Thursday, 25 July 2013

Meet Teddy and his gang

Last Saturday hubby Graham and I headed off to the Llyn peninsular to collect the lambs at last. We had managed to buy a second-hand sheep trailer off Ebay as the trailers we could borrow were all huge double axle things and the lambs would have rattled around in it like peas in a pod! The weather eventually turned out nice and sunny making our early start sensible as the lambs would not be travelling during the hottest part of the day. It looked as if most people were holidaying at the coast as on the return journey the traffic going in the opposite direction was non-stop. I was very glad to be going the other way!

Teddy coming for  chat

I kept the lambs in the sheep pen for the first night and then let them out in to a small area so that they could get used to their new surroundings. The sheep I have already - now called Hubert's gang to differentiate the two groups - have now met the lambs and are not very impressed. There was a definite look of betrayal on Hubert's face and the old girls were horror struck with all these small things whizzing about and making all that noise. It was like an old folks group having the playgroup come to visit! They have now been in the same field for two days and so far there has been no problem as the two groups have taken up residence in the opposite corners of the field with Hubert's gang turning their backs quite firmly and resolutely on the youngsters who are quite happy nibbling away at the long grass.
The only lamb who loves fuss is Teddy - here he is looking for treats. Although he is one of the youngest in the group he is by far the largest and has a very lovely temperament too. The others are getting more used to me but can be very skittish at times and I'm hoping that Teddy's acceptance of me rubs off on them too. I haven't yet put the alpacas into the field as one of them does like to chase the sheep so I shall wait a bit longer before letting them in with the lambs.
Any other business......... Dyeing has come to a temporary holt as I ran out of gas bottles for my portable stoves that I use. Now the weather has turned thundery I have moved the tables under the front porch and I am hoping to get back to dyeing soon. Also fleece washing is on hold as I need a full dry, sunny day to dry it.
I have almost spun up enough Portland fleece to start thinking about knitting with it and also thinking of my next spinning project - maybe some of the fleece I have been dyeing?
Gardening is also on hold as our soil is heavy clay and with all this sun it has now baked dry and is extremely hard. Earlier on this year I bought some lily bulbs which Mum potted up and they have now come into flower. We have moved them into the greenhouse in case the thundery rain spoils them. Each flower is HUGE!! The perfume is wonderful too.
I think this is called Anastasia

And I think this is Stargazer

Friday, 19 July 2013

My Birthday Trip to Cotswold Farm Park

Every birthday I like to do something special but the last couple of years I have been thwarted by the English summer. This year, however, my plans were not dashed as we had another incredibly sunny and hot day for our trip. My companions for the day were my mother, my sister and my niece and we set off on Tuesday morning for the Cotswold Farm Park which is situated halfway between Tewkesbury and Stow-on-the-Wold. I'm afraid this post is going to be very picture heavy today! Anyway these are some of the animals we saw.
Highland Cattle including Eric the bull at the back.

White Park Cattle
Lots of lovely donkeys.

And of course there were some sheep, but because of the hot weather they had tucked themselves into the shade. I didn't manage to get any pictures of the Norfolk Horn sheep out in the fields but there was one lamb in the Touch Barn.
Norfolk Horn lamb
Portland Sheep sheltering from the sun

Cotswold Sheep

Lydia holding a small chick which is having a quick nap.
Pukaki piglet born on 30th June

We all had a jolly good time - well at least I did! At the end of our visit I managed to buy 5 more fleeces! What a result! Well I had to make the most of the extra hands I had available to carry the stuff to the car! I bought another Portland, two Romney, one Cotswold and another Norfolk Horn. As I write this post the Cotswold fleece is soaking and will soon be ready to dry in the sun. If you get the chance to visit the Cotswold Farm Park I can recommend it especially if you have a small child with you as there is lots for them to do, but make sure the weather is good as it wouldn't be half as nice in the rain. We had a lovely lunch courtesy of Mum and on the way home we stopped off for a super cream tea. The perfect way to end a birthday!

