Sunday, September 5, 2010

Fall on the Farm

I am using these great pics that my sister took for me this spring.  How strange to use them for fall, but believe it or not fall around here looks pretty much like spring.  Our best growing season is now.  I can't wait till the green houses once again looks like this.

How about some more Swiss chard?  This is a wonder plant in my book.  It produced all the way through winter into June.  I will plant a lot of this.  Easy to grow and easy to cook.  How can you beat a plant like this one?  I highly recommend this for your garden.
Our small farm pigs, Porky and Bess, have blessed us with another litter this summer.  Porky is pictured below.  These are the best pigs ever.  Bess had a litter in January during the ice storm and took care of them all by herself.  No birthing crate for her.  All the little pigs made it despite the bitter cold.  Her summer piggies had a little problem with the extreme heat and we sadly lost a few.  You couldn't ask for better pigs though.

We saved out three little pigs for our purposes and they are lean and mean right now.  They will gift us with bacon and sausage for this winter.  Raised on table scraps and a small amount of feed.

Dude, our little ram is not so little now.  He has grown quite a bit over summer and is already courting the girls.  We hope to have several little lambs next spring.

This is just a great pic of our flock this spring.  All the wool has grown back after the spring shearing and they look just like this photo once again.  Of course the weathers have to stand up front to show off their superb fleeces.

It is finally cool enough to breed rabbits again.  I have missed going in the rabbit barn and seeing all the cute little babies like the ones below.  Rabbits just don't do well in the heat and we have to give them a long summer break so as not to bake our poor mama rabbits.

I just included a picture of me and my dog child, Snarf.  He likes to hug.  Really he does.
Just wanted to share a few pics of the farm.  Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Spinning your crock pot dyed yarn

After dyeing all that lovely fiber, you need to spin it up into some lovely yarn.  You will find that if you put it in the carder, you are going to end up with a homogenized color -- so not what you were after.  Below is an example of fiber that I spun into yarn.  You see all the lovely colors?

To keep my colors separate, I carefully pull the locks open, keeping the colors in bands.  Next is some of the wool pictured above pulled out into roving so as to preserve the different colored areas.  Then I just spun it up thick and thin.  I love just to let the fiber spin the way it wants to. 

Below is the yarn I spun from this fiber.  I Navajo-plied this yarn to keep the color bands together giving me a yarn that changes colors as it goes along it's length.  

Below is another yarn that I spun the same way, only this time, I plied it with a thin yarn I spun out of angora rabbit fiber.  You can also use embroidery thread or even a commercial fiber to ply with.  Let your imagination run wild. At any rate, this method keeps those lovely bands of color that you worked so hard on in your crock pot dyeing project. 

Hope this helps.  If you have any questions about the above process, please drop me a line and I will do my best to help you out.

Monday, May 31, 2010

crock pot dyeing

I just got back from the Dickson Tennessee fiber festival.  My friends and I had a ton of fun shopping and getting new fiber ideas.  I shared some of my own.  My newest way to spend my fiber time is crock pot dyeing.  Crock pot dyeing is definitely for the multitasker.  You just put the stuff in the crock pot and go about your business stopping by occasionally to do a few things to the wool. Below, I will try to walk you through the process.

First thing is to get your clean wool and soak it in some hot water with a dash of detergent.  Here I have used a squirt of Dawn dish washing soap (original formula).  Just soak it enough to get it wet.  In the mean time, put a couple of inches of water in your crock pot and set the temp on high.  It will be ready when water droplets appear on the lid.  Do not ever use your crock pot for food after dyeing wool in it.  Also, I have only used gaywool acid dyes in crock pot dyeing because they contain all the good stuff in the mix and are granular and easier to handle.  I do not know how the other acid dyes will do using this process.  I suppose you could add vinegar to your water and hope for the best if you wanted to experiment with the other dyes.

Take your now wet wool and wring out as much water as you can.  Be careful not to do it in a way that will felt your wool.  Arrange your wool in the crock pot with the tips of the wool locks up.  The wool tops should be above the water level.  If you are dyeing yarn or roving, try to twist it around so that various parts of the yarn or roving are above water level.  You don't want to end up with one side dyed and the other not dyed or lighter.  The picture below shows how to arrange wool locks.  You may have to add more water to the pot so that the water level will be about 1/2 inch under the tops of the locks.

Decide on the colors you will be using. I always use the gaywool powdered acid dyes with all of the stuff included in the mix. You need at least 5 complimentary colors with only one being really dark.  At least 2 have to be really light.  In this example I have used honeycomb, sandstone, stringybark, oak, and cranberry.  You will use very little dye.  In fact, you will be surprised at how little you will be using.  Below is an example of how much of one color I would use.  You can use slightly more for the lighter colors and less for darker colors.

Carefully sprinkle very small amounts of dye granules on the tips of your wool.  Start with the lightest color and move to the darkest.  leave spaces between your color areas and make lighter areas bigger while making very small areas with the darkest dyes.  It will look as if you hardly have anything in the pot.  Pictured below is what mine looked like.  Believe me, that little bit of dye is going to go a long way. Now put the lid on the pot and go do something else for an hour.

Now, when you come back, the granules will have melted on the top of your wool.  Very carefully take your tongs ( for wool dyeing only) and carefully mash the wool down into the water.  Start in the light areas and move to the dark areas.  Do not stir or over mash.  Just push down.  You will see the color just bleed right into the wool.  When you have the wool colored all over the top as you see it below, place the lid back on the pot and go somewhere else for an hour.

Now you can come back and with your tongs, gently turn the whole batch of wool over and gently push down into the fluid any white wool you might see.  Let the wool set for another 30 minutes or so.  It is OK if you have some white wool showing.

Now take your tongs and lift your wool from the pot.  Let the hot water run out of the wool.  Be very careful not to scald yourself.  The wool is very hot at this point.  I placed my wool in a rubber tub to cool.  After the wool cools, you may soak the wool in a few hot (from the tap) baths until no more color leaches out of the wool.  Wring the excess water out of your wool and hang to dry in a net bag.

Below is the dye bath that has played out.  I am really lazy, so sometimes I just put more wet wool in and start all over with the color.  You would be surprised at how many times I can do this.

Here is an example of fleece that I crock pot dyed.  I got a little wild with the colors.

This is an example of yarns that I crock pot dyed.  This illustrates the importance of twisting the yarn around so you get more than one side dyed.  The two big ones and that really small one were done right.  That other one on the upper right had one side stuck up and the other side down, so it looks very one sided.  I dyed all of this in the same crock and didn't place that poor little guy correctly.

Thanks for viewing my little tutorial about crock pot dyeing. If you have any questions.  Please be sure to e-mail me and I will try to help you out.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Hello! An Introductory Post

Artisan Meadows is a micro-farm located just outside Memphis, TN.   

My goal is self-sufficiency -- especially with our food.  My husband and I are in the process of raising and growing almost all that we eat.  We raise rabbits, sheep, pigs, chickens, and even bees.  Square foot gardening has caught our interest, so we grow a wide variety of vegetables too.  We even have a few fledgling fruit trees. 

In addition to the farming, I am a  multi-media artist.  Using wool from my sheep, I do spinning, weaving, and felting.  I also do a lot of work with polymer clay.

This blog chronicles both our growth as a micro-farm, and my work as an artist.  I hope to connect with like-minded people, offer whatever advice or help I can, and learn a lot from all of you in the process!