San Felipe de Austin & an Indigo Vat

If you live in Texas and haven’t been to San Felipe in a few years, you are late visiting it again … or for the first time. But then I will also tell you that in a couple years, it will be beyond exciting to go visit the site of Stephen F. Austin’s town and the center of the Austin Colony.

Last Saturday in commemoration of Austin’s birthday, I had the privilege of volunteering in the area that soon will be a recreation of one block of the original town. It was one of those events where you’re a little nervous to go but at the same time know that it should all go well. I really thought I took more pictures than I did but here are a few of the day and the results.

So a quick look at other setups before my own.


Lathe that I got to try out

I love this style of lathe. It dates back almost forever and does the job so simply without electricity and loud noisy machinery. It was fun to talk to the gentleman, and he offered me a chance to try it out. Who could give up a chance like that? I even managed to do it proper like. The lathe is built out of reclaimed lumber and hence its rustic thrown together look.


Cutting timber for framing

I don’t know if you admire men that can do brute strength work like I do, but this is a guy that one has to admire. You take a round log and stabilize it (iron pointed rod that is run into the log and the log underneath) and then stand on it and with your own power chop it till you have a smooth side and then move on to the next side. There is a system and it was amazing to watch.


Photos being created

Now I don’t know and understand all this magic, but I love magical things. Old photography is magical. There was a young man who had taught himself how to take photos on glass plates with silver and process them. Yep, that didn’t sound so knowledgeable and no I don’t know what is going on here. But to watch him take a plain glass plate (so it seemed) and then after snapping a picture and working magic in his dark set up and then drop these in the liquid to set them. Boy, it is magic and fun to watch. Many of the volunteers got their picture done. That is a couple at the right end. The one on the left end are people around the stagecoach.


My little world in front

But that all wasn’t why I was there. I was giving a try at an indigo vat and seeing if I was smart enough to help dye some things for the park later. So as it was a bit cool of a morning, I did not set up the vat till just after noon. Lots of prayer and fingers crossed. Maybe even toes. I waited in anticipation – “would it work?” Then came the time to drop in the first piece of cloth. The vat was very green, and I was in high hopes.


First cloth dropped in

The vat was to be yellow or green, I think I achieved that quite well. Next came waiting as it sat in there under the water. I covered it and waited till I could wait no more and peaked in.


Ok, this isn’t cloth, but yarn, but we are seeing some after being in some time

It was great to see a bit of change and then to pull the cloth out. Now I mentioned above that I love magical things. Indigo is pure magic. I can get as giddy as a five year old when I pull out a piece of cloth or yarn and it looks all yellow green, but wait – as the oxygen in the air reacts with it … drum roll … the fibers all start turning blue right before your eyes. OK, I know that there is a lot of chemistry and science behind it, but tell me that isn’t magic.


Cotton cloth. One took one trip in the dye. The second two trips and still a bit wet.

I was a new puppy in excitement as I put yarn or cloth in the vat and pulled them out and waited to hang them on the line till after they had turned. At first it took them a bit of time. Not sure exactly why, but we assumed that maybe it could be that the temperature outside wasn’t quite optimum.


My favorite was this apron. Alas, if you could see it for real.

But I must admit there was a price to pay for my fun. I didn’t have an apron that covered up my front from waist to ground. As the ladies started pointing out what was happening to my skirt … What should my response be? Thankfully as it was a sad affair, I think that the success of the day overtook the despair that could have come with the bottom of my skirt.


Dye dribbles all over my special skirt.

A couple of ladies had asked about the history of my outfit. They knew it was special. So we discussed my predicament. Right below the red, I had created what looks like a false hem but in reality isn’t. Now these were where you would sew on a few inches of cloth to the bottom of a skirt so that when that area got beyond messed up, you could easily pick it off and put a new one on. So if I had more of this cloth in my room, I could just cut it off at that line and sew it on and end up with a real false hem. Alas, after going through all my handwoven, I can’t find any of this. I knew I cut it close making it. So second thought is that I could just dye the area below if someone helped to hold it carefully in the dye bath. Not sure if it could be done perfectly so will mull that over some. It would be different than the rest of the outfit but then back in the day that wasn’t uncommon, especially on the frontier. And the third option is that we can just leave it as a sign of life and success.

So I had a grand day at the park. I brought some of the dye home with more and gave some to Katrina to use. She had been doing some natural dyeing near me. She had great success with goldenrod that was picked that morning.

If you haven’t been to San Felipe lately, you should go out and see the museum and park and learn what is envisioned over the next couple years. Its exciting.


Categories: dyeing, Fiber | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

Lena’s Dress Done! for good or bad.

It is official the dress is done and I have worn it over all my underpinnings. Now what to remember? One. I am not a seamstress by any long stretch of any definition of that word. Two. I do not have much talent for adjusting patterns to another way. Three. There is a big difference in seeing yourself dressed in a mirror than in a picture. Four. This dress still could use a lot of help but for now it won’t be from me anytime in the near future.


Standing in front of  a mirror I never saw how not right the bodice is.

It is wonderful to have it done and in one piece. I did do a few things after the last post and seeing Lena’s actual dress. I found some of the blue handwoven that I could use to add the trim around the cuffs which really made them look a lot better. I also redid the front a little bit although it didn’t really change things. It would need the skirt detached from waistline a little bit and redone. Alas, I really am sick of working on said dress, so that won’t happen soon. But the real problem is the bodice. It is, and I’m assuming here, too long in front. I never thought that and mostly was worried about how short it was. But it definitely doesn’t lay smoothly at all especially in the center. Standing pictures made it look awful.


