Tag Archives: Crafts

Old-Fashioned Knitting Rhymes

One of our favorite knitting books, Kids Knitting by Melanie Falick (read our full review), teaches children to knit through the use of rhyme:

Under the fence
Catch the sheep
Back we come
Off we leap.

Each of the four lines represents one step in the process of making a knit stitch:

  1. Inserting the tip of the right needle into the loop on the left needle.
  2. Wrapping the yarn around the right needle.
  3. Inserting the tip of the right needle back into the loop on the left needle to create a new loop and pull it through the old one.
  4. Pulling the right needle up so that the stitch slides off the left needle.

Some people prefer to use this rhyme about the sheep to teach the purl stitch. However, it can be used for either.

The Tradition of Knitting to Verse

While we will probably never know just how old the tradition of knitting to verse is, knitting rhymes have been recorded as far back as the 1800s. The early rhymes appear to have been recited at least partly to amuse the knitters.

Verses used when knitting in 1800s England may have varied regionally. This rhyme was preferred in Northamptonshire:

Needle to needle, and stitch to stitch,
Pull the old woman out of the ditch;
If you ain't out by the time I'm in,
I'll rap your knuckles with my knitting-pin.

One song that comes from the dales of Lancashire and Yorkshire was used to count how many rounds had been knitted:

Bell-wether o' Barking, cries baa, baa,
How many sheep have we lost today?
Nineteen we have lost, one we have fun,
Run Rockie, run Rockie, run, run, run.

In this song, “Bell-wether o’ Barking” is the name of a mountain, “one we have fun” means “one we have found,” and “Rockie” is the name of the sheepdog. The knitters who sang this song would alter the numbers as they worked. The next verse would say, “Eighteen we have lost, two we have fun,” for instance.

Verses for Teaching Children to Knit

Because each line of most knitting verses corresponds to a particular movement or position of the knitting needles, it is little surprise that knitting rhymes evolved to serve an instructional purpose.

The traditional and probably best-known verse used to teach children the knit stitch goes something like this:

In through the front door
Once around the back
Peek through the window
And off jumps Jack!

For very young children learning the knit stitch, we find this rhyme:

Into the bunny hole
Run around the tree
Out of the bunny hole
Away runs she.

(Or “away runs he,” if you prefer.)

Typically reserved for purling is this rather puzzling scenario:

In front of the fence
Catch the goat
Back we go
Jump off the boat!

As some have pointed out, it is rather unfathomable what a boat has to do with anything, but perhaps it is more memorable for that very reason.

Of course, as with all forms of folk verse, countless subtle variations on each of these little poems exist. The point is not so much the precise words used as the joy of sharing knitting and a funny verse.

The Homesteading Bucket List Part 2: 25 More Practical Country Living Projects

The Country Living Bucket List Part 2

Ready for 25 more skills to build on the ones you mastered previously? This set is considerably more advanced than the first, so take your time and be prepared for the learning curve.

26. Prune a Fruit Tree

Although more involved than pruning cane fruits, pruning fruit trees is still quite essential to keeping your trees productive and healthy. Be sure to study some diagrams carefully before you tackle this one. Every cut you make will affect your harvest for better or worse for years to come.

Helpful Resource

Pruning Fruit Trees
Handy free document with illustrations from K-State.

27. Build a Fence

Good fences make good farms. Fencing the garden is a must to keep animal pests at bay. Fencing the yard is highly recommended if you have pets. Fencing the perimeter of the property discourages trespassers. One type of fencing that is better avoided at first, however, is permanent fencing subdividing pastures. Most grazing management experts recommend that beginners use only portable fencing to break up pastures for the first three years or so, as there is a strong tendency to overdo it when starting out, creating logistical mayhem in the long run.

Helpful Resource

How to Make Osage Orange Fence Posts
Making your own fence posts can be surprisingly easy.

28. Learn an Intensive Gardening Technique

Intensive gardening methods seek to maximize the yields of produce per square foot of growing space. These methods were usually created in response to the inefficiencies of traditional row gardening, which was developed based on commercial horticultural implements. For making the most of small areas, intensive gardening techniques cannot be beat. Consider some of these possibilities:

  • Biointensive gardening.
  • Container gardening.
  • Interplanting.
  • Lasagna gardening.
  • Mittlieder method.
  • No-work gardening.
  • Raised bed gardening.
  • Square foot gardening.
  • Soil bag gardening.
  • Straw bale gardening.
  • Succession planting.
  • Tire gardening.
  • Vertical gardening.

