Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas!
I know I posted the wiseman photo before, but I thought it was worth repeating for a Christmas post.

When you live on a dead-end, not a lot of holiday lighting is necessary!

Matt, Ozzie, Kitty (in the bag) and Alex, 2010

Left to right: Rhisa, Socks, Rhyn, Rhaya (naughty girl), Leora, Pokey, Lanora. Not pictured, Harwell and the Shetlands

Unfortunatley Ozzie blinked and the kitty hopped out of the bag, so no retakes.
I'm off to quickly throw together the obligatory greenbean casserole and celebrate with the families in the Twin Cities.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Felt Garments!

Handdyed felted jacket made from Shetland Mule fiber.  I just need to add the buttons and maybe tweak the sleeves a little.  The scarf is nuno-felted handdyed haboti silk with a merino/tencel blend. 

Stan's vest felted from natural colored Bluefaced Leicester wool and silk gauze.
I have a long way to go in learning how to make felted garments, but so far I've made a vest for Stan and a jacket for me and I'm having a blast.   Yes, Christmas is looming up this weekend, but I've been on a creative bender.  Good thing we aren't exchanging a lot of gifts this year and everyone knows it.

I started sewing in 4th grade. I remember that I made a corduroy jumper.  I was thrilled with it until my mother mentioned that the nap didn't match (so the fabric pieces took the light slightly differently).  Drat!

Well, that became the story of my sewing life.  Along with my friends, I sewed quite a few of my own clothes during high school, but I never felt I was good enough at my finishing skills.  My hem stitches always seemed to stand out like beacons at sea and my zipper stitching always looked a little crooked.

I suppose it's like when you wallpaper your own rooms, the tiny imperfections that no one else notices glare out at you.  Gosh, now that I think about it, that's how it is with painting too. It's taken me years to realize that most people will take things as they see them, they don't pick out all the tiny little inconsistencies, they just take in the overall impression and go one their way.

Anyway, I find myself again delving into garment making. But this time with felt!  The cool thing about felt garments is that the felt becomes clay like during the fulling process and you can shape it to the desired size and shape.  And even cooler is that you can wet it back down and reshape fairly easily - at least up to a point.  And best of all - NO hems required!  No facing required either. :-)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Breeding Groups/Breeding Plans

Lots of snow here in Minnesota this weekend.  It's worse to the south of us; so much so that the MetroDome roof has collapsed and there's no Viking game today.  The temps will be getting down in the teens and twenties below zero and the wind is cold.  The sheep don't seem to notice, they have plenty of bedding and shelter.
In this kind of weather I am really happy to be down to just two groups of sheep again. I decided to let my Socks, Mule wether, and Pokey, the Dorset cross ram lamb, run with the Bluefaced Leicester breeding group about a week ago.

Harwell's been in with the ewes since October, so they should already be bred, but Pokey is my back up ram just in case.  As a ram lamb last year, Harwell didn't get his two ewes bred.  Pokey's little, but he's spunky.  The unnerving thing is I've actually seen him trying to mount a couple of my natural colored BFL ewes and they've been standing for him.  The first time I saw it happen it was with the ewe lamb.  I figured that was okay, she just didn't take the first time around when Harwell covered her (which I witnessed). Then two days ago I saw Pokey going after an adult BFL ewe, it may not mean that they're still open, but with lamb prices the way they are now I want to make sure all my ewes are bred this year. 

The other change for this year's breeding pens is that I am not planning to break them up until shearing time.  I really enjoy having the Shetlands and Bluefaced Leicesters in separate pens where I can feed them differently and all three of my rams are very manageable.  The BFLs eat a lot more than the Shetlands.  In past years when running all the ewes together I've wound up with fat Shetlands and skinny BFLs. We'll see what happens this year -- I'll probably have fat Shetlands and fat BFLs. :-)
I finished knitting the BFL reversible cable scarf and started in on Elizabeth Zimmermann's watch cap pattern using some handspun, hand-dyed Finn yarn.  The spring of the Brioche stitch is really luscious in using the three-ply Finn yarn. I just hope I have enough to finish the hat, otherwise I'm going to have to spin up some more.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Homemade Sheep Covers

After seeing how tight the size C Rocky Mountain sheep covers were on my Shetland ewe lambs, I made three more coats out of some white canvas fabric that I had on hand. I hope they hold up during use.
In the back of the photo above is size C tan Rocky Mountain Sheep cover. In the center is a homemade version just a little larger and the one in the foreground is larger yet. I made another that was even larger, but was surprised to find that it wasn't long enough to fit 4 year old Hattie. Back to the drawing board for my yearling and adult ewes.

