Sunday, August 2, 2015

Our first tests are finished, and I think we have succeeded in creating some amazing fabric. We put away our thermometers, ph testers and odd hand powered and small electric tools. The recipe for two beautiful and practical fabrics, from each of our greige goods, is now in hand. In light of my original inspiration, to make cloth that reflects the flora and fauna of Vermont, we are giving these fabrics animal names.

"Turkey Feather Twill" - Raw goods & two sample finishes.

"Chipping Sparrow Crepe" - Raw goods & two sample finishes.

The lower left fabric in each image is the raw textile, off the loom. The other two are fulled to 16 and 30 percent of the original size. The final product is softer to the touch, and more durable than the greige goods fresh off the loom.

A New Look for the Winter Moose Website

We have finalized the first line of products, so that we can move forward with pattern making. Mika has made a few new illustrations, both painted and drawn, on the Winter Moose website. They reflect the vest, bag, hat and glove patterns that I am creating. 
See the new look: click here

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

 Last week, we payed a visit to the Green Mountain Spinnery. Nestled in the trees near Highway 5 in Putney, "GMS" is the oldest working fiber mill in Vermont. The owners are also environmentally conscious, so we can be assured of a non-toxic product.

Farmers send animal fibers to the mill in burlap, plastic, and cotton sacks, or in large cardboard boxes. The mill also purchases fiber pre-scoured, and dyed, in compressed bales.

For local fibers, GMS has a small scouring operation. Here, you see the wool soaking, before it goes through rinsing and drying processes. The ancient "spin-dry" (right) pulls out most of the moisture.
After the fiber has been dried, color mixing and "de-clumping" is done by hand feeding the fiber into a picker. The same fiber mix may be processed several times this way. When the mixing and de-clumping is finished, armloads of the mixture are carefully added to the carding machine. This tricky job starts a series of very fine tuned movements. The picture below shows the fiber entering the carder, and what it looks like at the halfway point. The smooth "batting" will be further divided into over 90 sections of "pencil roving". The weight and thickness of each must be exact, and differs for each yarn made. See the video below.
The carder is almost 100 years old. It is such a complex machine that, even after 30 years of working with it, the owners continue to rely on  experts with more, and longer experience. Here is a video we made of the carder in action, as well as a glimpse of the spinning machine. 

Large spools of pencil roving lean against a wall waiting their turn on the spinning machine. Meanwhile, the spinning machine takes many delicate ribbons of fiber and twists them into a fine yarn, called a "single". These will be plied back on themselves on a plying machine, and wound into measured skeins, or onto cones.
Every skein is tied together, and hand twisted into it's final form, ready for shipment to knitters all over the world.

After our lovely tour, Mika agreed to teach Doran how to knit. We bought a beautiful, deep teal yarn; a cotton and wool mix. There is just something special about getting yarn at the mill. Meeting the people who made it, and knowing where it all came from, was a wonderful treat. The needles passed from front seat to back, to front again, as the lessons continued on the drive home. Sort of like knitting and purling.  :  )

Monday, July 6, 2015

Thanks to weaver, Judy Blackmer, of Shelburne, Vermont, we now have several yards of each of the color combinations to work with. This fabric is spongy and soft, with a very loose feel. Soon, we will begin  various tests on these goods.

Right after the Fourth of July, Mika, Doran and I traveled to the Marshfield School of Weaving for a relaxed exploration of the school. There are 11 large looms, and several smaller ones upstairs.  The complete natural dye laboratory on the ground floor was impressive. We saw many small carpets, cotton and linen toweling and even some embossed upholstery. This is an amazing place for learning.

One piece that struck me, as well as our intern, was the clean, natural smell of the building. With mostly natural materials used in both the weaving and the dying processes, there was no residual synthetic pollution in the air to worry about. A sense of comfort and peace  was inspired by easy walking space between and around every loom, thick sheep skins padding the wooden benches, and a view from every window of green hills, trees and gardens.

After our visit to the weaving school, we drove back via the barn where Mika's two Cashmere goats, Harry and David reside. Mika introduced Doran to their keep and fiber ("Down"), as well as some of their other abilities.  Below is a picture of Harry and David before their down shed out this Spring.
Harry and David of Team Snazzy Goat, in February, 2015.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Winter Moose project has a Summer intern from the University of Vermont. Welcome Doran! Here he is with one of Vermont's alpaca farmers, Steve Shaw, of Moonacre Farm. Doran is involved in all aspects of our research into regional resources. If you have a mill or fiber farm in Vermont, you are likely to hear from him in the next few weeks. 

Weaving with a knitter's yarn is not for the faint of heart. Mills work hard to perfect the elastic, spongy and soft yarns that knitters love to feel sliding off their needles and into sweaters and hats, etc. For weavers, this elasticity can be very difficult on the loom. There are "weaving yarns" and ours were not. We had very specific measurement requirements for our second cloth, and measuring it, while under tension, proved a frustrating business. The tools of the trade are pictured here - note the tape measure on the right. The amount of play or give in each pass of the shuttle, and the force with which one yarn is packed into the next, all affect the ultimate measurements. So, there was some trial and error in the creation of these 7 + yards, but the results, we think, are absolutely gorgeous!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Balls of Yarn

 A Little More About the Process:

When we took the yarn to the weavers, it was in the form of twisted skeins. Skeins are usually sold to hand knitters and crocheters. Weavers often buy their yarn on cones, to make it easier to set up the loom.

