Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Quilt Story

During a lovely holiday visit to John's family, my mother-in-law, Sally, asked if I might be interested in an old quilt.  I followed her down to a back bedroom, where she pulled out of the closet a pretty spread done in soft colors against a creamy white background.  It was made in the 1930's and was still in remarkably good shape.  Sally said she didn't know if I would really want it, and I shouldn't feel that I had to take it (she's so cool).  I thought perhaps screaming HELL YEAH! at my mother-in-law would be a bit inappropriate, so I managed to mumble what I hope was a respectful yet enthusiastic, "Yes, I would really like to have this."



This entirely hand-quilted piece was made by Shelley Stevens, a woman who used to babysit John and his siblings when they were very young.  Shelley was born ca. 1905 and passed away many years ago.  Her sister, when disposing of some of Shelley's personal affects, was going to put the quilt out in a yard sale for $2.  TWO DOLLARS!!!  My MIL couldn't bear that it be subjected to such an uncertain fate, and so brought it home (see, I told you she was cool) and has taken good care of it. 



The pattern seems familiar to both Sally and I, but we couldn't quite put our fingers on the name of it.  Sally isn't certain, but suspects that the fabric came from a quilting kit put out by Sears in the 1930's.  I'll need to do a little research on the quilt's background.


When the weather turns warm, the quilt will grace our bed.  Until then, it's tucked away in my closet, safe from the ravages of time and three cats.

Shelley, if you're out there somewhere, you are fondly remembered, and your quilt lives on.



Saturday, November 26, 2011

Cuke Mystery Solved

It's a loofah.  Huh.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Opting Out (A Gift Guide)

Overloaded.  A quick trip down to the Big City this morning to run a couple of (non-holiday) errands was enough to put me over the jittery edge.  Christmas decorations, sale signs, lines everywhere.  Add to that the mailbox stuffed with circulars and catalogues, the email inundated with Black Friday announcements, and the xmas carols heard over the grocery store loudspeakers long before Thanksgiving, and it's enough to make one want to give up and hide, and pretend that the holidays don't exist.

But I don't.  I love the holidays, everything about them.  The food, the gift giving, the weather, the spirit.  So I chose a few years ago to just opt out of the holiday madness, and observe them in a more measured and quiet way.  No more gifts for everyone and their brother, no more bleeding bank account, no more angst-filled hours trolling the malls looking for presents.

At first I decided that all-home made was the way to go.  That didn't last long.  I think it was the intricate hand-beaded ornaments that I made for all of my co-workers that did me in.  Only one of the 10 recipients of those ornaments that took me hours and hours and hours to make really appreciated the time and care that went into them. 

Now I take a mixed approach.  I make, whether on my needles or in my kitchen, as much as my schedule allows and purchase the rest.  I steadfastly refuse to leave the house on Black Friday, and often rely on my good friend, Mr. Internet.  The best gifts I've received are simple and given from the heart.  I try to keep that in mind, and select gifts that the recipient will truly enjoy.

Here are a few of my favorite gift-giving ideas.  What are yours?

FROM THE NEEDLES.  This year I'm going small but mighty.  First there's the beautiful Cotuit Sands Cowl by Marcy Vandale.   I've already knit one and am going to make another one for....someone who's name shall not be disclosed.  There will be a hat for my brother, and maybe some wristlets for my nieces.  I'm thinking about these slipper socks for the ladies in the family (I might need a pair for myself, too).  There will likely be a few knitted xmas ornaments as well, because I just can't resist.

TO BUY FOR A KNITTER/SPINNER.  There's always yarn and fiber, especially the exotics that folks might not splurge on for themselves (think mink, musk-ox, and buffalo), or a beautiful handspun art yarn.  But how about something different (that also happens to be inexpensive)?  I started having custom rubber stamps made for myself a few years ago, and found that packaged with an ink pad and maybe some gift tags, they make great gifts.  You can design them easily yourself using Word, and small stamps cost only $10-$20.



