They pieces have been hanging around and I was going through them again and decided I liked the heavy cotton one in particular. It was time to finish it. Of course, it wasn’t that easy to decide what to do. At first I thought I’d stitch the flowers and leaves, but I’m not that great at embroidery. So it sat for awhile again.
I really liked the straggly edges. Besides, if I turned the edges over I’d lose some of the nice design. Here is part of the design. You can see at the top the ragged edge. The two long sides were not that way, but I spent some time in front of the TV pulling out strands so they would all look the same.
I chose some embroidery threads that reflected the colors of the imprints, but subtle enough not to fight the design.
I did three rows of stitching around the whole piece.
I had decided it would be a wall hanging so I attached a small dowel with loops on the back.
The next question is where would I hang it so it would really look good. I have a lot of dark walls and some light gold. It’s hard to see the gold here, but there was some contrast.
My kitchen is teal and generally sunny.
The living room is a deep bronze color.
The family room is deep moss.
We’ve had a lot of dark days here, so I know the photos aren’t the best.
What do you think?
Just a quick addition. This past weekend I met with my siblings in Madison, WI for lunch. My sister Car brought me a fleece from one of the twin boys born last year – Little Will. Here’s a quick peek at the open bag which was quite heavy.
While we were having lunch Car’s Granddaughter Madison received pics of two new twins that were just born. A little boy at 8lbs 12 oz and a girl at 9lbs 6 oz born to ewe Mary.
Last winter, I buried a couple of raw fleeces in the snow, and let the snow melt “wash” them. Well, it´s not the most thorough way of washing fleeces, but they were slightly whiter in colour, and smelled a little less sheepy when they thawed out in the spring. I have now used two of these fleeces to make a rug, with the assistance of my kids, on a trampoline.
Carding this amount of wool would take quite some time, so I decided to try just whipping the wool instead. As it was slightly windy, and the wool tends to fly around when you do this, I decided to do it on our trampoline, which has a security net around it. Very practical indeed. Beating the wool with sticks is a rather fun way to separate the fibres and, being on a trampoline, it was impossible to resist jumping around in the wool, too.
Now that we had all this wool on the trampoline, I figured we may as well try felting on the trampoline too. We laid out the wool on an old sheet, added a thin layer of carded wool on top, and finally raw locks in different natural colours. We wet it all down with hot water and soap, rolled it up, and then the girls and I (ok, mostly the girls, but I did join in for a bit) bounced around on the trampoline until we ran out of energy.
The next day, we added more hot water and soap and did a bit of rubbing and rolling. Then we rolled it out of the sheet and I let the girls bounce on the rug. An interesting and quite effective way to full a piece of this size.
Apart from being fun, and giving us quite a lot of exercise, there is a practical advantage to felting on a trampoline. All the excess water drains through the woven trampoline, which makes it easy to just keep adding more hot water during the felting process, and to get rid of excess water after rinsing the rug thoroughly with the garden hose.
A rug made with wool equivalent to about three fleeces can hold a lot of water. It took three days to dry. After that, I could add the final embellishments – swirls of black yarn that I needle-felted on the white centre.
It´s a thick and sturdy rug, measuring 115 cm (3.7′) across. It will probably stand for a lot of wear too, as it survived the rather harsh treatment on the trampoline.
Zara,thanks for sharing your family’s adventure with felt on a trampoline this summer. It sure looked like fun with a beautiful result!
I think I might’ve mentioned a few times how much I love natural wool, animal fibres and embellishment fibres 🙂 I made a couple of natural felt pieces recently. This first one uses lots of different breeds of wool inlcuding Finnish wool, Gotland, Shetland, Merino, Chubut, Mongolian, Russian, French, Welsh, Irish wools and Portuguese Merino. Plus quite a variety of wool locks and embellishment fibres such as hemp, flax, ramie, bamboo, silk and cotton.
This is a close up:
And this is even closer, the boucle yarn is mohair Marilyn sent me and she also sent me the thick and thin yarn. The gorgeous reddish brown wool was from wollknoll, listed as ‘Russian Camel‘. I think it’s camel coloured Romanov, nowhere near soft enough to be actual camel, and probably 8 times cheaper, thinking about it! The little nepps are cotton nepps.
