I recently dove down a rabbit hole of handspinning wheels when I was sitting at my Ashford Kiwi wheel thinking to myself, why does the yarn on my bobbin look all wrong? Now keep in mind that this was my first spinning wheel, the wheel I spun on for years, but as of recently I mainly use it as the wheel I ply yarn on. Well there was a reason the yarn looked different. Not because it was wrong but as I found out thru research simply because of the type of wheel it is.
I could not believe how much I didn't know about my wheels and want to share a little of what I learned with you here. Let's start with the basics, there are 3 main types of spinning wheel when it comes to mechanics.
1. Single Drive, Flyer lead or Scotch Tension wheels
This is the most commonly used type of wheel. The Scotch tension wheel, as it is often called, allows for the most adjustments making it able to spin a lot of different yarn weights.
2. Double Drive wheels
This type of wheel has the ability to spin the finest yarns. This is also the most complex of the wheel types.
3. Single Drive, Bobbin lead wheels
This type of wheel is very simple but also the most difficult to make adjustments to.
I have garnered a lot of my information from a very comprehensive book called The Big Book of Handspinning by Alden Amos. This book is densely filled with all the information you may ever need to know about the craft.
So there you have it. A brief introduction into different spinning wheel mechanics! Please keep in mind that these 3 types come in all different shapes, sizes and styles. If you aren't sure what kind of wheel you have, sit down and take a look at how many band loops you have and where they are c onnected? This should help you answer the question. I also walk step by step thru the wheels in Episode 22 of Being Ewethful on YouTube. I will be going more in depth with each wheel over the coming months so please stay tuned for more videos that I hope will help you on your handspinning journey.
What kind of wheel(s) do you have? What is your favorite and/or what wheel do you long to own one day? I would love to hear from you!
Have you been thinking about buying a raw fleece for processing into yarn but been nervous about what to look for? I just came back from a big wool buy in Eastern Oregon and it got me to thinking about what tips I could share with you about how I pick my fleeces. So here are some of my top tips to help you feel more confident about finding quality wool.
Before you head out to the farm or festival to buy that fleece, there are a couple things to consider. ..
First off is the offer of "free" wool. I always take pause when I am offered free wool. Generally free wool is offered by people that have the animals for reasons other than the fiber and therefore they aren't raising the animals with the wool in mind. Often times this wool has issues such as loads of vegetable matter, excess mud, was not shorn with care or even just hasn't been stored well. Obviously this is not always the case, but worth taking note. Conversely, just because it is for sale does not make it great wool. So dig in and make sure you are getting what you want.
Another thing to consider before buying a fleece is how are you going to process it? Are you going to do it yourself with handcards, combs, or your own carding machine? Or are you planning to send it to a mill for processing? Different breeds fleeces tend to do better with different processing types and even different mills. Make sure you know how you are going to turn this wool into yarn before you buy so that you can narrow your search a bit and that once purchased, the fleece doesn't just sit untouched in a corner.
Now that you have that all figured out, its time to shop! Here are my top tips to purchasing a quality fleece.
1. Check for wool moths. When you open the bag to look at the fleece make sure there are no wool moths or larvae visible. The larva of wool moths eat at the fiber effectively damaging it so I would recommend passing on wool with signs of moths. It is also polite to mention the moths to the seller so they can dispose of the fleece. Here is a quick reference link on wool moths but you can find an abundance of information with a quick google search. And please take note that all moths are not the same and most do not eat wool so it is good to know what you are looking for.
2. Gently open the fleece up and dig in a little bit. Be courteous and don't rip the fiber apart. But it should be ok to take a sneak peek inside the fleece and maybe pull a couple locks from different areas. Fleeces generally are rolled with the cut end showing. The cut end generally looks very clean so it is important to get a good look inside the fleece to determine if you like the fiber.
3. Check the amount of vegetable matter. Coated fleeces should have minimal VM (vegetable matter). Pasture raised animals also tend to have minimal VM. Prices often vary dependent on this so if you are patient with picking, you may be able to get a good deal on a fleece with a little more vegetable matter. This is totally up to you the buyer to decide what is acceptable. I generally don't mind moderate vegetable matter, but if the whole barn floor is in the fleece, I pass! If you are going to send the fleece to a mill, you should definitely pick out the VM prior to drop off.
