"Weaving a Life" - Home spun yarn. (Hokkaido country living part ②)

Introducing a Shibetsu economic development project in conjunction with Keiko Kujirai.

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Moving from Saitama prefecture appoximately a year and a half ago, Keiko Kujirai no helps create economic development projects in the Shibetsu area.


Keiko loves the area and countryside. She says, "About 10 minutes from the northernmost interchange is a land of rolling green hills, covered with green pastures which are in turn covered with hundreds of sheep, who are happily munching down the grass. This is the Shibetsu area and my home."



Keiko continued, "One of the things that surprised me when I moved to Hokkaido from the Kanto area was the rush of spring that occurs in this area. Plum trees, then peach trees then cherry trees all bloom in order from late February. Then suddenly grasses and flowers will sprout through the last of the snows all at the same time near April. You can really feel 'the coming of spring!'


Gentle breezes seem to softly stoke your cheeks and the sounds of running water can be heard everywhere as the snow melts and turns to gentle streams. At this time of year the mornings and evenings around this area are still cold but when the weather is fine the temperature can shoot up to around 20℃.

The sheep, who are still wrapped in their thick winter coats, must be shorn quickly around this time as they can easily overheat on sunny days."



Watching the sheep get shorn they seem to be in a uncomfortable position, but the whole thing took less than 3 minutes. I was amazed at the speed at which the shearers could work.


The wool pictured above was used in the processing part below!


Here is a picture of the lovely spring around Shibetsu!

This road is known as 'Dandelion Road' and it's easy to see why! These flowers can also be used in the wool dyeing process.



At the farm they have facilities for spinning, weaving, knitting and dyeing



The process of dyeing the wool starts firstly with gathering a large basket full of flowers. These are then placed in a bag and gently simmered to release the color essence. This is then transferred into another pot containing this wool and a color fixing agent is also added. It is again gently boiled and so the color will fix into the wool.  


Unlike some other substances such as Japanese Birch bark, which can be stored dry, the dandelions must be picked fresh and boiled immediately to extract the color because as the flowers dry the color fades.


This process means that the blooming of the flowers and the wool harvest must coincide. This process takes longer than normal chemical dyes but the natural hand dyed wool creates a much more luxurious product.  



The dyed hair is then is then combed and formed in "Cards" (above). This hair is then gently loosed by hand and spun by hand on an old fashioned spinning wheel to create yarn. Here the gentle softness of the yellow wool can be seen.



Listening to the clicking sound of the wheel turning while spinning the thread you get a real sense of being part of a country life! Below is some "beginners" attempt at thread spinning. (You can see that my ability to keep a nice consistent thread thickness was pretty low! But hey that's what they kindly call "beginners texture" around here!)  



Hand spun yarn is completely different from commercially spun yarn. It contains more air than machine spun wool which can give a softer feel and also the wool will still contain some of the sheep's natural oils which helps in waterproofing the wool.


It was a fantastic and relaxing time making this wool and kind of fun to think what it may be made into in the future!


For those interested in this type of experience please come to Shibetsu!!


(Written by Shibetsu Economic Development Corps member Keiko Kujirai)
(Proofreading and editing Hokkaido Likers writer GAKKUN)


○ Clouds and Sheep Hill

Shibetsu, Nishishibetsu town 5351

Phone: 0165-22-2991
FAX: 0165-22-2447
URL: http://www.ab.auone-net.jp/ ~ extreme / index.html


From around April :  You can enjoy a sheepdog show and shearing sheep show.

○Crafts Centre
Phone / FAX: 0165-23-3793
URL http://www1.ocn.ne.jp/ ~ kururun / index.htm