Sheep shearing at Hacienda El Tangue

The IV Region, is not known for its sheep, and when people see Chilean wool it usually comes from the South. Patagonia is full of sheep, most of them merino. The wool I use for most of my spinning comes from my sheep, which are basically for meat, similar to Oxford and Suffolk breeds. So I was very surprised when I heard there was a flock of merino sheep about an hour drive from my house, at the Hacienda El Tangue. I didn’t want to visit without contacting them, so I had put off going.

But then I heard of a small craft fair being held at the hacienda; an event organized by El Tangue and Innatura, a vegetarian restaurant located in La Serena. I couldn’t miss the opportunity to see some sheep, so this weekend with my family, we drove to El Tangue.

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El Tangue is twenty minutes south of the seaside town Tongoy, and as well as the craft fair there was horse riding, trekking, BBQ, vegetarian food, and (most importantly), sheep shearing!

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Sheep waiting to be sheared

The building where they shear is tall, dark, and impressive, made of wood and a thatch-like material. I talked to the man who classifies the wool, and he said that at the moment there are 8000 sheep and they are sheared between October and November. The wool is classified and pressed into bails ready for sale. Information on the internet, from 2009, says they had over 10,000 sheep, shearing 600 a day with 4.5 to 5.5 kilos per fleece, making 12 bales a day.

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Fleece sorting and pressing, bales at the back

I asked about buying some wool but, all of the wool is sent to the south of Chile for processing and export.

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Sheep after shearing where they are checked and given worming medicine

My family and I watched them shear along with other visitors. Here is my video of the shearing.

The shearing demonstration was scheduled for 10am till noon, we saw them shear at 1.30 and there were still people arriving to watch. It was Saturday, their day off, and they weren’t being paid for the demonstration. So the shearer may not have been working as fast as a work day, and may have been a bit grumpy.

I was fascinated by how he moved the sheep, something I can’t do when I shear. I loved being there. I loved the smell of the lanolin, the sheep and the metal grease, the cool dark air compared to the sunshine outside, the rolls of soft greasy wool. I could have stayed there all day.

But unfortunately, the rest of my family is not so obsessed with wool, so with two sleepy girls we drove home.

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And the weekend continued with more surprises; as I wrote this post on Sunday, it was raining outside. In fact it rained for most of the day, rare for November. The rain is great for the plants, not so great for my laundry, which I had to wash, and had to peg out, rain or no rain. Although my girls said they didn’t mind if they stayed home from school because of wet uniforms…they are so thoughtful.

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Lets just call this my 100th post

I wanted to write something great and moving for my 100th post, but the more I think about what I should write, the further away I find the post. This happens a lot with me. Constantly thinking, my mind going over every thing so that I get nothing done. However, today I will share.

This morning I looked out of my window, through the mist, and watched the new lambs as they jumped and played, and it made me think of all the beauty around me.

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Like yesterday for instance. My family and I went up the Elqui Valley to Vicuña where we had a terrible lunch, (not new for us), but a nice walk around. We visited Emporio Oveja Negra, which sells products from some of the Creatif participants as well as the owner’s beautiful wool creations. We then visited Galeria Elqui, part of Elqui Total. This is a pretty gallery set in a horse ranch, with textile, ceramic, sculptures and painted art.

I came home feeling inspired and belonging to the artistic/artesian community, – and it feels great!

I have been preparing for the next Observatorio Cultural, but in a relaxed way, enjoying the process. I have more ideas, (have to start thinking of spring) and using more of my handspun.

At the moment I am working on a diagonal weave on my large nail loom.

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I am not sure if it is slower than traditional looms, but there is no warp loss, which is good when I am using my handspun.Image

The handspun is a mix of wool from the south, alpaca, and wool from my sheep.

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I have also been sewing with my youngest daughter and knitting a scarf for my oldest.

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I bought some grey fleece fabric for school clothes, and we made this octopus with some of the leftover.

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This is really simple and great for kids! Here is the link on how to make this no-sew octopus.

There have also been some changes on the farm. Sadly, last weekend we sold the last of our cows. As long as I have lived on my Dad’s farm we have always had cows. But my Dad wants to focus on smaller animals that don’t need as much physical strength to control, (when things go wrong it helps). I am sure this has been harder for my Dad, but he is looking forward to a simpler farm.

And I am looking forward to my next 100 posts!

 

Maybe mohair

The goats on our farm are not pure bred angoras, but they are the reason I learned to shear, spin, and knit.

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The mohair from them is not perfect, and because we have not had any young goats in a few years the mohair isn’t as soft as it could be. However it shines beautifully and the past few weeks I have been dyeing wool and mohair in my solar ovens, as yarn and as un-spun fibre.

ImageI used onion skins, and walnut leaves for the orange and green, then spun the mohair and wool mix on my Ashford Traditional.

I also dyed mohair and wool with avocado skins, which the cats loved.

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I am planning to blend these together, but first I carded the wool and mohair separately.