29. Work with a Team of Draft Animals

What can draft animals do for you? Plenty. Two areas where draft animals still excel today are in small-scale grain growing and in sustainable logging. For farms with an agritourism bent, draft animals have considerable educational and entertainment value, as well.

Helpful Resource

Draft Animal Power for Farming
Important information to know before you get started, conveniently available in a free PDF download.

30. Grow Grain

You would be surprised at how little space it takes to meet a family’s annual grain needs! Furthermore, raising your own grain can be a way to avoid pesticides and GMOs while taking advantage of the impressive nutrient profiles of traditional grains that may be hard to find at the grocery store.

31. Freeze Eggs

Once your layer flock hits its stride, you will probably start wondering what to do with all those eggs. Freezing them is an incredibly simple way to save them for the winter, when your chickens will be taking a holiday. Frozen eggs are quite satisfactory when used for baking or scrambling.

Helpful Resource

How to Freeze Eggs
Step-by-step instructions.

32. Sell Homegrown Food

This is not an easy task, but fortunately it doesn’t have to be done on a large scale. If starting a full-fledged food business is not for you, sell a dozen eggs to some close friends. If you are more ambitious, set up a produce stand or sell grassfed beef to a restaurant.

Helpful Resources

Starting & Running Your Own Small Farm BusinessStarting & Running Your Own Small Farm Business
A 10-step overview covering everything from business plans to product pricing to sale venues. Read our full review.

Farm Fresh
Plenty of ideas for marketing grassfed meat and milk. Read our full review.

Kansas Department of Agriculture Licensing Guides
Important information to know before making your first sale. (If you are not in Kansas, check your state’s department of agriculture for a similar resource.)

33. Make Homemade Bread

Making bread does not have to be complicated! While some home bread bakers are true artisans, working with carefully crafted recipes and doing every step by hand, those who are pressed for time or inclination can use a bread machine.

34. Plant a Cover Crop

Whether you grow vegetables or grains, a cover crop is a great way to improve your soil—naturally! Cover crops can offer numerous benefits in the way of nitrogen fixation, weed suppression, and organic matter building.

Helpful Resources

Cover Crop Decision Tool
A superb online tool that factors in your objectives, climate, and soil conditions. Highly recommended for growers of both grains and vegetables.

Cover Crops for Vegetable Growers
Useful site from Cornell that profiles 17 cover crops that work well in the garden.

35. Sew an Entire Garment

Again, keep it simple, especially to start. Make it easy on yourself by starting with a purchased pattern. Also, invest in some internet tutorials and how-to books before you pick up the thread. As a final time-saving tip, consider buying a sewing machine, particularly if you think you are likely to sew regularly in the future. A sewing machine can make garment repair and creation quick and easy.

36. Learn to Quilt

This time-honored tradition can be a great creative outlet! Furthermore, there are plenty of kits and books to get you off to a good start these days. If an entire quilt seems like a daunting first project, consider a pillow instead.

37. Build a Root Cellar

It seems like nearly every homesteader’s dream involves a root cellar. And it’s a great way to keep your produce fresh throughout the long winter months when you can’t garden as much!

Helpful Resource

HomeMadeHomeMade
This handy project book includes tips and plans for building your own root cellar. Read our full review.

38. Shear a Sheep

Shearing is something of a lost art, with few professional shearers left. Fortunately, thanks to a growing interest in country living across America, the skill of shearing still has a bright future among hobby farmers.

39. Learn How to Spin

Once you’ve sheared your first sheep, it is only logical to learn how spin the fleece into yarn. Unfortunately, spinning wheels can be very expensive these days. However, the drop spindle is an affordable alternative, especially if you want to test your level of interest before making a considerable investment.

40. Hatch a Batch of Chicks Yourself

There’s nothing like raising your own chicks from eggs. This is an area where you have quite a few options, too. You may want to purchase fertile eggs from a hatchery, or you can let your own rooster and hens do the work. You can bring the hatching process indoors with an incubator, or you can opt to let a broody hen provide a more natural experience.

Helpful Resource

The Broody Hen Versus the Incubator
A comparison of the advantages of each option.

41. Make Ice Cream

Even if you don’t have farm-fresh milk available, you can still make some mighty tasty ice cream with cream from the store. Many gadgets for making ice cream exist these days, and most come with recipes to get you started.

Helpful Resource

Ice Cream Ball
This is a fun way to make ice cream, but it does involve some exercise and some patience.

Stocking UpStocking Up
The third edition of this classic includes tips on making ice cream. Read our full review.

42. Make Cheese

Again, even if you don’t raise dairy cows or goats, you can still make cheese at home. If you are completely new to the process, consider starting with a beginner’s kit.

