Stalled

I’m stalled on all my projects. I’m waiting on a response to a reported error in the big test knit I’m working on, am waiting for swatches to dry for a design project, got the wrong colour yarn for a shawl that is half finished and am bored with a fussy cardigan for a little person. Couple this with seeing all the lovely things from Edinburgh Yarn Festival (the Perth I live in is nowhere near Scotland, let along Edinburgh so sadly, I did not attend) and I snapped.

I cast on another project.

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This is Antipodes from Truly Myrtle Designs of New Zealand. I did a test knit of Gingerbread, a recent pattern of hers and liked it enough that I’m knitting something else from her. This is a slim crescent shawl that I’m working in Cascade Yarns Heritage Silk. This yarn is an 85/15 wool/silk blend and is lovely to work with. I knit a pullover out of this about 4 years ago and had totally forgotten that I had a leftover skein of yarn in my stash. I love it when I find the perfect thing tucked away in a bin!

I’d like to have this finished for a trip which will likely happen around the end of April – I’ll tell you more as plans firm up but I can tell you that it is to celebrate two big birthdays in my household. Both my husband and son are having milestone birthdays within a week of each other so we’re taking a trip. We used to travel all the time when we lived in Asia and realized that we’ve been back in Canada for almost 10 years and haven’t gone anywhere as a family.

 

Something New

I have the most exciting news to share with you all.  I’m planning to embark on my knitwear design ‘career’ and publish a pattern for socks!  There’s an enormous amount to learn, but it’s also exciting and a bit nerve-wracking as well.  If you’ve been following my Instagram account for a while, you’ll have seen this lattice pattern. It showed up about 4 months ago and after a few revisions, rip backs, re-knits, tears and swearing, it finally all came together.

These are my Rose Ladder Socks.

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The name comes from a mis-translation I saw while living in Asia. One day when I was in a flower market I saw a man selling garden trellises with a hand lettered sign in English which read “Rose Ladders”. I was charmed by this and in some ways, I like the name better.

I don’t have a publication date just yet, but I’d like to have them out by early summer – just in time for the roses.

Testing, Testing

I’ve been quiet lately – longer than I meant to be. It’s not that I have nothing to show you or tell you about, more than I was under a bit of a gag order.

I’ve been test knitting. For those who don’t know, test knitting is when you get an advance copy of a pattern to knit with the goal of finding and reporting all the mistakes and typos to the designer so they can be fixed prior to publication. I find this a fascinating process – it gives unique insight into pattern development and I really like being able to contribute in some small way to the success of someone’s creative effort by helping to reduce the number of errors. It will never be perfect, but I can certainly see the value of this exercise.

So now that two of the three patterns I’ve committed to have been released, let me show  you what I’ve been doing:

Gingerbread

Gingerbread was knit for Libby of Truly Myrtle designs in New Zealand.

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At first glance, this looks like a simple pullover without a lot of detail. But look closer – have a look at the ribbing.

I’ve never seen anything like this! And then there are the details which you only know about if you actually knit the sweater. This sweater uses top down, seamless construction and makes clever use of short rows for the set-in sleeves.

I knit this over the Christmas holidays and it was the perfect knit – it didn’t require much attention from me – just knit. I used Rowan Pure Wool Superwash Worsted in Mallard.

Gascogne Scarf for WOODS – making stories

This scarf isn’t actually available for purchase directly – it’s a bonus pattern if you opt to support the crowdfunding campaign for WOODS – making stories.

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This project is a new knitting book which focuses on breed-specific European yarns and features 11 patterns, designer profiles, and tutorials. For as little as €35, you can get a copy of the book as well as patterns for this scarf and a charming hat. If you are local to Berlin, there are some incredible packages which give access to the launch party (wish I could go to that!) and at the top tier, a yarn day in Berlin. Now that the European Parliament has ratified the CETA trade deal, I expect that these yarns will become more affordable in Canada so I see this as a good introduction to some of Europe’s premier yarns.

The Gascogne Scarf pattern was designed by a French designer called Solène Le Roux and uses a Spanish yarn from a producer called dLana. It is 100% merino spun as a rustic-looking single ply yarn that is so incredibly soft with great stitch definition and can certainly be worn next to skin.

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The scarf works up to a luxurious 8 feet long so it can be either worn very long, or wrapped twice around your neck.

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I have one more project that I can’t talk about yet, and I have nothing to show you anyway because I’m still waiting for my  yarn which is coming from Switzerland. But check back soon – I’ll have some teaser pictures as soon as the yarn arrives.

Looking Forward

This post is part of the #MyFiberStory Instagram challenge. The tag for today is #MyWhy and while it is easy enough to say that I knit and spin because I live in a cold climate and need all the help I can get to keep me and my family warm, there is more to it than that.

During the holidays, I made it out to a yoga class which was part restorative yoga, part vision board and part intention setting.

Intention setting isn’t the same as making resolutions. Its about examining the ‘why’ behind a resolution and deciding to incorporate that why into your life. So for example, rather than saying I want to lose xx pounds, dig a little deeper and discover why. Is it for health, social pressure or vanity? Whatever the answer, keep asking yourself why until you finally get to the little nugget of truth that you can use as a touchstone to guide your decisions through the year.

Part of the class was deep relaxation and during this time, part of my brain went to sleep – but part of my brain was very active. A very odd and different sensation and suddenly I knew, as surely as I knew my own name that this was the year to let go of fear and to stop letting fear hold me back. I admit to a great deal of fear as I write this and put my intentions out into the world, but now I can ask the world for help too.

This is the year that I’m going to really put my fibre-y ideas out into the world. I have a number of thoughts that are still taking shape but I’m quite excited by all of them. They involve connection with other artists, confidence in my skills and belief that I have something to offer, trust in my creativity and honouring myself by saying yes to things that excite me (even if they scare me too) and saying no to things which no longer serve me. This is #MyWhy.

