Monday, February 18, 2019

How to Finish Your Triloom Woven Shawl

The last weaving pass is run, the center yarn is clipped and your shawl is done! Yippee!

Oh yeah, the weaving is done, now there's the finishing. 

How do you go from that triangle shaped weaving on the wall to the beautiful, drapey, shawl to wrap around your shoulders?

Follow along on the pictures below, and if you have any questions, you can contact me via messenger from our Havencroft Farm Homestead Facebook page.

The weaving is done! This is a twill/tabby combo pattern done with 100% Havencroft Farm grown Jacob sheep wool (Patchwork Cowboy and Havencroft Lauren's fleeces) processed into yarn at Yampa Valley Fiberworks and hand-dyed by me.)

Pretty as it looks from a distance, there are still some spacing issues that need fixing.

Spend time lining up yarns with your trusty weaving comb. (Not to recommend Walmart, but this is the comb I use.)

Once your weaving is all evened-up to your liking, crochet off the top. This shawl is not fringed, so the color changes are along the top. I'll weave those in later. The chain I use to take a shawl off the loom is; pull the corner loop of the shawl onto your hook; pull a loop of your finishing color through that loop; pull the next shawl loop off the nail and through the loop on the hook; pull another loop of finishing yarn through that loop; and all the way across, shawl loop, yarn loop. You should only ever have one loop on your hook. You can see the pattern in the picture above. At the end of the top edge of the shawl, pull up your last loop, cut the thread in the middle and pull it back through, then knot the starting thread for the shawl and the ending thread of the finishing yarn together.

The top edge is crocheted off the loom. Now to lift the bottom two edges.

Just gently lift the yarn off the pegs, or nails, starting at the bottom corner.

This shawl is now attached to the loom only at the top two corners. This is where you can see floats or any other issues that may need to be fixed by stitching them in. 

Take off the finished shawl, hang up your loom and start the next shawl. I always put the next shawl on the loom right after I pull the shawl I'm finishing off. I've planned it while weaving the last one, and I'm eager to get started on it, plus I hate seeing a naked loom!

I weave in all the color join ends with a crochet hook. Some people use a yarn needle. What ever works for you. I take out the knot that I used to join the colors (why I knot the joins loosly), make sure the yarns are crossed over so there are no awkward holes at the top of the shawl, and tuck the ends in, weaving them down their own color run.

Some shawls I crochet a decorative border, and strenghthener on the top, other shawls don't seem to need it. This one needed a bit of straightening on the top edge, which is provided by the crochet border.

Once you are happy with your finishing on the shawl, it's time to wash it. This "wet-finishes" the shawl, allows the yarns to bloom and meld together and sets it as one garment, instead of a lot of woven yarn. It also assures me that the piece does not have any flaws that I missed in the planning or weaving. Hand wash, gently in cool water with wool safe soap. I do the same - lather, rinse, repeat that I do to wash most things. Make sure you fill the basin first and dissolve the soap before adding your garment. Take the garment out to drain while you rinse the basin and prepare the next water bath.

After washing and rinsing, roll your shawl up in a towel and gently squeeze out the excess water. 
Lay your shawl flat and shape it how you want it to dry. I put a king sized sheet over a few towels on our queen sized bed to block my shawls. It's a big enough space, and the door is closed to our bedroom, so it is a cat-free zone, too.

Give it a bit to dry and then wear your beautiful new shawl. This particular shawl is for a friend, if you want to see a picture of her wearing it (give me a few days to get it delivered!) visit our Havencroft Farm Homestead Facebook page.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

What to keep in your kidding or lambing kit

Havencroft Kachina had these adorable twin ewes by Havencroft Neptune. The new barn gives us a great set up for jug pens to give mom and babies a safe place to bond .
 It's the beginning of lambing and kidding time here in the Ozarks on Havencroft Farm. That means it's time to keep the "midwifery" kit hanging by the door so we're ready to help when needed.

I've been a shepherd since 1979. I learned from an old-time shepherd, Finley Nelson, and from my dad's stories of having goats when he was a kid. So, I do things the old fashioned way. I am happy to learn about new ways, but I still think simple is good.

Our lambing kit is simple. It starts with towels to help mama dry off babies. Most ewes or does have twins, so if we can help her by drying off one while she goes about the business of having the second, that's good. If it's cold, getting the babies dry quickly will help them stay warm.

Scissors, iodine, towels and clean straw are staples for planning on Havencroft Farm. 