Helpful Resource

Stocking Up
The third edition includes quite a bit of cheesemaking information, including specifics on cottage cheese, ricotta, cream cheese, semi-hard cheese, and cheddar. Read our full review.

43. Learn How to Dehydrate Fruit

Many fruits can be dehydrated at home, and often without much investment in equipment. If you are new to food dehydration, consider starting out with your tried-and-true home oven. Other dehydrating options include solar drying, freeze drying, and using a special electric food dehydrator.

Helpful Resources

Stocking Up
The third edition of this old classic includes a considerable amount of information on your many dehydrating options. Read our full review.

Drying
This part of K-State’s Food Preservation site offers links to information on equipment, methods, storage, and more.

44. Make Jam or Jelly

Making homemade jam or jelly is not only a way to preserve fruit, it is also a way to achieve unique flavor. However, food safety considerations are crucial when making jam or jelly, so be sure to read up before you start!

Helpful Resources

Stocking Up
Includes very practical information on making jam or jelly. Read our full review.

Jams & Jellies
This part of K-State’s Food Preservation site has information on working with apples, cherries, peaches, and a variety of berries, along with general information on the various steps of the jelly-making process.

45. Learn to Knit

This is an easy and rewarding skill to pick up, and a natural next step after learning to spin. Start with something really simple, such as a washcloth or scarf, and before you know it you’ll be making everything from socks to sweaters.

Helpful Resource

Kids KnittingKids Knitting
Not only is this inviting, easy-to-understand book a great way to introduce children to a productive craft, it is a superb way for an adult to get started, too! Read our full review.

46. Learn to Crochet

And if you’re going to learn how to knit, learning how to crochet is also a natural choice!

47. Sell a Handmade Craft

Already selling food? Selling crafts is even easier. Considering adding your handmade items to your farm product lineup or setting up shop online.

48. Make an Entire Meal with Only Homegrown Ingredients

This is the ultimate goal for many homesteaders, and it is one that will require some planning. You will likely need a homegrown grain and some homemade butter to make bread or some other baked good. For a dinner, you will also want home-raised meat and a sampling of produce from the garden. For a breakfast, you might consider farm-fresh eggs and some homemade jelly.

49. Learn to Ride a Horse

While not absolutely essential on many homesteads, horseback riding can be excellent recreation, and it can be useful if you raise a larger herd of cattle. Consider this one a reward for a lifetime of homesteading well done.

Helpful Resource

The Basics of Western RidingThe Basics of Western Riding
While you will definitely need a more advanced guide at some point, this should get you started. Read our full review.

50. Teach a Country Living Skill to Someone Younger Than You

Here’s your chance to give back. Whether you pass your knowledge along to your children, to an apprentice, or to a blog reader, sharing your expertise will help ensure that country living skills are handed down through the years.

The Homesteading Bucket List Part 1: 25 Practical Country Living Projects

The Country Living Bucket List Part 1If you love country living, you probably enjoy reading websites and magazines that regularly feed your interest and give you new ideas of things to try out. After all, there are always new skills to be learned, and you never know what will become your next favorite project, hobby, or venture!

While your homesteading bucket list can (and should) be unique, you may find that the following suggestions spark an interest that you didn’t even know you had. You’ll also find helpful resources for jumping into many of the projects. The projects are roughly organized with the idea that the skills will complement and build upon one another.

We will feature 25 projects this week and 25 more next week for an even 50.

Have fun!

1. Start a Country Living Library

The perfect starting point! Reading broadly is the key to knowledgeable country living, and therefore the key to success. Want to get the most bang for your book-buying buck? Start with a few classics with philosophies that appeal to you—those that provide inspiration and a broad feel of what you are aiming for in your country living adventure, whether that is a slower lifestyle, a farm that pays the bills, or just a source of healthier food. Also pick up a few beginner-friendly how-to books on projects that you intend to pursue in the near future, such as gardening, cooking, or chicken-keeping.

Helpful Resources

Top 10 Books for Beginning Farmers
This list includes titles on gardening, field crops, livestock, food preservation, starting a farm business, and more.

The Homestead Bookshelf
Our steadily growing selection of the best books on country living out there!

2. Learn About Five Alternative Agriculture Concepts, Practices, or Systems

Once you have a library, you’ll be ready to explore the many options available for those looking to farm a little differently. You will likely want to mix and match to adapt to your unique circumstances. However, each of the different systems has much to offer. Topics you might research include:

3. Create a Budget

Living within your means is a huge part of country living. Take some time to plan how you will pay off any and all debt, and then start saving!

