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Posted 12/24/2013 8:24pm by Mona.

once again, it's time for our annual song ...................

On the twelfth day of Stitch-mas, my true love gave to me:

Twelve knitters knitting

Eleven cones a’ winding

Ten orders shipping

Nine rugs a’ hooking

Eight yarns a’ dying

Seven needles felting

Six sample cards

Five spinning wheels!!!

Four pounds of fiber

Three nuno scarves

Two socks on one needle

 And a yarn store that understands me

 Merry Christmas Everyone!!!

Posted 9/3/2013 2:35pm by Mona.

In my never-ending attempts to be more organized, I recently came across these lovely, hand-made, wooden shawl pins that I forgot I still had:

shawl pins for sale

These were hand made by the since retired owner of an alpaca farm in Maine.  They are about 2 and ¾ inches wide.  The lighter wood is maple and the darker wood is purpleheart.  They look beautiful attached to a shawl or scarf or even as a decoration on a hat.

Lovely aren’t they??  I only have the four that are shown, 2 in maple and 2 in purpleheart. 

Each shawl pin is $27, which includes the cute box they are pictured in as well as shipping within the continental U.S.   If interested, please email me with your Paypal address and I will send an invoice; the shawl pin will be shipped once your payment is received/cleared.  :)

 

Posted 12/24/2012 7:22am by Mona.

 On the twelfth day of Stitch-mas, my true love gave to me:

Twelve knitters knitting

Eleven cones a’ winding

Ten orders shipping

Nine rugs a’ hooking

Eight yarns a’ dying

Seven needles felting

Six sample cards

Five spinning wheels!!!

Four pounds of fiber

Three nuno scarves

Two socks on one needle

 And a yarn store that understands me

 Merry Christmas Everyone!!!

Posted 7/6/2012 11:34am by Mona.

Ahhhh........ summertime.........  The grass is green as are the leaves.  The days are long, hot, and sticky followed by a hopefully cooler night.  Thunderstorms pop up occasionally to water the earth and cool the air.  The garden is sprouting with green beans and beets and carrots and budding tomatoes and zucchini.  The scent of basil and oregano are in the air as I water.  The daylilies are blooming.  Birds and butterflies abound.  Robins nest on our home’s log corners, finches nest in the bushes, barn swallows nest in the barn, killdeer nest in the pasture, bluebirds nest in the birdhouses along the pasture fence, and the hawk makes a daily appearance swooping over the pasture.  Stella spends the entire day outside, lounging about in the shade.  She sometimes takes herself for a casual walk around the fence perimeter, all the time keeping an eye out for a chipmunk to chase.  I sit quietly outside soaking up the sunshine while I spin, weave, or knit, facing the alpacas grazing in the pasture. 

Wild critters large and small quietly pass through our property at night.  The other day my neighbor mentioned that a raccoon had gotten into his coop, again, and decimated his poultry flock, and that a bear had destroyed his beehive.  :(  Whether you have a teeny homestead or a large one, farming is not always easy or fun; Nature works on her own schedule.

Coyotes and deer still abound.  We’ve been fortunate.  The deer have not decimated the garden yet and the coyotes have never, ever bothered the alpacas.  They do that well enough amongst themselves!  10 intact male alpacas on a hot summer day can get easily bored or irritated with each other ~ I’m guessing that’s it ~ and suddenly have to provide themselves with their own entertainment by chasing each other down .......... which means I’m having to run out to the barn to break up the ‘fight.’  ‘They say’ it’s a normal thing, a hierarchy thing, and to let the boys work it out amongst themselves but I have a hard time standing by idly when a smaller one is screeching. 

And usually they do work it out amongst themselves but when it carries on and on, there I am, running.  And stumbling as I run.  Yes folks.  12 years of ballet as a kid and I can still manage to trip over my own feet on a daily basis.

At least it’s summertime.  All I have to do is jump into my little barn shoes ........

Posted 2/27/2012 3:20pm by Mona.

This winter continues to be warm and weird.  Most nights are still well below freezing but the days are still rather mild for New Hampshire.   We’ve hardly received any snow.   It’s the middle of February and we can see the grass and weeds.  Of course everything is brown and rather dreary looking, rather than bright green and colorful.  We’ve been joking that the winter of 2011 – 2012 has been one very long mud season.

fresh bale of hay

The alpacas are loving this weather.  Usually in the winter they prefer to be snuggled into the barn in the deep straw, behind the front wall of tarps.  All that hanging out in the barn makes them cranky and usually I find fresh spit on someone’s neck in the morning.  This winter most of the alpacas usually sleep outside, cushed under the stars, chewing their cud and looking very content.  During the day, they romp our frozen yet muddy pastures, playing and wrestling with each other.  Some days that wrestling quickly turns into an all out tussle match and Stella and I run outside to try to break it up.  Stella runs out barking and usually it subsides before I make it out to the barn. 

