Lupo the Lamb

My first ever “straight-from-the-lamb” project is done! I’m pretty happy with how it turned out:

lalylala lupo the lamb crochet doll handspun

Seems a little silly that I did all that wool processing only to turn it back into a lamb. ;-) I ran out of white yarn toward the end, and had to make some more… learning from that process that I overplied the first batch. The second was much softer and lighter. The brown wool seemed easier and more consistent to spin over all. Not quite as fine, but still very soft, and I adore the color variations, with bits of red and grey highlights. And since my hand-spinning is nowhere near as consistent in weight as commercial yarn, he’s not completely symmetrical, ie. the arms and feet are slightly different sizes. But I think that lends him a bit of extra hand-made charm (I think). I also stuffed him with the wool (each color matching) which helped with show-through issues, and he’s delightfully huggable as a result.

lalylala lupo the lamb crochet doll handspun

lalylala lupo the lamb crochet doll handspun

I’m definitely in love with Lalylala designs even more now. It took longer than other crochet animals I’ve made, with its smaller, tighter gauge, but that also gives it a smoother look, and there are little subtle touches that made the pattern very special, especially the shaping of the hands and feet.

He also turned out a little bigger than the pattern’s specified 10″. He’s around 14″, since my yarn was a little heavier than sock weight. I also used a bigger hook (2.5mm), and bigger eyes (9mm instead of 6mm).

The kids and I really want to keep him, but I’m going to send him back “home” as a thank you to the people who gave me the fleeces. I’ll probably have to make another one to live with us eventually. Lord knows I have enough wool left over. :-) But first I need to take a break from crochet. I’m dying to knit something, and also to see how this wool spins up woolen, and into something wearable. Stay tuned…

lucky feather

This is a new one for me. Anybody out there seen this before? Frances (our Barred Plymouth Rock) has sprouted ONE green feather right in the middle of her otherwise completely black and white striped back:

barred-plymouth-rock-one-green-feather1

Perhaps a recessive gene? Or maybe she just misses her blue-kote dyed purple ones? Either way, I’m calling it her lucky feather. Also, I have no idea what’s happening with Alberta’s comb. As a Gold Laced Wyandotte, I think eventually it’s supposed to get big and squishy (a rose comb) but right now it’s still pretty flat, except for this one piece sticking up. I don’t know if this is part of the development process, but it also looks a little like she caught it on something and detached the end farther back:

alberta-comb

BTW, My Sweet Prince (photographer extraordinaire) took these sweet pics of me doing the Mama Hen thing. With the weather being so cold, and the days being so short, I only get to do this about once a week now, but if I have the time to sit down on the weekends, they’ll still come and jump into my lap for a cuddle. Alberta always likes snuggle underneath my arms, or preferably underneath Frances. She knows where the warmest spot around is:

mama-hen

I totally get it:

chicken-hug

Poor Gloria needs a good cuddle too, but she won’t ask for it, unless I’m in the hammock, which unfortunately had to be put away for the winter. She’s starting to grow in her new feathers though, and looking pretty fierce:

gloria-molting

I’m so thankful for all of you who advised me to get her some friends. Even though it’s been a long, somewhat trying process, I would be feeling so guilty right now if she was all alone in the yard, with the temperatures dipping below freezing, looking like this.

fleece processing part 2 : the final spin cycle

Now that my beautiful clean lamb fleeces are nice and dry (only took a couple of days) I’m starting to comb and spin them into yarn. Here is my current high tech method: A cheap dog comb purchased at my local supermarket. I’ve been separating the locks, then holding one end while I comb out the other with the wider tines, then turning it around to comb the other end, then repeating with the smaller tines, until all the VM has been combed out and the locks are nice and fluffy and straight and tangle-free.

combing romney lamb locks

brown-romney-lamb-fleece-combing

And here are my first mini test skeins, spun worsted, somewhere between DK and Worsted weight (kind of my default spin):

romney-lamb-handspun-yarn

They are very light and lofty and soft and springy, even spun worsted. I love the color variation in the brown one from what I assume are sun-bleached ends:

brown-hand-spun-romney-lamb-yarn

The white one seems to be finer and a little softer:

white-romney-lamb-handspun-yarn

And here is the beginning of my first little project with these yarns. They are very enjoyable to crochet, even with a tight gauge. Of course I had to turn the lamb fleece back into a lamb:

crochet-lamb-foot

I’ve been looking for an excuse to make one of these adorable lalylala dolls: http://www.lalylala.com/?port=crochet-pattern-lupo-the-lamb and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to play with these two fleeces together.

LUPO_web-01a-590x590

 

 

wet, wild and wooly

I now completely understand why natural fiber yarns cost so much. It takes SO much time and energy just to process the fiber! I spent almost ALL my spare time this weekend just WASHING my two romney lamb fleeces I was so generously given. I used this method here: http://www.tengoodsheep.com/tutorial.html and it worked like a charm. I had to do it in my laundry room instead of outside, since it’s quite cold and wet here now. (Why didn’t I do it this summer? Oh yeah… Project Chicken Integration. :-) ) And I used lavender oil instead of the recommended patchouli or clove in the rinse cycle, since I prefer the smell. But, WOW, for someone who puts off doing laundry until her kids start complaining that they have no clean underwear, 6 huge buckets of cold water soaking and 6 hot water washes and rinses is a lot. I did manage to finish my kids’ laundry at the same time, much to their delight. Spending all that time in the laundry room doing unnecessary washing started to make me feel guilty about it. ;-)

While the kids are now happily (hah!) folding their mountains of clean clothes, my beautiful lamb fleeces are happily drying on racks (surprisingly quickly after their spin cycles), dreaming fluffy dreams of being spun into yarn and turned into something cuddly. Here’s the white one (SO MUCH WHITER!):

white-romny-lamb-fleece2

And here’s the dark brown (boy, those guinea pig cages have really come in handy… guinea homes, chick brooders, and now wool processors!):

brown-romney-lamb-fleeces

It actually looks kind of gross in this photo, but the individual locks are gorgeous… and SO soft. Not scratchy at all when I rub them against my chin (my favorite test for wearable fiber).

