Hooters Hall

Posts Tagged ‘spinning wool’

Hooters Hall 2016: our five year anniversary

Another year at Hooters Hall has ended and we’ve been here five years now. We’ve done a lot in those five years but there’s still a lot to do. In 2016 we were able to spend more time growing our own produce and our experiment with straw bale gardening was very sucessful. The fruit trees, particularly the apricots were very productive and my squash forest gave us 75 winter squash which should see us all the way through the winter.

The straw bales we used are still intact and I think they will do a second growing season. I’ve still got some red cabbage and spring onions growing in them. Looking back on our harvest for 2016 and making plans for 2017 I’m going to be growing more elephant garlic, spring onions, sweet peppers and melons. I think I’ll skip the Kohl rabi for 2017 it grew really well but there’s only so much you can eat. The same with turnips. I had early success with baby turnips, got a bit carried away and we had a bit of a turnip glut. Fortunately the pigs helped us out with that. I’m also going have a year off growing peas and beans. They are nice but there’s only so much room in the polytunnel and I want to try some different growing challenges.

One of the best growing experiences of 2016 was harvesting fresh, homegrown melons and raspberries from the polytunnel for my breakfast. The tomatoes did really well this year too and although we had a bit of a glut it wasn’t overwhelming because we made good use of our dehydrator which means we’re still enjoying our tomato harvest now. At the end of the season we had a lot of green tomatoes and they made a really nice chutney.

Here are some pictures of our 2016 harvest

 

When we first moved to Hooters Hall five years ago I thought I might like to take up knitting but I remember telling a friend I didn’t think I would get into spinning my own yarn or any other fibre crafts. How wrong I was. I’ve got two spinning wheels and several weaving looms now and we’ve turned one of the rooms in the piggery into a fibre processing room. My super chunky handspun yarn is proving very popular in USA as well as UK and hopefully there will be a lot more fibre craft to come in 2017. Here’s some pictures for the yarn lovers.

The fibre we process at Hooters Hall is our own Jacob wool and mohair from our Angora goats. The sheep did really well in 2016. All but one of our ewes had twins and they are all thriving. We had a much earlier lambing than previous years because we kept our ram in with the flock from Summer through the autumn. February lambing did work quite well the lambs got to enjoy the best of the Spring /Summer grass and have grown really well with lovely fleeces. We moved each ewe inside when she lambed and kept ewes and the lambs inside for a few days before returning them to the flock We have had predator attacks over the past 5 years and learnt through experience it’s better to keep the lambs inside for the first few days. Unfortunately Amber our Angora doe didn’t fall pregnant this year but fingers crossed for 2017. We did add another goat breed to our herd with the arrival of Jen the Bagot goat. She’s doing really well and is now quite happy to eat out of my hand and even sits on my lap.

Here’s some pictures of some of the other residents of Hooters Hall in 2016 including Big cockerel one of our first batch of home hatched chickens.

If you follow Hooters Hall on Instagram or facebook you’ll have seen some of my natural dye experiments throughout 2016. I’ve tried some rust dyeing using rusty objects found on the farm as well as some eco printing using foraged plant material and dyeing with botanical dyes that I’ve grown in my dye garden. In Spring and Summer we sell freshly harvested hedgerow dyes in the Hooters Hall farm shop. I’ve already posted pictures of the results of willow dyeing and in 2017 I’ll be showing what the other hedgerow dyes can do. Here’s s selection of my natural dye and eco print experiments on cotton.

In the five years that we’ve been at Hooters Hall we’ve really got into outdoor cooking. In the Summer, weather permitting, we’ll generally cook on the campfire enjoying our own Gloucestershire Old Spot pork with herbs and vegetables from the garden and polytunnel. We’ve shared a few recipes on our facebook page and there’ll be more to come in 2017. We’re going to be exploring the world of herbal syrups and I’m sure there will be more sausage and pork recipes.

Before we moved to Hooters Hall we lived in South London. I loved living in London but you can’t beat Fenland for big skies and beautiful sunsets. Also the dark winter days are more bearable when you can watch the sun rise while doing the morning feed. Here are some of the best big skies of the Fens from 2016.

We spent our New year’s bank holiday doing a bit of polytunnel maintenance so now I’m itching to get growing again and it’s definitely time to start browsing the seed catalogues. We might be lambing again in a few weeks as well so keep an eye on our facebook and instagram for cute lamb pictures.

Hooters Hall Facebook https://www.facebook.com/HootersHall/

Hooters Hall Instagram https://www.instagram.com/hootershall/

Small Scale Wool Processing

We’ve had our flock of Jacob sheep at Hooters Hall for a few years now and over that time I’ve learnt to spin, knit and weave with wool. Being able to make things using fibre from my own flock is wonderful but getting from raw fleece to a yarn you can use to knit a scarf with can be a bit of a challenge. Of course you can simply send your fleeces off to a mill and let them do all the hard work. You do have to pay for that hard work though and it obviously isn’t the same as making a yarn that you’ve completely processed by hand.
Hand processing your wool isn’t quick but I think I’ve developed a system that’s not too labour or resource intensive once you’ve got the initial set up costs out the way. So here is the Hooters Hall guide to hand processing your wool.