4. Start a Vegetable Garden

No matter how little land you have, you almost certainly have enough room for a vegetable garden, even if it consists solely of a few pots on a porch. This is probably the most rewarding country living project you can tackle.

Helpful Resources

Starting a Garden or Orchard
This series walks you through the basics of water, workload, location, logistics, and plant selection.

How to Plan a Garden
A step-by-step guide to mapping out a successful first garden.

5. Plant an Herb Garden

And while you are working on your vegetable garden, be sure to make room for a few herbs! Your herb garden does not have to be a separate feature of your property. Many herbs can protect your vegetables from insect pests if grown as companion plants.

6. Plant an Apple Tree

A dwarf apple tree is fairly easy to care for compared to other fruits, and it will reward you for years to come.

Helpful Resource

Planning Your Fruit Garden
Just the basics from K-State.

7. Build a Small Shed, Coop, or Other Shelter for Livestock

Livestock require shelter, and many country handymen enjoy building their own. What you build will obviously depend on what you intend to raise. Just keep in mind that simple is often best.

Helpful Resources

HomeMadeHomeMade
Includes many basic projects that will come in handy on your new homestead! Read our full review.

Free LSU Building Plans
These structures tend to be larger and more involved, but there is still plenty of useful material here.

8. Start a Flock of Laying Hens

What homestead would be complete without laying hens? This rewarding project is truly a must—homegrown eggs are infinitely superior to commercial in appearance and peace of mind, not to mention nutritional value.

Helpful Resources

Choosing a Breed of Chicken
Tried-and-true tips for selecting breeds that will meet your needs.

How to Welcome Your Mail-Order Chicks
A step-by-step procedure for getting your baby chicks off to a good start.

Storey's Guide to Raising ChickensStorey’s Guide to Raising Chickens
An essential book for the beginning chicken-keeper! Read our full review.

9. Build a Birdhouse

A backyard full of birds is a place of beauty. Furthermore, these delightful creatures will do their part in keeping insect pests under control. Have a little extra time on your hands? Make a few more birdhouses than you need and give them away as Christmas gifts to those nature lovers on your list!

Helpful Resource

The Complete Book of Birdhouse ConstructionComplete Book of Birdhouse Construction
Very concise illustrated guide with detailed plans for homes for house finches, great crested flycatchers, purple martins, phoebes, downy woodpeckers, wood ducks, and bluebirds, as well as specifications for many more. Read our full review.

10. Use Native Plants for Landscaping

Native plants have a tremendous advantage when it comes to landscaping—they are exceptionally well adapted to your area! When setting about beautifying your place in the country, consider some of the hardy plants that are native to your soil and climate.

11. Make Compost

Composting is not as difficult or mysterious as many books would lead you to believe. While there are many advantages to a precisely controlled hot compost pile, cold composting is a forgiving method that can have you looking like a pro in no time!

Helpful Resource

The Complete Compost Gardening GuideThe Complete Compost Gardening Guide
This friendly book makes composting easy! Read our full review.

12. Raise Earthworms

Earthworms are a gardener’s best friend! If you just want to introduce the children to these fun and fascinating animals, keep it simple and house some worms from your backyard in a clear jar with some garden soil and kitchen scraps for a while. Serious about raising earthworms? Try vermicomposting!

13. Identify the Plants in Your Pasture

What’s the best pasture grass to start with? Often it’s whatever is already occupying the place! Learn what plants, useful and toxic, are on your land, and use that information to find out how to manage your native pastures to advantage.

Helpful Resource

Grasses of Kansas
Our own guide to Kansas grasses, their characteristics, life cycles, ecology, uses, and hazards.

Kansas Wildflowers and Grasses
A very useful website with concise information and photos galore!

14. Press Flowers

While you’re in the pasture, collect some plants to press and store in a nature journal. Not only is this a fun craft, it will help you master plant identification over time.

15. Dry Herbs

Many gardeners believe that the flavor of homegrown herbs dried in small batches and stored for short periods of time is far superior to that of dried herbs that have sat on the grocery store shelf for a while. Fortunately, the skill of drying herbs is not a difficult one to acquire, and these days there are many methods, ranging from hanging up bundles of herbs in an airy place to using sophisticated solar dehydrators.

16. Save Heirloom Seeds

The practice of saving seeds to plant and to share is a time-honored one. Some old vegetable varieties are only around today because one dedicated gardener thought they were worth preserving. Make sure your favorite heirloom plants are still around for future generations by saving the seeds!

Helpful Resource

Vegetables
Our guide to growing vegetables includes step-by-step instructions for saving seeds.

