Friday, July 30, 2010

A Saturday to dye for...

Last Saturday a good friend of mine arranged a wonderful get together with a newcomer to our area. Joan Bennett and her family moved to beautiful NW Missouri from Pennsylvania last fall (and love it so far...even with this horrid humidity!). Joan and her daughter Mary are an experienced shepherdess' (sp?) and fiber artists and generously opened their home to us and shared their experience with dyeing wool. How excited I was to go have fun with friends and wool and meet some new neighbors! It isn't often I have time for such luxuries so I wasn't about to pass this up.

It was hot and humid as usual but the Bennett's have a beautiful old farmstead with big old trees for us to gather under. Dyeing is best done outside, especially with multiple dyers in attendence. I've only tried dying a few times and just haven't taken the time to play around with colors and processes so I was ready!

The method that we were going to try today was what Joan calls "crazy balls". Basically you lay 1 lb of roving or yarn into an enamel roaster pan (other vessels can be used but this is what Mary and Joan prefer). Then you pour in some water that has some vinegar mixed in (this is the mordant) and allow it to sit for about 5-10 minutes, until the roving/yarn is saturated. While your fiber is soaking, you pick out the colors you'd like to use.

This was a lot of fun because Joan has a great selection of dyes (I think it was Procion dye) so we were able to really play around with color. Once the fiber is ready, you take the dyes you've chosen, usually 3-4 different colors or shades, and you lightly sprinkle rows of the powdered dye across the roving. After sprinkling a row, you lightly tamp it into the fiber with a wooden spoon, spreading it thru the layers.

After we finished, we put them in the oven for 1 hr and viola! Dyed wool!

The girls rinsed each batch in the sink for us and layed them on blankets and racks in the yard to dry. I'm currently spinning up what I dyed and I can't wait to ply it to see the finished effect. I'll post a pic of it when I'm done.

I had such a great time on Saturday that I can't wait to do it again! It was so nice to sit around with friends, have a nice lunch and chat while our fiber "baked".

The Bennett's also have Pygora and Nubian (dairy) goats as well as multiple breeds of chickens and 3 beautiful Halflinger horses. As we toured the barn and visited with the animals, Joan mentioned that one of her Pygora does had kidded late and she had 2 kids that she'd be selling as soon as they were weaned. Oh yeah, you know where this is headed.

Bridget and I are now proud owners of 2 Pygora billies (soon to be wethers). Seriously, how could you say no to this?? (I think Bridget was getting nudged by mother doe in this pic!)

So it was a very productive day. I learned how to make crazy balls, met some new friends, visited with old ones and bought some goats. Does it get any better than that?

Just have to add a picture of our beautiful hay just before it was baled. I love hay. When its not on my sheep that is. I love to see it freshly mown, drying in the field and neatly baled still sitting in the pasture. I especially love not having to put it up in the barn.

Everything else is going nicely here at the farm. Lambs are still with the ewes and will remain with them until late August. We moved them to the pasture that was freshly hayed last weekend because it hadn't seen sheep for about 2 months so nicely clean of worms. We wormed those that needed it the day before moving them so hopefully those that had worms, will be rid of them now. Its a constant battle in the spring/summer especially with the heat and humidity.

If you're looking for a registered BFL ram for your flock, look no further! I've got 3 white, 1 natural colored and 1 7/8's BFL and 1/8 BL (Border Leicester). If you're interested, just shoot me an email. I'll get some pics this weekend and add them to the blog and website. I've also got some yearling ewes and 1 ewe lamb, all BFL crosses North Country Cheviot. Also if you'd like to add to or start your own flock of fiber wethers, we always have a few of those for sale.


  1. Looks like you had a good day dyeing!
    We have not been able to hay due to the rains that continue to shower us almost daily. We are putting our hay here at the farm up into small square bales.
    I had talked with you about getting a white BFBL ram, can you take a picture of the ram that we talked about?

  2. Yes Sarita, it was a blast, can't wait to do it again!

    My hay got cut a bit later than I like and did actually get rained on once briefly before getting baled but I think it'll be fine for the horses this winter. We'll have to buy some small square for the sheep, I like to have some alfalfa for the girls at least.

    I'll get pics of the ram lambs tomorrow and post them for you!


  3. Sarita,

    Can you send me an email at and I'll email a couple of pics to you?


  4. Jennifer, sorry that I did not get back on your blog to read your answer...we got crazy haying, school starting, and just getting behind everywhere else.
    I am anxious to see the new fellow. I have some special gals for him.
    I have been thinking about downsizing my shetland flock, need any shetland gals?
    I sorted sheep last week, need to work on some fences and pens. Plan to sell ram lambs the first of next month.