Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Season for Giving

Last week we had out Christmas potluck for the Mid-Island's Weavers and Spinners Guild. My friend, Karin, and I also ran a charity clothing drive for hand knit and gently used clothing that we cold donate to the Sally Ann.
We were overwelmed with the response. Members were bringing bags of warm clothing and some wonderful handknits to donate. We ended up with 2 table filled with cozies for donation.

Thank you too my sister member of the Mid-Island Weavers and Spinners Guild. For all those that are interested, we are alway looking for new members. Our next meeting is January 2nd, 2008. Meetings are held at St. Paul's Anglican Church (100 Chapel Street) and begins at 7:30pm.

Everyone but Pat is allowed to continue reading. Pat, go away, go calculate something!!!!!!
Is she gone yet? OK. I've finally finished my sisters Pat's Capelet. Here's some pics.
Da Front:

Da Back:

Me modeling da capelet:

This is my second from Fleece to Knit 100 Mile Fiber Diet project. It's an asymmetrical capelet that I designed for my kid sister, Pat. I got the alpaca from a local farm (literally just down the road from me). I used both black and white fleece. I dyed some of the white into a light and dark grey. I wanted some depth to the finished yarn colour and not a flat color. I blended the dyed and natural rovings twice through with hand carders so it would be mixed but not homogeneous colour.

She wanted something modern but classic (I don't know where she gets such strange ideas about fashion :P). Because of the dark colour of the yarn and my sister's general preference for simple lines, I opted for an overall stitch pattern that provided clean lines with a bit of texture. The back panel is the same pattern for a scarf that I made her.

The stitch pattern for the body of the capelet is "Overlapping Waves" from the Big Book of Knitting Stitch Patterns from Sterling. The back panel is "Column of Leaves" from the same book.

I aimed to make a structured capelet, as opposed to flat, drapey piece like a poncho or shawl. She wanted something she could wear in her perpetually AC-blasting office. By literally sculpting in shoulders with short rows, she could just throw this on just to keep the chill off and it would stay on without needed to be pinned closed. It also won't slide all around.

Also, because like me, my sister is short (though way cuter than me), most shawls and capes make us look stumpy, I made sure that the overall length of the capelet wouldn't swallow her. By making it asymmetrical and having a bit of length in the front, it elongates the central body line. However, because the sides are shorter, and the bottom hem is a diagonal upward, it accentuates the torso and doesn't chop her body up into pieces.

I also made her a hooded scarf with some Aran wool I found in my stash:

The scarf pattern is "Column of Leaves" from Sterling's Big Book of Knitting Stitch Patterns. It's the same pattern that I used for her capelet back panel and one that she really loves. The hood was formed by picking up stitched along the edge of the scarf. Just wrap the scarf around your head and that's how much of the scarf edge you pick up. Knit up a few inches then start forming the hood with short rows. Decrease 2 stitches per row until you reach the centre. Wrap the stitches if you want, don't bother if you don't want to. Then start increasing, 2 stitches per row until you've pick up all the stitches again. Knit up a couple more inches just to provide an ample brim.
The brim edge is from The Harmony Guide to Aran and Fair Isle Knitting. It's pattern 4.7 and 4.8 which are mirrored versions of it. I used one for one half the brim (from scarf edge to centre) and the other one for the half. It makes for a symmetrical edging for the brim that probably only I will notice. The pattern naturally folds and so it provides a nice textured rolled rim which makes for a nicer finish for an edge.
I hope she loves them as much as I loved making them for her :)
Have a great season of giving!