Needless to say, fresh spit abounds.   :)  

To keep myself occupied this winter, I’ve been playing with my bags and bags of alpaca fleeces.  Opening each bag, I know immediately which one of my alpacas formerly wore the fleece inside. :)  I smile, thinking of them running through the pasture or greeting me in the barn with alpaca sniffs and kisses.  I can feel their spirit running through my body and into my heart and embracing my soul.  I am so attached to each and every one of them.  I could never sell any of them.   It’s hard for me to even think of selling their fleece!  As I work with their fleeces ~ sorting, skirting, washing, combing, spinning ~ I smile even more.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  There is joy in working with an animal’s fiber that you’ve raised yourself. 

Posted 12/31/2011 6:27pm by Mona.

It’s New Year’s Eve!

Well 2011 isn’t ending so wonderfully.  Julio’s jaw abscess has returned, thankfully not too badly, and this week I’ve had a sore throat/earache thing going on which is leaving me totally exhausted.  Perhaps Julio and I are just having sympathy pangs for each other?  Animals are so in tuned to their caretakers and alpacas are no exception.

On New Year’s Eve I am always excited to look forward to the new beginnings of a new year.  I blogged about that last year.

So today I’m just reflecting about this past year.  2011 has been a wonderful year!  My big goal was to teach myself to process fleece myself and yup, I succeeded.  I learned how to sort the fleece [yes, yes, actually that was at the end of 2010], and how to wash it, flick it, comb it, card it, and my favorite ~ spin it!  I can spin on both a spindle and a spinning wheel!

Here’s my new spinning wheel, an Ashford Country Spinner:

my new spinning wheel!

And here are the first 2 skeins I spun ~ the blue one is Border LeicesterX  wool with a little alpaca, and the red one is Border LeicesterX wool with a little mohair:

first 2 handspun skeins from my wheel

I love, love, love, bulky, funky, art yarns and my heavy Turkish spindle and the Country Spinner are both perfect for this.  These bulky yarns are perfect for weaving on my frame looms. 

I hope you all had a wonderful 2011.

Here’s to 2012!  May you have an even more wonderful year!

Thank you all for reading our little blog!  It means a lot to us.

Bright Blessings to all of you!!

Mona   

Posted 12/25/2011 1:50pm by Mona.

Merry Christmas Everyone!!

christmas snowmen on table

 

 

 

Posted 9/7/2011 3:16pm by Mona.

We had a really, really nice summer here in our little corner of the US.  Most days I was able to enjoy utilizing my outside Fiber Studio.

 This is my outside Fiber Studio:

my outdoor fiber studio

weaving while watching the alpacas graze

I, sitting in my backyard in my trusty little beach chair, with Stella snoozing nearby, have been spending the summer weaving, crocheting, spinning, felting, knitting, flicking, and washing and sorting fleece while watching the alpacas serenely graze.   Sometimes they stop to curiously watch the passing wildlife or roll in the sand pile.  They are very peaceful days filled with warm sunshine on my shoulders and soft grass under my feet.

The rains and snow and sunshine feed the soil which grows the grasses that in turn feed the alpacas who in turn grow the fleece that eventually can clothe people.  What a sensation to watch this transformation happening over a year’s time.  As the alpacas go about their daily job of, well, being alpacas, I stand back and just imagine what their fleeces turned into yarn will look like and what I can make with that yarn.  My alpacas' different colors along with their individual personalities inspire me.  Periodically I also stand in the barn and thank the alpacas for growing their lovely fleeces for me.  They stare at me blankly then sniff at me for a treat.

There is something magical, meditative perhaps, most definitely purposeful, to caring for animals daily and then creating something to wear from their fleece, with your own hands.  I spend a whole year watching the fleece grow as I care for the alpacas, by hand.  In the spring the alpacas are shorn, by hand, and the fleece is carefully separated and then sorted by grade, by hand.  Then the fleece is washed, by hand, dried in the sun, and by hand still, processed into a roving of sorts to be made into felt, by hand, or spun into yarn, by hand, and then crafted into a wearable, useable item, by hand. 

Then you put this scarf or cowl or hat or shawl or sock or mitten or whatnot you've made yourself onto you and you just feel good.  It’s a warming and peaceful sensation like summer sunshine on your skin after a long and snowy winter.  I close my eyes and smile with gratitude for the alpaca that gave me this gift of soft, warm, comforting fleece to wear, who is living in my barn.    

There are no words to describe it.  Pure joy perhaps?  It’s similar to the feeling of anticipation you get when you plant your garden and watch it grow, then pick the veggies from your own garden, and finally sit down to eat and oooh, it tastes so good. 

