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January

This is research month and winter is a fine time to do it. There are four immediate areas to be investigated so you make the best decisions and don't have regrets. 

February

This is dye research month. No matter whether you send your fiber to a mill or process yourself, you might want to dye it. There are chemical and natural dyes. Each have pros and cons. Natural dyes are used in combination with mordanting agents, such as alum, that bind the dye to the yarn. Without these fixatives, the result may not be color or light fast.

A small dye garden can be planned and seeds ordered. The garden should contain plants from the three primary colors of red, blue and yellow. You can then mix or over dye yarn to achieve other colors. The can be as simple as growing the plants in pots/planters on a porch or patio. You won't get a lot of dye material, but it is fine for experimental purposes.

March

Tour a fiber farm virtually or in person, especially at chore time. There is no better way to see the work involved before making a commitment. Some ways to connect with local farms are through social media, Local Harvest or contacting your local cooperative extension.

April

Look around for raw fleeces, roving, combed top or yarn from your chosen animal(s). Processing a raw fleece will be intimidating, but is a great way to learn. Handling and spinning the fiber reveals the attributes and you can see if it is what you like. If you can't spin, using breed/species specific yarn will serve the same purpose.

May

Now it's time to plant a small dye garden to love and nurture while you continue learning about fiber. This will be short work if you were able to start your plants inside.

June

Skirt, pick and wash the fleece you purchased in April. Skirting is removing the parts of the fleece spoiled by manure and a lot of vegetable matter such as hay. Picking is going through the fleece to remove as much hay and debris as possible. Washing is best done with as little agitation as possible. Agitation will cause the fibers to mesh together making it nearly impossible to separate for spinning. June is a good time to do it because much of the work can be done outside.

This is one of my favorite videos of two Irish women in 1978 skirting, washing, carding and spinning fleeces. The first 6 minutes is about buying and selling sheep. Sheep shearing starts about 6:38. 

July

This is Tour de Fleece month. It is a fun time for spinners around the world to gather virtually and share their progress and takes place during the Tour de France bicycle race. Look on social media for Tour de Fleece groups.

Comb or card the now clean fleece to get it ready for spinning. If you know a spinner, he/she may be willing to show you the difference in combing and carding. Investing in a pair of hand carders is usually less expensive than a pair of wool combs. Fiber can be prepared three ways with hand carders, but just one way with combs.

August

Spin all that beautiful fiber you've been preparing for the past couple of months. You don't need to make a large investment in a spinning wheel. Drop spindles are inexpensive and can even be homemade. If you were fortunate enough to connect with a local spinning group, in March, there may be a member who can teach you to spin.

September

Harvest dye plants and prepare dye baths. Mordant the yarn and begin your dying adventure. Use some chemical dyes so you can compare the process and results. There are eco dyes that are more environmentally friendly. Check out dying with Kool Aid or cake icing dyes for quick inexpensive experiments. This hat was knit from yarn dyed with Kool Aid and has been my chore hat for 14 years. The color held well.

October

Now you have a stash of yarn and need to protect this great achievement. Insects are the mortal enemy of natural fibers. There are various ways to protect your stash by storing in insect proof containers, using essential oils or mothballs. Research the ways and implement the best one(s) for your purpose.

November

It's time for the fun of planning a project that will make the best use of all your hard work. Best of all, for many of us, winter will soon be upon us. You can proudly wear or snuggle under this most beautiful garment.

December

This is the month you apply the year's worth of experience to making a decision on whether or not a yarn farm is for you.

 

 

 

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