Monday, December 3, 2007

Carving Her Own Paddle

My back has been ever so slowly healing from injury & re-injury to my back & pelvis over the last 2 years. I'm not the most patient monkey and the sitting around the sidelines as everyone else got to play really got to my spirit. Finally, my body is strong enough to return to my traditional qayak training, along with my mountain play. Though, not completely healed, I'm optimistic and looking forward to returning to being able to train as intensely as I did before the injury. I'm now clumsily working away at my qayak rolls and other techniques, however, I'm thrilled that I'm not having to face a week of screeching back and screaming abductors as result of a day on the water.
I've been whittling away a stick to make myself a Inuit qayak storm paddle so I can fully advantage of the winter storm paddling conditions and not be stuck treadmilling on the waters of Piper's Lagoon. A "Me" sized storm paddle will also make it easier on my body to paddle in the bluster and waves as my body finishes healing and to maintains it's healthier state.
My wonderful DH went and bought us his and her's cedar 2x4s to make new paddles with. He paid a stiff $$ for local cedar clear of knots but he insisted, being the cool, romantic water jedi that he is. This will be my second paddle but my first cedar storm paddle. Not only to I get to use local fibre to make my paddle but I also get to make it sans power tools.
Here's my stick. It happens to be the perfect length for a storm paddle for me. Basically it fits nicely in my hands with my arms stretched out to either side.

With a string, pins, pencil and ruler, I map out the shape of my paddle.

Here's the paddle all mapped out. Quite frankly, this whole drawing lines part is the hardest for me. Somehow I always manage to mess it up. This time, all my lines crossed as they should with each other but they crossed about 4 inches short of where they should have crossed, which is supposed to be the middle the paddle. Thank goodness of pencil and bulk packages of erasers and for husbands who will gladly run down out to procure such supplies as I have a meltdown over my wonky, unexplained mess of paddle layout. Double thank goodness for husbands who don't make fun of you for said meltdown or paddle layout mess.

That's me armed with a hand saw cutting kerfs to shape the loom. You see those $50 Canadian Tire boots on my feet. Those are the boots that took me up Liberty Bell in the North Cascades and numerous climbs in Squamish, including the apron on the Stawamus Chief and a couple of seasons of ice climbing & mountaineering. I love those boots just for those awesome memories and experiences as a novice climber and great adventures that my DH took me on. Of course, now those boots would probably not make it up Mt. Benson they're so pooched.

Kerfs are basically notches cut into the wood. In this case they're used to make chiseling out the excess wood easier.

With a chisel and rusty old hammer, I knock off all the excess wood from the loom. See how the kerfs are make this an easy and simply job.

Loom's basic shape is finally taken form.

Here I am working with a block plane to shape the edges of the paddle blades. Instead of having it clamped down onto the workbench, I opted to work the paddle freely in my hands. The yellow foamy protects the end of the paddle and also helps provide some friction as I work the plane. By working it in my hands, I can rotate and whittle away with ease.

Here's my view. All that wood on the side with scribbles over it needs to come off.

It's starting to look like a paddle!

A bit more planing and the beveled shaping of the blades is starting to take form. Mind you there's still lots of planing and sanding down before I can take this baby out for a ride!

Here's the mess I made: bags and bags of shavings. These cedar shavings will find a new home either sewn into little sachets for moth repellent cedar pockets or as tinder for a good friend's wood stove.

In case you wondering, I have managed to squeeze in some knitting in, mostly charity knitting.
Here's my wonderful DH showing off one of my EZ inspired baby jackets.

My weaving and spinning guild is doing a charity knitting project and so I'm knitting up a bunch of EZ based baby things and socks. This one is based on EZ's Practically Seamless Baby Jacket from the Knitter's Almanac. Mine is completely seamless.
I opted to do EZ patterns as a way of commemorating the anniversary of her departure to the Great Big Yarn Stash in the Sky.
BTW, in the background of the above photo, to the right of my handsome husband are a couple of our finished qayak paddles.

Have a great week everyone!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Nanaimo Guild Meeting

Just a reminder to all the spinners and weavers in the Nanaimo region that the Mid-Island Weavers and Spinners Guild is meeting this Wednesday at 7:30pm at St. Paul's Anglican Church (100 Chapel). Come in by the side/back entrance, not the main church entrance. The door opens around 7pm.

We're always happy to have new folks come in and for those interested, membership is only $20/year and we meet the first Wednesday of the month.

The ladies of the guild are a warm and friendly bunch and have been a bounty of info for this newbie spinner.
For this meeting we're having a spinning workshop. Bring your spinning wheel or spindle, questions and problems. There's bound to be a spinning jedi in the guild that has the answer :)

See ya!

