Thursday, December 29, 2011

Feather and Fan cowl -- pattern under development

I was so inspired by the yarn I used to make Leah's hat, I had to keep knitting with it.  I usually knit socks and mitts on size 3mm needles, so using 5mm and larger was a real treat.  Things grow fast when you use thick yarn and large needles.  Duh.

I am in love with the Feather and Fan lace pattern. In fact, I've been dabbling with it for a while. The knitting magazine I received in my stocking this year contained an article about the Feather and Fan patterns and all the delightful variations on the theme.  There are dozens. If you haven't yet explored it, consider doing so.  It is simple and elegant-- of the four rows of the pattern, only one row requires you to pay any attention at all -- with a series of rhythmic k2togs (knit two together) and yos (yarn overs).  The article ended with instructions/ideas for making items with this pattern.  One of them was a cowl.

Hence, I grabbed the rest of the placid waters yarn and another similar bundle -- coal harbour, all from Sweet Georgia Yarns, and cast on. The nice thing about making a hat or a cowl, is not only that it goes by quickly, but it is that you only have to make ONE.  You can make changes and additions and variations, and unless you are trying to design a pattern, you don't have to worry about repeating it.  Just create as you go.  It's like free form drawing. 

So here it is, the photo shoot:

Here it is right near the end when I started thinking about taking photos.

Here's what it looks like after it is washed and blocked.  Quite a simple item don't you think? It is essentially an 8" (20 cm) tube with a bit of a skirt.

In this last view you can see the effect of the skirt.  I have cast on again, planning another Feather and Fan lace cowl, but this time making it much more snug.  The Feather and Fan lace has quite a bit of stretch, so it will fit over the head even if it more snug around the neck.

Stay tuned.  I am on holidays and have all the time in the world for knitting and playing around with fibre.

Last minute gift. . . .

I wanted to make a special gift for my son's girlfriend.  So I looked through my stash and found some yarn that I made from Sweet Georgia Yarn fibre club (in fact I wrote about it in a blog post a while back). The colours were perfect for her -- Placid Waters is the name of the colour way. Last year I made her mitts, so this year it had to be a hat.  The yarn is a worsted/chunky weight, so it was just right for the pattern I had in mind. 

The pattern is called Foliage by Emilee Mooney and you can get it on or here.  Knit on size 5mm needles, the hat knits up quickly -- 1 1/2 days.  Seriously, I could have knit it in a single day if I had to.  (As far as my aspirations about 100 mile wear go, this one is not Triple A.  It's a B+.  I spun the yarn and knit the hat.  The fibre is from Sweet Georgia Yarns, a local fibre artist -- who does all the dyeing in her studio downtown).

Here's a close-up of the hat.  The yarn 50% merino, 25% bamboo and 25% silk is wonderful stuff.  The colours are rich and the sheen from the bamboo and silk give an elegance you wouldn't expect in a chunky yarn.

It's a beautiful pattern and easy to knit. It may look tricky becasue of the lace work, but it is a straightforward pattern. You can read this lace easily, so if you happen to lose your place in the pattern -- jumping up to answer the phone, to take some tourtiere out of the oven, to help with an arrival of groceries that are coming in the door, you can clearly see what you need to do next. 

And here it is, modeled first by Georgia Rose and then by Leah.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Stand-by mittens

Here is a pair of my favourite mittens, not my all-time favourite, but pretty darned close.  I made these in 2002 from locally sourced Romney that I washed, carded, dyed and spun.  The pattern is from Marcia Lewandowski's Folk Mittens book.

I love these mittens -- they are strong, warm and beautiful.  They are nearly 9 years old but are still holding up.  In fact I am featuring them today out of respect for the hard work they helped me do yesterday, with no complaints.

Yesterday morning we had a window of no-rain, so we decided to tidy up the leaves that are taking over the landscape around our farmhouse.  There were 10 huge piles of leaves that needed moving to the leaf-dump-zone. As much as I hate this part of the job, we were aided by the fact that the leaves were slightly damp and a little frozen.  That meant that when we put them into the wheelbarrow, they stayed there. 

