Monday, 31 December 2012

Wovember Winner!

Congratulations to Michelle McMillen, the winner of the Shearer Girl Yarns £20 voucher in the Wovember photographic competition! Michelle raises Shetland sheep in Oregan, USA. Her photo of Bramble the sheep caught the judges' eye. 

Michelle chose the naturally dyed 4 Ply Rasberry Silk Yarn:

We hope you enjoy your prizes Michelle!

Do visit Michelle's blog to see the winning picture.

Friday, 9 November 2012


This month is Wovember. The purpose of Wovember is described on the website as 'The idea is to show our collective appreciation of WOOL by wearing as much of this fabulous fibre as possible, and celebrating WOOL and its unique qualities in stories and pictures throughout the month of November.' Wovember was started in 2011 by Kate Davies and Felicity Ford.

Wovember is also a campaign to reclaim the term wool in textile labeling so that the word 'wool' can only be used in reference to the fibre grown by sheep. There is a petition on the website you can sign to support the campaign.

The focus of Wovember this year is Closing the Gap. The Wovember website this month will be focusing on the whole story of wool from its growth on the backs of sheep, how it is harvested and processed through to the finished objects created by craftspeople.

You can join in Wovember by visiting the website throughout November, the website is being updated daily with beautiful photos and wool related posts. There is also a photographic competition. You can send in your wool related photos throughout the month. For details on how to enter the competition please see the Wovember site.

I have put up a prize for the photographic competition - a £20 voucher to spend on anything in the Shearer Girl Yarns shop. So get busy with your camera!

Monday, 5 November 2012

Woolly Wednesday

Don't forget, this week is Woolly Wednesday once again. I shall be over at Spinspiration on Wednesday blogging about my latest spinning project. Do come and join the party. If you have been busy with fibre you can link up your blog and let us know about your projects.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Woolly Wednesdays

After a brief holiday, Spinspiration and Woolly Wednesdays are back. I will be joining Spinspiration as a co-blogger. 

Some of you may already know of Woolly Wednesdays over at Spinspiration. The first Wednesday of each month there is a link up for spinning and other fibre crafts. You can join in by linking your own blog post about your fibrous adventures. 

Woolly Wednesday was started by Dawn and Kelly in February 2011. The idea was, and still is, to provide a warm friendly supportive place where people can share their handspinning and wool craft experiences, whatever their level of ability or experience.  

Kelly has now emigrated so I will be helping Dawn. The first Wednesday of each month you will find me over at Spinspiration, starting this week. Do come and join in on Wednesday!

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

New Addition to the Website

I'm pleased to announce there is a new addition to the website. My lovely web developer, Simon at, has made a vague idea I had into reality. 

I am always interested in the life of my products after they have been sold and often customers get in touch to share pictures of what they have made. I wanted a place on the website where these imaginative and stunning projects could be displayed. 

May I introduce the new Customer Creations webpage. Do have a look and see what people have been making. I have more projects to add, we wanted to make sure the technology was working properly before adding too many. Please do make use of the new social media buttons to share anything that catches your eye with your friends.

If you have used a product purchased from Shearer Girl Yarns do get in touch and we can add your project to the page. It doesn't have to be a finished item, for example if you have bought Power Scour from us and you would like to share pictures of your lovely clean fleece that is fine too. Or if you are using our stitch markers, even with yarn from some where else, you can send us your pictures. You can contact me at or through the Contact Us page of the website.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Caption Needed

I took this picture at the Weald and Downland Museum Rare Breed Show. Instead of traditional hay nets the sheep had these things that look like shopping bags. This picture demands a caption but can I think of one? Maybe you can help. Can you suggest a caption?

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Shearing Gerbils at Townings Farm

Saturday I had a new experience: shearing gerbils. It was the Vintage Harvest Fair at Townings Farm, East Sussex. Townings is a family run farm specialising in traditional breeds. They raise Longhorn and Sussex cattle, Saddleback pigs and Hebridean sheep. 

