Thursday, December 30, 2010
I've got a baby blanket on the needles. I'm going to be a great-aunt in March. This blanket is kind of a boring knit, but I'm thinking the next baby project might be a really cool baby dragon hat or something.
This is a Santa made by local artist and my friend, Pat Stamp of Ash Creek Pottery. Some of my friends might recognize the material that Santa is wearing as my former merino jacket...which I shrank!!! And this Santa's beard is kid mohair from Elmlea Farm in Ontario. (The fur cape is faux, by the way). He's a very special Santa.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
If you've been reading my blog, you know that I keep chickens for eggs, fly-control and entertainment. We started with five, then the next year had ten, and currently have more than I want to admit.
Our chickens are free-range. They have a nice chicken house and coop within our front alpaca pasture. During the spring, summer and fall, the chickens are free to roam where they want always returning to their coop at night. The usually stay within the fenced pastures. They have a lovely little life and provide a great source of entertainment as we watch them from our kitchen table.
We never had any trouble with predators for the first fourteen months that we kept chickens. I was surprised, as I had heard many stories from other farmers about raccoons, foxes, weasels, large predatory birds, etc. taking their hens.
Saturday, December 25, 2010
I am the youngest of six children, and my mother came from a large family herself. I had 24 first cousins on my mother's side, and some of those older cousins were having babies of their own by the time I came along. My grandparents lived on a farm in an old log house about 40 minutes from our house. Christmas Day meant gathering at Ma and Pa's home with all the other families. I can't even recall how my parents were able to transport all of us six, toboggans plus food in the station wagon that was towing a trailer with the snowmobile!
Ma loved Christmas. Every little person would receive a pair of hand knit woolen mittens. They would have to be unique, red with a white stripe, green with a red stripe, etc, so that the kids wouldn't be arguing over whose was whose. I don't know what else the boys got, but I know that the girls always got a pair of new underwear that 'you'd grow into' (in other words, they reached up to your armpits!). More information than you need to know, right!?
During the day, the cousins would toboggan outside and take turns getting towed around the field behind the snowmobile. Sometimes we would go into the barn to find the kittens or watch my young uncle milk the cows. I remember one Christmas, I was about 6, getting very angry because Uncle Grant had turned the cow teat towards me and squirted fresh milk all over my new red woolen Christmas dress.
I have great colour photos of my cousin's shiny faces happily looking up as Ma placed the 3 tier decorated fruitcake onto the table. I have no idea how we all fit into that house at once. Happy memories.
Monday, December 20, 2010
Saturday, December 18, 2010
The Very Top Reason to Own Alpacas is -
An ultimate supply of alpaca fibre, of course!
Like other farms in our climate, we shear our alpacas in the spring. The majority of fleece from my farm and that which I buy off other Ontario farmers gets skirted and sorted into like lots (by fineness, colour and staple length) over the summer and sent off to the mill. Specific instructions to the mill include everything that they need to know for the yarn, such as blending recipe (percentage of alpaca, merino, silk, nylon, or other), desired yardage per pound, and the amount of twist desired. Other fibre might be turned into rovings, batts or felt.
I’ve been using Wilton Road Custom Fibre Mill in Odessa, Ontario for several years. The mill operator, Tracey, is a spinner and fibre enthusiast. She loves working on my fleece, as I usually have some novel requests that she loves to try out. She usually has a few ideas in creating small lots of trial yarns. We know that if we are excited to produce the yarn, then my customers will be excited to weave or knit with it. Wilton Road has been making my 3 ply sock yarn and my fingering weight yarns for the last 3 years and I am really happy with the quality, as are my customers.
The product is returned from the mill, anywhere from 4 months to a year after they receive my raw fleece. It’s like Christmas when I receive a big shipment of yarn back from the mill! Fresh yarn! Receiving the yarn is the culmination of a long process and I still need to knit up a swatch to find out if I have a truly successful run.
I handdye much of the yarns and rovings that are returned to me from the mill. This year, for the first time, I have sent some fleece to a mill that will also return it as dyed yarn.
I will process some of the nicest fleeces myself on the farm in small lots of unique fibre blends that are bought by other spinners. These might be blended with silk, mohair, merino, angellina or other fibres into beautiful rovings on my Patrick Green SuperCard.
I sell the yarn, rovings, felts and batts through my yarn shop, online and at markets and fairs. Some of it goes into finished products I either make or have made, usually locally.
A small portion of the rovings are spun into yarn by myself, for either my use, to sell or to use in end-products. People who can appreciate the qualities that make up a high-quality, unique, natural fibre yarn will spend the money on handspun alpaca yarn. A handspinner can usually spin a yarn that has less twist, and as such, has a softer feel than commercially spun yarns. As well, a handspinner has the option of creating very unique, novelty yarns that are unlike anything created commercially.
