Category Archives: Fiber Arts

A Virtual Holiday Pop-up hosted by Three Rivers Fibershed

On December 12th and 13th, 2020, Three Rivers Fibershed is hosting a virtual holiday pop-up on their Instagram page!

I love being a shepherd to my small flock of Coopworth and Romeldale CVM sheep and I’m super excited and honored to be a producer member of Three Rivers Fibershed alongside Alejandra, Stacy, Theresa, Patti, Kelly, Beth and Melissa.

Here are the links to all our Instagram pages so you can follow along during the virtual pop-up and also to keep up with our lovely sheep and our wool products in the future:

A Woolen Forest Farm & Studio
Autumn Larch Farm LLC
Dresow Family Farm
Get Bentz Farm
Holly Ridge Farm
Namekagon Valley Farm & Studio
Priory Farm LLC
Wool & Feather Farm

We would love for you to purchase our products, of course. And, we would be extremely grateful to you if you could help spread the word about our shepherds, our fiber and our fibershed by liking and sharing our posts.

Local Fiber, Local Labor, Local Dye

Three Rivers Fibershed develops regional fiber systems that build soil and protect the health of our biosphere here in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and South Dakota. Our strategic geography is centered in Minneapolis and extends out in a 175 mile radius. Three Rivers Fibershed is an affiliate of Fibershed. “Fibershed develops regional and regenerative fiber systems on behalf of independent working producers, by expanding opportunities to implement carbon farming, forming catalytic foundations to rebuild regional manufacturing, and through connecting end-users to farms and ranches through public education.

Our flocks and farms are counting on your support, especially during this pandemic year when it is harder for us to attend in person events.  Our direct-to-you farm raised fiber is most probably more expensive than the larger corporate brands, but there are no hidden costs that are being paid elsewhere by the environment or by far away laborers.  We work very hard to raise quality wool and care deeply about our small flocks of sheep and the land that sustains them.

You can ask me anything about a skein of yarn or ball of roving: Where was it milled?  What sort of antics did the sheep who grew it get up to when she was in her lambhood?  Can I recognize her voice from a distance?
My flock and I are a team – year on year we have improved the health of the soil beneath our permanent pastures.  Healthy soil means more carbon stored and we are turning sunshine and earth’s elements into wool.  Amazing, glorious wool: biodegradable, renewable, warm even when wet; varieties from soft as babies skin to sturdy enough for under our feet as rugs and over our heads as roofs – wool.

Please check out my online shop when you have a chance.  I welcome any questions you may have.  If you are thinking about gifts for the fiber fans in your life and aren’t sure what they need/want, you will find e-gift cards in the shop – a perfect virtual stocking stuffer that allows them to pick the perfect thing for their next project.

And remember to check the Three Rivers Fibershed Instagram page often on Dec. 12th and 13th, 2020. You’ll be in for a treat as each shepherd takes over the stories with in-depth information about their farm, flock and fiber!

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Filed under Farm, Fiber Arts, Fibershed, natural dyes, Reduce, reuse, recycle, Sheep, Sustainability, Wool

Learning about dyeing with plants

Coopworth roving dyed with dried Japanese Indigo leaves

I’m loving this learning about dyeing with natural materials. Except that the learning curve is so very steep. The really great thing, though, is that even when I don’t get the colors I expected, I still get really beautiful results. BTW, the beautiful and saturated blues I got in the picture above is my beginners luck experience.

I’m a proud producer member of Three Rivers Fibershed. Though I had been interested in the idea of natural dyes prior to joining them, it is really the Fibershed ethic of Local Labor, Local Fiber and Local Dye that encouraged me to begin this journey into local dye plants.

I began raising Japanese indigo several years ago. I have tried to master the fermentation techniques that are a common way of extracting color from indigo, but have not had success with that…yet! I will continue to experiment this summer, but with tiny jars until I gain more confidence. Sea Spell Fiber’s over-extraction stories on Instagram have been invaluable to learning the process.