4. Do the snap test. Take a lock of the wool out and holding your fingers at each end of the lock, hold the lock up by your ear and do a quick motion with the lock to stretch it. A strong fleece should make a clear pop sound. A weaker fleece may sound a little crackled or even break on the snap test. A solid pop is want you for ease of processing.
5. Test the tips. Again look at that lock this time looking at the tips. If they look a little frizzled, you can take the tips between your fingers and give a little tug. A strong fleece will stay together, a fleece with weak tips may break off. You may still be able to gently hand process this fleece at home, but if you are looking to have it milled be aware the tips may break off during processing.
Well there you have it, some of the top things I look at when I'm on a wool buy! When in doubt a good fiber farmer will always be able to offer advice and even point you in the right direction so it never hurts to as for help! I hope this helps a bit with your next fleece purchase. Please feel free to comment below and/or ask any questions. I am always glad to help!
And then the rain came...
A storm came in last night bringing the first rain we have had in months. I heard it all thru the night, a sound that seems so unfamiliar now but oh so welcome! I usually get up before Mitch, the dogs and I wander out for morning potties and down to the barns to let the animals out for the day. Then its back to the house to prepare breakfast and lunches for the day, do laundry, and carry on with daily chores and work. But today I came back into the house, made coffee, grabbed my knitting and sat. I sat in the big leather chair with the lambskin thrown over it by our big front window. The very chair that has been beckoning me all summer to come sit for a bit. It was gloriously quiet and so luxurious.
Before moving to the agricultural world rain didn't play the same role in my life as it plays now. There was a time before when it seemed more like drudgery. That was before it had such an effect our livelihood. Before I understood it is what feeds our crops and animals and in turn us. Before I truly understood that our climate is changing. I'll admit there was a time when I took our beloved PNW rain for granted.
Now as I sit I appreciate what the first rain does, it brings with it an exhale. I could see it this morning in the grass seed fields and in the pastures which went from loose dirt to damp dark soil. I could see it in the animals as they ran to me for morning kibble, not having to breath in the dry and particulates they normally have been kicking up along the way. I could see it in a farmer I know who slept a wink longer than normal having heard the rain come in overnight. And for us makers, for me as a maker, the rain brings a chance to sit. A chance to breathe deep, a chance to wrap myself in wool, a chance to be inspired by nature's reinvigoration and a chance to let that inspiration flow as I think about what my hands will make and write this coming winter. Gratitude times a million for these moments!
Wherever you are I would love to hear what the first rain of the season means to you? Do you have a favorite spot to watch the rain from? Have you been able to sit and have that moment of inspiration yet?
Hi everyone! It's been a hot minute since I've been here but here I am! In the midst of running in all the directions for the business and farm (while being sure to take a little down time) I kept thinking, I really need to sit down and blog. So finally! This morning I went and picked up the new chickens to the farm. They are all settled in for the day so it seemed a perfect time to sit myself down and write.
I got back from a road trip to California last week (I'm fully vaccinated!) which involved a lot of time alone in the car. I listened to endless business podcasts from how to market, manage your money or just stories of other entrepreneurs. I love this stuff, weird as it is. I love hearing about how others came up with their ideas and the different ways we all go thru the same struggles to make it work. This is especially fascinating to me as I work on transitioning the business along with the pivots that have come with the last year.
I've talked a bit on the Being Ewethful vlog on YouTube about starting to move the mill in a different direction. My long term goal when I purchased the equipment and started the Mill was to eventually have our own line of Ewethful yarns and fibers for handspinners. We are now getting to the point in the business where financially I can start to take a little step back from processing for others and work more on our own product. The reality is that when I process for others, they pay me as soon as the job is done. Conversely, with our own product, not only do I go thru the work of making the product but I then also have to sell that product to make any money. If nothing sells, no money is made. So there is a little leap of faith and a lot of work going into this transition!
