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Using a Distaff

Ever wish for a third hand to keep your fibre supply tidy while using your spindle? If so, a distaff could be your new best friend. You can load a distaff with a large supply of fibre, be it rovings or batts.

Here are both finger and a wrist distaffs.

The way you can load either distaff with roving, is to begin by holding some of the fibre in place, and wrapping it around and around the distaff in a figure 8 fashion or by spiraling top to bottom then back again. It can be done tightly if you hope to load lots of fibre or less if that is what you want, it will become a personal preference.

To dress a ring distaff with a batt, you can first attach a piece of ribbon, to the distaff.

(Or use a piece of yarn, cotton thread, or twine, ribbons are just pretty!)

Then roll your batt to fit around the distaff, folding the batt over on itself to fit is ok. Wind your ribbon around the batt and tie.

The procedure is the same for a wrist distaff, attach a ribbon if you like, and tie the batt on. We sell wrist distaffs that come with leather lacing. The two single laces to tie it onto your wrist, the chained leather lace to wrap around your fibre supply.

Your wrist distaff is something you can feel free to personalize in any way you wish! Weave some beautiful strapping, braid some of your handspun, the choice is yours. No matter what you decide, the whole point is to find what works best for you and with practice, your distaff will be a handy tool you will wonder how you ever spun on without it!

Happy Spinning!

Making Felted Bars of Soap

Besides function, the greatness of having a washcloth and soap in one, or the sheer joy seeing a cute little decorated bar of soap might bring every time you wash your hands, I have felted my soap to save it. Save it you might ask? From what? My beasties. Every single one of them have turned out to be soap destroyers at a young age. They are good for the most part in taking care of their things and do not seek to destruct on a usual basis. But soap? When you are two years old, in our home, it stands no chance. Little hands soak it and squeeze it and pull it until it is nothing but a pile of bits. This irks me immensely! It clogs the drain. It just drives me nuts collecting little scraps to lather with too. I’ve done the soap in a nylon thing, crocheted a cute little bag. It’s helped but each still had annoying issues.

So I have turned to this in attempt to not only beautify the sink side, but also for sanity. And it’s fun to make! 🙂

You will need,

-wool roving or batt

-a bar of soap

-nylon stocking

-a dish of boiling water

-bubble wrap and tape to secure it to your work surface, I used some duct tape.

-rubber gloves if you wish

-if you happen to have a washboard or some other corrugated something to use in place of bubble wrap, that may even be better!

First step is to set up. You’ll want to tape your bubble wrap to your work surface. Put on a kettle of water and have a dish for the boiling water ready.

The fun part now is to wrap your soap. I have put together a very simple batt, mostly white Finn sheep wool with a few flecks of colour. This is where you can insert your imagination and the possibilities go on and on. I am excited for the next time I get a chance to do this, I plan on bright colours and neat designs.

Take your wool and wrap your soap! You will want to be sure your soap is completely covered. Also that it is on evenly and not thin in one place, bulky in another. Be sure your edges are covered nicely. It may felt better if wrapped across the bar and then perpendicularly.

Once you are satisfied with your wrapping, place bar into the toe of the nylon sock.

Pour your boiling water into your dish, and carefully dip the bar of soap a few times, jostle it a bit then remove it from the water. Shake it off a tad, then start rubbing it on your bubble wrap. Continue to do so, all sides, for about five to ten minutes in total. I dipped the soap back into the hot water a few times during the process.

After all that time felting, you can remove your bar from the nylon. Sometimes it will stick a bit but just pull and it will let go of the nylon no problem.

Take a clean towel and dry off your felted bar. If it looks like it needs some extra felting anywhere, just continue to rub on the bubble wrap. Your wool should be tight on the bar, it should not be able to be pinched up or slide around at all. To give it an extra bit of security, you can give it a few thwacks, wrapped in the towel on a counter top or table. You want to take care that it hits the surface flat sided so you don’t make any dents in your bar.

When you finished with the felting, dry the bar off by squeezing gently in a towel and set them in the sun to dry, or on a drying rack.

Ta-da!

Beautiful, functional bars of soap!

Alpacalypse!

We had a wonderful surprise last week when my daughter ran home to say, “Mom! A baby alpaca outside!” Finally the moment we have all been waiting for, and weren’t entirely sure would come.

When we bought our little herd of alpacas 13 months ago, we were told that they wouldn’t likely get pregnant as they had been bred in the past numerous times and never have any had a cria. Alpacas being the oddball creatures they are have various unique features and traits, one of which is not showing their pregnancy. Our alpaca mother, Cocoa Puff near the end finally looked a wee bit wider but really nothing that provided certainty of her condition. It was mostly noticing she looked uncomfortable which gave us a shining hope she was indeed going to have a cria.

She had this handsome little boy, no problems at all. Soon enough he was up on his gangly, adorable legs, nursing and taking in his surroundings.

He is sooooooo soft! Like really, unlike anything I’ve touched before.

The funny thing about Alpacalypse, Al for short, is his mother is all brown and his father also. Yet for some reason, he too was born with a white hat, like five out of six of our newest born lambs. The white had club has many members this summer.

