Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Fiber Festival of New England

My Booth at The Fiber Festival of New England

What a great weekend it was!  The first year of The Fiber Festival of New England was a smashing success.  Attendees came from all over, many travelling more than an hour to get here.  Feedback from attendees was excellent; I and the other vendors (and there were lots of us!) were very pleased with the professional manner in which the event was managed.  The event site at the Big E was spacious: wide aisles with lots of room.  It seemed that the pace was leisurely.  I had lots of time to get to know my customers and met many awesome people.

Next year's date for the event has already been set: the first weekend in November (5 and 6).  I have already paid for my booth in full for 2011!  I will be promoting The Fiber Festival of New England on this site during the coming year because if you are within travelling distance it's a shame to miss this event.

This was the most successful venue all year for me and I'm pleased that the direction in which I'm journeying  with my products (felting/surface design) was validated by my customers.

Sandie, whose blog Rag Rescue I follow,  asked me if I'll be selling my prefelts online.  Yes, I intend to do that. 

But buying a fiber item online presents its challenges since one can't handle the merchandise.  One photo just doesn't capture the wonderful "color texture" of these prefelts.  Each one is different. How can I present  each one in its entirety, capturing the variations in hue and intensity?  

Here's where I'd like a little help from any reader who can guide me.  I do not own a video camera but have been seriously considering it since the price of those Flip cameras is within my range.  If I set up each prefelt with excellent lighting and did, say, a 10 second shoot going from one end of the prefelt to the other, then loaded the videos on my web site with links to this blog, could that work?  Is that realistic?  Could I get good close-up images with an inexpensive video camera on a tripod?  Thanks in advance for any comments about that.

Liz shares her lovely hat

Liz, who bought a bunch of my Meadow Muffin 1 oz balls of yarn last spring and knit some beautiful things, stopped by my booth Saturday to show me the items "in person."  After buying one of each of my newest colors, she kindly allowed me to display her socks and hat next to the Meadow Muffins.  I know I showed these earlier, but can't resist giving you another look.  Aren't they wonderful?  They're a perfect example of what I was hoping for in offering many many colors in small amounts for color work.  Thank you Liz, and sorry I was taking a break when you came back for your treasures!

How could you wear these socks that Liz knitted and be grumpy?

The day is beginning and it's now light enough out (6:10 am EST) to let the dogs out without fear of some wild animal grabbing my littler terrier.  Time to get dressed and do a few farm chores before heading off for one of the jobs that make up my Three-Headed Career Monster.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Prefelts Galore


Over the last few weeks I've been replenishing my supply of prefelts, concentrating on colors for a certain upcoming holiday!

The Pygoras have all been shorn; they were in full fleece and I was worried that waiting until spring for shearing would result in matted, unusable fleeces.  The shearing process wasn't pretty in the beginning because I do not have a stand with the proper fitting to immobilize a goat.  I finally found it easiest to just hold them in my lap while shearing.  There was initially some struggling, but once each goat realized I was relentless she relaxed and almost seemed to enjoy the process.  I enjoyed it too; it was somewhat contemplative and I enjoyed what there is of afternoon sun in early November.  Shearing took way too long and because I used scissors I left quite a bit of fiber, but that's ok since it's starting to get chilly here.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Fiber Fest of New England is coming!

Border Leicester Cross Roving

And I need to apply myself diligently in preparing for it.  Please consider coming; more information about the event can be found here.  My booth is #255-W.  Here's how to locate it easily: after entering the Mallory building through the front door and proceeding straight to the larger space in that building, you will be walking along the widest, central aisle.  The Food Court will be immediately to your right.  My booth is along the third aisle to your right after going by the Food Court; it is a corner booth, the fifth one in from the center aisle.

This is will be my largest venue so far and I'm giving lots of thought to what I'll bring and how I'll display it.  Although there's plenty to do between now and 6 November, I can't wait!

The photo above is a new roving that I'll have at The Fiber Fest of New England.  I had actually dyed the colorway way back in May but hadn't gotten around to combining my colors.  It's another example of my Mary Alice series: four coordinating strands in each bundle.  The spinner may choose to blend them all together during the spinning process, or they may be spun separately or combined in any way the spinner chooses.  I like choices.