Ok ok so with all this transition and change and 4 years into Ewethful, it seemed the right time to come up with a new mission statement. I've been working on this for the past couple months but just wasn't quite getting what I wanted. Then right before the road trip I listened to a podcast that had a guest who was talking about mission statements. There was about a minute of the interview where the woman said a couple things that hit me. I actually listened to it several times and even wrote notes on what she said. I took all of this, scratched most of my previous drafts and let my brain clear and think on the road. Then I started reading the book Primal Branding by Patrick Hanlon and within 10 pages I read another companies mission statement and it just clicked in my brain. So I sat down in my Mom's dining room by the beach and wrote it up. She read thru it a couple times with me. We sent it off to Mitch and he texted back "Perfect." Finally! So what is our new mission statement? Hopefully its a bit bold, a bit inspiring and it tells a bit of where the business is headed....
Our mission at Ewethful Fiber Mill is to fill making hands with small batch American grown yarns and fibers. We strive to produce lightly processed products that maintain their character, have low environmental impact and tell the stories of the animals and shepherds from whence they came.
So there it is! I'd love to hear your thoughts so please comment below.
Thank you as always for reading and supporting Ewethful. I hope you all have the privilege of being fully vaccinated (or are close) and get to hug the ones you love so very soon!
Please note I will be vending live and in person in Scio, Oregon at the Fat Lamb Fiber Festival. It is May 22nd, 10am - 6pm. A small event but full of fibers, yarns and excitement. Follow the link for more details. Click here for details.
What else would I write about but lambs this week! And what a week it has been! I have the greatest appreciation for the work that goes into lambing on a larger scale.
For us it is a smaller endeavor as we only bred four of our ewes back in November. The way this works is that you put your ram in with the girls for about a month and let them do their work. The reason you leave them together for a month is hopefully to catch the girls cycling twice during the month, allowing for a better chance of conception. Then you wait.
Gestation for a pregnant ewe is about 145 days - give or take a few days either way. So you do the math. We do not track when our ewes are mounted so we generally go 145 day from the first day they were with the rams and count forward since we don't know exactly when they "did the deed." From that date forward you know you have about a month window in which you should lamb if they are pregnant.
Our girl Taraji lambed first about two weeks into that month lambing period. She has lambed for us before and it was almost the exact same situation. No signs of anyone in labor so I went off to work. I had some idea she had lambed when I pulled into the property because the other girls were all out to pasture and she was alone tucked away in the shed. I walked down the hill and sure enough a lamb head popped up next to her. There is nothing cuter than that!
Once the lamb is on the ground you want to put mama and baby into their own private space or "Jug" so they can have alone bonding time. It also allows you to closely monitor if baby is nursing well and if mom is recovering well and doing her duties. Mitch built the jugs into a barn stall a couple months ago so we were all set. To get them in there you pick up the baby, hold it low to the ground so mama can see where it is, and start walking showing her her lamb the whole time. Good moms get pretty fired up and follow. Occasionally they lose sight of them so you put the baby back on the ground, wait for mom to catch up, and onward. Once in the jug mom can relax a bit knowing her and her baby are in a safe space.
Little Johnny Rose as we called Taraji's baby, was born on March 24th and it was a whole week before the next girl went into labor. Drilla is the first ewe we purchased and has never lambed before. She was a whole different story. She isolated herself the evening before she actually went into true labor so we started watching her as soon as this happened. It wasn't until the afternoon of the following day that she really started into big contractions and real pushing. It went on way too long and after too long of having seen hooves first appear I realized I may have to pull the baby. Trust me, I begged and pleaded with whomever to please let her deliver on her own. No joke, I was terrified. I called Mitch and told him what was going on so he headed home. Just after that I finally saw a nose. Good sign. But she was obviously struggling to get the head out any further after many large contractions. Once I realized the amniotic sac was broken I thought "oh s*** I've got to do this." Truth is I thought at this point the baby was dead. I wasn't sure when the sac broke but with out it and with the baby's nose occasionally popping back inside mom between contractions, I knew I had to end this for Drilla either way. So I put on some gloves, tackled her and reached for those tiny hooves. I blew on little ones nose and saw the tongue move. This was all I needed to truly know it was time to come out. Once I had Drilla she gave in and as I started to pull I could feel her body relax a little. She was so tired and it was obvious immediately that she was happy for the help. Luckily I had gone to lambing school at Iron Water Ranch back in the early part of the year so felt as prepared as I could. I pulled the lamb out past the shoulders and then let Drilla finish. An all black lamb fell out and was alive!!! He immediately started wiggling and trying to get up. Yes!!! I put my sister Heather on a video call and she got to watch the end. My mom watched it later and was just amazed by how quickly he started trying to get up. Just about as soon as they hit the ground, a healthy lamb will be trying to stand and walk to find mom and nurse. For these guys in nature, if you can't get up and walk, you aren't going to make it. So that is the Drilla story!
