Sunday, April 25, 2010

Socks to Dye For

I don't knit. Well hardly ever. When I do knit, it usually ends in a 3/4s done project or a mass of knotted fibres heaped into a bag for years as if expecting a fibre fairy to find it, fix it and finish it ... fabulously. Once in a while something gets completed and a poor soul has to live with my project. The last one was felted slippers for my father. Even after felting they are still size 22. Not exactly something that at age 80 his size 9's will ever grow into. 
So I am not sure how on earth I ended up in a socks-to-dye-for workshop. Socks for pete's sake! With heels and toes! But wait. I am getting ahead of myself. I never promised to actually knit socks, although the thought is festering in my mind. The inspiration came from the idea of dying the yarn to knit the socks. It's not your average dye job. The white yarn for the socks is knit two strands together into a long rectangular block which is then dyed. There is enough yarn in the block to unravel and re-knit into two socks, guaranteeing that each sock will have the exact same dye job. I even bought the sock blank already knitted. My now dyed sock blank just needs a sock knitter, someone with a knack of knowing how to turn a heel, and once I have found a sock knitter, then I'll re-post this blog entry and add the finished product. In the meantime, the picture above is the dyed sock blank...dyed in manly colours.
Posting date has been back dated for when it should have been posted.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A quick visit to a local fibre processing mill

I went off to Qualicum to visit Anna at her fibre processing mill. Three years ago she bought a carding machine built in the late 1800's and it still runs like a purring cat. smoooooth. She added a roving machine, a pin drafter, a spinning machine and a cone and skein winder. Meanwhile she has sheep fleeces stashed all over her shop. It's a very interesting enterprise and she only just makes a living at it but it must be hard. She is running a farm, is taking care of her mother and runs all these machines herself with only one helper two days a week. I hope she makes a go of it as we need these types of entrepreneurs around.
I left her with 4.5lbs of white, washed Corriedale x Suffolk fleece and I hope to pick up around 4lbs of pin drafted roving, ready to dye and/or spin, in about a month.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Cowichan Knitting - Fleece questions

I wonder what type of sheep fleece were traditionally used for Cowichan Sweaters. Judith MacKenzie McCuin, spinner extroidinaire and author of a couple of recent spinning books, told me years ago that she thought the sheep were a mixed breed of down sheep, that had adapted to the Cowichan Valley area. They would produce fibres that had a lot of crimp which would produce yarn that is light, holds insulating air, hence very warm and bulky without the weight. They also had a lot of lanolin which was kept in during the spinning to make a very rain resistant garment. I remember her telling me that a friend, Marg Meikle (who took the photo on the left), also known as Canada's Answer Lady (from the CBC) had researched Cowichan knitting and had written a small book on the subject.   So I contacted Marg. Marg has had Parkinson's for over a dozen years now, but that hasn't infected her famous 'need-to-know' drive. Marg told me that she had uploaded her book to wikipedia, and sure enough, there it is (all 78 meg worth). But in Marg Meikle's book that accompanied a Cowichan Sweater exhibit that traveled across Canada in 1986, it was mentioned that traditional sweaters were very heavy and that helped prevent commercial knitting machines from replicating the Cowichan knitting. I wonder if they really were heavy or if it was the lanolin that prevented machines from duplicating the yarn? Anyone know?
If you'd like to download Marg's book, click on this link and ignore all the ads as you don't have to buy anything to download it, you just need patience for it to start downloading. After a 30 sec pause in which they hope you will have second thought and buy something, it will start downloading but beware, it is 76meg, so if you have a slow connection it will take a while.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

A Stormy Good Friday

We had one of the strongest wind storms this year. The waves in front were 3+ foot. Doesn't sound like much unless you are on them. And very few people were. Two sailboats close by needed rescuing. A crew of six were tossed into the seas but rescue was close by. The Protection Island foot passenger ferry cancelled it's run. The BC Ferries sent one or two ferries across but windows were broken, bow doors damaged and the rest of the runs were cancelled. Float planes were also cancelled and we were cut off from the world....or maybe It's more correct to say the world was cut off from us, since we had a boat and someone willing to pilot it across the harbour to pick up my parents who couldn't get here. My mother arrived looking like a drowned rat. Despite a canvas cover, the waves came over the bow, flew up the window and up and under the canvas top and landed on her. Her purse also gained a puddle of salt water.
But I stayed home and got a stack of fleece processed. I am trying to get enough supply on hand to keep me going at a spinning retreat on Quadra Island at the end of the month. Here's Gotland fleece in various stages.