This roving will be sold in four ounce bundles with a total of two pounds available.  If you like it and are coming to the event, plan to stop by early if you want enough for a sweater.  I do have quite a bit of the muted brass hue left over and I'll have that available too.

Time for more photos of my Pygora goats!

Here are my three little girls: Tina, Tulip, and Lilly from left to right, anxiously awaiting their daily treat of cracked corn.  I am so fond of these goats, so glad I took a chance and added a new species here.

Tulip and Lilly diving into the corn.  Tina, the smallest, is a little shy and usually positions herself behind the other two.  Please note the yardstick behind Tulip; this gives you some idea of their size.

Here's Tina!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sushi Checkers

I worked on this project for more than two years; however, all but the last two months or so was worked out in my mind and in my sketchbook.  The goal was to create a checkerboard  and checkers that would be attractive as a wall hanging but could be easily disassembled for a game of checkers.

The material used is roving, yarn and pre felts from my own flock, hand-dyed.  There is a piece of fabric interfacing between the weaving and the background to give the piece a more board-like feel.  The work includes weaving of the strips to create the checkerboard, embroidery, and needle felting.  They don't show up well in the photo, but bright poison-green beads are placed regularly to add contrast in texture, hue and value.

Many decisions were made as I worked, including the idea to hang the checkerboard from a corner and how the checkers would be incorporated into the hanging.  I tried several designs for the checkers and found that needle-felting was most effective.

This piece was entered in the Creative Arts exhibit (mixed media) at the Eastern States Exposition where it was awarded with an Honorable Mention.  Lots of fun to make but I was glad to be able to move on to other things when it was complete.  And a weight was lifted when I was able to get the concept out of my head and into material existence!

Monday, October 4, 2010

But I Digress...

Lockerhooking with Pre-Felt Strips

When it comes to getting Off Topic, there are lots of directions that I could wander. My original intent was to share information and photos of my farm, my animals, and the fiber they give me as well as providing a platform for the reader to purchase Sojourner Design products. I’m dragging my feet terribly on that last one!

I have to admit that when visiting the numerous (298 as of today) blogs to which I subscribe, I scan right past the travel accounts, the family photos and the photos of kitty cats in the studio. That’s just my way of making the best use of my online time, and I’d like to respect my readers’ time by keeping that sort of stuff separate.

I also like it when bloggers share music, but I prefer to have the option of choosing whether to listen.

So here’s my plan: If I just can’t help myself and must go Off Topic, I will do so at the end of each post. I will place any Off Topic stuff against a different background and label it so that it’s easy to spot and read or ignore.

But I Digress...I’ll also be starting a second blog soon in which I document my activities with fiber that is not of animal origin. More on that later!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Franklin County Fiber Twist...My Impressions

My Booth

What a gem of a fiber fair the Franklin County Fiber Twist has become!  I loved the venue this year, and hope we'll be there again.  Lots of space, an accoustically peaceful atmosphere, good lighting (well, alright Claudia, it was florescent lighting), close to Route 91, great food nearby...

Up Close

 The volunteer staff was excellent, helping me haul in stuff and even assisting in setting up my booth!

This fair was a feast for the eyes.  Here are a few of the booths that caught my eye:

Mill River Rugs
 This is Margaret Arraj from Mill River Rugs.  She hooks her rugs with yarn, a departure from the usual wool strips that most hook with.  Margaret was once my next door neightbor, when our daughters were babies.  My daughter will be 30 this Saturday!

Mill River Rugs
On to Diane Welter at The Wool & Dye Works, a favorite shop for fiber lovers.  Diane creates lovely hooked rug designs, available at her shop.

Wool & Dye Works

Wool & Dye Works


This is Angela Foote from FABRICFOOTE in New Hampshire.  No web site, but her e-mail address is fabricfoote(at)gmail.com.  She had so many delightful creations!

