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.