Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It's underground knitting time here right now, as I frantically work on half-finished Christmas presents and try to figure out the most attractive way to package them still on the needles. But one of the cool things I've been working on at the Fiber Gallery is rehabbing an old Macomber 32" loom that my boss picked up a couple weekends ago. She's a beaut! Dark, luminous mahogany wood, quirky brass pivots and fittings, and a great sense of history.



She's also got this one fantastic detail:


Serial number 1. How cool is that?

We're still waiting on a bunch of parts from Macomber, but I jury-rigged it and threaded a simple diagonal twill in merino/tencel, with a hand-dyed cotton warp. The one problem?


Yes, Ms. Cleaver, it's pink. Sigh.

p.s. still looking for a Christmas present for someone obsessed with yarn and fiber? I've put together a collection of my fiber photography into an adorable desktop calendar. It's basically a beefcake calendar, but with fiber instead of naked men. I promise there are no naked men.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Earl Grey

I spent the Monday after we got back from Rhinebeck not wanting to do anything. (Except perhaps add up the amount of money I spent on pretty, pretty fiber there, and shudder.) My wrists were killing me from some hardcore computer work I had done the week before, and from a nutso idea I had to spin, design, and knit a cabled sweater in what amounted to probably a two week period. I had also just gotten my hands on the DK weight farm yarn we had had spun for SuriPaco, a gorgeous 75/25 blend of domestic alpaca and Maine wool that made me swoon. So, the combination of apathy, hurty wrists, and pretty yarn?


The Earl Grey Mitts. A simple, gentle, comforting knit, with a clean and tailored aesthetic, just like a good cup of tea. (I'm addicted to Earl Grey tea. It's a bit of a problem.)


These are knit in stockinette in the round, then flipped at the end to show off the reverse stockinette side. The yarn, spun on Bartlett Yarns' wonderful old mulespinning machinery, is nubbly and rustic, and works wonderfully with the purl side of the fabric.

earl grey composite

Available as a free download over on Ravelry!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Another Introduction!

Okay, at some point I promise to have actual content on this blog, but, introducing:

Bristol's Cowl! (Note: I promise I am not narcissistic enough to name this after myself! I had called it the Cathedra Cowl in proofs, but I bow to higher judgment.)

(photos by the lovely and wonderful Carrie Bostick Hoge)
This cowl is knit from just one skein of Quince and Co.'s Puffin, a lovely, lightly spun bulky single in the most gorgeous colors. The lace lets you play with a couple different techniques on a large scale for instant gratification! Plus, the one skein requirement lets you try out a great yarn with minimal investment. It would also be awesome for that skein of Lopi kicking around, or that bit of bulky handspun you've not found a use for yet. . .

Check it out at Quince and Co. here, or on Ravelry here.

And up soon on the blog (I promise): can I design and knit an entire Fair Isle sweater in the month of November? Well, not if the yarn's still drying! (Which it is. Eek.)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Christchurch Shawl

It's a bad sign when your internet history doesn't even remember your blog's URL. Sigh. But! There is exciting news! I finally have something cool to share!


Introducing the Christchurch Shawl, born of a long day spent wandering the museums and botanical gardens in Christchurch, New Zealand. My head was full of leaves and spear points, and this lace pattern, developed on the road from Christchurch to Queenstown and knit for the first time among quizzical Austrians at the hostel in Queenstown, was the result.
I knit the first version of it for Betty back in February, and the second version this summer.


(modeled by my gorgeous friend Dana, who is a phenomenal weaver to boot)

The pattern is up for sale on Ravelry here!


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Ah, yes. Well. Hi. One month later, and I still apparently fail at the posting frequently thing. I will work on it! But in the meantime?


I'm knitting, and nesting.



It's my two week anniversary in my adorable little apartment, and I'm still trying to put the bits and pieces together. Painting trim, finding frames, hanging pictures, figuring out the oven, trying canning for the first time (apple and pepper chutney!),


dreaming of covering the entire place in textiles. . . I think I'm going to like it here.


I've also been knitting furiously, and have no less than five projects going at the moment, heaven help me, with another in the testing knitting stage and yet two more bubbling away cranially. There's just not enough time in the world! And did I mention Rhinebeck is in a month? Where I will no doubt be acquiring great quantities of fluff and yarn? Oh dear. Still, this is a pretty darn good life, and I could get used to it. I've just got to get better at posting about it.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Hmm. . . well, there went any semblance of keeping posting in a timely manner! The Tour de Fleece is finished, as of almost a month ago (my bad), I've been knitting:

(Deerpath Socks by Lisa Lloyd in Cherry Tree Hill DK Supersock, my July socks in my self-imposed sock-a-month club, ravelled here)

and even !!crocheting!! (never thought I'd say that!),

(Queen's Anne's Lace by Khebhin Gibbons in my own handspun, ravelled here)

and have been working on finding an apartment in town and generally soaking up as much of the summer as possible. But the two big things that have been taking up most of my time?