It was a cold, crisp morning so I foraged around the house looking for a sturdy pair of mittens to wear.  And these won.  They may look fancy, but the yarn is strong and the double stranded knitting gives thickness so they act as work gloves, of a sort.  Not only are they strong and warm, but after they got quite filthy from picking up the leaves, especially the walnut leaves, they washed up just fine.

These are not fancy-pant leave-me-in-the-drawer-and-only-take-me-out-for-special-occasion mittens.  They are everything you'd want in a mitten.  They are strong, warm.  And of course, beautiful. 

After all these years.

PS - You can spin enough yarn for these mittens in an evening.  I just weighed them and they are 105 grams.  However, the yarn I used was from my early spinning so it is over twisted and dense -- which probably accounts for their durability -- so you may not need 105 grams.  In the pattern, they are only two colours, but I added the pink, as I didn't have enough of the yellow -- and needed to finish them. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

100-Mile Christmas Stockings

Happy December everyone.  By the time you read this it will be the first of the month and therefore time to start decorating for Christmas.  I know these stockings may seem like a large project, but believe me, they knit up very quickly. These stockings are all knit with my locally sourced hand spun yarn -- with the occasional blast of novelty yarn thrown in.

I was inspired to make these Christmas stockings by desire to have a unique gift for every member of my family.  As a sock knitter, I really enjoyed making these stockings. First, they are knit on large needles so they work up really fast. Second, it’s a great way to use up all those left over mini balls of yarn that build up in a knitter’s stash each year.  And finally, because you are making each one to be unique, you don’t have to stress yourself by trying to match the second sock! The bells add a sense of fancy and Christmas joy.  But you must be careful on Christmas Eve; their gentle jingling will give you away!

You don't need to buy chunky weight yarn to make these; in fact they look much better when you create a chunky weight yarn by combining 2 (or more) strands of DK weight yarn.  When you do this you have a better chance to play with colour and texture.  And don't worry about making it all the same yarn weight.  If you look closely at the red/white/and green stripe stocking at the end of this post, you will see how it bulges out at the green stripe.  That is because that was knit with a hand spun super chunky weight and I used it because I needed some green.  I liked the affect because it reminded me of a stocking that would be used in a Dr. Seuss book.

I hope you enjoy making these.  Here are some of the details and the pattern can be found through the link below.


Size: measurement from cuff to heel – 14 inches; from heel to toe 10 ½ inches.

Yarn: assortment of #3 DK light worsted yarns in Christmas colours like red, green, white.  The addition of other colours like orange, pink, blues and textured yarns with sparkles, add to the uniqueness.  The yarn will be doubled throughout to make a chunky yarn.  Patons Classic Wool, in a series of colours, held double, will do the trick as will your hand spun yarns.   You will need a total of 200 grams of yarn. 

Notions:  10 –½ inch brass bells

Needles:  4 double pointed, size 6mm or size needed to obtain correct gauge
Tapestry needle

Gauge:  In St st, 12sts and 18rows = 4”/10cm on size 6mm needles

This pattern is available for free on Ravelry.  Let me know what you think.  

Friday, November 4, 2011

Grey Alpaca: Sample #1

The grey alpaca spins up beautifully and effortlessly.  This is important because I have a lot to make if I want to knit a skirt.  I spun this up on my Abby spindle, it's a simple, inexpensive and highly effective spindle that Abby Franquemont offers as part of her materials in her classes.  I like it because it's light, fast and I don't worry about busting it up in my travels.  I take it with me where ever I go and spin when ever I have time (and energy).

For my first sample, I spun  it fine with a "Z" twist.  That's turning the spindle clockwise to spin. I made sure the fibres were locked, but I didn't put a great deal of twist into it.  My goal is a soft, but strong yarn to withstand the pressures of being a skirt. I can't remember exactly how much I spun, but enough to make a good sized sample.  My goal was to make a cabled yarn.  That is a 4-ply yarn, so I needed a lot of yardage on this single.  

