While there are many links and shares on Facebook that I won't remember hours later, much less days later, there was one posted before I left for Nepal that demonstrated a Russian join for yarn. It seems to make a nearly invisible and very strong join of the yarn, so I felt it was worthwhile to remember and pass along. On YouTube, there are many videos demonstrating this join, so I selected one to share here.
I hope you enjoy!
While at Fiber College of Maine this fall, one of my teachers demonstrated Portuguese knitting. In this style of knitting, as opposed to Continental or American styles, one wears a hook pinned to the left shoulder, or drapes the yarn around one's neck, right to left. The yarn is tensioned over the right middle finger, and the left thumb is used to flick the yarn over the needle to create the new stitch.
I tried this technique because of my broken left wrist, thinking it would take motion and pressure off my wrist. I do believe it did that, but more importantly in the long run, I feel my knit and purl stitches are far more even and don't "row out" using this method. I'm working on some BSJ for new baby gifts and Christmas gifts, and am enjoying doing garter as all purls instead of all knits with the Portuguese style of knitting.
Andrea Wong, who is shown in the video knitting, sells the Portuguese knitting pins on her website. I hope you have fun with this as I did!
Upcoming, I am making a trip to Nepal in October. The trip is shamanic minded people, with the intent to study with a multi-generational Nepalese shaman, Bhola N. Banstola, observe and participate in indigenous Nepalese shamanic work and see Nepal from a non-tourist point-of-view.
I am making a group E-mail list so that I can send updates about our journey to many people with a single writing. If you are interested in being included on that list, please contact me. dianna(dot)L(dot)branson(at)gmail(dot)com or Loretta Purl on FB.
The flights will take 24 hours each way, and the trip is 13 total days. I've gotten a water filtration/treatment bottle, silk sleep sack, power adaptors, travel towel, travel clothesline (braided so one sticks the item between the braid strands instead of using clothes pins), two pair of travel pants that look decent, have zippered pockets and most importantly, should dry overnight. Travel blanket already owned. Quick dry other things on the take list (heavy things that take drying time are staying home). I need a stuff sack for the cords and charging cords yet, but I can always use zip lock bags for those as well. I did upgrade my camera to a "bridge" camera - the Nikon P510 - that has an amazing zoom lens (to 1000mm equivalent but uses digital zoom rather than optical zoom). I am hoping to get some picture time in this week to familiarize myself with the camera and teach myself to do some good stuff with it.
I will see if I can download pictures onto my iPad and use that to post on the blog. If not, I will do a series when I return home.
With my broken left wrist, knitting, spinning and weaving are extremely limited for me right now. A few minutes of spinning or knitting (haven't tried weaving) causes soreness and aching for hours. Between that and the discussion with the hand orthopedist about the high probability that due to the nature of my fracture, I will have long term "significant" arthritis issues in that wrist, I am truly trying to behave and not stress it during the healing process.
I have ordered a Shetland knitting belt and the long double pointed needles it requires in hopes that the left sided support from the belt might make knitting in my recovery easier and less painful. While the belt is due to arrive this week, it isn't here yet. Schoolhouse Press used to carry them, and for probably over 25 years, I've wanted to buy one. Now that I can justify the purchase, of course Schoolhouse Press no longer carries them. I did find them through Jamieson & Smith's website.
While at Fiber College of Maine, one of my instructors, Mary Lou Eagan, demonstrated how to knit in the Portuguese fashion. Using this technique, the yarn is either looped through a hook on the left shoulder, or aroun the neck from right to left. The stitches are approached in the usual fashion, but brought up to the front, where the left thum flips the yarn around the needle and one slips the new stich back through and off the left needle. Andrea Wong has a website that sells the hooks and she has been on TV demonstrating this technique. A YouTube video of Portuguese knitting shows the technique.
I've been trying it out tonight. It truly does seem to inflict less stress on the left wrist. My tension is tighter with this style of knitting than my usual loose-ish knitting in a hybrid Continental style of my own unvention.
