A Rustic Yarn

A truly rustic yarn, made in a small scale production, is so wholesome it resonates history with each stitch.  In a bygone era yarn was made for the locals, from the local sheep, with woolen mills scattered along rivers, because at one time before the use of electricity it was the power of water which drove the machinery.  Those ancient days are gone now, but there are still a few yarn mills today, making yarn with very old  machinery, in small batches.

Image result for old primitive painting of sheep

In small scale production, a whole fleece off-the-sheep, in its entirety, would be carded and blended, often with no ‘skirting’, and with all the varying shades a natural fleece can have, resulting in each batch being very individual, and creating what I call a rustic yarn.  Today there are still a few old mills standing , where the end result of making yarn is nearly as it was done on the small holding farms.  I might add how nice these small scale boutique mills are for the Indie Designer who wishes to produce a personal line of yarn to sell and with which to prototype their designs, and I am observing a growing number of such designers who are doing this that it seems to have become the fashionable In Thing.  

This of course all is leading up to a Mill Tour, with a short film I recently discovered, about one of those few old mills still standing,   Cushendale Woolen Mills,  in Ireland…

I just love these films of old mills.  Evidently I have begun to collect quite a few, so have created a category on Yarnings called “Mill Tours”,  so click HERE to peruse them all ~~~ I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Un Chullo

jenjoycedesign© D's chullo 1

Another birthday chullo for my brother.  He just loves them so much, he wears them like hair.  For this birthday I chose to make an anniversary of last April’s Camino Inca Chullo pattern release, knitting from the pattern. This one samples the Incan wave motif, and I knit it up in some lovely soft Juniper Moon “Herriot” yarn, which is 100% undyed baby alpaca, and this baby is soft!    My brother likes the folk look of the ‘gnome’ crown, so I worked the option for slower decrease and it is just a bit gnome like…
jenjoycedesign© D's chullo 2

Its the tassels that my brother really loves, and with a brow/mustache comb that has needle-sharp brass teeth, I am able to comb through the pompom fringe and fluff up the fine hairs to a really fine furry puff …

jenjoycedesign© eyebrow comb

Voila!  I even tied on an extra bit of yarn to comb into a tassle at the tip of the earflap.

jenjoycedesign© D's chullo 3

This being the last of the deadline knitting, I am now able to spend some time experimenting with the traditional “mens”  chullo ~~ the varied regional methods of picot edges, and knit with needles traditionally made from  bicycle wheel spokes!     When time, opportunity & energy come together in the near future,  I will continue where I left off, and embark on a new chullo knitting adventure !    But for now I will leave you with an artful & inspiring short travel ad film  which gives glimpses of the wild landscape and colorful textiles of Peruvian Highlands that I have been so very drawn to …

 

The Textiles of Cusco 2

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I am very much enjoying learning about Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez and her life’s work establishing the Center of Traditional Textiles of Cusco , and keeping part of the past alive.  She has fought an important battle bringing  back the straying generation which nearly put an end to the skilled weavers of the Cusco region, and result has established institution and industry in Cusco,  while  bringing next generations back into the nest of tradition.    Nilda, you go girl!

I am deeply inspired by the imagery of the Andes mountains,  and of industry in spinning, weaving, and knitting  from the Cusco region.  It is obvious that I romanticize their more provincial lifestyle, although I do consider myself very lucky that I can set my feet into a degree of provincialism while at the same time choosing what I like from convenience of the modern world.  I know from my own that it is hard work refining a life in craft has nearly in itself become a novelty in the modern world.   A work ethic in craft is to me all consuming, as I savor and enjoy growing the goodness of making.

Here are a few short interview films about Nilda and her work…


I have found and purchased out one of Nilda’s  books and am looking forward to it arriving by mail, and of sharing it here forthcoming .  I am fascinated in  weaving, and the colors create from natural dyes (as well as natural un-dyed yarns) , but as I am committed to knitting, I hope the muse touches me and brings more ideas into the knit  design that I do.  More to come about my views of the richly exotic textile traditions in the nest of the Andes, so watch this space!

