the whole process.

It started out looking like this…IMGP0394And slowly but surely, became this…IMGP2305From sheep to baby blanket… It’s the first time I’ve ever accomplished the whole process from start to finish in many many years of wanting it to happen! 

(The pattern is Concentric Squares Baby Blanket by Fiber Fiend, http://www.fiberfiend.com)

In between the beginning and the end, there was a whole slew of processes. If you’ve been following along with our stories in this space for some time now, you may recall the tending and shepherding of the sheep all through the cold winter months. Or even before that, my family’s trip to Pennsylvania to fetch my flock of Shetlands and then being crammed in the truck like sardines for the long haul. Then spring arrived and shearing needed to happen. Remember when the Hill and Hollow crew came to save the day with their electric sheep shears? And remember not quite as long ago when my family had an overnight stay in a hotel and as my luggage I took a dirty sheep’s fleece for scouring in the hotel bathtub? And the borrowed drum carder? And all of the spinning? And then the indigo dyeing? (Which was a whole process in and of itself with the seeding, weeding, growing and harvesting!) Finally, my favorite part of the process, the hours and hours of knitting… knitting while the kids swam in the creek, or in the early gray mornings, or while I waited for supper to cook, or while I accompanied Eric for chores (but not being able to walk and actually help out with chores because of my leg. Moral support is good too!). It is a long-winded process I will admit! But it’s also incredibly satisfying…IMGP2307(You can see the color change between dye lots… I wasn’t totally thrilled with this feature and did try to overdye the whole blanket to make the blue more consistent, but alas, there is still a definite line. Oh, well. Maybe next year when the indigo is ready, I will try again.)

When I finally finished the baby blanket, the kids asked me how much I would charge if I were to sell the blanket. I just had to laugh. 

So the blanket is all finished. Now I just need a baby to wrap up in it…IMGP2310

 

amenities

My dear hubby’s birthday was on Monday. His birthday falls at the time in the season when a shift is happening. That time in between the beginnings of the fall garden and when our summer crops are mostly fading (and a farmer’s inertia can be prone to fading right alongside those blight-ridden tomatoes). It can be a real challenge to dig deep within and tap into the energy reserves needed to forge ahead and embark on second spring. So, what Eric really wanted on his special day, aside from a weed-free garden, was a day away. Not far. Nothing fancy. Just a shift in the daily routine and small step away from the farm for a breather. So we booked a hotel room for a night, packed up the kids, and had ourselves a short escape. Funny thing is, none of my family can endure time spent in a hotel setting for very long before starting to feel slightly cuckoo. I know this about myself for certain. It’s always best to bring along something to do and I never travel anywhere without my knitting bag.

Shortly before leaving for the hotel getaway, I was having a phone chat with Robin, discussing her indigo workshop. I had to break the news that I probably couldn’t make it over to her farm the Saturday of the workshop. But Robin, being the kind of gal she is, suggested that they would give me my own personal indigo dye workshop as a birthday present. (What a friend, huh?) I suddenly remembered the indigo growing in my own garden, and the fact that I don’t have any wool ready for dyeing! Horror of horrors! I have all of these fleeces sitting around in pillowcases just waiting for me. And, I had just borrowed a drum carder from a good friend. Hmmmmmmm… Time to get busy processing some wool so I have something to turn blue! IMGP1882

One problem is that this time of year we don’t have hot water on tap. Our hot water system relies on our wood cookstove, and this time of year most of our cooking happens in our outdoor kitchen on the gas stove and we certainly don’t need any extra heat in the house. My fleeces all need to be scoured which takes a fair bit of hot water, and I just can’t stand the thought of heating up enough pans of water on the gas stove for washing dirty wool. So the fleeces just sat there, gathering dust.

But a hotel room always seems to have ample hot water. Quite hot, if memory serves. 

my crutch served as a very useful tool in swishing the wool around in the scouring bath...

my crutch served as a very useful tool in swishing the wool around in the scouring bath…

IMGP1899So on a whim, I shoved a bag of light-colored fleece into the back of the van with the thought that maybe, just maybe, I would have the chance to wash it… you know, in between taking the kids to the pool, staring at the blasted television, and eating pizza. Turns out to be one of the better decisions I’ve made recently. In fact, I think I might make bags of raw fleece part of my packing protocol whenever I’m headed to a hotel. I would venture to guess that that was the first time a sheep’s fleece was ever washed in our room’s bathtub. The added bonus of processing a raw fleece is that it helps dissipate the sterile smells of bleach and weird shampoo from the hotel room. Made me feel right at home.

So not only did my birthday man get his much needed rest, I got an entire fleece washed and mostly dried (over the A/C unit). I even got some knitting done, too. Once we got back home, and after baking Eric a couple of apple pies, I attached my borrowed drum carder (thank you, Marissa!) to the table and the kids helped me run some of the freshly cleaned wool through it. Fabulously white and fluffy wool roving is beginning to accumulate now. Next thing is brushing the dust off of my spinning wheel and making some yarn. I’m almost ready for your dyeing expertise, Robin! IMGP1904