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Posts Tagged ‘needle felting’

Step by Step Tutorial on How to Build Your Own Box with PVC Pipe

Blowing out a fleece

After owning llamas for 11 years, I am finally starting to get interested in producing things with their wonderful fiber. Up until last year, we had been sending all of our fiber to mills that would process it from the fleece into a finished product, such as socks, rugs, scarves, and mittens.

I decided last year to have my llama fiber spun into yarn so that I could learn to make things myself. I have really enjoyed working with the yarn from my very own llamas. It is so soothing to feel its softness slip between my fingers as the intertwining loops grow into a finished creation.

I’m still very new to this process, but one thing I have learned is that there is a definite cost benefit to taking the extra time to prepare your fiber before sending it to a mill, or before processing it yourself if you are clever enough to be a spinner. When the mill receives your fleeces, the fees are initially based on the incoming weight. By the time it is processed into yarn, you can lose up to 50% of your initial weight if you haven’t cleaned it up a bit beforehand.

I’m only talking about llama and alpaca fiber here, as sheep wool contains lanolin, and requires additional steps, which I’m not going to go into. Before shearing, we carefully blow out our llamas to remove vegetation and dirt.

Blowing out the dust

Blowing out the dust

How llamas get so dirty in the first place

How llamas get so dirty in the first place

Then we brush them to further remove vm (vegetable matter). But even so, there will be junk that remains stuck in their hair. Then there are the inevitable second cuts, the small pieces of short fleece remaining in the fiber, caused by shearing the same area twice. All this waste will be processed out, but adds to your incoming weight.

Now— an easy way to clean up that fleece right off the animal, the Fiber Blow Out Box. (It’s still best to clean the fiber as well as you can while it is still on the animal). Just put your shorn fleece into the box and blow it with a Circuiteer high speed blower, or a leaf blower will do. This allows the fleece to tumble and separate so that the dust, trash, and short fibers are blown out of the mesh of the box.

blowing the dust out of the fiber--off of the llama.

blowing the dust out of the fiber–off of the llama.

I saw a version of a fiber blow out box at a recent llama conference and came up with a simple and inexpensive way to make one myself. I’ve been using PVC a lot lately in building agility equipment for my Goldendoodle pup, Bayley. PVC is lightweight, inexpensive, and very easy to work with. I’m not a “tool girl” and I only need one tool to make most anything with PVC.

PVC cutter. This one cost about $10.

PVC cutter. This one cost about $10.

These are the instructions for making your own blow out box. It will take a couple of hours and will cost less than $30 in materials. The finished size is 24” x 34”.
It is important to be accurate when cutting and gluing, making sure each pipe is fully seated in its connector, and your squares are as true as you can make them.

TOOLS
PVC cutter
Sharpie marking pen
Measuring tape

MATERIALS

You will need three 10′ lengths and one 5′ length of ¾” Schedule 40 PVC pipe. All of the connectors are for ¾” pipe. I designed the box with these measurements to minimize waste. If you cut one piece of 10′ pipe into four 22″ pieces, you will have 32″ left over for your side pieces. The fourth piece of 32″ pipe will be cut from the 5′ section.

All the pre-cut pieces, ready to be assembled

All the pre-cut pieces, ready to be assembled

1. 90-degree slip connectors (4)
2. 3-way corner fitting connector (8)
3. 22” pipe sections (12)
4. 32” pipe sections (4)
5. ½” plastic hardware cloth (36” by 15′)
6. White cable ties (8″ long) (100)
7. White Cable ties for door hinge (12″ long) (4)
8. Glue (see comments below)
9. Two 10″ mini bungee cords

ASSEMBLY

Let’s start with the 24” end squares. There will be 3. One square will serve as your opening door.

2 end squares and the door panel

2 end squares and the door panel

Start by gluing four 22” sections to four 3-way corner fittings. Once your square is assembled, place it on a flat surface and adjust so that it lays flat.

24" end square with 3 way corner fittings

24″ end square with 3 way corner fittings

A NOTE ABOUT GLUE
I don’t recommend using the PVC glue that is sold in the plumbing section. This stuff bonds IMMEDIATELY and does not allow for any readjustment that will be necessary to make sure all of your angles are true. Since this doesn’t have to meet a water pressure test, I have found that a plastic epoxy works wonderfully. This glue sets up in from 10 to 20 minutes, allowing you to tweak the joints once they are assembled.