The photos of the knitting pins are from Andrea Wong's website.
And so, my knitting education and my intermittent intensive reading of historial and ethnic knitting techniques and tools continues.... It's always nice to be able to completely justify the purchase of some historical fiber equipment!
While camping at Searsport Shores Ocean Campground during Fiber College of Maine, Laila, Sara & I decided to take a short road trip down the road to visit Swans Island Blankets. The blankets are made from regional sheep, spun at Green Mountain Spinnery, then dyed with natural dyes and woven here in Maine.
They have scarves, stoles, baby blankets, throws, summer & winter weight blankets in many colors - stripes and checks. The dye building was made with special care to not contaminate the environment as well. The big rings the yarn hangs to dry from are the rings in lobster trap openings for $0.20 instead of $12 for the custom made ones originally used.
The venue for Fiber College of Maine is Searsport Shores Ocean Campground. Laila, Sara & I strolled around today to check things out. There is a studio with an artist in residence, dyers' garden, Beehive bunkhouse, Fairy & Toad house and fiber goats. Lawn sculpture icludes a large triangle loom, a tapestry loom and a woven reed or twig basket. The camp store sells dyed locks of fiber by the ounce. There are crocheted party dresses hanging in the garden.
Astrig, the campground owner & Fiber College organizer, indicated that she has learned to spin drafting with her left hand, hoding fiber betweem her index & third fingers. Later today, I am going to give it a try. And I'm goint to try to learn how to crochet with a clearly impaired hand,,,, wush me luck!
Right now there are two Great wheels in the studio loft, one of which will be auctioned off during Fiber College. There will be a Rio Grande wheel for the Great Wheel spinning class as well. The natural dyeing instructor, Jackie Ottino Graf, is reportedly phenominal. There is a class in reading Japanese knitting patterns, bookbinding (Purple Bean Bindery), woodcarving, Navajo spindling, etc. Lots going on with Phenomenal instructors.
The first night set an unusual (we hope) tone as I tripped over a guy wire to the tent fly & broke my arm. No spinning, knitting or weaving for the foreseable future for me. We tied these glosticks to the guywires to mark them for others..
Laila met a >300 lb white rabbit last night who was wearing a pink tutu skirt...and our neighbors have a lamppost decorated with Christmas things. He is this year's "artist in residence" here at Searsport Shores Ocean Campground & does macrame & chainmail. She does mostly care & feeding of antique quilts. The artist is residence gets camping space & use of the studio here at the campground.
Astrig, the campground owner & organizer for Fiber College of Maine dropped by last night with beautiful red posies after she heard I broke my arm. She assured me it is still worthwhile attending my classes due to A) the nature of my classes and B) the nature of the teachers. It's all good!
Last year, I tent camped in Acadia National Park with two fiber buddies, Laila and NH Sara. I "met" Sara through blogging, and physically met up at Fiber Revival in 2009. At Fiber Revival, Sara told me about the Vermont Knitting Retreat. Sara & I attended that in 2010 where we met Laila. Laila moved to the USA from Sweden at the age of 14. Sara knits & weaves. Laila knits and weaves and now dyes (our dye weekend was at her daughter's place in Vermont).
The three of us met up again in 2011 at the Vermont Knitting Retreat. Both of those retreats ended with a tour of Gilead Fiber Farm owned by Laila's daughter, Kristen. We then added SPA to our meetups, sharing a room and enjoying each other's company. Then we started adding in weekend get-togethers for events such as NH Sheep & Wool and Green Mountain Fiber Festival in White River Junction, VT or simply gathering at Laila's house for a weekend of being fiber junkies and friends.
Last August we got together and tent camped for a week, using the now-becoming-infamous three room Sam's Club find tent I own. While I'm not certain that Laila and Sara were really hyped about the idea of spending a week in a tent camping, they were good sports & it all turned out well. We have a fiber-shanty-away-from-home to use for events like the VT dye weekend, and our now annual week of tent camping.