FROM THE KITCHEN.  Cookies and quick breads are always wonderful.  Homemade granola, walnut halves spread with almond paste and dipped in chocolate, and honey with nuts, chopped dried fruit, and a cinnamon stick (great on top of yogurt!) make good gifts too.  This year I'm thinking about making hot fudge sauce and putting it in pretty jars, and maybe some pomegranate or cranberry-rosemary jelly.  Jars and other containers are great wrapped in a pretty linen kitchen towel, which can then be reused time and again.   Food gifts need not always be sweet.  One of the best gifts I ever received was some homemade herb salt made by my friend Susie.  This was a gift that kept on giving: I used it regularly, it lasted a long time, and I thought of her whenever I cooked with it.  Now I let her know when I run out, and I give her something in return (hey Susie, send salt!!).  Infused oils and vinegars are easy too, and look nice presented in pretty bottles.

TO BUY FOR A BAKER/COOK.  If your favorite kitchen ninja adores gadgets, then you've got it easy.  But for a little something different, try a dough-rising bucket or a bread forming basket for your favorite baker.  A selection of specialty flours, such as Italian oo or French-style flour, would be fun.  For the cook, an unusual sea salt, a special balsamic vinegar, or a local artisan olive oil would be welcome. 

MISCELLANY.  One of the most charming gifts I've received, and another one that keeps on giving, was given to me by my friend Becky.  She formed some pretty art paper into a cone, filled it with daffodil bulbs, and included a little card with daffodil lore and planting instructions.  Every spring when the flowers bloomed I was treated to a splash of color.  On the weirder end of the gift-giving spectrum is a Turducken.  This is a chicken stuffed in a duck stuffed in a turkey, with sausage-cornbread stuffing in between each layer (outrageous, but really tasty).  I sent one to my brother a few years ago and he loved it, so now it's an annual tradition. 

KARMA.  For the office, I gave up on the hand-made (see above) and the Starbucks cards and instead tried to find something practical and inexpensive, but that supported a good cause.  One such find was cotton dish towels screen printed with charming images from the group LA Goal.  I know this group well; my sister-in-law is a member.  They provide job opportunities and social and artistic outlets for adults with developmental disabilities.  The work they do is incredible, and a small sum of money goes a long way in making a difference in the members' lives.  There are similar organizations in many communities; consider stopping by their holiday boutiques to pick up some charming gifts.  Another favorite organization of mine is Heifer International.  Knitting-wise, there's lots of ways to help (premie hats, chemo caps, lap blankets for nursing home residents, etc etc).  This year I plan on knitting a bear for the Mother Bear Project.  I purchased a charming little kit from them a year or so ago at Stitches West, and I hope to have at least one knit up to drop off to them at the next Stitches.

Here's to joyous and stress-free gifting!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Garden Unrest

Figuring it was time to put the beds to bed, so to speak, I meandered down to the garden this morning to check things out and work up a garden-winterizing to-do list.  I hadn't been down there pretty much since we moved in a few weeks ago and I was surprised at what I found. 

A bright and cheery gerbera daisy.

Some type of cucumber.  Tastes different from a regular
cuke, and I think these are well past their prime.

These were tucked under the cucumber vines.  Nothing smells like a carrot straight out of the ground.  They'll go into a butternut squash-carrot soup for tomorrow night's dinner.

An orange cherry tomato variety.  It's been pretty cold the
last week or two, but these seem to be getting a second wind.
With some feta and olive oil, they'll make a nice salad (if I
don't eat them all straight off the vine first).

Strawberries!

This is frightening.

Onions.  I think they sprouted after the rains a week or so ago. 
I don't know if they'll continue to grow in this cold.  I pulled one and it was
pretty small.  Maybe I'll get a few pearl onions?

It looks like I still have a bit more time before I need to put the garden to rest for the winter.  Good -- all the more knitting time for now. 