Friday, November 2, 2007

The Quest for Tolkien Yarn

(Fjola, an Icelandic sheep we met on Saltspring Island. I have a pound of her gorgeous fleece just waiting to be spun)

The idea of spinning and knitting a Tolkien inspired garment has been playing in the back of my head for a few seasons. I did knit a Hobbit inspired jacket, Fiddlehead, last spring which has gotten much use.
Stansborough Farm, the New Zealand company that sourced the wool for the LoTR elven cloaks has made the same wool available for spinners, knitters and weavers. Though, I applaud them for taking the effort and energy in breeding such a special flock of sheep, the fleece is no more intrinsically elvish than many other breeds of sheep. The Stansborough yarn itself is a blend of the 80% wool and 20% angora.
I scoured the internet to see what other knitters thought about this yarn. A bit hearty and rough for some, others had issues with the loose 4-ply, some just didn't think it anything much special other than it was used in the Lord of the Rings.
The Stansborough site touts this fleece as being 'the rarest in the world. True. There are only 1000 of these sheep that have been bred to make this particular shading of grey without any brown tips. The farm breeds and controls this flock. In other words, they have the monopoly in specific lineage of sheep. They're flock is simply intensively bred Gotland sheep which is originally from Sweden.
Gotland (also known as Palssau) sheep are direct descendants of the Gute breed and also include Shetland, Icelandic, Finnsheep and Romanov (some of which also have very 'elvish'qualities). It also believed that Karakuls, Romanov, Leicester and Rya may be lurking in the genetic history of the modern Gotland.
The fleece itself is prized for it's high lustre, well-defined crimp, soft but hardwearing. It staple ranges from 3-5 inches. The fleece colours ranges from almost black to a full range of greys to silver. There is no true white Gotland.
There are Gotland sheep farms throughout North America and Europe. Just Google 'Gotland sheep farms' if you want to find a farm near you. I bet you it'll cost way less than shipping it from New Zealand.
Now that I've bored you to tears with babbling about Gotland fleece, I'll admit that I'm not going to use much if any Gotland fleece in my Tolkien yarn.
Ptthhbbbbbbbb :P
(Newly shorn fleece from a Saltspring Island sheep farm. So fresh it still has a pulse.)

(Streaker Sheep)

Why would I look specifically for Gotland when I have Shetland, Icelandic, Cottswold, Border Leicester, Alpaca and Romeny being raised within spitting distance from me? All these breeds offer many of the elements that make an elvish cloak.

Tolkien described the elvish cloaks that were gifted to the fellowhip in Lord of the Rings as,"...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

There is another source of inspiration for my Tolkien elvish yarn from the great stories of The Silmarillion and The Children of Hurin : Thingol the High King of the Sindar. For crying out loud, his name is derived from ancient words meaning "Grey Cloak". What a perfect source of inspiration for my elvish yarn!

Dark Elves, or as most LoTR fans would know them as, Grey Elves, are the highest of the Elven kind. The term 'Grey' also is suggested to have a second meaning related to 'Twilight"

Thingol is also the great- great-great-great grandpappy of Arwen and Aragorn. Yep, much like most royal families, this one skinny dips in it's own gene pool. They're not directly related, more half second cousins twice removed or something like that.

The Grey Elves themselves are noted for wearing dark robes of purple and blue of twilight.
I can't remember off the top of my head much about Thingol's wardrobe. I guess I'm going to have to reread the Children of Hurin :)
(Pretty pair of Border Leicesters. Their fleece has a lustrous sheen and long staple. Definitely elvish yarn worthy.)

The basic fleece qualities I'm shooting for is:
-good drape
-hard wearing

I'll have to do a bit more musing and scheming to decide how I will capture the chameleon nature of the elvish cape's colouring.

So far, I have some gorgeous Icelandic, Cottswold, Alpaca and Border Leicester fleece to blend and play with. All of them from the Vancouver Island and Gulf Islands.