Monday, 15 July 2013

Haymaking, dyeing and feline relaxation.

This last week or so has seen wonderful HOT summer weather. It is a real tonic after the miserable weather last year and the long cold spring this year. Not wanting to waste a minute of this glorious sunshine I have been busy washing fleece as whilst I was at Woolfest the "fleece fairy" came and left me five huge fleeces! I think they may be Texel, at any rate they are a commercial breed and when I manage to contact the kind chap who left them for me I shall find out more about them. I have also decided what to do with this mountain of wool. Spin enough yarn to weave a blanket on the Louet Spring. So I have started to dye the fleece outside in the garden and so far I have managed four days on the trot without having to pack the tables away because of the weather! I am using some Landscape Acid dyes and some Gaywool dyes that I already have in stock. I'm not creating my own colour blends as I want to get as much done now while the weather holds and not dither about trying to decide what colours to choose.
The wonderful weather has also meant that we got our hay cut on Friday and this is the earliest we have ever had it cut. Last year it didn't get done until September and although we haven't got as many bales this year it is much better stuff. And as I was told by the fella that cut the hay it's better to have a small load of good stuff than a lot of shit!
Being cut on Friday.
After being baled tonight.
And what do little pussy cats do whilst there is all this hustle and bustle? Well chillax of course!!!
Little Ginge takes it easy.
Boris sitting in the shade.
Any other business....  Tomorrow is my birthday so a trip is planned to the Cotswold Farm Park with family. Wonder if Adam Henson will be there? Also this coming Saturday we are off to collect the sheep.Yay!!! The trailer has been bought, collected and given the once over. So we shall have an early start to get there before all the holidaymakers clog up the roads.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

My Tour de Fleece and Woolfest swag!

As you may be aware I do a lot of spinning whilst watching cycling on Eurosport and at the moment the major event is the Tour de France. I enjoy the racing and have a few favourite riders who I watch closely but also the scenery is spectacular. The first three days were in Corsica, not an island I know very much about, but wow what a great place for a holiday. I never knew it had such craggy mountains and with snow! I know that there are lots of groups out in blogland who join up for the Tour de Fleece and try to spin as much as they can whilst watching the Tour DF. Well I always spin while watching the tour and at the moment I have a huge box full of lovely Portland fleece that I am working my way through. So far over the first four stages of the TDF I have managed to spin two full bobbins. I have also done a couple of knitted swatches to decide what thickness of yarn feels right for the project I want to knit with it.
I have spun a 2 ply and a 3 ply sample and I think I am going to opt for the 2 ply as it matches the gauge I will need to knit this pattern. Its from one of my favourite books "A Fine Fleece" by Lisa Lloyd and I have knitted other things from here with great success.
I bought the Portland fleece - I'm combining 2 fleeces by the way- from Jane and Jeremy Dunstan who I found on the Rare Breeds Survival Trust website in 2011. It seems that fleece need to "gestate" in my workroom store for awhile before I know what to make with them! They have a flock of these lovely sheep down in Cornwall where they also have holiday cottages - methinks I may need to go there for a break! If you would like to visit them and see their lovely Portland sheep their website is . I am enjoying spinning this wonderful fleece so much that I have bought two more from this years shearing. If you would like to find out more about the Portland breed please visit the Portland Sheep Breeders Group where you can find out more about this lovely breeds history. Hopefully I may get to meet some Portland sheep later this summer. Jane was kind enough to send me some of her photos of her sheep for me to show you here.
Portland lamb.
Portland ewe and her lamb
Now for the goodies I bought at Woolfest! I did manage to find the time to make a couple of quick shopping raids during the few quiet times we had. I bought four - yes four! - drop spindles from IST Crafts. I am a latecomer to drop spindling as I was taught to spin on a wheel and have never really got on with drop spindles. I think this comes about because until fairly recently most drop spindles you saw were very clunky and big. I got quite frustrated spinning with this spindles as they always fell on the floor and as a result I didn't want to own one let alone four. A couple of years ago when I was asked to teach spinning I thought I ought to do the right thing and do a bit of drop spindling just to show people what was involved and then to swiftly move onto the wheel! The spindle wasn't too heavy, I forget where I got it from, and I played around with it for a week or two and then put it away again. However, before Woolfest I watched an Interweave dvd by Maggie Casey on drop spindling where she explained the "park and draft" method and I found that I could spin with a spindle and that it didn't keep clattering on the floor. So in order to practice a bit more and because I have to keep busy of an evening I took said spindle to Woolfest so that I had something to play with. Lo! and behold! not far from our stand was IST Crafts selling lots and lots of lovely spindles! Of course I had to buy a couple. So I bought a 70mm square drop spindle made from Tulipwood on Sycamore with a walnut shaft and it has little brass weights on the corners. Then I got a round 70mm spindle made from Olivewood on sycamore with a walnut shaft, both are top whorl spindles. I had a lovely time playing with them that night and I rushed back the next morning and bought two lovely little Turkish spindles, one made from Snakewood and the other from Striped Ebony.
I think my favourite one so far is the square spindle.
I got these postcards to add to my "sheepy" collection.
Helen gave me these sock knitting books so that I could make samples with the Tofutsies sock yarn she now stocks. It's made from superwash wool, soysilk, cotton and chitin which is a fibre made from crab shells! I look forward to trying it out. The difficult thing was choosing the colours! I also bought two cones of alpaca yarn for weaving into scarves and hopefully sell. Not bad for two days!

