Monthly Archives: April 2013

Winter hoarding, Spring sewing, a change of the light…

Thrifting over the last few months has provided some bright weekday moments in my otherwise bleak and depressing winter of vast underemployment.  I obviously have a thing for wool, but especially for tweeds and plaids.  I once had a crush on someone because of his worsted houndstooth pants – take away the pants and he was just an ordinary, rather boring, man – with the pants, he might as well have been Adonis.  Luckily, N appreciates a good piece of wool clothing, so he is practically turning into a man-sheep with my woolen finds in his size (and the occasional score on his own)…

But back to the new additions to my stash.  Most of these fabrics will be re-used, re-purposed, recycled into other things for other lives; some for sale, and some for me.

I love the yarn in these two pieces.  Some tweed yards have primary colored neps [those little color balls] and I hate those – primary colors = 1980s or preschool, ’nuff said.  I love these secondary colors, and you gotta love orange and turquoise – 1970s tube socks!  But with the beige and black yarns they are reined in.  The black is a vest that doesn’t fit me right – I may try to alter it as-is, but I’ll likely frog and re-knit it.  The beige is another unfortunate cropped sweater that also has some shrinkage, definitely a frogger or a fuller.

tweed sweaters

And some various woolens.  One (I won’t tell you which) I cheated on – it’s got a lot less wool than what I usually require, but I liked the colors and pattern too much to walk away from it.  Two of these will probably become bags.  And I was excited to find the brown herringbone Harris Tweed jacket and had plans to sell it, but I sadly discovered many little holes – perhaps too many to keep it as-is, but we’ll see.

three plaids two plaids

But let’s be honest, eh?

studio wooly pile   studio cotton pile

This is how matters really stand – piles of sh*t and blurry images.

studio corner

My shooting gallery (say hi to the dummy) is also my sewing corner and is also the only spot in the room that gets any natural light from its one dirty window.

studio window

A dirty window that will soon be even further blocked by leaves.  Don’t get me wrong, I love leaves and love them even more for blocking the parking lot that attracts unsupervised juveniles who like throwing rocks at cars and the adolescent ne’re-do-wells who lurk about drinking and sucking at skateboard tricks.  I just won’t be able to take many pictures indoors soon.

studio label

I hope to have my new and improved Etsy or other online shop up and running in another month or two and possibly do one booth at a small fair this year.  I’m discouraged though, the crafting biz ain’t what it used to be… And you know, I’ve never felt like such a stereotype more in my life.  Educated urban/suburban white female in early middle-age, gone through job crisis, deludes herself thinking she can turn to craft for substantive* income.  In an attempt to be slightly more competitive,  I bought some “professional” labels since my hand-printed ones looked well, too handmade (which is how they should look dammit) but I didn’t calculate the size very well in the order.  They are too long and unwieldy, but I don’t want to waste them, so on they will go.

*At least enough to cover health insurance – do you realize how breathtakingly expensive private plans are, or how much most of them suck?  And forget about the fact that I’ve spent my entire career in non-profits and have precious little saved for retirement, but what is that anyway?  Do enough diners still exist to hire crusty old cantankerous broads?  Can you still get a trailer in Florida cheap?  Are there any knitter-friendly flophouses?

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Fiber travels in New Mexico, part II

I mentioned in my previous post that I visited Tierra Wools in tiny Los Ojos, New Mexico.  Rather than paraphrase, this is the beginning of the description of their wool Shangri-La on their website’s about page (go there and read more later):

“Tierra Wools is a spinning, hand dyeing, and hand weaving workshop and a retail store. We buy carry local wool, and weave the yarn into beautiful weavings which are sold from our workshop in Los Ojos, a small village in rural Rio Arriba County in northern New Mexico. The enterprise is operated by Los Ojos Handweavers, LLC, a limited liability company owned by the growers, spinners and hand weavers that produce its goods, as well as supporting investors.”

