Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Sheep in Spring

I've been working on this for a while and have finally finished it. The inspiration for this wall hanging (which measures about 35" finished) was a pattern by Janet Claire. It was for a small quilt (9" x 5") with sheep and crow pictured on it. I loved the sheep and crow.....so enlarged those by 200% (or somewhere around there). Then had the wonderful idea of doing a scrappy background using 6" squares.....of which I have a ton of and the number never seems to get any smaller. The appliqued flowers were born one night as I was looking at what was finished so far. The center seemed like it needed something to finish it up. It wasn't until I went outside to see my sheep that I noticed all the buttercups that had sprung up all over the place....in what seems like overnight. This was exactly what my quilt needed. And the buttercups were born. :.)

What makes this quilt a bit different from the others that I have done is that it is the first one that I have ever done on my Pfaff 7550. I decided it was time to see exactly what the Pfaff could do (just about everything!!) and the Bernina really needed to be taken in to get cleaned. I discovered that the Pfaff does beautiful machine applique....is easy to use.....and has several advantages over my Bernina when it comes to machine quilting. I also discovered that the Bernina has a larger throat space and the bobbins can hold a bit more. All in all.....I really love both machines and hope to have them both set up for use someday.
Now a bit on the machine quilting....of which I'm very happy with. :.) In the sky area I chose to do a Baptist Fan pattern. The applique was all outlined and a curly pattern was done in the sheep....with the hopes of giving it a bit more "woolly" look. The flowers (as the bird) were outlined. The grass area was done using a small meandering pattern. The dark areas of the scrappy half square triangles were done using a 1/4" outline....repeatedly. This was so incredibly easy to do with the Pfaff. All I had to do was put on the 1/4" foot (with the guide), put the built-in walking foot down.....and then simply keep the guide on the line that I wanted to follow. The end result was a very nice, very even 1/4" outline every single time.
In the light areas of the scrappy half square triangles I did a feather within a feather type of free motion quilting. Once I got used to the feel of the Pfaff, the free motion went very easily and very quickly. It's a wonderful machine to free motion quilt on. Just need to practice a bit more to keep my stitch size consistently consistent. The corner blocks were done using a flower that kept on going all the way out to the edges of the block. Finally, the outer border was done using a free-hand feather motif. Oh! And I did stitch-in-the-ditch on all the borders, including the dark parts of the half square triangle border. I used a foot that has a guide in the middle of the foot. All you have to do is keep this guide right in the seam....and the needle just follows along behind. Works like a dream!! And, yes, I will be making more quilts on the Pfaff. :.)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Shearing is Done!!

Shearing is done!!! Yea!!! All 21 sheep are now sheared and loving their new look. I finished up the last one a couple of days ago. Feels absolutely wonderful to have it done, too. :.} Now the task of skirting and sorting begins. I have only set a couple aside as mine. The rest of the fleeces will be offered up for sale. And there are some very lovely fleeces this year. :.}

Every year there is at least one fleece that stands out for one reason or another. This year it happened to be a lamb's fleece. It stood out for several reasons. One is the color. This fleece is light gray (almost white in places) at the base and graduates in various shades of gray until the tip is reached.....where it is black. We have pulled several locks from various parts of the fleece and every lock has this same coloration.
The second reason this fleece stood out is that it was so clean.....which is rather unusual for a lamb fleece around here. My lamb fleeces tend to collect quite a bit of vegetation in them. The lambs are always in the feeder, under the larger sheep, under the llamas, or climbing over each other. So it's not unusual to get a lamb fleece that makes you want to say "yuck" when you see it. Usually the worse parts can be skirted and you are left with a pretty decent fleece that takes just a little bit more work than normal to clean up. That wasn't the case with this fleece. Very little skirting had to be done and it looks like it will be a sheer joy to work with. I honestly don't know how this little lamb managed to stay so clean. Especially since.........
Reason number Three.......the staple length of this fleece is ..................14"!!!!!!! Yes, it was hard to believe, but several locks were pulled from different areas of the fleece and measured. Then measured again. The staple length of this fleece is a whopping 14". I have never had a fleece this long before. It's incredible! Plus the fiber is amazingly soft and has a nice soft sheen to it. And all this from a little lamb who turned a year old a couple of weeks ago. Makes me wonder what his adult fleece will be like next year. :.} Needles to say this fleece has been set aside for myself. I can't wait for the weather to warm up (it actually snowed here a couple of days ago) so I can get it washed and start playing with it.

