Tag Archives: Soap

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

Felted Soap Workshop

Back in October I taught a felted soap class at the studio at Wisconsin Concrete Park in Phillips, WI.

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Students and their lovely creations

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Coopworth wool that has been dyed, prepared on a drum carder and awaiting color blending magic

I brought along books about fiber and quite a bunch of examples of items that I had felted.  Not only soaps, but also knitted and felted items such as handbags, a cup cozy and mittens.

“Felting” wool is basically what happens when you put a sweater through the hot cycle in your washer and discover with chagrin that you have created doll clothes accidentally.

This explanation for how felting happens comes from BioTechnology Learning Hub: “The exposed edges of the cuticle cells point towards the tip of the fibre, creating a jagged edge. This allows fibres to slip over one another easily in one direction but not the other, giving wool the ability to felt.

Felt is created when wool fibres are agitated in water – they slip over one another and the scales interlock, preventing the fibre from returning to its original shape. The process can be controlled to create very dense fabrics such as felt and wool blanket and jacket fabric, but can also be caused unintentionally during laundering and ruin a garment.”

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Microscopic image of wool

 

Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:ESEM_color_wool.jpg

Using wool’s ability to felt to our advantage, we wrapped my handcrafted herbal soaps in colorful rolags made by blending colors using hand carders.  As part of the class, I taught each of the students how to properly use hand carders to prepare the fiber.  I also explained how color blending can be used to make infinite new and dynamic colors using a few batts of dyed wool.  We soaked the wrapped soaps with warm water and agitated the wool by rubbing it in circles on each surface until the wool had just begun to felt together, then we rinsed them, pressed them dry in a towel and set them out to dry and be admired.

Soap that has been wrapped in wool has become a popular gift item.  It brightens any decor.  Felted soaps are like having a wash cloth built right in and they work great to scrub a gardener’s hands clean.  The wool continues to shrink so that it is always tight against the soap.  The wool wrapper helps the soap to last longer as long as the soap isn’t allowed to sit in water, which would cause the wool to wick and soften the soap.

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Soaps, felted soaps, wool rolags and hand carders

UPDATE: Last spring I had the opportunity to teach this workshop again in an abbreviated fashion for a couple of groups of 4-H youth at UWEX Price County Project Fun Day.  The activity was well received and a couple of kids held off on using their soaps so that they could submit them for exhibit at the Price County Fair.

Each child selected their own colors and learned to use the hand cards to create a rolag for wrapping around their bar of soap.  I also gave a short talk about how soap is made and the characteristics of wool that allows it to felt.

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Price County 4-H Youth at Project Fun Day

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Price County 4-H Youth at Project Fun Day

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Filed under Family and friends, Fiber Arts