Meet Natasha, a 9-10-month-old black and tan coonhound from down South. She may look all sweet and innocent in that picture, and okay, yeah, the sweet bit certainly is true, but the innocent? Nuh-uh. Here she is "helping" me take sock pictures:


Anything not nailed down is totally game for her to chew on. That includes knitting projects, toes, and cats. So we're working on it!

The other big thing involves these lovely creatures:


The baby in that picture is approximately ten hours old. Everybody together: awwwwww. I've started work up at a local alpaca farm as their creative designer. This means I get to play with fiber and yarn. A lot. Occasionally I get to play with the animals. Does this make me the happiest person on the planet? Yeah, pretty much. So, even though I'm not posting too much, life's pretty awesome. On with the adventure!

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Tour de Fleece keeps on trucking. . .

My hand-dyed roving stash is getting pretty low at this point--lucky Rhinebeck is in 2 1/2 months!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Drifts of Wool in the Summertime

It seems like forever that I've been home, but it's only been three and a half weeks; it's been time well-spent. While I'm still in the limbo of trying to figure out schedules and jobs and housing, I've also had ample, wonderful hours of knitting and spinning in the sunshine, sitting out on the back porch for hours with NPR or audiobooks on in the background and cats underfoot (or underchair, as is more likely). There's been knitting for me:

Cecily Glowik MacDonald's Goodale (Rav link), a lightweight, quirky sweater in a cashmerino I overdyed. This only gets play at knitting nights at this point, but is about three-quarters done.

Knitting for design publication:

a variation on the shawl I knit for Betty, this time in commercially available yarn.

And knitting for others (no pictures, sorry!), in the most lovely and gorgeous new yarn from Quince and Co. There are big benefits to living in Portland and getting in on the ground floor of this awesome new company!

And there has been spinning, spinning, spinning, spinning: it's the Tour de Fleece again! For those of you that think I'm crazy, it's a spinning event where you spin every day the Tour de France is running. This is my fourth year doing it, and I've scaled it back a bit from last year, where I spun enough for three sweaters. That hurt!

This year, my big goal was just one sweater's worth of light worsted weight 3-ply, out of the most gorgeous moorit Romney that Barb gave me at Tally Ho. And some other stuff, as well, but that was the big project. It's for my Rhinebeck sweater!

1,234 yards, about 20 ounces. Now to design and knit the damn thing. . .

The other yarn I've spun so far (the Romney obviously took me a while) is a softly spun laceweight single, from a merino/cashmere/nylon blend I had dyed for PortFiber and then couldn't bear to part with. 768 yards, 3 1/2 ounces.
I've still got about a pound of wool to spin for various other projects, and more knitting, and more designing, and did I mention the various jobs? Not to mention the music festivals, or the theatre in Deering Oaks, or the walks on the beach, or the. . .

It's going to be a lovely, busy summer.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Last Night's Reflections

(posted from LAX airport, while enjoying my first meal in the US in eight and a half months. My choice? Nachos and Cherry Coke. God bless America.):

It's my last day in New Zealand. To be totally correct, it's the penultimate hour before my flight leaves for LA. I'm sitting at the window in the Auckland airport, eating mediocre bacon and egg pie (my other option was Burger King, and I am NOT having my last meal on New Zealand soil be American fast food! So Kiwi fast food it is), and people-watching both inside and outside the terminal. Outside, it's drizzling: the slow, insistent, methodical haze that I've become familiar with throughout the New Zealand winter. It never rains, exactly, but everything has this misty halo surrounding it, a perpetual ring around the moon. I have, at times, missed the snow, but I think I can handle this, too.

When I was walking from the domestic terminal to the international one, I spotted, out front of the baggage claim, the bench where I had sat eight and a half months ago, waiting for the bus into Auckland and terrified out of my mind. Eight months seemed to loom in front of me, vast and unfillable, overwhelmingly foreign in its enormity and emptiness. I had people that I had contacted, sure, and a vague idea of where I was going first, but I was, for the most part, rootless. In the past eight months, however, I have put down those tiny little "soul-roots" that Anne talks about in Anne of the Island, those little anchors that have made this voyage utterly unforgettable. Building faery houses with the kids at Mangarara, curling up in an armchair at Betty's and knitting companionably, going for Sunday drives with Barb and Stuart through the mountain passes. There are little bits of me in each of those places, and I couldn't be happier about it.