At the Vintage Harvest Fair, the public can meet the animals, see vintage farm machinery in action, browse the craft stands and watch sheep shearing. That's where I came in. This was only my second public shearing demo, a scary proposition in itself. 

Being September, the adult sheep had all been shorn. However September is the traditional time for lamb shearing. So I in my enthusiasm had agreed to shear Hebridean lambs in public. Hebrideans are small primitive sheep. They have all their wild instincts intact and they have as many as four horns. 

I don't have much lamb shearing experience so I went along in the week to practice. I may as well have been shearing gerbils, or ferrets as one helpful onlooker suggested. Trying to hold the lambs was like trying to grip a bar of soap in the bath. You can grip an adult sheep with your knees and thighs. The lambs didn't reach my knees so I found myself bent into all sorts of contortions trying to hold the lambs with my lower legs while bending down enough to shear them.

This was shearing in miniature. When I was going round the fiddly bits between the hind legs I really wanted to switch to a nasal hair trimmer. The handpiece felt far too big for the lambs' dainty contours. Not only were they tiny, they also wriggled and squirmed and stabbed me in the legs with their horns. 

Weird things happened. On the long blows, when the sheep is lying on its side, you tuck your left foot under the shoulder. I did this and several times I ran into my toes with the handpiece. This never happens shearing adult sheep because unless you are a clown the sheep is a lot bigger than your feet. 

On the long blows
The lambs seemed to be able to get their toes on the floor or push against my legs however I tried to hold them. I think their legs are longer in proportion to their body than those of an adult sheep so when held in the same way as an adult the lamb can get its feet on the floor and escape.

This position isn't in the manual
Or maybe I'm just making excuses for poor technique? I do know I need to get more practice shearing gerbils, sorry - lambs.

Friday, 31 August 2012

Tunbridge Wells Festival

Last Sunday I was sitting in the middle of the street in central Tunbridge Wells spinning, much to the curiosity of the general public. No, I hadn't gone completely mad, I was taking part in Tunbridge Wells Festival

This festival is a new event started by Stephen Mason, a local businessman and Chief Executive of Trinity Theatre in Tunbridge Wells. Profits go to a number of local charities, notably Hospice in the Weald. Some of the roads were closed to make way for the many attractions, there were craft stalls, a stage with live performances, street entertainers and fairground rides for the children. 

Having a niche business, I don't do many general events but I decided to support the Tunbridge Wells Festival. We were fortunate with the weather, the day before it poured and I was rather worried but on Sunday the sun shone and the crowds came out. 

I had a lovely day, sitting in the street spinning. A couple of small dogs took fright at the movement and a few children thought it would be fun to grab the turning wheel. Many people who stopped for a chat had never seen a spinning wheel in action. There were the usual reactions: 'how do you sew on that?' 'is that a spinning jenny?' 'look at that lady knitting!'

I was spinning a silk/baby camel blend and I heard many parents carefully explaining to their children that this was sheep's wool. Note to self, when spinning in public - stick to wool. 

I haven't spun much silk, the next day my hands felt puffy, does anyone else find spinning silk hard on the hands? What reactions do you get when you practice your craft in public?

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Joel Barton Sets New UK 9 Hour Lamb Shearing Record

On Saturday 4th August after a few hours sleep I blundered out of bed at 2.30 in the morning. Why? To witness Joel Barton's attempt at a new UK 9 Hour Lamb Shearing Record. He was starting at 5.00am and I wanted to be there.

When I arrived at Walter House Farm, Woodchurch near Ashford, Kent, there was an atmosphere of quiet tension. No one was rushing, no one was talking much, everyone was intensely focused on the final preparations.

Preparing the lambs is a highly skilled job in itself. Shearers had worked through the night dagging the lambs to the strict requirements of the rules. Only an area over the tail the size of a man's fist is allowed to be shorn in advance. This means the lambs have full belly wool and, being Romney lambs which carry a lot of wool, wool between the teats and up the legs. In competition shearing, the sheep are sheared in front of the teats so the shearers can go flat out. Record attempts are supposed to reflect the shearer's normal day at work so he still has to contend with all the fiddly bits.