Read more about Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez…

 Nilda’s Wikipedia
Nilda’s books on Amazon
Interview with Cloth & Clay
Interview with World Strides
Smithsonian Folk Life Festival

 

The Textiles of Cusco

What do you get when you bring together a remote and rugged high mountain range, herds of soft downy llamas, alpacas, sheep, and an indigenous people who’s thirst for artfulness is apparent in all they do?   You get beautiful textiles steeped in ancient traditional, as in the Cusco region of Peru!

I’ve been watching this video over and over, fascinated in the weavings of the Cusco region, and life’s work of Nilda Callañaup Alvarez ,  while I knit and think about All Things Peruvian.  So much that I’m feeling a deep inward shift in this direction. But that is all for now, more to come later, on Nilda and Traditional Textiles of Cusco!

Soon I will have to put everything down to make my brother a chullo, which I knit nearly every year around his birthday, and I am giddy because this year I will get to knit one from my own design.

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News: I am happy to say that we got the quote from the building contractors, and we’ll manage to build our house again!  We will have to do some of the finish work ourselves, like flooring, and who knows what else, but that is nothing like when we built the whole house before. The timeline of starting date is still unknown, as is an estimated time of finish,  and I suppose everything is getting queued up for a fast and furious build sometime this upcoming spring.  I find it so difficult to blindly wait without knowing when I will go back home.   Anyway, the  very best-case scenario, if everything goes well, and which I am visualizing for dear life,  is that we could very possibly be moving back into our rebuilt house this …  coming …  Autumn … ?

(not so) Grey Days

jenjoycedesign© Oakville-grocery2

Knitting while enjoying some amazing coffee, at the Oakville Grocery , once a very small-town grocery just a blink along Highway 29,  and now a roaring tourist stop with coffee bar & deli for those on their way upvalley.   For me it is just off the Oakville Grade, when I come down off the mountain, one of my ‘going out’ places,  and usually by myself.   Lots of being by myself lately, as my days are in limbo and I prefer to sit alone on one of the outside tables like this to knit and ponder with yarn and a coffee connoisseur’s cuppa.

Oh, but about the knitting.   I am in the midst of knitting a pile of prototypes, some made with Isager Tweed (previously posted in yarn tasting) , and some with other wonderful tweedy yarns, and I can only hope that I will surface with some evidence soon, nearer to the point when my pattern is ready.  I am in no rush and presently can not set a lot of expectations upon myself.  I am a snail in the race against nothing.

jenjoycedesign© tweed socks

tweed sock

I just felt like checking in, and  mention that it’s been like spring around here, and while I am under the impression that it is   suppose to be winter,   these oppressive blue skies and warm afternoons since late January are rather frightful.   I only  want nourishing rain  and dark grey skies.

Bring it on rain clouds …

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Most of you know that I have a deep intrigue in films about old mills, and traditions of textile crafts, and especially traditions of weaving.  Here is one I found that shows traditional Korean Ramie weaving.  It seems so like linen but processed completely different. I am so in awe of the older more simplistic methods. It seems the more simple, the more elegant the cloth …

Yarn Tasting: An Irish Tweed

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My new wool love is Isager Tweed,   made in Ireland and the most gorgeous commercial tweed yarn I’ve seen in my local yarn shop to date. Ever since Rowan discontinued their Fine Tweed yarn, I was not sure how to improvise a substitution for a rustic multi-color tweed single ply.

What is it about tweed that is just so utterly  sensual,  timeless,  and tasteful?