We are not sure if any of our other alpacas are pregnant, but I sure hope at least one more may be. We may train this little guy as a pack alpaca and bring him on our hikes in the woods some day.

Welcome Finn Lambs!

Well, our Elyse has looked ready to lamb any time for the past three weeks. With the heat wave we had I felt concerned for her. Panting away, uncomfortable, humid air, her udder huge with milk supply. When it felt impossible for her to get any bigger, she continued to do just that.

Today though she was acting different. She went off alone and wasn’t interested in much of anything. I hung out with her all afternoon. Moved her inside to her stall and continued to wait.

Hours later it was clear she was trying to lamb, problem was though she wasn’t doing anything but straining. I tried reaching in for baby, but things just didn’t feel right. Thankfully Adam has experience in his department so when he realized baby was coming out backwards he knew what to do.

Elyse cleaned off her lamb and had another just minutes later. This little guy needed help getting out as he was jumbled up as well – and big! He is solid and longer and taller than his sister

Elyse got him cleaned up as well and we spent a good hour out with her and the lambs. The kids finally made their way out to excitedly greet them too.

Finally we made our way into the house. Gave the youngest kids baths, had showers ourselves, made snacks for everyone and put the kids to bed.

I decided to go check on the sheep, when I did was it ever a surprise! There were three! Thank goodness the last one must have presented properly. There was a large chunk of time in between the birth of the first two and the last, which I found very surprising.

Yay! Our lambs are here, healthy and well and finally I feel so much relief for Elyse. With this being our first lambing I really didn’t know completely what to expect. Can’t wait for tomorrow, fuzzy little lamb hugs!

Microwave Dyeing Hand Painted Locks of Wool or Mohair

This is a great method for relatively controlled results. No need for big batches and dye pots here, so this is favourable for small bits of fibre.

You can also dye batts, roving and spun yarn this way as well. It’s perfect!

You will need:

Clean locks (wool, roving or yarn)

Acid dyes

A number of small containers, one for each colour

Foam brushes, one for each colour, though it is possible to wash out the brush between colours if you’re short on brushes

Citric acid or vinegar

Synthropol or shampoo

Plastic wrap

Small towel

First step is to soak your locks, or whatever it is you are choosing to dye in water along with some synthropol. You could also use a drop of shampoo, jet dry or dawn. I let mine soak for about thirty minutes. Lots of time to gather up dyeing supplies.

I used my usual acid dyes for this project, Majic Carpet Dyes, they always give me vibrant results. Whatever it is you use, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for mixing.

After the locks had a good soak, I removed them and rolled them in a small towel and gave them a squeeze to get most of the water out.

Next I laid out a large double layer of plastic wrap and set my locks down in the middle. Note that you might not want to start with a thick mass if you want consistent colour. If your pile of locks is too thick the top locks might be very bright and the ones on the bottom not so much. That said, it would be a nice effect if that’s what you want.

This is the time to add either vinegar or citric acid to your mixed colours.

Here comes the fun part, get creative!

Dip the foam brush into the colour you want to start with, go easy, you don’t want your brush dripping everywhere. Start with just a bit of colour and it is very easy to add more, but you cannot take it off once it’s on. Press the brush to the locks and you’ll see them soaking up the colour.

I left a small space between my colours so they wouldn’t bleed together. If you worked with colours that mix nicely, red next to yellow etc, it could turn out really nice.

Again, for this part there are really no rules, just a guideline how to method.

So once your locks are finished being painted, wrap them up in the plastic wrap. I wrapped two sides in, then the last two sides together and it created a handle to carry the packet by.

Place the little package in the microwave, either in a dish if you would like or right onto the turning plate which is what I chose to do.

Two to three minutes in the microwave is all it takes for a good steam to build up in the package and set the dye.

All microwaves are different. This is a hot project! Use extreme care when using your microwave and moving your hot lock package! Steam burns! Use oven mitts or other kitchen tools to safely move the hot package!

I began with two minutes set on my microwave. It seemed to look good and be going well. I heard some popping inside so I stopped the microwave to have a peek, all looked good so I let it continue. At the end of the two minutes, I set the microwave for an additional thirty seconds to be certain enough steam was in there to set the colour. You will see your package swell up while in the microwave.

Now to remove your package, it will be hot! Be careful! I used oven mitts, and carefully put my package on a towel on the counter. I let it sit for a few moments, then while still wearing my oven mitts I opened it up.

Once the locks were at a temperature safe to handle, put them into warm clean water to be certain the colour had set. Place them back into a towel, give them a good squeeze and ta-dah! Gorgeous painted locks!

I tried a few colour combinations, the possibilities are endless!

I am very happy with the results!

With my left over colours I dripped them onto a small pile of wool.

I went a bit over board, and the wool in the bottom of the package ended up quite muddy, but still interesting. This is how we learn!

Here is the nice top, it really didn’t turn out too bad!

This is a fun quick method for dyeing. Perfect for felters who need a little of this colour, a little of that. A wonderful way to get controlled results.

I would like to note I was able to use the same plastic wrap to dye all the locks above, reuse too if you can!

Happy dyeing!