I love the picture but you can tell there is a problem in back that I never noticed before.

Then Mark got an idea for better pictures. Yes, why not try for some sheepy ones. And that worked. But of course, sheep always make a picture look better. Even if it means that James walks right across your lap with his sharp little feet. In case anyone should wonder, that hurts and gets your dress dirty.


Who can deny that Caleb makes the dress look better?

I must admit that I loved the time out with my babies even if it meant sitting on ground that was less than desirable in what was scattered about. Alas, seeing these pictures now, I can get a better idea of where problems are with the dress than ever looking in a mirror. So some advice, when trying to make the impossible, do get pictures of the outfit and then you can see yourself moving and being natural in the outfit and learn better what is wrong or needs help. The next picture really shows that the top back, or along the underarm line across, is a problem with fit. Never noticed that before.


Ah, with such friends.

I have had some ask more about Lena herself and I have mentioned a little bit of her story through the journey of this project.

Lena Dancy (1850-1938) was the daughter of John Winfred Scott & Lucy Ann (Nowlin) Dancy. She was born near La Grange, Texas which is the next county south of where I live. Her father owned a large plantation as well as being a part of the legislature and a lawyer.

When the Civil War broke out Lena’s father was a devoted Southerner. There plantation was a place where soldiers could stop and rest if exhausted or sick. Lena and her sisters entertained the soldiers but also knitted socks and made clothing for the soldiers.

With the blockade of the South soon after the war started and relatively no textile mills in the South (The few mills there were wove cloth for the military and not for family use. That was still not even a small portion of what the Southern armies needed.) Many Southern women had to go back to spinning and weaving their family’s needs or learn how to do those tasks for the first time. Lena became in charge of the family textile production on the plantation during the war.

At the age of 14 years in 1864, she set out to spin, weave, cut, sew, and make herself a dress all of her own doing. This dress is still extant and my last post tells of me actually getting to see the dress up close and personal.

Her story fascinated me from the first I came across it and hence I tried to copy her dress but feel that her’s far outshines mine in many ways. Not the least to marvel at how well she spun and such tiny thread. All even. I’m not close to that good nor would I attempt a dress all spun by myself unless it was something very wintery. Ha!

So I must admit I am happy to have attempted this project. That said project is officially done. Lena’s dress is far superior to mine, but I guess I will have to live with that. Although some future date when insanity comes over me, I may try to redo the bodice for a better fit. Oh, I didn’t mention the sleeves don’t feel right either. But then they have been redone so many times, they probably themselves don’t know how they should feel like anymore.


My cameraman sitting down on the job.

Categories: Fiber, Gulf Coast Sheep, Sewing, sheep | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

A 14 Year Dream Realized

So over a decade ago (that sounds so long ago), I first learned about a 14 year old girl who lived on a plantation near LaGrange, Texas. In 1864, Lena Dancy spun, wove, and sewed a new dress for herself. The Civil War was dragging on and with the blockade, many Southerners were needing to spin and weave their own cloth and little was available in the South. Lena wove black and white cotton cloth in what was called Basketweave but today we call Log Cabin. The amazing thing is that this very dress is still extant and it was about 14 years ago that I learned about it and so desired to get to see it for myself.

Fast forward many years and I’m drawn into an email conversation by a friend, Connie. It was about textile mill fabric in the early 1800s in Texas. Now I do have a bit of research on handspun and handwoven in early Texas but not mill created cloth. But that is the great thing about how God works events out. Through an exchange of emails, I had mentioned trying to create a version of Lena’s dress for myself from photos and one article that described it. Michael was able to put me in contact with the right person to get a chance … drum roll … to actually see the dress in person. Up close and personal. Occupying the same space and time with it. To look real close and see how parts were done. Appointment made. Time set. I GET TO SEE IT! Find a fan quick and the smelling salts!

So yesterday I drove to the big city. This meant but one thing. Something was happening worth driving in a big city. Worth leaving my safe corner of the world. Worth a bit of insanity. Which proved greatly insane before done.

Yes, driving on the campus of University of Texas is enough to send you scampering back to the countryside as fast as one can get there. It was crazy. But thankfully, I researched this whole trip well before, and the places I needed to find were close to the freeway so not a lot of trouble there beyond just maneuvering the traffic. I found the parking garage and building I needed to get to so then went in search of some lunch. That entailed a bit too much driving and going crazy. I did end up at a sandwich shop which had a good BLT and I succumbed to a root beer float which was good as I like it when the ice cream crystalizes and it did beautifully.


Manor Garage

Then I made it back to the parking garage. Maneuvered to a place to park up near the top. Although you do enter on the third or fourth level so not as far of a drive as it sure seemed hunting a spot.


I know the sign says Greatest Hits, but no one listed there were the Greatest Hits inside. We were about to see the real hit.

Then was the walk across the street down into this larger area to the middle building and its end door. Enter it. Talk to first person. Need to move on to the next person. Get registered to be in the reading room of the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. Deposit purse in locker and put in a code. Alas later to realize you didn’t check the number on the locker you chose. Here’s hoping we can just go and stand in the right spot and figure that one out. At least there weren’t many to chose from.


Picture taken when leaving and thinking I had wished I’d taken one before entering.

So I sat down with a couple of Southwestern Historical Quarterlies to wait for Jill to come and take me to the dress. After reading a bit on the history of Houston, she arrived and we went down the hall to a door that one could look through the glass and see this dress laid out on tissue paper on the table. Be still my beating heart!