After I felt I had enough for the sample, I wound it off making a centre-pull ball, then I plied it, "S" twist - turning the spindle counter-clockwise.  I put a lot of twist into the 2-ply, as much as it could handle.  This is important when making a cabled yarn.  This 2-ply yarn is going to be plied again.  Yes, again. 

In the second ply, it is going to lose some of the twist so you need extra.  I wound the 2-ply yarn onto my hand in the Andean style, making a bracelet so I could spin from both ends of the yarn.  And I plied the 2-ply yarn with a "Z" twist.  Cabled yarn has a lovely texture.  The 2-plies lock against each other giving a purly texture.  The resulting yarn was soft, still fine -- which is surprising because it is a 4-ply yarn.  The photos below show it. Not the best images I know.  I am in a hotel room and I took the pictures with the camera on my phone.  To gauge the thickness of the yarn, those needles are 3mm.  

The final sample yarn is 17 metres.  Enough to knit up a good sized piece.

My assessment: while lovely, strong and soft, it is not a beautiful yarn.  It reminds me of a scene in The Sound of Music -- when upon arrival at the home of the Von Trapp family, the Captain asks her to change her clothes.  She declares she can't because she gave all her clothes to the poor.  He looks down at the dress she was wearing and asks, "what about that one" to which she replied, "the poor didn't want this one."

I don't want to make that kind of skirt.

So onto sample #2.  My plan is to introduce a single of tencel/silk, with a bit of colour.

Stay tuned.

Beyond Fibre: Langley Weavers and Spinners Guild Annual Artisans Sale

Mark your calendars and join us on Saturday, November 5h, 10am – 5pm and Sunday, November 6th, 10am – 4pm for the Langley Weavers’ and Spinners’ Guild annual Artisans’ Sale:  Beyond Fibre

This is a sale for those of you looking for unique, one-of-a-kind items or gifts.  Located at the Community Hall in the quaint historic town of Fort Langley, the Artisans’ Sale: Beyond Fibre features the juried woven, knitted and felted works of the Weavers’ and Spinners’ Guild and several other local artisans.  Some of the artisans include jewelers, potters, photographers, wood turners, soap makers, card makers.  You will find hand crafted silk flowers, origami cards and sheep skin slippers.  

This is more than a sale, it is a fibre event, for there is a Wool Room featuring the wares of our guild vendors selling fibre arts materials, supplies and equipment.  Relax downstairs in our Tea Room with a warm cup of something and a delicious snack – observing our display of handcrafted socks.  There will be door prizes and a silent auction. For more information and to see photographs of previous years, please visit our website.

Langley Weavers’ and Spinners’ Guild Annual Sale:  Beyond Fibre
9167 Glover Road, Fort Langley Community Hall, Fort Langley,  BC
Saturday, November 5th, 10am – 5pm and Sunday, November 6th, 10am – 4pm

I hope I see you there!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Project A: 100 mile skirt with handspun local alpaca

For my 50th birthday, my husband organized a trip for us to the Taos Wool Festival in Taos, New Mexico.  The gift also included a three day workshop "Spinning for a Purpose" with Abby Franquemont.  He scored big with this gift! 

We flew to Albuquerque and drove to Santa Fe right away.  We tooled around the historic plaza area, had a terrific dinner and stayed the night.  The next morning we headed north to Taos, with a stop along the way in Espanola to rent a spinning wheel for the workshop. We took the scenic route to Taos which took us along winding mountain roads.  In the far distance, those are the hills we were heading towards.

The workshop was three days long, from 9 - 5pm and it was heavenly.  Imagine being in the company of 15 other advanced spinners and headed up by the queen of spinning -- Abby Franquemont.  She is fun, funny, irreverant and very, very smart.  The course was called "Spinning for a Purpose", she called it -- "Being the Boss of Your Yarn."  Here's a shot of the white board on Day 3.  I should have taken a shot of it every day, but alas.

