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.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Rain Delay

**Is your name SarahDobbs? See the PS BELOW!**
As promised from before, September is a month to finish things... and true to my word, I've got another "thing" to show you.

Truthfully, I've been trying to show you these since Sept 10th, when they were actually finished but the weather, which can only be described as utterly DISMAL, has been so overcast, and so DARK, that I couldn't get home in time to take a picture in natural light. THERE HAS BEEN NO LIGHT, for so many days.

Thankfully- I have the relief of a finished item distracting me from all the gloomy skies outside!


Pattern: Ellington Socks by Cookie A
Yarn: Estelle Arequipa in colorway 213 Pale Pink
Needles: US 2
Listening To: These have been on the needles since April 11th (!!!), mostly living in my purse. So these socks have listened to a lot of lunch banter between Anne, Mel and myself. But for the final knitting push to finish these, I listened to my latest audio book: One Day by David Nicholls. (PS- I'm Loving It!)
Notes: I knit the "Medium" size for this pattern. They fit well in the leg, but go high up the calves and fit fairly tight. Were I to do it all again- I'd go up a needle size for the cuff, just for extra stretchy room. Also, this pattern is not for the faint of heart. I had more than one "frogging" sessions of "rip it rip it" when it came to this pattern. Cookie's patterns are GREAT, there is nothing wrong with what you purchase, but she sure isn't afraid to challenge you with a big chart or several decreases.

The fronts of these socks are stunners!


And it seems almost criminal to cover up the toes! And well, I have to admit, almost makes me think "I think I'm ok at this knitting thing!"


Lest you should think that the rain delay has delayed any other knitting, Goodale is seeing some healthy progress and maybe, just maybe, starting to inch toward the finished line also!


Hopefully I won't have to wait EIGHT days for a flicker of sunshine to poke through to show you it when it's finished.

Must get back to knitting away furiously to finish up my projects. MiL and I are heading out to Custom Woolen Mills tomorrow for a little field trip and I worry that I could fall off the yarn buying wagon again!

PS- Sarahdobbs, who left me a comment on my blog regarding my leaf blanket, I don't have a way (email, or a blog link) to respond to you! Anyways, on the off chance that you're reading this- I cast on 161 stitches for the blanket in order to do an extra row of leaf repeats. Hope that helps!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Nennie For the Win!


So. It’s done. The last end is woven in and contrary to popular belief, I did not DIE from having to weave in all those ends. In fact, I didn’t even break out in a rash… although my brain may have attempted to go on strike a few dozen times. And, despite the ends, I’m still really pleased with this blanket.


Pattern: Princess Squares Blanket by Pam Allen
Yarn: Navy (Sirdar Snuggly DK 0224)
Red (Sirdar Snuggly DK 0242)
Orange (S.R. Kertzer Northern Sport 950109)
Yellow (Schachenmayr Nomatta Bravo Baby 122)
Green (Sirdar Snuggly DK 414)
Blue (Sirdar Snuggly DK 415)
Purple (unknown something I picked up at Pudding)
Needles: US 7
Listened To: Craftlit’s Persuasion by Jane Austen and The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
Notes: Knit 2 extra panels of this blanket to make it more the standard size I like. This yarn was fine to knit with- but it’s not my favorite acrylic in the world, I’m not sure I would use it again.
Made For: The Adorable Owen.

I was amazed how quick this project knit and the fact that not once was I bored by the endless garter stitching. I’ll say that again- I didn’t tire of knitting every stitch. I think that says something about how I needed a brain break from all the blankets I knit for Stampede!! If I do this again, I’d think harder and longer about how I could do this with less ends to weave in because…


DAMN people, that was at lot of ends. (Yes, this is the remains of every end I sewed in on that blanket… it’s okay to be wowed by my awesome-ness.) It was a lot. It was more than I thought and I’m proud of myself for instituting the “must weave in the ends after each panel now” rule. If I had to weave in all the ends at the end- I wouldn’t have finished. I would have put this blanket somewhere in a box and never looked at it again. I need to move past the ends… it’s time to let it go.

And, since I’m the kind of person who always wonders when I see other photos of these kinds of projects- here’s a pic of what the blanket looks like on the other side.


I was concerned it might be too bumpy, but the ridges (from picking up the stitches) don’t actually stick out that much and this blanket thankfully didn’t need a back sewn on.

One more shot of this lovely project, with it’s bright and cheerful colors and I’m ready to move on!


What’s next? Well, as mentioned previously there are some summer projects that need tying up. I’m aiming for a September finish-a-thon, and hope that each week I can show you another project off the needles, clearing up the queue for October. And then, it’s smooth sailing! There are 2 more blankets I’d like to get going, but I’m less in “panic” mode for those- but starting new projects is SO exciting and I’m looking forward to a little selfish knitting in Oct.

What are you “finishing” this September?