I visited them around a decade (or a little more) ago, and at the time, it was a full house of wooly weaving and dying frenzy.  Sadly, it seems to have slowed down a bit and the weavers now work on commission, though the shop still offers classes and workshops.  And on Saturday, April 27th, they are having their annual Spring Harvest Festival with sheep shearing demos and other treats.  I can only imagine if such a studio was plunked down in a heavy DIY urban area, they’d have to fight people off with loom parts.  But I suppose it also wouldn’t be the same – the location is what this wool is about.  Much of the wool comes from just a few miles away as well as the dyes.  The colors in the yarn are reflected in the landscape and the products share the same rugged beauty with the surroundings.  Not to mention it offers a source of income in a place where there are few people but I imagine, fewer jobs.

While there, I stocked up on some of the gorgeous Shepherd’s Lamb organic wool products.  The wool comes from Antonio & Molly Manzanares from nearby Tierra Amarilla, who also sell their wooly beasts in meat and pelt form.  The color range of their yarns and rovings is stunning and some of the yarn lines are dyed with natural dye plants indigenous to the area.

I had selected a few skeins of sturdy Navajo Churro rug wool, but decided to buy two bags of brown and grey-brown roving instead.  The stuff apparently felts/fulls like a dream as well, so it might be the first time I end up fulling my spinning – until now, I feel like handspun is somewhat spoiled by fulling unless you’re making fulled singles, but this has the feeling of becoming something truly practical and hard-wearing, like dense nearly impenetrable mittens, or a hat with some sort of brim, or maybe an outerwear vest if I can eek out enough, but my history with vests is a little troubled…

Churro roving  Churro roving-detail

On the softer side, I picked out some organic Rambouillet yarn in DK weight.  I got two skeins of yellow which was dyed with Indigo over Chamisa, and one skein of green dyed with Osage Orange over Indigo.  I love that Osage Orange was used – it was one of my favorite trees growing up and always seemed so out-of-place exotic, nearly tropical, and the fruit is nicknamed “monkey balls.”   Who doesn’t love a monkey?  Balls!  But apparently though the fruit is inedible, it wards off pests so people put them in basements and cupboards.  But I digress, I really wanted more yarn and I was out-of-characterly very attracted to some tealy blues and lavenders, but I resisted.  I don’t as yet have a plan for this, though I’m leaning toward something shawlette-ish.

Shepherd's Lamb

New Mexico yarn

That wasn’t the most flattering shot of Northern New Mexico, though I do love ruins and murky colors, so I’ll leave you with a few more.

Northern New Mexico

I love this road – it’s the perfect antidote to the crowded East (except you have to be careful of the occasional elk).  This is also fairly close* to Tierra Wools.  The landscape of the north is more conducive to grazing sheep and other livestock.

New Mexico boney pile

A pile of bones, but not a boney pile.

New Mexico litter

Litter is bad, but vintage litter is cool.

Plaza Blanco

Another good day of hiking amongst amazing rocks.

New Mexico rock tree

Is it a giant rock, or tiny tree?

New Mexico rest stop

And I love these rest stops with private landscape viewing boxes – you can picnic free of wind and sun while watching dust devils snake below the mesa – just watch out for rattlesnakes.

And oh, holy hell, when looking up some of the abundant links in this post, I just found that there is an established “Fiber Arts Trail” in New Mexico, including a route dedicated to the Northern area.  I am ashamed to say that though I am somewhat of a professional researcher, I utterly failed in looking up anything about this before I went… Next time, right???

*About 40 minutes away, which might as well be next door out there.

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Fiber travels in New Mexico, part I

I was in a few states of the great American Southwest for the last couple of weeks.  I hiked, visited family, ate lots of green chile, visited Tierra Wools (more on that another time), and I had greatly desired to spend some time with a cashmere rancher friend of my mother’s, but sadly got sick and spent the last four days of my trip in bed, waiting for hours in feverish chills at a busy clinic full of babies with diarrhea, or lurking about the cold house feeling too crappy to knit (I took along that blasted sock) and without anything new to read (not to mention no internet or boob-tube).