I hand shear my sheep doing a couple each weekend and I process my wool in a similar way doing batches regularly rather than trying to do it all at once. We are lucky to have several outbuildings so I store my raw fleeces in cardboard boxes until I’m ready to process them. Here’s a picture.
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To wash your raw fleece you will need cold and hot water, a suitable detergent, lingerie laundry bags, containers big enough to allow the water to move around the wool fibres.
The detergent I use is Unicorn Power scour, which I buy from www.fibrehut.co.uk . I’ve tried a few different detergents and in my opinion the Unicorn Power Scour is the most effective particularly at low temperatures. The lingerie laundry bags makes moving your wet wool around a lot easier and you can buy them on Ebay and Amazon.

I have two sinks in my wool processing room but I use lidded buckets to wash the wool in. Moving smaller quantities of wet wool around is a lot easier than a whole fleece or more than one fleece. The buckets I use are the ones my horse treats come in but you can use any container that suits you. The important thing about choice of container is that it needs to be big enough for the water to be able to move around the fibres.
Here’s a picture of the containers I use
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And here’s a picture of some fleeces in their net bags ready for washing
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Once you have all your equipment ready it’s time to get washing. If you can try and do your wool washing near a water source. I have mains water in my wool processing room and two sinks one of which is a belfast sink at floor level. Here’s a picture of the set up. As you can see I’ve also got a hose pipe on the tap so I can fill my buckets at floor level rather than having to raise them to the level of the tap.
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Before you start washing your wool make sure you have removed all the obviously mucky bits. (generally referred to as skirting the fleece)

Wool Washing Method

Fill all your containers with cold water, place your net bags filled with wool in and leave overnight. This is why it’s important that the containers are big enough to let the water move around the wool. The water will be doing the hard work of removing the dirt for you. The following morning remove the wool from the bucket. The water will look something like this.
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Refill your container with warm water. I don’t have a hot water supply in my wool processing room but I do have electricity so I bought a catering hot water heater, you can find them on amazon. Here’s a picture
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Follow the directions on your detergent for how much to add then put your wool, still in the net bag, in the container with the warm water and detergent. Don’t agitate the wool at all because this risks causing it to felt. With Unicorn power scour I leave my wool soaking in the detergent and warm water for about an hour.

Remove your wool from the water. You now need to drain the water from the wool. You could simply leave it to drain but this will take a long time and you really want to get as much water as possible out of the fibre because this will also remove dirt particles. To achieve this you need to spin your wool. The old fashioned way to do this is to put it in a bag, tie it to a stick and swing it round and round but I thought that was a bit labour intensive.

I used to use the spin function on my washing machine but the fleece always got lightly felted, a bit of research online suggested this due to the way the spin function operates in front loading washing machines even when you are selecting spin only.

So, I invested in a stand alone spin dryer, the White Knight, which you can buy at Amazon and many other online shops. Here’s a picture, it’s quite compact, you need to be able to plug it in and will need a container to collect the water that is spun off and comes out of the bottom, as you can see I use a rubber trug. It only takes a minute or two to spin the wool almost touch dry and get rid of all that dirt.
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After spinning your wool you need to rinse it. Fill the containers you used for washing with cold water again and put the wool (still in the net bags) back in. Leave them to soak for an hour, you could leave them for longer if you want.

It’s back to the spinner then to get all the remaining water and dirt out.

Finally leave your wool spread out to dry. I use a heated drying rack but you could just have a standard laundry rack or make a wire rack that lets the air circulate the wool. Here’s a picture of some wool drying on my rack
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So now you have some beautiful, clean wool. What you do next depends on what you want to do with your fibre. I like to use mine for spinning yarn and weaving either as yarn or using unspun fibre for rya weaving or peg loom rugs.

For me the next step is to pick the wool. I have a wool picker, a fearsome looking bit of kit that uses a swinging motion and long nails to separate the fibres of your wool. Separating the fibres fluffs it all up and means any vegetation falls out. I bought my wool picker from www.fibrehut.co.uk but there are lots of plans available online if you’ve got the wood working skills to make your own. You can also pick through your wool by hand which obviously takes longer but is not an unpleasant task. Here’s a picture of my wool picker.
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Once you’ve picked your wool, if you want to spin it you can spin the picked wool without further processing. This is called spinning from the cloud and I’ll do a blog post about it in the future. Alternatively you can card your wool using either hand or a drum carder. You could also use a blending board and make rolags.

