Sunday, December 08, 2013

Herkimer's Rug

Herki wants to know why I have
Fantasia's fleece on my head.
I've been raising colored angora goats since the mid-90's. I love the steel grays, soft oatmeal cream, and gentle brown colors. My goal was to breed a true, rich animal red doe. I have not achieved this goal, yet. 

About six years ago I had people start requesting white mohair rugs at shows. My response was that I don't breed white goats, so I can't make white rugs. Then I got my Tillie goat in a group of beautiful gray and black goats. Tillie is white. I so enjoyed dyeing and playing with the white mohair, and I am very, very fond of Tillie. She's the pretty goat on my business cards and posters. 

So, the next time I went looking for a buck, I bought a white one. Herkimer is a sweet boy. We named him after the Herkimer diamond because of his shiny white fleece. His offspring are all white, of course, and he is producing kids with a delightful variety of fleece textures. And, twice a year, he gets his hair cut and I can weave one white rug from his fleece. 

We shear all our fiber critters on a stand, using hand shears. Herki is a good boy for shearing, though he does like to tug on your clothes when he can reach them. We put each fleece in a pillow case as we shear and mark it with the animal's name, the date and the label "rug" or "spin" for the eventual process that the fleece will go through. Then we store all the fleeces on a big shelf in my shop.

Herki's fleece has beautiful locks that maintain their integrity through the weaving and felting process that each rug goes through. His is always labeled "rug" because it makes such beautiful ones.

The rug weaving process starts with considering the colors of fleeces I have and dyeing or finding the right 100% wool warp yarn for the fleeces. For this rug, I ordered several different "white" wool yarns to find the color I liked the best with his fleece. Then I measured out the warp yarns and tied them on the loom. Herki's rugs are pretty large and the weaving takes a while. 

Once I have woven the entire fleece into the warp, along with yarns to keep it stable, I take it off the loom and tie the fringes on each end. Then I start the felting process. Each rug gets its first bath in the tub, to get out the worst of the grime and begin the felting in the direction I want it to go. After rinsing well and drying for a bit on the porch rail, the rug then begins the machine washing and felting rounds. 

Locky and lovely, Herkimer's diamond rug.
I have a front load washer and each rug goes through about 7 cycles on the gentle wash with cold water. I am currently using Whisk detergent. It gets the rugs clean with our water. Most of the time, I dry the rugs on our porch railing, but when the weather does not permit, I dry them in the dryer on air dry.

This process gets each rug clean, and felts it slightly into a firm and durable rug. 
This fall's Herkimer rug is a unique treasure. It is definitely the most beautiful rug I've woven thus far. It was ordered during Studio Tour and its fond owner was going to pick it up at Christmas Showcase. Because of the storm, Showcase was cancelled, so I am making arrangements to mail this wonderful rug. 

You are welcome to visit Herki at the farm this year and see his kids. As we have a small flock, we usually only keep a buck or a ram for 3 years before finding him a new home and bringing in a new male with fresh genetics. Herki's rugs are so, so beautiful, I am tempted to keep him longer, but he is so good at his other job (making baby goats) that it will  be hard to keep him separate from his offspring. All that to say, Herki will probably only be here one more year. If you are interested in angora wether fiber goats, I have two Herki sons that will be looking for a new home next spring after shearing. And if you need a nice buck for your flock next October, let me know. I have a diamond of an angora goat buck who would love to find some new girls.

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