Friday, April 17, 2009

March's Block

Here it is! March's block all finished. I really love this block! It's makes me smile everytime I see it. In fact, all the finished blocks make me smile whenever I see them. This is going to be a great quilt once it is done. Very cheery. :.)

I haven't started on April's block yet. Hopefully sometime this weekend.....if I ever finish up that darn second sock. This pair of socks has been going rather slowly. Don't know why though. The yarn has been really nice to use. Lovely color.....and the color changes have been fun to watch. The pattern has been relatively easy to knit. Maybe it's just due to lack of time......something that will hopefully change once shearing is done.

Shearing is going well. Or at least as well as the weather will permit. We actually woke up to it snowing the other morning. Snowed real hard for most of the morning. The ground and trees were all covered with a blanket of white. Not something you want to see in the middle of April, that's for sure! By the afternoon it had warmed up so much that all the snow melted. There was ice on the sheep's water bucket yesterday morning.....and a light frost on the car windows this morning. But the days have been really nice. Yesterday we were out shearing in t-shirts. Got four sheep done. That leaves us with 7 (out of 21) left to do. Yea!! Out of the 14 sheep already sheared we only had two that were a bit jumpy on the stand. One that actually sat down and didn't want to get back up. Took a bit of persuading to get him to finally stand up so we could finish shearing. And we did have one that figured out how to get out of the head piece and decided to run around the backyard for a bit half sheared. Once we caught him and he was back on the stand, he was great. Very loving and sweet. Had to be coaxed down off the stand once he was done. Guess he just felt he needed a bit of exercise half-way through shearing. :.) All in all, it's been a very uneventful shearing so far this year.....which is a good thing. :.)

And my spinning wheels haven't been sitting idle....unbelieveable as that may sound. I actually managed to finish up two skeins of yarn this past week. One is a skein of polypay-x that my youngest hand-painted the summer before last. I spun it up and then navajo plyed it. Looks really pretty. Unfortunately the skein is about 250 yards. I was hoping for a bit more. I want to make socks for her from it. Thankfully she has tiny feet (size 5) and if I do ankle socks I should have enough yarn. I will play around with a pattern once things quiet down a bit more around here. The other skein is a superwash merino/mystery fiber/icicle top blend. That turned out to be a very pretty 2-ply yarn. It's about 330 yards. Hopefully enough for a pair of socks for myself. I really need to learn to spin my singles just a bit finer if I expect to get a bit more yardage per skein. I'm guessing that both of these skeins are about a dk weight (#2). I am pleased with how they both turned out though. :.) I will be sure to share pictures once both skeins are dry (set the twist on them yesterday).

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Shearing Time!!!

It's shearing time around here......when the weather holds, that is. Pictures above is Q-Tip (white) and below him is Tristan (gray). They were the last two that I sheared....before the rain hit. I do all my own shearing and the sheep do stand very well for me. They are comfortable on the shearing stand.....as you can see from the pictures. :.) Sometimes they get so comfortable that when it's time for them to come down, they don't. They just stand there and you have to coax them off the stand. It can be quite comical at times. :.)

This year's fleeces are looking great!! They are larger than last year's both in size and length. I think it's due to the heavy snow we got this year. Even my single coated Shetland has a heavier fleece than normal. So far 3 sheep have been sheared. Haven't had a chance to skirt any yet.....or to see how they look as far as vegetation. During shearing they didn't look bad at all. Nothing that couldn't easily be picked out during skirting.....or before washing. Makes me very, very happy!!

It will probably be another week and a half before shearing is completely done around here.....depending on the weather, of course. Today it's raining. No shearing. Tomorrow.....we'll see. With 21 sheep it does take me a while to get everyone done.....but it's so worth it. The sheep are happy and I end up with some beautiful fleeces. Of course the hard part will be deciding which ones I keep and which ones will get sold. After all, I can't spin up all 21 fleeces by myself.....no matter how hard I try. :.)