Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Recycled Sweater Cuff Bracelet Tutorial, Baby Goat Countdown, and Embracing the Gray Season

My days have been filled with Mostly Animal Stuff of late.  When you have Five Dogs, Three Goats, Thirty Chickens, and Two Cats, one finds that the day is largely spent on Critter Maintenance.  Nonetheless,  I did manage to finish a fun cuff bracelet featuring leftover bits and pieces of old felted sweaters and some beautiful Swarovski Crystal Sew On Stones and  Beads.  I was cleaning up the studio after a recent series of UpCycled Sweater Projects  left me with tiny scraps destined for the garbage can.  However, as is often the case when I am confronted by colorful Bits 'O Stuff, I had an idea.....

Penny Rugs, of course!  I have long been a fan of the humble Penny Rug, a folk art craft that originated in the 1800's.    Penny Rugs were made with wool scraps salvaged from old blankets or clothing.  Wool was pricey and every scrap was utilized by thrifty homemakers.    Coins were used as templates to make tiny fabric rounds of various sizes.  The rounds were then stacked and stitched one on top of the other onto a background piece of of cotton or wool.  Most were used as decorative accents rather than floor rugs and I have always found their primitive style very appealing.  I figured it might be fun to do a glitzy folk art cuff bracelet that paid homage to the traditional Penny Rug.

I grabbed a 2 inch brass cuff blank and cut out a rough template of black sweater felt for the front,
and a bright red piece of ultra suede for the back.  You can see that I didn't worry too much about things being perfectly precise and just left myself some wriggle room.  This is a quick and dirty project that involves almost instant gratification.  Time was short so I worked fast...loose and easy.

Once I had my basic cuff form, I started to play around with the patches.  I decided that squares would work better for my purposes than circles, so I simply cut free hand three sets of squares in three different sizes. 

I initially considered Swarovski Crystal Buttons as the only adornment, but ruled in favor of more glitz.

Hand Dyed Silk Embroidery Floss adds Color and Texture!

I stitched one of the three largest squares onto the center of the piece, then stitched the remaining two large squares on either side of the first, using a blanket stitch. Layer two went on the same way, although I alternated thread color. Ditto the third and final layer. 

An easy back stitch throughout the black background  helped bring home the Folk Art feel I adore.  I opted to use a limited color palette in Swarovski Crystal, primarily Jet.  The work I do is very colorful and sparkly, and when I make a piece that is purposefully unsophisticated, it makes sense to be a bit more subdued in my crystal choices.  Classic black was perfect for this piece...2mm jet round beads and jet crystal sequins gave it just the punch I was looking for without overwhelming the primitive thread work.

Once I had embellished as much as I was going to embellish, I attached the top piece to the red ultra suede by using a blanket stitch.  I left one  of the narrow side ends unstitched so that I could slide the brass cuff blank into place before stitching up the last few inches.   Finally, I could not resist trimming the edges with a few yards (8 to be exact) of Swarovski Crystal Yarn, also in black, so that there is just another hint of elegant sparkle at the wrist, by way of a single crochet stitch.  I love the concept and think I am going to make my next one from leather scraps.....

Big Exciting News:  Two of my Nubian goats are pregnant....well, at least we THINK they are pregnant.  Ruby is due in about six weeks, while Stella should be due in about three months.  Nubians are dairy goats and it is standard practice to remove the newborn Kids from the mother immediately upon delivery  to raise them separately.  Typically, the mother is milked by the farmer (me!) and then the Kids are fed her milk from a bottle.  Folks who Show their goats always choose to Bottle Feed because Udders are easily ruined by eager, aggressively nursing babies. The Kids are weaned by the Farmer at 8-10 weeks and then all that milk goes to the the Farmer. The babies quickly learn to see the farmer as Mom and the real mom does not experience the loss of her Kid because she was never given a chance to bond with the newborn.       Easy Peasy....? Not so sure.

Dam Raised versus Bottle Raised

There is nothing cuter than a baby goat and there is nothing much more fun than bottle feeding said

Nom! Nom! Nom!

adorable baby goat.  You will recall that I bought Stella and Ruby as babies and I loved the whole process.  I didn't wean them until well past the point of reasonableness because they were so damn cute.