Last year was the first time I attended Fiber College of Maine despite the fact I live only 25 miles away from the campground where it is held. I took two classes from Mary Jane Mucklestone in Fair Isle and Andean colorwork, a class from Josette McWilliams of Enchanted Knoll Farm and a wood carving class where I made myself a wood spirit staff.
Enter this year's plans for our now annual camping trip, and we decided to dovetail our week of camping with Fiber College and pitch the tent at the facility hosting Fiber College, Searsport Shores Ocean Campground. We have a screen room, camp kitchen, LED Coleman quad light, 2 queen sized air mattresses (and the cigarette lighter pump to fill them), two burner camp stove and the tent. While I don't have a rain fly for the screen room, we move indoors to the "living room" of the tent during rainy times and the screen room otherwise.
I'm taking classes in A) Navajo spinning B) Introduction to Japanese patterns C) spinning on a Great Wheel and D) photography for knitters. I believe Sara is making a dragon. Laila is along for the ride (saving pennies for a trip to Australian this winter, with plans to meet David of Southern Cross Fibre. We have Krysta (Banrion on Rav) and "the other Sara" from Maine (knitmainea on Rav) joining us the last weekend, and even Lisa (knitnzu on Rav) for a day.
I'll be moving Gamma (my daughter Kille's youngest brother - the other two are "Alpha" and "Beta") and his girlfriend into their apartment Saturday morning (using the pickup I now own and the new-to-me horse trailer), then they will follow me to camp to help me set it up. Hopefully when Laila and Sara get there, it'll all be up and ready, and there will be an adult beverage and hors d'ouevres waiting...Just saying that horse trailers (power washed out) are fabulous pieces of equipment to have when moving college students in and out of places..
I'll be posting the adventures of the nomadic fiber trio as the week progresses..
Ever since returning from the Gilead Dye weekend at Gilead Fiber Farm (Etsy shop here) in Vermont last month, I seek dye plant materials every time I venture outdoors. On my own road, I've discovered burdock (roots can be used for dyeing), stinging nettles, goldenrod, Queen Anne's lace and staghorn sumac (leaves and berries). I even have a dead apple tree on my land I am considering using for a dye bath.
My friend, Sissy, has a number of acres of land, abutting to land of both her brothers and her mom. I went there (with permission of course) and gathered Queen Anne's lace, tansy, jewel week, rose hips and goldenrod to make dye baths from. Sissy has been weeding out her jewel weed, but will now save it for me & dyeing. I am hoping to even do an experiment with the more abundant materials comparing freshly gathered vs frozen vs dried materials and the results. Kristen of Gilead Fiber Farm mentioned that one can cook down the plants in a dye bath as usual, but store the hot dye bath after straining out the plant matter, in canning jars in a dark closet away from light. Then when one is ready to dye or has the fiber ready, the dye bath can be used at that time for dyeing. She has had success storing the dye materials in that form. Some dyebaths she has had success with even after two years of such storage.
So, I splurged and bought myself a huge stainless steel pot for cooking dye materials, a big metal strainer, a large funnel (in the auto department at Wal-Mart), and canning jars in various sizes to use for dyeing. I was too over-eager to wait for a large stainless steel dye suitable pot to show up at Goodwill or Salvation Army (although I did go looking, but got too impatient). I am hoping to get these materials cooked, frozen or dried before I leave for my second annual camping/fiber week with fiber buddies Laila and NH Sara next week. Last year, we stayed in Acadia in my three room tent (a Sam's Club special a number of years ago - suitable only for car camping but perfect for this purpose) in early August. This year, we are dovetailing into Fiber College of Maine in Searsport, ME at Searsport Shores Ocean Campground. Still in the three room tent, which also made its appearance at the dye weekend in Vermont, we have the original three of us fiber nuts plus Laila's dog, Lily (a Yorkie) plus on the Fiber College weekend, we will have Krysta and the other Sara (Maine) joining us. I have a camp kitchen (to keep all the cooking stuff off the picnic table), a screen room (but no rain protection other than the roof there), and the tent. We have queen sized air mattresses (& a cigarette lighter adaptor pump), camp chairs, nesting cookware, an LED quad light from Coleman, and an outdoor extension cord (who can camp without cell phone chargers, laptops and a Kuerig?).... come by and chat or have a cuppa if you are there - we have an ocean view campsite and you can't miss the big red Tundra parked there!