Basic Principles of Breeding Heirloom Vegetables
Information on ensuring a healthy gene pool when saving heirloom plants, for the truly dedicated seed-saver.

17. Start an Indoor Container Garden

Even if you have space for a large outdoor garden, there are still advantages to growing a few plants in pots indoors. Herbs are often more convenient when placed within arm’s reach of the cook. Indoor container gardening can be a simple way to extend the growing season. Also, container gardening makes growing some plants, such as citrus trees, possible regardless of your climate.

18. Make Your Own Mulch

There are many types of mulch that can easily be made at home. Shredding discarded newspapers and collecting lawn clippings are two options within reach of nearly every homesteader. With the right equipment, you may also be able to cut your own straw or chip your own wood mulch.

Helpful Resource

A Brief Guide to 13 Common Garden Mulches
Learn about the pros, cons, and best applications of over a dozen mulches, some of which are easy to make yourself.

19. Build a Cold Frame

There’s a reason homesteaders love cold frames—they are easy to build and highly effective at extending the growing season. Don’t neglect this valuable addition to your country lifestyle!

Helpful Resource

HomeMade
Includes plans for a cold frame. Read our full review.

20. Put Up a Bird Feeder

Bring some cheer to your place during those cold winter months (and enjoy the satisfaction of doing a good deed while you’re at it!). Bird feeders can be surprisingly easy to make.

Helpful Resource

The Backyard Bird Feeder's BibleThe Backyard Bird Feeder’s Bible
This fun and friendly book includes numerous do-it-yourself bird feeder projects, and it will even tell you what your favorite birds prefer to eat! Read our full review.

21. Cut and Use Firewood from Your Own Property

Many find cutting firewood to be a very satisfying way to heat their own homes. Keep in mind that not all firewoods are created equal. Hardwoods are much more efficient than softwoods, and seasoned wood is highly recommended for a nice, clean burn.

22. Mend a Garment

Clothing mishaps are inevitable on a small farm, so it’s best to be prepared. Learning these simple skills can extend the life of your clothes considerably:

  • Sewing on a button.
  • Stitching a tear in fabric.
  • Patching blue jeans.
  • Darning socks.

23. Make a Piece of Furniture

Here’s a winter project that can quickly make you very popular with your relatives! Furthermore, making your own furniture can provide you with the satisfaction of owning one-of-a-kind pieces that fit perfectly into your home.

24. Learn to Tie Basic Knots

Knot-tying is a very useful skill for those who spend time working outdoors. Even if gardening is your only country living project, you would be amazed at how useful a good knot can be.

25. Prune Cane Fruits

To maximize the health and productivity of your cane fruits, such as blackberries and raspberries, regular pruning is recommended. Fortunately, it is also quite an easy skill to learn.

Helpful Resource

How to Prune Blackberries
Step-by-step instructions for both winter and post-harvest pruning.

A Rainbow of Natural Dyes

A Rainbow of Natural DyesCraftsy folks frequently share a do-it-yourself ethic. While it’s always easier just to buy cheap, pretty yarn at the craft store, some (particularly homesteaders) prefer to create their own dyes. In fact, if you own sheep or other fiber animals, this may be a logical next step to adding value to your products.

You can even take the dye-it-yourself project a step further by harvesting the materials for your own homemade dye! Many dye materials can be grown in the garden or collected on a nature walk.

Looking for a specific color? Here’s where to find it. You will notice that some colors are altered by the mordant used. A mordant is a substance used to fix a dye onto a fabric.

Red

  • Avocado skin and seed: Light pink.
  • Roses: Brilliant pink with mint and lemon juice to activate alkaloids.
  • Lavender: Brilliant pink with mint and lemon juice to activate alkaloids.
  • Pink or red camellia blooms: Strong pink to magenta with salt and lemon.
  • Fresh dandelions: Magenta.
  • Sumac fruit: Light red.
  • Pokeweed fruit: Rust with chrome as a mordant.
  • Bamboo: Turkey red.
  • Madder root: Garnet red with chrome as a mordant.
  • Beets: Deep red.

Orange

  • Giant coreopsis: Bright orange.
  • Yellow onion skin: Bright orange with tin as a mordant; burnt orange with alum.
  • Butternut bark or seed husks: Light yellow-orange.
  • Lilac twigs and bark: Yellowish orange.
  • Shredded carrots: Rich orange.
  • Red onion skin: Reddish orange with alum as a mordant.