I love New Mexico – it is a hard place to live, and I respect that – I would love to call it home, but will enjoy it in visits instead.  The land, or more precisely water, can’t really handle any more residents – especially those who plunk a large vacation or retirement home down on pristine but dry land and expect to live like they did in the East or South.

Luckily in the days leading up to my assault by poison mucus on ears and sinuses, the weather was gorgeous.  Mountain meadows are my favorite places on the planet…

New Mexico 2013 264 - Copy

…as well as dramatic rocks and moonscapes on earth.

Bisti

And luckily a couple of my sick days involved wind, sleet, snow and rain so I didn’t feel as bummed about not being able to hike otherwise.

New Mexico sleet

But I admit, I was most excited about meeting Nestor.

Nestor portrait

He’s a guard llama on the cashmere ranch (you can see one of his inquisitive charges in the background).   I did get to meet him briefly, as well as the resident Maremma sheepdog Homer…

Homer close

Homer far

He’s a fiber producer in his own right and a giant friendly (though not when protecting) beast.  I’ve been interested in the breed since seeing them in Abruzzo, Italy a few years ago (more on that later too) so it was nice to finally meet one and rub his thick coat.  Alas he is the only four-legged furry there I snapped since I thought I would be returning, but the pictures of Nestor as a younger man are courtesy of my mom from an earlier time.

She brought back a baggie of Nestor a few years ago – maybe it was an ounce or two.  That, along with some Navajo Churro was my first time dealing with unprocessed fiber.  I didn’t have any carders or combs at the time so I fluffed out the fibers by hand the best I could.

Nestor

This was also among my first spinnings on my new-to-me-then wheel.  I think it is about a sport to worsted weight and I didn’t get much – I think I was going to make it into wrist warmers, or very short mitts.  I also wasn’t sure if I wanted to knit it with some wool yarn for better memory and elasticity.

Nestor yarn

But then as with many things, I didn’t decide about it right away and time passed.  The following year my mother called up to ask if I wanted a big Nestor load?

Of course I said YES.

washing nestor-small

This was back in the days when I had a glorious basement and the harvest gold dryer that came with the house.  It was also winter, or maybe just cold and damp outside when I set out to wash him.  Luckily we replaced the windows in the house too so we had several old screens that were perfect for dealing with wet fiber.  I think he finally finished drying a week later.  Then it happened again – I sat on it.  My dilemma is either spinning it all at random like my initial batch for a marled color, or roughly separating out two or maybe three colorways – white/light grey, grey, grey-black and then have the option of doing color work or stripes with the knitting.  I need to re-weigh it too, so I’m not quite sure how much I have, and then I may waffle again about adding wool during the spinning or later with the knitting….

My ears nearly exploded on the flight home, and by the way the assholes at United aren’t “allowed” to give you the cups with warm paper towels in them anymore – if both of my hands weren’t clamped tightly over my ears at the time, they probably would have gone to the sneering flight attendant’s neck.  Needless to say I’m now even harder of hearing and slogging along with more and stronger meds and the thought of watching the spinning wheel go round and round isn’t going to happen for the next 10 days or so, so Nestor will have to wait some more.

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Loom fairy?

I’ve been thinking about weaving for the last year or two… but since we moved from a good-sized house into a shithole apartment and I’m under-employed, buying a loom is very stupid on many counts at the moment – besides I don’t even know where to start with the various kinds/types/styles of looms and what I ultimately might like best.

loom

I was a very crafty child and was fortunate to have parents who encouraged it, so I would get various tools and supplies for my birthday – rug hooking kits, cross stitch stuff, beads, millions of yards of  embroidery floss for friendship bracelets, and the like.  I can’t remember the details of when I got this loom – maybe the late 1970s or early ’80s?  It is German or Germanic and I can’t imagine where my mom found it in the Midwest back then.  Fast forward to a few months ago, and I found it in their basement where it had miraculously survived their last slash and burn move, and voila!  I have a loom.  So ok, it is a kiddie toy, but I’ve made a couple of smallish strips of fabric from it and they have promise to become part a larger item – I’m thinking of incorporating them into bags.  And the loom has a good slot size (actual term?) for handspun, so it’s great for using up leftovers not much good for anything else – I’m pleasantly surprised how much further yardage goes in weaving rather than knitting.