Three judges were there from the British Isles Shearing Competitions Association (BISCA): Charles Fuggle from East Sussex, Arwyn Jones form Wales and George Graham from Ireland. The judges ensure the record attempt complies with the strict rules. They monitor the quality of the shearing and any injuries to sheep. Quality and animal welfare are not sacrificed to speed and numbers. If the shearing is not up to standard or sheep are being injured then the judges will stop the attempt.

The day was structured with military precision. At 5.00am Joel Barton dragged the first lamb out of the pen. He sheared for 2 hours, losing less than 10 seconds between lambs. Every 15 minutes he paused to change the cutter and gulp a drink but these pit stops lasted maybe only 20 seconds. After 2 hours shearing, Joel had done 119 lambs. Then there was a hour break for breakfast.

The rest of the runs lasted 1 hour 45 minutes each, with breaks in between. This pattern reflects a normal shearing day. In the second run, Joel sheared 110 lambs, then 106, 102 and finally 100. When the attempt started, everyone stayed quiet, afraid of distracting Joel. I switched the flash off on my camera in case it disturbed him. Joel had his music playing and he was in the zone. 

As the day wore on and more people arrived to watch the audience took on the job of shouting encouragement. There was a countdown to the 500th lamb, with lambs being shorn in around 54 seconds each it was hard to keep track. Joel sheared his 500th lamb at 4.22pm.

He needed to shear 522 to break the record, with less than 40 minutes to go and the record not yet broken we shouted Joel down the last side of each lamb. I can't begin to imagine the pain he must have been in by then. At 4.45pm, with 15 minutes left Joel broke the record. Joel finished at 5.00pm. The new record: 537 lambs shorn in 9 hours.

I took my spinning wheel but I had to give up spinning for the last hour - it was way too exciting!

I estimate Joel sheared about 430kg of wool in the 9 hours. He filled a woolsack an hour:
It only took Joel 3 hours to shear all this wool
Joel has a Just Giving Page, money raised will go to the British Heart Foundation.  

I am gradually adding photos from the day to Flickr, I have several hundred to sort through, so it may take a while. You can see the pictures here.

Friday, 3 August 2012

UK 9 Hour Lamb Shearing Record

In less than 12 hours Joel Barton from East Sussex will attempt to set a new UK 9 hour lamb shearing record. Currently the record is held by Roy Collier who sheared 521 lambs in 9 hours on 27 August 2011 in Knockrobin, Co Wexford, Ireland. 

Tomorrow's attempt is taking place at Woodchurch, near Ashford, Kent. Joel Barton has been a professional shearer for seven years. He first started shearing when he was a student at Plumpton College. Joel has been training for the event for the last year.

Joel will be shearing Romney lambs. He will start at 5am and finish at 5pm. Joel will shear for two hours, then take a break. After that he will shear in 1hour 45 minute runs with breaks in between ( a run is a period of time when a shearer shears continuously without stopping, during each run Joel will be looking to lose less than 10 seconds between lambs). This work pattern reflects a normal working day for a shearer. A normal working day for Joel would be eight hours actual shearing broken down into four runs. 

 Supporters have traveled from as far away as Scotland and even New Zealand to assist Joel. Behind the scenes, a team of around 15 people will be making sure everything runs smoothly. The back up team have the vital job of ensuring a constant supply of lambs and taking care of the equipment. The record attempt will be closely monitored by officials from the British Isles Shearing Competitions Association.

Tomorrow I will be reporting on Joel's progress via Twitter @Romneyteg. 

In the meantime here is video coverage of  Roy Collier setting the current record.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

The New Shop is Now Open

The stock is on the shelves. The floors are swept. The shutters are up. The door is propped open and the sign turned over. The new Shearer Girl Yarns online shop is now open! Do wander in and browse. 