I am this close to the dress!

First thought when walking in to see the dress? How small it was. OK, so yes, Lena was 14 when she created it. And yes, it was the 19th century. But from the two pictures I’ve seen of the dress you just do not get an idea of the size of it and though I shouldn’t have been surprised, I really was.

So we both went over it with a fine tooth comb – almost. We spotted this and that and I was able to take many pictures. I compared what I had done with mine to what was actually on hers. We commented on the worn areas and the patches and what looks like it could have water damage on the back shoulder. Noticed how small the piping was. Viewed her stitches and with what stitches she sewed it. Wondered at her tiny appliqué buttons down the front of the skirt. So tiny. And no there are no missing ones, there really are a different number down both sides. We came to the conclusion that the ones on the one side were just a bit bigger than the other side and evenly spaced you didn’t get as many on it. (You can see mine and discussion of the number Lena’s Dress is Done)


How the bottom of the opening was done.

But the one bit that excited me almost the most, crazy as it may seem, was how she fixed the bottom of the front opening. The bodice buttons up with five buttons. But the opening extends down past the waistband and into the skirt panel itself. Lovely to see the nice little placket she created and pleat to finish that off so it didn’t tear or open further. But would also help keep the opening closed and not gaping when worn. Never thought of that myself, and it looks so much better than my dresses opening. So yes, first change I will be making to mine as a result of seeing the real one is this little pleat to finish it off. So simple and even looks better than mine.

So yes, outside my comfort zone, I managed to head to Austin, drive in the big city and on a college campus with people everywhere and all over the place walking around you and the road and wonder at how the air smelled and affected me. I don’t miss that big city air. Walk into a place I’ve never been to and talk to people I don’t know and walk into a room and see a dream come true.

I’m wondering what would happen if I were to decide to try making this dress again? Am I insane? The answer is assuredly yes. But I did learn quite a bit on the first go around. And yes, there is much I would still do different but at this stage I won’t change on the current dress. But what if ….

All my post concerning trying to make my version to this dress are listed here.


Categories: Fiber, history, Sewing, Spinning, Weaving | Tags: | 1 Comment

Four Sheepy Books

If anyone wonders if I like sheep, well, I feel sorry for the one that asks a question as I can go on and on and on and on… Well, I barely know when to stop talking about my babies. Or sheep in general either. They take up a lot of my time but what would life be without them? Yikes! I can’t even imagine the hole and lack that would enter my life.

But of course I also love books. As in one of my first memories is in September of first grade. I was waiting outside of the school for my best friend and neighbor to come out and for us to walk home. (Yep, this was the dark ages when parents could let their first graders walk home from school alone.) Then I spied Jeannie coming out. Now for those who didn’t live back in that decade, we carried thick clear plastic book bags for school. You could see through them although they may have yellow and orange flowers all over. I immediately noticed that Jeannie had a book in her bag that had that “I’M FROM THE LIBRARY!!!” look all over it. Now my class hadn’t had the privilege of going to the library yet, and boy was I mad. Yep. Not much takes me down faster than someone getting a book, and I didn’t even get the chance. So nope, I did not talk to Jeannie all the way home. Like it was her fault she got to see inside the library, and I didn’t. Could tell many such stories but must continue on with the purpose of this post.

So now to combine two of my loves and record them here for memories sake. Four sheepy books. All mainly children’s books. But what is better than children’s books? Right? Nice pictures. Get to the point quickly. So here they are and highly recommended to anyone wanting a sheepy book.

Caleb's lamb

Be sure to have a hanky.

First is Caleb’s Lamb. I bought it from Reformation Heritage Books. It was on sale, and, well, who can turn down a sale on books? The blurb stated, “Caleb never really wanted to be a shepherd. But when he rescued a newborn lamb from a tangle of thorns and was given it as his own, his feelings began to change. As the lamb grew, Caleb came to feel a special affection for it. In the end, he owed his life to the lamb.” I’m thinking this should be a fun uplifting read. But then I opened to the first page and it read, “A long, long time ago, in the land of Goshen in Egypt”. No! Why didn’t I think of that? Why did I just assume it would be a happy book? There was only one end to this book and that was the first Passover. So I will tell you that it is a sweet story of a boy who has a hard lesson to learn in the first half of the short book (93 pages) and then another lesson and decision to make in the last part of the book. So if you know the book of Exodus, you know what is about to happen. I will say though, it was a very good story written by a lady in England to use in children’s work in Bath. And I must admit before ever reading this book, I have stood by my babies and wondered if it was the Passover and I had to give up one, how easy would it be? Could I give up Daniel? It gives you a greater appreciation for Jesus’ gift of life everlasting as the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world. (John 1:29)


Do you know the Shepherd who knows your name and cares about you?

The second book Sammy and His Shepherd: Seeing Jesus in Psalm 23 also came from Reformation Heritage Books. Sammy is a sheep that has a good life under the care of his most wonderful shepherd. Then one day he meets a sheep from another flock that has a miserable shepherd who cares not a whit for the comfort of his sheep. Sammy suddenly sees how blessed he is, and for both sheep’s happiness, Sammy’s Shepherd buys the poor pitiful sheep and names her Precious. Then through the book Sammy gets to teach his new friend about their loving Shepherd through the 23rd Psalm. This book was written to teach children about our Great Shepherd the Lord Jesus Christ. It includes questions and things to do for each chapter. And this time we get the wonderful ending of Precious so happy and knowing her Shepherd. As she says, “I will dwell in our shepherd’s flock forever. I know that even if I stray away, he will come after me and bring me home because he loves me and I belong to him. I can’t wait to tell others about him.”