Last year, Laila was warping her rigid heddle loom using her sideview mirror as a warping peg. Sara knit on socks we never thought would get done, but did. Laila worked on her socks that were knit one inside the other (but she hasn't finished them, he he he), and I worked on my Color-On-Color scarf that has been in progress for far too many years. I am finished now with the scarf but for a ton of iCord embellishments, so perhaps this year will see that project finally finished. If it does get completed, I am rewarding myself with a black winter jacket of some sort to show off the scarf!
While I have enjoyed reconnecting with old high school friends on Facebook, it simply isn't worth the privacy issues & headaches. Therefore I have deactivated my account & will be resuming blogging as my primary computer social networking technology. I hope to see many comments here in the future!
I am starting into natural dyeing & weaving these days. Next week I will be camping in Searsport, ME with two fiber friends & attending Fiber College too...
More to come. It's good to be back!
Back in 2009, I did a test knit for Anne Podlesak of Wooly Wonka Fiber for socks. These were knit from alpaca, dyed with logwood. The design was done for a fiber farm, Long Ridge Farm (Earthues Natural Dyes) using their fiber, dyed with their dye. Anne retained the rights after the first year to the pattern, but I cannot find it on Ravelry, Anne's design page or Wooly Wonka Fiber page.
These are incredibly WARM socks, and I love the leg design with a decreasing scale on the cable/travelling stitches. I knit them up quickly as the test knit, then re-knit the feet as I was too loosely-goosey on the original knit for my taste. The re-knit has sat on needles for three years. With Ravelry's Sock Knitters Anonymous August challenge being to free up needles, I took this to heart and finished these up the first night after I took on the challenge. I love the color, and given my recent foray into dyeing with plant dyes, it is fitting that these should be the first sock UFOs to get completed.
While teaching us to dye, Kristen was quite adventurous with us, and had all sorts of things going on. We had acid dyes in the back porch - handpaint Saran wrap packets which were later steamed, kettle dyeing on the stove, in the oven and in crockpots.
We had a two burner Coleman camp stove and a big turkey cooker sort of propane burner going in the front yard with plant dyes. We harvested jewelweed, goldenrod and Blackeyed Susan from Kristen's land. Lisa of knitnzu brought us mushrooms and helped Kristen find some turkey feather lichens suitable for dyeing. And there was the magical Indigo dye pot. I LOVE the magic of Indigo. White fiber goes in ever so slowly to not introduce bubbles (oxygen) into the vat, stays for a few seconds, and comes out again ever so slowly to not drip or introduce bubbles. Leave the dipped fiber exposed to air for 20 minutes or so and watch it transform that previously white fiber into green then turn blue with oxidation. Amazing! And overdyeing the yellows we got from plant dyes with Indigo made the most amazing greens! (more on that in a near future post).
Over the next few days, I'll be blogging in a bit more detail of each of these so I can work in some more of the pictures I took. Kristen put up two people in her house, four of us stayed in my tent and two more stayed at a wonderful neighbor's down the road who were willing to put people up for the weekend. They even provided banjo playing in the form of their son...
