This is a short post today. There is not much time for felting at the moment. We have started lambing here on the farm. We are a little early. Seems we missed a ram lamb and he was a very active little fellow. Naturally with the weather being cold and wet we have some in the house.
Here is a brand new lamb, still all wet. Mom and baby were moved to a pen of ther own shortly after I took the picture.
These are the house lambs They are on bottles. This is ther first top in the living room. They have now moved to a Big pen in the basement.
And this is one that is getting warm sitting on my knee as I type this for you to read.
I am not sure how I am supposed to get ready to teach Techniques for Intermediate Felters on Saturday. No rest for the weary as they say.
While making little bags I also made a small picture. i suppose it would count for the first quarter challenge. happy-new-year-prepare-to-be-challenged/ i hope to do somthing a little more challenging before the quarter is over. I like little pasture scenes. I started with a piece of black prefelt and then laid the blue sky and pasture. I thought I took more pictures but it seems I didn’t.
This what the back looks like. I wrapped the coloured fibers around the prefelt . I use black prefelt because it will intensify the colours. If I used white it would take the colours towards pastel.
This is the front side felted. I made the contours of the meadow by using a multicoloured roving I had. I think it lets you give the meadow some texture and shape without painstakingly adding tiny bits of colour. I added some clouds to the sky and some flowers to the meadow with some soft silk and little white blobs of sheep as place markers for the next part.
I added the sheep using some embroidery floss and french knots.
Then added the heads and ears. I used a grey for the sheep that are farther away. I think it worked.
At this point it could have been done but I needed something else. Your eye goes to the middle and it is empty. I discussed it over on the Felting and Fiber Studio Forum and I decided some trees were needed. I only know how to do one kind of tree that looks half decent so ever greens were next. I did them in a medium green and then when back with fewer strands and added some darker stitches to give them more depth.
Here it is finished. I had to trim the top off so it would fit in the frame. I always seem to make to much sky anyway so that worked out well enough.
I looks quite nice in the frame. The frame seems to pop it out. I didn’t realise how many scratches it had until I took a picture. I will have to paint it. It is not a great picture, ther was so much reflection. this was the best compromise between the light reflecting or having a clear shot of me in the glass.
I need to learn to embroider more then far away evergreens and sheep. A little cabin or a nice oak tree would have been a nice addition to the picture. I am thinking of buying Moy MacKays book. Do you have a favourite art felt or how to hand stitch pictures or art books?
As the title says I really haven’t done much with fiber this last week. I did start my Free motion embroidery class this week but haven’t had much time to do more than watch the videos read the PDF and fight with the tension on my machine. I have it sorted now and I hope I can do some practising this weekend. Pictures of messed up tension are not very exiting so I wasn’t sure what I would tell you about and then we had a surprise late yesterday, on the coldest day in March. -23c I took these pictures at about 10:00 last night after chasing the 2 calves back in because you know there is not better time to “fall” out of the barnyard but late at night when its freezing out.
This is mom wanting to know what I was doing.
and then letting lamb have a drink. I like this one she looks like she is smiling.
And this is the best shot I got of the two of them. Mom had just stomped at me as she was fed up with me trying to get a decent shot of both of them. Just as well my iPhone shut down right after that as it was too cold. My son put a heat lamp in so lamb wouldn’t get to cold. The temperature is on the rise again to day and we will go up to +2c today. This is the first lamb of the season. this is early and not on the schedule. There shouldn’t be any until late April early May. Best laid plans as they say.
This year is Canada’s 150th birthday. The guild I belong to is having an art show in celebration. We are making 150 12×12 canvases. Some are covering them in weaving or yarn or fiber pictures. I naturally am doing some felt pieces. I told you about one before.
The second one is sheep.
I started with 2 layers or merino prefelt. I put a piece of cotton gauze in between for strength.
I then used head cut outs to decide on the positions of the sheep.
Then I added all the curls. The white and multi coloured sheep are Blue Faced Leicester. One of the others is Gotland, one is Wensleydale and the other I can’t remember. I added the legs and ears.
Once it was felted the legs and heads disappeared a lot so I had to fix them with needle felting. I then mounted it on a 12×12 canvas using velcro. I forgot to take a picture of them finished with faded heads and legs. And then I forgot to take a picture of it finished because it had to go to get its picture taken. Fortunately Judy sent me one of the pictures she took so I can show it to you.
Judy sent me to close ups too
Now all I have to write up the info for the show and decide on a price to put on it.
If you Are Canadian are you doing anything fibery to celebrate this special year? If you are not Canadian what did you do to celebrate a big event in your country or town?
I mentioned that we have tried out lots of different fibres at the well being centre lately, and the other week we tried out lots of different wool breeds too. We’ve used naturals before, but mostly for pods/vessels and lots together for hangings etc, but we made samples to get a better idea of what we could use each type for. Since I have more experience, I thought I’d use Herdwick and Lincoln tops. I used some flax and help tops with the Herdwick sample:
With the Lincoln I used Soy tops and Black viscose tops:
This is a close up of the Soy:
And a close up of the Viscose:
And this is what the back looked like:
Some of the others tried Texel, and had a hard time getting it felted. After the Botany laps unfeltable tops I had, I was a bit concerned. I’ve taken some wools from ‘Goody Bags’ and Botany lap waste in before now, so worried there might have been other unfeltables that got mixed up. My sample turned out alright though. I used some Viscose and Bamboo staple fibre on it:
It did get me wondering how much we automatically alter our techniques when using different wool breeds or mixes etc. I always think I felt the same no matter what I use or make, but maybe there’s a slight difference in pressure, or maybe it’s a matter of just felting longer, I honestly don’t know, but I’m going to be more conscious of what I do from now on!