Monday, 1 July 2013

Woolfest 2013

What an exciting three days that was! I haven't really come down to earth yet and I feel almost jet lagged. I have been helping my friend Helen again on her stall My Fine Weaving Yarn at Woolfest which is held every year in Cockermouth, Cumbria. After a four hour drive up the M6 I was in time to help Helen and her husband John set the stall up ready for the start of proceedings the next day. This is what the stall looked like early on the Friday morning.
As you can see we had a small demonstration area this year with four rigid heddle looms warped with a variety of fine yarns. This proved very popular and Helen makes a very good and patient teacher.
There were lots and lots of interesting things to buy and lots of interesting people to meet. Both days were very busy and we had difficulty finding the time to walk around the other stalls to see what was on offer. Here are a few photos to give you a flavour of what I saw.
Teeswater sheep.
This is Ziggy Rytka playing his hurdy-gurdy to entertain the crowds as well as selling his lucets which you can find here.
Wensleydale sheep
"I think this is my best profile"
These are Herdwick sheep which are local to the Lake District and play an important roll in creating the spectacular landscape beloved of walkers.

These people had come all the way from Estonia and Sweden to showcase the breeds of sheep native to the Baltics. I couldn't get to photo the lovely knitted mittens and socks at the far end of the table as it was a sea of interested visitors! But I did manage to get a closer look at the weaving hanging at the back.
I think I shall have to try something similar to this with my handspun wool in the future.
I was fortunate to have the chance to meet Owen Poad of Majacraft who was demonstrating his spinning wheels on the Hedgehog Equipment stand opposite ours. I had a nice chat with him and discovered that all the wheels they make are signed by whoever made that particular wheel. I wasn't aware of that fact even though I have had the wheel for quite a while. So when I got home I had to have a quick look underneath and found the signature of Glynis, Owen's wife, who was also at Woolfest but was not around when I was chatting to him. It made my day!
There were lots of other interesting people, some had come from far away just for the show, and we met a lovely American couple who now live in Provence, a couple of ladies who had flown in from Austria, and a Finnish lady who has lived over here for a very long while and weaves the most gorgeous wall hangings. I also bumped into Dorothy Stewart who's blog I follow. What a nice lady! It was lovely to meet and have a chat with her and see some of her lovely woven shawls. It goes with out saying I managed to buy lots of lovely things which I will post about later.
Even though the weather was horrible - cloudy, wet and cold - and it was extremely exhausting being on your feet for three days I can't wait until the next Woolfest and will be keeping my fingers crossed that we get the chance to go with our stall again.