Knowing where your food ~ and what’s really in it ~ comes from is very important.  And joyful.  And knowing where your clothing ~ and the fiber in it ~ comes from is equally important.  And equally joyful.  And it’s from own backyard, made with my own hands and soul.

Posted 3/16/2011 11:20am by Mona.

A few days ago was Dan’s birthday so I baked him his favorite birthday cake:  chocolate cake with thick chocolate buttercream frosting.  Yes I made it from scratch!  Always!  There’s nothing like an imperfect looking, but fabulous tasting, homemade and handmade cake.  No two cakes I’ve ever made have come out looking the same.

Chocolate cake for Dan’s birthday is tradition for us.  Once, many, many years ago, I experimented a bit and made it a chocolate-raspberry cake with chocolate-raspberry frosting.  The cake part was easy enough; I just added some raspberry extract along with the vanilla.  For the frosting I melted chocolate-raspberry chips.  I’m sure there was plenty of melted butter too along with plenty of sugar.  I spread all this yummy goo over the cake and let it cool.

Well, melted chocolate chips with melted butter and sugar that cools turned into a frosting that hardened like fudge!  I’m pretty sure we had to cut this cake with a serrated bread knife to get through the frosting.  You could eat the cake and the frosting would just stay standing up intact on your plate like a taco shell.  So, we ate the frosting as if it were a piece of fudge.  To this day, it still is Dan’s favorite cake.

No, the alpacas won’t be eating chocolate cake.  They’re much too busy growing fabulous alpaca fiber for me!  This wonderful fiber will be made into yarns or roving or felt and then hand made into scarves or hats or rugs or something else wonderful.  One reason I love the small batches of mini-mill spun farm yarns is that every year the outcome is different and unique, complimentary to the changes in the alpacas’ fiber.  Each year’s harvest of fleece-turned-into-yarns is unique. 

When something is hand made it is always one of a kind.  You can follow the same pattern or instructions 10 times and all 10 times it will be a little different.  I love that!

While you’re making something handmade you can share your spirit of love and good wishes into the item you’re working on. 

A handmade item can be tweaked so that the intended recipient feels extra special. 

Handmade items are usually never perfect either, and these little flaws add to its uniqueness.  The uniqueness of something handmade is its beauty. 

Handmade is a simply joy of life.

Let’s share the handmade love!

Posted 2/23/2011 11:17am by Mona.

Back in October, I picked up our farm’s first yarns made from our alpacas’ fleeces.   I had decided then that my first project would be made with the Geldings’ yarn and that it would be something for Dan.  Julio and Guinness’ fleeces made a deep, dark brown yarn (nice manly color) in a rugged enough grade 3.  I love grade 3 yarn.  It’s very durable, but still soft enough to be worn close to the skin.

At first I was going to make Dan a hat.  Then my new 7 foot adjustable rectangle loom arrived from the Hillcreek Fiber Studio, so needless to say, I decided I’d make him a scarf instead.  I love scarves.

Lucky for me, Dan is agreeable to these things. LOL.

large rectangle loom

This nifty loom can be set up to make 21 different sized rectangles ~ oh the possibilities!  Right now it is set at about 11” by about 64”.  Once it’s off the loom it will ‘settle’ a bit, and again when I wash/full it, so it will still be a good manly sized scarf.  After setting up the loom on Sunday, I got about a third of the scarf done.

Dan's scarf, one third done

I’ve even managed to figure out Ravelry a bit more.   I will try to remember to post updates there too.  You can find me on Ravelry as:  harmonyhandwovens.

Posted 12/14/2010 11:02am by Mona.

On the twelfth day of Stitch-mas, my true love gave to me:

Twelve knitters knitting

Eleven cones a’ winding

Ten orders shipping

Nine rugs a’ hooking

Eight yarns a’ dyeing

Seven needles felting

Six sample cards

Five spinning wheels!!!

Four pounds of fiber

Three nuno scarves

Two socks on one needle

 And a yarn store that understands me

 

(I'd love to take credit for this great twist on the popular Christmas song, but I found it on the Halcyon Yarn Store website.)

Posted 10/18/2010 8:39am by Mona.

Every alpaca owner follows this annual cycle.  An alpaca is born on or brought home to the farm.  It is cared for by feeding hay, minerals, and usually pellets, water buckets are cleaned, emptied, scrubbed, and re-filled, given pasture to graze on, poop is scooped, toenails are clipped, vaccines and de-wormers and other medications are given when necessary, straw bedding is put down when winter is arriving, snow is shoveled away from paddocks and gates, gutters put up, and mud is cursed when spring rains come and melt the snow. 

