Whimsical and Homespun Art Creations with a Little Rural Living Thrown In

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Tutorial on Washing Stubbornly Dirty Wool Fleece Locks ~ Polwarth

Since my quilting and fine art stations aren't set up in my studio yet, I began a wool experiment to try and get some stubborn grease and dirt laden Polwarth locks clean.  My first try at these locks, using a new system (I will share in another post) for cleaning Shetland, was mediocre at best for these overly grease ridden locks.  I needed to find a less intrusive way to clean the locks, since Polwarth is a fine breed and can be relied on to felt when it gets agitated.
After reading several articles, I decided to try a lock by lock method.  It is said to work well with many of the fine greasy wool breeds:  Cormo, Merino, Polwarth etc. .  After my last bout with the fleece, I was ready to throw it away as bad.  Maybe, I let it set to long.  (It was a fleece from last year.)  So with nothing to loose and throwing basic knowledge to the wind, here is my scouring experiment.
Necessary items:
Two cups.  I used the cups from my liquid Tide containers... making sure the residue of detergent was all gone! 

A tea kettle.  This requires the hottest of water.  Got to melt the lanolin fast!

Original Dawn.  The newer versions of Dawn will damage the wool fibers.  The upside, Dawn original can be bought super cheap at the DG.  :)

Some dirty Polwarth locks.  These were bought and shipped from England in 2016 and left to sit in a sealed pillowcase in the garage all winter.  I honestly thought they were unsalvageable.

Now let's get cleaning!  Fill the cups up with hot water directly from the tea kettle (Keep the tea kettle warming at all times.  Add water as needed to keep the process moving along.)  and add a squirt of Dawn to give the water a blue tint.

 How do you like my orange gloves?  Orange is my favorite color.  I vow to have a Mini Cooper some day in this color... *sigh* ;)  Sorry, back to the topic.    The water is really hot, and you will be working in close proximity to it... Use the heavier gloves!  The lighter latex gloves for my Shetland method will not work. 

As you can see, I fanned the dirty tip thinking it would aid in the cleaning process.  With another lock, I left the grungy tip in tact.  Neither lock cleaned faster than the other.  So additional prep work -- not worth the time!

This girl cannot handle a camera and swish, so trust me on this one. ;)  Hold the lock like in the above photo.  Swish the end in the first cup.  (If you have crusty cruddy tips like my locks, hold it in the water a few seconds before swishing to loosen the pasty lanolin.)  If the tip looks clean, turn the lock around.  Hold the lock on the clean end and swish the dirty end in the other cup. That's it!

I made my first cup "the tip end" cup.  A few tips can be washed in it with a little freshening from hot tea kettle water.  Then, my cut end cup came over and became the tip cup for a few more additional washes prior to being dumped.  A rotation of cups makes for less waste of water. :)

Okay, here is where the cardinal rule of wool washing is thrown out the window.  Let water directly from the tap (can be from the cold side) run over your lock.   What are you crazy???  It's going to felt!!!   Yes, that is what I said. No, it is not going to felt.  Run the water over the lock like in the photo.  The soap will come right out.  You will not need to swish it.   Just a nice stream running down it.  Now, hold it by the other end and repeat...

Lay the lock on a towel.  Fold the towel over and give it a good squeeze.

Here are those locks after the cleaning process.  Can you believe these are the same locks?   No compost heap for these babies. 

Look at the finished product! The Polwarth fluffs right up on its own.... Squishy soft!!  I couldn't be happier with the end result. 

My final thoughts...  You might think this process will go slow, but take it from someone that has washed loads of wool, this process hums right along with no mess.  Granted, you will not turn out huge bags of fleece in an hour, but you won't have to lug any heavy buckets around either.  Plus, the end result is clean non felted locks from a fine wool sheep.  Locks that are ready to flick and spin.  It will be my "go to" for all of the finer breeds.  It just makes sense.  Now, I can go to my raw Polwarth storage bucket, pull out a bowl full of locks and wash enough to spin a skein on my Matchless.  How convenient is that?  :)

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Time for the Flea Markets!

