Tag Archives: garden state sheep breeders

Woolly start to the new season

Feeling uneven from morning dental work, afternoon flu shot, a cold either minor and lingering, or just slowly beginning, catching up from some brief travel, and pressure systems changing from summery to autumny to a little summery again…

I’m usually ready to say goodbye to summer, but slightly less so this year, or maybe as usual, I’m just not willing to loose the daylight.

My favorite (and only one I attend these days) wool festival happened last weekend.

There was some sheep scratching…

Who doesn't love a good chin scratch? #sheep #jacobsheep #chinscratches #gardenstatesheepbreeders

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And oogling…

And of course, time for the dogs…

(Can you see the dog speck right of center near the top acting as gatekeeper?)

I kept to my strict budget of $30 (including parking) and came home with $3 left – again, took the penny candy approach and bought just a little fiber here and there (seen above).

And got it in mind to finally deal with some of the fiber I’ve been sitting on for years – especially this beast of a fleece (6 pounds I think?) that I’ve threatened to send out to be processed or have made into felt, but both cost money I don’t want to spend. So in the last few sunny days of the year, I’ll be picking and fluffing so I can card a little less messily indoors this winter (or just spin from the fluff and call it rustic and make a big blanket out of the mess…?

 

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Oh hello, and nearly goodbye, September…

I thought that by going back to a physical workplace after telecommuting for the last four years, I’d magically have more time. I know that’s not how things actually work scientifically, but I generally get more done the busier I am, and some of my best/most complicated/largest projects have happened when I was working more than full-time and/or more than one job and didn’t know up from down.

But I’m still settling in to the new routine I suppose, as is the dog (who is making progress somewhat but not enough yet), and the house and garden still need much more attention than just a bit of maintenance here and there…

But I’ve also got a case of raging startitis, with no accompanying secondary infections of focusitis or finishitis, so I need to reign things in a bit.

***

My all time favorite LYS recently closed – technically it wasn’t local to me anymore, but I occasionally ordered from them over the phone, and stopped in when passing through my old city – the news about it was sad, and perhaps moreso because it was one more severed tie to the place (and the shop was possibly a victim of the ever-increasing hipsterization and gentrification that is utterly ruining the city).

The Garden State Sheep Breeders festival came and went – I nearly missed it because I hadn’t registered that it had turned September (apparently I did that last year too) – and it was a little disappointing this year – fewer vendors and fewer unique breeds of wool for sale (if you want Romney, Jacob, or Alpaca, NJ is the place for you).

(Not that I don’t like Jacob and Alpaca especially, I just have enough for now.)

So I only picked up a few braids of atomically-dyed Dorset…

to make a superhero flaming cape-like shawl I guess?

And a couple of ounces of grab-bag fiber here and there from the fiber folks – I hate to call these pity purchases, but that’s what some are, and the rest are more of a penny candy approach…

But this means I need to oil up the wheel again and get spinning – it has been montionless for months – and it’s finally cool enough to start back up.

 

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$15 mistake; Middle-aged dreadlocks

I’ve gone to the last couple of fiber festivals with only $30 to spend on wool. This has actually been a blast rather than depressing because I take a penny candy approach to fiber and only buy an ounce or two of something here and there, and come home with a riot of color and new breeds to try out. If I’ve got a little extra cash after seeing all of the booths, I’ll go back for something in 4 ounces or so that caught my eye and spend my last $10-$15.

What caught my eye at the last NJ sheep festival was some Gotland – I had “gotten” some the previous year in a pale grey and loved spinning it. This was a darker chocolately grey – not too light, not too dark. I fondled some roving that was loose in a basket and asked if the breeder had more for sale.

gotland wad

I got it wound flat and sealed in a bag – it looked a bit odd to me, but I’m still a bit of a sheepy noob and figured it was just processed a bit differently…

But when I got home, it was what I feared – a felted mass.

It could have nearly been a sheepy collar as-is.

gotland collar

I’m not going to call out the breeder (who I spotted at Rhinebeck as well) because it was my fault for not inspecting  it before I bought it, and frankly, not exactly knowing what I was buying to begin with – perhaps this wasn’t really roving but woolen rope? Instant dreadlocks? A chair pad? When I asked for roving, the breeder thought I said, do you have a spiral of felted mess for sale?

So I ripped it apart and tugged it a bit to see if it could be salvageable into yarn.