I came back from that workshop newly inspired to make better yarn. I won't be making the same defaut yarn over and over again.  So here's my first project:

I am going to take the "nasty alpaca" from the last post, spin it up and knit myself a Claudia Evilla skirt.  I wore the cotton/linen one I made earlier, to the Taos Wool Festival and it was a hit. In fact, I could very well be responsible for a burst of sales of the pattern.  Ruth Sorensen, you can thank me later.

Before the workshop, I would have just dove into the spinning.  I have an ounce of the alpaca combed up, and I would just start spinning it, and then ply it -- making the same old double ply yarn that I make over and over and over again.  Not this time.

This time I am going to spin a very soft and fine single, then ply it with a lot of twist in it, and then ply that again, making a cable yarn.  The yarn will be 4-ply, and hopefully very soft.  I'll knit up a sample and see what it looks like.  Then I'll try some other spinning technique. I am looking for a fingering weight yarn (fine) that has strength -- as a skirt takes some wear and tear from sitting and moving about -- and good drape.  It's a skirt and I want it to flow.

I'm heading downstairs to get working on it.  Will post some shots of the samples tomorrow.  I promise.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Nasty Alpaca Made Nice

I call this "nasty alpaca" but let me assure you, it has nothing at all to do with the animal, only the fibre.  I never had the pleasure of meeting the beast, but if I did I would ask him/her why he/she insists on rolling in blackberry brambles.  Those are difficult and painful things to remove from fibre.

Here's the story of it.  At our last guild executive meeting before the summer break, a member of our guild was given a dozen bags of alpaca fibre.  Apparently there was an alpaca enthusiast in her network who finally decided to shear his animals, and when he learned that the fibre was good quality, donated it all to our guild. 

I selected a grey fleece -- see below. It's a lovely cool grey that will look fine on its own, but grey fibre dyed is magic.  Tones down the colour and adds a depth that's hard to obtain on white fibre alone.  At least for rookie dyers like me.

It's a good sized fleece and the staples are long.  Really long -- between 10 and 12 inches.  My first experiments with combing the fibre were so frustrating, I left it in a bag (unwashed) on the backporch.  I deliberately left it right where I would see it every time I walked into the house.  I knew the guilt would build until it became action.  The guilt trip worked -- just in time.  When I finally opened the bag to tackle the fibre, out flew several moths.  If I had left it any longer, those lovelies would have laid eggs and the larvae would have started munching their way through the fibre.

I threw it into a bath of very hot water with Orvus paste.  Let it soak for 1/2 hour and then did that again.  Then I did hot water rinse baths with a bit of white vinegar.  It dried in the sun over two days and then I assessed it.  Much better.  No moths, no more "wet dog/old animal" smell.  Time to tackle this fibre.

The staples are long, much too long to deal with comfortably.  There is so much debris in this fibre, I decided I needed to comb it with my wool combs.  The debris is what makes this fibre so nasty: pieces of blackberry bramble buried deeply enough that you can't see it until you grab a handle of fibre and stick yourself with it;  some kind of seeds that have nestled themselves deep in the soft down of the fibre; and of course sticks, hay and other mysterious grasses.  No problem, this is a job for wool combs.

I solved the problem of the length of the staple by cutting it.  I cut off the tips where most of the embedded seeds were and then cut the rest of the staple in half, resulting in a 4 - 5 inch staple.  Quite manageable indeed.

Here it is loaded on the combs.

First pass with the comb.

After a couple of passes, it was lovely and clean.  This is it being pulled off the comb.

Here is the result.  From a couple of locks of fibre, here's what I got.  A 3.3g nest of clean, combed fibre and 1.9g bundle of waste fibre.  Not the ratio I like, but I've got tons of this stuff -- I don't care.

