A New Yarn…

It’s November and I would love to write about the Christmas gifts I am knitting this year. I am so excited about all of them. However if I tell you about them then the secret is out and there will be no surprise when they are unwrapped!! Aggg it’s a puzzlement.

Instead I will tell you about a recent fiber experience and the absolutely incredible, accidental result.

In an attempt to update my Etsy Shop I ordered three pounds of roving. It was a lovely Cotswold lamb and Alpaca blend. I was so excited that immediately upon receipt I began to dye all of it. My inexperience got the best of me that day because every single one felted in the dyebath. I didn’t even realize this until I had posted each one in my shop. I actually attempted to spin one of the rovings that I had left out for me. I couldn’t separate the fibers by hand. I cried, I ranted and eventually I removed all the roving from the shop. Then I put it in a box and ignored it for a couple weeks. (It was of course the mature thing to do.) My hubby kept asking If I could put the rovings in my drum carder to sort them out. Eventually I attempted it. Lo and Behold beautiful batts rolled off my drum carder. The colors were a bit muted from what I had originally anticipated but oh the softness. It was as if I had never dyed them. I have no idea how this is possible really. It just happened and boy am I grateful. Did I mention the cost of the fiber? Without dye and my labor I could have been out eighty-seven dollars. Ouch.

One of the rovings became a play swatch for random application of dye. I splashed orange and pink, blue and purple over the white roving. It was the most obnoxious of rovings once it had dried. I loved it, but I became completely captivated by it once I rolled it through my drum carder. It was then that I realized I couldn’t return this to my Etsy shop. It had become slightly muted like the others but the resulting yarn was amazing.  My parents were visiting while I was plying the yarn and my mom loved it as much as I did. I had accidentally achieved a variegated yarn.

Moral of the story: Never give up on a mistake. Sometimes you find incredible beauty in a lost cause.

I’d like to share pictures of the yarn that makes me wax poetic. Keep in mind that the camera does not capture all the colors of this gorgeous yarn.

 

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Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Beholder…

I have always liked that thought. The idea that beauty is seen by each person differently. I am just now learning this also applies to my art.

Some of you know by now that I spin yarn, weave, felt and have a million knitting projects going at once. Those who know me well know that I prefer to use natural fibers and processes. When I started my business I had lofty goals of not using harsh dyes, cleaning solvents or even much electricity. Now, almost a year later, I still cling to those ideals.

Sometimes, though, I feel as if I am on a sinking ship in a sea of compromise.

You see, I could stock my shop faster if I ordered already carded fiber and spun yarn. I have ordered roving when my time was at a premium and I knew the process it went through. I prefer to buy fleeces and “process” them myself but i harbor a secret fear of not getting products made for you fast enough.

I envy the ease of ordering yarn and not spinning it myself, especially when there are types I can not spin yet. I dream of opening a box of white yarn and splashing color everywhere. Sometimes when I search online for un-dyed yarn my hubby leans over and bursts my idea bubble. He says: “Sure you can order that mill spun, but that isn’t who you are. It isn’t who your business is.” Once he even told me I would have to change the mission statement behind Sissy’s Spinnings. (I’d like to wallop him but he is bigger than me.) I must acknowledge he is right, ordering commercial yarn isn’t “me” and it certainly doesn’t fit the model of my business. It also betrays a promise I made to myself and more importantly to my customers.

Allow me to give you an example. My mother is a diva in the bath and beauty world. She makes incredible soaps, lotions, lip balms etc. She prefers to use essential oils versus fragrance oils. We have talked about this compromise many times and my stance is always the same. I tell her that she needs to be true to herself and not compromise because “that’s what sells”. That is what sets her apart from the run of the mill melt and pour soapers out there.  Yes there are people who pass her by because they found cheaper soap from another person. What mom sells isn’t cheap but it is hers. My mom has a following of customers that purchase her products and come back for more.

So, yes, it would be easier for me to order commercially mill spun yarn and dye it. It would be easier to use a bottle of dye instead of researching plant dyes. It would be faster too. It just wouldn’t be me. I simply can not in good conscience offer you a product that I haven’t poured myself into from the beginning. I need to know from sheep to you exactly what has been done to that fiber. (Perhaps I am a closet control freak) I find a strange joy in “powering’ my carder and wheel by hand (foot?). I love the inconsistencies of hand spun yarn. My shop may not have brand new items every week and I may not be able to undersell my competitors.

but..

If you find beauty in the natural world. If you find joy in products that are eco-friendly. Or even if you simply like an item I make. I will be here, slowly creating things for you. I promised you, my customer, that I would keep things simple and I will keep that promise.

May you find beauty in your world no matter how you see it.