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ode to a Tomato (And a Way of Life)



On impulse the other day, I pulled over to a roadside farm stand not very far from my new home.  Handpainted signs proclaimed "Farm Fresh Produce" and "HEIRLOOM Tomatoes."  As I approached the small open barn, a young man got up from his folding beach chair where he was reading in the sun to greet me.  Inspecting his meager offerings -- the promised heirlooms, some regular garden tomatoes, and a few squashes (it is the end of the season, after all, so the pickings are naturally slim) -- we got to chatting, and I learned about the farm and received a local history lesson in the process.

It turns out that this whole area used to be pear orchards.  The farmer's grandfather purchased hundreds of acres years ago, where he raised cattle.  But long before that, the property was a Pony Express outpost.  Still there are the Pony Express' hand-dug well and forge.  I don't know why I find this so extraordinarily cool (The Pony Express!  For real!  They were right down the road!), but I do.  The forge building is now used by the farmer's brother for auto repair, and except for the anvil which still remains, the original forge tools now grace the living room walls of various of the farmer's relatives.

There's only 25 acres of the family parcel left now.  The young farmer has long wanted to be an organic farmer, and recently he decided to try to make a go of it.  He says the locals have been supportive, and he plans on expanding his vegetable offerings and wants to plant a fruit orchard.  I sure hope he's successful.  Preserving farm land (especially small-scale and organic), agricultural communities, and access to quality food is something that's dear to my heart. 

Arriving home, I sliced up one of those tomatoes and took a bite.  They were nothing like the tomato imposters found at the grocery store; these were imperfect, knobby and blemished, like many a home-grown tomato.  But they tasted like a tomato should:  of the fading summer, the rich earth, and a young man's dreams.  Actually, they were perfect.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Day at the Fair (Or, Fleeces Happen)

I should be packing, but I'd much rather cop to the little falling down I had at the county fair a few weeks back. 

Each year, our local spinners' and weavers' guild puts on a sheep-to-shawl demonstration outside of the livestock building at the fair.  Guild members turn out in force to card, spin, and ply wool (which was washed and hand-dyed in advance by a guild member) into yarn and then weave it into a beautiful shawl, which is later auctioned off by the farmers to raise funds for various causes.  My job is typically to card -- a task I enjoy, with the added bonus that it frees me up early to go see the sights, such as this:

I really want one of these.

My favorite part of the fair is the animals. 

There are beautiful sheep.

Nothing beats a chin scratch.
And charming goats.


The only thing cuter than a goat is a baby goat.

A tour of the livestock pens provides a great opportunity to meet the shepherds and talk wool.  Which may result in this. 

A trunk full of fleeces.  There may be a few six in there.
There are some exceptional Cotswold lamb fleeces in those bags.  And some beautiful Shetlands.
Hey, they're for professional purposes!  New blends in the works!  It's justified!!

So, back to the spinning demo.  A big gathering of spinners means a big gathering of spinning wheels.  It's fun to check out all the different kinds of wheels, and this year Down Under was well represented. 

A Wendy wheel from New Zealand.

An Ettrick Windwheel from Australia. 
This is an older wheel with an iron pulley (they're now made out of wood). 

One clever spinner put socks on her wheel's treadles.  Isn't this cute?


There were lots of spinners this year, and they provided plenty of yarn to keep our weaver, Chris, busy at the loom.  The shawl took shape quickly, and by the afternoon, it was ready.

The shawl in process.  I love the gorgeous fall colors -- Susie worked some magic in the dye pots.

The completed shawl, modeled by the lovely Annie.

Don't you think this would look perfect in my new front yard?

It was a great day at the fair.  Next year, I'll be in a new county and will have a new fair to explore.  I hope they have sheep-to-shawl demos also.  Until then, I have some fleece to attend to.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Family Business

They say never do business with family.  "They" don't have my SIL, Sharon, as a real estate agent.  It's hard to house hunt when your intended destination is an eight-hour drive away, but Sharon was a great resource -- even though our destination is quite a distance from her home base as well.  We hit some snags trying to purchase the home we wanted, but Sharon stuck with it and after two anxiety-filled weeks, she nailed negotiations and we sealed the deal last night.  We have a new home!  Phew.

