out the mounting paper.  I have to tell you that I was rusty. I found that when doing these exercises it is easier to compare one or two chips. Does this one have more gray or more pure hue.  Then I can place them in the correct place.

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