I love the way the black Bamboo top has rippled on the Chubut here, near the top of the photo:
And this is a closer pic of the Bluefaced Leicester curls at the top of the Chubut in the previous photo:
From one extreme to the other, this next piece uses just Gotland, or Gotland cross wool. It’s about 1 foot by 2 feet (30cm x 60cm). For the bottom layer I used commercial Gotland tops, the second layer was commercially scoured Gotland fleece which I carded, and the top layer is all raw Gotland locks, most of which I got from Zara not so long ago, with the odd few from my old stash. I’m not going to cheat and enter this in the 4th quarter monochrome challenge 🙂
You can never have enough different breeds of wool, I think, so when I saw some being offered in a UK spinners group on Facebook I just couldn’t resist. I told the seller, Wendy, that I loved locks and nice colours and let her choose what to send me, which is a good thing because I’d originally said I had enough alpaca. I didn’t have any like this though:
Our guest artist/author is Zara Tuulikki Rooke. We’ve recently seen the beautiful fleece rugs she’s felted and shown us on the forum with her daughters. But she has taken it a step further and has built a loom and woven a rug from fleece.
Some of you may remember a post I wrote here in April about shearing sheep.
Now I thought I would show you what I did with some of that thick winter fleece. For this project, I used fleece from my own sheep, which are all cross-breeds (Gotland and other old Swedish breeds). One is white, while the others are light to dark grey.
I wanted to try weaving with raw fleece. I do own a loom, but it is not set up with warp. Now, I have a basic understanding of weaving, but warping a loom requires more than that. So I started thinking about how to construct something simpler to weave on, and ended up building an oversized weaving frame. The frame itself measures about 1.5 x 2.5 meters (4.9 x 8.2 feet). I happened to have a wooden curtain rod that reached across and could be used as a heddle rod, and I used forked branches to make holders for the heddle rod.
I made a number of equally sized string heddles by tying pieces of sting around two nails, hammered at an appropriate distance from each other into a piece of wood. I wrapped a heddle around every second warp thread and over the heddle rod. The warp threads have a natural opening (shed) due to the thickness of the plank that I used in the top end of the frame. The heddles pull up the lower level of warp threads to create the opposite shed. I was actually surprised at how well this simple construction worked.
I started weaving with yarn, to get a more secure beginning before I started feeding-in the raw fleece. The fleeces had all been skirted, but not washed, and I picked away some pieces of hay and straw as I went along. All I did was grab some fleece and twist it as I fed it into the shed, alternating between fleeces of different colours and pushing each row down with a shed rod.
After a while, I realized that it did help to tease the locks apart a bit before I started twisting the wool. I also twisted the ends around the first and last warp thread in each row. Amongst the equipment I got with my ordinary loom, was a rather ancient looking metal contraption used to keep the tension across the weave (see photos below). I have no idea what this thing is called in English, but it worked really well.
I finished off the weave with yarn again and tied off the warp treads in knots. Then came the washing and rinsing. We simply poured hot water with soap over the rug and walked around on it for quite a while. The kids were ever so helpful at this stage, and I figured that a little felting would help the wool stick together. I gave it a good rinse with the garden hose and also let it soak in an old bathtub for 24 hours, changing water a couple of times until it looked clean.
It took over a week to dry, but then it is made from the best parts of three and a half fleeces, pushed together into a rug measuring 100 cm x 120 cm (3.3 x 3.9 feet). That amount of wool can hold a lot of water. I still have to sew in the ends of the warp threads, but other than that, it is ready to be used on the floor of our living room this winter. Thank you Tuulikki for sharing this complicated and wonderful process with us. Bravo for a job well done!
Our guest author/artist today is Zara Tuulikki Rooke. She shared with me the fact that April was time for shearing her sheep. So, I invited her to write about it so that we can all experience it since most of us don’t have the opportunity to see it first hand.
Winter is finally giving way to spring, also in the north of Sweden. Or at least, we hope so. Yesterday all the snow almost melted away, and today it has snowed heavily all day… It´s what we call typical April-weather. In any case, the lambs are expected in about four weeks, which means it´s time for shearing. Apart from getting rid of the thick winter fleece before summer, it´s good to shear the sheep before the lambing starts. It makes it a lot easier to see what condition the sheep are in and to follow the lambing in case there are any complications. It is also more hygienic and easier for the lambs to suckle. We only have one ram and four ewes, of which three are expecting lambs and one was born here last spring (you can see the family resemblance between mother and daughter below). But we synchronize our shearing with a neighbour and bring in a professional shearer (Carina Jälkentalo). And that is what this post is about.
