Against my best plans, I may have let the blogging/social media slip a bit in June and July.
Before the excuses, a quick and very exciting note: I will be vending at the Squam Art Fair on September 15, from 7:30 to 10:00. I am so excited to be included in such an amazing group of vendors! (And I really hope that I’ll be able to pull together a few new kits I’ve been planning in time, which brings me back to the excuses).
Back to the excuses:
Unexpected pregnancy induced exhaustion limited my work time this summer and what energy I had often went to baby centric things - baby shower, painting baby things, and the part time job that is meeting all the doctors appointments scheduled as part of a “geriatric pregnancy” (and aside from being “elderly”, both I and the as-yet-unborn-baby are thankfully in perfect health - I cannot imagine how much more medically intense things must become if there are issues).
Pregnancy induced exhaustion recently morphed into pregnancy induced insomnia, which has at least given me the time to sew crib sheets for the fancy oval crib inherited from my sister-in-law. When passing along the crib she mentioned the difficulty of getting a new sheet in the correct orientation on the oval mattress during the inevitable three AM accident clean-ups, to which I sensibly thought “oh-ho, I shall just embroider a french knot or something so that I can line the sheet up along the long ends by feel”. And then somehow I decided a french knot was boring, and given that I wasn’t sleeping and it was too hot to knit…
So now I have four home sewn sheets with hand-embroidered whales.
A few days ago we discovered that my sister-in-law had also given us several crib sheets, which somehow got mixed in with a box of baby clothes. So the home sewn sheet part was probably completely unnecessary. Still, it was a fun project.
Not being able to carry the buckets and pots of water necessary for dyeing has led me to catching up on other projects, most too boring and administrative to bother describing, but amongst the other chores I finally downloaded the photos that have been accruing on my working SSD card, and came across this gem of an outtake from a mid-February photo session. Note my hand settled gently and proudly atop my (invisible) belly. I am fairly sure the impetus for this photo session, aside from the desire to document the progress of my heavily modified Solbien cardigan turned dress, was the discovery that my vague feelings of becoming a little thick around the middle had solidified into an actual baby bump (which again, I cannot see in this photo, though I remember running downstairs to show Sam the moment I noticed it, who was equally excited).
Yup, at 40 weeks, 6 days pregnant I have settled into the game familiar to every person who has ever been pregnant - “remember when I thought that was a belly?”
To be fair, this Alabama Chanin A-Line dress is somehow magically also minimizing my belly, or maybe I just feel like I should be a foot or two wider.
Back to a semi-business related note: Any moment now (really, any moment now kiddo, but hopefully soon - I get that you are comfy in there, but you’ve had your full run and it’s time to come out and start exploring the world) we will be heading off to the Birth Center for a hopefully short stay. There may be some delay in shipping orders and responding to emails as we all adjust to our new life. Thank you for understanding.
Or rather April and May roundup (somehow the time got away from me). Much of my energy during early May went towards re-painting part of the kitchen, which was both very necessary (it had all faded to a muddled sadness gray) and very satisfying. I really love our house, even the bits that were sadness gray, and after years of putting my heart into making other people's boats beautiful it felt really good to put that energy towards our own living space. Next up - painting my dye shop!
And many yarnish goals were also achieved - but event news first: the yarn and I will be heading up to Wing & a Prayer Farm on Saturday, June 2 for the Taproot Makers Market!
I will be bringing new dye lots of several favorites, along with my new 3-Ply DK weight Gotland yarns, and maybe even some gansey yarn.
In related news, Ingeborg Slipper Kits are back in stock!
And, fresh from the dyepot, I have a very limited run (six skeins!) of DK Weight BFL in this lovely green (New Leaf? Cress? color name tbd).
April is a month for farm visits, resulting in lovely days of catching up with shepherds and gorgeous piles of fleece carefully boxed and sent off to the mill. I am looking forward to LOTS of yarn back from the mill sometime this fall, but in the meantime I am enjoying my moments in the dyespace.
This (annoyingly out of focus) photo is really a photograph of potential. In the photo I am standing in my future dye space, wearing a future dress (a heavily modified take on Mary Jane Mucklestone's Solbein) and most importantly, I am seventeen weeks pregnant.
