Friday, August 31, 2007

WIP and new toys

One of my sister-in-law's best friends who has three daughters has - over the last 4 years - very generously been handing down their gorgeous clothes that Erika now wears. This summer- I swear - Erika had 52 t-shirts. She didn't wear them all because she would always gravitate towards her top 10 favorites.

As a thank you, I'm knitting a pair of socks for each of the girls. The two youngest girls favorite color is Orange and the oldest's favorite colours are Purple and Green.

For the orange, I'm using Regia Nordic colors and am loving the yarn, the colors and how the end-product looks. It's also got the bonus of being machine washable! I've got one and a half socks done for the smallest daughter. I might put a picot edge for the middle girl, but am not sure.

For the oldest, I'm waiting for my order from Blue Moon - A lightweight Nodding Violet. I can't wait! It's been shipped so I'm hoping I'll get it soon.

I also got these in the mail the other day...

I'd ordered this handy dandy needle holder (actually two of them) so that I could keep my needles in check when I'm not knitting with them. I love it. It's so handy to be able to neatly tuck my needles into their new tin case (made by hand by a tinsmith). If you want some, go to Woolworks. They're awesome!!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Wow - two weeks behind

About two weeks ago, we went up to the family cottage just north of Ottawa for a relaxing weekend. It was nice to get away from the city for a while, to swim in the lake and be one with nature. We went with another family who have 3 little boys (all under 4 years) so there wasn't much knitting time. I did manage to snap a pic of the finished STR socks I finished recently. These are the same socks that went around Alberta with us.

The color is more accurate in the picture below, but I just love the composition of the sock with the lake in the background above. So, since I can, I'm posting both. :-)

So there I was at the cottage, where I've been going for the last 34 years of my life, and I saw something that's been there all of my life, but I'd never really paid attention to.

It looks like a spinning wheel, it feels like a spinning wheel, it has spun wool on it, so I'm guessing that this is a spinning wheel. Not being a spinner (but wanting to try), I'm wondering if anyone has used a wheel like this.

Here is a closeup. Now the question is - do I bring this thing home? The base is super-heavy (made of cast iron, I think). Would it be usable to spin, or would I get frustrated with this?

In other knitting news... I'm still working on the shawl for my mom, and it's still a stealth project. So far, it's turning out to be quite gorgeous. I love the yarn and the pattern. It's just getting longer and longer to do each row (as was expected) so I need to give myself a little push to get it done. I will be showing the unfinished project to my mother on the weekend, since it will be her birthday party, but will then need to give a good push to finish the thing.

I've also cast on for some orange socks as a thank you present for a friend who gave us a lot of clothes for Erika. Photo coming soon. These are going quickly, since they're for a 5-6 year old girl. There is just not enough knitting time in the day! These days, I get on average 1/2 an hour of knitting time per day which is just not enough to get any significant progress on any projects.

Note to self - when the camera is out - take pictures of the knitting not just the cute kids around me!!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Alberta trip - part three

After seeing more of Alberta, including many pump-jacks,

a visit to the hoo-doos and Drumheller (including the awesome Tyrell Museum), we were sadly nearing the end of our trip.

We planned to fly out of Edmonton, which allowed us some time to stop in Carstairs to visit the Custom Woolen Mill.

I was in shock. I'd heard from my father - who has visited before - that this was a cool place to visit. I expected to see wool being processed, but really didn't expect to see the machines that I did.

These machines are from the 1800s, and were brought to rural Alberta by Bill and Fen more than 25 years ago. The whole history is available on their site.

What a fun place to visit. It's in the middle of nowhere, luckily we knew about it, and it wasn't too much out of the way on our drive to Edmonton. It's definitely worth the detour if you're in the area.

As we drove up, I saw a few barns, and it looked like any other farm in Alberta. Then I saw the wool shop, and the bags of wool. I knew I was in heaven.

As we walked into the processing plant, it was like we were walking into a part of history. It wasn't a big huge commercial wool processing plant. Actually, when I walked in, there was no one there to greet us 'officially', you just kind of walk in to the wool washing room. When we asked one of the people there if we should just walk around, she asked a nice looking gentleman (with a hand-knitted hat) to show us around the place. It wasn't until later that I realized that he was one of the owners.

I didn't get any pictures of the washing process, because it was too hot and humid and my camera got all fogged up. Here is the washed yarn getting ready to be carded.

After the wool is washed in two different baths to remove the lanolin, it goes to the carding machines. They can either card it into roving for you crazy spinners out there (actually I have a spinning question coming in the next post), or they can card it into batting for making quilts (which they also make on the premises).

After the wool is carded, it's spun into singles on the spinning mule. They can spin up to 192 bobbins at a time.