In Sweden it´s common to use what is called a “shearing stool.” It´s a platform that can be easily raised with a contraption where the sheep´s head is secured. First you shear the head and neck, then the front and shoulders, and then along the back of the sheep. After that, the platform is raised (to a better working-level), and you continue shearing each side, and finally the belly and legs. The model below is Citronella, the most social of my ewes, and she just calmly stood there during the whole process.
Citronella even got a kiss on her muzzle for being such a good sheep. That´s what I really like about Carina – she always takes the time to talk to and interact with the animals, which is reassuring for both sheep and sheep-owners. And after the shearing they also get a manicure (hoof-clipping), which is often needed after spending much of the winter on a soft straw bed. Citronella´s daughter Stjärna (which means Star) does not like being separated from her mother, but was given some extra attention by one of my daughters.
And who wouldn’t give a little bleat if you got your private parts sheared…?!
Next up was Brittis, my shy sheep with shiny, white locks. All my ewes are cross-breeds, and the three older ones are half-sisters by the same Gotland ram. Citronella looks like a typical Gotland, white Brittis got her looks from her cross-breed mother. This year she managed to stay quite clean until shearing – I guess there are some benefits to having more snow than bare ground and mud in their outdoor enclosure.
The last of my ewes is Lisen, once black but now turning grey. In the photos below you can see the difference in the fleece from the different parts of the animal. The neck and front often has nice locks, but is also where they collect a lot of scraps of hay during winter. The top of their backs can be matted from snow and rain, while the sides are usually nicer on a winter fleece. Lower down on the sides and on the belly, the fleece is often too dirty and matted or even felted to use for anything sensible.
Finally, we sheared our ram Teddy. He seemed really pleased with all the attention, and considering what a mess his fleece was (it felts really easily) I am sure he was glad to get rid of it. But I did save it, with plans to lay it out in my vegetable garden. That should provide some nutrients, keep the soil moist and weeds at bay, and I have heard that slugs don´t like crawling over wool. On the other hand, I have also heard that slugs thrive under wool. Hmmm. I´ll just have to try and see. In any case, I now have a ram that looks like a small mountain goat.
All the sheep got a little extra attention (and pellets) after the shearing. Their appetite increases when you shear their wool, which is beneficial also for the lambs they are carrying. Now we are ready for warmer weather and lambing next month.
Next in turn was our neighbour, or rather, our neighbour´s sheep. Their ewes are mostly white cross-breeds, also including meat-breeds, and most of them are much larger than ours. Their grey ram Edwin is of an old breed called Åsen, the same as our ram. One of the younger ewes was black with a small white patch on one side, but you can clearly see how the fleece has turned grey half way. So from underneath all that black wool, a little grey sheep came out.
The winter fleece is generally of lower quality than the summer fleece. But even with bits of hay in it I couldn’t resist the temptation of accepting my neighbours offer to take care of some of it. The thick winter fleece holds together and does not fall apart into separate locks like the summer fleece. This makes it suitable for felting entire fleeces. As my neighbour doesn’t use the wool herself, I ended up packing the best parts of 9 fleeces in my car. Needless to say, my stash of raw wool is getting quite large, and I am hoping for a warm summer with plenty of time for large, outdoor felting projects.
Thanks Zara for letting us come along on the shearing process. Stay tuned for lambing! And let us know how the fleece works to keep the slugs away!
While looking for something else I found some unknown dirty wool. There was lots of nice curls so that’s probably why I kept them. There wasn’t a whole fleece but just a piece of one, enough to fit in a dish washing bowl. Here it is sitting on top of the water before I pushed it under. There is some dish soap in the water.
Here it is soaking. This is a pretty clean piece of fleece the water isn’t very dirty.
Here it is drying, and after it is dry, it is much lighter gray.
The are lots of small bits in the individual locks so I tried just combing the ends and rewetting them to bring it back together.
Unfortunately it did not word as well as I hoped. They are better and perhaps if I used them on some felt or off the edge of some felt they may come back together by the end of the felting.
Have you had any success in getting locks back together?
Our guest author/artist today is Zara Tuulikki Rooke. She generously offered to take us through the process of preparing fibers from her own sheep to use for felting.
As I enjoy felting, I feel very fortunate to also be able to keep a couple of sheep. My four ewes are crossbreeds, from traditional Swedish breeds including the more well-known Gotland, and the perhaps internationally less well-known Rya and Finull. In any case, they do have really nice locks.