I put the smallest homemade coat on my moorit ewe lamb.  It's kind of big, but I think it will work. The black ewe lamb in the photo above is wearing a nylon coat of a different brand. A little too small.

As I was sewing these, I thought to myself that the Rocky Mountain coats would probably fit if only the front was a bit wider. So I extended the front of one and tried it out on my Ag grey ewe lamb, shown on the right in the photo below.

 It seems to have worked. I'll probably extend the other two C's like that too. Hansel (on the left in the photo) is wearing a D which fits him well for now.

Instead of elastic for the legs, I used an orange fabric strap from a rachet tie-down system I found on clearance while looking for 1" elastic.

I'll try to get better photos in the daylight.  I found it easy to get the coats on the sheep while they were eating.  They get so focused on their food, I can just go up and slip the coat over their heads and then fiddle with the legs while they're chowing down.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Weekend Adventures

The new Minnesota Lamb & Wool Producers logo on the tote bag I got at the auction on Saturday night. The old logo is on the 2010 directory at left.  On the right is the Bluefaced Leicester cable scarf I struggled to knit during the conference.  It's going much easier at home where I can concentrate better.
On the table is a quilt I bought at the auction. It was done by Kathy Munkelwitz of Isle, MN.  Kathy and her husband raise North Country Cheviots and she is famous for her quilts.
 What a weekend! It all started with a horrendous drive to the Twin Cities on Friday afternoon in rush hour traffic and snow.  I started out at 2 p.m. with plans to meet Terri Drimmel at my son's place in St. Louis Park and ride together to the 8 p.m. Minnesota Lamb and Wool Producers Board meeting. Being the secretary, I hadn't missed a Board meeting and I certainly couldn't let a winter storm warning keep me from attending the annual conference being held on Saturday and Sunday.  Normally the trip from here to Morton would take about 3 1/2 hours.  I got to my son's at 5 p.m. and Terri didn't get there until 7 p.m. There was just no way we would make it in time for the 8 o'clock Board meeting.  Oh well, at least we made it Morton, MN safe and sound a little after 10:30 and we had a great time the rest of the weekend.

This is a photo taken while driving through the snowdrifts on the unplowed roads in Terri's little VW Rabbit (later dubbed a snowmobile). If you click to biggify, it looks like there's a wise man bearing gifts and heading north in the road in front of us!

After working on the new logo for the Minnesota Lamb and Wool Producers, it was so cool to see it on merchandise.  I just had to buy that huge tote bag when it came up for auction on Saturday night. The sheep heads on the logo were inspired by a sheep I did on an emu egg years ago.

The Board wanted to include a black face and a white face sheep in the logo, so I overlapped two heads and colored one in.  The other Board members liked it and the graphic designers cleaned it up to what you see on the bag. Very simple and carrying a feel of the old logo forward.

I'm so happy to be home again with all the white sparkling snow on the ground. I've made some progress on the cable scarf since I got home.  Thanks to Terri Drimmel for her suggestion to use the mini-quilt I bought on the table, I love it!  I'll bring up my poinsettia from last year when a few more leaves turn red. It's a little leggy and there's an aloe vera plant sharing its pot right now, but it will have to do for us this year.

Lady slipper orchid, little red poinsettia from last Christmas, 2 year old vinca vine trimmed back and flowering and a few leaves of the big old mauve poinsettia plant are showing on the right.
I can't believe it's already time to pull out the Christmas decorations!  That and lots of felting to do.  Yesterday I experimented with making flowers from pre-felt.  Here's one on the Black Shetland hat I made a few weeks ago which is on my mannequin head (with her new wig)...
Okay, time to get to work around here! ;-)

Getting ready for Christmas Markets!

  I'll be doing two Christmas markets this year. The first one is at Sapsucker Farms in Brook Park, MN Nov. 18-19th. And the second one ...