Monday, December 22, 2008

Musky feet

Living up here in the arctic has meant a slight adjustment to my 100 mile fiber loving plans. Though I have a good stash of fleece that I bought while living down south, there isn't a single sheep to be found within a 100 miles. However there are these:

Guess it's kinda hard to tell but those are muskox. There are herds all over the arctic. They provide the most queenly of fleeces. A downy, warm, soft light as air fleece coveted by fibre folk. They also summon a queenly price. Fortunately, I managed to barter with an arctic elf and go my hands on this:

That is qiviut or muskox fleece taken straight off the animal. It's divine. I've been wanting to make DH a pair of qiviut socks for a while and now that I good amount of fleece, I dove right into it.
There is qiviut yarn on the market for $70-$90 and ounce. Almost all of it is laceweight or fingering weight. Great for shawls and toques. Not so great for socks since the fibre is delicate and breaks easily. Qiviut can be carded or plied with other fibres like silk or wool to make it stronger.
I decided to spin it straight from the fleece, uncarded. I spun it with a bit more twist than what I normally would just to give it bit more strength. I spun it with a long draw. I then navajo-plied it for a nice thick yarn.
The downy fibre was a dream to spin. I could feel the warmth of the fibre as I worked with it. The yarn that I ended up with looked overpsun and 'hard' but once I started knitting it up, the qiviut's trademark 'halo' effect appeared and the result was a beautiful fuzzy, soft fabric.
Here's the socks that came about. Beside them is a print of a musk ox from a local artist that DH bought for me.

They are a soft and delicious on the feet as one would imagine. DH is loving them I'm going to experiment with dyeing some next and maybe make myself up a pair of slippers.

Friday, December 19, 2008

I haven't just been chasing muskrats...

I've been a busy spinner and knitter these past few months. Since my much beloved Ashford Traditional is in storage down south, I had to purchase a new-to-me wheel. Luckily I found a nice slightly used Louet s10 on eBay.

However, with the move up here to Inuvik and the high cost of living in the arctic, I made a deal with myself to make back the costs of the wheel and perhaps some extra $$ by selling hand-dyed handspun yarn. So by mid-October with the town's X'mas Craft Fair looming on the horizon I dyed up huge batch of merino rovings and began spinning and spinning and spinning.A skein or two a night and slowly my yarn stash grew until I ended up with this:

The craft fair was a few weeks ago and I pretty much sold everything! I even now have folks calling me up for yarn as last minute X'mas gifts. The craft fair was a blast and I made back my costs of a new wheel, raw fibre, fund a small dyeing workshop for locals and have a little left over to throw a nice Christmas shindig.
It was nice to meet all the other knitters and crocheters in town. There's a horrendous lack of yarn in this town and it's nice to be able to offer something that other crafters would like. I also got a list of folks that are interested in learning how to knit, dye or spin. Sounds like my dance card is already filling up!
Though the fibre wasn't 100 mile friendly, I did order from Black Lamb which sells merino roving mill ends. So at least I was able to support a Canadian business that sells rovings that would have otherwise ended up in the landfill. I also used a bunch of fleece that I stuffed into corners of our car when we drove up.

I also have been doing a bit of knitting these last few months. Over the Labour Day weekend, I knitted up my Caribou Jacket while on a camping/hiking trip along the Dempster. It was pretty much made it a no-brainer knit as I scope out the landscape for critters sort of project.

The yarn was made from a hodgepodge of Ashford merino rovings and my own hand-dyed merino and silk that I spun into worsted weight single ply. I was going for something rustic and would echo the gorgeous array of colours of the land during this short but spectacular season.

The buttons were made from local caribou antler that I carved. They add a nice bit of arctic whimsy. I've been really getting into carving antler and DH has bought us a Dremel kit so I can release my inner-carver.
The construction is a variation fo EZs Bog Jacket. You all know how much I love that Bog Jacket. I made the front a bit short and then picked up the side stitches for the inside front edge and knitted up the purple panel. I tossed in a couple of short rows around the neck for a fuller collar.
Easy Peasy!
Though I mostly aimed to sell yarn at the Craft Fair I did knit up a couple items.

Lace Scarf. I love this colourway. It's Jacquard Dyes Turquoise and Chartreuse.

Mitts! Can't have enough mitts up here. I think next year I'll do up a couple pairs of thrummed mitts. I think they'll do well up here.

