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The Fall Foraging Continues

If you follow my social media and these blog posts, you know that I am currently working very hard to bring a naturally dyed yarn line to you. I also want part of the yarn line to be Fibershed certified, when it is possible to do in our Chesapeake Fibershed. So I’ve been foraging around our 25 acres and in places within 10 miles here to find dye plants that I can use. Yesterday, I was able to get some of these dye plants collected and prepared for dyeing into the fall.

Black Walnuts grow wild here on the property. They are just beginning to ripen and fall off the tree. I collected several pounds of them. Walnuts are dual purpose. The outer husk is where the dye lives. And the inner nut is oh, so yummy. Yes, they are hard to pick out from the shell, but they are worth the trouble in my opinion. So yesterday I broke open the husks and put those into a dye bag and laid out the nuts to dry in the sun.

We grew Hopi Black Sunflowers this year. Bill harvested the seed head several weeks ago, and I’ve been slowly picking the seeds out of the sunflower head. I’ll save these until later to dye, they will keep just fine. I saved the seed heads with some seeds in them to plant for next year. The plants are lovely and grew probably 8 feet in height. There’s nothing prettier in summer than a row of sunflowers.

And then there were the pokeberries. I cut off the sprays of berries and put them straight away into the freezer. I have to read up on how to dye with these. Unfortunately this dye tends to fade but still it will be lovely to try to use plants that our ancestors used.

We also harvested acorns, although we don’t have nearly enough to do anything with at this time. I will just keep adding to the stash until I have enough. And we picked up hickory nuts too. Those are just to pick and eat. They are also hard to crack and to get the nut meat out of, but they are really really nice. It feels great to live in a place where we can go out and forage for dyes and for food.

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WIP Wednesday: Laundry Edition

I’ve been making wool dryer balls in my spare time. Why? Well, I have some roving that is not great for spinning or felting. I need all my wool to do something on the farm. This is what allows us to be sustainable. All or nearly all wool and mohair is used to make something here.

Why use dryer balls? Well according to the Environmental Working Group, dryer sheets and fabric softeners damage your clothing and they also damage your health. The chemicals in these products contain chemicals known to cause cancer, irritate your skin, and cause reproductive issues. Also when dryer sheets are heated, these chemicals become airborne and can affect your lungs and exasperate asthma. These chemicals are know collectively as Quaternary Ammonium Compounds or QACS. These chemicals make your towels less absorbent. I’ve surely experienced that. They will also wear down the ability of your clothing to wick away moisture in socks or athletic wear. QACS stay on your fabrics for quite a while and they slowly seep out over time between washings. And as they seep they are affecting you, your family and all the fabrics in your house. Also what happens to the “used” sheet? It goes to the landfill. There are still those chemicals in the sheet. And the contents of our landfills can contaminate ground water and other water sources. Just think about all the loads of laundry in all the houses in your neighborhood or city or state, that’s a lot of these QACS in the environment.

Dryer balls are completely natural. Mine are made of 100% wool. Wool is great at wicking away moisture. It is antimicrobial as well. They work by bouncing around in your dryer. They lift and aerate your laundry. They help the heat to disperse within your load and thereby reduce your drying time. Because they reduce the heat in your dryer, they also reduce the static cling. Static builds up with more and longer heat in the dryer. They contain no chemicals, just wool, pure wool.

Each package of dryer balls contains 4 softball sized wool balls. Just toss them in your dryer and turn it on. In between laundry days or sessions, leave them in the dryer. I’ve had mine in the dryer for over 5 years. They last forever. Sometimes they get a little worse for wear and you can certainly replace them but these are economical as well. A box of dryer sheets costs somewhere between 5 and 11 cents a load. When you switch to dryer balls you will have that money to spend on something else, fancy coffee? yarn? some kind of treat? And you have the knowledge that you are making the world a better place. That’s work it for sure.

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getting closer WIP Wednesday

This is my Fibershed sweater. I’m working on the sleeves. And it’s almost done. I’m beyond the elbows. What’s taking so long you ask? Well I’m doing the sleeves two at a time. I’m doing a series of blips which is a 12 row repeat on one sleeve then switching to the other sleeve and repeating that and so forth. That way the gauge is even. And I pattern is even. And the decreases are in the same place without really having to count.