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The white wool is from our sheep, and the off-white is from the small spots of grey that I occasionally find on the fleece.

Most angora goats can be sheared twice a year, but I am not sure if these goats produce enough hair for shearing twice. However, this year I may try to shear earlier and get a better quality fleece, (these samples are slightly matted). If I leave it too late then the hair starts to matt and comes off by itself.

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Even though these goats, my “old ladies”, are not pure bred it is nice to know I can still make beautiful objects from their hair.

 

 

Do lambs need scarves?

I don’t think so.  however, I have been busy weaving scarves and watching the new lambs.

A third lamb was born last week, and she is more blond than black.  I am still not sure of the breed of these sheep, and when some are born light brown it confuses me even more.

Wake up little girl, new lamb to the left, (and a goose at the back pulling wool off the sheep).

The twin lambs are getting bigger, but I still can’t get a great picture of them.

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As well as watching the lambs I have been making different shaped looms and weaving. The scarves were woven on a loom similar to the continuous square loom, except that the loom is a long thin rectangle.  The continuous weave is more complicated than on the square loom but the result is very pretty.

Continuous or diagonal weave

With the same loom and a horizontal weave I used some of my hand spun in these two scarves.

The hand spun and other yarn in these scarves were dyed in my solar oven.

I have also been using yarn I bought from Mary Dubo’s store.  The yarn is similar to the yarn I have been dying but in different colours.  I bought a purple, teal and brown.

Before washing

After washing, or fulling, the scarf softened.

After the scarf has been fulled

 

The colours are bit different in the last photograph because it was taken in the shade.

Cute as a button

As promised, more pictures of the lambs born last week.  However they still look wrinkled and I can’t seem to get a really cute picture.

Some of the lambs, like these, are born black then their fleece turns white as they grow.

They will keep their black face and legs.

This is the boy, who is more curious then his sister.

A couple of weeks ago I said that I felt there were changes in the air.  One of the reasons was because we stopped making cheese here on the farm.  My father started this almost 10 years ago, but for many reasons, (different depending on who you ask), the cheese “business” never really worked.

It seemed sad to finally admit that this was something that wasn’t going to work, but for me it has been a change for the better.  The building we made cheese in has now turned into my new fibre studio.

Unlike my old room, this building has electricity, water, no dust or bugs eating the wood in the ceiling!  It is spacious and secure, with lots of room for all my stuff.  Because it has electricity I have also expanded my wood working tools so that I can make looms, drop spindles and other woody things, like buttons.  I will post pictures soon of my new studio when it is organised.

So back to the buttons.  Last year when the trees fell down behind our house, they broke the top off one of the flowering trees.

Branches of different sizes were cut and some were left under the tree.

I collected some of this wood and cut it into disks to make buttons.  The wood is quite hard and I was very happy with the results.

I know it is a cliché, but beautiful things can be made from waste, and new beginnings can come from sad endings.

Deep winter

Well, it is very cold, but no rain or snow, and very sunny, so it does not really feel like winter.  However, this past week we have had nights with frost and actual ice on the window’s of the car!  Frost is rare for where we live and can cause damage to local crops that are accustomed to milder weather.

Last night in the middle of this polar wave and dusting of frost two lambs were born.  The mother is the ewe I sheared earlier in the year and it is her wool that I have been spinning and weaving.

The picture is not very good, I didn’t want to upset her while the lambs were sleeping.  And since they appear more wrinkled than cute I will give them a few days before I take more pictures.

 

A Spanish post – Un post español

Soy inglesa y normalmente escribo mi blog en ingles.  Pero, vivo en Chile, cerca de La Serena, y creo que aveces debo hacer mi blog en español.  Mas que nada para ver si alguien esta interesado en que hago.  Yo trabajo con lana.  Tengo ovejas y lo esquilo yo misma y después hago cosas con la lana.  También trabajo con lana que compro.  En este post voy a incluir “links” a otros posts mios que estan en ingles, pero que muestra mas fotos del tema.

I am English and write most of my blog in English.  However, since I live in Chile, near La Serena, I think I should sometimes do parts of my blog in Spanish.  I am doing this to see if there is interest in what I do amongst Spanish speakers.  I work with wool.  I have sheep and shear them myself, and then I make things with the wool.  I also work with wool that I buy.  In this post I will include links to my other posts that cover each theme in more detail.

Con la lana que compro me gusta hacer cosas de fieltro, como bufondas.  La lana de mis ovejas no es tan buena para hacer fieltro, porque no es tan fina.

Bufandas de fieltro / felted scarves

With the wool that I buy I like to make felted objects, like scarves.  The wool from my sheep is not very good for felting, because it is not as fine.

post de fieltro/ felting post

Para empezar, primero saco la lana de las ovejas esquilando y lo lavo suavemente para sacar algo de la lanolina y suciedad.  Cuando esta seca yo paso la lana por un “wool picker” (que yo hice), que abre la lana y deja caer mas mugre. Luego, paso la lana por mis “hand o drum Carder” para peinar la lana.

