Spinning

From Fleece to Batts

The day I spent at Jacob’s Reward Farm was marvelous!  Arabella and I got to help Cindy prepare for the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, which is happening this weekend at the Howard County Fairgrounds.  Cindy wanted to take a dozen batts with her, and we were there to help.

What? What the heck’s a batt? Now I know!  We made over two dozen batts in Cindy’s kitchen.  We started with a pile of fleece that had already been washed and air-dried before we got there.  Sinking my hands into the pile of wool felt significant–earthy and real.  Similar to the way it feels to first plant something in the garden in the spring.

I sat at the kitchen table and “picked” the fleece–which means I separated the fibers, picked out any grass, and pulled apart any tight or snarled areas.  This work prepared the fleece to go more smoothly through the drum carder.

The drum carder is what actually creates the batt–which is simply a small sheet of  wool. The carder has teeth on two barrels that mesh against one another, and in that process, the fibers are further separated, smoothed out and aligned.  This alignment really helps the spinner, as it allows the fibers to grab the twist added from the spinning wheel more easily.

Arabella made all the batts by slowly feeding bits of the picked fleece through the two drums of teeth. She cranked the handle, the drums turned, she fed more fleece through, and just kept doing this until there wasn’t any more room on the drum for any more fleece.

The batt will be as wide as the drum carder’s width, because you basically just peel it off the teeth at this point, and you have a batt!

But making batts is also where the magic lies…..in blending.  After we had the batts completed from the fleece I was picking, Arabella went to get some white Alpaca fleece (this fleece is from Boaz).  She then rolled up a handful of Alpaca fleece inside the Jacob wool batt, rolling it like a sausage.  She then fed the sausage through the drum carder, and this process blended this gorgeous, silky, fine white Alpaca wool with the gorgeous, dense, grey Jacob wool to produce the finished batts.

It was a great day!

Peace, Spinning

Fiber Farmers are Attracting Quite a Following

Jacob’s Reward Fiber Farm, located in Parker, Texas, is the first CSA Fiber Farm in the Southwest.  Though there are many, many fiber farmers in Texas and surrounding areas, Jacob’s Reward was begun specifically to be a co-op farm, utilizing the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Model.  Juniper Moon Farm (read this article on Susan’s farm in the Wall Street Journal) started it all in 2008, when Susan Gibbs came up with a brilliant twist on the existing model of alternative funding used by community produce growers–instead of “shares” of the food harvest, she offered “shares” of her upcoming fiber harvest for purchase.

Utilizing etsy.com and the very active blogging knitters and spinners communities, Susan spread the word and sold out of her shares quickly.  She’s been doing it ever since, and other fiber farms are following in her footsteps–in the Southwest, that’s Cindy and Jacob’s Reward Farm.

I am fascinated! I hope to visit Jacob’s Reward Farm next week — Cindy not only sells “shares” of the fiber harvest, but also invites you “to share in the life of the farm”  through all sorts of fiber classes at the Little Red Barn.  You can read about how Cindy and her family got started with their fiber farm here.

Spinning

A Harvest of Fiber

A fiber farm…of course! It makes complete sense. Food farmers harvest food, and fiber farmers harvest fiber from the many, many animals that grow fuzzy coats and beg to be shorn each spring.  Just like food farming co-ops bring the eaters closer to the source of the food they eat, fiber farming co-ops bring the spinners, knitters, and weavers (among others!) closer to the source of the fiber they are spinning, weaving, knitting and possibly wearing (maybe–if I ever get the buttons attached).

I am Fiber, hear me roar!
A proud participant in fiber farming.