Monday, 10 June 2019

Slow Living, Good Living

It has been far too long since I have posted.  I post the occasional photo and quick comment to Instagram, Facebook or Twitter (@farm2fingers) but far too long since I blogged.  I started off well, seeking to post semi regularly to help new spinners with information that I had learnt as a new spinner a few years prior.  

Don't think for one minute I have given up the fibery thing.  I still have my sheep, many, many bags of fleece in various states of process and I try to spin a little nearly every day.  But...  life got in the way.

I'm a busy person.  Full time employee in a job that has me potentially on call 24x7 but thankfully only 8-9 hours a day in the office.  However, that office is a two hour commute each way.  I get home at night wanting to spend a bit of time with family but also needing to do the normal home jobs that go with a family and cram in various other volunteer pursuits.  

I think this weekend I finally gained some clarity on why I have been craving time at home and more of a focus on hobby farming pursuits.  I have to date thought busy to be good, not realising that I wasn't taking the time to enjoy what I was doing.  Everything became a task to tick off the "To Do" list.  Over the years I would take on various tasks.  Be it an extra project at work, resulting in me having to spend a little more time in the office or some volunteer community endevour (or three) that would keep me running from one task to another.

Because busy is productive and satisfying right?  Wrong!

This weekend was a long weekend.  Great to spend it at home.  Time spent in the garden (which I have been cleaning up and putting in maintainable order for the last couple of years), planting new rhubarb plants, cleaning up around the house and shed, lunch down the paddock with hubby (he was mowing and we just stopped in the middle of the paddock and ate lunch on the ride on mower), and of course some time with my sheep doing some sheepie maintenance like trimming toenails, crutching and wigging.  I realised why farm life can be slow, or at least appear slow compared to the 'I want it now' culture we seem to have developed into.  What is wonderful is realising that this slow pace is achievement driven and deeply satisfying.

Tasks follow a natural pace and order.
You can't rush a sheep.  Things must be done calmly and gently.  There is no quick way to catch and tip a sheep.  Our Chihuahua tries to rush them and they just run everywhere.  She thinks she is helping, but no.  A proper sheep dog knows when to run and when to stop, wait and move again. 
I tried picking my potatoes too early and guess what?  Only a few teeny potatoes.  I left them a couple more months and voila, lots of good sized potatoes.

You need to plan ahead.
The paddock and yards are a distance from the house.  You must take the time to think and plan what you need, pop it all in a bucket and take it down the yards.  If you forget something, you trudge back up to the house then back down to the yards.  In addition to my clippers and iodine spray today I even remembered to take a rope for the little gate, a hook to hang the bucket on the fence, a coffee and a water bottle for myself.  
You turn the compost over, you add to it.  You improve the soil and prepare the garden for the next crop or planting.  

Things just take time.
One of the biggest causes of taking time is gates.  Yes gates. Opening and closing gates so the sheep don't get out takes time.  I find gates a humbling thing.  Each time you open and close one as you pass through you realise there are no shortcuts.  It unlatches and latches the same way each time.  

So this weekend, some may say I had an epiphany. I think I have known for some time that to really enjoy the things I love I need to spend time on them or with them. So somehow that means removing myself from the things outside my home that keep me busy.  That will be no easy task as I still need to pay the bills and some obligations need to be handed over to others over an extended period.  But with realisation comes the ability to commit to a longer term plan.  So my quest is to change my mindset from busy busy busy to slow living, good living.  This will be a journey and will take time.  Hopefully I will return to this blog a little more often to provide and update on the journey.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Is there a best way to wash raw wool?

I was inspired to write this after reading a comparison of detergent v Power Scour on Nearly There. A blog about fibre things.

It was the first result in my search about detergent for washing raw wool.

An interesting thought came to me that there is much advice out there and many experts but sometimes you just have to try stuff yourself.  I'm one of those.

I had some great success using the natural way with the fermented suint method.  However, I don't live in suburbia.  Although the family did limit me changing batches and rinsing stinky wool to times when the wind was blowing away from the house or they were out for the day.  I'm pretty sure the vat gets more smelly with age.

In terms of cleaning power it does work. Leaving the fleece out in the rain for a day or two before rinsing I felt resulted in less rinsing. You do still need to do a couple of hot rinses for best results.  And did I mention the smell!!!

Some people wash locks.  Some whole fleeces.  Your washing method does need to change, to a degree, with how much fleece you are washing and how much time you have.

Personally I find Power Scour expensive when I wash a fleece at a time.  But it is great for small sample batches (eg. A sink full).

Volume washing works best for me with a good detergent.  I use the mid range detergent from Aldi, but anything that is good on greasy dishes works for me.

Depending on the greasiness of the fleece it's seems impossible to get away from one - two washes and two rinses.

