52 Weeks of Sheep (2017)

2018, Meanderings

Dad’s Hat – The Healing Wonders of Fiber & Writing

This is my first blog post in quite some time.  I think as you read it, you’ll have a better understanding of why that is… I’m ready, though.  Ready to get back to writing, ready to get back to the things that are important to me.  Ready to talk sheep, fiber, life, and everything that goes along with them… I hope you’re ready too and hope you’ll come back along on the journey with me!  Here we go… onto things that matter!  Thanks for being patient, and thanks for being here!

As some of you remember from the 52 Weeks of Sheep Facebook post last week, I promised to write about my “special fiber” from the week of Spinzilla and Spinner’s Choice.  I’ll warn everyone now, this is an extremely emotional post for me, but I believe I needed to spin the fiber and write about it as I continue to heal.  For the new members here, I lost my dad on August 24th after his long and valiant battle with lung and brain cancer and this is the story of “Dad’s Hat.”

I picked this fiber, originally, because with my dad’s treatments, he was continuously cold.  For winter in Montana, I wanted him to have something warm, and something handmade.  It was supposed to be his Christmas present… in my mind, I just always thought he would be here for at least one more Christmas… he’s not.

On the day we found out that my dad had less than a week to live, he and I had one of the last conversations we would have while he was “with it.”  We had started a list last year when he was diagnosed of all the things we were going to do together, and things we wanted to do someday, either together or on our own.  Somehow, I knew those someday things wouldn’t happen after his cancer returned in January – not because we didn’t want them to, but because I saw how tired he was.  I’ll admit, I’d been in denial – I mean no daughter wants to lose her father – for most of us, I think we see them as our very own superheroes, so when I was hit with the news that day that he wouldn’t be with me much longer, I crashed, I screamed, I cried, but also that day, when I was with him, we just talked.  I won’t get into all the details of that conversation – just know that I’m beyond grateful for it.

Back to our lists… one of the things on my list was to hand spin this beautiful silver-grey alpaca fiber, mixed with a little wool from one of my favorite sheep, Pinky, and then knit my dad this hat that would help to keep him warm this winter and give it to him at Christmas.  So during that last conversation, he spoke of how we didn’t get to go on our fishing trip that we’d planned, and I told him that I was sorry I never finished his hat, but if it was okay with him, I would still spin the fiber and knit a hat, only I would wear it, and each time I did, I would remember him and know he was right there with me.  He smiled – and that was all that I needed.

Since my dad’s death, I hadn’t really wanted to spin.  To be completely honest, I hadn’t really wanted to do much of anything – but this, the fiber, the hat, the lessons, they were important.  I knew I would spin it during Spinzilla, but I also knew I needed to save it for the last spin – probably subconsciously because I knew it would be an “emotional spin.”

I picked up the fiber, and I put it down as the tears welled up.  I looked at my list.  I remember the promise I made to my dad, and I picked the fiber up again.  I prepped the wheel, put the first empty bobbin on, and I began to spin.  The tears continued to fall as I filled the bobbin and loaded the second.  The memories flooded my mind of all the happy times, of the best decision I made earlier in the year to quit my job, move, and spend all the time I could with my dad.  We’d already lost so much time.  I remembered our road trips, the lessons I learned from him, and his final lucid words to me… “Live life to the fullest, and don’t be afraid.”  I remembered his smile, the lives he touched, the difference he made.  Once the bobbins were full, I plied them together, and as I plied, the tears weren’t as frequent, the smiles were more, and the memories, I realized are the most precious things I have of my dad now, and I treasure them.  My lesson in it all… don’t wait.  Don’t wait to get things done.  Don’t wait for a special holiday to give someone the gift – just do it now.  Part of me still wishes my dad could have worn this hat personally, but I do know, down deep inside, he’s going to be wearing it with me.

Below are pictures of the yarn and today, I’ve begun knitting “Dad’s Hat”… it’s getting colder here in Montana.  We had snow this past weekend and we’re sure to have more soon.  I’ll be prepared.  I’ll be warm. And with or without the hat, he’’ll always be with me.

I would love to hear about any “special fiber” or projects you’ve been working on too!  Please feel free to comment below or post some of your own stories on the page too.  Fiber connects us and our stories are important – so make sure to tell them!

Until next time – find happiness in all that you do!

~Tammy

 

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Bringing the Fiber Guild Back to Lincoln, MT!

I’m excited to announce that we’re bringing back the Fiber Guild to Lincoln, MT! For more information, please visit the following link to read the announcement in our local paper!  https://www.blackfootvalleydispatch.com/story/2018/08/29/community/fiber-guild-returns-to-lincoln-with-new-name/431.html 

To join The Lincoln Fiber Circle Facebook group, please go to: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2054938354767230/ 

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Photo credit to Roger Dey of the Blackfoot Valley Dispatch.