Then came the others quick after that. The following day I noticed labor signs in Sweet Pea or Big Mama as we call her when she is pregnant. This was her third time lambing so we felt confident in her. Watch and wait. Her daughter Cream Puff was also pregnant but for her it was the first time. We pulled them up to the top of the pasture that night and started the regular barn checks. Mitch called me about 1am and said "we have babies!" The true shock when I ran down was that it wasn't Big Mama, but her daughter Cream Puff who had delivered. And even more shocking than her having twins (2 boys) was that one baby was black with a white head and the other one black and white. Both of these ewes are white and both our rams are pretty light so I didn't think I had a chance of dark sheep. Wahoo!!!! I was so proud of her for being such a good mama from the start!
Into a jug they went and since Big Mama was obviously in labor we pulled her into the barn. Hourly barn checks continued. Around 6am I walked in and there were two fresh lambs with an attentive mom licking away. A white girl and a black girl with a fluffy white head. Where the heck did all these black sheep come from?! Genetics are a crazy thing!
So here we are, two days from the last lambs being born. Patrick, the little black sheep with the rough delivery has been having some diarrhea and was a little less energetic so I have been giving him a lot of extra supportive care. Diarrhea can turn quickly if they get dehydrated. This morning at barn check he was the first lamb to pop up, stretch and nurse. Yay!!! And all the other lambs and moms looked good and healthy so I refreshed waters and food and left the barn with my first sense of relief in weeks.
Hopefully from here on out our job will mostly be to watch, clean and enjoy the spring lamb cuteness. We still need to vaccinate and I will slowly be banding the boys (castrating) over the next couple days but the rest their moms can take care of. We will not be lambing for several years now so we will be keeping all these babies. Plus how could I not with the lovely fleeces to come!!! Yay for my mamas for being rockstars!
I'll be posting a Ewethful Minisode tomorrow on YouTube with endless lambs so if you need to just sit and watch lambs, watch for it on Saturday!
Thank you for visiting the blog and supporting Ewethful!!! Enjoy the photos and take care everyone.
Who doesn't love a good giveaway?! If you are here you likely watched Episode 8 of the Being Ewethful vlog. Thank you so much for watching and for coming to check out the blog site.
There will be one winner who gets to pick either 4oz of handspinning fiber from our March fiber club or a skein of our latest Yarn Club yarn. If you watched the podcast, you'll know what the fiber and yarns look like. I didn't post pics quite yet as I don't want to spoil the surprise for any club members that haven't seen them yet. A special gift will be included as well!
To enter to win all you have to do is comment below. To make it easier I would love your feedback. I have been toying with the idea of breaking the podcast up into shorter segments that I would publish maybe twice a week instead of all in one long episode. I would likely float between the main topics: the farm, the mill, fiber and yarn. As the weather starts to shift and the world starts to open up a bit, I wonder if shorter episodes might be easier for you viewers? Or maybe you love the big long one once every two weeks? Any input would be appreciated. Or just comment hi to enter. No pressure.
Only one entry per person. Winner will be chosen at random. Entries will be closed end of day (in Oregon) on Wednesday March 17th. Please note I will comment here on the blog to the winner. If you would like to be kept in the loop you may want to mark that you would like to be notified if a response is made to your comment - simply check the box when you comment. Or check back in on Thursday the 18th to see if you have won.
Thank you all so much for watching, reading, buying and supporting in any way you do.
A couple weeks ago I innocently walked into Eugene Textile Center to grab a couple of new dye colors since I was in the neighborhood. I started talking to one of the employees and asked about this little weaving loom that was sitting on the table. We talked about it for a brief moment and I stared at it thinking, well that's just regular wool yarn that is on the loom and it is pretty small so doesn't take up a lot of room. Then I left.
