Friday, August 31, 2007

Crock Pot Dyeing
I have had a few folks ask me about dyeing alpaca. I have been using two methods, one in the oven and another in my "purchased just for dyeing" crockpot. Here goes with my crockpot method...feel free to contact me with any questions.
I assemble: 2 ounces alpaca roving, 1 1/2 cups white vinegar, boiling teakettle, a heated up crock pot, assorted large plastic and wooden spoons, and 3 colors of powdered acid dyes. I am finding that I like the Jacquard dyes best.
I think that two or three colors are the most that I can use with this process.
I add the stuff in three or four layers:
Layers: Circle dry roving around in the bottom of the heated crock pot, dot powdered dye with the end of a wooden spoon into the dry roving. I do this in an imaginary 3 piece pie pattern and always layer the same color above it into the triangle. Pour boiling water over the layer and GENTLY poke the fiber down. Add about 1/2 cup white vinegar on top of the water. Poke again. Continue layering all the roving, dyes, boiling water, and white vinegar.
Cover and simmer on high for 30 minutes (my crock pot won't boil in this amount of time, which is good, boiling is bad!) I don't worry about the water being completely clear.
Now, the hardest part, Don't Touch! Let it cool off on it's own. Remember, it's alpaca and doesn't want to be agitated.
After cooling, gently dump into a drainer and lower into enough rinses of matching water temperature until the water is clear. Don't get rough or let the water run onto it.
The last spin cycle on my washing machine doesn't add any water so works perfectly for spinning out my roving which I then lay out to dry, smiling all the way.
I am very pleased with the way the alpaca is turning out with this method. The oven way is basically the same thing using a large pan, dotting the dyes, pouring on vinegar and boiling water and baking for 1/2 hour at 200 degrees.
What I like about the crock pot is that it is very little mess and I can easily do one or two batches a day without it being a big deal.

This is how some roving turned out yesterday, not the stuff in the above picture. I put it next to some of Polaris's to see if the colors would work together. Yep! They sure do.

Spun Up Dyed Roving

The dyed roving spun up beautifully. I plied it with natural golden brown from Polaris, our soon to be herdsire. I ended up with 170 yards of a worsted weight, 2 ply alpaca yarn. I have an ounce left of this dyed fiber so I will spin it and ply with Polaris again for another skein. This yarn is listed in my Etsy shop.
Ta Duh! This yarn was way too interesting. I just had to knit up a little swatch (there's that dirty word again). I used US # 6 needles.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

♪♫♪ Minus two pounds ♪♫♪ (Imagine 2 square pounds of butter and it seems like a lot). Anyone out there want to challenge me on this weight loss attempt?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Here's our new boy who came home from Kukla's with Lady Belita. His name is Gunsmoke, but since I have such an aversion to any guns, he will be Gunny. He's quite the handsome guy and seems to know it. I put him in a pen with our Orion who was also born a year ago, but Gunny harassed him and chased him all over. Sooooo, out he goes with the big guys. Berringer, the black guy, has taken upon himself to teach Gunny alpaca etiquette and how to conform to the pecking order. You can see "Bear" taking the studly stance above after chasing Gunny away.
Dang! I wish I knew how to control these pictures. They never go where I want them.
♪♫♪ Tomorrow night is weigh in at Weight Watchers......

Thursday, August 23, 2007

New Etsy Friends
In order from left to right, then center:
Maple (me) - North Star Alpacas, Dulce - DulcesCreations, Isis - Knitspin , Jessi - White Star Ranch, and Reanee - Squeezle's Galore
This is a picture of some of us from Etsy who managed to get together at Allegan's Michigan Fiber Fest last weekend. We were pointing to and showing off our Etsy pins and stickers. I'm sure that Reanee will kill us when she sees the picture we are putting up. Isis is going to try to get Etsy to publish it on their site blog.
It was so much fun to meet these women who had previously been just a shop name. You know how you imagine how someone looks? I hit it right on with Isis and immediately knew who she was when she walked up to my booth.
By the way, after looking at this pict of me, I'm sure that I made the right move by going back to Weight Watchers last Tuesday. Even if you are not interested, you will be hearing about my lose. (How's that for positive thinking?)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Remember way back on June 6th we took Lady Belita to Jackson for a breeding? Yesterday we received word that her Progesterone Test was above 4, which means that she is probably pregnant. EEEEHAW!
We are going to bring her home tomorrow along with a little silver gray boy named Gunsmoke, who will be a fiber boy - meaning he will be gelded this fall and not become a herd sire. I will try to get a picture of him when we get back home.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

This is the beautiful hand made Lazy Kate Basket that I bought for myself at the Allegan Fiber Fest this weekend. Her name is Katherine Basket and she was made by Stefania Isaacson (her husband crafts the sturdy handles). Both Isaacsons were incredibly nice and helpful to newbee me. Their booth was just across the aisle and down a ways from mine and this basket just kept whispering, Take me home. Visit her shop Handspun by Stefania in St. Charles, Illinois.