So the best way to wash wool is what works for you given your circumstances, facilities and quantity to be washed.

If you are still new to washing fleece, read lots and experiment.  You will soon find a method that works for you.

By the way my current preferred method is soaking in an old washing machine.  Drain and spin.  Remove the fleece to refill the machine and do it again.  Of course hot water is a necessity.

Happy washing.

If you are looking for more reading on washing methods, the following are useful links.

Since posting the above I came across a great little flyer outlining a variety of washing methods (including the smelly one) on the YarnMaker magazine web site.

One of my original learning sites,
Washing machine method with pictures,

And of course you can search YouTube for a plethora of videos on washing raw wool from locks to whole fleeces.

Happy washing until next time. :-)

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Ten ways to improve your fiber photography

Written by Kristi Schueler, this is a great article providing guidance on how to photograph your fibre creations.  Many tips on lighting (natural lighting preferred) and composition that will help you take professional looking shots.

I particularly like the idea of using your fibre in different stages of processing to tell a story.

Looks like I better charge the camera and start practising.  :-)

Happy spinning

Monday, 25 July 2016

Tour de Fleece has ended for another year

Well I am totally disappointed with my achievement (or rather lack of) in this years TdF.

On race days my aim was to spin as much as possible of a BL cross fleece.  But even such a vague goal was set to disappoint.  I have had a very busy few weeks with work, website updates for my local church including photo shoots of the local area, trying to complete an online course (final assessment due this weekend :-o) and organising a teenage birthday party.  All I could manage was two small bobbins even though I spun a little just about every day and prepared fibre on rest days!
My challenge days weren’t too bad with about half of the cotton branch prepped and spun.

What do I think of spinning cotton?
Ugh!!  Cotton is so NOT my favourite fibre.  I know some spinners love spinning cotton but unfortunately I just do not understand them.  Despite the number of YouTube instructional videos I watched I found my fingers sore and my shoulders tense.

  • I tried spinning slowly but extra peddles before I let it draw in.
  • I tried spinning fast and found I had a death grip on the fibre.
  • I ended up spinning 14:1 ratio with about a second per peddle (double peddle wheel).  At least I succeeded in spinning continuously with few fibre breaks.
I will finish the cotton I have but won’t be rushing out to buy more and don’t plan to grow it (I once dreamt of growing my own little patch of cotton).  Then to decide what to do with it.  Perhaps I will ply some of it with the BL cross that I have spun.  It might make an interesting yarn for a toddler beanie or two.  Cotton plus 25 micron BL fibre… sounds like a plan.

Where to from here?
  • 2017 TdF – yes definitely and try not to enrol in an online course at the same time!
  • Just like the cyclists and other spinners do, I will prepare for the race so I have a mini stash of fibre at the ready with the objective to complete the stash during the race.
  • What about the BL fleece? – of course I need to finish spinning this fleece.  There are only another dozen or so fleeces in the shed to spin and I have a further 6 fleeces on their way back from the mill soon.  I will never admit to a fleece overload but storage is becoming a little challenging. 

Until next time,
Happy Spinning



Thursday, 14 July 2016

2016 Tour de Fleece

So many things to do and places to be and so little time to do it all... :-(

I am currently trying to spin up a storm as part of the 2016 Tour de Fleece.  If you don't know what this is about, check out the SpinFoolish team (  I think we are one of the biggest TdF teams with people from all over the world.

Basically the Tour de Fleece runs along the same lines as the Tour de France (the famous cycling race).  We have race days, challenge days and rest days (which are usually spent preparing fibre for the next day).  We don't' compete to spin more than the next person, it is rather about personal challenge and commitment.

This year the Tour de Fleece runs from 2 July to 24 July.  My goal is to spin as much as possible from one of my Border Leicester cross fleeces (left).  This is from Charlie and about 24 micron.

The fleece is unwashed, very clean and not a lot of grease. There is about 3-4 kilos.  In reality, I doubt I will get through it all but hey, that is part of the challenge.

On the challenge days I have started spinning cotton from the bolls.  I picked up a branch like the one on the right from a florist in the city.  They are using them in rustic flower arrangements.

I am lightly carding them into small punis which makes the small staple length easier to spin.

So pop back and visit soon and I will try to post some updates on how much I actually succeeded in spinning.

Happy Spinning :-)

Friday, 27 May 2016

Just add an Electricarder...

I wrote this recently for my friends at Electricarder and thought I would share with my readers also.  I hope you find it useful. :-)

Ashford Wild Carder with Electricarder Review
The Ashford Wild Carder is a little power horse for something more glamorous than standard carding.  Whilst only 4” wide, it has been designed with extra long teeth to allow your batts to be bulked up with various fibre, ribbons, feathers and other embellishments.  Because it has a medium carding cloth (72 point) you can still use it to card ‘straight’ fibre which is often a good starting point before creating blends.