 

 

I want to apologize in advance if this offends anyone. I am not trying to degrade anyone else’s work. I am simply offering my own struggle to keep with my ideals and still bring you beautiful products in a timely fashion. This is not a post on why natural is better than commercial, or any such thing.  This is me acknowlaging that I could sell products faster if i didn’t do all the work from sheep to end product. Please take it in the spirit in which it was written. 

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Living the dream…

Don’t you just hate it when people start a blog, you read some interesting posts and then *poof* they never write again?? Yeah, me too. I could hand you a million reasons why but you don’t come here for excuses do you? No, I didn’t think so.

I was chatting with a friend yesterday about all the work we have lined up and the lack of kitchen space we have. Somehow in the midst of it all I got a complement on being a country girl and “living the dream”. I almost laughed. (Actually to be honest I did laugh.) I am not sure how much my life looks like a dream to those outside it, but it is my dream life or at least the beginning of it. It may seem idyllic to live in the country, raise animals and work your way towards self-sufficiency, but that’s just it, it is work. I think that’s what most people fail to realize when they start out.

I’d love to say my day starts before the sun is up with a cup of coffee and that all my “chores” are done before noon. I can’t. My day usually starts with three alarms going off, none of which actually wake Hubby from dreamland. Once he is up and off to work I am usually back to sleep until (dare I admit) nine or ten in the morning. At which point I am upset with myself for sleeping in and the poor dogs have yellow eyes. Coffee? Oh sure, after I feed the animals. While still lacking the sheep, water buffalo, milk cow and yak that my little heart desires I have plenty to do. We have 14 chickens (in 3 areas), 2 ducks, 5 rabbits, six cats and the aforementioned dogs. Usually I have everyone fed and watered in twenty minutes if I am being lazy forty-five.  eat when I come in and then load the dishwasher and start laundry. If I don’t have errands to run I work on my fiber business, do my coursework or clean the house. Still I don’t manage to keep everything as tidy as I would prefer and my business is sorely lacking in quality time. There are so many upsides though! This year I have made wine, mead, rye bread and homemade noodles. I have harvested honey from my own bees and strained beautiful beeswax for my Hubby’s woodworking projects. My garden was semi-productive unless you count the overabundance of cucumbers the chickens ate. (One can only make cucumber so many ways!) Even chickens don’t eat the whole thing, they fight over seeds and flesh and leave the skins to the compost. I spin and weave and knit. I cook and have been buying in bulk which is oddly satisfying. There is something so comforting about buckets of different flours lined up in a row. I am not sure why, just humor me.

Being a country girl, homemaker or whatever label you choose is a full time job. You don’t get to quit when the clock reaches a certain time. I often joke that the pay is terrible but the benefits are amazing. It’s true though, there are so many benefits. (Not just buckets of flour either!) It’s worth it. It may not be a dream that works for anyone else, but it’s mine and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Now if you will excuse me I have some living to do! 🙂

Enjoy your day!

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A Picture is worth a thousand words…

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Something Old, Something New…

I have been on a try-something-new-kick recently. I have tried things in my kitchen, that two years ago I would have scoffed at. Among them are Blackberry Wine, Red Wine Vinegar and sauerkraut. On the non-food side I have also made my own shampoo.

With any new venture there will be failure or learning curves as my Hubby says. There are also successes, I’d like to share both with you.

Ahh shampoo. Did you know that if you grate soap, melt it together with water and bottle it that it will solidify again? Seems obvious, doesn’t it? Well it never occurred to me, especially since I was following a recipe for shampoo. After about a day in the bottle the coconut oil slid to the top and the rest, well, I could have used it as a weight. So into the pot again with more water. I have a shampoo now that resembles jello but it works. At this point that is good enough for me.

Wine was comparably easy. I had several pounds of berries in the freezer left over from last year. We are lucky to have a wonderful “Organic Practice” Blackberry farm near us. With less than $40 in equipment (not including berries) I set to work. The berries were mixed with sugar and squished a bit to release their juice. After several days I strained off the juice and added yeast and more sugar. A week after that I siphoned it off into two small carboys (glass jugs) and now all I can do is wait.

Sauerkraut was by the far the easiest. Mom gave me a cabbage fresh from her garden. (More accurately I pilfered it from the CSA leavings) Combined with salt and weighted with a plate I finished that in ten minutes.

Next time I think I will try something with a bit more instant gratification. However since my inspiration comes from 1800’s kitchens and self-sufficiency books, I am not sure how.

I would still like to make olives, sourdough starter (that doesn’t turn pink), grow coffee and learn more about natural medicine.

Do you have a favorite recipe, staple or beauty product that you make? Do you remember your grandmother making anything that you wish you had the recipe for?

