Sunday, February 7, 2010

a book and the baa

As a thank you for the hospitality last month, my friend Diana mailed me a book I absolutely adore. It is pure fiber-farmer pornography and I page through it with wide eyes and a wider smile. It's called Shear Spirit: Ten Fiber Farm, Twenty Patterns, and Miles of Yarn. The book is so beautiful. It's about ten farms across America and their stories. The photography is stunning, and the personal history of the people who own these operations is so inspirational. There are sheep farms on the coast of Maine and goat ranches in Texas. Every chapter ends with a project specific to the stock and styles of that particular farm. As someone who aspires to join this tribe, I devoured it. It's a fine edification of a subculture. Check it out.

It also got me motivated to finally start working with my own wool. I'd been putting it off for months, waiting to mail it off to be processed by someone else. But ever since a reader donated me her drum carder—I lacked a decent excuse not to start making yarn. I had the wool, the carder, and my trusty Ashford drop spindle. (For those of you confused by what that is, a drop spindle is a hand held apparatus that does the job of a spinning wheel, slower and far cheaper.) So yesterday I carded and spun the raw wool. When I filled it up, I started knitting right off the spindle and when that was kicked I'd card and spin some more. The yarn came out greasy and super strong, lumpy and bumpy. Lots of character. I have about a foot knitted with size 15 needles and so far it is the thickest, warmest, thing I ever made. The plan is to knit it into a scarf—then either felt and dye it, or let it soak in a wool wash and research natural dyes. Even if it turns out to be some hideous long piece of fabric, it's my hideous long piece of fabric. It's still warm as all get out, and from a sheep right in the back yard. I'm proud of myself for finally getting started on my own wool. And hey, even if Cold Antler is a long cry from the farms in that book, I'm still grateful it crossed my path. Sometimes it takes someone else's efforts to ram you into action. Cheesy pun, intended.

P.S. If you ordered prints from me, please be patient. I need to find a new printer and then get decent copies made and signed. But I promise they'll show up eventually. It's a hectic month, February.


Blogger Peacemom said...

Hey Jenna, please post a picture when it's done, we'd like a look-see. Sounds fun.

February 7, 2010 at 9:02 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I have found that spinning is actually more fun than I expected. Have fun with yours!

February 7, 2010 at 9:29 AM  
Blogger Penny said...

Good for you on the spinning and knitting!
You may want to keep an eye on your carder because carding wool in the grease may gunk it up to the point it will be difficult to clean ... just a thought.
Shear Spirit is a great book. So much inspiration and information makes it a definite wish and dream bbok! I requested my library purchase it and had to wipe off my drool and let the book dry before I could return it. lol

February 7, 2010 at 9:40 AM  
Blogger Penny said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

February 7, 2010 at 9:40 AM  
Blogger small farm girl said...

Hey Jenna, I'm wanting to start with the whole "knitting your own wool" thing. lol Got any pointers for beginners? I mean really a beginner. Like where can I learn to knit? I know how to crochet, but not knit. Not many people around here do it, believe it or not.

February 7, 2010 at 9:52 AM  
Blogger Constant Gardener said...

You definitely want to be careful when spinning in the grease. You might want to use combs (easily made with some nails and scarp wood) rather than cards or a drum carder, because they're far easier to clean and won't be ruined by excess lanolin and dirt. Bitter experience talking here...

February 7, 2010 at 10:35 AM  
Blogger E said...

Great to use your own fiber.
I think you need to card it more. And perhaps wash it carefully before carding.

February 7, 2010 at 10:53 AM  
Blogger spinnersaw said...

Hi Jenna

Some dog brushes make great carding tools, you might try them to card up a little bit of wool. They are a lot cheaper than cards or drum carders. Your spinning looks great, when you are able to spin fine yarn you will wish that you could go back to spinning the chunky, for some reason it is difficult to go back to chunky

February 7, 2010 at 11:05 AM  
Blogger Lynnanne said...

Funny timing of this post. I just signed up for a class on drop spindles and spinning for next Saturday. Ultimate goal is a wheel ...and an alpaca!! And, I like the character of chunky. :-)

February 7, 2010 at 11:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you know as times change so do styles. Here we all spinn very fine yarns im talkin 23:1 on a spinning wheel because thats how we were taught. In the old days it was a spinners trademark to spinn yarn like a machine would. I've tried to spinn a chunky yarn and found that it just didn't work for me. Not to metntion kitting it up made for a very ugly coat. as far as knitting goes there are alot of great tutorials on Youtube if you interested. But its always good to have someone around that can show you first hand. Ask around if you know of any one from continental europe in your area, they can knitt almost all of the time. And most will be happy to show you how to start!

February 7, 2010 at 11:17 AM  
Blogger Lorna said...

Amazing! I love all things fiber and material; alas, I am much better with a needle and thread than I am at spinning or knitting :)

Just curious-perhaps you mention this somewhere on your blog and I've completely missed it, but how/why did you choose to name your farm Cold Antler? It's an interesting name and I'd love to know the story behind it!

February 7, 2010 at 11:31 AM  
Blogger AngelKat said...

Jenna - I've been reading your blog since I read your book and am rooting for you (sent a little donation to help along the way)

This is my first post - and just to tell you that your book popped up on another blog I was checking out.
Scroll down to Feb 5 and see what is peeking out of her yarn basket!
Best of luck!

February 7, 2010 at 12:02 PM  
Blogger Laurinda Matheson said...

I know what you mean. On Friday night I plied the first singles from my own Soay wool. It's lumpy, uneven, and I missed a few (okay, a lot of) guard hairs when I was carding, but it's real yarn from my own sheep, and I'm thrilled!