As I produce my own fibre, I need to process it to a point before creating any blends or funky art yarns.  At this stage, my wild carder is my only carder so it has to be a work horse for all sorts.  Alpaca fleece will process quickly as it is smooth compared to wool.  Processing wool is a bit slower as the fibres grab together making work for the wild carder a little harder and works your arm cranking the handle.

To lighten my load, the people at Electricarder have built a motor fitted for the Wild Carder.  This is a real productivity boost.  Not only do you card a little faster but you can card more continuously.  

What do I mean by carding continuously?  
You are spreading, stretching, fluffing the fibre up as the carder steadily takes in what you have already placed on the input tray.  There is no need to stop, prepare, load then crank the handle.
Recently I spent a few hours in the shed preparing some Corriedale batts.  They weren’t too chunky/bumpy this time around and the Electricarder motor allowed me to work at about double the pace.

I started with 50grams each of red, blue, lime green and deep green Corriedale fibre.  It had been washed and carded but had been compacted after being in storage for a few years.  The dying and drying process fluffed it up a bit then the next step was to turn it into batts.

Unfortunately I had a camera malfunction so we only have the finished product photos as the work in progress photos were lost when the SD card became corrupted.  The pics below are just under slightly different lighting.  But I digress.

I first carded each colour individually then laid them out and matched up the add-ins.

Each 50 grams made three not too tightly packed batts.  Once I decided what I would add in I split the original batts into three and mixed them up.  This was done to even out the colour.  The red and blue were combined as I was looking for a purple but with the red and blue elements still visible.
Each thinned batt was then stretched width way and length way and spread out on my working table.
Then I loaded up the extras onto each thinned batt.  A little silk, a little more, a little Mohair, and a little more... you get the idea.  Spread these out evenly along the batt, then stack them back together to create one giant sandwich of fluff and colours.  This is then stretched out again and split length ways, then stretched length ways.  You are wanting to stretch it so you can nearly see through the fibre.  This gives you the best consistency.

At this point I turn on the Electricarder motor and begin to feed in the fibre sandwich.  Now depending on how much room you have in you work space (mine is tiny) you can split the batt even further.  But you can do this while the Electricarder keeps working.  There is no stopping and starting to prepare then crank the handle then prepare and crank the handle, you keep preparing and lining up the fibre.  Tidy it up and ensure it is being taken in evenly between the guides then stretch out some more fibre ready to go.  You can take the batts off and put them through again but I like to keep some of the character of the add ins.

I find about half speed on the Electicarder dial gives me good pace and good quality.  If you find the drive band starts slipping you may have overloaded it a little.  Thin out your input and see how that goes.  As mentioned earlier, different fibre will perform differently so have a play and adjust your technique to suit.

Happy Carding J

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Blending Boards

Well it has been a while since my last post on fibre preparation tools.  Stuff happens in our lives and I just had to shelve my blogging for a while.  Hopefully I am back on track.

As I mentioned some time ago, I would do a post on blending boards.  Now, I don't own a blending board nor have even used a blending board.  So, I definitely don't speak with authority on them.  However, I have read a lot on them and regularly look them up on the internet.  I am always amazed by the talent of fibre people when working with some of these tools.

There are many companies who make blending boards.  Ashford, Louet, Majacraft, Clemes & Clemes are only a few brands on the market.  Then of course if you can source carding cloth you could make your own if you are skilled in those sort of things.

Essentially it is a board with carding cloth affixed.

Now that doesn't sound too spectacular but the results can be spectacular.  Check out the Ashford YouTube clip (, Fibrehappy's clip with her homemade blending board ( or Clemes & Clemes (  Or just pop "blending boards" into your favourite search engine or in the YouTube search bar and you will get a heap of options to look at.  (I have watched most of them.)

You will notice that as with many spinning and fibre preparation tools, everyone has their own style and little techniques that work for them.  Please take this as a message that there is no single right way to prepare fibre.  Some ways are better than others but over time you adjust your methods to the results you are targeting.

You shouldn't go past looking at some of the clips about spinning from rolags as these are what you end up with on a blending board.

Why would you want to buy a blending board?
I can only comment on my reasons.  Feel free to add your own reasons in the comments.
  • ability to create customised blends
  • ability to blend various fibres
  • ability to card and blend larger amounts than on hand cards.
  • it looks like a little less work on your shoulders.
I hope this has helped you in a small way if you are interested in blending boards.  One is still on my wish list but it may be a while away as I have a lot of fibre to get washed and dyed.

Happy spinning. :-)