In a month, we'll be heading north to the heart of California's Gold Rush country.  Did you know that Gold Rush country is also heavily populated with wineries?  Oh yes, I am seriously looking forward to tasting exploring my new territory.

Thanks, Sharon, for everything.  You're a pro.  And great family.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

How To Drive Yourself Over The Edge, In Five Easy Steps

1.  Make a rash decision to sell your house.  Pack most of your stuff into a POD, spruce up the house top to bottom, inside and out, and get ready for the real estate broker's open house.  All in ONE WEEK.

2.  The morning of the open house, put your cats in storage boarding.  Throw your back out diving under the bed trying to catch a cat, who thinks being put in a cage is a most horrendous idea.  Have a little meltdown at the vet's office, because your already sensitive and slightly neurotic cats are now all howling piteously, making you even more distraught and feeling more than a tad guilty.  Back in the car, check the mirror to confirm that yes, indeed, your little crying jag has left your eyes red and puffy, making you look like a goldfish.

3.  Head north to an area you've never been to before to house hunt.  Return home at the end of the weekend to an offer on your home.  Accept it.  Put in an offer on the one house you viewed in the area you've never been to before.

4.  Gnaw your nails off while negotiations on the home you wish to purchase go back and forth, back and forth, get delayed, hit snags, and finally go in the shitter toilet.  Check the calendar and count the days until escrow closes, realize that you won't be in a new home by the time you have to be out of your current home, and determine that you need to quickly implement Plan B.  Except, you don't really yet have a Plan B. 

5.  Be sure to do all of this right before two big knitting shows, and when you have a big stack of wholesale orders to fill.

I do believe a glass of wine and a bit of knitting are in order right about now. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Spoils of Sock Summit (Wherein She Admits to Aiding the Sockonomy, Amongst Other Things)

I've really been enjoying reading people's posts about Sock Summit 2011, and especially seeing their pictures and videos.  I was there, but didn't see much outside of the confines of my own 10x10 booth (when you run a booth on your own, you don't get out much).  That's okay, because vending at SS11 was just a wonderful experience and opportunity.  I saw so many friends and repeat customers, and met many new ones.  Huge thank-you's to everyone who came by to say hello, and mille grazie to those who bought from me!

Here's my booth:

 

And close-ups of those socks you see hanging there on the right (more on that in another post):

 

Despite being booth-bound, I did manage to get out just a bit to do my part in supporting the fiber economy.  (Ahem.)


My first acquisition, long before the Marketplace even opened, was that gorgeous spindle seen in the upper left corner of the above photo.  I hadn't planned on buying any fiber tools, but hey, spindles happen (Tom Forrester "Wings" dual whorl spindle in padauk, cherry, and maple; purchased from the awesome Morgaine at Carolina Homespun).   Then, again before the Marketplace even opened, I had a little visit with the fine folks at Signature Needle Arts.  Needles happen also.

On to the yarn, because of course there was yarn.  First up was a luscious skein of Aries Oceanus from Fleur de Fiber (70% SW Merino, 30% Seacell Rayon; colorway Inka).  I spied Angela putting up her yarns in The Fold's booth on set-up day, and this one practically lept into my arms screaming "Bubblicious"!   Luckily for me, A Verb for Keeping Warm was right around the corner from my booth, so I scooted over a couple of times and picked up some Reliquary II laceweight (80% Superfine Merino, 20% Silk; colorway Magic Bean) and some Metamorphosis sport weight (70% SW Merino, 30% Silk; colorway Supernova).  I think the latter is calling "Lucy, Lucy!" to me.   Down the aisle from me was Tactile Fiber Arts Studio, where I obtained a skein of 100% Superwash Blue Faced Leicester, in a pretty shade called Dew.  I also nabbed a skein of Skinny Bugga from Sanguine Gryphon, not shown in the picture because it's still packed away somewhere amongst my booth stuff, yet to be excavated.  All in the fullness of time. 

