Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Craftsteader's Journal

Homesteading has long fascinated me—living off the land in a bucolic setting in upstate New York , Wisconsin or Maine, raising heritage free-range chickens and Shetland sheep. Maybe I’d even have a few dairy goats and whip up some really tasty cheese with the garlic and chives I would grow.

Life, though, has landed me in a Midwestern suburb with a postage stamp sized lot. Yes, we are building a little garden, but it is limited. Plus, I feel a strong pull to eco-friendly living and am interested in prairie restoration. I see my yard more as “suburban savannah” and have been slowly filling it with native plants to sustain butterflies, birds and the other critters with which we share this planet.

My focus has long been on making things. I shy away from harshly processed commercial rovings and buy fleeces from small farmers who practice sustainable methods of agriculture. I work up from the raw fleece—washing, picking, perhaps dyeing. I do my own carding and then I spin and use the yarn myself. I’ve added weaving to a repertoire once limited to knitting. With weaving, I can make all sorts of household products—blankets, rugs, dishtowels, curtains, even clothes. I hope to make much of the yarn myself, spinning and blending for both warp and weft. Though, I did receive some mill spun yarn when I purchased my second-hand looms.

Rather than homesteading, I’m craftsteading.

With all this craft activity, and my day job, I wonder if I would ever have time to add raising my own fiber. Sheep, as cool as they are, would take time away from processing the fleece, spinning, learning to weave and more. I would definitely be spreading myself too thin. Instead I can go to the farms of those who have a deep interest in raising these animals and find what I need. I am especially fortunate to know Mary Pratt of Elihu Farm, because not only does she have years invested in raising sheep, but is also a fleece judge and she helps me pick from her large selection of fleece colors and types.

My home has three spinning wheels, two carders, two floor looms, and a dyeing area and drying racks. So I have a craftstead—a sweat powered workshop devoted to taking the products of the land and turning them into something useful. In recognition of this, I am changing the name of my blog to “Craftsteader’s Journal” to chronicle my attempt to make so many things by hand.

Shown is above is my 60 inch wide Leclerc Nilus jack type loom, and two of the colors of yarn for the runner I want to weave. This loom sits in a retasked guest room. In the middle is my workhorse Clemes & Clemes carder which I am using to card some brown dyed Romney for this rug. Below that is a pot a homesteader might be tempted to use for canning, but we craftsteaders use for dyeing.

Thank you for visiting my blog! Please visit my website at and explore the art home fiber production!

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