Woolfred gets to tell Dotty about the Shepherd

My next special book is one I came across through sheepy Facebook. Came across a gal who also has Gulf Coast Sheep. But not only that she has a website, A Sheep-Like Faith,  and she has also written a book using some of her sheep. Green Grass, Still Waters: Woolfred Lamb Explains Psalm 23 is about a sheep Dotty, who doesn’t trust the Shepherd and so hasn’t been sheared and carries around the trash and briars of her life stuck to her. Woolfred tells her all about how good the Shepherd is and how he cares for each of his sheep. By the end, Dotty is amazed and she learns to trust the Shepherd and even allows him to shear her so that she can get rid of all the past mess she has carried around. What is also fun with this one is that Kelli has also created crochet patterns of Woolfred and Dotty so that you can make one of each and tell the story. Dotty even has a detachable fleece. I promise one day I will start on these as I have bought the patterns. I really want to have them to add to my sheep collection.


Get ready for some fun.

My last sheepy book I bought a few years ago and have had fun with it and 2 – 4 year olds. When I worked at MDO in Spring, we would go to a children’s ministry in-service each year. One year Mary Rice Hopkins was one of the speakers and as I liked sheep long before I ever dreamed I would own any, I bought this book. Now we are heading to the New Testament and Jesus parable of the 99 sheep safe in the fold but one is missing and how the Shepherd looks high and low to bring the one lost sheep home. This is quite a lively song to sing and book to go through. But one of the fun things I did with it in MDO music class was to take a sheep and hide it in the room. Then we would sing the song and everyone would look for the sheep. All the sheep had to be safe in the fold before we could party. I think they had as much enjoyment at the game as I had.

So four books that have a special place on my shelves. All sheepy. All about our wonderful Shepherd.


Categories: sheep | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Lena’s Dress is Done! … Well … Sort of

I have been waiting for this day for way too many years. This has been a project that has sat between its various phases as an ufo for ages as I just wasn’t making it work. Well, I finally had the gumption to just get it done irregardless. (And yes, I know that technically that isn’t a word, but I like it, so I use it.) So I sat down with it again and got to work.

waistband and skirt.jpeg

Sewing the back of waistband to skirt

Now the skirt is to be cartridge pleated and then attached to the waistband of the bodice. Well, I did the pleating twice, and I still don’t know how well it came out, but this is a bit thicker cloth than store bought, so I think I will blame that for the bulk at the waist. But I also think that I could have made my three lines of thread that pulled it all up a bit further apart. The directions I was following for cartridge pleats had them close. But I really think I misinterpreted them twice as the sample one looked further apart. Can one guess the time it takes to attach each one of the pleats front and back? I can promise you that the skirt and bodice are attached forever. And a bit of time was spent sitting and doing it. Although the cartridge pleat look is rather lost in it all.


The hook I used to connect the waistband

Now with the skirt attached. I could look at the fastener at the waist again. What I had there at first had to be taken off to add the skirt. But then in filling my new band boxes, I found this hook and thought it would be better. So attached it instead. I will say now that after trying it on, I will be moving the flat end inside some more. I think I will still have room for everything under it at that time.

applique button.jpeg

The first appliqué button

But I definitely know by now that it seems every new step in this dress is a new problem or procedure that I do not want to do. I feel inadequate to the job. Now circles are something I could never do well. My penmanship can prove that. But now Lena’s dress, as it is today, has 19 of these little circles down one side of the front and 17 down the other. Now I assumed that when she made it, it had 19 down both sides and two have been lost in time. So 38 circles I need to make and cut round and then iron under and then sew on as a circle. A headache to be sure.

messed up.jpeg

I can so see the problem screaming at me.

I must admit that as I moved on I did get a bit better at it. 38 is a large number and room for lots of practice. Alas and alack. All those better ones are near the bottom as I started at the top sewing them on. On we trudge.

So I get 37 appliqué buttons sewn on and what do I discover. I am at the same point at the bottom of both sides. How can that be? I counted and recounted. But it was true there was a problem. Do I fix it? Do I leave things as they are? Who will even notice when the dress is being worn or hanging? What is a girl to do? Well, what she did was lay the two sides close together matched at the top and then counted the appliqués coming down and checking if they were level. Dreadful! Just over half way down there was the problem that then sort of came back around right. But if you look close there are a couple buttons that are not level and holding this it was obvious counting up and down that three on the right side needed shifted and a fourth one added in. So what does a girl do? She groans and moans and hunts for her ripper that isn’t where she thought it should be. So she gets out the small pointy scissors and starts taking hard work apart. i had sewn those buttons on so as to never come off even if a tornado hit. I do tend to over do some things. But after a bit of work they were off.


Appliqué buttons looking better

Should I say that about this time my husband went to bed and I was left alone in our poorly lit living room (nature of the beast as opposed to lack of lamps) to finish as I was determined to before going to bed. So when I compare my two pictures, yes the second one looks much better than the pre-fixing late night.

Alas, for all that trouble that this dress has drug me through? There is one little problem, or not so little, that has bugged me for a little bit.


Poor baby. These sleeve has been a trouble.

It wasn’t until I had attached the skirt that I realized how off the sleeves really were. I have already inserted them twice and they still are so far out of whack. Can I scream? These sleeves have been a trouble since I first had the cloth off the loom and I was working on the pattern. I had a pattern that was very similar to Lena’s dress but the sleeves needed a bit of tweaking. Or should I say, a whole lot of tweaking. As in tons. As in I made several patterns and mock ups.