There may also have been some sock blockers acquired.  And a few books.  And some software.  And a re-stocking of natural skin care products from Bar-Maids.  But hey, these things happen.

While I brought home lots of wonderful goodies, really the best acquisition of all was the hugs I got from some really special folks.

Here's Tina and Stephanie, the amazingly talented women that brought us Sock Summit.


The Dynamic Deb Duo, Debbi and Debra, were in charge of vendor care and maintenance.  They did a seriously awesome job.  I love them. 


Another pic of Debbi, because hey, pix happen.


Here's Stephen, who I didn't get to see much of during the show because he was out in front at the Registration booth.  I got my hugs, though, and luckily we ended up next to each other on the plane ride to SFO, where we had a great conversation and made big plans.


This is Kismet, who I first met at Stitches West a few years ago.  She owns Bar-Maids (mentioned above), and her products are absolutely fabulous.  Since trying her Face Pudding, I haven't used another moisturizer on my face.   She's also a great booth neighbor, and minded my space for me when I needed to run out to the ladies'.  Or around the corner to Verb. 


Here's Carrie, a.k.a. Irish Girlie Knits.  She's the sweetest, and her Honey Badger sock pattern kept me well entertained and occupied during my travels to and from Portland.


Here's Erica, who somehow managed to look fabulous even after breaking down a booth. 


There were so many more great people I got to see, but alas no pix of them.  I got to say hi to Alice, and even spotted her jumping through the Sock Gate and doing a drop-and-roll on the other side.  That's our Alice.  I saw Marisol, Liz, Dorie, Jill, Monique, Wendy, Terry, Josie...............whah, I wanna go back to Sock Camp!!  Marcy wasn't there in person, but she was there in spirits.  Missed you, Marcy!

There were lots of industry folks at Sock Summit as well (of course), and while I'm not the type to get star struck, I have to admit to being bowled over when Sivia Harding came into my booth to say hello.  (Sivia Harding!  In MY booth!)  Clara Parkes came in as well.  (Clara Parkes!  In MY booth!!)  There were Anne Hanson, and Ann Budd, and Anne Merrow.  Amy Singer and Jaala Shiro.  I had a lovely chat with Anna Zilboorg while we were waiting for the elevator at the hotel.  Swoon.   I got to say hello to Cat Bordhi and Janel Laidman and so many other inspiring men and women.  Fabulous. 

I can't close without extending a huge and heartfelt Thank You to ST-1, ST-2, and the volunteers for putting on such a great show.  I had the time of my life.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Show Prep (and a mini studio tour)

Oh dear, it's been a while.  Nothing like a show or two or four to get in the way of blogging, and pretty much life in general.  But I love doing the knitting shows, both wholesale and retail.  It's a place to catch up with friends and customers, meet other vendors, see what's new and learn what's going on in the industry, and get the creative juices flowing. 

Next up on my show schedule is Sock Summit in Portland, Oregon.  I especially love this show.  Just big enough to be big, but small enough to not be overwhelming.  Held every other year.  Happy and excited shoppers -- seriously, at the first SS folks in line where chanting while waiting for the marketplace doors to open on the first day!!  That kind of enthusiasm is infectious.  I had a great time in 2009, and am really looking forward to this year.

Since my life is pretty much centered around show preparations these days, I thought I'd give you a little peek at where I spend the better portion of my days.  My studio is really just a small spare bedroom, but I have two big windows that let in plenty of natural light, which is necessary for the type of work I do.  I have a nice view, and can watch the quail and rabbits run by.  It's a pleasant place to work, and while not the big workspace of my dreams, it does quite fine.