The next thing that's in the kit is a sprayer bottle of iodine for spraying the lamb's umbilical cord. It's vitally important. We always iodine babies. Sometimes we dip navels, but for the last few years we've been drenching them well with the sprayer.

We also keep scissors in the bag, just in case we need to trim umbilicals that are dragging the ground, or trim wool away from udders on sheep that haven't been sheared yet. The next thing that is vital is making sure that babies nurse very soon after being born. They need the protection of the first milk, colostrum, to protect them from bacteria and to get their gut working. We check the mama's udder, making sure the colostrum is flowing freely even if we weren't there for the birth. We also check to make sure babies have full tummies and warm, moist mouths.

If the babies are too weak to nurse, or if there is any other reason they can't get colostrum within an hour of being born, we thaw out some frozen colostrum from last year, or earlier in the year and use a bottle or dose syringe to get it down them. We always freeze excess colostrum from our dairy goats in two ounce bags for just this purpose. Colostrum and soaking navels in iodine are considered absolutely necessary on our farm.

Something else I try to keep in the kit are recycled shopping bags. They are handy for disposing of after birth. We keep that cleaned up because we do have coyotes, raccoons and other predators that we don't want to invite with the smell of new birth.

We also make sure we have clean, dry bedding available. Some of our ewes choose not to use it, but we try.

Finally, we keep molasses in the kit. We mix about 2 tablespoons (or glugs)  in a bowl of warm water to offer to every new mom after giving birth. Most of them drink it down. It gives them water, sugar for energy and minerals like iron to help replace what they've lost.

It's not much, we keep it simple. We also do regular night time barn checks during kidding and lambing season. The whole flock gets used to the flashlight as the silly humans wander through their sleeping place two or three times a night. We are respectful of their sleep and try not to shine the light hard on any ewe or doe unless something looks unusual.

Sunday, February 03, 2019

Shearing Time Begins with Magic

Havencroft Magic, daughter of Havencroft Luke and
Havencroft Hocus Pocus is due to lamb February 11.
She's the first ewe sheared for the 2019 season.

We started shearing today here on Havencroft Farm.

We start shearing this time of year because it is much better for the ewes to be sheared a week or two before lambing.

We breed our ewes to lamb this time of year for several reason, but mostly because, even though our jacob sheep are very parasite resistant, we help them with that in all ways possible. We want our lambs growing big and healthy and strong before we reach the time of year with above 60-degree nights. That's when the barber pole worms and other parasites flourish. If the young ones have some good growth on them, they are able to resist the parasites.

Havencroft Molly
Molly is Magic's cousin. Her mum Higgldy-Piggldy is sister to Hocus-Pocus.
Molly and Magic are also sisters on the paternal side. They are best friends,
and now that they are sheared, they look a lot alike. Luckily, Magic has a
dot on her nose and Molly doesn't. Now that she's sheared, it looks like
Molly has some freckles, too.

We breed to lamb in February and March, so, we shear in February and March.We do all the shearing ourselves, by hand. We also have busy work schedules, so we shear two to four a weekend. This time of year especially, we shear them in pairs, usually Mother-daughter or sisters or close friends. That way the newly sheared sheep can cuddle together in the shelter at night and keep each other warm.

Among the reasons to shear before lambing are:

  1. There is a natural break that occurs in the fleece due to the hormones when a ewe lambs. If you don't shear around this time, you will end up with a break in your wool, a problem when you spin it.
  2. When the ewes are sheared before lambing, it is easier for the lambs to locate the udder for that all important first drink of colostrum.
  3. If the ewe is sheared, she'll know when it is cold or wet, and go into the shelter. Her lambs will follow her.
  4. If the ewe is sheared, she can cuddle and share body heat with her lambs. If she is still wrapped up in a full wool fleece, all the heat stays inside. Her lambs can freeze if they can't share her body heat.
  5. We leave tails on, and it is easier to see udder development and lambing signs on a sheared ewe.

My daughter Lena and I do all the shearing ourselves,
by hand, on a stand. It's what works well for us
and gives us time with our sheep. It gives me
good spinning and weaving fleeces. 

We have 12 bred ewes this year, so even at only two a weekend, we'll get through them by mid-March. The other 13 sheep will get sheared around and after the ewes. The old sheep don't get sheared until the nights are staying warm. The angora goats get sheared in April and October and the three alpacas get sheared in May.

So if you're looking for me on the weekend from now until May, and it's not raining, and I'm not in the garden, I'll be out back shearing.