I haven't been working too much with wool lately. Other than trying to get products up on my Etsy shop. It's complicated to get everything photographed, edited, uploaded, descriptions written...all while balancing my full time job, the family and life. I've spun a little Shetland wool which is gong to end up being a gorgeous yarn! I've set it aside though for those winter months that are coming up. This winter I will be back in full swing with both my spinning, weaving and dyeing yarn. I've also still got some work to do on a rug that I designed and have been hooking for my family. I put that project down after my dad passed. It was something that I worked on a lot while sitting with him and I think that's probably part of the reason I haven't touched it. My sister, who madly crocheted shawls and other things while sitting with dad, also hasn't touched a hook since then. It's interesting, perhaps a reminder of those days, and that may be why we are avoiding them.
I've been focusing more on my art this past summer. It has really been my therapy in dealing with grief. It's strange, really, although I am an adult with my own children and life, I feel as though in losing both my parents that I have lost my identity a little bit. Is that normal? The two people that I have looked up to and who were a constant in my life, are gone. The two things that have always brought me back to center, and to help me feel more myself have become more at the forefront of my life at this point.
I started a bible study recently through BSF International and we are studying the book of Romans. It has been very good for me because it has helped me be more accountable of getting into the Word. And when I'm reading the bible, it brings me peace. Although, this bible study has been challenging me daily on reading and dissecting the book of Romans, verse by verse. I like the intensity of the study, and there are so many things that I would have glossed over in the letter that Paul wrote to the Gentiles. Some of the questions have left me digging down into my own personal struggles and have forced me to face some things about myself that at times, makes me a little uncomfortable. I feel this is something that God has put in my life at this time for a reason. And I'm excited about the renewing of my mind as I focus more on Him. God is not a shifting shadow, He is always the same.
It's fall and the weather is starting to turn the trees a little. I look forward to the cool, crisp days. They seem to make me feel more alive than the humidity and heat of the summer. I have been going on more nature walks with my sketchbook and fountain pens. I find a place on our farm and sit down to sketch. I usually only have about an hour to do this. Once I get the sketch down and many times I write about the environment, the weather, what is going on in my mind....I then take it back to the house and watercolor it.
I took a watercolor class through our local Arts Alliance and unfortunately it was only 4 weeks. It was something I needed to do to help me come out of the funk I was in this summer. I enjoy being around other creatives and it really helps to see inspiration from others.
I had been posting a lot of photos of my artwork on Instagram and decided that instead of filling up my Little Dixie Fiber Co. page with things other than sheep, farm and wool, that I would create a separate account for just my artwork. I also created a blog for just posting my artwork, kind of a portfolio I guess.
I will also start putting some artwork and supplies into my Etsy shop in the near future.
I guess that's all I have to say for right now. I will leave some links below if you are interested in following me on the different social websites.
FaceBook (Little Dixie Fiber Co.)
Instagram (Little Dixie Fiber Co.)
Instagram (My Artwork)
Tumblr (My Artwork)
I have been really busy the last week and a half working on getting all the fleeces washed up and cleaned. I'm sitting here with the last one in the presoak, and one in the washing machine.
This is the presoak. The water is 180 degrees F. And I've added a mild soap.
After the presoak, I dump the fleece onto this screen which allows the water to rinse out but catches the wool and keeps it off the ground. If the wool is really dirty, I may do another rinse in this tub.
You can see how dirty the water is from the presoak.
This is a lamb's fleece that is waiting to be rinsed.
I have an old top loading washing machine that I use to soak and rinse the wool in. The main advantage is that I can turn it to the spin cycle and it gets a lot of the water out of the fleece. That's really the only part of the washer that I use.
I fill the washing machine with equally hot water before adding the fleece. It's very important to add in the wool after the tub is already filled, otherwise the high temperature and the agitation from the water could felt it. This hose is heavy duty so it can withstand the hot temps.
We use our wood boiler to get the water hot. My husband made this one and it heats our water and the house in the winter, saving us on propane. The only time in the summer we use it is for washing my wool.
The thermometer is reading 183 degrees F, so it works really well for this purpose.
We hook the hose up to the back of the stove and I turn it on to fill the washing machine and the presoak tub.
I have a special bag that I put the fleece in, it has two openings on each end of the bag with drawstrings. The bottom fits into the top loader and gets cinched up tight so the wool doesn't come out of the bag.
I fill the bag full of wool and then cinch up the top as well. It really helps keep the wool together so I just have to lift the bag out after it's finished, rather than pulling chunks of wool out in handfuls.
Once the wool is in the washer, I close the lid and set a timer for 30 minutes. I just let it sit and soak. I usually add some white vinegar to help with the PH and to cut the soap. I also add some drops of cedar essential oil to help deter moths as the wool sits out to air dry.
This is a Shetland fleece I have just dumped out onto my skirting table. I will use my hands to separate the wool so it will air dry faster.
There is still some small vegetation matter that is in the wool. Sometimes, as I'm running through it with my hands, pieces will fall out or I pick them out. I'm not too worried about it at this stage. Once the wool dries, it will move to the next step which is called 'picking'. I have a very small picker right now. I have a 'studio picker' by Fancy Kitty that is on order and should arrive at the end of the week. I can process more wool at once to save a little time. I will write about picking in another post.
My husband built these awesome drying racks out of leftover PVC and scrap lumber. We then used wildlife netting stapled to the boards. I bought it in the garden section at Lowe's and got 100 feet for $15. (The bags on the floor are fleeces that have dried and are going into the house at the end of my washing session.)
This is my mudroom right now. Clean fleeces ready for the next step!
I will move these into my craft room where they will be stored until I can start the next phase of the process. I think I ended up with 28 fleeces in all. I have to recount once the last one is finished.
It took me two weekends a few nights during the week to get these all done. I had many interruptions from events, kids, visitors, and my regular job that it took me much longer than if I was to just focus solely on the wool. I had a good time while doing it and my girls kept me company the whole time in the shop riding their bikes and building fairy houses. :)