Alpaca Milestones Summer Wool Days

Alpaca Milestones Summer Wool Days

Finally we seem to have achieved something that resembles summer here in the Netherlands! Blue sky, warm sun, birds singing (at least in our garden) annoyingly peeping and dive bombing the cat. Apart from that though, it’s now definately a time to be outside. So last weekend I packed up my wheel, some Fiber, and my hand combs, and went off to enjoy the Summer Wool Day at my friends Alpaca farm in Ridderkerk. It’s always a pleasure to visit with Marian, not to mention the amazing Fiber she always has! I’m talking really fabulous quality alpaca fleece. It was Marian’s Fiber that I used for my Lord of the Rings concept yarns, my favourite of which is actually one of the simplest, hand combed white alpaca with a silver thread. It has the most amazing drape and definition and I am SO still hoarding it 🙂 Back to the day 🙂 It was gorgeously sunny, and populated with some amazing people, I enjoyed seeing some familiar faces, and sitting in the shade with Patty to spin, and (I am quite proud of this) I also managed not to maim her with my hand combs as I paused my spinning to comb the next bunch of fiber. Just as well too as she needed some concentration to work on her band weaving! I really like combing alpaca, I think it gives a much nicer preparation for the yarn, less fluffy, and I think it enhances the drape, or maybe thats just me 🙂  And I also usually blend in a bit of sparkle as I am combing too. In this case I also added an extra colour as well to make a nice reddish brown. Sophie was also with us from Belgium, and was curious about the hand combing, she tried it out on some newly acquired Ouessant fiber (I very nearly bought the black fleece!) This is a lovely fiber, from such a cute sheep – read about them HERE if youre curious too 🙂  As you can see in the pic, Sophie found that combing it worked really nicely!   The hosts of the day, Douglas and Marian, also took a tour to see the Alpaca, including a week old cria.  This is a working farm with a focus on producing top quality fiber, while they remain very much animal focussed, with the wellbeing of the flock, coupled with care for the environment, being one of their primary interests. You can visit them too, at least, virtually: at their Alpaca Milestones website. These ‘Summer Wool’ days are an annual event at Marians, and I can totally recommend going next year, such a lovely atmosphere there, and of course, awesome...

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How they do it in Holland

How they do it in Holland

Here in the Netherlands, rather than having a ‘guild’ as such, we have a National Spinning Group organisation, (Landelijke Spingroep). They send out regular newsletters, keep registrations and a list of all the local spinning groups, and organise an annual spinners weekend party. They also arrange demonstrations and keep a presence of spinners at many events around the country, and generally work to coordinate activities for us and share information.  Yesterday was the AGM. I had to get up pretty early to drive to Arnhem but it was worth it! Of course, when you get THIS many spinners together in one room, you also have to do more than talk, so the first part of the day involved rows and rows of people with wheels whirring, pausing only to hold up red or green cards at appropriate times as we worked through the agenda. As I reflect on this experience I can honestly say this was probably the most productive meeting I have ever attended! Something else that was quite interesting to me, as a New Zealander living inside the Dutch culture, was the experience of the famous Dutch directness at its best. People are not afraid to stand up and say what they think in quite a direct manner. Sometimes this may seem a little… inappropriate to someone from another culture, depending on the situation and relationships, but in this meeting, even though there was very little disagreement on any of the points, it became clear to me that, by the end of the meeting, it was easy to be confident in decisions and votes, because you just ‘know’ that if anyone had something to add they would have done that, leaving no resentments or hidden agendas. At least, this is my interpretation! Now comes the really fun part, after the official meeting ended, and lunch was consumed, all the stand holders opened for business, and the demonstrations began! Esther and I were there to demonstrate art yarn spinning and I had also been asked to bring my hackle to demonstrate. Apparently the video I made some time back had caught the eye of the organisers and they thought it would be interesting for members to see, and I was very happy to note the interest in what I was doing with it! I took some bright rovings in pinks and oranges, and angelina of course, and started blending and dizzing the roving. People were really surprised at how easy it is to do! I hope it inspired others to try it as well. Most were impressed with how quick it was to create a beautiful lofty roving that really looked good enough to eat! If you are...