Although the weather cannot decide what season to be in, the flea markets are kicking off for the year.  I missed the one day Fiber Expo to kick off the season due to an extremely bad cold back in April.  I even swapped to have the day off a month ahead of time! Aaargh!!  Remaining positive, I took a CTO day for the first Friday of May hoping for good weather for a 3 day flea market in What Cheer, Iowa.  We were blessed with  the most beautiful day.  It was a fun and relaxing time.   I am still somewhat nervous about purchasing much, until we get the studio room underway... But the nervousness evaporated as we walked around! ;)
A large apple basket was a necessity buy.  During the Fall season at Farmer Boy's place, I kept having to borrow a basket to tote apples back and forth.  Now, I will have my own to haul with. :)  

This was hanging on the side of a pick up truck bed.  It had some items on top of it.  I honestly was surprised that I hadn't seen it on our first walk through.  A gentleman looking at it drew my attention to the lovely pattern.  Once he left, I went to look it over.   The vendor yelled over, "A dollar and it's yours!"  I don't have to be told twice and made the deal.  The lady selling thought it was maybe an oversized pillowcase... she just wasn't sure.  She picked it up at a sale.  Upon inspection, done in the next row over, I confirmed it was a large vintage feedsack.  Nice bold unwashed colors still stitched up with the old original thread.  Couldn't you see an old feedsack dress made out of this one for a toddler?  :)

For three dollars, I just couldn't pass up on some glass topped jars.  They will come in handy in the studio.  I have loads of smalls to store in them.

A lesson in the art of purchasing at a flea market:  If you really like an item, don't put it on a list... buy it!  There were two sisters looking at these feedsacks.  I was slightly disappointed at not getting there first, since green lettering is my favorite. :(  But I walked around checking out the other items from the vendor, as both ladies discussed what could be made with them.  The vendor finally said to the women that she would do 3 sacks for 6 dollars, since some of them had staining and holes on one side.  Wow!  Yeah, a few were a little damaged but the print was on both sides and these were huge.  The ladies kept talking, then decided they would add them to the list of things to come back for later and walked off.  You can see the result of that scenario.  I acquired all 5 sacks along with one plain for $12.00.  I couldn't have been happier.

Mr. Hollow picked up a vintage tooth pick dispenser, shaped like a Wood Pecker, from the same lady.  As he walked ahead of me, the two ladies were cutting back into the booth after deciding they would get the sacks after all.... Ten minutes too late...

It doesn't happen often.  The unicorn of the vintage glass Christmas bulbs.  You know... The one that I do not have YET in my collection.  Will you look at this? 

The vendor had two but only one had a cap.  I know, I know.  I could have used one of my hundred extra caps at home right?   But, it was my turn to be stupidly tight.  This baby cost me $4.50.  I will go with the thought that it adds to the excitement to have "one of one".  Well, unless the same vendor has the other one when we go in August! ;)

This was part of the mitigating factor to my tightness.  I dropped $12.00 for these Shiny Brite mini icicle ornaments.  Holy Toledo!!! They will look so cool on my mini Shiny Brite tree!!

Last but not least... I was looking at street signs for my studio.  There was a huge "slow" sign in orange and this "55 speed limit" sign.  The lady said she cut me a deal on two.  The "slow" sign really wasn't hitting me right, so I went with the one that caught my eye.  It makes me think of all the trips I have taken through out my life and the ones to come.  Maybe Farmer boy can work his magic and make a cabinet out of it with some barn boards for art supplies...  Hmmmm...

All in all, I think it has been a great start to the flea marketing season.  I will blank out the horrific cold episode and focus on the positive!  Unfortunately for a large group of vendors, this weekend was suppose to be the flea market at the fairgrounds in Pecatonica, Illinois, but our unpredictable weather decided to bless us with an overabundance of rain.  I cannot remember ever having 3 days of rain on a Pec weekend.  But then, I have never seen a winter and spring like the ones we have had this year.  Who knows what the rest of the year will bring?

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Spinning with the Schacht Matchless

One of the best purchases I made in 2016 was the Schacht Matchless spinning wheel.  I was a little worried this wheel would be technically above my skill level.  It has the potential to spin anything.  After considering the Schacht Ladybug, I decided to go all in on a wheel that could grow with my experience.  Maybe due to my newness, the learning curve felt less threatening.  There were no new techniques or operations to learn, since my experience with other wheels was virtually non existent.  I did decide to go with a double treadle this time and must say overall , "I am in love!"   Here she is...  

