Do you remember what April 28th is? Yes, it’s Day 6 of the Knitting and Crochet Blog Week: Improving Your Skillset…but, that’s not all!
First of all, let me preface the rest of this post by just saying, I don’t even know where to begin!! When I first saw the sign for the festival, it was really just in passing. I couldn’t see the mill or any of the buildings from the road. Today, after I found my parking spot and made the little trek down the slope to the festival, I was really not prepared for such a picturesque little setting or the little snippets of rustic tranquility.
It was really just a slight road. But, as I walked, I found myself pleasantly distracted by the next thing.
And the next thing.
And these things. YUM!
And then I saw this!
It’s a lot like watching wool give birth, lol. There’s this walking bundle full of it that gets shaven off. And then all of a sudden, there’s this little lamb that emerges from it. Pretty sweet! That last pic is the fleece from that shearing. Unbelievable, right?! Especially since it weighed in at seven pounds! Can you imagine walking around with seven pounds of hair all over your body?! Have mercy.
Interesting tidbit of information about shearing and sheep: Once upon a time, shepherds would sit with their sheep and pluck the wool from them. Some still do. But, nowadays most sheep are sheared with electric shears. The sheep aren’t harmed though.
I think these guys came around to see what all the commotion was about. “Haven’t you people seen a haircut before?” 🙂
At any rate, the kids who came out had A LOT of fun! When they weren’t playing period games, they were learning.
This lady dressed in period clothing taught the kiddos how to card wool. They got to keep the wool they carded.
First there was glue.
Then there was wool.
And presto chango!
They got to take a sheep home. Lucky things!
There was another lady who taught the kids how to spin on a spinning wheel and a drop spindle.
Okay. Let me pause here and ask you, is it wrong that I was SO jealous I wasn’t a kid today?
Don’t answer that. LOL!
To the side of the spinners, other volunteers were skirting the freshly shorn fleece. Skirting is taking out all of the junk from the fleece you don’t want like the vegetable matter, matted parts and the poo (yup, p-o-o, poo).
Let me tell you knitters and crocheters-be grateful for these people. Ugh.
Sheep sure are oily too. Look at all of that yellow lanolin on there!
One of the ladies was kind enough to show me what a second cut looks like and this is it. A second cut is a shorter bit of fluff on the fleece due to a portion being cut twice. Those have to be removed either during the shearing as the shearer is working or during skirting. She explained to me that when the mill processes this wool, the machines tend to like staple lengths that are of a consistent length. If it gets a shorter bit, apparently, it gets all choked up and everything goes haywire. No second cuts, please.
That’s interesting because I’ve read online where some who hand card say they at times get neps, they think, because of second cuts in the wool they are carding…hmmm…Good to know.
Next, I hit the dyer’s table.
Here she’s showing me some cochineal. See the dark stuff in that mortar? That’s cochineal. And guess what? A cochineal is an insect. Somebody figured out these insects yield a really powerful red dye.
She also told me about a few of the mordants she uses like alum, copper and tin, which were used to treat these skeins. No coloring was added at all. Mordants are used to allow the fiber to retain the color it gets when it’s dyed. So, after one of these mordants is added, the skein is no longer a blank palette. If you start adding color then, I’m guessing the mordant needs to be considered in order to know whether you will be saturating that color or dulling it. Good to know, right?
She spent a good deal of time telling us how she arrived at the colors on the color wheel, mainly by using natural substances she could find along with rainwater she collected.
Goldenrod, black walnut shells, acorns. You name it! My dye tip for the day from one of the volunteers was to get some clippers and some ziplocks to have in the car so I could harvest along the road. 🙂
Not sure I’m ready to dye stuff yet. But I know where to go when I am!
The folks there were awesome! Full of information and very generous and helpful. I was SO glad I went! Seemed there was something to learn at every turn. And they’ve managed to build a small community of spinners, knitters and weavers that is just a very charming and peaceful group of folk.
I liked it all so much, I decided to take home some souvenirs.
Aren’t they cute? 🙂
I’m considering the membership too. It’s really a no-brainer since these days all I have is handspun and handspun knitting on the brain.
So, improving my skillset, you ask?
I’m just thinking that it might be nice to hang around this place more often!