Thursday, January 2, 2014

New Year - New Goals

Happy New Year to all!

Except for the weather I generally like the start of a new year.  I'm always optimistic about how much better I'll do THIS year at meeting my goals.  I changed over to the new calendar, putting notes on dates each month about this birthday or that anniversary, the start and end dates of lambing, fiber festivals, when to have tax forms and such ready to be mailed..... in general, just getting mentally ready to take on the year.

We have quite a few changes in mind for things here.  Nothing dire, but setting in motion events that will impact us five, ten and more years in the future.  The main thing is that I'm going to breed many fewer sheep and do much less of the freezer lamb trade.  I've never liked it but as the flock was being expanded - and hopefully made better by keeping only the best lambs each year - there were lambs that didn't fit into the plan.  Rather than consign them to the evil uncertainly of the sale barn (and take a financial beating in the process) we decided to market them ourselves.  This has proved to be do-able but it's eating up way too much of our time and energy.  I'll concentrate on the Cotswold flock and breed the best of them each year, but all the crossbreds are done reproducing.  They can stay and be fiber sheep and leave the flock with time but they won't be replaced.  The point is to give us (me) more time to work with the wool, which was my whole plan from the beginning.

To that end, I treated myself to invested in a new piece of equipment....... a Fancy Kitty "Little Tom Wide" drum carder. 

I chose the motorized version because I hope to produce ridiculous quantities of spinning batts and a crank just wasn't going to cut it for me.
The instructions advise to run dark fiber through the first few times because there is sometimes metal dust residue on the carding cloth that will show up on light fiber.  No problem.  I have Cotswold roving in Twilight Time colorway and black alpaca which I planned to blend together as my learning exercise.  I also had some silk and a bit of glittery white firestar to add in for fun. (I didn't use the green glittery fiber nor the creamy silk, just the dyed silk and firestar).

I had washed the alpaca recently but hadn't picked it.  I thought that if I picked it by hand the carder could handle it, then I would take and blend it with the other fibers in a second pass through.
I had it on super slow and there was no problem at all.  The motor is totally silent and has a dial for speed that allows you infinite settings.  Just breathe on it and you can hear the speed adjust.  The first batt I did was 3.5 ounces and came out exactly as I had hoped.

In all, I had about 7 ounces of Cotswold, 5.5 ounces of alpaca and an ounce of dyed silk.  I used the firestar sparingly and maybe used a quarter of an ounce.

I divided everything into four fairly equal piles, each with the same proportion of each type of fiber.  In future I will use at least 50% Cotswold in all batts (because Cotswold is AWESOME!) but I needed dark fiber and the alpaca won the honor. 
I spent a couple very happy hours learning the machine, the process and handling fiber.  I have to say, I was doing a fair impersonation of Meg Ryan from "When Harry Met Sally" as I pulled the batts off the big drum.  :-D
Tomorrow..... the batts!!


  1. Wow what a fun looking piece of equipment and cold winter days would be a perfect time to use it. Just looked at your temp on the side bar, I don't know how everyone copes with temps below freezing and animals and chores ..... Here I am whining about 30 degrees at night and 60 during the day .... really only thing I have to whine about is no rain, no rain equals no pasture, no pasture, means calling the hay hauler again. By now I should only be supplementing pasture with hay.

  2. That looks great! Will be fun to see what you put together :-).