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Felting Crocheted Items

It has come to my attention that I’ve written about some of the more work-intensive felts, but have neglected to write about another easy method of felting. You can actually crochet any item you want, and then felt it. This makes the item more solid and more sturdy.

I’m still improving with my spinning, which means some of my yarn still comes out pretty crummy. I wrap these balls of yarn in a different colored yarn to remind myself not to use it in something that needs “good” yarn (like my alpaca blanket I’m crocheting). This yarn is over-twisted, under-twisted, thick, thin. In other words, what fiber artists would call “art yarn.” What that really means is they can charge you more. This type of yarn is great for felting. The process is going to make it felt together and get fluffy, so all the goofs will be absorbed in the process.

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If you don’t spin your own yarn, you can use any animal fiber yarn. I’ve used both wool and alpaca, and they give two very different looks. Anything you can crochet or knit, you can felt. I used alpaca for this project.

 To make a basket, you just make a beanie-type cap.  Start with your circle, and continue to crochet in the round, increasing with each row. You can see here how lumpy and uneven the yarn is.0224150850 (500x402)

(Note: I start with 4 chain stitches, connect them in a loop with a slip stitch, the crochet 12 double stitches through the center loop. Connect last stitch to first stitch with a slip stitch at the end of each row. 2nd row: 2 double stitches in each stitch. 3rd row: 2 double stitches in first stitch, 1 double stitch in the next stitch, continue all the way around. 4th row: 2 double stitches in first stitch, 1 double stitch in each of the next 2 stitches. Continue in this manner with each row, until you have the size you desire.)

Continue with your increases until your circle is a little bigger than you want the bottom of your basket to be.

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When my base is the size I want, I like to crochet the next row into just the front stitches. This just helps to make a defining line between the bottom and the sides, but it’s not necessary.

I’m really bad about slip-stitching the ends of each row together, so once I’m working my way up the sides, I keep on going in more of a spiral. I used my whole ball of less-than-perfect yarn and my basket wasn’t as high as I wanted it. I had about a half-ball of a different color and decided to use that to finish up. I like it.

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Now for the hard part. Ready? Throw it in the washing machine. Yep, that’s it. It works well to throw in a pair of jeans to help with the agitation. (Don’t use a towel because off the towel fluff pills up in the felting) Use a little squirt of Dawn liquid, set the washing machine on hot water and high agitation and let it do its thing. After the first round of washing, you’ll notice a good amount of felting, but still be able to see the individual stitching. This is fine, if it’s the look you’re going for. I usually run my items through 3 times to get them good and felted. After each round of washing, check your item to make sure it’s holding its shape and not felting onto itself. I’ve never had this happen, but I’ve heard it can, so I check. Once your item is felted as much as you want it, run it through a cold water rinse, let the water spin out, and set it out to dry. I set basket shapes upside down, over an upside down bowl to help them dry into the desired shape.

When felting alpaca it gets really furry. I’ve done this with a few different items, and it fluffs up every time.

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I thought this one ended up looking like a bird’s nest, so that’s exactly what I decided to use it for. Eggs!

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I made another piece out of alpaca, but didn’t want it quite so fuzzy, so I just gave it a haircut. Using scissors, carefully trim off the extra length you don’t want. Come to think of it, beard or hair trimmers may work well for this.

I’ve also made a basket out of wool yarn, and then needle felted an alpaca on it. You can see that this isn’t nearly as fuzzy as the alpaca yarn basket.

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You can find animal fiber yarns at most fabric and craft stores. If you want something handspun, you can find this at local fiber shows, and sometimes at farmer’s markets. If you’re city-bound, you can always hit up Craigslist.

One of my projects this next year will be slippers that are crocheted, then felted. I’m not sure how much bigger I’ll need to make them, in order for them to end up the right size. I’ll be experimenting with that.

Wrong

Admitting You’re Wrong – Random Thoughts From The Shower

Spring needs to come and rescue me from reality television. These people fight about everything. On “Celebrity Apprentice” Donald Trump was talking about ruthless business people – as Leeza Gibbons was awarded the win for leading with integrity, kindness and inclusion. (Geraldo lost and I’m glad because it would have been rewarding totally egotistical, self-indulgent behavior.)

This led me to thinking about people who aren’t willing to admit when they’re wrong. (Don’t ask how exactly this is related. This is just what happens when you have random thoughts in the shower.) I don’t see why this is a big deal to some people. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong. No biggie. I admit it – oops – and move on.

I think a lot of people believe parents and teachers hate to say they’re wrong. To me, that was even more important. I hated the thought of my children or my students saying, “Mom/Mrs. Redmon said (insert incorrect information here.)”  I felt that was unfair to everybody. If I’m wrong, please tell me so I can fix it.

If you know you’re wrong, guaranteed someone else knows you’re wrong, too. I’ve heard people don’t like to admit they’re wrong because they don’t want others to think they’re stupid. Let’s look at this a different way. If you’re wrong, and you know it, and you are going to defend your wrongness to the death, you aren’t going to fool everybody. So, that means the people who know you’re wrong, are probably going to think you’re not smart enough to know you’re wrong.

