Virtual Field Trip: Dyeing Wool

For our friends who aren’t on Facebook, here is our latest Virtual Field Trip. This time we talked about dyeing wool.

And here are the rovings and yarn we dyed during our live field trip.

Please post any questions below in the comments.

Virtual Field Trip: Wool

For our friends who aren’t on Facebook, here is our latest Virtual Field Trip. We talked about wool and the steps we take to process it from a freshly shorn fleece into yarn.

Virtual Field Trip

With schools closed because of the Covid-19 virus, we decided to host a Virtual Field Trip to complement any learning your children are already doing from home. We broadcast the field trip live on Facebook Friday, March 20th, but also wanted to post it here for anyone not on Facebook.

We hope you enjoy this, and please post any questions you have in the comments below.

We will be hosting another virtual field trip on Wednesday, March 25th live on Facebook at 1pm EDT. The topic of this broadcast will be Eggs.
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Shearing 2019

Our sheep were scheduled to be shorn last weekend but with a cold snap this past week, we decided to postpone until this weekend. All the sheep were cooperative and were shorn without a hitch.

Here’s a timelapse video I took of shearing (about half our flock – I didn’t move the camera when we moved to the opposite end of the barn).

 

I will be skirting fleeces over the next couple days, then sending wool to the mill for processing into roving and yarn. Like us on Facebook or favorite us on Etsy to get updates on when we have the finished roving and yarn available for purchase.

Color Changing Lambs

I’m often asked about Tunis wool.  Is it soft?  What projects are it good for?  Why do lambs have different colored wool than adults?

Tunis wool is a fine to medium, down-type wool with lots of loft.  If you’re not familiar with wool or fiber terms this means Tunis wool is soft and bouncy and makes light and springy yarn which is great for a variety of projects.

Explaining the lambs’ coloring isn’t as simple.

Tunis lambs are born with a short layer of cream-colored wool over their torsos and necks and light to dark cinnamon colored hair on their legs, heads and tails.  Intermixed in the wool are longer kemp fibers (think guard hairs) that can sometimes completely hide the wool.  The amount of kemp fibers can vary between lambs, just as the cinnamon shade can.  Below are twin lambs.  Notice how one is much darker and also has more kemp fibers covering his wool.

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twin Tunis lambs

Over their first few months lambs appear to change from cinnamon to the lighter cream color of their parents.  Their color doesn’t actually fade during this time.  Their wool grows longer, though the kemp, but they also begin to shed much of those longer, darker kemp fibers.

kemp

close-up of a kemp fiber

You can see this in the photo below of a 6 week old lamb.  The kemp fibers are longer and becoming more sparse overall.

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close up of Tunis lamb

By the time Tunis lambs are 3-4 months old they have the typical coloring associated with the adults.  As Tunis sheep age their wool does lighten slightly.  Their first fleece is usually a beautiful cream color and each year it will become whiter, although Tunis wool doesn’t ever become pure white.

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Jack at 1 year old, before first shearing

You can see the differences in color in the photo below.  The two shorn ewes are 5 years old in this photo, the smaller lambs are all up to 8 weeks old and the larger lamb on the far right is 4 months old.

changes in color.jpg

And that is the not so simple explanation of why Tunis lambs seem to change color.  Hope you enjoyed it!

 

Tour de … Fleece?

I’m sure you’ve all heard of the Tour de France, the 22-day long bicycle race across France starting on July 2nd … but how many of you have heard of the Tour de Fleece?  I’m sure if you’re familiar with Ravelry you’ve heard of it! 

Many handspinners around the world spin yarn while the cyclist are racing.  That’s right … 20 days of spinning at least a little each day with 2 rest days.  For some, it’s simple.  Others have it a little more challenging, especially those who have 2 young children, animals to feed and a growing garden. 

I did manage to spin every day that the cyclists rode.  To kick off the Tour I even made a special dinner on July 2nd…  One of our homegrown turkeys, rubbed with a mixture of olive oil and herbs de provence (brought home from Paris by my aunt!) rotisseried on the grill.

I also watched a lot of the race and really became interested in it.  Noah loved watching it with me in the mornings, and Dave and I watched some of it at night, too.  We all gasped when Johnny Hoogerland crashed and cheered for him when he continued racing.

Some days I only managed to squeeze in 10 or 15  minutes but most days I spun for 30 minutes or more.  A few days I spun on my drop spindle because I didn’t have time to sit down at my wheel.  We also left for camping a couple of days before the Tour was over so I packed my drop spindle to take with us… it takes up far less room than my wheel!  I posted photos of my daily progress to my Flickr account, but here’s a collage of my work:

Tour De Fleece collage

An Experiment in Cool Weather Solar Dying

Today is supposed to be the last warm day in a while.  The forecast says mostly sunny and 73 degrees – a perfect day to solar dye some wool. 

I mixed up my dye bath and set it out on the deck as usual.  Because the air temperature is not too warm, I put a dark-colored blanket around the glass bowl to insulate it and warm it; and I placed aluminum foil around the back of the bowl.

Later I used some old windows I bought a couple years ago to make a little solar dying “greenhouse”.  It protected the bowl from the wind and helped it heat up better.