Here are Claudia Benoit and Linnie Dugas from Woolies of Shirkshire Farm.  I share a booth with them at the Massachusetts Sheep and Wool Fair in Cummington, and every year their natural-dyed wool is better and better.  No web site; they can be reached at woolies(at)att.net.

Woolies of Shirkshire Farm

Kangaoo Dyer

Gail Callahan, the Kangaroo Dyer, and her husband had such lovely dyed yarn at the Fair.

All day I had the pleasure of looking at these happy things at the booth next to me.  So glad I had the opportunity to meet Nancy Dorian of now & ZEN!

now & ZEN

now & ZEN

Leyden Glen Farm

Finally, I caught up with Kristin Nicholas and a friend, and got to see those bright wool flowers she's been creating up close.

Spent the following day recovering and doing Absolutely Necessary Chores That Could Not Be Put Off and today started getting ready for  Fiber Fesival of New England.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Franklin County Fiber Twist


Franklin County Fiber Twist is less than a week away and since I'll be quite busy toward the end of the week I've started getting products packed.  After weighing and labeling all my Pre-Felts, I just had to spread them all out for a group shot.

My Pre-Felts come from my processor with the edges un-felted; I choose not to remove this part as when I'm personally using them in projects I sometimes find it helpful to have a little carded fiber in the same color to use.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Thinking about Rugs...

Sea Glass

This rug was actually completed a year ago but I don't recall putting it in my blog.  It's going in now because someone asked about weaving with roving and fleecewoven rugs on a tapestry mail list to which I subscribe and I wanted to show an example.  This 40" by 28" rug was handwoven with strips of roving from my own flock that I had hand dyed.  It was very slow-going as I didn't find it practical to wrap lengths of roving on a rag shuttle but chose instead to insert each piece by hand.

Sea Glass, close-up

I had fully intended to place this rug on the floor in a guest bedroom.  However... when I imagined dogs lying on it and wondered about how difficult it would be to remove dog hair from the roving, I decided that this would be a wall rug.

Because dogs are an important part of my life and this is their house too, I made the decision after weaving this rug that all rugs that go on floors will be small enough to pick up and hang over the railing outdoors, hosing off if need be, and they will be constructed of warp materials that can tolerate that treatment.

I have also learned to like using a temple since this rug was woven!

Here was my first rug, woven rather flimsily on a jack loom.  It is on the floor of my sunroom and you can see that these rugs do indeed attract dog hair.

Fleece-woven rug, natural colors

A closer look:

Close-up, fleecewoven natural colored rug

Here's one that's dyed; it was the second rug I wove, also flimsy because I wove it on a jack loom.  The rug was dyed AFTER weaving which was quite the project!

Dyed fleecewoven rug

And a closer look:

Dyed fleecewoven rug, close-up

Roving and fleecewoven rugs are in my opinion tedious projects.  I would not undertake one again but I would use unspun wools in smaller projects because the nubbly texture, particularly with fleeceweaving, is luscious.

Here is, for me, a happy compromise.  These are also a bit flimsy because they were woven on jack looms but they make nice scatter rugs that can be washed, shaken out, etc.  I don't mind using them on the floor- your can see the dog hair as I didn't even bother to shake them out before photographing.

Rugs handwoven with hand-spun yarn

 The close-ups:

These rugs were woven with some of the miles of yarn that I spun as a beginner.  Here and there I laid in short lengths of dyed roving or fleece.  These rugs wove up much faster and still had a nice texture.  Now that I have a Swedish loom with an overhead beater I need to weave up some more of them.  Come to think of it, I need to spin up more yarn to weave rugs with!

Pygora Update:

Everyone is settling in nicely.  The girls are getting downright goofy, racing around and leaping off rocks etc at times.  They are respectful of but quite curious about the dogs.  The buckling, who must be kept separate from the doelings because they're too young to be bred, got a buddy today.  I lured my meat goat wether into hip pen so everyone is happy.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

New Fiber... On The Hoof!

My new herd sire... hard to believe this cute little guy will soon be a stinky billy goat!

 They’re here!