But as I can see here, The sleeve is still not placed correctly to look right. I placed it the second time to go with where it was to be with the seam on the back. Alas, that made it way too far back. So I assume that seam is back a ways from how Lena’s dress has it. Though it didn’t seem so to me. The piping needs to come at least an inch or two to the front to look right.

Is there anyone that would want to rip this all out again? I certainly do not. But that is why this post is titled the way it is. Lena’s dress is done. I tried it on this morning. Well, sort of. No underpinnings under it, but I was able to button it up which I had about decided wasn’t going to happen despite my mock ups. I can’t wait to see how it would look with all the proper pieces underneath it.

But despite my dread and dislike for the task ahead. I will revel for a moment in seeing the job as a completed dress. But then the ripper must be found, and I will drive myself totally crazy trying to detach two sleeves from their crazy abode inside an arm scythe with way too much going on. Here’s to prayers over ripping the correct stitches and not ripping it all apart.

But as I said, for one short moment in this long journey I can look at myself, as poor of a picture as it makes, and dream of the dress being done. For a moment. But before this week is out those two sleeves better be out as well.

full dress.jpeg

Looks like I’m making a lecture with book in hand. Ha!

Oh, dear, as I look at this picture I can see other things to mess with. I knew I was having a time getting those appliqué buttons smallish. I don’t believe any of them are as small as Lena’s but some are a decent size. But in this picture some look huge.

But I am actually quite a bit pleased with the dress all things considered. That being, I’m a horrid seamstress.


Categories: Fiber, Sewing, Weaving | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Ladies Gathering 2019

I have been working on my Lena dress, and it is getting close to done. But that is not this post. But here is a kid that hates sewing trying to recreate a dress from only pictures and written words and going insane. But I do have a good reason to get it done, whether I ever really can wear it or not. So if that plays out, it will be recorded here.

But as said, that isn’t what this post is a memory of. Last Wednesday I headed out from my little spot on this earth right after morning chores for Washington, Arkansas in a huge Expedition as our car was in the shop. It is a trip of 5 hours and 45 minutes if you travel as well as the GPS says straight through. Alas, I did stop when I saw a great price on gas, and I needed a few more things so got them as well.

Arriving at the Schoolhouse, I got checked in and nabbed the same bed as I had last year (this is my third year) and my same cooler spot in the hall of the bathhouse. Sameness can be good.


This is the side of the schoolhouse you see the most coming and going to the bathhouse.

My first event was a tour of the Brunson House which has been refurbished and used as an event center. This was a good chance to meet and see who had already arrived for the week.


We saw inside the Brunson House.

But although one can love getting to see the properties they have in Washington, the classes are what one is really there for. And amazingly you may not think some class sounds too exciting but they do tend to be fun in the end no matter what mind set you go into it with.

Now, I do not like sewing classes so it was nice for me to have a concurrent class to go to during one, but this is the only year for that. The other one I had brought wool to card and spin instead. Alas with a question asked, I and three others ended up sitting on beds the whole time and learning informally from one with more knowledge than we. Yep, could have left half my load at home.


We had the privilege of meeting Fanny Block and getting a tour of her home.

We met Fanny Block and saw her home. We had Caroline Buck and her husband bring in an amazing collection of guns that women would have been left with at home for protection when their husbands and fathers went off to war. We got descriptions of them all and even at the end got to handle, touch, marvel at their weights, and ahh up close with them. It is interesting to see how guns changed through the mid 19th century.

I took a penmanship class that was quite a challenge for someone who gave up on improving their penmanship in 6th grade (You don’t want to know how many decades ago that was!). When her end of the year sheet looked exactly as her beginning of the year one after nine months of practice, she gave up. I was surprised that with pen, nib, ink; I wasn’t absolutely horrible at this challenge. I was happy that I went ahead and bought the book and pad of paper myself so wasn’t dependent on what was passed out.


Filled three pages before attempting my calling card.

I do think that someone with a great hand could do my name well. The two Ms and one A beginning the three words all start the same way and would make an interesting effect.

Along with Civil War era board game, mason jar history with seeing some old ones, and creating ribbon trims, we spent the next few days learning. I do so love the fiddly work with the ribbons better than actually sewing. Seems backward in my head that this is so, but still loved trying to create those trims.

Then – we have vendors. Ah, the bane of us all are the few vendors that come. And it isn’t many and yet we all end up heading home spending everything we had with us. I had an order in for a covered bandbox from Barb and Anna Corry. Then of course bought another smaller one. Alas and alack, what I wanted to put in them filled them. Guess next time we’re at an event together I will need more. I also bought a few other tidbits and drooled over more.

Though I guess one wasn’t a tidbit, I have fabric coming in the mail. Now after my denouncing sewing that may seem odd. But I am also tight-ish with money and would love to have all my clothing made by someone else. Alas anyone want to pay for that for me? …..  Didn’t think so. So I am going to be making some new underpinnings here soon. Desperately needed.

Then we have a gift exchange each year. I do tend to worry about this as there are things that many drool over that I don’t even like to touch. So always the dread of getting something that is a good gift – just not for me. Last year I almost got a chamber pot. Yep, I stole it and then it got stollen from me. Cry! Who would have thought we would fight over a chamber pot? But we did.

