Saturday, April 11, 2009

Sheep Shearing

I was invited to come watch a sheep shearing in March. Since I've been really into knitting and crocheting the past 6 months I was very excited to see this. I met women who not only knit, but raise their own sheep for their wool. They take it from the sheep to the yarn. Carding their own wool. Spinning their own yarn. I am not quite that into fiber arts. Don't think I'll ever raise my own sheep or spin wool, but I love watching others do it.Here's where they start wrestling the sheep in for the shearing. It really struck me as funny. Being the owner of a poodle and we groom her ourselves how very much alike the whole process is. First you have to find them and wrestle them onto the grooming area.Then you have to wrestle them into position to start the grooming. With me kicking and wiggling to get away the whole time. Just like a poodle once laid on their back they submit to the grooming with very little wiggling from then on.Oh I'm not saying they don't continue with the "poor pitiful me" look or that "please come rescue me" stare.The big difference in shearing a poodle and shearing a sheep is the sheep takes just under 5 minutes each. I couldn't believe how fast this guy was. It takes about 3 hours to shear a poodle! I video taped one of the shearings to show my husband just how fast it could be if he just sheared off all the poodle's hair. Not very stylish, but sure would save time.Once the fleece was off the sheep it was taken over to this make shift table where the women would "skirt" it. That is removing all edges of the fleece that are too mangled or dirty to be used. This was when I was first enlisted to help. I thought I was just there to watch, but when the experienced older lady says jump one jumps. There was a pile of the skirtings that she asked me to put in a pillow case. They still save them. I asked why, but really didn't understand the reasons being new to all this. So, much to learn that day. Anyhow I had my tiny camera and thought I really don't want to get my hands dirty, but as I said I was a guest and I was asked to help. Not going to say no and risk not being invited back next year. I turned off my camera slipped it into my pocket and reached out to grab the small pile of skirting with my 2 hands cupped together. I knew the wool had dirt, pee, poop etc. on it. Nothing soap and water won't take care of. What I didn't realize was how much lanolin was on the wool. I knew lanolin came from sheep. I didn't know how one got it off them. Squeeze a lanolin gland? Pull it out of an ear? Honestly, I hadn't ever thought about where it came from. I know now right off their wool. As soon as the wool touched my hands I was instantly creeped out. My hands were coated thickly with lanolin, pee, poop, dirt and loose wool. I couldn't believe the amount of oil on my hands. I couldn't believe what a big baby I was being ... in my mind... I wasn't about to let the old sages see me whine. I quietly wiped my hands on the pillow case the skirtings went into and walked to the house to wash my hands. I knew then I wasn't touching any more wool that day. I did help with sweeping and shoveling of loose wool to help keep the shearing area clean. The more I thought about it I just wasn't prepared. Next year if I'm asked back I'll dress for digging in and helping with the skirting. I'll just plan on my hands being coat with lanolin all day. Many of the ladies said their hands were so soft after a morning of skirting.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Getting Started

I was pretty lucky on many accounts when I got into machine knitting. My first machine was given to me. It was donated to a machine knitting guild. It was also in very good shape. Since then I am finding that there are knitting machines in garages, tucked under beds and in attics. Some are sold on ebay or craigslist. If you're lucky you can just ask around and have someone give you one or buy it fairly cheaply.

If you have no experience with knitting machines I suggest you look for people who have experience. I had a friend who knew how to use knitting machines. My friend Julia also had already found groups of people, who also like to machine knit. I have learned so much by having more experienced people help me.

These experienced people can be found at machine knitting guilds or groups in your area. It's fun to knit with other people and their experience can be a great help. Some local knitting stores have lessons for knitting machines. Don't count them out. Call and ask. There are some Yahoo Groups you can subscribe too that have very experienced and nice people to talk to and ask questions of. Subscribe to a few you'll find ones that you like the best.

The internet has also been a great source of info and learning. If you'll check out my links I'm putting the ones I enjoy and find useful on this blog.

If you have a machine and it hasn't been used in a while you'll want to clean it and probably replace the sponge bar. I'll be posting about refurbishing sponge bars soon. I took pictures of the process with the last sponge bar I refurbished. I've done 2 and both work great. So, the method works well.

Search You Tube there is amazingly a wealth of machine knitting videos on there. Here's the first one I looked up when I was in a bind. I couldn't remember how to do a latch hook bind off. This video is for a back stitch bind off. Not exactly the same thing, but you do acheive the same result. I found the video to be very easy to follow. This was a life saver for me. I had done my first project at home... alone... and couldn't remember how the heck to get the piece off my knitting machine. I didn't want to wait until the next day to get help. This video saved the day.