The Wool Project : Welsh Woolen Quilt

What makes a quilt Welsh ?

Historically the majority of Welsh quilting seems to have started in the mid 19th century continuing on to around the middle of the 20th century.  In Wales the majority of quilting work was done by professional quilters which lead to the development of a distinctive style and high standard of quilting. Generally if you had money and wanted a quilt you employed a professional quilter to make one for you. These quilts were treasured and kept for best, a mark of your success and worth.Professional quilters traveled the country, living with their customers while making the quilt which was generally completed within two weeks.

There are three main types of Welsh quilts cotton and multi fabric, wholecloth and woolen.

Cotton and multi fabric quilts became popular after roller printed cotton fabrics became more generally available in 1840. A medallion or frame quilt is the style of patchwork most associated with Wales. For Welsh quilters though the patchwork was very much considered second place to the quilting. It is the quilting patterns that identify a quilt as Welsh, the fabrics generally being made in England.

The quilting of Welsh quilts follows a basic format consisting of a square or rectangular central field surrounded by one or more borders. Borders were often outlined by double lines and had corner squares. The quilting borders don’t necessarily follow the seams of the patchwork in multi fabric quilts. A variety of motifs were used with designs developing as the quilting progressed and very much being the personal choice of the quilter. Motifs were often passed down in families and quilters prided themselves on the originality of their quilting.

Wholecloth quilts are made from a single piece of fabric rather than patchwork. They became popular from 1880 when satin cotton in a range of plain colours became the favoured fabric for quilts. Satin cotton has a sheen which shows off quilting very well. The Rural Industries Board, which was est up in 1928, encouraged the production of high quality luxury quilts and supported the Welsh quilters in using their traditional quilting patterns in new ways with wholecloth quilts. The influence of the Rural Industries Board also led to the individual  travelling professional quilter becoming a thing of the past. Quilters were encouraged to work in groups, with up to four women working on one quilt to achieve the goal of rapidly produced, high quality work. This change in production was no doubt beneficial to the industry as a whole but removed the individuality that came with the travelling quilters whose unique personalities were part of their quilting.

The opposite end of the spectrum to the luxury wholecloth quilts of the early – mid 20th century is the very traditional Welsh woolen quilt. Welsh woolen quilts were entirely home grown. The woolen cloth was made in the wool industries of mid and west Wales using wool yarn spun from the fleeces of Welsh sheep. The quilts were filled with wool collected from the hedgerows making them cheap to produce but incredibly warm and practical.

I’m Welsh and I like to quilt my multi cloth patchwork quilts in the Welsh style. I started off choosing motifs based on the fabric or theme of the quilt but overtime seemed to have developed my own personal motifs like those travelling Welsh quilters of old.

Much as I love creating multi cloth patchwork quilts I’ve always been fascinated by the Welsh woolen quilts. Now I have my own flock of Jacob sheep , can spin my fleeces and weave my own fabrics I want to experiment with making a Welsh woolen quilt.

My plan is to use as much of my own hand spun wool yarn as possible together with wool yarn from other rare British sheep breeds. I’m going to weave fabric on my table loom, I’m not sure yet whether to weave individual squares or longer strips of fabric. Smaller squares allows for more variability and experimentation in the fabric design but longer strips would be more practical with fewer seams. I’m still pondering what to choose and might go for a compromise of a bit of each.

I’ve bought a number of coloured warp yarns to experiment with. I’ve decided to stick to using my hand spun yarn for the weft to start with. Here’s a picture of the warp yarns I’ve got to play with.

As you can see there are a variety of colours and thicknesses.

I’m currently still getting all my fleeces spun but I’m starting to plan various weaves and have a pattern book of 600 different weaves to work through and choose from. Once I’ve woven all the woolen fabric I’ll need to sew the squares or strips together then create the quilt sandwich. I’ll be using a commercial wool batting the first time because I think it will be easier to work with and less time consuming than the traditional hedgerow collected wool. Depending on how the weaving goes I’ll either use a cotton fabric backing or more hand woven wool fabric. Weight and ease of quilting will also be considerations when deciding on cotton or wool for the backing but ideally I’d like to use my handwoven woolen fabric.

Having read The Wool Quilt by Jean Dubois I’m planning on quilting my Welsh woolen quilt as I would a cotton patchwork quilt and as the original Welsh quilters did, rather than tying it. Lots of sources advise that wool quilts can only be tied, thickness of the fabric often given as the reason for this but in her book Jean Dubois challenges this view and clearly shows that woolen quilts don’t have to be tied. This article describes what tying a quilt means     http://www.wikihow.com/Hand-Tie-a-Quilt

Once I’ve settled on the design for my fabrics and quilt I’ll post some more details and hopefully it won’t be too long until I have my first Welsh Woolen quilt.