Yellow

  • White mulberry bark: Cream with with alum as a mordant.
  • Osage orange wood: Pale yellow.
  • St. John’s wort tops: Bright yellow with chrome as a mordant.
  • Goldenrod flowers: Bright yellow with tin as a mordant.
  • Tumeric: Very bright, vibrant yellow.
  • Dandelion flowers: Soft yellow with alum as a mordant.
  • Elderberry leaves: Soft yellow with alum as a mordant; deep yellow with chrome as a mordant.
  • Plantain: Dull yellow with alum as a mordant.
  • Fennel flowers and leaves: Mustard yellow with alum as a mordant.
  • Coneflower leaves and stems: Gold.
  • Red clover: Gold with alum as a mordant.
  • Marigold flowers: Gold with chrome as a mordant.
  • Red onion skins: Gold with chrome as a mordant.
  • Sage tops: Deep yellow with chrome as a mordant.
  • Dock roots: Deep yellow with alum as a mordant.

Green

  • Foxglove flowers: Apple green.
  • Peony flowers: Pale lime green.
  • Queen Anne’s lace: Pale green.
  • Hydrangea flowers: Celery green with alum as a mordant plus copper.
  • Fresh sage tops: Green-gray with iron as a mordant.
  • Fresh yarrow: Olive green with iron as a mordant.
  • Marjoram tops: Olive green with chrome as a mordant.
  • Coneflower blooms: Brownish green.
  • Peppermint: Dark khaki green.
  • Sorrel roots: Dark green.
  • Bayberry plant: Dark green with iron as a mordant.
  • Fresh dock leaves: Dark green with iron as a mordant.

Blue

  • Geranium: Blue-gray.
  • Fresh elderberries: Blue-gray with tin as a mordant.
  • Dogwood fruit: Greenish blue.
  • Indigo: Deep true blue.

Purple

  • Basil: Purplish gray.
  • Huckleberries: Lavender.
  • Elderberries: Lavender.
  • Red or black mulberries: Royal purple.
  • Red cabbage leaves: Rich purple.
  • Dark red or purple hibiscus flowers: Reddish purple.
  • Pokeweed berries: Deep reddish purple.
  • Very dark purple iris blooms: Dark bluish purple with alum as a mordant.
  • Blackberries: Strong purple.

Brown, Gray, and Black

  • Tea: Ecru.
  • Dried fennel seeds: Very pale brown.
  • Birch bark: Light brown to buff.
  • Tea bags: Light brown or tan.
  • Weeping willow wood and bark: Peachy brown.
  • Plantain: Camel with chrome as a mordant.
  • Pine tree bark: Medium-light brown.
  • Dandelion roots: Warm brown.
  • Broom sedge: Golden brown.
  • Fennel leaves: Golden brown with chrome as a mordant.
  • Yellow onion skins: Brass with chrome as a mordant.
  • Yellow coneflower head: Brass to greenish brass with chrome as a mordant.
  • Wild plum root: Rusty brown.
  • Red onion skins: Dark tan with chrome as a mordant.
  • Goldenrod shoots: Deep brown.
  • Beets: Deep brown with ferrous sulfate as a mordant.
  • Butternut bark: Dark brown when thoroughly boiled down.
  • Dried oregano stalks: Deep brown to black.
  • Black walnut hulls: Deep brown to black.
  • Carob pods: Dark gray.
  • Iris roots: Black.
  • Sumac leaves: Black.
  • Oak galls: Strong black.

Conclusion

This is a very small sampling of the natural dyes that exist, but it is sufficient to demonstrate that the plant kingdom offers an entire rainbow of colors just waiting for harvest. If you are willing to dye your own fiber, you will never run out of new options for achieving your favorite colors.

What Causes Wool Allergies?

What Causes Wool Allergies?Did you know that many people who think they have wool allergies actually do not?

Many people who appear to have an adverse reaction to wool have sensitive skin that is harmed by the rubbing and abrasion of scratchy wool fiber.

Even people with a true allergy problem are actually reacting to substances in the wool, not the wool itself.

 

Wool Allergy Vs. Sensitive Skin

Wool allergy symptoms are typical of any allergen. They include:

  • Red, puffy, itchy, or watery eyes.
  • Runny nose.
  • Nasal congestion.
  • Coughing.
  • Sneezing.
  • Wheezing.
  • Rash, which may take up to a week to appear after exposure to wool.

A problem caused by wool rubbing on sensitive skin is strictly confined to the skin, with no respiratory or other allergy symptoms. Symptoms of delicate skin that has been physically abraded by wool include:

  • Itchy skin.
  • Rash.
  • Hives.

Also note that wool sensitivity symptoms will appear when the affected person comes into contact with any coarse, scratchy fiber, not just wool.