One of the things that has surprised me most about this trip are those connections, actually; one of my bad habits in life is experiencing the experience, and taking new self-knowledge and ideas away from it, and then, detaching. I am terrible at keeping in touch with people, I usually visit places once, and I let things finish within that bubble. But this time, there is an idea that my time in New Zealand is by no means over. I have made family here, and, as you might have guessed, I am absolutely, hedonistically, head-over-heels in love with the landscape and the lifestyle. I had thought, prior to visiting, that it would be an excursion, and that would be it. Back to normal life. But now I know better, and I am glad to be proven wrong.

I've been saying goodbye to the country in my own way. I left Tally Ho on Thursday and spent the night in Queenstown, and then flew up to spend my last few days in Wellington. I can unabashedly state that I love love love Wellington in winter; it's mellow and quiet, and a heck of a lot warmer than Central Otago. I spent a lot of time reading, eating out at little restaurants on Cuba Street, and (shamefully) shopping, but also had a lot of time to just wander around.

Since it's the off-season for Wellington, there aren't many tourists around, which makes life wonderfully calm. I went to Te Papa again on Monday morning, and had most of the exhibitions to myself--which meant I finally got to try all the interactive games that I couldn't ever get close to before! I also got to curl up and people-watch in the cafe for a couple hours, lazily nibbling on a brownie (couldn't finish it, mom, too chocolaty) and reading the newspaper. Today, I went up in the cable car to the Botanical Gardens, and got as deliberately lost as possible, forgetting the city noise and traffic in a deep gully of native bush. Everyone at the hostel last night was aghast that I was chilling out rather than cramming as much in my last days as possible, but for me? Not seeing it now is just another excuse to make sure I come back later on.

So we're now approaching my final hour in New Zealand. The airport's getting quiet; mine is one of the last flights to go before it shuts down until morning. I have a good book to start, and a bunch of movies on my laptop to wade through as needed. Or, which is most likely, I think I'll just spend my last hour watching the rain fall and continuing to think how incredibly lucky I am to have had this journey. I can only hope that the journey is just beginning!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Winter Days at Tally Ho

Blogging on dial-up! This is a chancy proposition! But I wanted to check in and give you guys a little glimpse of my life down here. I'm going to have to put my writing skills to the test, since uploading pictures on this internet connection would take longer than I'd like to imagine. So:

Waking up in the mornings here is always a little hard; the hot water bottle that I've gone to sleep snuggling has finally gone cold, and the sun isn't yet sufficiently over the hills to warm the frost from the windowpanes. Looking out my window, still wrapped in as many blankets as I can manage to drag off my bed, I can see the ducks walking unsteadily across the paper-thin layer of ice that's frozen on the pond overnight. Everything is crystalline and fragile; the dogs, wandering across the frozen grass, leave dark footprints against the pale silver. After the first cup of tea of the day, things look a little sunnier, and I head over to the woolshed to either help run the carding machine, or to the cowshed to wash wool prior to carding.
The sun gradually melts all but the most stubborn frost during the day, so that, when I wander up the hill to the chickens or to the foals, I still stumble across patches of crunchy, hard earth amongst the mud. But the best part of the day comes in the late afternoon, when the sun falls behind the far hill and we scramble to finish the afternoon chores before dark. The temperature dips immediately, but the sun stays shining on the mountain range to the east, turning the snow and shadows there into the most delicate shades of pale yellow and lavender. When afternoon chores are done and the fire is lit in the living room, I am armed with yet another cup of tea (probably my fifth or sixth of the day), and I curl up on the couch to knit and watch the sun fade gradually on the mountains. My life revolves around wool, tea, sunlight, and fire, and I'm not sure I would change much of anything.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

In the absence of any real content. . .

Doom-digga-doom, digga-doom, digga-doom, PUPPY TIME!

I'm currently working 60-hour weeks at an apple-packing plant back in Central Otago, so Pip's puppies are about the most interesting thing going in my life right now!

(This is Ellie, who I am planning to smuggle back to the States. For reals.)

The apple season end in the middle to the end of May, and by then, I promise to have a life. And knitting and spinning content! Promise!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Oh, and P.S.

I forgot to add to the last post: since I'll be home in the coming fall, and therefore within driving distance and among interested parties, who's up for a roadtrip to Rhinebeck? =)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mid-Term Report and Mountains of FOs

On the 17th of February, one of my last days at Fleecewood, I hit the halfway point on my time here in New Zealand. It all seems a bit unreal that I'm on the downward slope of my visit, and that it will only be three more months before I'm on that plane back home. But in the meantime, here's the rundown of my time here so far, interspersed with fibery eye candy so no one gets bored.