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Isager Tweed in Navy and Winter Grey

It must be color variegation which happens only when yarn is spun from pre-dyed fibers,  blended together so that those little explosions of random ~~ sometimes quirky,  sometimes quiet ~~ contrasting color flecks just pop out, and make the visual as well as tactile texture very distinctive.

jenjoycedesign© Isager Irish Tweed

Ireland and the British Isles have been for centuries steeped in the wool mill industry,  its countryside once peppered with countless woollen mills during the Industrial Age, but in modern times there are only a handful of the old mills still producing, for major yarn companies (like Isager) as well as a growing number of indie knitwear designers who wish to have their own mill spun label.

jenjoycedesign© Irish Tweed

The yarn is fingering to fine-fingering weight,  a blend of wool and mohair , in a beautifully rustic single ply.  It has a very subtle coarseness ,  I am guessing from the goat hair,  which gives it an old world feel and ever so like handspun with slight thick and thin variation in the yarn,   but at the same time it is soft to the touch from being mostly a downy breed of wool to balance out and gives it a very versatile feel.   Even though I am deeply involved in the spinning of my own tweed,  and I actually aspire to produce a single ply tweed much like this yarn, but if hand-spun isn’t handy,  I can’t go wrong with the real Irish spun.  I must say how lovely it is that my local yarn shop has this great yarn, and in the best colors too.

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Oh! I found yet another wool film in the “Hands” series about how to make a Donegal spinning wheel!   I hope you enjoy it as much as I have …

Energy and essence.

Emma & Squirrel

This Christmas Emma got a new squeaking squirrel, since her old squirrel and all of her other toys were all left behind in the fire.  Now with a new squirrel love,  everything is in it’s right place.   The calendar is racing to a close, and I am fairly excited about what is around the corner now.   I go up to the mountain every day if I can to walk a little while, and to go into the garden which is for the most part is still there, to sit and write, sketch ideas, and wonder about the best that might yet be to come.  Pondering colors, palette & writing blending recipes,  and thinking about the landscape, and how our lives will resume there in a different house in the future.

Recently I have been posting from the archives Knitting In The Wild , as I  look  to find the origin of colors for my Tweed Chronicles, but I am also finding in there one of my biggest passions of life  ~~ being out in nature.  There in the wild I am finding the tap root of it all.  It is the landscape that is my true sense of energy and essence ,  who I was and who I strive to become.  From the wild comes a pure sense of myself, and I realize I must continue going there as if I never left … to find new growth & new meaning in the contours, flora and fauna of the mountain, and to feel as a shepherd of something necessary while in it.

Yesterday while re-establishing my knitting trail I observed gopher holes bursting through what seems a cracked brittle thin shell of burned top soil, pushing up through it beautiful creamy soil from  beneath, so like life bursting out of an egg shell.   I feel what is beneath the surface, what is still there wanting to shake off the soot of the fire and resume living.  I watched a black raven surveying the territory, having come back from wherever it fled, I don’t know, and I heard a woodpecker too, tapping through the charcoal bark to find food.  The wildlife is showing up now, on time, finding its way back to beckon me to return.   So I am showing up too.

Tweed News: I am totally and completely immersed in my tweed blending and spinning. Being my own micro mill is pretty much what excites me these days, and I feel I am making headway on my personal palette. More to come, very soon to post my next forthcoming, after it gets spun up.  But for now, I leave you with yet another Tweed Film I have found, as these old films so inspire me!

Tweed Chronicles

jenjoycedesign© spinning tweed

I can’t stay away from the blending board…

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 nor can I stop testing my instincts about color,

and layering them ever so finer … and finer …. and even finer…

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1st batt, 1st carding

 just to see how the colors will work together.

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Because perhaps I am just ridiculous!

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rolags from 2nd batt, second carding, and wonderfully oceanic!

So I have decided to make a new category  ~~  Tweed Chronicles ~~ wherein I can post my tweed yarn making refinements, as I explore both predictable as well as the unpredictable color combinations (maybe especially the unpredictable),  my learned improvements of technique, and so on.