The other thing to consider is honesty. By insisting you’re right, you’re essentially lying. When you lie, people don’t trust you. The next time you feel the need to insist you’re right, people are going to have a hard time buying it. They may have let you’re insistence slide the last time (it’s exhausting to argue with someone who will not hear that they’re wrong), but you need to know that in “winning” that last round, you lost credibility.

I get that for some people winning is everything and they don’t care what anybody thinks of them. Well, I care. I want people to trust me. I want them to know they can have faith in what I’m saying. That also means if I’m not sure, I’ll say I’m not sure. If you think I’m wrong, I’m willing to hear what you’re saying. And if I accidentally gave you wrong information, I’m going to do my best to return to you and correct myself if possible.

This applies to sports as much as, if not more than, it does to business and real life. You’ve seen the athlete. Any call made against them is greeted with arms thrown in the air and an expression of total disbelief. Sometimes even a full-on grown-up temper tantrum. Do they really think that we’re going to believe that EVERY ref is gunning for them EVERY time? Yes, there are those refs. I’ve seen them, but it’s not every ref at every game. In contrast, some athletes accept the calls against them. They may not like that they got caught, but they know they were wrong and are willing to admit it. When these athletes respond negatively to a specific call, I’m more willing to believe it’s a real issue.

Personally, I’d rather be believed when I know I’m telling the truth, than get away with something when I know I’m wrong.

Before somebody calls me out, I have to add none of this applies to practical jokes. I have no problem flat out lying just to mess with someone. I once had students convinced I was really an 89-year-old black woman. I told them being stuck in a classroom with fluorescent lights had completely bleached me out and I’d had really great plastic surgery. That’s what they get for asking how old and what race I was.

 

 

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Turmeric Dye

I wanted sunshine bright fiber to felt orange soap. I looked at Farm School, and couldn’t find the color I was looking for, so I decided to make my own. Because I took a class in natural dyes. That makes me an expert, right? Yep.

Step 1: Start with fabulous white alpaca.

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Step 2: Add 1 c. water to a pot of water. Add alpaca, bring water to a slow simmer for 45 minutes. Continue to soak while making dye.

Step 3: Make dye.

This is where it got a little tricky. I have a photo copy of basic instructions, but all of a sudden I couldn’t remember the details. And I didn’t take good notes.

So, let’s try  a quarter cup of turmeric, 1 oz. of vinegar, and throw some water in there because it doesn’t look right. I was heating it, double-boiler style, in a mason jar. While that was doing its thing, I decided to call Dad. Then, all the water evaporated from the pot. That means, grab the pot and add more water.

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Yep, grabbed the pot by the handle and the side, with my finger. Then, the added water cracked the jar. This is exactly why I’m not making soap with lye, yet.

Moving on.

Step 3a: Make dye

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I have this thick, sludgy, turmeric stuff. Doesn’t look like dye to me. Let’s try something else.

Ste 4: Put not-dye in a pot and add a lot of water.

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Bring dye to a boil for about 30 minutes, then let steep for an hour.

I thought if I boiled it enough the turmeric would dissolve, but turmeric doesn’t dissolve. I repeated the dye and steep process 3 or 4 times, and the turmeric wouldn’t dissolve, but it did turn the water a pretty color, so I’m figuring this step is done.

Step 5: Drain dye through cheesecloth in a sieve. This gives you the dye, without the turmeric gunk.

Step 6: Drain and rinse the vinegary alpaca.

Step 7: Soak alpaca in dye. Bring dye to a slow simmer for about 30 minutes. This is supposed to set the color. Don’t boil the dye or the fiber will felt and you’ll have a pretty-colored brillo pad on your hands.

The soak-simmer-steep-set-simmer-soak-etc process took most of the day. That’s ok because I was working on another project, ran out of yarn, and had to spin up another skein. (I just wanted to throw that in there, because I get a kick out of the fact that I can do that.)

I let the alpaca soak in the dye overnight. Partly because the day was over, and partly because I didn’t feel like figuring out what to do next.

Step 8: Pull fiber out of dye and drain.

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Squeeze dye out of fiber, then soak in cold water. I put it in a nylon laundry bag and let it set in the cold water about 30 minutes. This takes out the excess color.

Step 9: Lay fiber out to dry.

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I really love this color! The fiber came out a little felted, but that’s ok. Once it’s dry I’ll run it through the carder, and it will be a beautiful fluff of yellow.

I bought a book, “Colours from Nature” by Jenny Dean. It arrived while I was guessing my way through this project, but I’ll use it next time. If you’re interested in natural dyeing, you can find the book at my Amazon store.

http://astore.amazon.com/redmwood-20

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Picking Up Chicks

It’s chick season! While the rest of the country may think chicks come at Easter, farm folk know they come in February. The internet has been abuzz with people anxiously awaiting chick deliveries. This was the week!

It’s enough of an event here, we even invited the kids to meet us at the feed store. Reta Jean came and picked out her favorite. She told Carly she was excited to pick out chickens. And take them home. And eat them. These chicks are all for eggs, but it shows that Reta Jean is a natural farm girl. Maybe I’ll let her raise the meat birds later on.