In Sweden, the common recommendation (with exceptions for certain breeds) is to shear the sheep both in the spring (to remove the thick winter fleece before they have their lambs and before the summer) and in the autumn (when they return to the barn and start spending more time indoors). The summer fleece (sheared in the autumn) is considered to be of higher quality. It has been grown while the sheep have been out grazing nutritious green grass, and not full of hay and straw like the winter fleece. Below is a photo of their summer fleece, sheared last autumn. The lighter, brown tips are from bleaching by the sun (and probably some dirt as they are unwashed).
My ram is from an old breed called Åsen. His fleece is straighter, without real locks. This breed can have a variety of fleece characteristics and different colours in patches on the same individual animal. My neighbour also has a ram of the same breed, and the darker fleece (black-brown-grey) on the photo below is from one of her lambs.
In addition, I also buy raw fleeces from pure Gotland sheep from a farm in a neighbouring village. The photo below shows some of the variation you can get between individuals, both in colour and in the size and shape of the locks. The lambs are born black, but later the wool turns grey and the once black tips are bleached by the sun. Or rather, they grown an increasing proportion of white hairs – there are no grey hairs, just different proportions of white or black hairs making the fleece look grey.
To a felter, this abundance of raw fleeces must seem like an ideal situation. And I certainly think it is. But, the process of turning raw fleece into carded wool is quite time-consuming. And that is what this post is really about.
After shearing, the fleece needs to be skirted and sorted, to take away wool that is too short, dirty or tangled. The short wool can either be from the head or legs of the sheep, or the result of what we call double-shearing (i.e. shearing a patch a second time to even it out). You usually also need to remove a fair amount of grass seeds and other vegetable matter that gets stuck in the fleece. That can take a lot of time, but it helps to do the sorting on some kind of wire mesh that allows small bits to fall through.
Then comes the washing. I try to get as much washing as I can done outdoors in the autumn, after shearing, up until the temperatures drop below freezing (in the North of Sweden that can be quite early in the season). I leave the wool to soak overnight in net-baskets in an old bathtub filled with cold water. The next day, the water will be really brown, but that just shows how much dirt you can actually clean out from a raw fleece with just cold water. I change the water at least twice after that, allowing the wool to soak for at least a few hours between changes, until the water no longer looks dirty. In my opinion, washing the wool in just cold water is sufficient if I am going to use the wool for wet-felting. During felting it will anyhow get washed again with hot water and soap.
During the winter, I do the washing in my bathtub indoors (which prevents anyone in the family taking a shower/bath for 24 hours), and then I usually use lukewarm water. If the wool is very dirty, I also add some washing powder (the type used for knitted wool items). The main rules when washing, to avoid felting the wool in the process, it to avoid too hot water, or quick changes in water temperature, and to disturb the wool as little as possible.
After washing comes drying. The net-baskets are easy to just lift out of the water and then I usually hang them up for a while to drip off a bit. If I am washing a smaller amount of wool, I often use one of those contraptions meant for spinning water from salad. Then I lay it out to dry, on a wire mesh or on towels on a clothes drying rack. Drying takes time, usually several days. It helps to turn the wool over each day and fluff it up a bit each time. It may seem dry on the surface, but wool has an incredible capacity for retaining moisture.
Finally, you have your washed and dried wool, ready for carding. However, some locks do need to be teased first. This means pulling apart the locks/fibres – and you will probably find even more grass seeds now. The photo shows washed locks, before and after teasing. It´s an extra step in the process, but if the locks are tangled in the tips, teasing really does facilitate the carding.
I own a drum-carder, which really does save time compared to using hand-carders. The wool is feed in under the small drum, which in turn feeds it onto the larger drum, as you turn the handle. After two or three runs through the drum-carder, you can finally lift off a batt of lovely, fluffy, carded wool. Then you can start felting!
It does take a lot of time and effort, and I do swear about grass seeds through the whole process, but each step also has its own charm. I often find it very relaxing to sort, tease and card wool. It provides an opportunity to really feel and look at the locks – and to plan what to do with them. And at the end of the day, when I look at my washed locks and carded batts of wool, I feel really wealthy. Perhaps, in part, because I know how much time and effort has been invested into those locks and batts of wool.
Thank you Zara for such a wonderful tutorial with exceptional pictures to show us the whole process from fleece to wool batts!