Plastic welder

Plastic welder

Make the second end square the same way. Then make the door square using four 22” sections and the four 90-degree connectors.

Square for opening door with 90 degree corner fittings

Square for opening door with 90 degree corner fittings

Place one of the end squares flat on the floor, and stick one of the 32” sections in each joint gluing as you go. Then place the top end square in place and glue, pressing firmly to assure the pieces are fully seated.

Your box frame is now complete and ready to be wrapped in the plastic hardware cloth.

Cut the plastic netting to 9′. This will be too long, but we will cut it to size once it is attached to the frame. Lay the netting out on a flat surface and place the box on top so that one end of the box is aligned with the edge of the net. You want the net to be the exact width of the box, so go ahead and cut the net to the correct width. It should be 34″ wide.

Place one of the end squares on the remaining net and cut two pieces. They should be 24″ square.
My advice, measure the net to the frames before cutting it. There could be variations in the dimensions of your box.

Laying out the netting

Laying out the netting

Now line up one edge of the box with the 34″ edge of the plastic net.

Position frame along edge of netting

Position frame along edge of netting

Attach the net to the PVC pipe with the 8″ cable ties. I put 3 on each pipe, pulling the net tightly as you wrap it around. Once the net is secured, go back and put a couple more ties on each rail and trim off the tails. You can get an idea of what we did in this photo.

Initial wrap with 3 cable ties on each rail

Initial wrap with 3 cable ties on each rail

Finished wrap with 5 cable ties on each rail

Finished wrap with 5 cable ties on each rail

Attach the net to one of the square ends, but leave the other end open. This will be your door opening.

Then attach the net to the square that you made with the 90 degree corner connectors.

Attach net to door square

Attach net to door square

Now you are ready to attach the door to the box. For hinges you will use the 12″ cable ties. Connect one side of the door panel to a top rail of the open end of the box. 3 ties should be enough, and don’t tighten them down too much. You want the door to swing easily but not be too loose.

Use 12 inch cable ties to attach the door.

Use 12 inch cable ties to attach the door.


The door should swing easily.

The door should swing easily.

To secure the door, use the two 10” mini bungee cords. It’s quick and easy to “lock” and open the door to load your fiber.

Bungee latches

Bungee latches

Now you’re ready to try it out.

Load one fleece at a time. You want the fibers to be able to separate and move around as you are blowing it out.

Blow Out Box with 1 Raw Llama Fleece

Blow Out Box with 1 Raw Llama Fleece

Use a circuiteer high speed blower or a leaf blower and blow air into the box. There will be a lot of dust flying, but it doesn’t show in the photos.

blow out 1

Keep rotating the box and blowing up under the fiber to keep it moving. When you don’t see any more dust, (it’ll take about 5 minutes or so), it’s done.

blowing out fiber

blow out

You fiber should now look clean and fluffy.

Fluffy fleece

Fluffy fleece

You may find some remaining longer pieces of grass and hay that is still in the fiber. The longer stuff won’t be blown out of the small holes in the net. This stuff you will have to pick out by hand.

Long hay pieces may remain.

Long hay pieces may remain.

In the future we’ll try to make sure our floor is clean when we shear. I know what happened here. We had a hay bag by the shute to keep the llamas entertained while we sheared, and they dropped pieces of hay into the cut fiber on the floor.

Shearing Santiago

Shearing Santiago

As I said earlier, it is much easier to clean the fiber while it is still on the llama. Time spent on this step is not wasted. This blow out box will not clean a filthy fleece. It will merely remove any dust, dirt, small second cuts, and bits of vegetable matter that may remain in a relatively clean fleece. You might want to use a 1 inch plastic hardward cloth, but I was afraid of losing too much of the good fiber.

Please let me know if you decide to build one of the boxes. You might come up with even better ideas that I would love to hear about.

Next, I’m going to run this fleece through a drum carder to make it into batts that I can use for my needle felting and wet felting projects. I’ll let you know how that comes out.

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15 Minutes of Fame

Fiddle-dee-dee and Golly Gee–Little ol’ me has been nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award. Hard to believe, but thanks so much to Heather at “The Homestead at Spring Creek” for seeing something worthy in my blog and nominating me for this noteworthy award.

