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 www.p2tog.com. 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.