Tolkien himself was a great supporter and lover of the land and the people who worked it. The Hobbits themselves are a great example of this.
Tolkien's concern for nature echoes throughout The Lord of the Rings. Much is made of how those of greed, arrogance, lust for power, and filled with evil dominate nature and abuse it to bolster their own agenda. Whereas elves live in harmony with the natural environment and many of their races of named to reflect nature, like the Woodland Elves.
I cannot think of a better way to pay homage to Tolkien, support local farmers and still do my part to help the environment than to make a Elven cape with locally raised fleeces.

I'll be continually blogging about this quest and I would enthusiastically encourage other Tolkien and LoTR fans to also look into using locally raised fibres to make their Tolkien inspired projects.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Alpaca Island

Hello to all the wonderful fibre enthusiasts that I met at the Farmer's Showcase this past weekend! Welcome to my blog.
Just a reminder to Nanaimo weavers, spinners and knitters that I met, there is a meeting for the Mid-Island Weavers and Spinners Guild on the first Wednesday every month at 7:30pm (many of us show up earlier to hang out and spin or knit.) Meetings are held at St. Paul's Anglican Church at 100 Chapel Street in downtown Nanaimo. Come in through the side/back entrance, not the church's main entrance. The next meeting is November 7th. Hope to see some new faces there!
I finally got invited into Ravelry last week. My Ravelry name is AlphaMango. Hello to all Ravelry members!
It's been a busy month but I've still had time to enjoy my 100 mile fibre journey. During the Gabriola Island Thanksgiving Art Tour, my friend and I made a not-so-quick detour to Paradise Island Alpaca farm. The alpacas and chickens are raised organically and free range. The farm also has a small retail store on the premises where you can buy yarn and finished objects. Inside is also a production space where the local youth can be found processing, spinning and weaving. The farm also supports a Peruvian women's alpaca co-op.
Taylor, the farm mistress, is happy to sell roving and whole fleeces at super-reasonable prices. They also carry yarns for Crimpy Critters, another Gabriola Island alpaca farm.

Visit the alpacas and Dave & Taylor Turrie at 785 North Road Gabriola Island, BC.

While doing our art tour rounds, we had to stop by Trish Moon at Indigo Moon studio. My friend ended up buying a backseat's worth of local fleece from her. While there, Trish and I hashed out a deal where I'd knit up samples in exchange for yarn. Trish has released a huge line of wool yarns, along with her usual treasure trove of silk yarns. I've been busy working away at the swatches since she needs them for the holiday craft fair season which is already started in some corners of this island.
Here's my first sample swatches of here solid sock yarn.

It's superwash
ed fingering weight merino yarnand the colours are even more vibrant than the photo shows. As you can tell, they're not so much a plain solid as much as a 'shades of solid'. I used this yarn in 'Olive' for my Carved Jade Socks.
I've just started up a sample swatch for the variegated yarns and I'll post those photos once I get some mileage on them.

As I mentioned, I've been crazy busy for these last few weeks but there's always time to knit & spin.

Right now, I've got a capelet for my little sis on the needles. It's a local alpaca roving that I got in the spring. I spun it into a laceweight yarn. It's my first 100 mile alpaca project where I spin & knit! So excited about it.

My sis has her heart set on a off-centred capelet. She likes things simple and elegant so I'm going with a simple wave pattern for the main body of the capelet. In the back, I've got a pair'o leaves lace pattern going up the spine for a touch of drama.

For those times when my brain is too fried for lace knitting, I've been spinning up yarn for DH's Gaston socks:

I just finished spinning the yarn for them last night. I have about 400 yards of the cream Romney and 500 yards dark brown Romney spun to fingering weight. I bought the Romney fleece from Elaine Duncan at the Weaver's Rose Garden. She sells at the Errington Farmer's Market every weekend. The fleeces were from her own flock and she sells in many levels of processing, from whole unwashed fleeces to roving to yarn and even finished garments. I paid $8/lb for washed fleece. The sock yarn only used up a handful of ounces of fleece making these the cheapest pair of socks I've ever made :)

Have a fabulous week!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Fire & Ice: The Final Chapter (Updated below)

Fire & Ice is finally done!
Yippee! Pass the red wine!
It's been a wonderful summer of scheming 'n dreaming, dyeing 'n spinning and, of course, knitting and more knitting. Between all the knitting was a fair bit of frogging.