As my friend Sarah said, here's hoping the kid looks good in blue (given that I am already plotting indigo dyed everything).
I am still working through all the changes the last few months have brought, which is perhaps why it has taken me so long to write this post. I am currently 22 weeks pregnant, and looking at my (relatively) flat stomach in a photo taken so recently I am amazed to remember how ungainly I felt at the time (it's hard to see in this photo, but I definitely had the beginnings of a bump). My midsection has changed significantly since then, and I my feelings of constantly catching up with a new body shape have not diminished.
Needless to say, I will not be heading back to Antartica any time soon. I will however have more time to devote to the fiber side of my life, and to vending more often in person.
This upcoming weekend in fact (April 7) I will be vending in person at the Yarn Sellar’s Fiber Marketplace & Retreat in York, Maine from 10 am to 3 pm. With any luck (stand by for steeking) I will be wearing that knit dress.
For those of you interested in my travels, I have lots and lots of photos that I never got around to posting, and subjects that I always meant to write posts about but never had the time for. I am hoping to actually write some of those posts. Stay tuned, and feel free to email me with prompts and questions.
Speaking of travel, I am very sorry to say that I will not be able to attend this year’s Wool Scouts knitting retreat. The retreat was honestly one of the highlights of last summer and I really would love to be able to head back up to Bradford Camps, but my due date is August 2 and “advanced maternal age" and absolute faith in Sarah and Rob's ability to handle medical emergencies aside it just feels like poor planning and bad manners to head into the Maine woods at 38 weeks pregnant. Hopefully I'll be able to return next summer.
The First Annual Boston Farm & Fiber Event was a raging success!!! A million thank you's to all the folks who braved a cold rainy Sunday to come out and geek out over yarns and fiber goodies. I had no idea what to expect, but the crowd size was beyond my wildest hopes! I got to meet so many creative, passionate knitters on Sunday!
I made the rookie mistake of not bringing a booth helper, which both meant that conversations were sometimes cut short (which I regret and apologize for) and also that I was unable to explore all the other amazing booths and goings on. I heard great things about the knitting lounge (which I very much wanted to hang out in) and about the other vendors there. A big thank you to everyone who put up with me asking about the other goodies in their knitting bags, so I could at least live vicariously. And a huge thank you as well to all the folks, including my vending neighbors, my sister-in-law, a representative of the Boston Public Market, and at one point a Woolscout Knitting Retreat participant, who realized that I was solo and very kindly offered to watch my booth for me for water/food/restroom breaks. It's a little thing, but it underscores for me how caring and supportive knitters/crafters are as a group.
On Monday I woke up feeling like I had spent Sunday taking part in some sort of obscure endurance event, exhausted, but still on a bit of runners high. It will take me a little while to survey the remains of my inventory, update my website, and catch up on my dyeing (see previous post about the state of my future dyespace) so I thank you all for your patience. And as always, if you have any questions, or would like to make sure that a specific color/yarn kit returns, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Many big changes afoot here at Upton Yarns HQ, but first:
This Sunday I will be vending at the first (annual, I have been assured) Boston Farm & Fiber Festival held at the Boston Public Market (!!!!!!! I am very excited about this). The show is being hosted by the good folks of New England Farm to Fiber, on Sunday, February 11, from 10am to 5 pm.
For those of you who may not be familiar with it, the Boston Public Market hosts a collection of local artisan producers of everything from pasta to honey, and of course New England sourced yarns. It has long been a favorite stop of mine on our "civilized" weekend strolls through Boston. I'm already plotting my (non yarn related) buy list.
But back to the fiber event: the vendor list, available here, is full of people I can't wait to meet in person. (The fiber related buy list may very quickly overwhelm the non-fiber related buy list...)
In other news, late this fall we officially became first time home buyers, and as of last week we have moved in (sort of, everything is still in boxes and we have not yet sorted out a reasonable internet connection, but all of our stuff is here, and things are mostly set up enough that it doesn't quite feel like we're camping anymore, which I'll take). One of the many things that I love about our new house is the workspace off the kitchen that will soon become the new Upton Yarns HQ.