The circle got smaller as people took gifts and left and as they were passed about, I could feel that several were still bookish feeling. I could come out of this pretty well. Then it came to me to pick a gift and keep whatever I picked. I was in a conundrum of which of those book feeling bundles to take. So I finally settled on one and was quite pleased. It was making heirloom things from ribbon. Hah! I enjoyed the class with ribbon trims. I always enjoy the fiddly little ones. So now I have a book of several things to try and it even has some of the same trims as we had in class. Will see what happens and end up being recorded here from this book.


My gift in the exchange.

Not the only book to come home with me though. I won one earlier in the week, and I never get pass paying for my bunk at the gift shop without buying one. I think they planned on me this year as they had one, and only one copy on the shelf, right up my alley. So three came home this time.

But when all is said and done? I must admit it was nice to arrive back home to my sweetnesses. My babies. My heartbeats.


Lydia is nearest to me. Caleb is the dark one in the middle. The rest who knows? They can look all alike from the rear. Well except Caleb’s brother who is also that dark and has horns.



Categories: history, Tidbits | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

New Toy

So what is a girl to do that loves playing with fiber? She gets new toys now and again… even if she really has all the basics covered. Really. I mean do we all need one of everything out there? Well, in this case finding a solution that was relatively cheap, or at least cheaper, was a blessing.

So we all know I have sheep and love my babies. But when it comes to cleaning wool yourself? Well, can I say there are things that rank higher on my fun meter. It has been quite the chore to clean John’s fleece. And despite many times over it to pick out stuff and then buckets of water. … Well, it is still not great for carding and spinning. So hence, one does need a new toy. Right? One that will make that bit of the job easier. Right?

So in a search, rather by accident, do you think that God doesn’t bring things across your YouTube watch that is just what one needs? I was on YouTube checking out my regulars when a gal was unboxing her new wool picker. So I stopped to watch. Actually just a bit of it as once I got the idea, I went looking myself. And after a few days of talking to my husband, I also went and bought what she had.


Who thinks it looks like a coffin?

So I ordered a box wool picker for less than half of what the nice swing ones cost. When my husband first saw it his comment was, “That looks easy to make.” Well, it does to me as well for someone good with a hammer and putting in nails crooked. I have seen plans for them but alas when I ask my husband about this or that, he reminds me of all he has on his plate. So no, I didn’t ask if he would make one for me. But here it is. One nice thing about it to me is that it doesn’t take up the vertical space a swing one does. Although it is longer.


Taking the protective cover off and leaving the handle and top working section on.

Now all that this box contains is space on either end of nails aimed in different directions. On the handle top there are nails also facing down back and forth inside. They brush across the top of each other quite closely.

Now why did I deem that I needed this tool?


The result of many washes.


So can you imagine trying to card the wool above? Can I just say it isn’t the easiest thing on God’s green earth. Not the toughest by any long mark, but still not fun or easy to get a smooth yarn from. So hence my desire for a better tool.


The “in” end.

So you take a clump of wool and place it in the “in” end. Now in the above picture, I put too much in and after one pass took half of it out. A bit of a learning curve at how much to put in. A hint – less is better. But you just put a clump of wool in one end then move the top with the handle back and forth and it pulls it through the nails and deposits it in the out end.


What a difference several passes make!

So after several passes through, what had seemed like hard masses or wool were becoming cloud puffs. What had fit in a small basket, now needed a much bigger space to rest in.


What a comparison!

So the puff cloud against its former self. This was looking quite doable now and didn’t take that long to create the puff. It pulled the fibers apart and spread it out into an easily viewed mass that was so easy to then spread on hand cards and processed to “brush” it smooth and roll up.


For as often as I washed that wool, see all the bits that still came out of it.

I must admit that for all the hand picking and washing I did with this fleece, I was rather surprised at the amount of vm that still came out of it in the bottom of the picker. It still did a job of getting more out of this wool than I was able already to get out.

And was the cost and work worth it? Could I actually spin this wool half decently?


My first spindle now started.

Well, I would have to say yes. This was so much easier to card and then spin. I’m not a perfect spinner with that perfectly smooth all even thread, but I was not disappointed with how this was looking when I spun my first rolag of wool from the picked mass. Now to stay ahead of the picking as it does take up so much more room as clouds than as mashed convoluted wool.

So yes, girls need new toys now and again.



Categories: Fiber, Spinning | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

God’s Special Gift


Springtime view of the sheep shed

Life has been a bit hard on this sheep journey. This is the first year that we lost any babies. Not fun and buckets of tears shed even now when I think of them.

Sadness is a hard lot in life. But… God can surprise us with a special gift. And that is what happened the Saturday before Mother’s Day. You see, I was meeting a friend for lunch and had the timer set for when I needed to go get ready for lunch. As I went out the door to accomplish this task, I heard the loudest caterwauling from the sheep shed. I hurriedly locked the door, ran down, and hollered that I was coming and was really thinking it looked like James had gotten himself in a pickle, and I probably needed to extradite him from something strange he had tried.

Alas, as I got closer, I realized it wasn’t James in a pickle but Abby. She was laying there with a head and neck sticking out of her rear. YIKES!!! Who knew she was even pregnant?  The last baby born was almost two months before. We had decided she wasn’t. Thankfully, I don’t think she was in her pickle for too long as she still had energy to get up and try to stay on guard till she decided if she could trust me at this moment. I grabbed my phone (thankfully with me, though often not) and called Mark to come fast as Abby was in labor and it wasn’t looking good.

Well before he got out to the shed, I had already made some rapid decisions. You see, the problem was that Abby had a head and neck hanging out, but there were no hooves with them. This meant that our new little one was trapped and his shoulders couldn’t get out with his head. He wasn’t moving and was looking quite lifeless.