 

In addition, The Lincoln Library & Goldieknots Montana will be hosting a Fiber Fun Night in preparation for the new Fiber Circle gathering on Thursday, September 6th from 5-7pm.  You can read more about that event and RSVP by visiting the our Facebook page event at:  https://www.facebook.com/events/1872733366142350/

 

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Playing catch up, over and over again…

There are things that happen in life, things you have no control over.  While some people may argue this has nothing to do with my business or this 52 Weeks of Sheep adventure, I disagree.  When something happens in your life to someone who means the world to you, it affects every single aspect if your life. Some people may do a really good job at hiding it, or pretending it doesn’t exist, but it does.  I thought I could be one of those people who could just plow through, keep up with my insanely busy schedule, and still give to everyone.  What I found out is this.  Me, the woman who thought she could do it all with a smile on her face simply couldn’t.  I was scared, I was worried, I was exhausted, I was angry. This person I had become wasn’t me and it began to trickle in to everything I was doing until I just couldn’t do anything.  It was a struggle to get out of bed and go to work or work on my fiber arts business – or give anything to anyone.  I am always such a happy, positive person that this new, whatever I was, began to really scare me.  So in my mind, rather than be negative, I just simply kind of stopped everything.  I did put on a very good front for a very long time and then I just couldn’t do it anymore.  I felt bad and guilty because I felt like I was letting a lot of people down, but when there is nothing left to give, quite simply, there is just nothing left to give.  So I focused on what was really important – my dad and his illness.

As many of you know, earlier this year, shortly after I started this group, I was faced with some family health issues with my dad, and I never really got into what that illness was.  At that time, I just couldn’t.  Now I am able to talk about it and share the experience with people – especially people who have been following my journey.  In early January, my dad went to the doctor for a follow-up appointment to a procedure he had a few years ago and while they were running tests, they found a spot on his lung.  He told me not to worry and they were going to run some more tests.  I won’t lie, I worried anyway. He had blood tests, MRI’s, x-rays, etc.  Then they did a biopsy.  I waited.  He called.  He had lung cancer.  My world completely turned upside down.

To give you all a little bit of history, after high school, I didn’t have much contact with my dad.  After I had been married for 20 years, my now ex-husband and I parted ways.  He stayed in Pennsylvania, and my dad moved me, my daughter, a horse, 3 dogs, 7 cats, 2 birds, and all of my household and worldly possessions to Montana.  He gave me a job, provided a vehicle, and helped me move into my little house in Lincoln, MT.  I believe this was my dad’s way of making the first effort to re-build our all but non-existent relationship.  We’ve grown closer over the last several years.  He gave me a brand new start, and whether he realized it at the time, gave me the chance to find myself, find my passion, and rebuild a life for myself that I could be proud of.

In April, my dad had surgery and they removed part of his lung.  He seemed to bounce back from that, but after they tested lymph nodes, they decided he needed to go through four rounds of chemo.  He began those treatments in May and he had his last treatment in July.  I’ve gone through many emotions, self-discoveries, temper tantrums (because dammit, dads aren’t supposed feel sick like that) and many other roller-coaster rides through this process.  He had his follow-up with his oncologist yesterday, and I am happy to report, they are optimistic and things look good.  He goes back in three months for continued follow-up and he’ll continue to recuperate from those grueling treatments.

So now that what appears to be the worst is over, I can begin to take on some of the things that are important to me – but not all of them. The other thing I learned through this process is that I don’t have to do everything – and I am human.  I have gone over in my mind the things I really want to do… run my fiber arts business, teach and inspire others, enjoy my home life with my honey and the animals, and be available if, when, and as my family needs me.  Every minute of my day does not have to be filled with “something.”

What I want to say to all of you is thank you – for being patient with me while I’ve learned these lessons and taken the time for my family.  We are officially 28 weeks into this 52 Weeks of Sheep adventure.  I still have some catching up to do – both on spinning and processing, but I know I will get there.  I’ve said it to everyone here in the group or following along… this is meant to be a fun, educational journey with like-minded people.  It’s not a race, and no one is keeping track or forcing time tables on anyone else, so I should also take that advice – and I am.  Below are some pictures of what I’ve been up to over the last few weeks (Portland, Charollais, and Cheviot)  and next week, there will be new fiber adventures on the horizon.

Until then, happy spinning!

~Tammy

 

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Week 8 – A Little Columbia Lot of Fun!

Week 8 – Columbia

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Photo taken from internet.