Places I've WWOOFed: 6, with two visits to Betty in Nelson
Miles traveled around New Zealand: about 2,200 so far, all by bus!
Times ferried across the Cook Strait between the North and the South Island: 4

(Diagonally woven cowl, using leftover Noro Silk Garden Sock yarn.)

Animals I've worked with: sheep, both baby and adult (lots and lots and lots of sheep), cows, goats baby and adult, ducks baby and adult, chickens baby and adult, horses, both full-sized and miniature, dogs, cats, alpacas, and children!

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(felted cowl, nuno felted over woven remnants of sari fabric. Done at the Teapot Valley felting weekend.)

Most importantly, sheep and fiber breeds I've worked with: Romney, Suffolk, Perendale, Hokanui, Texel, Gotland, English Leicester, Fleecewood Leicester, NZ Halfbred, Karakul, huacaya alpaca, guanaco llama.

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(wet-felted scarf inset with diagonal weaving pieces, woven from more leftover Noro Silk Garden sock yarn.)

Big life decisions made: 1. In the last week or so at Fleecewood, I had a rather big crisis of conscience as to whether my intended path after my return home, namely, a graduate program in anthropology with a focus on non-profits, was the right thing for me. After all the work I've been doing in the fiber community both at home and here in New Zealand, did I really want to put that on the back burner in order to pursue an academic background? Every time I thought about an impending move to Montreal, the location of my chosen grad program, my interests lay more in how to find a place in the fiber community there than in how I would start to fit back in to academia.

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("Horizon Line", my favorite of my felted pieces from Teapot Valley. Wet-felted with inset diagonal weaving, and yarns on top ranging from wool boucle to op-shop mohair to my own handspun of the llama fiber I worked on last time I was at Betty's. These are the colors I see in New Zealand: deep, cornflower blue, steely slate grey, and burnished gold. And white sheep, of course!)

So one day at Fleecewood, I wandered up to the top paddock, the only place on the farm with cell phone reception, and spent an hour swatting away sandflies and talking with my parents about my life path. My time in New Zealand had given me so many ideas for where I could take a business in the fiber industry, and made me feel that it was not unrealistic that I could accomplish them. But if McGill said yes, then I would feel obliged to go. But even if I could come to a decision at this point, I wouldn't hear back from McGill for another couple weeks at least. So I had to sit on it and wait. Which I am really, really not good at.


(The last piece I felted during the weekend, when my brain was shot and I was tired of thinking of composition and color. I like to call this one "The Artwork on the Wall at the Motel 6 in Hoboken, Felted".)

So I gritted my teeth, and sat on it, and waited. I went to the felting weekend (which was amazing, by the way), and had some amazing conversations about marketing and distributing spinner's fleeces to the U.S market. I went back to Betty's, and spun my natural-dyed wool like a demon, and ate plums straight off the tree, practiced driving on the wrong side of the road, and watched lots of bad tv. One Saturday, I went downtown to check my e-mail and run errands, and there was a letter from McGill in my inbox. Basically, "thanks, but no thanks." Now, when I had, earlier in the year, imagined getting a rejection letter from them, I had planned gales of tears--this was my life plan! How dare they! But now, I looked at it, went "hmm," finished my tea, and went off the market.

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(A shawl, pre-blocking and on the blocking board, handspun from some of Betty's alpaca and llama, blended with wool and silk, and knit from a lace pattern I designed a couple months ago.)

The next day, I called home again and spent about an hour and a half putting together business plans so that I can hit the ground running when I come home to Maine. Because, if there's one thing I've learned in my time down here, it's that I can travel all I want, but Maine will always be the place I have to come back to. It's too much in my blood now for me to stay away. So I'm coming back to Portland to stay, and to keep working in the fiber community. I've got my eye on a couple online master's programs, so that's not completely out of my plans, but I am so, so incredibly happy that I am able to pursue the career of my dreams in a place I love.


(Shawl, now named "Poecilasthena" after a native New Zealand moth, post-blocking. This stayed with Betty, as a thank you for taking such good care of me during my time there. She's made me promise to come back, and, as the rest of my time on this trip is booked, I guess I'll just have to start planning another trip down here!)

And now? I'm in Wellington for the weekend to see an Amanda Palmer concert and a Neil Gaiman talk. I'm off in twenty minutes to see Alice in Wonderland. On Sunday I fly back down to Central Otago to start up work at an apple-packing place while boarding at Tally Ho. Life is really, really good.

Oh, and you remember the fiber I worked on last time I was at Betty's? Pablo, the exquisite llama? It's been blended with wool and silk and spun by Beth, an 85-year-old woman who's been spinning for about twice as long as I've been alive. Take a look:


Oh, baby.