There is a new range of yarns to drool over - the Bounce DK range. The Bounce yarns are 100% Bluefaced Leicester wool, produced in the UK. I have hand dyed the Bounce range in a choice of acid or natural dyes. One of my favourite colourways has to be Maple Leaf, I love the rich autumnal colours:
Bounce DK in Maple Leaf

There are also new stitch marker designs such as the Colourful Cubes range, which come in various colour combinations:
Colourful Cubes Stitch Markers in Pink/Yellow   
Do drop by and let me know what you think of the new shop.

Monday, 30 July 2012

New Online Shop Opening Tomorrow!

Last month I explained I am getting a new online shop. I am happy to announce the new shop will be opening for business tomorrow! At the moment you can visit the shop and look around but you will not be able to make a purchase. Tomorrow is the big day when the Paypal gets connected up and you will be able to place and pay for orders.

You will notice, not only is the website new but I have also made an adjustment to the business name. I have decided to simplify the name from Shearer's Girl Yarns to Shearer Girl Yarns. I think the new name is more straightforward. 
Simon Kiteley, the web developer, has done a brilliant job, the new website is a vast improvement on the old one. Do go and have a look around the new shop Shearer Girl Yarns. Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Wellingtons and Wool

The Shearer Girl Yarns stand

I'm back from Fibre East. What a weekend we had! We arrived quite late on Friday and got busy setting up the stand. Then it started to pour and pour. Within half an hour there was a small lake in front of my stand. Suddenly I became aware of the sound of water on plastic. There was some broken stitching along the edge of the marquee and rain was pouring in onto the Willo Alpacas stand next to me. We rushed to drag their stock out from under the waterfall.

I took the decision not to risk the stock and we put it all back in the van. I slept with my mobile beside me switched on, just in case someone rang to say the showground had been washed away. The next morning stallholders were not allowed to bring vehicles onto the field so everything had to be lugged across the field to the stand.

Trying to set up a stand without letting anything touch the ground is no easy thing. I have no problems with mud in its place and I've experienced much worse conditions. But when you have spent hours painstakingly dyeing yarn you really don't want it to get wet or muddy.  Once the stand was set up we just needed some shoppers. 

Fibre East is a well organised event and the staff of Scald End Farm, where the event is held, are always very helpful. The farmer, Martin Towler, was on hand to check the state of the ground throughout the show and deal with the worst patches. Staff put down woodchips and carpet underlay. It was definitely welly weather.

The puddle in front of my stand
Despite the exceptional weather, we had a good show. Everyone soldiered on and helped each other. We had quite a few customers come up and say they had bought batts last year and were very happy with them and wanted more. The Marbled Jacob batts were a best seller. 

I even managed to do some shopping myself:

 More on my purchases later!

Monday, 9 July 2012

Stepping Up the Neck

I've had a bit of a break from shearing. The weather has played havoc with bookings since you can't shear wet sheep, also I've been busy dyeing for Fibre East and working on the new website. Still, I managed to sneak away at the weekend and shear a few sheep. 

I was a bit worried I would have forgotten how to do it. Or that my fitness levels would have dropped. I'm sure my fitness levels have dropped but not as much as I feared. Despite the initial trepidation, I decided the best thing to do was just get stuck in. 

Working with another shearer out of a pen I had the luxury of choosing which sheep to shear. It is always a debate, do I choose the smaller ones which weigh less but are either more wriggly or older and bonier or the big fat ones which are easier to shear but so heavy? 

Fat or chunky sheep are all smooth curves and well filled firm flesh with large flat surface areas for the handpiece. Small sheep are more fiddly, there's less room for the handpiece, especially around the crutch area. Skinny sheep are all lumps and bumps. It's like shaving your legs, which is easier, running the razor over firm curved calf muscle or struggling with all the different planes and loose skin on your knees? Shearing skinny sheep is just like shaving a whole lot of knees.

I went for the smaller sheep. More fiddling, less weight. When a sheep which weighs at least as much as I do pushes back into my legs it is hard not to fall over, I have to stop shearing to get my balance back and regain control. Big and fat may be easier to shear but not when you are lying on your back with the sheep stood on top of you.