Later that night I looked up rigid heddle looms, as I had learned that style of loom was called. They were affordable for that smaller size, right around $200 - which after being a handspinner seemed like a deal! I mentioned the loom to Mitch then asked my Mom a few questions about weaving as she is a weaver herself. Cool, now I know.
It took about 2 weeks before I finally broke. I just couldn't get that loom out of my head. I ran thru all the pros; It would afford me a chance to use up so much of the excess yarns I have, it is fairly quick to work up scarves and other small items I could then sell as finished products, and it was a great way to showcase Ewethful yarns. Cons? Well of course there were none! So back to ETC I went. I asked about that little loom and they grabbed it, took me to a side table and showed me the basics of weaving... and told me to hang out and play! They know what they are doing, wink wink. Actually they were amazing and so helpful. They took the time to answer my questions and when I hemmed and hawed about which one to order, they steered me in the right direction for me. I ordered a 16" Ashford SampleIt loom.
A couple days later the loom arrived, we put it together at home which was an easy task, and then it was time to "warp" the loom. I had been nervous about this part of the process, but between the instruction booklet that came with the loom and the youtube videos put out by Ashford it too was a piece of cake. Next I wound my working yarn onto the shuttle and off I went! Now of course there is a lot to learn. As with knitting and crocheting, you can keep weaving simple or you can go in deep making all sorts of different patterns, textiles and finished items. The possibilities are truly endless and it is so exciting to think all the potential.
How deep will I go into weaving? Time will tell. I do love that you can work up finished items fairly quickly which means I can go thru a lot of yarn! I also love how the colors work up so differently with each other vs. in knitting, and I love the new to me flat fabric weaving works up. I have heard countless times from knitters or crocheters that they are intrigued by learning a new craft but are worried it will take time away from their current craft. The truth is that yes it will if you love it. But if you love it wouldn't you rather know! That is how I feel about learning to weave. Yes it does take time away from my knitting and spinning, but that's ok! These are all hobbies and the point is to relax and enjoy the process in what time you want to give. Knowing multiple crafts also allows you to take breaks which are good for your mind and body as well.
So what's my point? If you are feeling that itch to learn a new craft... go for it! What's the worst that happens, you love it!!!
Take care everyone and stay healthy out here.
I spent yesterday watching the Inauguration, crying happy tears, and dyeing up some yarn. Why not? Inspiration was there and you have to grab it where you can! A couple days ago I posted some pictures of a newly dyed multi-colored Prineville base yarn and an Instagram friend asked what technique I had used. The blog seemed a great place to show the technique as I dyed up some of our freshly spun Shetland yarn yesterday. I learned this technique from watching a video with Sarah Eyre. It is so interesting watching, listening and learning from to other dyers.
I am using natural yarn (untreated with the superwash process) which adds an extra challenge to dyeing as it doesn't take up the dye as immediately or saturate as easily as treated wools do. I have noticed that with our well water, heat is a crucial factor in dyeing up my wools. The best saturation seems to take place at higher temperature points. So for this technique I placed the yarn in a citric acid/water mixture and brought the temperature up right away, then lowered it a bit for the dyeing process. A high level of citric acid in the water allows the yarn to take up the dye quickly which is necessary for this technique. Time for dye! I like to start with the color I really want to make sure stays in tact which for this yarn was the blue. I sporadically placed it about the 2 skeins of yarn and let it soak in for a minute.
I brought the heat back up and once it appeared most of the dye exhausted (meaning the yarn has pick up the dye so the water is clear) I individually pulled the skeins out of the water for a moment to examine and see if there were spots I'd like to fix. Once I'm happy I let the yarn heat for a few more minutes before turning off the heat.
Last step is to let the water cool completely before pulling the yarn out. Generally I leave it overnight.
So there you have it! These lovelies will be up in our shop on Friday! The multi-colored is called "Almost Eve" on our Shetland base yarn. The solid blue pictured up top is also on the Shetland base and is called "Moment of Silence."
Thank you as always for reading and supporting Ewethful!!! Please stay safe, wear a mask and take care of your fellow humans!
Back in the days when the shop and Mill space were open to shopping, classes and fiber group meet-ups, I had a list of "Rules." Don't panic, they were rules meant to help maintain a positive vibe and space for creativity.