Nonetheless, the closer I get to Ruby's delivery date, the more stomach achey  and queasy feeling I become..  I thought that I was just nervous about the birthing process and the possibility that I might actually need to play legitimate goat midwife, but I have been readying myself for the occasion in an effort to quell my anxiety.  Books, Videos, Vet....all covered.  Unfortunately, the unease has continued on, unabated.  I learned long ago to pay attention when I get that stomach achey, queasy feeling because it usually means that I need to re-evaluate a course of action.  It  took me longer than normal to pin point the source of it this time because I wasn't allowing myself to question the experts.
I realized after some reflection that it was the thought of separating the babies from their Mama that had my stomach in knots!  Sometimes you just have to do things differently than the experts advise and I have decided that I just don't feel good about Bottle Raising these  yet to be born Kids when they have a ready, willing and able Goat Mom on site.  I do not plan to enter my Goats into Shows so I don't care if they don't have perfect udders.  Seriously, who has perfect udders after nursing?  Not Me!

...but I digress.

I figure that Mother Nature has been in charge of this Kidding thing for longer than me and I am going to try to stick as close to that plan as possible.  I have researched and found some small dairy farmers that have experienced success with Dam raised Kids.  The babies nurse and the farmer milks daily for any left over milk so that the Mom's milk production is kept up.  Once the kids are weaned, the farmer gets all of the milk. Win-Win.   I will have to work a little harder to socialize the Kids, but it sounds sounds doable and kinda like the way nature intended, so I am game!  Not surprisingly, once I made my decision the angst I had been feeling totally disappeared.  Happy Sigh.

...and then, just in case I needed further proof of The Powerful Force that is Maternal Instinct, let me tell you about my Hen.  Back Story:  I used to think that if you had hens and you had roosters, then baby chicks would necessarily follow.  It actually hasn't been that easy!  I have had Chickens for about six years or so and have only had one  hen go broody and sit on a clutch of eggs.  The same hen has sat on nests three times.  The first two resulted in fluffy little chicks.  The latest clutch resulted in ZIP, ZERO, NADA.

Mama Hen patiently waits for the hatching that never comes.

The poor hen sat patiently on a dozen eggs for long past the 21 day incubation cycle.  The eggs were getting really, really ripe and foul smelling.  Unfortunately, every single time I tried to pull one of them out from under her, she started squawking and biting me.  Last week I was at the Feed Store getting hay and I noticed a new shipment of Day Old Chicks. .  Day Old Chicks are shipped to the feed store via airplane within hours of being born.   I bought five and hoped for the best.

They were loud and agitated for the ride home and remained that way until I scooted them under Mama Hen, at which point I heard only gentle peeping.   It was something to see...Mama was clearly a bit confused for a second

She isn't squishing them...she is protecting them!

because she hadn't noticed anything hatch, but that passed  immediately  and she quickly tucked them under her wings. No longer a bitchy biter, she is cooing and clucking and clearly in her element.  I added five more later that afternoon and she is taking care of all ten quite happily.

So...we have lots of happy moms on the farm, including Yours Truly.  Many of you were with me during the Great Mid-Life Hair Crisis of 2012  and I thank you.  You were tolerant as I whined.  You commented kindly on the many silly folicular incarnations throughout the months....I was cut and colored, highlighted/red/platinum and shades in between.  Well, I think that I have gotten it ALL out of my system to a large degree.  Yup, I am fed up with bottles and potions and maintenance and upkeep.  I am weary of spending money on hair when I could be spending it on goat treats Really Important Stuff. 

So.....I am going gray, ladies.  I am really, really doing it.  No one can believe it, but I am committed to  it.  It is really funny -- and weird -- to look in the mirror and see this old lady staring back at me.  She still has a sparkle in her eye and a big laugh, but she's old.   I mean, I knew I was getting to be a bit more...ahem...mature looking, but the gray hair really seals the deal.  The REALLY weird, and rather unexpected, part of all of this is that I am totally cool with it.  Seriously.  So bring on the next season of my life.... gray hair, arthritis, and all.

I ain't skeered......much.