Have Ewe Any Wool?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

BRSWG Farm Tour

Blue Ridge Spinners and Weavers Guild had a fabulous farm tour of three members' farms - Awesome farms.....Catie's Alpaca Farm, Linda's Llama Farm, and Gretchen's Sheep and Goat farm - Solitude. The weather was absolutely perfect! It was bright, sunny, and in the mid-seventies. The perfect weather to spend the day on a farm.

When I first drove down the road to Catie's, I thought I was entering a suburban development - big houses in what looked like a typical neighborhood. However, the lots were much bigger...and many had farms tucked away behind the house - just as she does. The views are just incredible!

Check out these views - toward the barn and toward the side from Catie's back yard.

Catie gave us a tour of the barns and alpacas - they were so cute! We wandered around checking out the girl, the young one, and the guys. The alpacas definitely seemed to like the kids the best. Several folks had their wonderful yarns and rovings available for purchase.

Even the view from the barn back toward the house is fabulous!

As a bonus, we got to check out Sandy's studio - it's fabulous and has a wonderful view! She's just had windows installed, so she can gaze out either size and take in the beautiful scenery while she weaves. What an idyllic locale!

Next stop was Linda's llama farm where we ate lunch at picnic tables totally sheltered by the trees - a nice cool spot with a cool breeze. There was a gorgeous Columbine in full bloom by her side door...just beautiful! Linda's farn is nice and secluded...and you feel like you're the only ones around!

The view out the front windows of Linda's house are gorgeous - the mountain in the background and the horse farm in the foreground. What a fabulous place!

After lunch, we checked out the llama barns. There were shorn llamas and unshorn llamas...and plenty of them! Just like the alpacas, llamas have "pads" on the bottom of their feet.

Several llamas ran down the path to the cool shade of the trees at the far end. What a fabulous cooling spot for the llamas! (I think that part of the reason they headed for the trees was to get away from all of us.)

Finally, we took turns walking a couple of the llamas through the obstacle course. It was a lot of fun! Around the cones, over the bridge, through the tires, up the teeter-totter and finally, over the small jump.

Leading the llama around the cones...

And over the jump...

The final stop on the tour was Solitude Farm with it's awesome house full of gorgeous woodwork and unique style. I believe the original house is from the 1800's with the addition containing the porch added in 1910. It was definitely a labor of love - Gretchen and Joan put lots of time and money into the house to complete its restoration, but it was well worth it! It's located at the end of a long lane surrounded by trees, garden areas, and the pastures for both the goats and the Romney sheep.

The goats were so cute! There were many kids...and the does tend to take turns caring for them - literally embracing the "it takes a village" philosophy! (Be sure to double click on the photos for a closer look.)

The goats in action...

Gretchen has several sheep as well - all Romneys. I love the little Romneys...they look like little teddy bears. You just want to pick the lambs up and cuddle them!

At Gretchen's, we learned about skirting a fleece. She had a skirting table set up and discussed how to skirt the fleece, how to analyze the various parts for strength, dryness, and quality of the fleece, and how to clean it. I was intrigued by the way you check the fleece for breaks - you take a small bit, hold each end and "snap" it by your ear. You should hear a hum....and it shouldn't break.

We laid out two fleeces - my black shetland and another girl's Karakul fleece. When you lay out a fleece, you should be able to lay it such that you can "see" the animal. This helps identify the best parts - you want to avoid the legs and under belly and concentrate on the blanket. Each part of the fleece can be used - the second cuts and non-optimal sections can be used for felting or as stuffing. While on the skirting table, you'll probably shake the fleece and let the dust and vegetation drop to the ground. Some of the more "stuck" vegetation will need to be hand picked out of the fleece.

Gretchen helped us identify the various parts of the fleece. The black fleece had a slightly dry area, but it wasn't too bad. There was also a small patch where the wool had a break.

While examining the Karakul, Gretchen showed us how to take the lock and gently pull from the tip to separate the hair from the under-down - click on the picture on the left for a closer look at the separated wool. Though the Karakul has two distinct types of wool, it's usually not separated out when using it for rugs.

I learned so much about the process! Now, I'm ready to tackle the processing of my fleeces!

I also got to try my hand at hand-painting some Targhee roving. The roving was incredibly soft and should be an absolute joy to spin...

Gretchen had a couple of tables setup in in the garage for dyeing and had pre-soaked some roving in vinegar water. Check out the awesome "dye kitchen" she has set up! These pots are huge! Perfect for steaming lots of dye yarn and roving!

We laid out the roving on plastic and began to paint it. I kept to my favorite colors: the purples, turquoises, and magenta. It took quite a while to paint. We then laid paper towels and towels over the top to sop up the extra dye, covered the roving with plastic and folded it.

We folded and rolled our dyed roving up in the plastic and put it in the dyepot for steaming. Once done, we let it cool, and I took my roving home for the finishing steps.

I washed it about 4 times to get out all the excess dye. I LOVE the vibrant colors! I then laid it out on a sweater drying rack to dry. I can't wait to try spinning it!

What a fabulous day!


  • At 7:33 AM, Blogger Gretchen said…

    Thanks for sharing, I didn't get to see the other farms and now I feel almost like I was there.

    Let me know how the yarn turns out from your jewel tones roving.


  • At 2:48 PM, Blogger Jinann said…

    You're welcome! I had a great time - sorry you had to miss the other farms. I'm hoping to find some time to spin up at least some of it before next week.


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