The very first was "Please leave your politics outside our front door." The reason I made this rule was to maintain an open creative space that could serve as a break from what was going on outside. My goal was to welcome all people to the mill, regardless of political affiliations and beliefs, and to allow them to feel safe from being singled out or made to feel as if they didn't belong. For the most part this has worked although over the last 4 years I'll admit that if we all were on the same page politically, the conversations happened and they were fierce and sometimes tinged with a bit of fear.
If you've been following me on social media you likely have noticed by now that I have voiced my opinion on multiple issues over the last year. Why the shift? Why put my business at risk of losing clients? Especially in an industry that leans toward the conservative side? Well here's the thing, to me civil and human rights are not fundamentally political, they are the most basic of rights. It seems so simple but obviously not to all.
I believe that since I am using social media as a free platform to grow my business, I should also use it as a platform to voice equality and inclusivity for all. My business is a part of me and therefore my core values are a part of it. I have stopped supporting businesses that are touting what to me amounts to racism and/or support of a President who has given racism, hate, and now insurrection a loud voice in our country again. Ewethful has been and will continue to be about creativity, support, acceptance and respect. All of that said, racism and hate will never be tolerated within my business walls or on my social media pages. These core values will be added to the new "Rules" in the Mill.
Speak up. Step up. Vote and appreciate that our democracy is indeed fragile. Choose love not hate.
If you are still with my business, thank you!!! I appreciate you all so much!!!
Stay safe, for the love of all wear a mask because science is real and please take care of your fellow humans.
Can you believe next week is Christmas? And you know what I should be doing? Christmas knitting! But guess what, I'm not. Hahaha! Although after frogging (the nice way to say ripping) back two times on the same spot of my knitting, I was pretty ready to put it in time out. But reality, I was the one who needed a time out. It got me to thinking, why do we make these mistakes while we are knitting or making in general? I mean we are generally following a pattern right?
The easiest thing to do would be to blame the pattern? I mean there must be an update to the pattern about a mistake I didn't see right? In this case (and in most cases) that didn't work. There is lace work in this pattern for about 6 rows and then you go back to regular knit and purl with an increase here and there. You would think I would mess up on the lace? Nope. The pattern is well written and has charts that are quite accurate. So I chose to mess up on the regular old knitting parts that needed an increase 2-4 times per row. Really? The best part is after ripping back I just could not seem to get my count right to fix it.
So why do we do this? And I'm not talking about beginners, that is expected. I'm talking about those of use who have been knitting for years. When I'm cruising thru Instagram I see endless posts of us all sharing our frogging misery. It's not just me. And not just little mistakes, sometimes we are ripping back inches of work or even worse, all the way to the beginning.
I looked at the pattern yet again and said to myself, well why the hell didn't I just check my count when the designer put what the stitch count should be? I included a picture of this point in the pattern. The yellow highlight is where I should have stopped and counted my stitches but instead I plowed thru and was on the row AFTER the orange highlighted section and guess what, the lace pattern wasn't working out because my stitch count was off. Aarrgh. And I of course messed up way back at row 11.
My round about way of getting to the point is that for me I seem to make my mistakes mainly for two reasons, I'm not paying enough attention and I'm too busy plowing thru to stop and take the time to read and make sure I'm where I should be. I'm guessing that for most of you, it may be similar reasons? It seems so silly right? I'm knitting to relax and de-stress yet for some reason I don't seem to be able to relax enough to enjoy the whole process. To pay attention to the pattern and to appreciate all that the designer has done to try to help me avoid these mistakes.
So moving forward I am going to make a concerted effort to really slow down and pay attention to the whole practice of knitting (or making of any sort). Read the pattern before I start. Pay close attention to key spots where the designer is telling me to watch what I'm doing, and count more! It's ok to slow down, this is for fun afterall. A 2021 goal or new years resolution of sorts. Reality, I could probably take this approach on just about everything in life right!
I would love to hear if you are prone to making similar types of mistakes and why you think you are making them? Or maybe your mistakes are totally different? Either way please share!
Thank you for reading and sharing and don't forget to count when you are told! I hope you are having a wonderful and healthy holiday season!!!
I am Kim Biegler, the owner and operator of Ewethful Fiber Farm & Mill. I create hand spinning fibers from locally sourced wool and teach others online how to hand spin their own yarn.