A truck and livestock trailer that had travelled a long long way rolled into my driveway today and we scooped up four little fiber babies. They are Pygora goats, six months in age, from Hawks Mountain Farm in Oregon. Pygora goats are a breed that combines the fiber length of Angora goats with the downy undercoat, stature, and temperment of Pygmy goats.

The doelings.  Don't you love those ears?

Pygora goats can have fiber ranging from soft kid-like mohair ringlets to cashmere; each goat ideally produces one type of fiber along this continuum. The fiber from Pygora goats remains soft as the goat ages. More information about the breed and fiber can be found here and here.

I have started my little Pygora herd with three doelings and one buckling. My intention is to have an easy-keeping herd of yard care experts traveling between our house and that of our neighbor (thus, the portable goat house), and to breed these goats when they are old enough.
Conferring about the new digs

Why did I purchase THESE Pygora goats and incur the cost of shipping them all the way across the U.S.?  Especially when it's so important to support local agriculture?  The easy answer is that there are few Pygora goats locally so I knew I would need to go some distance to buy.

But there's more to it...Hawks Mountain Ranch is another farm that has certified status in the USDA Voluntary Scrapie program. As long as I maintain my own certified status, any future kids sold here will be certified free of Scrapie as they leave the farm.   I've known about Lisa from Hawks Mountain Ranch for years and have been aware of her dedication the breed.  I wanted to support that dedication and have the best genetics possible for this little herd.
Oh what a fleece.

More to follow!  Please feel free to comment by clicking on the  comment link below.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Getting Ready...

We needed a portable shelter for the mystery critters.  Here is my husband Bill creating the shelter from a primitive sketch I had given him:

Starting on the frame

Starting on the uprights

Looks like a roof

Time to add siding

Looking great

Today I pulled it to its first location with my ATV; now all we need are the mystery animals!

Sunday, August 29, 2010


Sojourner Farm: MA #14

I am pleased to share the fact that my flock has been certified as a scrapie-free flock, effective 06-19-10, in the voluntary scrapie program conducted by APHIS (Animal and Plant Inspection Service).

Scrapie is a fatal, degenerative disease affecting the central nervous system of sheep and goats. The USDA would like to eradicate scrapie in US flocks because its presence decreases the economic viability of flocks and prevents the exportation of sheep to some countries. More information about this disease can be found here; click on Fact sheet (PDF) in the Related Topics column to the right for a brief overview of the disease

Farms participating in the voluntary scrapie program have annual inspections by a USDA veterinarian. Farms that have been found to be scrapie-free for five years and whose animals have not been exposed to potentially infected animals obtain and maintain certified status.

I’ve been in the program since 2001 but the addition of sheep from farms that were not certified has set me back in the program twice.

I do not sell sheep for breeding stock, so why am I doing this? Back in 2001 I wasn’t clear about my goals for this flock. At this point my sheep are a motley crew comprising a fiber flock and I do not sell breeding stock.Yet...the USDA vet tells me that it’s still good to be certified because it contributes to the overall health of sheep in this country.

Glad to know that, but it doesn’t really have any impact right now on my little operation.

However, as alluded to earlier this summer, there will be some new arrivals in September and being a scrapie-certified farm will carry a little more weight here in the future.  More to follow...

Summer is ending.  On my morning walk with the dogs I looked for hints from Mother Nature that this is so.  Hope you enjoy these photos, as well as Dar William's melodic poem about this time of turning.  If you right click or control click you'll be able to switch back to this tab and enjoy the photos while Dar sings.

                                                End of the Summer
                                  by Dar Williams

I don't know what this plant is, but at this time of summer its flowers create a pink haze that captures the morning dew like tiny diamonds.
The Staghorn Sumac leaves have just begun to turn; soon they will be brilliant ruby.

Some, more enterprising souls than me, make a sort of lemonade from the fruits of the Staghorn Sumac.

Goldenrod, a flower that yields lasting color on wool.

Wild grapes.  The sheep love them!
 Thanks to my daughter Amanda for reminding me about Dar Williams.

What signs of summer's passing are you seeing?   Please click on the word comment below to share your thoughts.