She's finally done and I lurve her.
For those interested in the back story and the journey to this point, check out these entries.
For those that just want to look at knitting porn, I present to you the Fire & Ice final photo shoot!

Da sleeves. Initially it was going to be a basic steek and seam sleeve. Then I thought since I was knitting to fit my torso, I might as well knit the fit my shoulder as well. So I opted for short rows to create a bend to fit around my shoulder and then a few extra short rows to add some material for the side of the collar. It took a couple of evolutions to get the sleeves right but in the end it worked out grand!

Da forearm. Since the cabling was inspired by designs on Viking armour, I wanted to bring some of the warrior elements of their often violent sagas into the sweater. I created a sort of knitted wrist plates to echo armour.
The sweater as a whole was designed to look structured and sculpted. I wanted it to look solid, like it could hold it's shape even when I'm not wearing it, like armor.
Here's the torso and the two sleeves before seaming.

Here's it all put together!
Da front!

Close-up of da back.
The collar was done in a simple seed stitch to give a bit of texture. I opted for a square collar to echo the angular nature of the cabling.
As an extra bonus, the collar also frames my 'Tao' tattoo perfectly. So fitting to have that word framed by a sweater that carries the story of the joining of fire & ice to create the world.

My triquetra tattoo is also peeking out in the corner. The triple goddesses, (especially Morrígan) are definitely with me when I'm wearing this sweater!

Well, that's my 100 mile fiber project for the summer. Not a moment too soon. The evenings are getting chilly and I'm ready to get going on my next 100 mile fiber project!


ETA:The Inside Story of Fire & Ice

This photo is for you, Erin :P
Hop onto a ferry and get over here for your short row lesson!

Thanks everybody for all your warm and wonderful comments. It makes my heart melt to hear all these encouraging comments. To all those that can't fathom making such a sweater, I would like to point out that I haven't used any techniques that most intermediate knitters don't know.
In fact, here's a list of the main techniques used and links to some:
Long tail cast on
2x2 ribbing
Knitting in the round
Cabling (without a cable needle)
Short Rows
Basketweave stitch
Seed stitch
3 needle bind off

Even if you don't know the above techniques, you've already learned the 2 main techniques: knitting & purling. Some might say those are the most difficult of all knitting techniques because they are the first. They are the initial steps into a new world, one that is unfamiliar and often, awkward to navigate through. They are taken without any prior experience that this path will lead to anywhere but to a knarled up headache. They are taken with no promise of reward. Often they are accompanied with anxiety, confusion, insecurity and frustration.
But soon those steps become so familiar, many of us can tread the steps of knitting & purling without looking and constantly checking a map.

In my knitted heart I do hope to nudge, shove, kick other knitters into uncharted (pardon the pun) knitting waters and to inspire them to try things that aren't written down in patterns. If nobody tried new techniques or experimented we'd all be knitting big blocky garter stitch togas :P

I do hope my knitting encourages other knitters to join me off the beaten path. I would very much enjoy their company :) There's a vast and exciting knitting landscape for us to explore. With the learning of each new lesson, we all come back to the original blessing of when we first learned how to turn a couple of sticks and some string into something, anything and everything.

Be daring. Heck, be downright reckless with your knitting. Nobody died from knitting. Some might have been had their corneas seared by neon orange acrylic yarn, but that heals eventually.

In The Yarn Harlot's "At Knit's End" there is a quote from Henry Ford, "One of the greatest discoveries a (wo)man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn't do."

And as the Yarn Harlot says herself: Be Fearless with Knitting!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Icy sleeves for Fire & Ice

What? The end of August already? There're mooncakes being sold at Fairway and it's getting dark way too soon. Yikes!

I've decided to put off starting anything new until I've finished the Fire & Ice sweater. I've given myself the much the spring and all of summer to dye, spin and knit this sweater.

I've just finished spinning and knitting one sleeve:

The bottom half of it is in basketweave.