(Yes, that is an industrial sewing machine under the dust cover in the corner).
But then the movers came and very efficiently moved everything from the old Upton Yarns HQ to the new space.
Dyeing may be a bit delayed while I make sense of all of this chaos......
The weather outside is frightful, but I am warm inside playing with yarn. I hope you are all likewise somewhere warm and yarn filled.
Fresh from the drying rack: two lovely neutral grays, one light (Woodsmoke) and one dark (Slate). Both colors are actually based on logwood (purple) heavily "saddened" with a mix of tannin and iron which gives them a faint purple undertone in the right light - I can't help but think of the "violet" sheep of the Odyssey (the dyeing is admitedly a bit of a cheat).
I couldn't help but take photos of some of my favorite color combinations:
The view from my desk. Reginald the kaffir lime tree was not meant to see such weather.
Like many other knitters, I fell in love with Kristin Drysdale's Ingeborg Slippers the moment I first saw them on my Instagram feed. It turns out they are as fun to knit as they are to pad about in. So I put together kits.
For my slippers I used Upton Yarns DK Weight Bluefaced Leicester spun from the wonderful fleece of the flock at Two Sisters Farm. The pattern calls for size 3 needles, but I found that to get the correct gauge I had to go up to size 6s (I tend to be a tight knitter). I used light blue Glacier Bay, dark blue Delft, and for a blaze of contrast, bright orange Tiger Lily to finish the edges.
The kit includes those three colorways, and of course, one of my very happy hand printed project bags.
Any orders placed between now and Friday will go in the mail the day they are ordered (as long as the order is placed before 3:00 - I still need time to pack them up and get to the Post Office - but I will do my best!).
And don't forget the Moth Discouraging Sachets!
Happy knitting, and Happy Holidays!
I still have a few more colors in the works, but I wanted to get these up when I had the time. Check out the new colors on the Fingering Weight page. (Still to come, a hunter green, dark gray, light gray, and maybe a few more blues?).
For example - check out the Fingering Weight page to see more.
In other news, we bought a house yesterday. A whole house. With a very cool barn. And a work space for Upton Yarns. It doesn't quite feel real yet.
I have been dyeing away, mainly working with the Straw’s Farm Island Sheep fingering weight (with an eye towards Kanoko socks and more importantly, Kanoko yarn kits, see below for one idea) but a few dye lots of DK weight BFL have snuck through, including one of my favorites, Coe’s Naptime. I think it would make a great Arboreal sweater. (Now listed for sale over at the DK weight BFL page).
Stay tuned for Kanoko kits, and a whole lot of Straw’s Farm Island Sheep fingering weight in an array of colors.
I am usually the last person to hear about things, so I suspect that the entire sheep-interested world has already heard about this, but I just found about it and I am ridiculously excited.
According to this article in the Washington Post (to name one, a quick Google search shows that many other news organizations also ran the story) the topography and lack of roads in the Faroe Islands make it impossible to photograph the islands for Google Street View using the normal cameras mounted on cars. The folks at Google were just willing to let it go, but the Faroe Island tourism board very much wanted to add their islands to Google Street View, and so they strapped solar powered cameras to sheep. Which is honestly just the coolest solution. (Although it actually turns out that sheep are generally too focussed on grazing and therefore move across a space too slowly to be much good at photographing an area - so most of the footage of the Faroes that is currently on Google Street View was actually taken by human hikers).
The Sheep View footage is available on the tourism board website, and a lot of it made it onto youtube.
On a more knitting related note, I have been longing to knit Kanoko Socks by Mary Jane Mucklestone, published in Making Magazine No. 3, ever since I saw her wear them during the Wool Scout Retreat at Bradford Camp this August. As usual, I got a little sidetracked and my knitting queue got in the way, but when MJ’s Instragram post came across my feed announcing that the pattern was being released for individual sale on Ravelry they immediately jumped to the head of the line. I started knitting them a few days ago (using my Straw’s Farm Island Sheep fingering weight) and am thoroughly enjoying them. The four rows of dots are charming in cream, but they would also be charming in different colors. Yup, I’m plotting kits….