At the end of July, I was fortunate enough to be invited
to Gilead Goats Farm. Gilead is owned by Kristen Judkins, who won a small flock of angora goats (produce mohair fiber) in a contest a few years ago. She also has Shetland ewes and a Finn ram. And Lorenzo the llama. (Not to mention Flan the dog, Fred & Ginger the cats and the calf) Kristen is an amazing woman, who has a day job, and has kept her herd of goats and fiber animals growing despite harsh Vermont winters, hurricane devastation that washed out her road, infestations of parasites her former vet (good reason he is the former vet) refused to acknowledge lived in Vermont, etc. She has done it pretty much alone and with the support, friendship, love and encouragement of an amazing following of fiber friends and anonymous benefactors. It was some of these amazing fiber friends who were in this test run batch of students dabbling in dyeing at Gilead last month.
Kristen got us going with acid dyes, plant dyes and an Indigo bath. In the acid dyes, we did kettle dyeing, crockpot dyeing and handpainted Saran wrap steamed package dyeing. We even did some Indigo dyeing over plant dyes. Amongst the plant dyes, we used jewel weed, Goldenrod, Black eyed Susan, and even mushrooms (thank you, Lisa St. Hilaire of knitnzu).
I went into this excited to have this rare chance to get acquainted with yet another fiber black hole. At the same time, I had no confidence in my ability to put colors together. And I have to confess I went in with a few preconceived notions (which hopefully I've ditched now). I didn't think I was going to like plant dyes. I liked the idea of natural dyes, but not too crazy about yellows, oranges and browns, so I didn't think it was going to be for me. And then Kristen said the magic sentence : "you could overdye with Indigo." And overdye with Indigo I did. Several different greens were the result.
The attendees were: Kristen (hostess extraordinaire), her mother & one of my best fiber buddies Laila, Lisa of Knitnzu, Julie of Stoneview, Krysta, Toby MacNutt of Gizmometer, Jim & Debbie. We had representation from Maine, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Vermont I believe.
As a consequence of this dyeing weekend, not only do I have almost three pounds of lovely handdyed fiber and yarn, but I see dye plants each time I drive down the road, and am seeing colorways start to appear out of no where. And a dyer's garden is taking form in my brain, with research on the Internet and saved pages, to actually take physical form this coming spring at my place. And there are plans for a PVC pipe hoop greenhouse to get an early start on the dye plants that like a longer growing season than I normally get up here in Maine (my daughter keeps reminding me I drive DOWN to Vermont when I go to Gilead Farm).
About four years ago, I went on a sock knitting bender where I was knitting a pair of sock approximately every two weeks for several months. My sock drawer benefited, and since I live in Down East Maine, my feet benefited as well. Since then, I've fallen off the band wagon for knitting socks, but remember fondly the Ravelry group, Sock Knitters Anonymous, particulary their mystery socks.
Don't get me wrong - I've fallen on to many many fiber related bandwagons instead. I bought a 8 shaft table loom (70 cm Louet Jane) to learn to weave. I took an introductory class from a co-worker, and have been dabbling on my own since. Two weekends ago, I took a dye workshop from Kristen Judkins of Gilead Fiber Farm in Vermont (her Etsy shop is here). We did some acid dyeing, plant dyeing and Indigo dyeing.
Meanwhile, I was rooting around in my fiber stash, and started gathering up all my sock UFOs just before going for the dye weekend. It happens I went to the Sock Knitters Anonymous group on Ravelry this afternoon and found that this month is a "free up your needles" month. No specific challenge or theme, but just finish up sock UFOs that happen to be hanging around.
Here are four of mine:
From the top left, Rattlesnake Creek from my first sockweight handspun, "Pumpkin Juice" from Josette McWilliams of Enchanted Knoll Farm, "Blessed Thistle" a kit from Tsock Tsarina, Sept '08 SKA Orange Mystery sock in mystery orange sock yarn (blessedly very soft), and lastly in the bottom left, a test knit of "Jackson Square" by Anne Podlesak of Wooly Wonka Fibers. The Jackson Square socks I finished, but they were a bit big for me, so I frogged and re-knit them to this point. They are so very close to being complete it hurts to not have them done.
I know I have at least two other pairs of socks nearby that aren't finished as well. I am challenging myself to get these done, free up many many needles, and have some new socks for this winter!