An Ancient WIP

Yesterday, we put up our Christmas tree – but not in our usual location. The past few years, it’s been in a fairly central location in the house but we found it interfered with traffic flow. Add 12 people, 2 big dogs, a nervous cat and factor in uneven floors because the house is almost 200 years old and …well, it was always a little precarious. So this year we moved it.

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It’s out of the main traffic area, but still quite visible. In order to make this space work though I had to move a chair, a small side table and a couple balls of yarn. I had at one time used this as a knitting area but have since moved to a different spot. Under the table, was a wooden box with a handle which I had used to hold active projects. I picked this up at a furniture market in Beijing.

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Oddly, it was full – I didn’t think I had anything in it. I found some early spinning attempts, some fibre I haven’t yet spun and a plastic bag. This bag is a bio-degradable type plastic and was so old, that it was disintegrating in the box!

Inside, I found this.

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According to Ravelry, I started this in July of 2012. Yes, it’s 4 1/2 years old.

I haven’t the faintest idea why I stopped working on it. Based on some of the photos I took at about the same time, it was blazing hot but the entire mitten was done except for the thumb, and that isn’t much of an effort at all. According to my project notes, I didn’t like the way the pattern was written for the thumb (the pattern has you stop working on the mitt, knit the thumb, use a 3-needle bind off to attach it and then finish the mitt) so I had used some waste yarn to mark the spot, finished the mitt and then was going to pull out the waste yarn, pick up the stitches and knit the thumb. I had got as far as pulling out the waste yarn and had picked up the stitches. All I needed was to knit for 20 minutes to finish it. I can’t for life of me figure out why I stopped.

So I finished it. And cast on the second mitt.

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Pattern: 5-9 from Anna Zilboorg’s Magnificent Mittens & Socks.
Yarn: Illimani Yarn Royal I (Royal Alpaca).

The Ulysses Project – Part 2

Why bother?

I mentioned in the Part 1 post that I’ve never processed a fleece by hand so it’s a fair question to ask why would I start now after the industrial revolution successfully removed this kind of drudgery from women’s lives. There are piles and piles of beautiful yarns available for easy purchase in my little town, let alone the bounty of the internet. So why bother making it.

One reason is that I have an interest in history. Lanark was once a major center for textile production in Ontario, much of it wool. In fact, the last working mill here, the Glenayr Kitten Mill closed in 1997 – which really wasn’t that long ago. The wool mill in the big living history museum near here is (for me) a fascinating place and I wanted to try my hand at it. And finally, I have a lingering, probably highly romanticized fascination with ‘traditional women’s skills’. By this I mean household production tasks which traditionally fell to women such as yarn and cloth production, candle making, beer and cider making and food storage and preservation. I do all of this except the candle making – I have to draw the line somewhere.

This is where the interest began and is still the root of why I’ve put effort into this but over time it has morphed into something more. Last October, Instagram exploded with #slowfashionoctober where everyone who had anything to do with fibre was talking about how and why they were pushing back against fast fashion. This really struck a chord with me (and the rest of the world considering the 1.25 million hits returned by Google) and gave me an opportunity to really think about not just why I was knitting, but why I was making yarn.

Clothing with Terroir

I realized that I wanted to create garments that had a sense of ‘terroir‘. Much like a wine or cheese has a taste of where it was produced, I wanted my clothing to have that same feeling. Subconsciously, I have been moving in this direction for a while. All the fleece I have – wool, alpaca, and llama was raised on farms very close to me. There is mohair and angora around here too, but I don’t have any (yet).

Ulysses lived 20 km from me. The mill which did the processing is 26 km away. Short of raising sheep in my backyard (which local bylaw says I’m not allowed to do), you can’t get much more local than that.

The Ulysses Project – Part 1

Part 1 – Background

(This is part 1 in what will become a series of related posts)

Two and a half years ago, I was at a small fibre festival in McDonalds Corners in rural Lanark County (yeah, I know most of Lanark is rural, but this place is really in the woods) where I bought 500g of washed Blue Faced Leicester fleece. Oh, it was lovely and soft, but it was short – too short for the mill which was why this shepherd was selling it for hand processing. Full disclosure – I’ve never processed a fleece by hand.

No problem, I thought. People have been hand carding and combing wool for far longer than the process has been mechanized. I can take care of this. Besides, it’s only 500g. Not like it’s the entire fleece.

I’ll pause here while you have a good laugh.

I don’t have a drum carder. I do own a set of hand carders but I’m not handy with them. I understand the basic premise of what I’m supposed to do, and perhaps 10 minutes with someone who really knows how to use them could change my opinion of them. But I’m not there. I find them awkward and I hated using them. So the fleece sat in it’s bag. Every so often, while stash diving I’d see it and open it up. It really is lovely stuff but I was never going to get it all carded.

Two years later, the fleece was still in its bag and I still wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it. Then I heard about a new fibre mill which was opening locally! I contacted them and – Hallelujah – they could take the fleece and process it.

I drove over on the appointed day and handed over the bag. Remember me saying it was short – yeah, they looked at it and weren’t sure they could do it. Disappointment must have showed on my face because the owner said to leave it with him, that maybe he could blend it with a minimal amount of something else, just to get it through the machines. That is exactly what ended up happening. The BFL was blended with 10% nameless wool as a carrier medium to get it through the machines.

So why is this called the Ulysses Project? Well, Ulysses is the hero of The Odyssey which took place over 10 years. There were lots of twists and turns and side adventures in the story of his return home from the Trojan War. Ulysses was also the name of the ram who provided the fleece. Since this particular project has been going for more than two years and also has some twists and side adventures, I thought the name was fitting.