February 7, 2010 at 12:36 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

OMG, I know the photographer for that book!

Also, congrats on your first "sheep to hideous long piece of fabric"! Isn't it neat to be able to say, "I fed and loved and sheared the sheep who grew the wool that made the yarn that made the knitted whatever"?

February 7, 2010 at 1:30 PM  
Blogger Rene said...

The book Start Spinning has a great section called From Sheep to Spinning on how to process your own wool at home. I've seen descriptions on line that make it sounds like a tedious, back breaking process but the steps and photos in the book look very easy to follow.

If you spin the unwashed wool, it makes the yarn more water proof but you won't be able to wash out all of the lanolin and get the wool really clean. That kind of spun wool is great for things like soakers (covers for cloth diapers).

February 7, 2010 at 2:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks like it's time for somebody to join! Tons of forums for cleaning, processing, spinning, and dyeing wool.

And read all the archives of this blog, she's a spindle-spinning goddess:

And have fun :)

'Cause you can't escape now!

February 7, 2010 at 4:47 PM  
Blogger jenomnibus said...

The yarn in your picture looks beautiful! I love that it's chunky and uneven, and the variations in color are really nice. I've just begun knitting, and I'm finding that I prefer the bigger yarns to the finer ones - perhaps that's testament to my beginner status, but still. Yes, please do post more pics!

February 7, 2010 at 5:12 PM  
Blogger folk city said...

Have you ever used a spinning wheel? I have an Ashford Kiwi wheel that I'm thinking about selling. It needs a new conrod connector... a very small, yet necessary part that costs about $3.50 online. I would be happy to donate the wheel to your farm, if you can use it (and wouldn't mind ordering the connector on your own.)

I taught myself how to spin on an Ashford Traditional. Spinning on the Kiwi is like butter, in comparison. You'll get lots of wool spun and you'll be able to control the nubbiness of the fiber more so than on a drop spindle.

Also, for an even more luxurious finished product, have you ever considered having your fleece processed at Frankenmuth Woolen Mill in Michigan?

They can turn it into batts, roving, whatever you want. I found it allowed me to spend more time doing the fun stuff— once I learned how to make something, sheep to shawl, I left the washing, carding, etc. to them. Just a thought.


February 7, 2010 at 5:49 PM  
Blogger The Green Cat said...

Thanks for sharing that. How wonderful to make something from something so personal as the wool from your own sheep!

No worries on the print. Heck, I already blew my non-existent art budget earlier this month getting another print framed so it's not like I can afford to frame yours anytime soon anyway LOL!

February 7, 2010 at 6:45 PM  
Blogger E said...

Something you might consider:

"I’m sending thank-yous to everyone who donated to my legal fund. Even spending 60-90 minutes/day at this task, it’s gonna take forever to get through them all — but if you chipped in, you’ll be hearing from me. It may be in 2013, but you’ll be hearing from me."

February 7, 2010 at 9:07 PM  
Blogger Knitting Out Loud said...

Farming of any kind is tough! Hang in there - the Shear Spirit folks have been at it a LONG time!

February 8, 2010 at 8:46 AM  
Blogger Fiddler1963 said...

just finished reading made from scratch. thought I'd wander over and check out your site


February 8, 2010 at 8:53 AM  
Blogger Bri said...

HOOrah! for spinning, once you get a taste for it's a slippery slope into obsession. I learned how to spin on a wheel last year, castille soap works wonders for washing wool! and kool-aid can also be a fun way to dye yarn, (though there's no subsitute for beautiful natural dyes!) You should try out a spinning wheel if you have a chance, they're wonderful :D and fast!

February 8, 2010 at 2:08 PM  
Blogger Erika said...

Awesome. I have a spindle and some roving from the local Fiber Fest last fall. Just over in NY there will be another fiber fest in April I believe, and I think it's probably about 45min-1hr from where you are. I almost lose my mind with excitement when I go to things like that!

February 8, 2010 at 5:24 PM  
Blogger  Laurel said...

You're a spinner!! That's AWESOME! Welcome to the club, ha ha. If only I had my own wool to spin from.....quite jealous over here! :)

February 8, 2010 at 5:44 PM  
Blogger Jocele said...

That IS a lovely book. Those people featured in it are what I want to be when I grow up. Keep up on the spinning. It's a wonderful way to relax, and its very satisfying to wear something that came from own sheep. Continued good luck wishes from Idaho on everything else...

February 8, 2010 at 6:03 PM  
Blogger Turtle said...

a great book! (and wonderful gift) wow what a sweet donation of the carder, so much easier! Still keeping my fingers crossed you hear good news any day!

February 9, 2010 at 12:38 AM  
Blogger Sowing Clover (Emily) said...

Lovely! I spin with a drop spindle and although I kike the look of yarn that's all the same weight, I really like the lumpy bumpy stuff. You inspire me to knit with my lumpy bumpy yarn. I think you should leave the scarf unfelted and dye it naturally with something fun. The prettiest color I have made is from black-eyed susan leaves boiled in a cast iron pot. Iron makes dyes darker and brings out greens. If you are patient enough to wait for summertime, try it. Otherwise, there will always be sheep running around with wool to be dyed (HOORAY FOR THE HOUSE!!).

February 9, 2010 at 3:08 PM  
Blogger SmitoniusAndSonata said...

That is so impressive !! Love the colour as it is .... but the results from natural dyes are gorgeous too . You'll have to make two !

February 9, 2010 at 5:10 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

February 9, 2010 at 6:39 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

Hey Jenna, its good to hear that you are doing better now. You should check out the book "Natural Dyeing" or try looking up kool aid dyeing, which is a cheap alternative to pricey acid dyes. Have fun!

February 9, 2010 at 6:45 PM  

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