This birthing process is a bit more than tough.

I had but two thoughts. If the baby was dead, I had to get him out of her before a dead baby caused her troubles. If he were alive, I had to get him out of her before he was dead. So without much more thought and nothing to hand, I just reached into Abby and grabbed a leg and shoulder and pulled the baby out. Plop he went on the ground. But  … was that the ever so slightest sign of a breath, quiver, movement? I immediately cleared out his mouth and rubbed him down. Soon we had open eyes and a living baby boy! I was ecstatic and at that moment Mark arrived. I told him my tale, and he went to get a towel and some food for Abby who definitely was happy to get a treat for all her troubles.


Abby still trying to clean up her new little boy

Now Abby was in overload on being a mother. Not sure if it was from watching the other new mother’s for the four months before or pure instinct, but she went to town cleaning up her little son. I have video of the fastest tongue in the west. She was so busy with cleaning him, that when he got up and tried to nurse, she would move away as he was too short for her to lick when back there. But they got it together finally.

Version 2

Have you ever seen anything so sweet?

It took the two of them about three days to leave the environs of the shed. That was a sign of how rough the birth had been on little Daniel. He didn’t seem to have it together with his legs so I went and got him some selenium and vitamin e and after one dose of that, he was bounding around much better.


My scrawny blessing getting much better

You know what the gift is with Daniel? (Named for one of David and Abigail’s sons.) I lost little Simeon to tetanus a few weeks before. Talk about crying buckets, and I still can for the little one that could run like the wind. He amazed me. But this was like a special gift from heaven, giving me back my Simeon. They look so much alike. And I think Simeon’s sister thinks the same. Daniel spends a lot of time with Anna and she plays around with him. While he was so tiny, she was the only one that came to him.


Daniel exploring with Anna

Talk about a favorite in the flock. This little fellow, who is a special gift, is a favorite of all who see him. so much smaller than all the rest. Friendly. And growing. I could share a multitude of pictures as I’m always taking the camera out to check on him. He’s a month old now, and I haven’t tired of him yet.


Picture taken this morning of the little feller

So God’s blessings are surprising and new each day. I feel like Simeon is back with me. I told my friend that she saved this little one’s life, if not his mother’s as well, as I would not have been out there to here his mother holler or know anything was up until probably way too late – if we weren’t getting together. And oh that lunch date, it got put off for a little bit till we were all done and were sure that all was well. I then left, leaving Mark to check on them while I was away.

God is good!


Categories: Fiber, Gulf Coast Sheep | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

This and That

So I wanted to just add a few miscellaneous items to the memory banks here. Too much cuteness around here to keep to oneself. As well as things are happening but small enough to not need a whole post unless I start really short ones. Which might not be bad, but we won’t type all that is running in this brain on that rabbit trail.


An escapee trying to get back inside.

So first, I go out and check on the chicks as they do run out of water. (Mama has gotten smart and bought a larger waterer than is here seen.) But one day she went out and here was one outside their home. Hmmm… This cage has chicken wire and gauged wire all around the bottom. No way a girl could get out unless she flew through the top which is just cattle panel. Not sure, but she was trying to get back in and was easy to catch on the backside between the cage and the blue tarp. Hopefully, no more escapes as you can’t fix a problem you don’t know what is happening.


Gimpy enjoying grass and pecking the ground after being inside for a couple of weeks.

Now on to Gimpy. She is the little girl who I found almost starving to death. I got her inside and investigated and her beak was overgrown on top which makes it hard for them to eat and hence they starve. So we got it trimmed but then she wasn’t using one leg and limped quite poorly. So she got to stay inside while that was trying to be sorted. The only thought there is that it somehow got strained at some point as there was no obvious damage or illness or cut to it. So some epsom salt baths and inside care has helped a lot. Her daddy felt sorry for her so would take her out and has created his own nightmare now. She loves being with him and pecking at his beard and climbing all over him. Now is time to reintegrate her in the flock. Alas she isn’t too sure of that although she wants friends. When put in with her old friends their over attention and reestablishment of order isn’t to her liking and she runs back to daddy. So some work there. She does get to go outside and be near others as she has her own larger cage now.

Moving on from Chickens.

I never get tired of being with the sheep or lambs and when not in the pasture you have to settle for pictures. Who could get tired of such sweetness? Never. I just noticed that the two lamb pictures I picked are the two girls.


Lydia, daughter of Ruth

Lydia was our first surprise in January and she is quite the solid girl now. So pretty with her darker color although it is fading fast It is staying in her face and legs like Samuel and Joseph did last year. She actually looks so much like Joseph. I only noticed now but with this picture quite huge on the computer screen her wool on her forehead is all curly.


Anna, daughter of Rebekah

Who could not want to stare at that face forever. A little pensive. Maybe she is wondering where her twin brother is. Alas, it was sadness over the weekend as we lost him. (Have you ever wondered at that phraseology? I didn’t loose him, I know exactly what happened and that he went to sleep forever at the vet. Alas, though I do feel loss at not seeing him with her.) Her best friend never came back to her after I ran out of the pasture with him in my arms. Simeon managed to get tetanus, and we almost caught it in time to heal him but not quite. So after some IVs and overnight at the vet, it was best to just put him out of his misery. He was the smallest of all the lambs but boy could he run like the wind. I have not seen in reality any creature that could cover ground the way he could. Alas, maybe he just didn’t have what it would take for the long haul and so this was best for him.