 

Tips For Identifying a Lanolin Allergy

It is possible to be allergic to the naturally occurring lanolin found in wool. Lanolin, also known as wool wax or wool grease, is a natural protective grease that contains alcohols. These alcohols are thought to be the cause of true wool allergies. Note, however, that lanolin allergies are extremely rare.

A lanolin allergy can be hard to identify. What makes it easier (particularly for women) is that lanolin is common in many beauty creams and similar products due to its properties as an emulsifier. If you have a known issue with some beauty products, pull out the ingredient list—lanolin might be culprit.

Other products that often contain lanolin and thus can be used as a litmus test include:

  • Moisturizers.
  • Shampoos.
  • Sunscreen.
  • Shaving cream.
  • Hairspray.
  • Steroid creams.
  • Veterinary ointments.
  • Shoe polish.
  • Leather.
  • Air fresheners.
  • Printer ink.

 

Other Substances in Wool That Might Cause an Allergic Reaction

Again, lanolin allergies are quite rare. Typically, the real culprit is one of these substances:

  • Cleaning chemicals. These are sometimes added during the process of yarn manufacture and can be a major problem for those with chemical sensitivities.
  • Dyes. Likewise, some commercial dyes can cause allergies.
  • Dust mites. Wool fiber tends to hold in a great deal of foreign matter that can cause allergy symptoms. If you have a known dust allergy, there is a good chance that the dust trapped in your sweater is causing your symptoms.
  • Pet dander. Likewise, pet dander is easily trapped in the coarse fibers of wool. If you happen to be allergic to dogs or cats (or are knitting for someone else who is), keep your yarn and garments away from pets.

 

Now What?

If your problem is actually sensitive skin, there’s good news—you can continue to wear wool! Here are some tips for enjoying this fiber in comfort:

  • Dress in layers, making sure that your skin is protected from all contact with the wool garment.
  • Avoid wearing wool on days when you are likely to sweat. Sweating makes skin irritation worse.
  • Find a fine wool or wool blend. Most people with sensitive skin do not have a problem with fibers less than 22 microns in diameter. Merino is often a good option, while a blend of merino and cashmere is even better.

If you have a lanolin allergy, you will need to find a different fiber to wear, such as llama, alpaca, or cashmere. You might also enjoy working with plant fibers, such as cotton or bamboo.

Those with chemical allergies may enjoy working with yarns that have not been dyed. Or they might have fun dying their own yarns with natural substances!

And, finally, those with dust or pet dander allergies may need to avoid wool garments altogether. Wool rugs can also be a source of difficulty, so purchasing new rugs may be in order.

Adding Value to Wool

Adding Value to WoolWhen direct marketing wool, you have some options. You can sell just the fiber, or you can add varying degrees of value.

So what is the value-adding sequence for fiber, and which product or products are right for you? Let’s dig in.

 

Raw Fleece

Just offering the plain old raw fleece is very common, and it is an option that appeals strongly to customers who happen to be handspinners or weavers. Many wool growers who direct market are surprised to find that raw fleeces are their most profitable and best-selling products.

But note that selling raw fleece is not as simple as shearing a sheep and shipping out the fleece—attention to quality is far more critical in niche wool production than commodity production. The fleece absolutely must be clean and free of any and all debris. It also must be skirted, which is the process of removing anything undesirable, such as stained wool, second cuttings, or belly wool.

If selling raw fleece is your interest, note that sheep breed will come into play here. Most handspinners prefer long wool, as this type is the easiest to work with.

 

Adding Value to WoolRoving

Roving is wool that has been washed, carded, and twisted up to hold the fibers together in a sort of rope.

Roving is a versatile product used primarily for felting, but also for stuffing, spinning, and more.

 

Batting

Batting is used to fill pillows, blankets, and the like. Coarse wool works particularly well for making batting. Batting can be made to salvage wool too short to make into roving.

The batting concept can be taken another step further by making finished bedding and pillows.

 

Felt

Felt is a good product for adding value to coarse-wool batting, as it has many applications. It can be sold in sheets such as those you might buy at the craft store, but most producers who get this far choose to add still more value.

Do you have a passion for working with fiber yourself? Then you may be able to take value-adding to the next level by creating finished products, such as sponges, placemats, or felted crafts.

Another way to offer felt is in the form of do-it-yourself felting kits for beginners. These can be quite popular if they are quality kits that produce attractive results.

 

Adding Value to WoolSpun Yarn

The spinning step is going to cost you in one of two ways—time or money. Having your fiber spun into yarn at a spinnery or fiber mill can be very expensive, and the mill may require a minimum amount of wool to process. Some companies also have long delays depending on the demand. Spinning it yourself will take some know-how plus valuable time.