Currently I am working on getting to grips with one particular stage of shearing. It is when you step up the neck. This is a really hard manoeuvre. When you've finished the belly and first hind leg you take a big step with your left foot followed by a smaller step with your right foot at the same time switching the sheep from resting on her right hip to resting on her left hip. 

I remember when I was first learning the instructor put a bit of wool on the board and said: 'That's where your left foot needs to be.' The distance looked impossible. I had enough trouble holding the sheep with both feet on the floor. Ask me to stand on one foot and at the same time roll 80kg of wriggling muscle between my legs one handed while the other hand holds a running handpiece? You've got to be joking. 

These pictures, taken at the South of England Show, show just before and after stepping up the neck:

I fell over a lot at this stage, or hung onto the front of the pen for dear life. I found it impossible to keep my balance and keep hold of the sheep. Eventually I managed the manoeuvre without falling over, hanging onto other people or losing the sheep. But for a long time I've been switching off the shearing machine and putting down the handpiece at this point. It seemed safer than either poking myself in the face or cutting the sheep's ears. 

However, when the handpiece is on the floor it can be kicked by the sheep. Once a sheep kicked my handpiece and I couldn't see where it had gone until another the next shearer along found my handpiece tangled up in his sheep's fleece. Fortunately the flying handpiece hadn't hurt anyone and wasn't damaged.

So I am trying to get the hang of stepping up the neck while holding onto the handpiece and rolling the sheep one handed. The sheep always puts her penny's worth in by having a good wriggle. A few times at the weekend the sheep got on her feet as I tried to settle her into the new position. This is nasty as it means the sheep is on her feet with me straddling her. To get her back on her bottom I've got to unstraddle the sheep. Yep, once again I'm trying to stand on one foot, control a sheep one handed and deal with the running handpiece with the other hand. Still, with practice I am getting better. Shearing sheep is not easy. But the sense of achievement when another shorn sheep trots way is well worth the effort.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Fatigue Hat

Today I've decided to take part in WIP Wednesday, hosted by Tami's Amis. In between preparations for Fibre East I am finding time for some knitting.

I am making the Fatigue Cap, available on Ravelry (log in required). It's a 1940s pattern, a simple hat anyone could knit for soldiers in the Second World War. I am using my Knit Pro Symfonie needles from The pattern says 3.25mm but I'm using 3.75mm which seems to work better for me with this yarn. The yarn is one of my hand dyed yarns in Citrus. It is 100% wool, grown and spun in Sussex.

It is a really easy pattern, just stocking stitch with no shaping, I think I should be able to cope with it! This is only the second time I've used circular needles, I'm really enjoying knitting in the round, there's something soothing about the continuity.

I've got a away to go yet but maybe you can help me - how do you block a hat? 

Do go and see what other people are making over at Tami's Amis. I'm also linking up with Woolly Wednesday.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Love at First Treadle

I am in love. My new love is desirable in every way - looks great, feels great and delivers everything I could possibly want. I first encountered the object of my desire last October at the East Sussex Guild Exhibition. I spied the handsome creature across the crowded room and sidled up to introduce myself. After a long conversation, I was hooked. My friends nudged each other and looked sideways at us - 'she's going to take that one home with her!' They muttered. 

My new found love played hard to get. We didn't go home together that day. But hey, when you are going to enter into a long term relationship and share your home with someone you have to be sure they are the right one, don't you? 

For the next few months I fantasised about my new sweetheart. I gazed at pictures on the internet and read what other people had to say. No one had a bad word to say, except one person didn't like the unusual posture. I have to admit, I did find the slanting pose a little odd at first myself but it does make intimacy a breeze!

After several months of yearning and unfulfilled desire, we met again at Wonderwool Wales. I sneaked away from my stand before the show opened on the second day for another tryst. The lovely Martin of P and M Woolcrafts noticed how well we got along together and before I knew it Martin had my beloved ready for action and helped my whisk my darling back to my stand. I didn't feel cold for the rest of the day!