Today is the last Saturday before Christmas. My shop is in my house, so I believe that my family will be relieved that we won't have to have Christmas music blaring for 5 hours every Saturday after today. I had quite a few shoppers today, preferring to drive into the country for their last minute gifts than to tackle the mall parking lot. Alpaca socks make an appreciated gift for almost anyone on your list.
Monday, December 13, 2010
Intertwined: The Art of Handspun Yarn, Modern Patterns, and Creative Spinning by Lexi Boeger.
"Handspun yarns are made by concious beings, not unconcious machines. This imbues them with an internal energy, giving them character and uniqueness. Each yarn is a reflection of the individual spinner who made it. It is this quality that makes handspun yarn so amazing to work with. As you work through a skein, you can see, inch by inch, the decisions that the spinner made. It passes before you just like a story."
This probably translates to any handcrafted product, doesn't it....
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Here's my gift to you today...check out this blog...
Mennonite Girls Can Cook - most days it is a great recipe, some days it is their 'Bread for the Journey' inspirational entry. The recipes are well organized by heading on the left side Recipe Index.
I'm hoping that I'll get to baking these cookies today...
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
I found a new favorite thing....dangerous!
Do you know what this is? My friend Joanne dug it out from the basement of her gift store that she has sold.
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Looking outside the kitchen window, I don't relish venturing outside for chores.
Even the herd doesn't want to go outside these days.
But the hay is outside.
Guild member Rosalynn had this beautiful jacket in an undulating weave structure using funky coloured yarns.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
We aren't sure how old Smokey is. We guesstimate about 8-9 years old. Smokey came with a mysterious past. His previous owner brought the cat home upon graduation from his university frat-house, where the cat had lived among young men. After some time, that owner gained a new fiance that was allergic to the cat. Smokey took right to the barn, made quick remedy to our barn mouse problem and never strayed. In turn, he had a comfy spot in a heated barn room with a cat door, 2 squares a day and all the necessary vet care. Although he was wary of the alpacas, he loved farming. When hubby would walk out to the back pasture to close a gate, faithful Smokey would always be walking along beside him. Smokey was right with us, whether we were fixing fences or skirting fleeces.
We figure Smokey has reached the age where he deserves more comfort and companionship. Apparently, so does he.
The only issue is that I can't keep him out of my alpaca shop located in the house. It's like an obsession for him to be in there, and I'd rather not be mixing cat hair with the alpaca fibres. However, if you think about it....he's lived with alpacas for the last 4 years, he probably thinks he belongs there.
I have a very different life than I had 12 years ago. Way different. About that time, I was doing some soul-searching as my life wasn't about what I wanted. I read a few self-help and motivational books. One must have suggested writing down what you imagined your perfect life to look like that started with the phrase "I see myself...."
I still have that piece of paper somewhere. There are about 7 main phrases there. One of the items said "I see myself amid a circle of artists".
I put that list away for years. One day years later, I came upon the list and realized that, even without my directed effort, most of the items had come true in some way. I guess that by recognizing what you want, you put things in motion to get there.
I can especially recognize that I am, indeed, amid a circle of artists. Artists enrich my life. True artists have the courage to let their individual light shine. I'm still working on that.
My friend Fay came over the other day to get my opinion of an applique quilt she was piecing together.
This is what comes of Fay's imagination....
I met Fay through my alpaca yarn shop and she fast became a good friend. I have met so many interesting and talented people through my small business. Some of them, I haven't actually met in person, but through email or Ravelry.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Here are some fall pictures of around Eau Claire and Bonfield, Ontario that I took on a drive this past weekend.
Another great thing about fall....people start thinking about wearing warm alpaca and knitting again!
I find handspinners, handweavers and handknitters to be an incredibly social and sharing group. Once a year, I try to have a "Friends on the Farm with Fibre" event. I invite lots of fellow fibre artists. Sometimes the date works out, and my house is jammed with friends and spinning wheels, fibre and yarn for the day. This year, the date I picked had a few conflicts with other events, but still we had about 14 fibre friends come for the day. While it rained outside, we had a relaxing day of spinning and knitting and friendship.
I am a member of the Country Roads Artisan group that celebrates its 30th Anniversary this year. Prior to our Fall Studio tour, we hosted a celebration at the shopping mall in North Bay. We displayed our wares, did demonstrations of our craft, shared cake and coffee and information with the public. The city mayor, and both our provincial and federal members of Parliament came to congratulate us. I always love to spin in public. People are so interested in this craft and in awe of the process. I get to meet a lot of very nice and interesting people while doing the demonstration. I found it especially satisfying spinning so relaxedly, watching others run about in our usual fast-paced, "gotta-get-the-errands-done" mode. Spinning brings me inner calm.
Our Country Roads Fall Tour was the last weekend in September. You can find more information about this tour and our group at our website http://www.countryroadstour.com/.
If you are planning to be in the area at any time, check out the information and hours of operation for the studios.
Below is an example of fellow member John Stephens' work from his studio At Wit's End Glass.
Here are some of my recent handpainted sock yarns...