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Turning Ground Hog Day into Fluffy Unicorn Day

Turning Ground Hog Day into Fluffy Unicorn Day

I just realised how time passes so quickly… I swear, honestly, sometimes it feels like groundhog day in my house! Same routine, same scenery, same activities, same supermarket, same post office, same laundry pile same food same things to pick up off the floor same… well.. same life! When its like that and you think back over the past couple of weeks, it seems like it was really just all one day with no distinguishing features to make it stand out from the line up.  Sounds more dull than a dull thing doesnt it. Well luckily I can find a few things to give me a kick in the pants and un-ground-hog day my life! In fact, one of them is in full view most of the time, and even when I am not using it, a simple glance is enough to remind me of some exciting, and more than redeeming experiences of recent life in the WoolWench house! (If youre wondering, its still all here! Indiegogo )I mean, right now, its post summer vacation blues, and the regular routine has started up full steam, with school runs, early mornings, and the usual ‘what are we eating tonight’ brain-bleed. I also have the tail end of a migraine still haunting me, and the anticipation of the near future dread of the dark cold winter mornings looming in front of me. Maybe I am not alone in this! We were lucky in New Zealand to have longer days in winter than we get here in Holland, and I never took my daughter to school in what felt like the middle of the night, while here in Holland, I know that around Christmas time it will be just that. Now this isnt a total bitch-fest for me, there is the consolation of all the white twinkling christmas lights being out, the potential promise of snow, the hot chocolate and the glowing christmas tree. (love all that!!) Its just, I am not a morning person, thats the hard part! But I am already thinking about how to manage the dark days. Its kinda lame… But there ya go, its me. So when I need a pick-me-up I can glance over at my beautiful wheel, with its amazing Elvish engraving, its lovely warm colour and beautiful rounded edges. *aahhh* There is nothing Ground-hog Dayish about that wheel or the events surrounding its journey here. That also reminds me of the wonderful weekend when it was delivered, during the JazzTurtle workshop, a truly amazing experience in itself ! I loved the yarns everyone made and all the stuff I learned and the contacts I made. That in turn reminds me of that weekend being...

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Sheepies in Holland

Sheepies in Holland

Sheep Events in the Netherlands! The Netherlands (AKA Holland) is probably much better known for its cheese, tulips, and clogs than for its sheep and fibre products. For this New Zealander, the fields look quite empty, with much of the grassland being used to grow hay. Fences are missing as paddocks are split up with networks of small drainage canals, crossed with little bridges with what look to be stand alone gates to nowhere scattered around the landscape. However, if you take a drive out in the countryside you will certainly still see animals, black and white Friesian diary cows (of course for the cheese!) graze alongside the many wild white swans, and there are always sheep. Not in the numbers I am used to seeing in New Zealand, but pockets of happily grazing sheep at regular intervals where ever there is farmland. And what kind of sheep are these? I did some sleuthing, and found that there are actually a number of very well established, distinctly Dutch sheep breeds. One of the most well known would have to be the Texel Sheep, or Texelaar in dutch (pronounced Tess-el-aar) originating from the island of Texel in the north of Holland.  Another very popular Dutch origin breed is the really pretty Zwartbles – which literally translates to ‘black stripe’, and so describes the standard appearance of this black sheep with its distinct white blaze (bles). These sheep are  quite sweet and have a gentle nature, they are often found in the many childrens farms throughout the Netherlands. I found some of these sheep at the Stadsboederij De Vos Heuvel (City farm, The Fox Hill) in Amersfoort. This is, of course, not big time farming with flocks of fleece and meat producing sheep, but it does have sheep, and they do need shearing. So each year there is a day planned to make an occasion of this, to celebrate the shear and educate the public about the sheep and the process of shearing them. On this occasion, there was a ‘Wolfestival’ (Wool Festival) planned around the event, so the farm was filled with stalls, people selling their handmade woollen items, yarns, roving, knitted and woven garments, spinning equipment, and also demonstrating their crafts. When I arrived at the festival I discovered that the shearer was just finishing the job of shearing a Zwartbles, and it was almost asleep! The sheep on these mini-farms are very accustomed to being handled, and the Zwartbles is known for its easy going nature, apparently this one was very relaxed during its shearing! I was used to seeing freshly shorn sheep scrambling to their feet and scampering down the shute to join their mates in the...

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