The first requirement of a working studio is coffee.  Lots of it.



Markers to the left of me:


Fibers to the right:


Here I work, right in the middle, at a circa 1904 oak desk.  When we moved to this house, the movers had to take the window out of the frame and bring the desk in through the gaping hole, because the desk wouldn't fit through the doors.  It's big.  And heavy.  They just don't make furniture like this any more. 

To the right of the desk which you can't really see is an old armoire that I've repurposed into a craft storage cabinet.  One side of the cabinet holds needlework supplies, fabric and the like, and the other side has cords, ribbons, inks, and all kinds of miscellaneous stuff.  The armoire, while not big, can hold a lot of supplies, and it's a great way to keep neat and organized.  Since I tend to spread out all over the place, the armoire helps keep my little space under control.


In back of me is the carder, where I prepare my fiber batts. 


Next to the carding table is a Sears Craftsman tool chest, chock full of beads.  In the opposite corner, not shown, is a spinning wheel and a loom (which is quite handy to pile stuff on). 


A close-up of my desktop.  Notice anything new?


And then there is Dunkin the supervisor, asleep on the job in a little cubbyhole of the desk. 


It's a comfortable little workspace.  Which I am off to right now, because Sock Summit is rapidly approaching!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

TNNA Mini WrapUp

Well, that week was a blur.  I'm recently back from Columbus, OH and the TNNA Summer Market.  What a great show!  Beautiful booths, positive energy, and wonderful people.  As per usual, I didn't get out of my booth much, and not a single photograph to be had (even though I brought my camera).  I didn't even get a single Jeni's ice cream!  But I did walk the floor each morning before the show opened to scope out all of the new fibery goodness and got to talk with folks who stopped by the booth. 

I roomed with my buddie Jeane deCoster of Elemental Affects and got to see samples of her new Romney yarn.  Mmmmm.  Michelle Miller of Fickle Knitter Design had a smashing hot pink booth, and did you know that she has a book coming out?  I've placed my pre-order and have demanded asked for an autographed copy.  Dale of Norway was in the booth next to me, and besides being charming folks, they had a charming xmas tree decorated with knitted ornaments from the new 55 Christmas Balls to Knit book which will be released this summer.  I am all over this book when it comes out (quick and easy xmas gifts, here I come).  

Imperial Stock Ranch from Oregon was another interesting booth, and the owner told us a bit about the ranch's history.  They've been operating for 140 consecutive years!  It's fascinating to get a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes operations of a real ranch, and how the owners adapt to changing market conditions.  Their yarns are lovely.

Amy from knitty.com stopped by, as did JC Briar (her new book is terrific).  I got to meet Kimberly from XRX, and had drinks and deep-fried green beans with Jennifer from Holiday YarnsKollage Yarns was right up the road aisle so I got to run up and say hi to Erica and fondle the Sock-A-Licious.  There is some of that yarn in my future, I tell you.   I met Dob Robson in the airport on the way home, and I hope I didn't gush.  Her new book is FABULOUS.

And of course, it was wonderful to meet and talk with all of the wonderful store owners.  I'm happy that my markers will be in several new stores this summer!  But for that to happen, I must first get back to the production line!

Friday, May 13, 2011

What Was I Thinking????

When I was making my retirement plans, I envisioned having all the time in the world to do the things that I needed and wanted to do.  I would be freedom's prisoner. 

I would have the time to devote to my growing little business, without being harried or stressed.  I would knit, knit, knit, and then knit.  All of the designs that I'd been storing in my head would effortlessly spring forth, all properly formatted and ready to go.  I'd spin like a demon, to keep me in yarn for all the knitting that I'd be doing.  I would read -- if not constantly, then a whole heckofa lot.

I would attend to my yard, and there'd be nary a weed in sight.  There would be no dust dinosaurs in the house, my clothes would be ironed, and I would always have clean underwear. 