Maquina para abrir la lana / machine that opens the wool

Lana sin lavar, lavada, abierto, y dos vellónes peinado/ wool unwashed, washed, picked, and two carded batts

To start I remove the wool from the sheep by shearing and then I gently wash the wool to remove the lanoline and some of the dirt. When the wool is dry I pass it through my home made wool picker, which opens the wool and allows some of the dirt to fall out.  Next, I pass the wool through my hand or drum carder to card the wool.

post de ovejas/sheep post

post de esquilar/shearing post

post de como hice mi “wool picker”/ how I made a wool picker post

post de cardar/ carding post

Ahora la lana esta lista para hilar.  Yo hilo con husos y ruecas dependiendo de donde estoy.  Los husos yo puedo tomar a todas partes porque son chicas y livianas.

Lana hilada con una rueca/ wool spun on a spinning wheel

Lana hilado a mano/ hand spun wool

Now the wool is ready to be spun.  I spin wool with drop spindles and spinning wheels, depending where I am.  The drop spindles I can take with me anywhere because they are small and light.

post de husos/ drop spindles post

Yo puedo tejer o usar la lana para telares, o yo puedo teñir la lana en mis hornos solares.  Yo teñía con colorante de comida o con plantas naturales.  Mis favoritos son cascara de cebollas, que hace un color naranja y hojas de el árbol nogal, que hace café o verde.

Lana con cascara de palta en el horno solar/ wool with avacado peels in the solar oven

Lana teñida con cascara de palta y cebolla/ wool dyed with avocado and onion skins

I can use the wool to knit or weave, or I can dye the wool in my solar ovens.  I dye with food colouring or natural dyes from plants.  My favourites are onion skins, which give an orange colour and walnut tree leaves, which give brown or green.

post de teñir en hornos solares/ solar dyeing post

Este post es solo una introducción a las diferentes etapas del procesamiento de la lana.  Si alguien esta interesado en algo específico me puede dejar consultas en la sección de comments.

Gracias por la visita!

Lana de mis ovejas/ yarn from my sheep

This post is only an introduction to the different steps in processing wool.  If anyone is interested in something specific you can leave questions in the comment section.

Thanks for visiting!

Clip, clip

I have been busy doing things that I should have done months ago.  Like organising and cleaning, (yes, my mom has been helping me with that stuff) and getting some of the sheep sheared.  I know, way too late.  Summer is ending and I should have done it in September, not really much point now.  Except that I want to know if my sheep have wool that is good enough for spinning, and I can only do that if I shear.

Shearing isn’t very common in this part of Chile.  I have seen some sheep that are never sheared, just a mass of walking wool.  But there must be some people who shear because my dad encounters stacks of rotting wool when he is working in the mountains.

When we first bought the goats a man came to shear.  He was very slow and didn’t seem to really know what he was doing.  I thought “hey, I can do as good as that”, and so started shearing the goats myself.

I lay the goat on their side on a table with someone holding their legs and work from the back leg, up across the side, front leg, back, then neck.  Then the other side.  Our goats are pretty accustomed to shearing now and don’t cause much of a fuss.  The sheep however are much heavier and their wool is much more denser.  With the hand clippers I was using it took me hours to shear one sheep.  I invested in two good clippers from the UK, Burgon & Ball, and it made shearing much easier.  It still takes me over an hour and my body ached the whole week I was shearing, (and I only sheared three!)

The sheep's back legs are tied up and she is being held at the front while I shear

I am shearing the sheep on the floor because it is a bit easier.

I am using the stronger, Dagging shears here because the dirt in the fleece makes it harder to shear

The wool is not very long, and very dirty.

These clippers are for shearing the soft wool

I think that my sheep are a mix of Hampshire or Oxford Downs and Suffolk Downs. After shearing the different types of sheep I found the sheep more like a Suffolk had better quality wool.  It wasn’t as dirty and was softer than the other fleece.  Now I get to play with the wool doing some spinning!

Celebrating Wovember

Celebrating what?  Yes, Wovember.  This is the month to celebrate all things woolly. I am not sure if this is only in the UK, but I am going to join in.  The idea is to promote the use of wool and to have it labelled correctly in clothing, (if something says it is wool it should be real wool).

From a sheep like this one:

One of my woolly ewes and her lamb

Finding yarn that is 100% wool here in Chile can be difficult.  Most of the wool in “normal” yarn shops is acrylic.  And to make things more difficult, the word lana means wool (and wiki includes all fibre animals) and also means yarn.  I have bought yarn and been told it is lana, which I know by touch it is acrylic.

Some places sell yarn that is pure sheep’s wool, like Mary Dubó Castillo, delicatessen & souvenir, 320-B Brasil street, if you are visiting La Serena.  She also sells kits and wool for felting, and other lovely woolly things!

Hand spun and knitted mitts from wool I bought at Mary's shop

There is a web page all about Wovember which you can find through their link. So visit and sign their petition, and enter the competition, I know I will!