Offering the yarn without any dye can be an advantage to some, because there are customers who prefer to dye their own yarns either for fun or to avoid chemicals.

However, dying your yarn can increase its value to customers who are interested in knitting but not dyeing. All-natural botanical dyes can be popular among this group. (You may even be able to take the art of dyeing still further and grow your own dye plants.)

 

Woven Fabric

In some markets, fabric has a broader appeal than yarn. Yarn is primarily for craft hobbyists, while fabric is useful in a wide range of applications and on a variety of scales. Most producers have their wool processed by a professional mill. Fine wool is particularly well suited to fabric-making.

 

Handknits

Selling knit or crocheted clothing, afghans, and other gifts is an excellent way to sell your farm’s story—if you can pull it off.

One of the most common challenges with this level of value-adding is keeping up with the demand. The pre-Christmas rush will likely see your biggest boost in sales. Can’t make enough products yourself? You may need to find a team of knitters to help.

What type of products you can produce will depend primarily on your interests, but the breed of sheep you raise will also have a huge impact. Fine-wool breeds produce soft, versatile yarns, while yarn from coarse-wool breeds may be best suited to making rugs.

 

A Final Reminder

Quality is key in direct marketing wool or wool products, no matter what form they take. The best wool comes from healthy, happy sheep that receive optimal nutrition and have access to fresh water at all times (even in winter). It usually also comes from sheep that wear lightweight coats to protect their fleece from damage due to wet conditions or intense UV light. Caring for the sheep may therefore cost more in a direct-marketing business than in commodity production, but it can yield profits that more than compensate.

7 Cold-Weather Country Living Projects

7 Cold-Weather Country Living ProjectsLooking for something to do indoors on those cold, cloudy days of winter? Put that time to good use with one of these projects:

  1. Set goals for the new year. And schedule time to work on them. When pursuing an objective that requires a long-term commitment, writing down your goal is the first step to making it happen. Planning time into your day for zeroing in on that goal is the second step.
  2. Research a new enterprise. Get a head start on that new project you were contemplating and do some research. Winter is a great time for reading, making notes, calculating budgets, and laying plans.
  3. Plan a garden. Don’t waste a minute of the growing season! By preparing for spring gardening now, you will give yourself plenty of time to create a planting schedule, purchase seeds, and start vegetables indoors.
  4. Learn a new craft or skill. Many crafts typically considered hobbies can be enjoyed for their own sake, but they can often be put to practical use, as well. Hand-knit scarves for the family will be greatly appreciated during winter chores. Original art can be sold for extra income. Woodworking can be useful in hundreds of ways around both the farm and the house.
  5. Overhaul your web content. Are your links (both internal and external) still functional? Is your more timeless content still up to date? Is your about page still relevant? Are there tweaks you could make to your design or taxonomy to make your content easier to find?
  6. Start a reading challenge. Is the weather outside frightful? Sit down with a good book. Taking up a reading challenge is a good way to stretch yourself by reading about topics you might otherwise have overlooked, thus expanding your knowledge base.
  7. Write a book. While you’re reading broadly and acquiring new knowledge, take some time to put your own knowledge into a form that others can benefit from. Research, writing, and editing all take time—what better time than when the outdoor chores have let up a bit?

Get Ready for December 2016

Get Ready for December 2016Christmas will be here before you know it! Prepare tasty treats and heartfelt gifts from your own homegrown offerings, and snuggle up on the couch for a little storytelling.

  1. Retell the story of Sod Corn Jones.
  2. Read Scripture passages about the meaning of Christmas.
  3. Make a sweet potato beetle.
  4. Encourage your child to start an EcoJournal.
  5. Give a weather diary this Christmas.
  6. Create homemade gifts from the heart.
  7. Cook up some stovetop apples.
  8. Put a sweet potato casserole on the table.
  9. Visit the Christmas City of the High Plains.
  10. Check out our favorite posts from 2013, 2014, and 2015.

Get Ready for June 2016

Get Ready for June 2016June is just around the corner. Take some time to sharpen your knowledge of farming, music, crafts, and history.

  1. Find out how glyphosate-resistant crops work.
  2. Brush up on your mandolin technique.
  3. Teach your kids how to knit on those rainy days.
  4. Discover the story of the Stetson hat.
  5. Make a strawberry shortcake.
  6. Collect five things every beginning charcoal artist needs.
  7. Consider what caused the Dust Bowl.
  8. Learn to play 10 essential bluegrass songs.
  9. Start working on your life list.
  10. Add some recommended remedies to your farm first aid kit.