Japanese indigo extraction experiment
Japanese indigo extraction experiment

Happily, I have had success extracting color from indigo by two other techniques – the dried indigo technique that I first learned about from Deb McClintock’s webpage. And the fresh leaf technique that is like creating an indigo smoothie. You just swirl it up and shazam, it turns the wool a beautiful aqua blue green! Watching the oxidation take place before your eyes is really cool too. I did this experiment with my niece and her good buddy since it involved nothing but indigo and water. And, I’ve learned that where indigo is native, it is considered to be really healthy stuff. In fact, if we are wearing clothes that are dyed with real indigo leaves, the clothing may be healthful to our skin!?!

Fresh Japanese Indigo “smoothie”
The results of dyeing with that indigo smoothie – it is after that when I learned about the wonders of using a paint strainer to keep the plant material away from my wool.

I’m probably most excited about using things that are either food waste or plants that are less than desirable in my environment. In the food waste department, I have worked with avocado pits and skins and onion skins. And, in the less desirable plant department (weeds, non-native invasives, etc.), I have so far done dye experiments with curly dock seeds, stinging nettle leaves and tansy blossoms.

The experiments will continue. My knowledge will grow. The highly enjoyable journey continues! If you would like to get your hands on a skein of naturally dyed Coopworth yarn or roving, have a look at the ever changing color lineup in my online store. And watch for posts of my dye journey on Instagram

Tansy and Japanese indigo over-dyed with tansy.
Tansy and Japanese indigo over-dyed with tansy. Coopworth roving.
Autumn aspen leaf dyed Coopworth yarn
Hollyhock blossom dyed Coopworth yarn and roving
Elderberry dye pot
Elderberry dyed Coopworth yarn – berries tend to be “fugitive dyes” – not likely to stay this lovely pink long-term. They will fade to a pleasing blue-grey.
Marigolds, rudbekia and calendula destined for drying and later wool dyeing.

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Filed under Family and friends, Farm, Fermentation, Fiber Arts, Fibershed, gardening, natural dyes, Reduce, reuse, recycle, Research, Sustainability, Wool

One Year – One Outfit

Three Rivers Fibershed (TRF)is an affiliate of Fibershed which was founded by Rebecca Burgess and has been developing “regional fiber systems that build soil & protect the health of our biosphere.”

A “Fibershed” is a strategic geography, like a foodshed or watershed, a way to engage our community and local resources. The Fibershed model allows small farms to produce fiber while maintaining a diverse and healthy ecosystem in small pockets. The Three Rivers Fibershed focuses on a radius of 175 miles from the Textile Center in Minneapolis, and includes portions of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and South Dakota.

Fibershed places the responsibility of where our clothing comes from- its production and construction- in our hands and within our community. It offers transparency, traceability, and accountability to each individual involved from the provider to processor to consumer. Fibershed champions the use of sustainable, locally sourced raw animal and vegetable fiber which has been ethically grown and raised, purchased at a fair price from environmentally responsible producers, and finally processed in a safe environment where all workers are treated and paid fairly. Consumers are deliberate and intentional in their clothing purchases, buying less clothing, but that is made to last a lifetime, whose story and background forms a direct and personal connection between producer and consumer while supporting a local industry with familiar faces and direct contact.

Our Fibershed aims to be inclusive, providing opportunities for connection among farmers and mills, artists and makers, consumers and everyone in between.

The Three Rivers Fibershed Board

One year one outfit is a maker challenge where participants aim to make a locally sourced outfit in one year using the Fibershed principles of Local Fiber, Local Labor, and Local Dyes. The Three Rivers Fibershed is facilitating the formation of a group to support each other in working to create local outfits starting with the first of four events to help support folks interested in giving it a try!

More details can be found at: http://www.threeriversfibershed.com/blog/

January 12, 2019 from 11 am to 2 pm in Edina, MN is the kick-off meeting for the One Year – One Outfit project. Please consider setting a challenge for yourself and join us on the 12th if you can, or learn more here.

I (Jane of Autumn Larch Farm LLC) will be attending the kick-off meeting as a fiber source/producer member of TRF and also as a maker. I’m excited to be scheming about my locally sourced outfit, the constraints and the opportunities these constraints present!

