MDSW progress

I spent most of last week tinkering with dyes and planning colorways for Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival in May. Here's one of the products I've been working on : Ply Packs!

 A Ply Pack is a selection of 4-6 pieces of dyed top on semi-luxury bases like Merino/tencel, BFL/silk, Merino/silk, and Merino/bamboo. These cute packages nearly sold out last year at the festival, so I made sure to create quadruple the supply. I like to chain-ply these in random stripe lengths, but I found that most customers made self-striping or two-ply yarns.

My to-do list is daunting and I find myself getting distracted with fresh fleeces - baby BFL, baby Finn, Cormo X Merino, Moorit Merino, Huacaya alpaca.. I'm drowning in a delicious buffet of fine raw woolies! The wash process for me is finally streamlined - divide the fleece into 1.5 - 2 lb. chunks, soak, hot wash w/Dawn, rinse, rinse, hot wash w/Dawn, rinse, rinse - DYE! Most of my fleeces need the two hot washes since they're extra greasy fine wools, though some like the baby BFL can be polished off in just a couple of hours. Here's that baby BFL all dyed up in one of my favorite colors:

At least I'll have some happy farm-fresh fibers in my Maryland batts! It's been a goal of mine to make a slow switch to using about 30% (or more) fibers from small and/or local farmers, and this year I'm finally making progress on that goal. Of course, it's crazy-expensive to use wool from scratch - with a Merino fleece, up to half of the fleece can be lanolin, so if I'm paying $15/lb, that quickly turns into $30, not to mention all of the time it takes to skirt, wash, and pick out VM. Still, there's something really satisfying about starting with raw earthy wool and transforming it into something that's just as soft as the commercial top, but has a crimpy kinky texture and is filled with life.

I'm just going to put this out there - I'm always willing to trade finished product for high quality fleeces with low VM. My faves include anything with a lower 20's micron count, kid or yearling mohair, huacaya alpaca, and staple lengths that aren't shorter than 3".

Aaand, I better log off and finish sorting through pictures for the 2nd half of this week's update. I've got a tiny discount available (Code: HOBTEN) celebrating 6 years of selling on Etsy.


Back in the saddle

Well, we're finally swinging back into our normal routines with frequent trips to the park during this unusually warm weather. I've had the opportunity to  process fleeces outdoors and hang my wool in the sun to dry - something usually impossible in January. Ing is happy to have a chance to run amok in the backyard, though I wish she'd wear boots instead of ruby slippers. She is also finally tolerating a little bit of studio time, helping me package and sort fiber along with weighing every little ball of fiber that she can reach.

I'm in full-swing production mode for Maryland Sheep & Wool with a lofty goal of bringing along 100 yarns. So far, I'm 1/5 of the way there, and have already claimed two yarns for keepsies. This week, I'll start painting tops, beginning with BFL/silk and Merino/tencel. Tops were a quick-seller last year, perhaps because they're hanging outside of the packaging, begging to be squeezed and petted. I'm planning on hanging rovings this year too, though I fear they'll be mangled since they're more delicate. If so, I'll be coming home with a huge personal stash! I'll also be bringing along 150-200 ArtBatts, and am eager to start tinkering with display ideas. A 10x15 tent is huge, and I'll probably go through about 150 lbs. of wool to flesh, er, fluff it out!

Over the weekend, I unleashed a huge update which has mostly vanished, the bulk of it shipping yesterday with a few remaining pieces going out today. My next update will probably be this weekend, and will be smaller - perhaps a dozen ArtBatts and a dozen Classic sets? I'm working on my HobbledeCLUB and ArtBatt subscriptions, so we'll see!