 

Officially two months into the 52 Weeks of Sheep adventure and I’m still loving every minute of it.  The breed study, washing, carding, spinning, plying, photo taking – I’m loving all of it.  The camaraderie between everyone on the Facebook group page (which is https://www.facebook.com/groups/52WeeksofSheep2017/ in case you haven’t joined us there yet) has been uplifting and fun.  People from all over the globe spinning a different breed of sheep or type of fiber each week – or when they can, because as I’ve said all along – this isn’t a stressful endeavor, just a lot of fun, a great way to learn, and meet other fiber addicts. (yup – I called us all addicts 😉 )

With all of that said, this week I spun Columbia.  A friend who is local to me and along for the 52 Weeks ride shared her stash with me (and in return I shared some Portland fleece for one of the weeks in May).  I started with approximately two ounces of this lovely cream-colored roving and decided I was going to shake it up a bit and NOT spin thin.  I won’t lie, once you’ve been spinning thin and lace-weight, going back to a thicker spin is, well, um, different.  On the plus side, when you spin a little thicker, the bobbin fills quicker – so I may have to re-think this whole thin spin thing (except that I really like to knit with lace and sport-weight yarn).  A dilemma to ponder another day…

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So, I spun a little thicker single, filled the bobbins more quickly, and ended up with 116 yards of a gorgeous two-ply sport to worsted weight yarn.  The wool itself was super easy to spin.  It’s a little rougher than the Merino and Alpaca I’m naturally drawn to, but, I really liked it.  It has a little bit of a sheen to it, and just look at that skein – it’s beautiful!

 

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How did week eight go for you?  Did you spin Columbia or a different breed?  Did you decide to just follow along this week and see how everyone else was faring?  If you did spin, what were your thoughts?  Is it a fiber you might like to spin again, and if so, what would you want to spin it for?  Please comment below and tell us all about it – or better yet, post your comments and pictures to that Facebook link above!

Next week my list takes me to Coopworth.  What about you?  Won’t you join in the adventure and spin something too?

Have a wonderful week nine and as always – Happy Spinning!

~Tammy

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Week 6 – Turning White Wool into Colorful Creations…

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Week 6 – Romney

This week’s breed was Romney – which I just LOVE!  Fortunately for me, I live close to, and am friends with a local ranch owner (Double A Ranch) that raises Targhee and Romney sheep.  I’ve attended their sheerings in the past and had this beautiful white roving from them. One of the reasons I love Romney wool so much is the longer staple, which makes spinning it a lot easier.  As a matter of fact, when I’m teaching new spinners how to spin on a spindle or a wheel, this is my go-to fiber.  It’s relatively soft and generally easier to spin than some of the finer wools.  In my opinion, it is a little bit more forgiving, and it definitely takes dye colors well.

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Now, normally I’m all about the natural colors of wool.  Really, it’s kinda my thing – but – in the dead of winter in Montana, where we’ve had 56 plus inches of snow since December, and I hadn’t seen the actual ground for weeks, I decided I needed some color in my life – and bright colors too gosh darn it!  So, what’s a girl to do?  Dye some wool of course!

It was pretty much the perfect week to get some colors going in the dye-pot and Romney seemed to be the perfect wool to do it with.  I took fuscia, electric violet, and teal and spun them each separately.  The plan was to four-ply the yarn adding in a strand of white.  Once I had all of the colors spun up, I decided against the white and just put all three of these vibrant colors together.  Needless to say – I’m ecstatic!

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So this fiber was much easier for me to get this week – because it’s local to me.  What fiber is local to where you are, and what is your “go-to” fiber when you’re not following a list for the 52 Weeks of Sheep?

What did you all think of the Romney, or whatever breed you happened to spin this week?  If you’re following along, what breed would you like to spin – or what’s local in your area?

Remember, to keep up with the adventures, check us out on Facebook at:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/52WeeksofSheep2017/

Until next week have fun and happy spinning! 🙂

~Tammy

 

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Week 5 – Not Quite As I’d Planned

Week 5 – Angora Rabbit

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Alright, so this week didn’t go quite as planned – but what things ever do, right?

I was given some lovely Angora rabbit fiber from a friend, who, by the way, is extremely allergic to bunnies.  Now, I’ve always known I was allergic, at least to an extent to bunnies, but I’ve been around them for years during my time working in animal shelters.  My nose would run and my eyes would get a little red and puffy, but I’ve always just sucked it up and moved along.  I mean they are pretty cute and cuddly, and swollen eyes and a runny nose are a small price to pay to hang out with these cool critters… until now, and attempting to spin Angora rabbit fiber.

Let me set the scene for you… quiet little fiber arts studio, comfy chair, cool music, spinning wheel oiled and ready to go… cue the fuzzy flying hair everywhere and me forgetting to wash my hands before touching my face or itching my eyes while spinning this incredibly soft fiber.  No, I won’t share a picture of this little hiccup – and I’m sure you’ve all got a pretty good visual.  Needless to say, I did not complete this past week’s challenge.  I even tried a second time thinking I’d just be really careful, because, darn it, I wanted to spin it and this is a challenge after all!  It went a little better than the first attempt, but not by much, and this time I required use of allergy medicine and an inhaler.  No, I didn’t take a three-strikes-and-you’re-out approach, I simply left it at strike two and decided to get a head-start on spinning the Romney fiber on the list for week six.