I started out practicing with some more combed top from Edgewood Garden Studios from Etsy.  At this point, I was still counting my treadling.  It made me kind of panicky causing thick and thin spots.  To be truthful, counting was taking all the fun out of spinning. :(

Then, I practiced making thinner singles to ply.  My singles started becoming more consistent.  :)

I decided to jump back to thicker singles to ply and let myself spin without counting treadles all the time.  What a difference!  I found that as long as there isn't any crazy music in playing in the background, my treadling has its own rhythm and my hands work naturally along with it.  Got a little crazy with my color.  Didn't I?  LOL

I now have it in my head to make some 3 ply sock yarn.  The singles need to be thin.  How is this for consistency?  No counting treadles, just spinning to my own rhythm.  I guess it should be called, " Letting go and trusting myself."  There are two bobbins down with one bobbin to go!

I have moved my fleece storage and spinning wheels into the new location of my studio area.  I cannot wait until my drafting table and sewing machines join them.  It will be so exciting to get back to drawing and quilting again!

Have a Safe and Happy Easter!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Memories of the Fall ~ Kitchen Aid Fruit & Veggie Strainer Review

I thought I would reminisce about the last apple harvest with a review of Kitchen Aid's Fruit & Vegetable Strainer.  A perfect topic for today as I sit with a cold and slight case of laryngitis.  Could be worse right?  On the bright side, my mug of chamomile tea is being sweetened with some local honey purchased during the summer.  This unfortunate affliction has given me  a reason to test out the home remedy property of the honey.   I am finding the taste is wonderful combination and will get me away from white sugar as my "go to sweetener" in the future. 

Okay, back to the topic... My mind has always been drawn to a faster way to do applesauce.  Okay, faster and a whole lot cleaner way to make applesauce!    The Kitchen Aid Fruit & Vegetable Strainer has been on my wishlist at Amazon for a long time.  So when Farmerboy and his lovely wife purchased their farm complete with two gorgeous apple trees, I knew the time was right.  Here is a pictorial review of my first harvest season using the Kitchen Aid attachment.

The farmyard has two unbelievable apple trees.  One is some strain of Golden Delicious and the other is possibly a Snow apple mix.  The trees ripen about a month apart which is perfect for processing the apples.  Many families benefited this year.  The harvest was so huge that Mr. Hollow and I did not bother visiting any orchards this year; although, I did miss my Macintosh apples with melted caramels!  *sigh*   There is always next year.  ;)

The prep work was minimal for making the sauce.  I cored the apples, quarter them and boiled them with a little bit of water until soft.  (Next year I may use the trick of using a little cider instead of water for an extra kick in some of the batches!)

 I let the bowl cool as the next batch of apples began to cook.  It was a really efficient production line.  :) 

I did purchase the top feeding platform separately.  It holds a lot more apples to feed into the tube of the strainer.  Definitely a must have add on for me, since it kept the work area free of spillage.  I would highly recommend it.  The small area the unit comes with is just asking for a ladle to over shoot the mark.  :(

The apples (skins and all) are funneled by a spooled device down a metal cone with holes all over it.  The apple sauce is forced out of the holes and runs backwards out the bottom flute.  The skins are extruded from the whole in front into its own bowl.  How easy is that?  Instant pig or chicken feed!

Dark skins make for a pink sauce with these particular apples.  The sauce is beautiful and smooth.  I do like to add sweetener to my sauce.  So, it was popped back into a pot, sweetener added, brought up to a boil and canned.  No splattering-- No sweating-- No mess!

Seriously, this is all that was left from the apples! 

The process was a fraction of the time from the old way.  Clean up was a breeze.  It made me wonder what took me so long to try the strainer attachment.  The Kitchen Aid Fruit & Vegetable Strainer is a complete winner in my book!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

It's Shearing Time for Everyone

No animal could avoid the shears around here lately.  The first two to fall prey  were Izzie and Gabby.  They went to see Dr. Julie.  Yep, it was spaying time.  A time dreaded by myself (and them to I'm sure, if they could understand).  They seemed to take it well with the exception of some cold tummies.  

March came in like a lion for the sheep, since the gentleman arrived at Farmerboy's to do some shearing.  Farmerboy was all smiles with that chore finished.  Luke the llama posed happily for a photo op, since he didn't get sheared... this time!

The rest of the crew seemed to enjoy the loss of 4 or more pounds each!  They were scratching themselves on anything they could find.    Last year's lambs were bouncing around the barnyard happy to be free of the excess hair. 