Fair Isle Neckwarmers! My neckwarmer has literally saved my neck and cheek and lips and nose while walking around this arctic wonderland. Fair Isle neckwarmers are a great way for the beginner to learn stranding on. There's no shaping and it works up quick. The thicker material also helps the neckwarmer stay up.
With the craft fair done and pretty much all my Christmas knitting complete, I've been scheming my next project. The local quilters guild has fearlessly asked me to join them in an exhibit titled "Colours of the Delta". As breathtaking the colours were during the turning of the colours of the foilage, I am smitten with winter colour and textures:

I'm drawing up a couple of designs for a winterscape. Yes we are now in our 'dark' months with only a few hours of thin light. Then sun doesn't rise about the horizon and won't pop back up until the new year. However there are still some spectacular moments in the winter's silver light.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I got lost in the blizzard

I know. Bad blogger.
Excuse me while I flagellate myself with a skein of acrylic, mohair fuzzed eyelash yarn. Better yet, I'll knit up a skein and then spend the weekend unravelling it.
I've hit a couple of technical obstacles. Mainly, we didn't have an actual home until this November. We've been squatting/house sitting/couch surfing since we arrived in the Arctic in April.
Now that we have moved into our own place we don't have internet access in our new abode. We had to make the difficult decision of cable or internet. We could have had both but then we would have to live off of willow bark and fight the ravens for road kill.

Secondly, I've spent much of my time out here this past fall.

Playing paparazi to these guys.

I also officially became a Canadian and learned how to canoe.

And over the summer, I helped DH build a Inuvialuit traditional qayaq! An largely 100 mile qayaq. He made it from a silver spruce pulled up from the East Channel of the Mackenzie River. The ribs are made from willow that town workers were clearing away. We were gifted local sinew. There's not a single nail in this craft. It's held together with dowels and sinew lashings and a few prayers. The whole kit and kaboodle was put together during the Great Northern Arts Festival this past summer. It was a blast!

But now the dark months have descended onto us. I've been spinning like a fiend and scheming like one too. I'll post up pics of my wooly endevours soon.

Now I have to hop over to Ravelry and read through the 80 some odd messages that have popped up while I've been gone.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

I left my fleecy heart in Bozeman

Bad blogger!!! Bad, procrastinating, lazy blogger!!!! I should be flogged with a skein of acrylic, barbed wire laced eyelash yarn!!!
I've been on a road trip for these past few months through BC, Alberta Montana and Wyoming. Though the main focus of these trips has been ice-climbing and mountaineering, I did manage to do some 100 mile fibre reconnaissance work while hanging out in Bozeman, Montana.
Bozeman is an amazing town filled with culture, outdoor recreation, great food and lots and lots of bookstores. It also boast a really cool yarn shop that showcases local fibres.
The store is off the main street at 25 N. Willson Ave.

It is the sort of yarn store that makes a 100 mile fibre nut like me swoon.
A whole end of their store is filled with nothing but local fibres and yarns. Sigh

In this corner, I found shelves filled with local organic fleece of various breeds from Border Leicester to Corriedale.

There was even 13 mile organic yarn from a local producer.

And a whole cabinet of Montana yarn darlings, Mountain Colors.

If I didn't have space restriction, I whole have gone bonkers in there. Due to the already overcrowded conditions in our mountain mobile, I only picked up a few balls of undyed organic wool and some Mountain Colors hand dyed fleece.
I was this close to buying a wheel so I would be able to spin during the rest of the road trip.
Now I'm in Inuvik, Northwest Territories.
Don't ask. Long story.
I'm busy knitting up my Tolkien yarn and am trying to infiltrate the qiviut cartel.
I will try to be a better blogger and fill you in my Arctic Circle 100 mile fibre experience!
Until then, hope you're all having a great spring.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The first age of my Tolkien yarn

Here's my first handspun from my Tolkien project.
The white is a 2 ply with one ply alpaca and one play romney. The blue/grey is different shades of dyed and undyed grey Cotswold.

Here's another shot of the alpaca/Romney. I wanted something like a twilight moonshine for this yarn.

The yarn all started like this:

Just as reminder, here's Tolkien's description of the elvish cloaks that were gifted to the fellowhip in Lord of the Rings that serves as one of my inspirations for this yarn project:
"...of the light but warm silken stuff that Galadhrim wove. It was hard to say of what colour they were: grey with the hue of twilight under the trees they seemed to be; and yet if they moved, or set in another light, they were green as shadowed leaves, or brown as fallow fields by night, dusk silver as water under the stars....Leaf and branch, water and stone: they have the hue and beauty of all these things under twilight of Lorien that we love; for we put the thought of all that we love into all that we make...they are light to wear, and warm enough or cool enough at need."