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Techy stuff 

  •  20g of white undyed roving I acquired decades ago, the tweedy “nepps” from the slubby roving are excellent for tweed, 20g of mixed Shetland I over-dyed with color peacock, 10g of Corriedale  aqua, and 10g of Corriedale dark denim.
  • Layered very thinly … I mean really a lot of thin layers… using technique: Blending for tweed simplified. 
  • Lifted batt, layered again a second time.
  • Drew off rolags.
  • Total of only two “cardings”.

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I have found another gem in the “Hands” series I’ve been watching countless times over the last month, while I learn the technique of long-draw tweed spinning on my little wheel, and learn the art of color in fiber.  And because I have always been so deeply inspired from nostalgia, this one is my new favorite.  Enjoy!

Fish a little, croft a little, weave a yard or two.

I am so inspired by this video about the weavers and the local culture around Harris Tweed, on the Isle of Lewis & Harris in Scotland’s outer Hebrides. I seem to be hooked on these woolen mill films these days! I am not so much infatuated with the idea of weaving the tweed yarn, but if I could be immersed into any one part of the process, it would be the blending and carding of the many colors of wool for the tweed affect in yarn spinning.  This is what excites me the most, and thinking a lot about what to card next on my new blending board.  I realize that I am , and always have been a colorist.  Like a painter dreams of mixing pigments on palette, I am the very same, and training to see past the surface into a hidden palette of color in the fiber.   Anyway, I hope you enjoy this video I’ve watched now countless times…

Woolen or worsted?

jenjoycedesign© spinning

Spinning from rolags is a different experience for me. Especially these tightly rolled sausage-like ones drawn off of those nifty blending boards, and from which  I posted about a few weeks ago.   Raw, dirty & weedy alpaca is what I’m practicing this woolen technique I am learning, from rolags. In my spinning past, I’ve spun from locks, from picked fiber ‘clouds’ , from bats, had also tried a badly produced rolag or two and gave up ~~ but mostly all the years I’ve spun its been from roving, sliver, and combed top. I am learning that although I was getting better at spinning a fine even single, the yarn I’ve been spinning has been dense, tough type of yarn. I think I was unconsciously aspiring to spin worsted (or semi-worsted) , however there is true woolen style of spinning which is done this way, from rolags I am learning, and ‘long draw’. Okay, I’m getting this…

jenjoycedesign© spinning alpaca rolags

I must say, this rolag thing is where it is at! Its fascinating, long-draw spinning method, and as yet I am far from being able to do it, and I must resist the urge to pinch the twist too much and let it compress through my fingers into tight even yarn, for that is what is to spinning, like knitting yarn with too small of a size needle I think. It creates a dense compact yarn, that squeezes the life out of the fiber.  Just look how the yarn pulls out of the rolag in a line all by itself, with really very minimal fussing if you do it right…

jenjoycedesign© spinning alpaca rolags 2

Well, I’ve got this pile of rolags that I made from my first carding on my board, a loosely carded alpaca, and when I’m done with this, I will wash it very well as it is dirty. Hopefully it will bloom and be fluffy & beautiful.

As I’ve been ordering & collecting a bit of fancy fibers to play with and blend, and even ‘processing’ some bits of yarn I have on hand to incorporate into the tweed mixes which  I am envisioning for art rolags!  For now I’m glad to be taking a break from knitting as the previously posted yarn was not very nice at all, and I sent it back only to have to start all over with nicer yarn that I enjoy knitting, and more important, that my nieces will enjoy wearing! So I’m waiting for new yarn to come in. In the mean time I’m spinning!  All you spinners out there, I invite you to share in the comments about your preferred spinning methods, and anything you might be able to say about woolen vs worsted spinning ~ thanks!

I’m closing with a posting of a video from 1970’s that I found about sheep & spinning in Donegal Ireland, I hope you love it as much as I do!

Shoal or School?

