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.