The socks that you see were purchased from the booth right next to me. The two women in the shop came all the way from Pennsylvania. I could kick myself because I didn't get their names or card. The were fun and sort of watched out for me too. I hate waiting until next year to know their shop name.
I so love hand made socks and so dislike making them.

EEEEHAW! I found a business card that I'm sure belongs to my Pennsylvanian, next booth neighbor who was so kind to me. Go take a look at her place - Handmade in the Hills - Deb Schildt. Her yarns, hats, and woven scarves are awesome.

Monday, August 20, 2007

This is just a brief post to talk about my weekend vendoring at Michigan's Fiber Fest in Allegan. This was my first time there, well, my first time at a real show - period. We could set up on Thursday after 5, and I'm so glad that I got there about 3 because the stupid 8 wiry cubes that I bought to hold roving took 2 hours to put together. They ended up very wobbly and I was so frustrated that I only put together 6. Many vendors walked by me smiling and saying things like, "Oh, yea, I have several of those in my basement."
Marianne, my dearest friend, arrived about 5 with her soap and we rather quickly, I think, put together the rest of our booth. I stayed at her house about an hour away on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights.

Friday was very slow because the advertising for the event names Saturday and Sunday only. Was a great time for shopping. Bought a beautiful basket, some dye, and hand knit socks that I will picture soon.
Saturday was very busy and $$$$ profitable $$$$. The best part was the people who stopped in. Ended up seeing 6 Etsy sellers. Was so much fun putting a face to online friends. I'm hoping that one of them will send me a picture of us to post here. Also had friends from home stop in so that was very special.
Sunday was rather slow again but I got to meet online blogging friend Lisa and her husband. Lisa had a hard time finding me 'cause she was looking for the gray haired AlpacaGranny in the picture with Cassie, and I am now the colored haired AlpacaGranny.
My main sales were rovings. Folks seemed to really like the dyed alpaca and have only four left. I think that dyeing is going to be my main focus for a while. Well, and spinning, of course

I want to talk more about the weekend but I need to go. Even though I put a CLOSED for the weekend notice in my Etsy shop, I have two yarn sales to get out. Hey, I'm definitely not complaining, just hoping that I didn't sell what they ordered. So, I'm off to dig through unpacked bins......

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Way back on March 25th I showed you a picture of Meredith (the perfect granddaughter) working at my loom. This is a picture of her finished pillow, all handspun alpaca. I have to admit that I did help her warp the loom, or maybe she helped me, anyway, we got it done together. She did the yarn selections and the actual weaving. I had Suzanne, the owner of SipNKnit, the yarn shop uptown, sew it into this lovely pillow for us.

Take a close look at that necklace too. We wet felted some wool balls and strung them up. I think she likes to come to grandma's house.

I asked the girls if they would like to go into the dime store in town. Of course, being mall kids, they had no idea where we were going. Youngest, Elizabeth, told grandpa that we were going to get diamonds. Get it? Dime store - Dime monds?
The dime store had a great sellection of Webkinz pets. I finally came across something the girls didn't have. We bought a pink horse and a Clydsdale horse. What a hit! I had to set up a time schedule for them to use the computer. If you aren't familiar with these critters, let me tell you about this virtual world of pets. When you purchase one (about $10) you get a number so that you can log in to and register your pet. Then the fun begins - the pet needs food and attention so you have to earn points to purchase food, clothes, furniture for its room, etc. Points are earned on a large selection of age appropriate games or school type questions. You can take your pet bowling, exercising, partying, any number of activities. I found absolutely nothing objectionable at this site and suggest that all grannys become as popular as I am by being the first to hook your little one up. Elizabeth is 5 but reading a little so we had to help her some, but Meredith, at 8, managed great.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

I so this roving dyeing! And spinning it! OMG it's so much fun. I have a dozen 2 ounce bumps dyed up now for the Allegan show, but it's awfully hard not to sit right down and spin it up because I want to see what it looks like. I think the dyeing is linking into my watercolor passion which seems to be on hold right now. I do have a landscape with some sheep in it brewing in my head but probably won't wet up the watercolors until October after our alpaca show at Birch Run.

