Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Fiber Art, Minnesota Grown and Broody Hen Update

It's been another busy week here. I taught two Nunofelt scarf classes on the 17th and set up another one on March 18th at the Pine Center for the Arts in Pine City, MN.

I've been working on matting and framing several new pieces. After reading Jeanne Carbonetti's latest book, "The Heart of Creativity" I let my ego step aside and just let the pieces flow out of me - this resulted in SIX new pieces. The one above is made from the scraps of my felt jacket and twigs from the pasture that I collected last fall. Now comes the uneviable task of framing them all. That's the worst part about doing 2-D work, IMO.

On Thursday Casey Derosier from Minnesota Grown came out to interview me for her Livin' La Vida Local blog.  Wednesday I should have been cleaning the house, but I was frantically framing those felt pieces. 
So Thursday morning I quickly straightened up the house as best I could before Casey arrived at 10 a.m. It was a good thing I did because I didn't realize how much we would be doing that day! She wanted to see it all, the sheep, washing a fleece, carding, combing, spinning and felting.  Luckily I had one raw fleece left from last spring's shearing.  It was a dark Shetland Mule fleece.
I wanted us to make something cooler than just a little sample piece of felt, so we decided to both make nuno felt scarves. Casey's holding mine in the photo above.  I hope she got some decent photos for her blog and I hope she had fun.

Broody Buff Chantecler Update: She had 10 eggs under her. I candled two of them when she hopped off the nest the other morning when the overnight temp was -25F. I was worried about the eggs that night because we have no heat in that little barn, but she seems to have things under control. Those two eggs were clear as a bell, darn! I marked them with a marker and tucked them back under her.

The next morning it was -18F and she hopped off again when I arrived to feed everyone. I candled them all and found that seven eggs were infertile and three had live chicks. That tells me the rooster has a favorite hen! Lucky for him that at least three eggs were fertile. Temps are warmer now and I hope the viable eggs start hatching this weekend.


Tomten Sweater Update: Almost done with the baby tomten done using in stockinette instead of garter stitch. I misunderstood the hood directions and made a very small hood.  So after I finished up the sleeves (I hope I made them long enough!), I went back and ungrafted the hood.  Thank goodness I have enough yarn to add about 12-16 more rows to it and the color sequence matches up perfectly!  I plan to put a zipper in the front and then block it to help with the shaping.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Broody Buff Chantecler Hen

Patiently waiting....

Last time I saw her off the nest, she had nine eggs. That was over a week ago when I separated her from the rest of the flock.  She's setting so tight I wondered if she might be frozen solid in there. But when I put my hand in she growls so I know she's still alive.  Apparently she's eating and drinking the water I set out for her before it freezes up.

I haven't candled the eggs and I didn't start any backup eggs in the incubator.  I didn't want to hatch out more chicks than she can keep warm.  We'll just go with whatever she manages to hatch on her own. 

The hatch is due to begin on Jan. 29th.  Here's hoping that our one-eyed rooster isn't shooting blanks!  That can happen to a rooster if he gets a frostbitten comb.  The Chantecler breed was developed to be hardy in cold weather and they don't have large combs. Keeping my fingers crossed, it's been a long time since we heard the pitter patter of little chick feet around here. :-)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Master Felter's Class in Mora?

Lots of exciting things going on here this week!  One is a secret for now, but the other needs to get out there right away -- here it is.

I am working on organizing a possible master felter's class to be held this coming September in Mora, MN.  (Mora is 65 miles north of Minneapolis.)

Elis Vermuelen of Zeeland, the Netherlands will be the instructor of the two-day session. Elis is the co-founder of FeltUnited, International Day of Felt. She is an outstanding artist and felter. To see her work, visit her website or checkout her blog link to the right.
Exact dates for the workshop have not been set yet, but the possibilites are sometime during the week of Sept. 12-16th or the 26-30th. Project possiblities are a wooly bag or boots, a spikey hat or scarf.

Once I find out the level of interest, I can move forward to finalize dates and project(s). The cost of the 2-day workshop is looking like $250 plus materials.

If we go with the last week of September, we may be able to offer a glass button making class with Jone Rakoski as well. 
Elis' class will be for people with prior felting experience - it's not a beginners class. If you are interested, please contact me at becky at riveroakssheep dot com or by phone at 320-679-4117.

I hope we get enough interest to make this a go!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Productive Day

I feel like I got a lot accomplished today...I learned something new, dyed some BFL/Tencel batts for my scarf classes next week, and updated two hats that had been big flops.

First I learned how to make my own French Vanilla coffee creamer! You all probably know how to make it already, but it was a revelation to me. Stan and I are addicted to that stuff and it's expensive in the local grocery stores.  WalMart (25 miles away) has it cheaper, but driving 50 miles roundtrip seems a bit counterproductive. So this morning I finally Googled "how to make coffee creamer" and found out that all I have to do is combine a 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk with 14 oz milk (we drink skim milk) and a tablespoon of vanilla in a glass container and mix thoroughly. Wow! It's so easy and I actually think it tastes better than the name brand stuff we've been drinking.  Also, I don't need a science degree to decipher the ingredients, it's just sugar, milk, and vanilla.  There are no preservatives, so it will only last two weeks in the fridge, but we'll go through it in less time than that. I'm thinking we'll save at least $1 to $1.50 a batch making it ourselves, not to mention the gas savings and less plastic in the recycling bin.