(I didn’t want to leave it as felt – the point was to spin some more Gotland, and I wanted to get what I thought I got.)

gotland pile

The resulting “roving” was a limp yet stiff, lifeless mess.

So I tugged, and tugged, and tugged some more and managed to free a lock:

gotland staple

But I nearly freed some tendons and joints from their connective bits in the process, so it was not going to be worth it to try to completely free the fiber back into a softly spinnable state.

So I ran the whole shebang through the wheel to add a slight bit of twist to help round things out.

It was the fastest spinning I’ve ever done.

glotland yarn

After a nice long soak, it looked even more like dreadlocks.

gotland dreads

I had to try them on – playing with them took up more time than spinning them…

gotland ball

But now I’ve got a tad over 20 yards of mega bulky Gotland…

gotland spiral

And I might end up needle felting it into a chair pad after all…

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Jersey [wool] baby…

NJsheep-bored

Folks are always in a tizzy about Rhinebeck and the Maryland Sheep and Wool festivals, but smack in the middle is the small and very manageable Garden State [aka New Jersey] Sheep Breeders festival.

I went several years ago and bought a large amount of  raw alpaca fiber.  I think it was before I owned a spinning wheel, and had just learned to spin on a Turkish spindle…?  And I also thought I got a really good deal, but I didn’t – though it’s in beautiful natural fawn, grey, and black colors, the fibers were shorn at a very short length, so I’m not able to spin it (at least not without experiencing anger).  I need to felt it, blend it into something else, send it out for commercial processing, or just sell/trade/gift the mess.

I thought that this year’s festival would be bigger, and I think there were a few more vendors, but as a whole it’s small and I love it – no crowds, no pushing in booths, and plenty of time and space to enjoy the animals.

NJsheep-judging

And it really is about the animals – I know those other large festivals are too in theory, but the wooly nirvana shopping frenzy is the annoying take away.  I like watching the judging, even if it’s for the meat breeds – brings me back to my 4-H youth, and I can still spot the nicest hindquarters most of the time.

There may have been fewer breeds on display this year too, but I’m not sure.

N’s favorites are the angora goats.

NJsheep-goats

And I’m a fan of the Jacob sheep.

NJsheep-JacobRam

NJsheep-Jacobs

This little one – not sure if she’s Shetland or one of the small Cheviots – was bleating her cute little head off louder than anyone in the barn.

NJsheep-bleater

It seemed she just wanted attention, or she was nervous about an approaching late summer thunderstorm, or her buddies were in the ring and she was lonely, or she knew she was in the wrong state and the others were going Jersey on her ass…

NJsheep-bleaterportrait

But she calmed down once she got to pose for snaps.

[And for those who think they have an idea of what NJ might be like, they’re most likely wrong – this part of the state might as well be the Midwest, complete with more reasonable drivers and farm smells rather than malodorous chemical plants.  Actually the farms are really well-managed around here and rarely give off odors unlike the factory farms of PA].

On our last vacation, I managed just walk on by two decent-looking LYSs, and we drove right past WEBS since I knew that wool festivals were coming up. I’ve also been good about passing up sales at my favorite indie dyers and deeply discounted full lots of yarns over the last year, so I could spend a little on some fiber directly from the source.  I love so much of the beautifully dyed yarns out there at festivals though, and always kick myself for not picking up a skein or two of something gorgeous, but at nearly $30 a pop for most, I can get more [and more unique] fiber instead.  This would have been the time and place to pick up a few of those skeins though – some of the same booths at Rhinebeck are virtually impenetrable.

The fiber-bearing-animal-keeper folks around here seem to prefer Romneys and Alpacas, and I’m done with both of those for a bit – I’ve spun plenty of Romney, and though I love a “rustic” yarn, I’ve already got enough, and I don’t love knitting with it.  And the Alpaca is lovely, but the good stuff is pricey and I still have some waiting to be spun, so I’m mostly looking for different breeds to try, especially if they have a name and a face.

NJsheep-Gustave

So a few ounces of Gustav the Gotland came home with me.

NJsheep-Gotland

He lives at Cloudberry Sheep and Wool farm in central NJ and is a lovely pale to medium grey.  I’m not sure how I’ll spin him yet, or if I’ll combine some of the various breeds I’ve collected into some sort of sampler project, or make small accessories of each…

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