Even Max seemed to be a little more mellow.  :)

I have been spending the last week skirting fleeces and bagging them for proper storage until they can be scoured.  There are some extremely beautiful colorways.  The nice thing about Shetland fleeces is the variety of crimp and locks all on the same sheep.  It is just amazing!  I am going to be putting quite a few to the side for personal spinning and will share some photos later.  But I have to say, there is one lamb that is coal black from skin to tip with locks in excess of 7 inches.  Crazy gorgeous!!  I washed a couple of locks, and they are fantastic.  The whole fleece is like that... A spinner's dream. :)

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Valentine's Day or Easter?

The weather makes me think that it should have been Easter not Valentine's Day.  Trust me... I am NOT complaining.  ;)  So, it honestly didn't seem odd when the kids stopped in last night with a Valentine's purchase from Theisens... Baby chicks! 
Farmerboy always loved having chickens.  Believe it or not, his wife does not eat eggs!  She does like to bake though, so they will come in handy for that.  He wanted to get 12, and they compromised on 10.  Great compromise for him since his lovely bride did not really want chickens.  I have to admit... I always loved raising chickens.  Here is a close up of one of the crazier looking ones!
Aren't they darling?  It always amazes me when I hold on to them.  For those that question a higher being, look at these tiny little critters.  Only a higher being could create such a wonder.  Absolutely amazing!

I hope everyone had a Happy Valentine's Day.  Ours was quiet and that is okay with me.  Tomorrow is our anniversary... twenty-seven years and counting.  :)

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Down on the Farm Visit

There has been a lot going on lately keeping me close to home.  But on one of the warmer days, Mr. Hollow talked me into visiting the kids' farm.  Farmerboy has been laying flooring in the kitchen and working on his workshop.  I laugh at the fact that I did not take any photos of his hard work... just some animal shots. ;) 
In the shop, Farmerboy has three new furry mice catchers:  Here is mama kitty.  I call her Moon Pie.  If she looks directly at you, her eyes are as big as Moon Pies... I swear!!  She is the sweetest tempered cat with the tiniest feet for her size.

This is a photo of her kitten Patches.  I think her fur looks like someone dripped paint all over.  On her other side, she sports some big splotches.  Patches is very vocal and one heck of a climber!

I cannot remember the name of this one.  Isn't she a beauty?  This is Patches sister.  She is quiet and like her sister loves to climb.  Her favorite spot is looking out the new window Farmerboy just put in.  I imagine she is wondering about where all the mice went, since their arrival.  It didn't take long for the pests to stop going in their domain!

Here are the piglets Farmerboy purchased in the fall.  Oh my, they sure have grown.  It never ceases to amaze me how furry pigs are.   I was there for feeding time.  There is one particular one that makes so much noise when she eats, it is funny.  Maybe the noise has a calming effect on her.  I am not sure. 

The one to the left is not growing like the others, but she can mix it up with the best of them.  They have just got moved to their new digs with plenty of space to sprawl out and relax.  :)

My favorite part of the farm is the barn.  If you go into the upper loft, the ceiling is amazingly high.  I helped the kids stack hay inside over the summer... That seems like such a long time ago.  *sigh*

I have always had a love of barns.  They have that rustic cozy feeling inside, and the hay stacked makes it even better.  It saddens me how many wooden barns in the area have fallen to decay with new steal sheds taking their place.  I understand the reasons for the progression, but it is still sad none the less.

Oh yeah, the sheep have their own cozy shed.  It use to be a home to pigs back in the day but is a perfect spot for the sheep.  They love it!  As you can see, they have quiet the wool jackets going on.  I believe they are scheduled to be sheared next weekend.  Farmerboy's flock this year has a great variety of colors and textures of wool.  There will even be some solid black lamb fleeces coming off this year.  Very exciting to this spinner!  :)

Always a couple of interested sheep wondering if there is some feed in the bucket!  LOL

Farmerboy's wife always can be counted on to pitch in with taking care of the animals.  This girl's not afraid to shovel some pig manure.   And if you ever smelled pig manure, you would know she is a Saint for helping out!   Whew wee!!!

I think they are pretty happy on their farm.  That day was such a fun time and makes me think that spring is around the corner.  Hard to believe it is only the end of January!