Coopworth yarn in varying weights and a range of natural colors from creamy white through almost black.
I’ll be bringing sheep specific Coopworth wool yarn and roving with me to Edina so that project participants can get rolling on their outfits right away.

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Coopworth Ram – Sold

Update: Seneca has now moved to his new home and new girlfriends!

Registered and Performance Designated by American Coopworth Registry

‘Seneca’ was born in April 2015.

White with Natural Color lineage.  His lambs have been all white when paired with a white ewe and all natural color when paired with a natural color ewe.

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Filed under Farm, Fiber Arts, Sheep

Names for the new girls

I don’t name all of my sheep… only the ones who will stay with us long term and I make this decision through observation and record keeping.  Criteria involved include health, wool quality and the criteria required to meet the requirements for the American Coopworth Registry’s Performance Designation.

From the Spring 2017 lamb crop, 3 ewes joined the breeding flock and have received a name.  Each year, I come up with a theme to select the names.  I had tree names  one year (Hemlock, Tamarack, Balsam) and hot beverage names another (Mocha, Cocoa, Java, Cappuccino), for example.

This year, to commemorate the unprecedented number of women who have stepped up to run for public office, I decided to name these 3 yearlings after famous female leaders from history.

Introducing:

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‘Empress’ Zoe, Cleopatra and ‘Queen’ Victoria

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Zoe

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Cleopatra

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Victoria

 

Here’s some info about the trend in women running for office at greater numbers: http://time.com/5107499/record-number-of-women-are-running-for-office/ and https://www.npr.org/2018/02/20/585542531/more-than-twice-as-many-women-are-running-for-congress-in-2018-compared-to-2016

If you are interested in running for office yourself (at any level), here are a couple of great resources: https://www.wfan.org/our-programs/plate-to-politicssm/ and https://voterunlead.org/

 

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Filed under Farm, Fiber Arts, Policy, Sheep

Raw Coopworth and Romeldale CVM fleeces available

Shearing this spring yielded lovely fleeces.  Then lambing commenced and I have been slow to share info about the fleeces – but here they are!

All of my sheep wear coats during the fall, winter and spring to help keep their wool as clean as possible.  Each of the fleeces have been very carefully skirted to remove vegetable matter and soiled wool.  In most cases there are two options available, 1: the main body of the fleece with virtually no vegetable matter and very clean wool – this is to be sold as one unit and 2: the margins which have a small amount of vegetable matter and are just a bit more soiled – this can be purchased in smaller amounts which I will weigh out and sell by the pound.

If you don’t see a fleece here that meets your needs please let me know.  I do still have some wool available from earlier shearings.

White 100% Coopworth raw fleeces:

Hoglah: 7″ staple, 3 crimps/inch, lustrous.  Full fleece available.  Also, 2.25# available at $10.50/#.

Tirzah: 5.5″ staple, 5 crimps/inch, very fine for Coopworth.  Full fleece available.  Also, 2.7# available at $10.50/#.

Seneca: 4.5″ staple (also was sheared in the fall), 3 crimps/inch.  Full fleece available.  Also, 1.6# available at $10.50/#.

Tamarack: 6.5″ staple, 3 crimps/inch.  Full fleece available.  Also, 1.8# available at $10.50/#.

 

Natural Color 100% Coopworth raw fleeces:

Noah: 6″ staple, 3 crimps/inch.  Full fleece available.  Her black wool has mellowed to a lovely silver/grey.

Cappuccino: 5.5″ staple, 5 crimps/inch.  Full fleece is sold.   3.4# available at $10.50/#.

Java: 5.5″ staple, 4 crimps/inch.  Her fleece is the darkest brown I have.  Full fleece available.

 

Badger color 100% Romeldale CVM raw fleece:

‘Flax’: 3.5″ staple, 11 crimps/inch – super fine – perfect for against the skin items.  Full fleece available (oatmeal color).   Also, 3.4# mixed oatmeal/grey/brown is available at $16/#.

Contact us with your questions or to reserve the raw fleeces of your choice.