The granddaughters are coming on Thursday to spend a couple of days. Lucky us! I'm thinking of asking Meredith if she would like to spin a skein of alpaca to enter into the skein competition at the alpaca show. They have a youth division and it would be fun for her - if she wants to.
It's raining today! We so need it, and it's that nice gentle, all day, water the crops, type of rain. Thank you Mother Nature, Crop Goddess, Collective Energies, God or whoever provided this for us.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

This little hand knit sheep is named Peanut. He was created by Sara from Tucson, Arizona, for her Woolies Shop on Etsy. He is knitted from Rouge's handspun, rose gray alpaca yarn that Sara purchased from me back in June. You really need to visit this shop because I have the feeling that if something could be knit, Sara could do it. Her shop is full of speciality toys and stuffed animals like sheep, llamas, owls, and, of course, bear. She has a lovely black alpaca shawl listed and a pair of knitted clogs that I want for myself. Besides her knitting, she lists llama and mohair fiber for a friend.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

EEEHAW! ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ Celeste is 34 days pregnant. Russ, our vet, just left after ultrasounding her. I was holding on to her head and neck and he's got the probe up there (somewhere), while he's looking at the little camera on his headband. She's squirming a little, I'm getting nervous holding this 200 pound alpaca, and he asks if I want to see..... Just tell me and get this over, she's not going to stand much longer. Actually he then took a picture and told me one of the little dots was the embryo. Guess I have to believe him. He said it's really cool to see the little heart beating.
♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ Ariana, the other girl, isn't far enough along for him to ultrasound really (21 days) but he took a look anyway and thinks maybe he saw something. We drew blood from her to do a progesterone test. Should know in a few days. The sample will go to Michigan State in Lansing, just 30 miles or so down the road.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

This is what I've been doing for the last couple of days. Well, besides spinning and knitting. Yes, and being in the barn. Click on them for a big picture. I think that I might have the "dying alpaca without felting it" figured out. I'm using the crockpot or oven, add the dye powder dry method and liking the results. Jennifer at Laughing Rat has helped me a bunch and I thank her.

I'm happy that I have figured out how to do the paper label and don't they look "purty" spread out like that. Want to get a bunch more dyed up before the Allegan Fiber Fest. I do have these listed in my Etsy shop. If you want to visit, you can just click on northstaralpacas under the pictures of some things in my shop.

The weather here in midMichigan has been hot and dry. So much so that crops are stressing. The trees in our yard are starting to drop leaves. We are a little worried about getting hay for the winter. We usually order 200 bales of grass hay for the alpacas, and 600 bales of grass/alfalfa for the horses. DH talked to our hay man last night and we will probably have to get some 1st cutting Timothy for the horses and he thinks he may have some 2nd cutting grass for the alpacas. Half the horses are going to turn their noses up at the Timothy 'cause they have always had the yummy, leafy stuff. The prediction is for rain this weekend. Sure hope so.

This is the BabyDoll SouthDown fleece that was given to me last week when we picked up our white lamb, Phoebe, and ram, Aries. I put it out on the table on the deck to pick out the junk. Oh, my, what a job! I guess that I'm really spoiled with the half hour that it takes me to pick out an alpaca fleece. Since this was my first sheep fleece, I wasn't totally sure what to do. Well, I weighed it - don't really know why I weighed it, but it weighed 11 pounds. I'm used to about 4 pounds of alpaca but guess the lanolin must weigh a lot. Speaking of lanolin, yuck - I don't like the feel nor the smell. Will definitely have to get used to that. I went around the outside pulling of lots of dirty, matted stuff. I was pitching and pitching it untill I realized I probably needed to stop or I would be throwing it all away. I tried to pick at the sticks, straw, and hay but finally just gave up. Hmmmm, thought I, maybe it will wash away....
I put about 4 ounces in mesh bags and into the washing machine to soak with some Dawn in the very hottest water that I could get. It soaked for about an hour and I spun it out (no agitating, mind you). When I looked at it, it was still yucky. I did this 3 more times. Wonder I didn't felt the whole thing. What I now have is some fairly white fleece that is full of tiny VM. I'm going to card it up and imagine that the VM is going to fall out.
BTW, Lisa, thanks for the corn/bean salsa recipe. I have really been chowing down, you're right, it's addictive. Topped taco salad with it yesterday.