Clupea_harengus_Gervais.jpgA tasty bit o’ fish fact:  Schooling and shoaling are types of collective behavior of fish.  Any group of fish that stay together for social reasons is said to be shoaling, and if the shoal is swimming in the same direction together, it is schooling.  Herring spend most of their lives shoaling or schooling and become agitated if separated from the group, while others, such as Atlantic Cod school only some of the time. Salmon travel in large, loose schools, eventually migrating into upper reaches of rivers to spawn. Fish generally prefer larger shoals,  with shoalmates of their own species, similar in size and appearance to themselves. Any shoal member which stands out in appearance may be targeted by predators, explaining why fish prefer to shoal with individuals that resemble themselves.  This is called the oddity effect.  read more….

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Herring school or shoal?

Honestly, I always assumed the words ‘shoal’ and ‘school’ were the same meaning, but morphed into two words through cross language use.  I have learned something!  So now that we know about the difference between schools and shoals,  I’d like to share with you one of my favorite fishing songs “Shoals Of Herring”,  this version by the song writer himself, Ewan MacColl.

Words as sung by Ewan MacColl:

With our nets and gear we’re faring
On the wild and wasteful ocean.
Its there on the deep that we harvest and reap our bread
As we hunt the bonnie shoals of herring

O it was a fine and a pleasant day
Out of Yarmouth harbor I was faring
As a cabinboy on a sailing lugger
For to go and hunt the shoals of herring

O the work was hard and the hours were long
And the treatment, sure it took some bearing
There was little kindness and the kicks were many
As we hunted for the shoals of herring

O we fished the Swarth and the Broken Bank
I was cook and I’d a quarter sharing
And I used to sleep standing on my feet
And I’d dream about the shoals of herring

Well we left the homegrounds in the month of June
And to Canny Shiels we soon were bearing
With a hundred cran of the silver darlings
That we’d taken from the shoals of herring

Now you’re up on deck, you’re a fisherman
You can swear and show a manly bearing
Take your turn on watch with the other fellows
While you’re following the shoals of herring

In the stormy seas and the living gales
Just to earn your daily bread you’re daring
From the Dover Straits to the Faroe Islands
While you’re following the shoals of herring

Well I earned my keep and I paid my way
And I earned the gear that I was wearing
Sailed a million miles, caught ten million fishes
We were following the shoals of herring

I also found a lovely Gaelic version, sung by Scottish group The Lochies, from the Hebrides…

Two fun facts:   One, the singer in the group The Lochies, John MacMillan who formed the trio,  was a Harris Tweed weaver from the Hebridean Isle of Lewis in Scotland ~~ amazing!   And two, this song was one of my all-time favorites to play mandolin while backing up my duo mate John, back when we were gigging not so long ago, I’d always beg him to sing it before the gig was over.   

I’ll leave off with a peek of my most recent & last of the prototypes for forthcoming design, which I started only yesterday after ripping out another  in a different color, and which was several days worth of knitting.  This one is a keeper…

jenjoycedesign© sneak peek

Well, that about wraps up this sneak peek until next time, when I will post one more in the Fishy series before the final unveiling of new design!

June Into July

jenjoycedesign© pink.JPGChecking in from the hermitage. I’ve been knitting up a pile of rectangular shaped things, in various sizes, in pink and in grey, for what at first was to be one prototype turned out to be many,  although I am in the last stretch.  These have admittedly completely consumed my time but there is the possibility that this forthcoming ensemble will be one of my favorite designs to date, so well worth it. Let the hours and yarn and heat exhaust me to sweet slumber every night.

Here is a sneak peek of one of them pinned and drying …

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Meanwhile Emma and I have done very little walking, for the hot summer days have put us both into a trance, for me the memorable events being turning of rows from right side to wrong side and back again.  I am all over that fresh brewed cup of French Roast and I’m throwing stitches in a caffeine induced frenzy.