-p481, Lord of the Rings, Farwell to Lórien

So to achieve a 'Twilight' colourway, I threw three shades of grey Cotswold, some of the white Romney and a bit of the black Icelandic into a pot with some Gunmetal (jacquard dye) at half strength. I then topped it with half strength of Purple (jacquard dye) and brought it all up to a simmer. Towards the end, I dumped in another handful of light Cotwold to take on just a touch of colour. In total, about I ended up dyeing up about 1 1/2 lbs of fleece.
Here's what came out:

I took some of the lighter gunmetal and some undyed grey Cotswold and spun this:

I'm madly in love with how the gunmetal and purple danced and mingled together. It looks like nebula in all that fluffed up fleece.

Here are some of the lighter Cotswold that I dumped in at the end.

Batts ready for more blending and spinning.

That's it for now. I've got a lot more carding, blending and spinning to do!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Mysterious Wisdom of Yarn

I just finished this baby last night while cuddling with DH and watching "300".

It's made with local fleece and leftover yarn from my stash, including this handspun:

Here's a couple more shots:

It was an unplanned project. In fact I wasn't even aware I was making a Healing Shawl until these last few days. This yarn just kept beckoning me and so over the holidays I began working a round shawl. At first I had planned to make a round shawl cardigan but the universe knew better and thwarted me at every turn. Eventually it dawned on me that these colours aren't really my colours and when I thought I had finished it, it didn't agree with me so I continued knitting more. Then a few nights ago, it revealed itself to me. It's meant to be a Healing Shawl for my cousin who's in dire need of some of the universe's healing powers. Once it was apparent to me what it was, it was obvious. Duh! It's a good thing my yarn is smarter than me :P

I've now decided on the wools for my Tolkien Projects:

The grey/silver fleeces are from 3 different Cotswold sheep including the locks off of this little streaker:

I opted for Cotswold as my main wool because it has quite a bit of lustre in it and is hard wearing. For much of history, it's been used for outerwear and upholstery making it a sturdy candidate for my cape. I chose three different values of grey to provide depth in the colour. All these fleeces were from Margaret Thomson at Windrush Farm on Saltspring Island

The black fleece is Fjola, an Icelandic sheep, also from Margaret's farm. Margaret and all her lovely sheep can be reached at Windrush Farm on 1432 North Beach Road in Saltspring Island, 250-537-4669.
Another great place on Saltspring Island for fleece is at the Bullock Lake Farm.

Icelandic fleece is warm and soft and her graceful and fine nature will help balance out the harder wearing Cotswold.

The puffy white stuff in the centre is Romney fleece from Elaine Duncan in Errington. Romney is the finest of all the longwool breeds. It will not only lend a bit of loft and lightness but also lustre to the yarn. Elaine and her sheep can be found at the Weaver's Rose Cottage in Errington, BC, 250-248-1270. During the summer she sell at the Errington Farmer's Market, one of the coolest farmer's markets on the island.

The creamy white roving on the bottom right hand corner is alpaca from my guild sister, Kathy McDonald in Cedar. It's from her Fiber Boys:

Aren't they they cutest things?
Alpaca is super warm, soft and silky. It will lend a touch of luxury to my Tolkien Yarn.
Alpacas can be found all over this island and at farmer's markets.

So now that I have my fleeces picked I guess I should figure out the design for my Tolkien capelet.


Thursday, January 3, 2008

Gallery of Favorites

My wonderful MIL has requested a gallery of my knitting. So here are some of favorites from these last couple of years:
Healing Shawl:

Jewel & Wine Socks

Carved Jade Socks

DH's foot cozies.

Photo of the "Gaston" mountaineering socks for DH. The next in the knitting queue.

My handspun local yarn for the Gaston Socks.

Arachne capelet made with local alpaca.

Broken Brocade Sweater

Midsummer Night's Dream sweater

The back

The sleeve cuff

Patricia's hooded scarf

T's fingerless mitts

A shawl from my Flight of Fuschia Series

Blossom Cape

Fiddlehead Jacket

The Kimonoette

The Honeymoon Sweater.

The back.

Fire & Ice Sweater made with my own local hand-dyed, handspun yarn

The back

MIL Cabled Sweater

Pat's Capelet made with my own handspun local alpaca

The back detail.

For more information, just check out the "Labels" on the left panel. Some of the pieces are also on my other blog, Crave.
I also have most of these in my Ravelry Projects page. My Ravelry name is AlphaMango.
I hope you enjoy the gallery.