Tag Archives: rocks

Hitching dragons

I finished up my second Hitchhiker scarf out of my handspun “Dragon Days” mixed BFL from Pigeonroof Studios.

PRS-dragons-beach1

You might think it’s just like my other one.

Mimsyhiker & acquedotto

And they are close, but the new one is more green, more intensely hued, and I spun it a little too thin, so the gauge is half the size of the other – or is it twice the size?

PRS-Draghitch1

I made it for a gift, but I was reeeaaaaally tempted to swap it out for my old one.

PRS-dragons-beach2

The colors are iridescent and change depending on the light, though sunlight is my favorite because it is at its greenest best then.

PRS-Draghitch5

I love the striping from the spun singles.

PRS-Draghitch4

And the size is good too – bigger than my other one.

PRS-dragons-beach3

I’ve got a few more gift knits to complete in the next month or two, so I’m going to continue to be busy with unselfish knitting for a bit (I’m not counting the selfish spinning) but there just might be a startitis explosion soon after though…

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Terroir in wool

So I yammered on for a few posts about my new yarn and roving from New Mexico a few months ago here and here, but all along I’ve been thinking about the wool I acquired in Italy last autumn.

We were in Abruzzo for a few weeks in September/October 2012, on a mission to hike nearly every day in all three of the relatively new national parks: Parco Nazionale d’Abruzzo, Parco Nazionale del Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga, Parco Nazionale della Majella, and some regional parks and preserves including: Parco Naturale Sirente Velino, Riserva Naturale Regionale Monte Genzana e Alto Gizio, and Riserva Regionale Gole del Sagittario.  We had previously been in the area in 2008, less than a year before the devastating earthquake in the L’Aquila region, and had only a small taste of the hiking then that was later to come.  In the four years since however, more North American tourists have invaded come to the region, and though it is good for the economy, especially the areas still rebuilding, it isn’t the same immersive/escapist experience as it was before.  Now you hear the occasional loudly spoken English (I still can’t get past that someone-will-understand-me-if-I-speak-louder-rather-than-actually-learn-a-word-of-the-language habit), see flip-flops on ugly feet, pay much higher prices for apartment rentals, and stumble around overly large rolling luggage.  But I too am a North American, and a visitor, and have poor language skills, so I can’t be too much of a snob.

I first learned about Valeria and her AquiLANA yarn in a round-about way through ravelry when I posted to an Italian group seeking information about local wool producers.  She and her husband’s family raise sheep in the L’Aquila region – their business, Azienda Agrozootecnica Damiani Ovidio, can be found on Facebook.  Through another ravelry friend, we managed to communicate despite my awful Italian, (thank you Google translator) and because of her friend’s quite good English, to set up a time to meet in her town for a yarn purchase.

AquiLANA - Copy(Photo by Valeria/AquiLANA)

I would love to give more details about her wool and the company, but I’d have to commit to a serious translation session that I am too unfocused to partake in at the moment.  But to say her yarn is fabulous and it comes from these sheep off the mountains is enough for me.

But back to the area for a moment – our time hiking in the parks was simply awesome.  Some of the maps and trail markings were extremely good, some not so, and we had a hiking guidebook that should be burned due to some dangerous misinformation.  Many of the trails also had formerly been mule tracks and were best left for four-legged beasts or those very sure of foot and without any tendencies toward vertigo.  But overall, it was some of the best hiking I’ve done.

(But I’ll pack a few more emergency supplies the next time).

Abruzzo-Corno Grande

Abruzzo-castle

Abruzzo meadow

And of course eating was a nearly spiritual experience.

Can’t get any better to come down off a mountain, stop along the road, and dive into a plate of freshly grilled lamb arrosticini.

Abruzzo-lamb

I’ve purchased wool from small producers at domestic festivals before, but this was the first time the wool smacked me in the face as coming from a very specific place – it had an intense “terroir” if you will.

Laquilana montepulciano

And to make it even more local, some is dyed with Montepulciano wine for a lovely muted rose-grey (this is fingering weight).

AquiLana skeins

At first, I only wanted to buy the Montepulciano-dyed wool because I almost never knit with white/natural.  I don’t have a reason why except that I usually like color more, I fear stains (I like to drink the Montepulciano too), and some whites look really bad on me.  I guess I do have my reasons.  But after spending some time in the mountains with the fluffy clouds, bleached rocks, and flocks of sheep with their fluffy white Maremma guard dogs, I decided that I had to have the color of the land (or, ahem, lamb).

Abruzzo sheep enclosures

See?

Abruzzo sheep

So then my new stash of clear, clean, true wool went from the crisp vast mountains and valleys to the land of exhaust and grime…

AquiLANA in NYC

I have a couple of ideas about what I’d like to do with the yarn, however I’m putting pressure on myself that both items will be my own designs. But I’m also realizing that with the strange turns of my life lately, my self-diagnosed ADD, work on portfolio pieces, and the chaos of everything else, I’m absolutely itching to dive right into this yarn NOW without the bother of critical design thoughts and only the happiness and escapism in remembering the land and enjoying the wool.

Laquilana swatches

I’ve swatched some of the natural wool in aran/bulky weight and it will probably turn into a cable-knit sweater – either something classic/vintage inspired along the lines of the Beatnik Pullover, or more modern like the Roam Tunic.  I’m leaning toward classic though since I pray for the day skinny jeans disappear (and will probably take tunics with them).  Unless of course it could be a dress on its own…

New England-new pattern shadow

The wine yarn will be a shawl, and that pattern is about halfway done, but I’ve run into a few snafus that I need to work out.  I’ll test knit a version of it in recycled yarn before I use the good yarn too, so it will take some time.

The bulky/aran yarn reminds me a little of Quince & Company Osprey – it seems that it may be processed and spun in a similar fashion and has that same lovely soft, sproingy, spongy factor – and maybe even more so.  It is soft, yes, but not weakly soft – almost cottony.  I even washed one of my swatches and it got even better – I wouldn’t say that it bloomed, but the stitch definition relaxed slightly while still being entirely legible.  I’m sure the yarn will wear quite well, yet be very comfortable.

It is already my favorite sweater.

And we’ve made plans for a return trip, so perhaps I may come back with more sheepy souvenirs!

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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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Filed under hiking, knitting, spinning, travel, weaving