Rebekah looking on her Simeon with Anna beside

So moving on from sad things to accomplishing something. Or at least getting it moving along.

I am weaving a twill pattern with variegated yarn. It is for the twill weaving group at my guild. Now I just picked a pattern I thought I would like. Ha! It wasn’t so exciting in the end. It was a wide kind of feathery leaf looking pattern that seemed that it should work with the yarns I wanted to use up. But when I did it, the pattern ended up a bit scrunched and is just a bunch hills. The picture below is definitely not some spread out feathery leaf pattern. Now I wasn’t totally dissatisfied with it but just not excited about it. I’m thinking it will make good washcloths. Ok, will see if I cut it up that small.

Now, as it was variegated yarn, and I have but six bobbins, I wound them and worked back through them to get the repeat of the yarn looking right. You can tell where I would six more and went a second time. Yep, lesson in checking the pattern and picking up with the same place in the repeat.


Taken from under and a bit blurry

Now I do have another yarn that is variegated and one I actually like the colors better so decided to try it on the warp. This warp pattern has three ways to treadle it so decided to try the second one as it was a pretty pattern as well. Of course, to me, I love the way this is now looking. But the funny thing, as I look at it, is that all three yarns are suppose to be 8/2 cotton. Now the warp was a green 8/2 and the same for both wefts. The first weft was a bit slubby but nothing really dramatic. But the second is a smooth lovely yarn. So does the second one look like the picture? Nope, of course not. I’m weaving it. It is actually spread out more than the picture in the book. The blocks are much more square there. So can I blame it on the yarns that they each look different and that difference is in the two opposite directions, and not on me? The warp didn’t change between and yet one is set too close to look like its picture and the other is set too wide. The yarns are a bit different but who knew they were that different? Ok, yeah, if I was more of a perfectionist, I could have worked these to try and be more as the intent of the pattern was, alas it is me doing it and it is working so we’re good.


How pretty.

As I look at this one now, I am amazed that one would think I actually measured out the repeat and planned this to match up. I did nothing of the like. I just started weaving on the same warp as the last one. I don’t know how long this will last but here’s hoping for quite a bit of ways.

So that is it for a This and That for today. I need to go get some weaving done.


Categories: Bent Oak Farm, Fiber, Gulf Coast Sheep, Weaving | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

All Sweetness

I had to share some baby lambs. They are the height of entertainment, and I so enjoy just going out in the pasture and being around them. Their zest for life, exploring, fun, and of course a quick nip from mom in the middle of it all is incredible. So here is a record of some of the fun of late.


Little Bit, Benjamin, and Boaz having fun while Anna and Simeon are being born in the background.

This picture I find fun just because if you don’t know what is up, you may think it rather boring. But the three boys in the front were playing and resting, while by the tree in the background, Rebekah has birthed twins in the last few moments and have them with her. New life on the farm.


Simeon, Anna, and Isaac

Now these three were just being downright cute playing together. Simeon and Anna are the twins you can’t see in the first picture. Simeon, born second, is still smaller than his sister, but I love how the twins we have hang out together. Best friends.They had each other for five months and continue hanging and watching out for each other. Simeon got banded today and was making some noise. I am assuming it was of the “I hurt” “They did something to me” sort. It was a quick sister that ran over to see about her brother.



Now to get to lay in the trough seems to be a safe place to all the babies. They very much find that security can be found in its walls even if there is a board in there that makes the floor slant. Alas, as they also like to poop in the same trough, it is now turned upside down so they can jump up on top (or the bottom depending on perspective) and lay down and play. A whole lot easier to sweep up sheep nuggets.


Joshua and Caleb

Back to twins again. Joshua with his horns and Caleb with his fireworks. They are best friends as well. Hanging out together. Their mother Leah is doing an amazing job with them. Here you can see Joshua’s splash of brown on his back. Not sure yet how much of their dark color they will retain, but it isn’t fading much yet. Out of all the lambs these two are friendly for some reason. They don’t readily run away when you walk by and are easy to catch, though I don’t do that much, but a quick pet is always in order. Love feeling their wool.


Follow the leader

I love this tree. Mark wants to cut it up and get rid of it. Alas, can you see what fun it is as a play gym? Last year, I had a fun moment with Samuel and Joseph playing on it but had no camera with me. This year, I caught the babies having a right good ole time running up that trunk. Much higher than Samuel or Joseph ever went.


We’re taller than you are!

More fun on the tree. They played how many lambs can fit on this trunk. If the two at the top want to come down and the two that are lower want to go up, who has to give way? If your slipping, is it better to just let yourself fall off? How far of a jump is it, really? In this picture are all the boys. Anna and Lydia must have decided to let boys be boys and go off and be young ladies.


Oh such cute faces.

Too many cutie pies to just have a few pictures. Same day as above but now we’re playing under the limbs of the same tree we were climbing.


Shearing Day. Can’t you tell?

So shearing day came with all its rain. What do you do when you have no real setup for keeping sheep dry? We had to play with the barn and make space inside for them which worked well for feeding them through shearing. Each baby had to wait behind until their mother was done and then they got to go out together. Alas with the rain, these three decided that they’d just rest under the shearer’s truck and stay a bit drier than the others. Or it was safe in a weird non-normal weekend. Yep, one mom is checking in on them.

I think I will end this here. One picture of the very first lamb of the season and as she is a few weeks older than the rest, she looks quite a bit bigger. The big sister to the tribe.


Lydia two and half months old

Categories: Bent Oak Farm, Fiber, Gulf Coast Sheep | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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