A half hour later -- and not a very effecient one as I did each lock one by one and stopped to do "photo-shoots" -- I had a total of 28.6g (one ounce) of combed, clean fibre ready for spinning.  And 17.6g of waste fibre.  I also had stab wounds from the brambles and a severe dislike for this nasty fibre.  I will feel differently when I spin it up -- so I won't throw it into the compost quite yet.

We'll see.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

How to Make a Hat that Fits or A Hat is Just a Swatch

While it is stunningly hot in the daytime, the days are getting shorter and the nights cooler. My husband is up early in the morning and needs a new hat for his lovely bald head.  It's too early to put on any heat and the farmhouse is decidedly cold in the morning.

"No problem", I said with the confidence of a seasoned and fearless knitter.  "I can make a hat in a weekend."

So I rooted through my stash to find the right yarn.  I found this one. I have four balls of this, so didn't worry at all about running out.

It's 100% fine merino wool, single ply, loosely spun. The colours are perfect for him and I love the name of the yarn -- Jasper. :)  I measured hubby's head, did a quickie swatch to figure out how many stitches to cast on and I was on my way.  I cast on 110 st.with size 4mm Addi circulars.  I knit a 4 inch. 1x1 rib and then changed to stocking stitch.  It was great, the hat was developing nicely, and with circulars, you can easily try them on the head for sizing.  When it was about 8in. total I started  decreasing:

Round 1: *Knit 9, k2tog*  (cause that adds up to 11 stitches, and there are a total of 110 -- so I'll be decreasing 10 on each round).
Round 2: knit
Round 3: *Knit 8, k2tog*
Round 4: knit
And so forth, decreasing the number of knits on each odd round before you knit two together, and always knitting on the even rounds.  I like this decrease, it echoes the shape of a head, it's dead easy to remember.

After the round of k2tog throughout, you will knit one more round.  Then cut the yarn leaving an 8in tail, and then draw up all the remaining stitches, I think there will be 10?  Weave them in.  Voila.  A Hat.

I knew from experience that this yarn benefits from a good wash to full the fibres. When it dried I was disappointed; the hat shrunk, not horizontally as I had planned, but vertically.  It got shorter and wider instead of narrower and snugger.

It's still wearable, but for another head. But isn't it lovely?  Look at the way those fibres smooth out and make a nice dense fabric, and I love the colour ways too.

Back to the stash.  I had a skein of green-blue yarn from a Dorset fleece I washed, dyed, carded and spun. I wrote about this in an earlier post.

It is heavier yarn than the Berroco, but still in the hat-making range. When it was made into a ball, it's a pretty decent amount of yarn.

 Again, I did a mini-swatch and then cast on 99 stitches, again using size 4mm Addi circulars. This time I knit a 5in 1x1 rib, in case the vertical shrink thing was going to happen again.  And then I knit and  knit around and around until the whole thing measured a bit longer than 8 in. and started decreasing.  This time round 1 of the decrease was *knit 7, k2tog* (cause that adds up to 9 stitches, and there are a total of 99 -- so I'll be decreasing 11 on each round).

It ended nicely, but it was looking big.  So I washed it and to help with the shrinkage, I threw it into the dryer.  It's way too big. I know from experimenting with the first mini skein of this year, that it doesn't felt much.  It fulls, which is just fine with me, but now that I have a larger-than-I-need hat, I want to shrink a bit.  Everything about this hat is perfect -- except for the size.  I guess that rules out perfection.  I will try washing it again, this time throwing it into the washing machine.  On hot.

It's just a hat.  And a hat is really a swatch. And now hubby has two of them and neither are really right.

On to Hat #3.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Garlic and Blackberries and Figs, oh my!

Summer was late coming to this part of the world.  While eastern Canada was suffering through a heat wave with 30+ temperatures and a humidex reading into the 40's, we were still wearing sweaters and dealing with umbrellas. 

But in August, summer arrived. Nice hot days, coolish nights and no humidity.  The bugs vanished and the river started to go down.  The garden which was late in producing, picked up speed and now everything is ready at the same time. 