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For those of you that did spin this incredible fiber, I’d like to live vicariously through you!  Please, please, please, tell me about your experience.  Did you like the fiber?  Wasn’t it just about the softest thing you’ve ever felt?  Did you have fun spinning it?  Details, I need details – and pictures too!!  Is this a fiber you were familiar with?  Is it a fiber you would likely spin with again?  Why – why not? Share your own experience below in the comments or on the 52 Weeks of Sheep 2017 Facebook page at:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/52WeeksofSheep2017/

 

NOTE – THIS IS A STOCK PICTURE AND NOT ANYTHING I’VE SPUN…

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Weeks 3 & 4 – A Combined Effort…

Week 3 (CVM Romeldale) and Week 4 (Merino)

One of the best things about spinning fiber is you just kind of know when things are meant to go together.  That’s what happened during week 3 and 4 with my CVM / Romeldale roving and my Merino roving.  I spun them separately, but something just called for me to put them together somehow.  When you’re spinning, there’s a couple of ways to put them together, but the way that made the most sense to me was to ply them together – even though they were different colors.

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Week 3 – CVM / Romeldale

One of the reasons I chose to include this breed in the 52 Weeks of sheep project was that I wanted to include some conservation and endangered breeds and to increase awareness about those breeds of sheep.  I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to meet with some Romeldale / CVM breeders and producers when I was at a fiber festival in Northeast Pennsylvania this past September. I was fascinated and so interested in learning about how this breed has been dwindling over the years and how there is now such a concentrated effort in revitalizing it. I’m relatively new to breed management and characteristics, and this is just one of those breeds that I feel like will be part of me.

The breed itself originated in in California in the early 1900’s as a cross between Romney rams and Rambouillet ewes.  They have wool that is usually fairly soft and have fleece weights between 6-15 pounds with a staple length of 3-6 inches and micron counts ranging from 21-25.

The fiber I spun came from Boylayer’s in Troy, PA and was a beautiful light brown color.  It was a little springy, and very soft and easy to work with.  I spun it a little thicker than a lace-weight single and it had a little bit of texture to it in the spinning process.  I really did like spinning this particular fiber and will likely spin it again.  I’m a HUGE fan of natural colors, and this particular color was magnificent!

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Week 4 – Merino

Ok – we’ve all heard of Merino.  It’s like the holy grail of spinning fibers – everyone knows it’s soft, and fluffy, and, well, for lack of a better work, it’s just luscious!  I didn’t always feel this way about Merino though.  When I was a very new and  beginner spinner, I decided I could spin anything I wanted, even Merino with it’s fairly short-stapled lock.  It was almost the beginning and end of my spinning days.  Not only was it short-stapled, it felted so easily.  I swore if you looked at it wrong it would just walk away and felt on itself. Thankfully, I’m “determined” (the boyfriend refers to it as stubborn) and I didn’t quit spinning – and my wheel didn’t end up thrown out the window.  I swore I would never spin Merino again… and then five years later I went to a sheering in Shepherd, MT, helped out – and whamo – fell in love with this wonderful soft fiber!  So much so, that it’s a staple in my Goldieknots Montana business including roving, hand-dyed yarns, and knitting kits.  My fiber came from 50 or so pounds I bought this past year (yes, that’s pounds) from this farm in Shepherd and was processed at the Dakota Fiber Mill in Kindred, ND by the amazing Chris (yes, that’s how I think of her!)

Merino sheep originated in Spain and have fleeces weighing anywhere between 6-40 pounds with a staple length of 2-5 inches and a micron count of 11.5-26. It’s a wonderful and lightweight (think of a fluffy cloud) fiber.  It felts very easily and takes colors well.  Merino is one of those fibers that’s great for those close-to-skin items.  I was able to spin it thick or thin, and decided I would do it in a fingering weight single to ply with the natural brown CVM/Romeldale from last week.  Talk about a match made in, well, fiber heaven 😉

So now that we’re four weeks into this spinning adventure – how are you liking it?  Have you been spinning along with the breeds I am, working on a list of your own, or just following along?  If you spun the CVM/Romeldale and the Merino – what were your thoughts?  Have you found a new favorite fiber in these first few weeks?  If you’re following along, do you have any questions or insights you’d like to share?

I’d love to hear about your experience in the project.  Please feel free to comment below or join the 52 Weeks of Sheep 2017 Facebook group and post your pictures and comments there at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/52WeeksofSheep2017/

Also, feel free to share this with anyone you think might be interested – I’d love to have them join us!

Until next week – happy spinning!

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