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Sheep of another Fiber

„TribuT“ by Jean Luc Cornec

My sister-in-law sent me a screenshot of these critters and I was so amazed!  I have an actual flock of sheep of a similar population.  And, I’ve been going through belongings trying to declutter and pare down on possessions and came across the rotary phone I received as a teenager – bright red.

I would imagine, as with roll down windows in a car, most of today’s youngsters would have no idea what to do with these phones.

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Filed under Family and friends, Fiber Arts, Reduce, reuse, recycle, Sheep

Winter is certainly here!

But, it took a long time to arrive.

I timed my final harvest of carrots down to about the last possible second.

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This was the first week of December and the ground hadn’t yet frozen.  If I had gotten to this job just a day or two earlier, it would not have involved snow.

As you can see, the chickens have been moved into their winter quarters inside the garden fence where I can run an extension cord to plug their coop in for supplemental light and a heated water dish.

The garlic seed is snugly tucked into the ground and poultry net has been strung around the garlic beds in case the chickens get over exuberant.

At this point, the sheep were still getting most of their nutrition from grazing.  As you can see here, the lawn was still quite green.  Plenty of forage was available in most of the pasture.  This is really remarkable.  Often, by mid October I am feeding hay because there is no forage left, but this year it just kept right on growing until it got covered with snow in early December.

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I take pasture photos at 6 standard locations on the first of each month as a form of research and record keeping.  This was the 12/1/16 photo of Paddock 1.

Today, we are experiencing a real winter deep freeze.  The benefit of weather so cold that I’m reluctant to step outside is that I do finally get around to the paperwork and computer projects that had been languishing when I was working on outside projects.

I’m very pleased to have finally made a bunch of updates to my little online store.  Have a look: https://squareup.com/store/autumn-larch-farm-llc.  There you will find soaps, sheepskins, raw fleeces, roving, yarn and more.

If you live nearby, save the postage and contact us to set up a time to stop in and do your shopping in person.  If you live farther away, this little online store is a great option for having a look at the products available and getting them delivered right to your door via USPS.

Stay warm and enjoy the vibrant sunshine that usually comes with the bitter cold.

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Filed under Farm, Fiber Arts, gardening, Getting Organized, Research, Seasons, Sheep

Thinking about Christmas in July

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I started my 2015 Christmas cards on December 11th after getting a brainstorm to see how many I could knit.  Really, really not enough time!  (Apologies to those reading this who received a plain old paper card from me last year!!)  I highly recommend allowing yourself a bit more time, therefore I’m sharing this suggestion in July.

My favorite resource for inspiration in all things knitting (besides my fiber friends and family) is Ravelry.com, so I went there to search for patterns and ideas and found many, many to choose from.

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I already had blank cards and stamping supplies on hand, so I started a knitting frenzy and whipped out quite a few cards in a relatively short time.  One lesson I learned and that I’m reminded of while looking at this picture, is that newsprint is not a good choice for a work surface.  The print can easily rub off onto the finished card.  Better to work directly on a table that can be cleaned off or use a blank sheet of newsprint or kraft paper.

Another consideration is the thickness of the finished card and envelop.  These squeaked in under the maximum thickness allowed for standard postage rates in the US, but if I had used a bulky yarn or had applied felted ornaments on my trees, etc. they might have been too thick and required extra postage to mail.  Check with your postal service for current rules and regs.

Each knitted tree, etc. doubles as an ornament.  I secured a single crocheted loop at the top of each one and threaded the loop through a small slit in the card using a yarn needle.  The recipient was able to either keep the ornament attached to the card or pull it free and hang it on their tree.

These were really fun to knit up and were well received.  If you decide to create some yourself, I would love to see the results of your creativity.

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Filed under Family and friends, Fiber Arts, Seasons

New Ideas Part 2

In New Ideas Part 1, I introduced the Spring 2015 issue of Spin-Off magazine with the theme “A Celebration of Stash”, referring to the materials spinners, knitters and any other hobbyists have stored away for some future project.  I always try to look to my personal collection or “stash” before I look elsewhere when starting something new.