I'd bake bread regularly, and sweets now and then.  I would cook fresh wholesome meals, every day

I would make lists, remember where I put said lists in the first place, and then remember to look at the damn lists when I went to the store to buy what was on them.

I would go for long walks most days, take up yoga again, and work out a little bit with weights.   

I would have the time to sit still, and just be.

Hah.  Hah hah.  HAHAHHAHHHAHHH HAHHAH HAHHAHHAHHAHHAHHAHHAHHAH
HAHHAHHAHHAHHAHHAHHAHHAHHAHHAHHAHHAHHAHHAHHAHHAHHAHHAHAH

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Batt in Production

It's show season here at Chez Markers A Lot -- and not only are markers being made, the fibers are a-flyin' too.

This here is Steppe, a 60/40 blend of cashmere and baby camel, on its second pass through the card.  You can visit the finished version at Sock Summit in July.

mmmmm, soft

Saturday, April 30, 2011

This is How We Wash the Wool

Earlier this week I went out to the desert to visit my buddie Jeane of Elemental Affects.  Jeane makes gorgeous hand-dyed Shetland yarn.  The wool is from sheep raised in Montana, the mill that spins the wool into yarn is here in the U.S., and Jeane dyes the yarn in California, so the product is North American, start to finish.  If you like supporting local farmers and artisans, check out her yarn.  Check it out anyway, it's really wonderful.

My mission was to help Jeane wash a whole lotta Romney wool, which is going to become a big fluffy new yarn she will be introducing soon.  Mmmm, wait until you see it. 

It's hot in the desert.  Just saying.

I've done plenty of wool scouring, but nothing on the scale that Jeane does to produce her yarns and fibers.  This is what serious wool washing looks like:

1.  Transport

The first step was to get the raw wool from the storage shed to Jeane's studio.


We loaded two bales of fleeces onto a little trailer attached to a Honda ATV thingy and drove them to the studio.  Each bale weighs approximately 120 pounds.  They're heavy.  And I want one of those ATV thingies.  The bales were then manhandled off of the trailer and rolled into position in the studio.

2.  Skirt and Sort

Each fleece is removed from the bale and placed on a big screen, where it is skirted.  This is the process where large chunks of dirt, vegetable matter, and dung are removed from the raw wool.  Loose stuff simply falls through the large holes of the screen onto the floor. 


The fleece is examined, and any rough or otherwise undesirable sections are picked out.  Even wool that doesn't make the cut isn't wasted; Jeane sends most of the discards to someone who uses it to stuff dog beds.  Lucky dogs. 


3.  Weigh and Wash

The sorted wool is weighed out (about 4 lbs per basket) and brought over to the laundry area. 


Each basket of wool first goes into a tub of lukewarm water for a quick soak to remove excess dirt and dust.  Then it goes into to a second tub filled with 140F water and detergent to remove the grease. 

Desert + 140F water = Hot.  Just saying. 


The wool soaks in the soapy water and gets swished around a bit in a process Jeane calls "clapping":  the wool is pressed together from side to side to allow the detergent to penetrate to all areas of the wool (Romney is a slow felter so it can withstand some swishing and squeezing).  From the washing tub, the wool goes into the washing machine (filled with more 140F water) to be rinsed.  Note the heavy insulated rubber gloves:  140F water is hot.  Burning hot. 


4.  Dry

The rinse water is spun out, and then the wool is taken from the washing machine over to the drying racks and spread out in thin layers.  It's hot in the desert, so it doesn't take long to dry. 


5.  Play

Did I mention that it was HOT?  We called it a day by late afternoon, and Jeane showed me how to do this:


I acquired a beautiful old Gilmore loom several months back, and it's been waiting patiently for some attention since then.  Under Jeane's tutelage I finally learned how to use a warping board, and she gave me a lesson on getting the warp onto a loom.   

It was a fun trip, and I now have an increased appreciation for those in the fiber business, and the labor and love (and sweat) they put into making the beautiful yarns and spinning fibers we get to play with.