It has been since I last bought yarn!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Field Trip!

(Make yourself a cup of tea, this is going to be a long, but interesting post!)

Last Friday I took the day off, and MiL and I drove out to Carstairs to check out Custom Woolen Mills. It was a lovely way to spend a day off and a really interesting little trip, so I thought I'd share it with you.

Firstly, I have to admit that the trip did not start off on the right foot. Carstairs is about an hour outside of Calgary, and as we turned off on to a lovely paved highway, we passed a semi, which left us this souvenir of our trip...


Yes. That's an enormous rock chip, that was flung at the car my husband nearly loves as much as he loves me. If one looks on the bright side in these situations, one will be thankful for the fact that the enormous (it was HUGE) rock did not go through the window... taking out my Mother in Law and the fact that it did not bounce off any other part of the car damaging the body.*

We did not let this set back deter our interst in seeing the wool, so we forged ahead- I suppose if something is going to happen to your BMW, the best witness to your innocence in the situation is your Mother in Law!

Driving up on the property we stopped in the shop, where we were told to check out the washing/spinning first. And so, we stepped into the barn with a very SHEEPY smell and checked out the raw wool being washed.


This is not the most beautiful of operating plants I've seen, but it certainly is efficient! The fleece (on the right) is fed into the red machine, and then taken for a very hot steamy, gentle bath throught a long trough. This way the veg matter is mostly washed out and the fleece is cleaned.


Mmmmm clean, wet fleece. The fleece is then dried and moved over to the carding machine to comb it out and create bats.


Don't you just want to jump into that fluffy pile of clean fleece? Look at the fibers in the top right hand corner hanging off the lamp! That cracked both MiL and I up, fiber must get kicked up over time and collect on the lights. (Although one can't help but wonder if that's a fire hazard?) Once the fleece is carded, it's ready for spinning.


MiL and I are not spinners... but you can't help but appreciate the grand scale to which this is done! On the left there are many spools unto which the yarn (looks like it's blue) is spun. Down the middle the spun yarn is then spun into it's weight, the strands joined in double, triple, quatruple etc to make yarn. It's quite the operation.

We also stopped into to check out the sock knitting process. Custom Woolen Mills makes a bunch of machine knit, wool socks for customers. The gentleman demonstrating this showed us the sock knitting machine.


This machine cranks out a long tube of socks that look like this.


My understanding that these machines, when working properly (they apparently tend to break down reasonably often) can crank out up to 200 socks a day. That left both MiL and I feeling highly inadequate in our sock knitting skills! The gentleman in the "Mind Closed Until Further Notice" t-shirt then seperates the socks and sews up the toes and gets them ready for packaging.

After inhaling sheep fumes and getting a really good understanding of what goes into producing yarn, we enjoyed the RARE sunshine outside to check out the barn area and all the fleeces that are waiting to be processed.


There are a lot of fleeces!! These are seperated into different sheep categories like romney, merino etc. ("Insul" is crappy wool that doesn't make nice yarn, so they sell it for insulation.) This wool is labelled with information about where it's from etc. This one in particular caught our attention.


One can't help but wonder what exactly is meant by "Felted Horror" but it certainly made us giggle. I was also particularly compelled to steal this particular bundle.


Newby alpaca. *slobber* It reminds me of the time I knit those alpaca mittens for my father in law and how very soft the yarn was!


We also had a chance to touch and feel various raw fleeces that were there. I have to admit, I love the feel of a raw fleece. All that lovely lanolin in it, it immediately makes your fingers feel so soft to touch. We learned about the different "crimps" in wool and got to feel the difference between a "good fleece" and a "bad fleece".

Rounding out our visist, we also got to step into the store, to be tempted by the various wools they had spun.


I was going to allow myself a purchase, however I had a very specific need in mind. I want to make some cute dog walking mittens for my sister and needed fingering weight yarn. Sadly Custom Woolen Mills didn't have any in that weight- so both MiL and I walked away unscathed.

We had a great time at Custom, despite the "rocky" start. (Bad pun alert!) I think we both found the operation fascinating, and it kind of personalizes the yarn you are buying a little more.

I did end up buying the yarn for my sister's mittens at an impromtu stop at Pudding last Friday. But we can discuss that another day. There has also been knitting progress here at Chateau Nennie.


The Goodale sweater is ready for blocking today, and after I post this, I will be pinning that up! There isn't much left after the blocking, but a Sept finish is looking unlikely. I'm still proud of myself though, I made room for plenty of new fall project beginnings this month and it feels good to be looking forward to something new.


I also started a lace shawl, which I know was against the rules for Sept, but this last Wednesday was just an all round, utterly CRAP day. The only way I could turn the day around was to pull out the cashmere and knit it. Some days are only fixable with the addition of cashmere. That was Wed!

Progress and the opportunity to cast on new projects will be on hold this week, as I prepare to write the CHRP exam. All knitting time will be devoted to studying (SOBS UNCONTROLLABLY). I will not allow myself swatches or ANYTHING for projects I want to cast on for the fall, until after the morning of Oct 2. If you think about it.... send me a little luck that day okay?

*Husband must be credited for handling the news as well as he did. Was he happy? No. But he did not get angry with me, understanding it was not my fault and also choosing to look on the bright side that no one was hurt and that no other part of the car suffered injury. On the downside- the windshield is not repairable- and will need to be replaced.


Robin said...

How sad about the car. It's lucky you both survived. I'm a day late with luck but knowing you I think you probably did very well. Now go enjoy your beautiful lace shawl.

forever said...

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