I don’t consider myself a writer. I’m always amazed when friends tell me how much they enjoy reading my stories and compliment me on my writing style. Several years ago, I started compiling little llama stories based on the antics of my small herd of llamas to amuse our patrons on my web page: www.twincreeksllamas.com

Then a year ago, practically to this day, I was made redundant. This is the Brits clever way of saying that one has been laid off, is no longer necessary. How deflating and demoralizing! With more time on my hands, I decided to start writing about the many interesting and humorous things that happen around our farm; the llamas, our dogs, the chickens, peacocks, and various and sundry wildlife that abound on our acreage.

Primarily directed to my Facebook friends, my blog was getting a handful of hits daily and I was plodding along in relative obscurity and anonymity. Then one day last week, my email inbox was flooded with comments on my blog. I was perplexed until I read a comment congratulating me on being “Freshly Pressed”. For a whole day I felt like a celebrity. I had a few thousand views on my blog, and several hundred complete strangers read my story and said they liked it. I had scores of new friends that subscribed to my blog and then a few days ago, one of my new friends kindly nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award. But this award doesn’t come without some obligations. There are rules to be followed.

First I am to thank the person that nominated me. Second, I am to tell you 7 things about myself. And Third, I am to nominate 15 of my favorite bloggers to receive the Versatile Blogger Award and to notify each of them that they have been nominated.

Heather, once again, thank you for enjoying my blog enough to nominate me for this award.

Now 7 things about myself:

1. I live in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and own and operate a llama trekking business. We do day hikes in the state park and the llamas carry a “trail gourmet” picnic lunch. Best of all, you get to lead a llama along the trail and pour out your innermost secrets. They are great listeners and very non-judgmental.

2. I am nearly 60 years old and just recently decided to come out of the closet. About playing the accordion, that is. I majored in music in college, and accordion was my first instrument as a child, but from college on, I was embarrassed to admit that I was an aficionado of the squeeze box. The stigma was best exemplified by Gary Larson in one of his “Far Side” cartoons. The first frame was a picture of the pearly gates, and a new arrivee was receiving his harp. The second frame was a picture of hell, and the newly damned was receiving his accordion.

3. I mow a lot of grass. We have about 15 acres that I keep cut, and it takes me about 20 hours to cover it all. I equate it to painting the Golden Gate Bridge. By the time I have made one circuit, it is time to start over again.

4. I do some of my best thinking while riding around on my mower. While listening to classical music on my iPod, I do some amazing writing on my brain’s note pad. But then when I sit down to put my genius to paper, I can’t remember all those perfect phrases.

5. I love animals with a lot of hair. I’ve already mentioned the llamas. We have 2 dogs, a bearded collie, and a new Goldendoodle puppy, both with lots of long hair. My husband even felt the need to conform, and several years ago, grew a beard.

6. I enjoy doing crafts. After achieving redundancy, I decided to devote my full time to the farm and needed something else constructive to do and to hopefully bring in a little extra income at the same time. I like using the llama fiber in various projects and am knitting scarves, needle felting animal sculptures and have signed up for a crochet class.  I also make jewelry and polymer clay figures. I sell my designs on my Etsy shop.

7. I enjoy target shooting. In fact, earlier today, we attended the Nation’s Gun Show where I purchased a Smith and Wesson .22 revolver. I can’t wait till the rain stops so that I can try it out on our shooting range.

And the 3rd rule is that I nominate 15 of my favorite blogs to be nominated for the VBA. Now this is tough for me, for as to date, I haven’t taken the opportunity to read or follow many blogs. There are just a few that I have discovered recently that I have really enjoyed and think that they are deserving of the nomination.  So I will list them here. Now I just need to let them know that they have been nominated.

1. Creative Procrastination

2. The Simple Life of a Country Man’s Wife

3. WoolyWarm’s Farm

4. Becoming Cliche

5. Katie’s Camera Blog

6. Kicked, Bitten, & Scratched

7. Donald Reese Photography

This has been fun. Now, time to feed the llamas.

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Luv Birds-Original needle felted scupture

Perfect topper for an Easter Basket

Twin Creeks Etsy Shop

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Spot

Remember the fun we had as children taking a ride in a little red wagon? Reminiscent of those treasured times, I’m introducing a new line of needle felted animals. Each unique little animal is taking a joy ride in a precious 3 1/2 inch x 2 1/2 inch rustic metal wagon and the series is called the “Wagon Tails”. Each animal is lovingly felted of 100 percent natural fibers, to include llama, alpaca, wool, and mohair. I have these cute little animals for sale on my Etsy shop. To view the current listings and prices, please visit my shop at tcllamas Etsy Shop.

Barney Bear

Baylie the Goldendoodle

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