The warmth of spring arrives and our alpacas are sheared.  For a fiber farm, that shearing day is our annual harvest!  The fleece is usually put into bags according to alpaca and divided into 3 units:  firsts (blanket), seconds (neck), and thirds (leg, belly, chest).  A lot of farms will store their fleece this way in their barns, basements, and attics, later on skirting some of the blankets for fleece shows, or for submitting to mills to be made into yarn.  Some farms have chosen not to do anything with their fleeces!  The bags are piled up for years, sometimes allowing for mice to build their nest with, sometimes just rotting away, and sometimes it just gets composted.  To hear stories of this happening to beautiful alpaca fleece saddens me.  :(

Beautiful alpaca fleece is a simple joy of life.  

From the onset of our farm, we have had our fleece sorted as well.  We have always been focused on the fiber part rather than the show aspect and learned early on that alpaca fleece is generally not uniform in micron across the entire animal.  ‘Sorting’ separates the fleece into grades (small ranges) of micron, and by length, and by color.  So now some of my bags of fleece are combinations of alpacas, if their colors are the same.  And yes, my sorted fleece has been sitting in our house in the bags!  My rationale was that we’re a small farm (we only started off with 4 alpacas) and I wanted to combine fleeces of similar grade, thereby making the yarn process much more cost effective.  I also have 2 white alpacas, Bo Jangles and his full brother Arlo, and although I love them both dearly, white just isn’t my favorite yarn color!  I was also hoping to have different colors but same grades to blend in with their white fleeces.

Yarn is the basis of all textiles.  Fleece must be carded into roving and then spun into yarn before it can be woven into fabric.  It only makes sense that the basis of your product (yarn, fabric, roving, and batts) be as uniform as possible.  To Dan and me, submitting fleece by grade for processing makes more sense than submitting fleece by individual animal’s blanket.

In April I decided we’d waited long enough, and I dropped 2 batches, i.e. several bags of fleece, to our local mini-mill, Sallie’s Fen Fibers.  Sallie Whitlow has a fabulous reputation for the beautiful yarns she spins and we are so fortunate that it is really just a short drive.   My yarns now and most likely in the future will probably always be some kind of ‘Herd Blend.’  Alpaca is said to come in 22 natural colors, which to me means when I blend grades of different colors, the outcome (color) will always be a surprise!  Sounds like a lot of fun to me!    Most people tell me ‘oh but the white fleece dyes so wonderfully.’  And they’re right!  And, guess what, the non-white alpaca fleece dyes wonderfully too!  Lots of time the (naturally) colored yarn will take on a heathered look when dyed, especially if some of the raw fleece is dyed first and then blended in with un-dyed fleece.  It’s all so lovely!  For now though, I am enjoying the natural shades and natural blends.

Last week Sallie called to tell me my yarn is ready!  I drove over Friday in a storm and was absolutely delighted with the results.  My first batch is my herd blend, ‘The Geldings’ Dark Chocolate.’  Guinness’ medium brown huacaya fleece was blended with Julio’s bay black suri fleece.  Sallie did blend in a little black merino for stability for the suri fleece, and the yarn is an awesome grade 3 in a fabulous dark chocolate color.  The other batch is my herd blend, ‘Cria Coffee Ice Cream.’  Here I blended Bo’s white cria fleece, Coty’s medium fawn cria fleece, and Arlo’s white/beige cria fleece.  Sallie spun this as a 2 ply, and then plied those again, creating a really neat cabling effect.  This cable method helps to strengthen that tender cria fleece.  I now have darling coffee ice cream-colored, super soft, grade 1, baby alpaca yarn to enjoy.

I am in yarn heaven!

Slowly but surely the remaining fleeces will be sent off to be made into yarns or my new favorite fiber process ~ felt fabric!   I can only weave so fast!

Posted 10/8/2010 8:48am by Mona.

Sometimes, a sign says it all. 

Support Your Local Farmers

We strongly believe in the 'Buy Local' movement.  Just call us locavores!  Locally grown food is by far fresher than any produce found in a grocery store, and therefore much tastier.  To me there is nothing tastier than a tomato or apple or fresh herbs that I grew right in my own backyard.  And when weather has other plans, I just head for the farmer's market.  Luckily here in New Hampshire we have plenty of those, so we can eat local 7 days a week during the gardening season.  We also prefer that our alpacas 'eat local' too so we try to buy hay only from local farms as well.

Fall has arrived!  With this cooler weather we're all getting back to our knitting and weaving and other fun fiber arts.  Locally raised fibers are also a good thing!

(Thank you to our neighbor on South Road / Route 43 for putting up this sign in his hay field.  In case you can't read the fuzzy picture, it says 'Do You Like this View?  Support your Local Farmers')

Quote for Today

Never let the odds keep you from doing
what you know in your heart
you were meant to do. 

Coming soon!
Our new fiber store on Local Harvest!

 

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