But even with all that washing, there is still a lot vegetable matter hanging out in it. These lambs must have been rolling down hills together, or something.

romney-lamb-fleece

romney-lamb-fleece-brown

A question for those of you who have processed fiber… is it normal to have SO much embedded VM after washing? It seems like it really wants to cling to the wool, and every once in a while I even find it in commercial yarns. It’s going to be a painstaking process to card or comb it all out, that’s for sure. But I’m not really complaining. It’s quite enjoyable sinking my hands into all this lovely softness any way I can… especially now that it’s so clean and fragrant! And the results are going to be very much worth the effort:

romney-lamb-locks

So soft and lovely. And just look at that staple length! It’s going to practically spin itself.

- – -

OH! And check out the new sleeping arrangements in the chicken house… just in time for the cold, wet weather and Gloria to go into her annual feather-dumping molt. This is not a good pic, but I can only catch them all up there when it’s dark:

chickens-roosting

All three girls are quite inseparable now… my dream of backyard harmony has come true at last! The only thing that would make it more perfect is to start getting eggs again. Ah sigh… but poor Gloria.. she looks so much skinnier right now, and pretty silly with only one tail feather left:

gloria-tail-feather

But most definitely less lonely…

gloria-tail-feather3

A Surprise, A Sleepover and A Separation

The Surprise:

My finished secret project: A crochet Gromit for my Sweet Prince as an Anniversary gift (15 years married last Thursday!).

crochet gromit

He said he wanted it life-size (still not sure if he was joking) so I used super-bulky yarn and I think it turned out pretty close (used almost a full bag of stuffing!). He’s definitely bigger than our cats.

I got the free pattern here: http://amiamour.com/2010/05/gromit-amigurumi-pattern/ but I followed this Ravelry project notes to make the spherical eyes and longer nose and ears: http://www.ravelry.com/projects/Clelixedda/gromit-amigurumi

The Sleepover:

Our Chicken Integration Project is officially a success! Gloria wanted to go into the coop with Alberta and Frances the other night, and they didn’t seem too freaked out about it (they’ve been hanging out in very close proximity all week, and the rainy nights have been leaking into her little coop), so I thought we’d give it another try. Of course, once she realized she was locked in, she tried her best to get out, and paced around until almost dark, but I thought, hey, she is a chicken, let’s see if those roosting instincts kick in. And lo and behold, just before complete nightfall, she went up into the house and settled into the largest nesting box (the same size as her current one). Hooray! Then, the next day, I left her old coop closed up, hoping that she’d follow her habit she developed after Cleo’s passing (however annoying) of laying her egg where she’s been sleeping. And she did! Yay!

first-egg-new-coop

The next night, while the girls were all slightly mystified that this sleepover thing is turning into a permanent roommate situation, there were no serious complaints, and Gloria went right up into the house when it started to get dark.

all-chickens-in-coop

Life is going to be so much simpler for all of us now, and so much better for Gloria. :-)

all-chickens2

The Separation:

Don’t worry, it’s a good one, if a little bitter sweet. While the chickens were moving in together, my kids were officially moving into their own bedrooms. They’ve been using the same room since Mae was born, and 7 years later, even though they are closer than ever, they have finally decided they would like their own spaces. So, our house has been in upheaval moving furniture around, building new furniture, reorganizing closets, etc… I’m very happy for them, and proud of their little independent spirits, but also a little sad that they are growing up so fast! The question now is… what are we going to do with all their door/hall decorations we’ve accumulated over the years?

jonah-mae-door-hall

Star Flower Mystery Revealed

The Bad News: I haven’t made significant progress on my mystery Star Flower pattern, due to the distraction of a different secret project that needs to be finished sooner (to be revealed later).

The Good News: I’ve made enough progress (sewing the two finished stars together) to end the suspense for all of you who can’t wait any longer for the riddle to be solved… and for those who might want to embark on this project for Christmas gifting.

And the answer is…

 

drum roll please…

 

Fingerless Gloves!

vogue-fingerless-gloves-top

vogue-fingerless-gloves-bottom

My sister commissioned me for this project because she fell in love with this pattern she found online: Vogue Fingerless Gloves. Aren’t they so very fancy?

vogue-fingerless-gloves-had

The yarn I used is Madelinetosh Pashmina (the color is Baltic), a gorgeous sport-weight hand-dyed blend of superwash merino, silk & cashmere. It looks like one skein should be way more than enough to finish.

Most of the projects on Ravelry found that the finished size was a little on the snug side, and recommended that you go up a needle size (which I did). I would say otherwise (depending on your gauge of course) that the finished size is a women’s small. Mine fit me just right (and hopefully my sister as well) and I would guess they are women’s size Medium.

I also used the magic loop method instead of 5 double points, and I found it less fiddly and much easier to keep track of where I was in the pattern than some others mentioned. And a cable cast on gave me a more precise flower in the center the second time around.

Overall, I would highly recommend this pattern, if you are not afraid of lace knitting. (Or even if you are, you will learn a lot!)  And just think of all the other possibilities for these lovely star flowers that you all came up with in your guesses! :-)