Have We Any Wool?

Yes, lots more than three bags full- probably more like twenty!

The lambs were shorn yesterday, and I got twelve pretty fleeces off them. Including the ones from when the ewes were shorn back in the spring, we have a lot of fleeces to clean and send off to be milled into roving.

The lambs all look pretty silly with their new haircuts, and the really funny thing is that they no longer recognize each other, so ever since the shearer left there has been a lot of baa-ing.

A couple of the lambs have figured out that minus their wool coats they can now squeeze through the space between the gate and the gatepost.   I found this guy on the lawn outside my studio.

Here is a selection of the raw fleece colours. I think they are lovely, and the raw wool is incredibly soft to the touch.

Black Border-Leicester- Blue Faced Leicester cross

Blue Faced Leicester – Jacob (and unknown) cross

Blue Faced Leicester
Hand spinning wool is the closet thing I have to a hobby. I like to work at my wheel in the winter when labour on the farm slows down a bit and it’s too cold to do much outdoors. At least, I liked to spin wool until a certain cat chewed up the drive band on my spinning wheel. Yes, I’m talking about you, Kevin. Oh, and by the way, Kevin is a girl…which is kind of a long story. I must remember to get that drive band replaced before winter!
Doesn’t she look pleased with herself?

Get Out Your Woolies

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while will know that in addition to my work in the the art studio, my husband and I also run a mixed farm of some forty acres. And on this farm we have some vegetables, small fruit, chickens, turkeys, ducks and, of course, our famous flock of sheep. Famous flock of sheep? If you don’t believe our sheep are famous, just ask the neighbours. Maybe infamous would be a better description.  I mean the sheep, not the neighbours.

When I have a little spare time, I work with the wool  which we have in bountiful supply from our Border Leicester ewes. I like to spin the wool and I like to knit, although I am not especially adept at either. Still, it’s the closest thing I have to a hobby. Through keeping the sheep and working with their wool, I have also met a number of interesting and talented people. One of these people is Johanne Ratelle of L’Ourse Qui Danse alpaca ranch in Godmanchester, Quebec.
Johanne has been buying some of our wool clip to blend with her alpaca fiber. So when I received the invitation to attend the opening of an exhibition featuring the workings and wares of L’Ourse Qui Danse, of course I had to see what Johanne and her business partner/co-pilot Chantal were up to. And they have been up to quite a lot!
This huge contraption is a nineteenth century barn loom.

Some of Johanne’s beautiful weaving.

Skeins like candy!

More handiwork.

And more skeins- these with natural dyes and a detailed explanation of dye plants, materials, and mordants. The mustard yellow colour of the shawl below left was produced with onion skins. 

The red and candy pink dyes are made with cochineal. Yes folks, that’s ground up dead bugs. Sounds gross, looks great!

Below is super talented handspinner and knitter Amanda Carrigan giving a spinning demo on her nifty little portable wheel.

I feel the overwhelming urge to knit! Or spin! Or both!

Vive le vent d’hiver!

Alright I confess. I love winter. I suppose this puts me firmly in the minority among my fellow countrymen and women, but there you have it. You might think that in a country where we have winter for at least four and a half months of the year people would get used to the weather and learn to enjoy it. Sadly this is not the case. To confess to loving winter is a bit like saying you love paying taxes: people generally look at you like you’re out of your mind. These are things to be endured, not enjoyed and, whenever possible, to be avoided completely. And yet, strangely enough, when you ask Canadians what makes them Canadian as opposed to American (or something else) the answer is almost always: a) our insanely cold, snowy weather, b) a love of hockey, and c) our social programs. There you have it folks: Winter, a winter sport played on ice, and taxes. Welcome to Canada!

I think it’s a Norwegian saying that goes: There is no bad weather, only bad clothing. I’m in full agreement. If you’re properly dressed, you don’t feel the cold. My sheep don’t seem to mind the cold one bit and will go out in almost any weather. Nature has kindly equipped them with water resistant wool coats to keep them warm and dry. I have been busy knitting their wool into useful woolen hats, socks and mittens for us to use. Bye-bye cold ears, toes, and fingers!
What’s on the Easel

During the holidays I find it almost impossible to get any serious artwork done. Most of my creative energy goes into baking. For the past couple of weeks my mornings, evenings and afternoons have been measured out not in coffee spoons, but in cookie and bread dough. If I’m not producing any artistic masterpieces, at least we are well fed.

Here is a winter landscape from last year. This one is entitled “Bush Road”, 24X20 oil on canvas.

© 2008 Alyson Champ

Happy New Year!