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Knitters Anonymous…

Hello my name is Melinda and I have a problem. I get so excited about new projects that I start them and then set them aside to start new ones. I have a tote full of half finished projects and just started “hopefuls.” I decided I needed to make a list and prioritize them all. On top of that, no new projects can be cast on until these are cast off. (I am nuts I know) So for a bit of accountability I decided to make my list here and I’ll check in with each finished project!

1. Camo Ankle Socks for Brother. This one is leftover from Christmas since the socks I knit him didn’t fit. Some of you heard the sock book horror story! One finished, one to be knit.

2. Hand-spun Merino and Romney Birthday Socks for Hubby. I love these! A combo of my own inventiveness and bits of You-Tube instructions. One Sock done. I ran out of Merino and need to spin more before I can knit the second sock.

3. Tank Top/Halter for me, made from my own Hand-Spun and incredible yarn from Atknitsendyarns (Check her out on ETSY!) Started. I need to spin one more bobbin and ply my yarn then finish knitting.

4. ShapeShifter Shrug From Vampire Knits. I started this with a gorgeous 100% Wool yarn that I bought at Meijer of all places. Called Fisherman’s Wool. (secretly in love with this yarn) I started this one after freezing in a movie theater with the Hubby. I aim to make a hat to match from another great ETSY lady Hectanooga!

5. Socks For me made with SnowFlake Yarn from my LYS And An Awesome pattern from Atknitsendyarns. I have to frog these and start over, I messed up the lace and just can’t bring myself to pull the stitches out.

6. Gauntlets from Naughty Knits Made with Atknitsendyarns. (See a pattern here??) I actually have both of these started since I was halfway through one, at the dentist without my book, so I started the next one from my head.

7. Though not knitting, I have a mostly finished Apron that I my Aunt gave me. I have most of the cross stitch done and need to finish it.

Whew.

Once I finish these I’d like to work on socks for my step-son, Simple t-shirts from a Ravelry pattern accented with yarn from ElevenHillsArt. (Another Shameless promotion check out her awesome yarns at ETSY). Planters from my hand-spun Plarn among a gazilion other things that will keep me knitting long into my old age. (And then some)

So, from now until I finish these, I will work on one project on the list until it is finished. I will not start any new projects  that aren’t already on my needles. Now If only someone would share the next steps… I have step one down. Admittedly I have a problem. 🙂

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To knit or not to knit…

It has been a while, hasn’t it? I am terribly sorry to leave you all hanging like this, but it has been a busy spring.

My business has been on hold while I get caught up on some personal matters. My drum carder and spinning wheel are collecting dust. The loom has had a moment of fame though, in order to weave my mother a rug for her Birthday and/or Mother’s Day. It was my first rug and I am sad to say I didn’t take a single photo to share with you all. Knitting needles, half-finished projects and yarns are packed away in the spare room for now. It is after all supposed to warm up soon and most of my projects are wintery in nature. I am intermittently working on a tank top I hope to have finished this summer, but it is slow going. I also need to spin the rest of the yarn for it.

Outside, the garden is finally put in and mostly planted. Almost one hundred percent of the seeds are heirloom, with a few exceptions such as cheap lettuces and leftover peas from last year. My Hubby fixed the clothesline and we painted it yellow. I was able to use it once before the rains set in. Raja, my French Angora rabbit, had a single baby this year and it is growing like the proverbial weed. The chicks are growing fast and another wave of eggs are comfortable turning away in the incubator. One of my ducks, it turns out, is female and learning how to lay eggs. I am almost consistently getting 4 eggs a day between my four laying hens and the duck. I have been selling eggs too, the neighbor lady buys a dozen or so every other weekend.

The bees are doing well I think, I really need a sunny day to check them. It has been raining a LOT have I mentioned that? ha ha

On the to do list:

Finish planting, if the sun ever comes back.

Finish the Chicken Coop, for my Silkies and the assortment of chicks.

Among other things that we all must face; dishes, laundry, cooking, cleaning and various errands. My Step-Son will be off school for the summer soon and we will have him every other week. I am looking forward to having him around more since we only see him every other weekend during the school year.

As I write this I am catching a few moments of quiet at Three in the morning, whilst dogs and Hubby sleep. With the odd hours Hubby has been working and my inability to stop brain function at will, my sleep habits are a bit off kilter.

I actually came out to knit, but after a few rows of the Christmas Sock That Never Ends I set aside the needles to talk to you. I hope I have not bored you.

To Knit or not to Knit: That is the question.

I ask you: Do you knit less during the Spring and Summer? If not what is on your needles this time of year?

I’d love to hear from you, be blessed, and we will talk soon.

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