I know this is a blog about fibre, but there were many more things that have occupied my spare time ever since I returned to work. The Garden.  It's not as large a garden as in days gone by; it is more of a recreational garden.  We use it to grow stuff that we want and as a way to learn more about the finer edges of growing food.

This weekend we harvested our garlic. We planted it in February, very late by our standards, but were still pleased by the result.  Good sized bulbs (larger than a golf ball) and strong flavour, even before it has had time to cure. There it is, drying in the sun.

This is the result of three full beds of garlic.  Enough to plant another three beds next year, give us a good tasty supply for our own consumption, and have enough left over for some decent bartering. 

The garlic was ready and so are the blackberries.  In this part of the country, blackberries are the bane of anyone who has a garden.  Not originally from this part of the world, they are an aggressive plant and take over spaces in very little time.  They grow all year round for heaven's sake, the leave don't fall off in the autumn to allow for a domant period.  They have one redeeming quality: they offer free food. 

It's amazing.  In mid to late August you can pick all you want, anywhere -- in the city and along country roads, for you can find blackberry brambles where ever you go.  We have plenty surrounding us.  On the edges of the hayfield and along the fence line.  They are taking trying to take over.

There is an art to picking blackberries.  First is to find the mother lode.  Yes, the mother lode.  That is the amazing abundancy of berries that is so densly clustered that you can't pick in a systematic, methodic manner.  When you find the mother lode, you can fill your bucket in 15 minutes flat, with little pain. 

Blackberries, while very good for our health and all that, are hateful plants.  No matter how careful you are, no matter how well covered you are, you ALWAYS get serious gouges and splinters from the affair.  But this doesn't stop me.  Blackberry picking is war, and the best prepared get the best result.  Here's a shot of the mother lode, located along the front fence line at my place.

It's hard to dress properly for blackberry picking because the berries are ready when the summer heat is at an all time high.  Although full coverage is recommended, I pick sleeveless and in shorts.  The brambles scratch but at least they don't get snagged in the clothing -- which is actually worse than a gouge.  You need a belt and a bucket with a handle.  Attach the bucket to the belt so you can pick with two hands and get the job done fast.  You also benefit from having a leather glove handy and some clippers.  I told you this was war.

The next things that are coming on are the figs. Several birthdays ago, a friend planted a fig tree for me on the north west corner of the house.  I didn't know much about figs and thought that it would be years before I was harvesting anything. Well, these are amazing plants, and this one loves the spot where it was planted for it is thriving.  Here's what they look like on the tree.  They grow straight out from the tree and as they ripen, they start to sag and soften.  They keep for days in the fridge so you can easily collect the 2 dozen that you need to make a good fig chutney. 

The last thing to show off is the chard.  That's my hand on the left edge holding the leaf.  I love the colour of the spine and the deep green of the leaf.  All the leaves on these plants are huge like this, huge yet still tender. 

I am thankful for this bounty.

Monday, August 1, 2011


I've been on holidays for the last 4 weeks.  And before you start to feel jealous about that amount of time and mental space I had-- it was delicious -- let me assure you, it was a different holiday than the one I had planned for the weather did not comply. 

While the rest of Canada and parts of the US were burning up with record breaking heat waves and oppressive humidity -- we out here in the Pacific Northwest, were dealing with rain, clouds, drizzle, and more rain.  Living on the flood plain did not help matters either.  Due to a late spring and non existent summer, the Fraser River has been high as the snow pack melted and found its way to the ocean.  The fields surrounding us slowly filled with water and stayed that way for weeks.  Thus creating the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes!

I grew up in Northern Ontario, so I know bugs.  But it is amazing how after a couple of dozen years away, the memories of swarms of blackflies and mosquitoes fade.  So imagine my surprise when, upon our return from Montreal and Maine, despite the rain, I headed out the garden to start making sense of the weeds and such. I couldn't stay outside for more than five minutes because of the bugs -- I had zero tolerance for dealing with them.