I was fascinated by the process. The bobbins go back and forth on the floor on special tracks. This allows the wool to be spun, and then is relaxed as the spinning mule goes back on its tracks.

After the singles are spun, it can also be plied into 2 or 3 ply yarn. I didn't get a picture of the plying machine :(

They sell all of the yarns in the yarn store, but they also make their own socks there using these funky sock knitting machines. The lady (I forget her name - I should really write this stuff down) showed us how the socks were made on these machines. I think she said that she could make one sock in about 3 MINUTES!!! I can't even cast on for a sock in 3 minutes.

It was pretty cool, the machine does the leg of the sock, turns the heel (some version of a short row heel) and then goes on to make the foot. The toe is another short-row toe, which is then sewn together on another machine. I was tempted to buy a pair of ready made socks, but decided to get the alpaca sock yarn instead and make the socks myself.

Here we see three socks that just came off the machine. They're sewn together using a clear thread by the sock knitting machine so that the stitches don't get dropped, but the clear thread gets cut off during the finishing process.

There are these funky little remnants from each sock that they give/sell to a local artist who makes rugs and other things with them. Erika got a few to play with, and was tickled pink. She was amused for almost an hour with these things.

We then got to go to the quilting room where they make their mattress covers and quilts using the same techniques that were used 50 years ago. There is a pattern that is made into a wooden template.

This is then outlined with spikes as a guide, and the sewing head is attached to an arm that travels along the spikes to sew the pattern. It has to be reset to a different part of the pattern a few times in the process so that the whole quilt has design on it.

I had gone to the mill with the intention of buying enough of the Alpaca Lopi to make myself a sweater, but ended up walking out with an entirely different set of purchases. (though I will be making an order for some of the Alpaca Lopi sometime this winter if anyone is interested).

My dad's neighbor raises Alpaca and has the Alpaca wool spun here, so I thought it would be neat to have a sweater made from an animal that I've actually seen in person.

I saw a cute sweater kit for Erika for $35 (yes, $35 for a whole sweater kit!!),

some alpaca sock yarn, (enough for two pair of socks)

the kit for the hat that Bill was wearing (I couldn't resist),

a kit for some funky socks (socks of many colors)

and a whole bunch of belly button warmers.

These belly button warmers are the coolest wool shop advertising I've ever seen. On the back, there's a brief - and humourous - description of how the belly button warmer can be used and the contact information for the mill.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Alberta Trip - part deux

After our first tour of southern Alberta, where we went to Dinosaur provincial park, Writing on Stone provincial park (that was way cool) and Waterton provincial park - where the sock was just too stunned by the beauty of the place - we went back to Cochrane for a few days of rest at my father's place. [ it should be noted that in our vocabulary, rest means going to Stampede, going wool shopping, going to brunch, and generally not resting]

I had heard about the Make 1 yarns trip to the mountains for a knitting retreat, and if they're still doing it in 5 years, I'll probably go on one then when Erika is bigger - but I just had to go and visit their store.


This was more than I had bargained for. They had all of the yarns that people drool over on blogland - misty alpaca, Malabrigo, Alchemy yarns, Rowan, Lorna's Laces, and tons of other hand painted or hand dyed yarns that I hadn't even heard of (but loved none the less). If ever you find yourself anywhere near Calgary, you NEED to go to this store [with your credit card].

The store had just (and by just, I mean the day before) re-opened after a week's worth of renovations. Most of the yarn was still in bags, as the dusty part of the renovations had only finished the day before. I'm sure the store looks much more put-together now, but this is what it looked like when I was there.

I was helped by the lovely Amy, one of the store's owners. I felt totally at home there, was allowed to fondle as much yarn as I wanted, and they even had a little chair with crayons for Erika to color so I could concentrate on the yarn.

I have been wanting for the longest time to make a "Moderne Blanket" in blues with a hint of orange. Amy spent quite some time helping me find the right yarn. First, we were going with some wool (I dont' remember the type) but the orange they had was too vibrant. In the end, I got some Misty Alpaca in cream, light blue, dark blue and orange. I've done a couple of sketches and think it will look pretty snazzy when it's all done.

It's so soft...I wish you could feel it through the screen.

I also got a Cornelia Tuttle Hamilton Noro book that I've been looking for in Montreal, but no one has it anymore and a skein of some lovely purple hand painted superwash/mohair. Not sure what I'll do with this one, but as soon as I saw it, I needed it.

The day before the yarn store, Dave had found out about a shop that specializes in Acoustic Guitars. I felt less guilty about buying alpaca for a blanket after he bought himself a new guitar. Let's just say that the cheapest guitar in the shop was just over $1000, and Dave didn't get the cheapest one.

Next post - Alberta trip part 3 where I go to a tour of the Custom Woolen Mills.