NM weaving

mossy weaving

But now I think I’ve been bitten by a small weaving bug…  I wish there was a loom fairy or I’d be lucky enough to find one thrifting – I’ve heard tales of that actually happening (the thrifting bit, not the fairy)…

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Rhinebeck blues

The color blue, not a sad state or form of American music.  I went to Rhinebeck, also known as The Duchess County Sheep and Wool Festival, also known as New York State Sheep and Wool Festival last year.  I did not knit my fingers bloody trying to finish a “Rhinebeck sweater,” I did not have a checklist of kniterati to meet or booths to visit, and I did not have butterflies in my stomach as we drove up.  I grew up in a rural place and I love farm animals, but every summer involved 4-H fairs with long lines, hot humid smelly fly infested stalls, and greasy carnival foods served by even greasier characters.  In the autumn, my small town hosted a gianormous craft festival where I had to spend countless hours in booths selling various odoriferous foods in scorching or freezing weather for charities, or man my mother’s own craft booth.  So I could take or leave most fairs and festivals.  I went to the Maryland Sheep and Wool festival a few years ago, and it was hot and humid, the food was mediocre at best, and it was way too crowded.  I bought a whole fleece there that I’m still carding by hand (and it was before I learned about skirting) and I doubt I’ll ever finish it.  So with a bit of a chip on my shoulder, we headed north.  First promising sign was there was a decent variety of local foods, including fresh hot cider:

blue not in food

And of course there were lots of sheep, goats, camelids, and other furries, though not as many or as many varieties as in Maryland, but that was ok.  I really want some of these one day.

blue white sheepblue black sheep

And N was happy to schlep some of my stuff while wearing one of my early handspun hats.  And do you notice that the weather is beautiful and mild, not too warm, and there’s nary a person in sight?  Oh but there were hordes, and by mid-day it was too crowded to shop, but the layout of the fairgrounds was good – lots of breathing room and benches and grassy fields to get away from everyone.

blue n

And see all of the blue?  Blue is yet another color for which I’ve got  a complicated relationship.  I like it in theory – I like blue and white porcelain, blue glass, and all of the instances of blue in nature, but it is a color I don’t normally wear, and don’t usually like on my walls.  So, in hindsight, I think the blue sky and sheep pens influenced my purchase of this smoky blue roving tinged with a tomatoey red.

blue roving

It’s Romney from Shepherd’s Mill Wool Processing in Elmer New Jersey.  And I love the smoky murky colors, but good god, it’s a dirty batch of wool.

blue dirt

My spinning finger turns brown with gunk after a few minutes, and let’s not speak of the vegetable matter that I’m ignoring while spinning but will later regret as it pokes and scratches me in a garment.  But I will finish it up shortly and I hope I have enough for a sweater of some sort – I know I should have two pounds of the stuff (the lanolin and dirt is contributing to the weight) for a comfortably large sweater, but it might just be enough.  I’m spinning an aran-ish weight.

blue detail

I can’t wait to see how this will knit up – I’m going to wait to swatch after I’ve finished spinning… I also have a holey Shetland sweater ready to be frogged that compliments it, so I could add in a stripe or two or collar if need be (this might not be the right sweater, I think I have another that is more pinkish, but this one will do too).

blue with cuff

And I think we’ll go back to Rhinebeck again this fall… though don’t expect me to wearing something made from this, unless I come down with the seemingly contagious Rhinebeck fever (or fervor).

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