You guessed - my new love is a Lendrum spinning wheel. 

So far I have spun a Jacob batt on my new wheel. These batts are a particular favourite of mine, they are light grey with some darker fibre which gives a marbled effect. I think I've over spun the yarn though, the Lendrum treadles so effortlessly my hands didn't keep up with my feet!

Today I'm linking up with Creative Friday over at Natural Suburbia, so do click on the button below to see what everyone has has been making.

Monday, 25 June 2012

The Great British Story - Spinning at Hall Place

On Saturday I took part in an event which was linked to the BBC series The Great British Story - A People's History. The series is about the everyday lives of ordinary people in Britain through history. 

To accompany the series there are events being held around the country to help people discover more about their past. The event I took part in was at Hall Place, a Tudor House in Bexley, Kent. I went with my friends Viv and Della - from Wye Community Farm, and Della's daughter Cat. We represented the Kent Guild of Spinners, Dyers and Weavers.  

It was an unusual brief. Normally we rock up with our wheels and things we have made and take the day as it comes. The usual 'script' is about the process of spinning wool. This time the brief was different. We were there to give people a peek into the past. Now I consider myself to be a 21st century spinner, I don't particularly spin to recreate history, I spin in the here and now. Could I manage to talk all day about the lives of women in the past? I really wasn't sure if I knew enough about the history of spinning. 

Then there was the matter of deciding what to take for display. As it was an event with a history focus I asked my fellow Guild members to loan items which would fit in with the historical theme - nothing mill spun, nothing chemically dyed, nothing modern in design. That limited our choice of display materials but on the day we could honestly say that everything was handspun and either undyed or dyed with historic natural dyes. 

Yarns naturally dyed by Guild members
 The display looked good and showed people what could be achieved with ancient techniques. Guild members even lent a replica great wheel and a genuine antique flax wheel - which fell apart at every opportunity. 

The Great Wheel
People were fascinated to see us spinning. One person was convinced spinning wheels today were 'only made for demonstration' and 'didn't really work'! No I did not spend the best part of £450 on a wheel just to look pretty. 

We met members of the Guild of One-Name Studies, they research surnames and had seen many occupations related to wool in the census returns but were not sure what those occupations would have involved. It was exciting swopping knowledge to gain a better picture of the lives of textile workers in the past.

Taking part in this event has made me think about those forgotten women across thousands of years who spun every inch of yarn the world needed. Now I feel inspired to find out more about the history of wool and handspinning. Do you know of any good books or websites?

The TV programme, presented by Michael Wood, airs on BBC2 on Fridays at 9:00pm. 

 Thanks to Cat Newman for the photographs.

Friday, 22 June 2012

My Camera is Smoking!

Painter's Palette

My camera is smoking. Why? The poor thing has been over worked lately. I'm getting a new online shop! The current shop was a bodge job I muddled together myself. It was later improved by a professional (more about him in a minute) all the good bits are thanks to Simon.

In honour of the new website I have worked my way through all the stock re-photographing everything. That was an interesting experience. There have been numerous times when I nearly threw the camera out of the window. It is all very well having a camera with the potential for full manual control but what on earth do you do with all those combinations of settings? Still, the photography is done now. My camera is lying in a darkened room with a wet flannel on its forehead.

The site is being created by Simon Kiteley of Simon is a very experienced web person. As well as the design he does all the clever stuff I don't understand. Coding, I think its called. My idea of modern technology is a double treadle spinning wheel with flyer. I mean, you don't have to stop spinning to wind on the yarn and you can sit down - how advanced is that!

If you want to acquire a website or you're not happy with your current one have a look at Simon specialises in small and medium size businesses.

The new site is looking so much better than the old one already. Much cleaner and the product images are bigger so you can really see the items. Also thanks to a more advanced camera and proper lighting the colour representation is closer to reality.

I'll let you know the new web address soon when the site is ready for unveiling!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Wearing the Red Vest

Remember I was disappointed when I qualified to shear at Plumpton College Open Day then the event was cancelled? Well, I finally got to wear the red vest. I was part of the Plumpton College Shearing Team at the South of England Show (yes I know, the show was 7-9th June - I'm a bit behind!) It's a milestone in my journey to learn how to shear sheep.