Earlier this year I taught a class on knitting with multiple colors, which is technically called stranded knitting, but is often referred to as Fair Isle knitting.  My introduction to the technique was through Norwegian patterns and basically you create a picture with each stitch by carrying the yarn behind (the strand) in a horizontal float and knitting with it where appropriate to the picture.

In preparation for teaching the class, I borrowed a number of books from the library.  I found one in particular that I really  like and have since added it to my personal library (Thanks Santa!):  Mastering Color Knitting by Melissa Leapman

The students in my class had taken the sock knitting class last year, and are now adept at working on double point needles, so we started off with a small project to learn the basics of working with two colors.  I found a project on Ravelry: Colour-stranded Cup Cozy, by Anna Daku that I thought would be a good way for them to master the skills of stranding (reading the grid paper diagram, creating the horizontal floats, etc.) before advancing to a larger project like a hat, cowl, mittens, etc.

cup cozy

Slide one of these washable wool cup cozies onto a cup from your local coffee shop and your coffee will stay warmer and your finger tips won’t smart.  And…you’ll be styling!

For my larger project – I’ve been wanting to make myself a hat with ear flaps for a while.  So, I started digging through my collection of yarn but didn’t find any that was the right thickness or color.  I’m currently trying to bring some semblance of order to my office space and so I had my collection of dribs and drabs from classes, workshops and my own experimentation pulled out and I found something I could get really excited about!  But, was it enough for an ear flap hat?

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Handed carded Coopworth wool dyed with fresh indigo leaves

Background on the dyed wool: My friend Terry grows her own Japanese Indigo to use in dyeing wool from her Shetland sheep flock.  A while back, when she was gearing up to do some dyeing, she decided to make a mini workshop out of it.  I was thrilled to participate and brought along a small bag of white Coopworth wool from my flock to see how it would take the dye.  What you see above is the result!  Terry soaked the indigo leaves overnight in rain water at room temperature and from that preparation extracted the deeper blue.  The icy pale blue is the exhaust from the same preparation.  The warm caramel tan is a second extraction after boiling the leaves.  What a range!  What beautiful colors that are completely comfortable together!  If you would like to learn more about dyeing with plant materials (it is on my bucket list), a good source of information is The Dyer’s Garden by Rita Buchanan.

OK, so now I’m determined to get an ear flap had out of this little bit of lovely wool.  I spun singles and plied them into a two-ply yarn.  If felt like I was over plying, but I finally got a yarn that was balanced after washing to set the twist.  The gauge swatch knit up to about 7 sts per inch using US size 2 needles.  I started out with 74 yards of darker blue, 58 yards of lighter blue and 64 yards of tan.  To keep this challenging, my search uncovered many hat patterns for two colors of yarn and gauges of 6 sts per inch.  I knew it was crucial for me to use all three colors in order to have enough yarn.

So, I adapted several patterns I like.  I started with the ear flaps from Cap for Learning Stranded Knitting by Cynthia Wasner.  Then I moved on to the star pattern from Norwegian Star Earflap Hat by Tiennie.  But, to make the hat large enough, I added one more star.  From here, I alternated between the three colors and looked to the peeries and borders shown in Mastering Color Knitting for inspiration.  I pulled out a pad of graph paper and drew my pictures for each section.

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The end result seen from the stranded side

Coopworth wool is on the coarser end of the wool fiber diameter spectrum*, which makes it extremely durable, though perhaps a bit itchy on my forehead.  For this reason, as well as to eliminate the risk of snagging the floats and to make it extra warm and wind proof, I chose to line the hat with a thin polar fleece.  I made a search online to get ideas for how to shape the polar fleece lining and discovered a marvelous resource… from right here in Wisconsin!  TECHknitting: Fully lining hats with polar fleece a blog post by TECHknitter was just exactly what I was looking for.

Even though I had added stitches, my hat was still a bit snug when I finished lining it, so I searched the house for something to slightly stretch the hat over while blocking it.

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Lined hat during blocking

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The smallest ice cream bucket in our collection was just the thing.  My new ear flap hat fits just perfectly now!

And here’s what is left.  Phew!

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*Coopworth fiber diameter = 35-39, Merino fiber diameter = 18 – 24

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Filed under Fiber Arts, Natural world