Here is a shot of the updated Shetland hat. I started it a few months ago and I had ripped off the Romney fiber because it wasn't attaching, so it was a VERY thin Shetland hat. Today I needled on leftovers from the dyed batts I used for the colorful felted jacket (Shetland/BFL cross). After needling it in, I wet it down and worked in the colored fibers. I like it much better now!  The color in the photo below is more representative of the actual hat than the color in the front view above.

I also dyed the Finn hat I made a couple months ago.  I loved the sturdiness of the felted Finn wool, but I hated the white color with blue silk caps felted in. Now it's a purple/blue hat. I still need to add a hat band.


I've got two projects on the needles right now. One is a baby sweater for my niece's baby shower and the other is a lacey scarf knitted from laceweight yarn which is Suri alpaca blended with my BFL and nylon. Thanks to Susan Simonton for sending me a sample of the yarn she had made. It's very nice stuff! One of these days I will get that scarf finished - I'm half way through it now.
The baby sweater is my take off on Elizabeth Zimmermann's Tomten.  I wanted to use acrylic yarn for it since new moms don't have a lot of time to care for wool garments, so I went with Bernat Baby Jacquard yarn.  But once I got started, I just couldn't stand to waste that self-patterning yarn in garter stitch.  So I'm doing the Tomten in stockinette with garter borders.  I hope it turns out okay.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Another Felted Jacket

I finished another felt jacket yesterday - well, I still need to add the buttons and decide on pockets or not - but the hard parts are finished anyway and I'm already thinking about the next one. :-)

I thought I would share the story of its development here.
I like incorporating silk gauze into the felt for added strength and drapability. So the first thing was to dye 4 yards of silk gauze black so it would blend in with my natural colored Bluefaced Leicester fiber. I had Zeilingers woolen mill in Frankenmuth process my BFL fiber into 2 pound batts 45" wide x 80" long.  So all I have to do is peel off a layer and place it on the silk.  The silk gauze is on a sheet of plastic with bubble wrap underneath - all the layout is done on my kitchen counter.  The bubble wrap is actually a sturdy pool cover - 40" wide and 8 feet long. I put another thin layer of fiber perpendicular to the first layer.

This is actually a vest layout, I didn't cut the front center until after the prefelt was dry for the jacket. But it was the same layout process as used for the jacket.
Once it's completely covered with the two layers of fiber, I wet it down with cool soapy water, cover with another sheet of plastic and the rolling begins!  First by hand and then in the rolling machine downstairs.
This is the rolling machine, but not the jacket fabric being rolled.  Picture the roll completely filling the width of the rolling machine to get a better idea. Next time I should take photos as I go!
Lots of rolling from all directions, water leaking out the ends, trying to minimize wrinkling the fiber and the silk.  But the goal here is just to get the wool to penetrate the silk so they stick together.  After several sessions on the rolling machine, it's holding together and I can take it back upstairs to my kitchen sink. With the plastic and bubble wrap removed, I put it in warm soapy water and then toss it for a little while.  Once it's hanging together pretty well, I rinse and hang this "pre-felt" to dry. In order to make a jacket, I need to make another chunk of fabric for the sleeves.  The second piece is 40" by 64" long.

The next morning the pre-felt fabric is dry and I cut out my pieces.  This is just a matter of folding over the long piece and cutting up the center of one half and making a neck hole in the center.  The sleeve piece is folded lengthwise, cut in half and a triangle is cut from each end.  The sleeves are basted to each side of the body rectangle and the side seams are basted. A collar is cut from the triangles and basted along the neck edge.  Here is how it looks at that stage.

Then the fun starts, I put the jacket in warm/hot soapy water and start tossing and squeezing it.  I work areas where I want more shrinkage to occur. The worst part of this process is trying to squeeze out excess water so I can try it on.  I get soaking wet during the fitting process.

With felt, you can simply cut away parts you don't want. So it's easy to clean up edges and redesign your stupid looking collar after the fact.  I decided to make this one into a shawl collar.

Then I cover my dress form with a garbage bag and put it in the bathtub to drip dry.  It's hard to leave it alone until it's dry the next morning.   I've ordered a spin dryer which will help get it damp dry in just minutes.  I can't wait until it arrives!  My hands get sore with all the wringing and manipulation of the fiber in hot and then cold water.  But it's really fun to make these jackets. During the fulling process the felt reminds me of clay because you can shape it.  I purposely made this jacket more subtle than the last one I made. I didn't add any embelishing fibers to the surface. But if the mood strikes, I can always needle felt on some colors and wet it down and shape in the waist a bit more.