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Incidentally, another past-time of mine while knitting the lace shawls, is perusing old films on youtube about tweed-making, and here is one I discovered,  hope you enjoy it…

Manic!

jenjoycedesign© chullo madness

Since writing about ‘ an old beloved brown thing ‘  I’ve been pulled into a vortex of unlikely colors;  of cochineal pinks & crimsons, madder reds, purples, citron yellow, and oranges too… all sorts of high altitude Andean colors I am not accustomed to.

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I find myself falling back into the safety of greys, of earthy tones and of muted undyed comfort.  I gotta bust out!  I didn’t realize how sensitive to color I really am, so I am struggling with my habitual knitting au natural , while trying to be influenced by the brazen & magnificent  color palettes of Peruvian textiles.   I am knitting through piles of these South American motifs while experiencing a sensory challenge with color.

jenjoycedesign© motif

… soon to explode through the surface with a splash!

 (and of course, a pattern)

My favorite manic music of South America (although down in the temperate eastern coast from the Andes)… have a listen & maybe you can pick up some of my manic vibe…

Calidez Cardigan & Donegal Aran Tweed

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At last, my very own cardigan, and it is so special because it is from a wool I’ve wanted to knit forever, and in a pattern which I designed to be my favorite sweater recipe. . .

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Calidez Cardigan knit up in Donegal Aran Tweed!

I made it with Autumn neckline.  The pattern has four seasons of necklines in case you weren’t aware:  winter=full yoke depth,  autumn=3/4, spring=1/2, summer=very low. . .

jenjoycedesign-donegal-tweed-detail

I had so many choices to color match buttons because of all the flecks of tweed in the yarn, but in the end, I only had more shell buttons, but I will find some more, in russet and change them out later.

jenjoycedesign-donegal-tweed-calidez

When it came down to it, I am purely smitten.  Donegal Aran Tweed knits up beautifully and has a real ‘slinky’ feel to it when knit up at  3.25 sts to the inch, although I was so tempted to try a smaller needle size, I chose the larger, appealing to a drapier cardigan, however, because of the fact, it is very stretchy and a wee bit baggy, but like in a good way. Next I will try a slightly firmer cardigan fabric, as well as make a size smaller. I still can’t decide what color to go with for my next, and I do think it will have to be a Soft Donegal,  and I am thinking to go wild, and get this color.

Well folks, that’s it for today, posting from very rainy Mt Veeder!  I couldn’t be happier than with a just-finished cardigan to wear, and you can see details of this project on Ravelry here.

Everything in it’s place, and life is good. Oh, and I’ve been enjoying listening to some beautiful Irish pipes while knitting Irish Wool . . .


Knitting In A Room

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Mid day light seems to pour though windows, filtered through a mulberry tree and various shrubs, into this quiet warm room. There is my favorite knitting chair, **temporarily transplanted from its mountain home to this echoey clean & empty place, kept company by my knitting basket, cup of coffee-to-go, and myself.  Oh, but is that a sleeve cradled in it’s seat?

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Oh, perhaps more than just a sleeve, it looks like maybe three sleeves and two bodies, which means only one thing…

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It is nearly time to join all the pieces together to make a couple of lovely cardigans to greet the Autumnal equinox.  My usual first weeks in September are all about this stretch of frenzy knitting into my favorite season of all.

I also wanted to share with you something very fun I ran across on a series of internet clicks I wandered down this morning, ending up at an old mill in UK.  Here is a room with spinning, and all the rhythms and sounds associated with milling yarn put to music, a lovely little video for you all to enjoy as I have, called ‘A Short Day At The Mill’…

And here is another similar, but with more footage called ” A Long Day At The Mill ”

** Knitting chair & basket is occupying a corner space in a room of the house Jeff has been renovating for nearly 6 months (with a little bit of my help) and finally, it is empty & glowingly ready to find a new owner, as I knit while waiting for real-estate agents to show intermittently.   No worries, I am not moving, nor is Jeff, this is but his old house in town that he lived in when we met in the summer of ’94.
Bye bye old house, it was nice revisiting your rooms, and I will miss you.