What have I learned? well I’ve learned a few things:

  1. Your future self will thank you if you weave in your ends as you are knitting. Do not wait until the end of your project. This sweater has a lot of yarn changes and so lots of weaving in the ends. But I’m staying on top of it.
  2. Knit some every day. Even if you can only manage a row or two. Soon your project will grow and you will be near the end.

What are you working on?

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WIP not Wednesday!

So I planned to do this blog on Wednesday, but you know….It was full of drama and pomp and circumstance, a few tears and a little nail biting. So here is my current, well one of them, project. This is my “Fibershed” sweater. It is all yarn made from my animals or those of partner farms within 100 miles, really within 20 miles. The dark is naturally colored wool, mohair and alpaca fleeces. The bright colors are all natural dyes on my mohair yarn.

Shifty Fibershed

The pattern is Shifty. I changed just about all of it. It’s supposed to be a pullover, but I wanted a cardigan. I added a steek and I’ll cut it apart after it’s blocked. It supposed to be sport weight and this yarn is closer to worsted. So I had to go up a couple of needle sizes and down a couple of sweater sizes. But it fits just fine. Thank you Kyle for suggesting this fix!!

I’m currently working on the sleeves. I’m doing these two at a time, in a way. I’m doing a group of blips and then moving to the opposite sleeve and doing the same blips on that side. That way I’m keeping better track of the decreases and I’m using the same color rotation.

I’m hoping to finish this within 3 weeks. Maybe sooner? I have to finish the sleeves, stabilize the steek with crochet, block, cut, figure out buttons and make button holes. I think I’m not going to do a button band but rather crochet loops. Then it will be done!!

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Local Color–Walnut

I’m starting to do my natural dye experiments for a truly “Fibershed” yarn. The base is our new Polypay worsted. It is made from fleeces grown at a partner farm in Virginia and spun in Pennsylvania.

First I gathered the whole black walnuts on our property. I cracked the husks off the nuts. (I really thought I took a photo of this step, but alas not). Then I soaked those husks for about a month.

In the dyepot

Wednesday, I heated the dye liquor up and put in 2-color skeins and a semi-solid skeins. I heated them for at least an hour. Dyeing with walnuts doesn’t need a mordant as the tanin in the dye is mordant enough. Then I let the pot cool down and let it sit for another day. Then on to rinsing and drying the yarn.

semi-solid and 2 color experiments

I think these look great. The pot still contains a lot of dye, so I’ll be using it until it’s exhausted. I’ll do some other 2-color experiments with maybe some madder or some cochineal too. Those would look nice. Stay tuned!!

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New Podcast: Natural Colored and Naturally Dyed Yarn

I’ve been talking about Fibershed. And in that light, I know that I need to relearn all about natural dyeing again. I’ve done it a lot. I’ve taken a lot of classes. But I’ve never done it in a production with reproducibility in mind. I will have to really pay attention to water and temperature and weight. And still I know there will be variability….that’s just the nature of natural dyeing.

As many of you know I do have a few naturally colored yarns in my line up already. They are more rustic yarns. They are not as soft as my Livily or Trasna yarns. They are just a little more hardy. And still, there are many items to make with these yarns. They are great for outwear. They are long wearing and will last a long time.

So in that vein, I’m now knitting a truly local sweater. I’m making a Shifty sweater. And I’ve had to do a lot of math and fanageling because I am using my own yarn that is bigger than the pattern calls for. And I don’t want a pullover style. So I added a steek area and so I’ll have a cardigan at the end. The back ground yarn is my Puck which is charcoal wool, mohair and alpaca. And the contrast yarns are mohair yarn that is naturally dyed. In fact this yarn has been hanging around for a long time since I dyed it. And now I have a project for it.

So if you would like to hear about fibershed and color. Tune into Episode 12 here. Or you can subscribe to it on itunes.

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Podcast 11: Can Slow Fashion Save the Planet?

In this episode, Lisa talks about slow fashion: what is it and how can it help to heal our planet.  She also introduces the Fibershed movement and their call to action.  You can join our Wardrobe project in a special facebook group.