So I spent time indoors. Nearly three full weeks of dismal weather and rain.  In the last week of my holidays, the sun finally came out.

It was a productive time.  I was tempted to start a bunch of projects, but decided instead to reclaim knitting needles from the unfinished objects box.  Four big projects have been completed so far.  Here's what I have managed to get done.

The sweater is an Elizabeth Zimmerman "Baby Surprise Jacket".  The yarn is two skeins of softly spun singles by Kaffe Fassett.  Lovely yarn.  The only thing this sweater needs is buttons.  The socks are a pair that I started in the airport on one of my many trips to Winnipeg this year.  Nothing inspriring about the yarn.  Just glad they are done and could remember how to make the second sock.  The half mitts are from a nightmare knitting marathaon.  I ended up knitting five mitts in an attempt to get a pair that matched!  At least I have two pairs to show for it.  The fifth mitt ended up getting ripped all the way back.

The final thing I completed was the Claudia Evilla skirt by Ruth Sorensen.  I made a lot of changes to the pattern.  First, I didn't use a fingering weight wool yarn. I used a worsted cotton linen blend. I used larger needles than what was called for and finally, in the last 1 1/2in of the pattern, I went up a needle size, to give an additional increase oomph.  Here it is, off the blocking board and hanging to encourage the pleats. 

I will definitely make this skirt again.  It was fun to knit, and now that I understand the construction of this skirt, I will make even more changes.  Next time, I'll do it in my handspun, locally sourced yarn.

Back to work tomorrow. . . . so off to the garden for some bubbly.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Vermont: Local yarns and lots of charm

Last week my husband and I travelled through the northern US states from Montreal to Bangor, Maine.  We are on holidays and decided to take our time getting to our destination.  We stopped for the night in Montpelier, Vermont.

Here's where we stayed. It's called The Inn at Montpelier.  Built in 1828 and lovingly maintained throughout the years, it is the best place to stay when in town.  If the rooms and delicious (free) breakfast don't grab you, maybe an evening drinking gin and tonic on the veranda will do the trick.  It certainly did for us.

Here is the view looking south from the Inn. The entire town is full of charm and historic buildings.  Look closely at the tiles on the first steeple. Yes, those are indeed hearts.

As the state capital it draws a regular and monied crowd.  So of course it has a yarn store.  The shop is on one of the main drags and it's called the The Knitting Studio. From one end of the continent to another, and into another country, it's amazing how similar yarn stores are.  Yes, there are all the regular yarns and needles one would expect to see.  But I was looking for local fibre.  And I wasn't disappointed. 

They have an ENTIRE section (shelves 6' x 6') locally produced yarns.  That's what I was looking for.  I settled for these two lovelies. 

The blue skein is from Vermont Fiberworks Yarn. It is 180 yds of 65% wool and 35% mohair.  Gently varigated with sky blue and periwinkle, it will make a warm hat and mittens for someone.  The white skein is from Good Fibrations -- its 132 yds of handspun merino and mohair. It is beautifully spun and I suspect that it is 50% mohair. 

I was really impressed at the number of fibre artists that were featured in this section.  It may not be local in the sense of my "100 miles" but for that part of the world, it certainly was.  And I bought them.  I wanted to buy more, and there were lots to tempt me.  Wonderful colours and textures -- mohair seems to be a popular blend with wool.  Not much alpaca and llama.  That doesn't mean they don't raise them in Vermont, it just means I didn't see much local camelid breeds in this particular store. 

The moral of this story is:  where ever you travel, support the local industries.  Especially the cottage industries.  That's where all the big ones started.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Local Dorset -- dyed, carded and spun

I mentioned earlier that at the Fleece Sale, I split a 6lb. dorset fleece with a friend.  Washed it all up on that first day.  The following weekend I divided it into 4oz portions.  That's when I realized I lost nearly an entire pound in the washing process.  I ended up with 8 - 4oz bags.  The plan was to dye each portion some variation on the theme of green.  I had a large jar of blue and another of yellow.  So into each dye pot went a combination of blue:yellow. 

