My favorite is our ‘flagship’ lash yarn. I tailspin a lot of it and have used the same spinning wheel forever. It is a Bulky Babe electric spinner. I cannot recommend the wheel highly enough and I adore Nels (owner/inventor of Babe’s Fiber Garden).
The BB gives my crooked back a break from treadling, allows charms, beads, locks and more to be spun into the yarn with out having to hand wind the yarn onto the bobbin. The wheel is also wonderful for plying, especially if you are working through a large order. Personally, plying day is a long one for me since I really like designing the single ply more.
I replaced my trusty BB a few weeks ago after it decided so many years had earned it a permanent vacation. The new wheel is basically the same, with a few changes to improve the ability to spin majorly bulky yarn.
This is completely a ‘me’ issue, I miss my familiar wheel. The need to immediately spin a custom lash yarn order forced me to try something new. You heard correctly. I, Sandyrella, got the push to try spinning the lash yarn on my Rio Grande wheel.
The Rio wheel came to me via a good friend in Taos, New Mexico. She already had one so I was lucky enough to buy this barely used wheel. It is huge, beautiful-and fast. I rarely allow myself time to do any serious spinning with the Rio, so good in another way too.
It was really good. Once I remembered to relax, treadle slooowly and sit up straight- we were off. It is actually easy to tailspin with this wheel too. No threading the yarn through hooks or loops since it is very much like a Great Wheel, with a spindle that allows you to spin off the point and a treadle.
My stable includes antique wheels, a Kromski Symphony, the BB and the Rio. It would be impossible for me to name a favorite but if you have a chance to try the BB or Rio- give it a whorl.
The BB will always be my bulky yarn spinning pal but the Rio is going to see more time with me now. Stretching boundaries and spinning outside the box- it does a spinner good!
Before our sheep grow up to be the wonderful sheep they are today, many arrive as orphans or bottle lambs. There is truly nothing sweeter than a baby lamb. Our lives are filled with endless entertainment, love- and silliness- as they run through our lives. We highly recommend them!
The sound of little feet galloping all around the house is my favorite melody. Changing diapers involves a routine chase around tables and chairs. A spirited game to out wiggle my efforts immediately ensues but I eventually win out, turning them loose in a cute diaper decorated with farm animals- of course.
The wild scampering makes it easy to keep track of them, when it is quiet mischief is afoot. OR a good old lamb pile nap snuggled up on their baby blankets in a sunny window that always makes me want to join them.
Gracie ran through, gleefully hopping about until her diapers fell off. Gracie knew when bottles were served, showing up in the kitchen every time the microwave beeped. Even if she found people lunch was the only disappointing choice on the menu.
Piper decided I was ‘his’ and followed me everywhere from day one. He sorted fleeces with me and slept under my loom. Keebler slept under my spinning wheel and loved to sleep on my lap-no matter what I was trying to accomplish. Sonny insisted on napping on the living room recliner.
We have many, many stories and our happy memories will continue to grow with future lambs needing shelter from cold weather, lots of good food and love. They eventually learn how easily they can outrun me on our walks outside. They learn that life in warmer weather is more fun outside making friends. Speeding around with the other sheep and playing endless games of tag.
The day comes when they are convinced they don’t ‘need’ me anymore and stay outside, just out of my reach for a few days. They come back looking for bottles when they need reassurance and as they grow, look to me for hugs. And Fruit Loops. Treasure, Baker and Rudy still think anything I bring out (even medicine) is a bottle even though they are now grown up elegant sheep.
I always cry when my babies move out to the barn. I miss their sweet selves barreling around the house, following my every move. Stealing my knitting or yarn I am trying to knit. Most of all I miss rocking them to sleep in front of the fireplace, snuggling them up to read a bedtime story.
A wise friend consoles me each time the lambs out grow me, reminding me “you’ve done your job, you did a good job and they are now good sheep.”
Have you ever wondered where a wool path less traveled may lead you? What elusive fiber and fleece awaits? Today’s journey finds us heading to Scotland and a majestic, elegant sheep known as the Scottish Black Face.
A few years back I got know Graham & Margaret Phillipson who tend a beautiful flock of Scottish sheep. The sheep are well loved and spend their lives happily romping acres and acres of pasture in a secluded scenic valley. The Phillipsons travel to back home to Scotland and England each year, returning with genetics from long established native flocks. They are very dedicated to the preservation of the noble sheep included in their flock of North Country Cheviot, English Suffolk, Mule Sheep – and Scottish Black Face sheep.
I go out each spring to help on shearing day, scooping up beautiful fleeces while plotting my next projects and offerings for our Website. What a day! There is a lot to know about the ‘Scotties’ but I am going to concentrate on my own experiences with the sheep and the fiber they produce.
Scotties are a traditional breed raised in Scotland and much of Europe. They are known as very hardy sheep, resistant to disease and parasites. Their babies hop right up after birth and the mamas protect them like lions. Their fleeces have been used for centuries as the main wool in Europe’s famed weaving industry. Carpets, tweed fabric and any durable item a suitable match for such long strong locks.
The average fleece features locks from four-to-10 inches long, is dual coated, coarse in texture and even has a bit of shine to it. The sheep are sheared once a year and our own Scottie Devlyn’s fleece almost drags the ground by March. The locks have a very defined structure with a wavy crimp.
While you might wonder ‘why try’ this coarse wool, here is what I have found. The wool is very easy to wash, often I find a bit of silver threaded through the entire fleece, sometimes only spots. Locks are easily separated for use in doll hair, primitive Santa beards and embellishing.
If you blend a small amount of fiber into softer wool it creates durable sock yarn for the entire sock, or just heels. They are comfy and you do not have to darn them often. Knitting or crochet projects may find the wool in hats, mittens and outerwear items.
The fiber takes dye like a champ, but maintains a mind of its own, at times resulting in slightly secretive to very creative variegations in color. It is an adventure to rinse out the dye pots. It cards easily into batts or roving.
It is also an easy felting fiber. Again, durable, stylish when used for trim or entire projects. One of the first projects I created after meeting these lovely sheep was a knit then wet felted tote. The fiber felted quickly and I still carry the tote bag with knitting stashed inside- it looks like it was just felted last week. I have also enjoyed using this wool as a needle felting embellishment.
Weaving is another fantastic use, I have not tried it out yet but history indicates enough bounce in the wool to avoid path wear or wear under heavy furniture. I intend to try this out soon, maybe with a bulky bulky single ply- I cannot wait! (Just have to get that loom warped up- my patience needs more work!)
Customers who have tried this wool have given satisfied feedback for all uses mentioned above. They added that when spun into a fine yarn, it has many of the same characteristics of linen (flax) fiber and softens with use/wear.
Over the years part of the Phillipson flock has made its way to a very historical setting in nearby Milwaukee- roaming a golf course designed after the rugged terrain of Ireland. Whistling Straits will host the 2010 PGA Championship in August. You can be sure the Phillipson sheep will be wowing golfers and keeping tabs on their scores- from afar.
Maybe you will wait to try this fiber or file info away for a future time. Add it to your fiber bucket list, try something new and get to know a Scottish Black Face sheep. For more extensive information about Scotties please visit our friends at http://littledalefarm.com and lots of info and pictures can be found at http://www.ansi.okstate.edu/breeds/sheep
Read about the Kohler/Whistling Straights Scotties here http://www.golfti.com/kohler/irish/