Corosprine Sweater made with natural colored mohair and wool

We can cloth ourselves more mindfully and save the planet from trash, pollution and climate change, one little bit at a time. Listen to the podcast to find out how you can start this journey. Or go to itunes and subscribe so you don’t miss and episode.

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New Podcast: Fast Fashion

In today’s podcast, I talk about “Fast Fashion”. This is the push by marketers and manufacturers to make cheaper and cheaper clothes that we buy, wear once or twice and cast away while chasing the next fashion trend. It used to be that there were 2 “seasons” in the clothing industry. Now there are 52 “mini-seasons”. The pursuit of these fashion trends is making our planet sick. The chemicals to make and dye the fabric is toxic to us and to the environment. The pursuit of this fashion is making our bodies sick as well. There are hormonal changes that are happening, not only to the people who work in the industry but also to those who were the products on their skin.

I offer some ideas for how to wean ourselves off this hamster wheel.

This is just the first in a series talking about fast fashion vs. slow fashion. I’ll be talking about the Fibershed movement too.

Click here to listen!

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Thoughts about cost of local farm yarn

Recently I bought a back issue of TapRoot Magazine. I was intrigued because the issue’s theme is: Wear. And since I’ve been spending the first part of the year thinking and studying and planning in a fibershed, local fiber kind of way, it was a perfect fit. The article that drew in my attention is by Tamera and Char White of A Wing and A Prayer farm.

Taproot published November 2019

They write about all the costs in raising and feeding the sheep that is making that yarn all the way through shearing, processing, dyeing and selling farm yarn. They really drill down in to the costs of hoof trimming (in time and money), the vet costs and the shelter for the animals. They chose one ram’s fleece which yielded about 12 pounds of wool. It became 33 four ounce skeins. The total cost for those skeins is a little over 1500 dollars. The wholesale price would be $46 and the retail $67. That is a LOT for a skein, right?

They also write about the emotional costs of raising sheep for local yarn. And also the rewards of raising your sheep to make yarn. We are a community and we love our sheep. We hope that you love our sheep and yarn as well.

Trasna skeins

With your purchase of our local farm yarn, you are supporting those sheep and goats whose fiber you are using to make a garment or a household item. Think about buying from a producer of good wool yarn. It comes in all colors and all textures. It is not all scratchy. It can be smooth and soft. It can be squishy like our Livily and Trasna yarns. It can be durable for socks and slippers like our Stratus and our mohair. We are working with our mill to make more weights of farm yarn so that we will have a farm yarn for every garment or other handmade item that you want to make. Click on any of the photos to be taken to our website to find farm yarn for your collection.

Stratus undyed and overdyed skeins
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Making a Local Wardrobe

Really? A whole wardrobe? What is that about? I’ve been thinking a lot about how the choices we make really effect our planet and our climate. I’ve written about this before and I have been reading and thinking about just how to make a local wardrobe.

I make wool and mohair yarn. So I can have outerwear pieces from my very local yarn. I can make socks, boot cuffs, hats, mittens, scarves, shawls and sweaters with the yarn from my own animals.

I can felt fiber into fabric to make a coat and accessories like a messenger bag or purse.

But as summer comes along, I will also need to have some lighter fabrics. There aren’t any cotton growers or cotton and linen mills in our area. So for lighter garments I will have to find cotton and linen made in neighboring states. I’m hoping to even find some hemp grown in N. Carolina. So my fibershed, my local will have to widen out a bit.

Why go to all this trouble? Because it is important to turn away from the plastic and microfibers in commercial clothing. Did you know that 60% of our garments are made with polyester. To make this, we consume 350 million barrels of oil every year. That’s amazing. That’s dangerous.

Did you also know that nearly 2 gms of microfibers come off of a jacket run through the wash. And that 40% of that makes it to streams, rivers and the oceans? We’ve seen the massive amount of plastic garbage in the ocean, but these microfibers are largely unseen and still they are a threat. Like seafood? You are ingesting this microfiber that traveled to the ocean.

So my little part may not make a huge difference. But I will be doing my part… Want to do your part too? Think about your own local wardrobe or local pieces. We have wool and mohair yarns made right here in many different weights and we are growing this local yarn line as I write this.