I love the diagonal woven effect. This stitch constricts since it's got a whole line of crossovers on every other row. With this in mind, I opened up the stitches to a stockinette right below my elbow. This allows the sleeve be fitted for my forearm an then to widen up for my elbow and upper arms without having to increase a single stitch! I'm not sure if that makes me smart or lazy. Probably a little bit of both :P

I decided to stick with just the ice colourway since I didn't want the sleeves to compete with the cabling on the body.
Here's the body up to near the armpit. It's going to be a yoke sweater. For once, I'm knitting a yoke from the bottom up. I did it this way partly because I wasn't sure how the cabling would fit on the sweater. But mostly I did it because I was undecided what kinda collar/neckline I wanted to use. I'm still undecided. I guess the yarn will tell me once I get to that point.

Close up of the cables:

Sleeves and sweater body together:

Last night I began spinning up the yarn for the second sleeve. Hopefully the sleeve will be spun and knitted up by the end of the week. However, I've got a pretty packed schedule and anyways, I still haven't figured out what sort of collar I'm going to use.

Happy knitting!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Socks for a unrequited summer

My Carved Jade Socks are finally done. I made the final push through the final few inches last night with the help of a glass of red wine and lots of good, dark, organic chocolate. The knitting juice was definitely needed to get through the home stretch. Not a glass too soon. I woke up to another soggy, grey Saturday morning.

Why, dear summer must you be so mean and cold? Why must you nip at my tomato plants. I've offered you a garden full of edible sunshine. I've waxed poetic about your long weeks of sexy heat. I've sacrificed a day timer of weekends to frolic with you. And this? This is how you return my love? With cold, miserable rain and then slaps of unbearable heat?

Was it something I said? Are you still upset because I told winter that I loved her best? I had to. Did you see the torrents of rain she was sending over this way? Did you see her tightrope walking just above the freezing mark? Tempting me with peekaboo glimpses of good ice-climbing weather? I thought we were over this. You're no better than spring :P

So now I have a new pair of Carved Jade socks to see me through the end of this stoneyhearted season. For more background info on the socks, check out this earlier entry
Here's the photo montage of my new socks. Enjoy!

The requisite front view

The requisite back view.

Requisite bird's eye view

Requisite art shot.

Shhhh. It's the elusive Carved Jade toothless shark.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Carved Jade Socks

At the Saltspring Island Natural Fibre Fair, I picked up a few gems, including a couple of skeins of sock yarn from Indigo Moon. Trish Moon, dyeing diva, has just begun offering a line of hand-dyed superwash fingering sock yarn. Like the rest of her products, many are dyed with natural dyes.

Most striped or variegated sock yarn aren't my cup of tea. I find them a tad too funky and, well, too stripey (I know, that's probably not a real word). However, Trish's colourways are right up my alley. I fell madly in love with this as soon as I saw it.
It was labeled "Olive" but it reminded me of the gorgeous, subtle colours of unworked jade.

At under $13 a pop, I picked up 2 skeins and happily let my imagination whiz about with ideas. I finally decided on a pair of 'Carved Jade Socks'

The socks are inspired by the incredible carved jade pieces I saw during my China trip last year.
Jade Disc inside the Forbidden City in Beijing, China.

Carved Dragon Ball. These pieces are moving spheres carved within each other. It's just mindboggling what goes into making a piece like this.

Carved Jade piece. This is one of my favorite jade pieces that I got to see. It's so delicate and intricate.

With those pieces in mind, I unvented a simple stitch pattern that combined twisted stitches and a basic lace movement to create the effect of jade carvings. I say unvented because chances are, it's a stitch pattern that has been unvented already.

Here's one sock done and waiting for a mate. It's a basic toe-up pattern with a Turkish Cast on, basic increased toe and short row heel.

I guess it got tired of waiting all by itself and climbed onto my foot:)

Here's the second one on the needles and slowly getting worked up. My dance card has been busy this past week and the Fire & Ice sweater has been monopolizing my attention lately. However, I'm set on finishing this by tonight. However, it is gorgeous and sunny outside and I'm already thinking mojitos on the patio.
Odds are 3-1 that I get it done by tonight.
Any takers?