Our yarn, this time, was not available on cones, so a skein holder, called a swift, was used to turn all the skeins into balls.

Here is some of our yarn after its transformation into balls.

The creamy white has just gone on the loom! You can see the first few inches here, after the brown. More of the brown filling yarn, or weft, is visible on the finished work, rolled up underneath.

The dark brown, almost black yarns are the warp. See how much tighter they are in this close-up of the weave? They are under more strain, but so far this yarn is holding up to it. They will relax after being taken off the loom.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

 From garden to cloth in one blog!

I saw my first live madder plants last week. I really enjoy seeing the living, growing plant that can provide us with such vibrant color.

The red yarn is now at a weaver 's studio in Chittenden County. She will be creating several color mixes with the new weave pattern we chose. Here is a picture she sent us of the first few inches! Very exciting.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Spring is here. 

Three months have past since my last update, and we have been moving forward in several directions.
We are welcoming an intern this Summer, to update and expand our research into local and regional textile resources. He will be investigating the capacities of everything, from mills and assembly facilities, to sheep and alpaca farms. 

The yarn we chose to buy is half New England alpaca, and half U.S. sourced sheep. We got several colors, all naturally occuring tones. 
It turned out that using yarn already made, at a Vermont processing mill, was more economical than sending our own fiber in, at present. We’re holding on to the Vermont alpaca and sheep donations for a later date. 

We sent some of the yarn to an expert weaver in Southern VT...

We chose a traditional herringbone pattern for this first fabric, using colors to emulate a turkey feather. All knots will need to be untied and the ends re-worked into the fabric. The dark stripe down the center is to help facilitate the cutting of 18" squares later, for testing.

We have the first woven goods back from the loom! Thank you, Lee, for weaving our first three yards of "greige goods". 

Greige Goods: Cloth off the loom, when untreated, un-dyed and unfinished. Pronounced like "gray", from French, and means "raw". 

Local Plant Dyes. 
We gave some of the cream colored yarn to Jennifer, in Central VT  She, and her husband, have a farm specializing in medicinal and dye plants.  Madder root takes three years to mature, and is one of the worlds oldest red dye materials. It will be the source for the color of our red yarn. 

         Here is the yarn! Thank you, Jennifer!

The next step will be to have eight more yards woven, with a different weave pattern, and to begin the testing of various finishing processes. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

In The News
An article on the Winter Moose project has been published by Green Energy Times.  Check out the on-line version, if you haven't picked up a copy. It covers all the details of the project, and I think it is well written.

Out in Public
I spoke on a panel for a University of Vermont Sustainability class this week. "Directors of Sustainability" was the title, and I was called in as a local, start-up example. The others on the panel represented a multi-state dairy/cheese co-operative and a multi-national corporation dealing mostly in synthetic products. I got to witness first hand how big companies can skew their data to sound wonderful... Try using the weight of packaging as your environmental footprint gauge. Unilever does. Switch out all natural and compostable materials for light weight plastics -(that are forever recyclable?)- and you have a gain on your environmental impact charts. Hmm.
I was last to speak, and focused on the toxic aspects of adhesives, used in fabric sizings, but also in fragrance, pesticides, etc.  I explained Benefit Corporations, B-Corp, and the local fiber supply chain. I was the only one to mention various ways an interested student could get involved, and everyone laughed when I informed them of the growing need for male runway models. In spite of my nervousness, and some spontaneous changes away from my notes, I think I contributed something of value. I may even have an intern for the summer.  We shall see.


We have some samples to show. Reed Prescott III, an artist and craftsman in Bristol, VT, made these buttons. I hope to work with him on buttons for our accessories, and eventually the coats.

The first rewards went out today, for the kickstarter donations we received. More news on that in a few days. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The latest news is that Little Oak Studio is now incorporated. The Kickstarter funding takes a couple weeks to process, so we are busy with drawing and painting rewards for those who donated. I am also working on a couple of sculptures at the ceramic studio: a man and a woman doll to use as "blanks" for a series of fashion dolls. These dolls may be the first to wear Winter Moose styles!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Winter Moose was in the news, and we are very close to our goal. A little over 24 hours to go. Here is the link to the Channel 5 news piece from January 5th:…/motherdaughter-team-need-pub…/30544154
With an eye toward the future, I am investigating possible mentors in the fabric development world, grant funding for that connection to be made, and pursuing professional industry connections.
On the clay side of things? I am busy making my first doll head. I have been thinking about displaying small versions of our coats on bears, or dolls, for some time. My daughter is both a maker of bears and their clothes, along with doll clothes and miniature horse tack. She helped me nail down a strategy for making original porcelain heads and shoulders, while she is testing out home made doll body patterns. A new fashion doll is now in the works.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

My December went by quickly, with little vials and amphorae in shops around town, a visit to a new weaver in the area, more study about modern textile finishing practices, and, (out of the blue of pure inspiration) some fun new designs for a knit baby bunting. Now I wish you a
 Happy New Year! 
We are less than two weeks away from the Winter Moose II Kickstarter deadline. I am trying to distract myself by working on fabric weave designs, and finding new possibilities for creating a "fake" fur, with yarn and locks. We will keep moving forward! All the best to you Little Oak Studio friends out there, and may your dreams come true!