After they dried, I teased and blended them -- and then put them through the drum carder. You can see the piles of green, blue and bright green.

The plan was to put them throught the drum carder a few more times.  However, on Tuesday I attended a spinning demonstration at the Fort in Fort Langley. I didn't have much time to plan this -- so I just grabbed a batt of this fibre.  It could have used a couple more passes, but it still spun up with no trouble.  I like the fact that it isn't completely blended, so the colours come out in inconsistent ways.  Just like they do when you are looking at a field of hay, or a body of water. 

I spun the entire batt onto one bobbin and then navajo plied it.  Here's the result -- washed and thwacked to encourage blooming.  It's not my best spinning, but I like the fact that it really looks handspun. 

The next thing I plan to do is knit up a swatch of this yarn -- wash it up real good and see what it does.  I've been told that dorset -- as a down breed, doesn't felt.  So it may be a good contender for sock yarn.  We'll see. This experiment used up one pound of the fibre.  With the other 4 - 4oz bags, I am going to do the same thing, but with variations on the theme of Ruby. 

It's the Langley Weavers and Spinners Guild 40th anniversary this year.  For our first meeting in September, we have organized a Ruby Challenge.  The challenge is to spin, knit, weave, felt something -- anything -- from Ruby coloured fibre.  I like the way the blues and greens blended in this experiment, so I am hoping for a similarly lively result for the Ruby yarn.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

LMSGA Annual Fleece Sale!

It's back!!!

On June 4th, the Lower Mainland Sheep Growers Association had their annual fleece sale. It was pretty exciting for us fibre junkies because this sale hasn't taken place for about three years.  On the Wednesday before the sale, growers brought their fleeces for sifting.  That's when a group of dedicated volunteers and fibre experts look over each and every fleece and sort them.  In sorting them they are graded so the person buying the fleece knows, to some extent what they are purchasing.

The sale was a great event.  In addition to being able to buy raw fleece, there were vendors selling prepared fibres and other spinning, knitting and weaving accoutrements; food and information; and lots of people demonstrating their crafts.  It was like a mini-fibre festival.  Best of all, after days and days of rain and grey skies, the SUN came out.

At various times throughout the day, there were shearing demonstrations.  This is Ann Embra's ewe being sheared.  She didn't want to be shorn at first, but she eventually gave into it.  The shearer is a Master Shearer -- didn't catch his name -- but he really knows what he's doing.  Not a single nick on the animal, a wonderful fully in tack fleece, and no trauma.  She won't be afraid of being shorn next time.

All during the morning the fleeces were being judged.  Shortly after noon the prizes were awarded.  There was a Grand prize ($100) Reserve prize ($75 - sort of like a second prize) and Spinner's Choice Award ($50).  At 1pm the fleeces went up for sale.  There was a bit of a "rush" for the wonderful ones, but afterwards, things slowed down and you could linger and look and make your decision in good time.

My friend Debbie and I decided to split a fleece. I need more local fibre like I need . . .. you know the rest.  But I couldn't resist.  We looked around and were mightily tempted by the Blue Face Leicester fleeces that were there -- but at $15lb for a 7lb fleece, we decided to take a pass.  No complaints about the cost, famer's deserve whatever they can get for the fleeces.  But 7lbs of fleece with an 8inch staple, just said "work".  Lot's of work.  So we decided to split a 6lb Dorset fleece   Lovely soft, with a 4 - 5in staple. 

My take was 3lbs.  Brought it home and scoured it.  Weighed it again when it was clean and dry -- 2lbs!!  Go figure.  I guess the lanolin and dirt weighted more than imagined.  Also, the lanolin traps a lot of moisture into the fibre, again adding to the weight. 

I'll post more photos of that fibre -- and the dyeing I've done with it.