We thought we’d have a go at needle felting before the holidays, so I made a little sample while testing out some fibres:
I didn’t get a photo of anyone else’s, and I don’t often do ‘figurative’ needle felting, it’s usually very abstract, which is why my sheep needs a bit more work! The body is alright though, I used some locks Zara sent me 🙂
And that light green bit is a bush, not a weird tail!
I had a big surprise last week when my youngest sister Carol sent me pictures of the newest members of her family — three ewes and four lambs!
It was an even bigger surprise to her that I use wool for felting. In her defense, she lives in central Wisconsin and has a farm and she, her husband and son run a real estate business. They are a little busy themselves.
It should have been no shock since she’s been an animal lover since she was a toddler. She’s managed a dairy farm, a pig farm and has had horses and cows of her own. Carol also has five Border Collies and felt they needed more exercise. Sheep would be great for them to herd. When she saw the sheep it was love at first site.
None of the sheep are purebreds. She thinks they are Corriedale/Dorset mixes. The ewes were pregnant when she brought them home. Since then the oldest Mom, Secret 7, had twin boys. Carol’s granddaughter Madison named them Salt and Pepper.
The black Mom, Dusty, had a dark black boy named Little Will.
The youngest Mom, Amira, had a teeny little brown lamb with tan on her face Madison named Rosie. She was very weak and they had to milk Amira and bottle feed Rosie because she couldn’t get up and walk. But an hour later she was on her feet. They will let Rosie and Amira out of the lambing pen as long as Rosie is doing well. She is very tiny.
The sheep have only been introduced to the two older Border Collies, Belle who is 2 and a half and Misty who is 1 and a half. They just visit and fuss over the baby lambs. Misty thinks all the babies belong to her. She loves them.
The three pups are only 10 months old and will get introduced to the lambs when the lambs are at least half grown. They want the sheep to feel safe and comfortable in their own space. They are going to build a special round pen for that so it will be easier to control both the dogs and sheep.
Carol is already planning on buying a Corriedale ram this fall. So, the excitement will continue.
I wish we weren’t so far apart, but I’ve been promised fleece next year. so, I’m sure a trip is in order. Another new adventure! In the mean time, I’m enjoying the pictures and updates.
Thanks to my nephew Bill and his daughter Madison for the pictures and to Carol for sharing this exciting experience with us.
I hope all our American friends had a great Thanksgiving and have survived Black Friday. Up here in Canada it is a new idea that has really only caught on along the boarder, where they hope for cross boarder shopping. While some were out shopping I spent Saturday teaching a needle felted sheep class.
Here are a few of mine that created the demand for the class.
I had 3 student that had never needle felted before. We start by making all the parts. I forgot to take pictures early on but here are some legs being attached. I left the pen in to help you see the size.
I love the way people really get into the felting. Such concentration. You can see her right hand is blurry as she needles the head on.
After the parts of the sheep are all needle felted together and they have naked sheep, it’s time to start adding curls. We use Bluefaced Leicester curls. They are good for this application because they are small tight curls.
The last thing they add are the eyes. You don’t want to be stabbing something that is looking at you. LOL
Here they are posing on some weaving that was on one of the looms in the Guild studio. I brought lots of colours but 2 of the ladies decide to got with the natural curls.
We’ve been talking on the forum about how important it is to make samples, especially when using new fibers or unknown fabrics. It’s better to take a little time to make a sample, than to waste a lot of time and fiber.
I still had one fiber from WOW I hadn’t tried. It was actually a Jacob batt. The batt was very uneven so I used two layers and still ended it up with a couple of sparse spots. I only felted the samples to the prefelt stage so I could use them in another project. The end result of the Jacob was it was very loose and spongy. I’m tempted to full it to see what happens. It is very similar to the Black Welsh I featured in a previous post.
I recently did an experiment with one of Fiona Duthie’s 15 minute projects called Mountains. It’s lost it’s bowl shape a little, but I really liked the curliness of the base, but couldn’t remember what fiber I used.
I have been trying to use more of the coarse fibers I have. But I have been terrible about remembering to write down what I’ve used. I thought Icelandic was harder to felt. It has a very long staple, dyes well, and whenever I use it in has to be shaved when finished. So, I decided to make a prefelt of this as well.
What I discovered is it is soft at this stage, but felted easily.
So, have I been badmouthing the wrong fiber? I have a fair amount of Cheviot so I figured I would experiment with that as well. The Cheviot had a shorter staple but the resulting prefelt was soft and a little lighter in color than the Icelandic which I thought was a lighter color. Hmmm.
When I went with Cathy to the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival, I purchased some Navajo Churro which I have never used. It had a short staple and was coarse to the touch and filled with little knots. The resulting prefelt was very hairy and much flatter than the others. It reminded me of Gotland I had made a sample of a while back, but while they look similar, the Gotland was very smooth to the touch. It also had been fulled, so that may make a difference. The Churro was very hairy. I have some white Churro I will try dyeing later on.
Last but not least, I made a Romney prefelt and found my curly fiber. (its more noticable at the sparser edges. It is rougher to the touch but I like the cobweb wavy type look. It also has a long staple.
These samples were fully felted and it is hard to tell the difference except to rub my hands over them. The Icelandic and Domestic 56 are coarser to the touch than the Cheviot and the Romney. Different than at the prefelt stage. I think in the future I may take a smaller sample to full and compare obviously they are different.
Now as a preview to some more future sampling on a pile of fabric samples to test.
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!
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!