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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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spring around the corner- I hope!!

We’ve had a really mild winter. We had a week or two with temperatures in the teens. But it was a dry cold. We had maybe 2 or 3 days of snow and then it didn’t stay for a long time. It has made my winter feeding pretty easy.

Dye seeds and wildflower seeds for the bees who live here

So now I’m dreaming about restarting my natural dye garden. I tried this several years ago. And the only successful planting was the Madder. Oh Boy! It has taken over. I’m hoping to dig all the roots up in a few weeks. A great resource for dye plants is Rita Buchanan’s A Weaver’s Garden.

As part of my thoughts about a local wardrobe and a local fibershed, I decided to go all in with dye plants this year. I got plants that make blue, yellows, reds and a black.

I love the packaging and care of Bedhead Fiber

I’m going to plant more and in a place where there is more sun as well. I’ll be updating here as the season progresses.

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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.

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thought provoking book

I’ve known about the California Fibershed movement for quite some time. I long to have a movement like that here in the Mid Atlantic. Have you heard of it before? It started as a local indigo project and grew to a movement to source one’s clothes responsibly and preferably with 100 miles of your home. This can be really hard to do.

The first part of this book details how Fibershed got started and also the really alarming cost of our clothes to our health and the health of the environment. The fashion industry has brought us fast fashion. Clothes that are popular right now for a very short period of time. The 2 biggest manufacturers of fast fashion produce one billion items per year. Most of which are worn a few times and thrown away. Most of these clothes end up in our landfills, becoming more than 5% of all of the municipal waste each year. Over 80 billion garments were sold in 2017 which equals a $1.3 trillion industry employing 300 million people from nearly every country. The majority of those jobs pay a very low wage.

I didn’t realize just how damaging washing your clothes could be. Of course the detergents an be unhealthy for many people. And these synthetic clothes shed microfibers in each and every washing. These microfibers make their way into our water, where up to 40% end up in rivers, lakes and oceans. We know what these plastics are doing in our environment.

5 mini skein gradient

What can you do? Well, you buy clothes that will last for a long time, those made from natural fibers and not made from petroleum by-products. You can recycle your clothes by mending them or repurposing them into quilts or other textile items in your home. You can wash your clothes when they are soiled but probably not every time your wear them. And as knitters, crocheters, sewers and makers, you can be part of the fibershed movement. Consider making a wardrobe for yourself or others. Of course wool, alpaca, mohair and cashmere grown locally is sustainable and renewable. We fiber farmers are happy to help you build a wonderful, colorful wardrobe.

knitting in the wild

I encourage you to read this book and consider the impact of choices we all make in clothing ourselves and our families.