The Plumpton College Shearing Team - thanks to Plumpton College for the picture
I had mixed feelings about shearing in public. There's always the worry something will go wrong, like falling over or letting your sheep escape. Then it's a male dominated world. I think a lot of people assume I'm there to roll wool and sweep the floor. Every time I opened the pen gate I sensed surprise behind me. That girl is going to shear a sheep!

I sheared every day of the show, shearing 18 sheep across the three days. The sheep were all very similar, lovely Suffolk Mule tegs. I really felt like I was improving and I think it helped that the sheep were consistent. When every sheep you pull out of the pen is different it can almost feel like starting again. Each sheep was a similar weight, size and shape and the fleeces combed through beautifully.

I can tell from the time stamps on the photos I was taking about 8 minutes to shear one sheep. That is slow but the important thing is to get the pattern and foot work right. Speed can come later. I've got to grips with the basics of shearing but there is so much detail to learn. For example the answer to the question why is the sheep struggling may be, you need to move your right toes two inches to the left. It's that precise.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Icelandic Sheep

As promised, the pictures of the Icelandic sheep, I thought I'd post these separately.

Have you ever spun or knitted wool from Icelandic sheep?

Meet Oliver

I promised to tell you about Oliver. Oliver is a rather special lamb. He is an orphan and just like his namesake he is always bleating for more. Even though he is bottle fed, he chases the ewes around and tries to sneak a drink from other lambs' mothers. 

Oliver came over to watch the shearing. When one of the ewes was sat up to be sheared he saw her bulging udder and two pink teats waving at him. Oliver could not resist. He latched on and helped himself. 

Shearing had to wait while Oliver filled his belly. Fortunately, the ewe didn't seem to mind.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Ice Badgers

I met some very unusual sheep this weekend. Ice Badgers. Baby Ice Badgers to be exact. Want to see one?

Aren't they adorable? They are a very unusual cross. They only exist because some naughty ewes decided they fancied a bit of fun and jumped into the ram's field. The ewes are Icelandic sheep, the ram is a Badger Face Welsh Mountain. 

In the picture above, the lamb on the left is a pure bred Badger Face and the one on the right is an Ice Badger. Can you see the Ice Badger already has tiny horns? It is unusual to find Icelandic sheep outside of Iceland. Icelandics are beautiful sheep, they remind me of Arab horses, they have dished faces and huge eyes. In the top picture above you can the Ice Badger lamb has a dished face.

This is a pure bred Icelandic ewe:

Isn't she gorgeous!

Later in the week I'll show you some more pictures of the Icelandics and tell you about Oliver, the cheeky Badger Face Welsh Mountain lamb I met.

Monday, 28 May 2012

100 Hours to Make a Tea Towel

I found this YouTube video by accident. I think the video has been made by a visitor to the Colonial Williamsburg Museum rather than by the museum itself. It is fairly long but there are some fascinating gems if you listen carefully. 

I am always interested in how long it took people in the past to spin yarn and produce cloth. I often wonder if they were much faster than me because they spent more time at the crafts or if my working estimate of 7 hours to card and spin 100g of wool is about what it would have taken years ago. 

The lady in this video estimates it took 40 hours to pick the cotton seeds from enough cotton for a tea towel. The total time she gives for sorting the cotton, spinning and weaving the tea towel is 100 hours. Just think how long it would take to make one complete set of clothing! Next time a project seems to be taking a long time I'll remember this.

You can read more at the Colonial Williamsburg website.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Finally Finished the Mohair!

Remember that mohair I've been spinning? I've finally finished it! I started from raw fleece. You can read about how I processed the mohair in Processing Raw Mohair by Hand and Mohair Update. In the end I spun 0.8 of a mile of pure mohair yarn. It was hard work. Here are the eight completed skeins:

 That's me and goats done for a bit!