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People pick their chicks for any number of reasons. Some people pick out the cutest chicks. Others pick based on which will be the prettiest chickens. People like us pick based on egg color. Yeah, it’s all very scientific. We want the chickens that will lay different color eggs.0206151154a

We don’t want white eggs. We could buy white eggs at the store. No fun there. We like the pretty blue and brown eggs. This year we got Ameraucanas for their blue eggs and Marans for their dark brown eggs. We’re hoping for a variety of blues and browns, but there really is no way to know until they start laying. We’re also hoping for all hens. These are labeled female, but sometimes a rooster sneaks in. At least this year we know if a hen starts crowing, it’s not just a really loud hen. See? We’re getting good at this.

As soon as we got them home, Tori had to make friends with them. It’s pretty impossible to look at new chicks, and not have the overwhelming urge to pick them up. It’s also easier to pick them up and bond with them one at a time. When you have a dozen chicks in one place, they get really loud!

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The dogs are all really good with the animals, but we’re always careful. When new animals come home, the dogs are always introduced. Peanut actually went with us to get them, but Socks was very interested in meeting them.

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We’ll be making a few more chick pickups throughout the season. Charlie wants meat chickens and turkeys, but I think ducks for eggs are next. Reta Jean is already working on picking them out.

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Field Trip – Farm School! (Country Living Expo)

You know you’re in for a fun day when you’re greeted at the entrance with alpacas and a llama, and find chicks in the gymnasium.0131150831a

The official name is the “Country Living Expo and Cattlemen’s Winter School,” but we just call it Farm School. Charlie and I attended for the first time last year, and couldn’t wait to enroll again this year. I overheard some comments about the classes being “basic” and “for beginners.” That’s just perfect for us.

When we attended last year, we had a large empty yard, a vague idea what we wanted to do, and not much of an idea how to make it work. This year, we fall into the “somewhat experienced” category. On the way home, Charlie and I were both proud of ourselves that we were able to answer questions and contribute to conversations, instead of sitting, completely clueless.

I took Beginning Beekeeping, Natural Dyeing, and Cheesemaking. Even though there were 5 sessions, the Bees and Cheese classes were two sessions each. Charlie took Meat Chickens, Growing Ulluco, Greenhouses 101, Intro to Turkeys, and Tractor Attachments(but the instructor for this one was MIA).

I’ve read a lot about beekeeping and have gotten no less confused. Bee people talk about all their bee specific stuff, and none of it has made much sense to me. After my class, I feel like we can pursue beekeeping, and have a chance of being successful. I learned how to set up a hive, what all the parts are called (I’ve forgotten already, but I’ll recognize the names when I see them), and the roles of the different bees. Bees can’t be delivered via post office, or any other delivery service, so they need to be picked up at their location. Washington doesn’t have a bee supplier. Our teacher told us that people in Washington who want bees, need to make arrangements with suppliers in California, and organize runs to pick them up. She said it’s not unusual to meet people in parking lots or on roadsides to deliver their bee orders. Sounds like suspicious drug deals, but we were assured it’s totally legal. So, here’s hoping we have fresh honey next summer!

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In natural dyeing, we learned how to take roots, weeds, fruit, flowers, leaves – whatever – and turn them into dyes. Once things start blooming around here, I’m going to be out picking and prepping everything to see what kind of colors I can come up with. We were advised to keep notes on what we picked and how we prepared it, so we would know how to replicate any results we like. Since I don’t know what a lot of the plants around here are called, I figure I’ll just have to make yarn samples, put them in a ziploc bag, and attach them to whatever plant I got the color from. I don’t know. I’ll have to figure out something. I know I want to try dandelions, blackberries, sunflowers, and bark. At the end of the class, we even got to play with different dyes, adding vinegar or washing soda, and testing out how the colors would change. A little bit of Chemistry 101, but WAY more fun than it was in school. Look at all the pretty colors:

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I’ve made mozzarella and ricotta cheese, but haven’t tried the hard cheeses. All the recipes calling for different starters, molds, cultures, draining, and presses were just too much for me to process. So, here’s the secret to cheese: whatever you do, you’ll end up with cheese! It may not be the cheese you intended, but it will be cheese. Your basic ingredients of milk and rennet don’t change. The difference is how hot it gets, how long it’s hot, what you add to it, and how much moisture is removed by the press. The pressure and aging time affect the hardness and sharpness of the cheese. Fortunately, I don’t have to wait for sunshine and springtime to make more cheese. I’m ordering all those confusing ingredients and will be getting to work.

I know many of you don’t live where there is a farm school. Or, maybe you do, and you just don’t know it yet. Just for fun, I’ve added the class descriptions for everybody to check out. The whole program is presented by the Washington State University Extension program.

http://ext100.wsu.edu/skagit/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2014/04/Expo-class-descriptions.pdf

We have no idea what we’ll sign up for next year, but we’re well on our way to expanding our homesteading skills this year.