I am very pleased to announce that latest design from the incredibly talented Jennifer Steingass (@knit.love.wool on Instagram) features Upton Yarns Bluefaced Leicester DK weight yarns (spun from the fleece of Two Sisters Farm, Warren, Maine).
That was my grown-up voice. My actual voice implies much more gleeful undignified muppet dancing. (The muppet dancing took place on several occasions) . (Sam the Eagle did not and does not approve).
Jenn's design, Arboreal, published here on Ravelry, is a lovey top down yoked sweater using a very pleasing, intuitive, motif of repeated leaves, and just enough waist shaping to be flattering. (Jenn currently has a 20% off sale going, use the code LEAVES).
Her patterns are easy to follow, and really just a pleasure to knit, though I was impatient and left the sleeves off of my version.
I really love the elegance of Jenn's original two color design, but when I started planning my own I got a bit sidetracked by the potential for more color inherent in such a simple design. Because of the way I use natural dyes, repurposing the exhaust from one dye bath to combine with other dyes or exhausts (never mind the multiple dip nature of dyeing with indigo) I often end up with color gradients.
So then I had a few gradients that I really liked.
And then yoke kits happened.
I'm dyeing the main color to order (the 2017 BFL DK weight just made it back from the mill in time!) and offering yoke kits on the Arboreal page I've put together .
Jenn and I will be at the Highlands on the Fly knitting retreat at the New England Outdoor Center in Millinocket, Maine next weekend (she's the keynote speaker, I'm a vender) and most of my yarn will be going with me. So if you have your eye on anything, don't wait! All my yarns are extremely limited in quantity.
I'm not really a hat knitter normally, but at the good natured prodding of my friend Sarah Hunt (@fibertrek) I finally caved and knit a Bousta Beanie. (For those who, like me, have been living under a rock all summer, Bousta Beanie is a free pattern designed by Gundrun Johnston to promote the 2017 Shetland Wool Week. Apparently everyone is knitting them, and I can see why). As she usually is when it comes to all matters knitting, Sarah is absolutely right and I loved knitting my Bousta Beanie so much that I further caved to Sarah's prodding and put together a kit.
The kit contains two, 110 yard skeins of 3-Ply Romney fingering weight, and one, 110 skein each of 3-Ply Straw's Farm Island Sheep fingering weight dyed with natural indigo in a light blue gradient and a more solid dark indigo colorway.
There is, of course, a kit bag.
The product link will go live this evening (Wednesday, September 13) at 5:00 PM. I'm stuck traveling for my "day job" again next week, though thankfully only for a few days this time. All orders placed by noon on Friday, September 15 will go out that day. All order placed after that will have to wait until Friday September 21.
I was meant to finish up my Antarctic contract and fly home from Punta Arenas, Chile on August 4 but the Southern Ocean has been a bit stormy of late and we are delayed. Currently we are hiding in Gerlache Straight area near the tip of the Antarctic Penninsula, in fairly calm seas but high winds. It is snowing sideways.
All of us are missing something at this point, weddings, birthday parties, planned vacations, but to a person we all looked at the weather forecasts, and the strength of the storms roaring through the Drake and said, "yup, let's stay here".
And so we are. But that doesn't make missing events planned for months in advance any less frustrating.
I still have hopes that I will make to it the Wool Scout retreat hosted by Sarah Hunt of FIberTrek, but it is beginning to look like it might be a stretch. My best hope at the moment is to fly out from Punta Arenas on the 10th, which has me (if all connections are on time) in Boston the afternoon of the 11th, but that leaves me with the wrong luggage for summer (even in Maine) and no indigo supplies, so a quick dash home to Worcester, and then the drive to MIllinocket to meet the float plane on the 12th. All doable in theory if I forgo sleep.
We are making the best of our delay, following in the long tradition of mariners waiting out Antarctic weather. A cribbage tournament was promptly arranged, and a lecture series quickly followed. Attempts are being made to form a band. Yesterday morning a nuclear physicist and I worked together to make bean bags (using beans generously donated by the galley) for a game of corn hole, tournament to be organized shortly. No one has started a newspaper yet, but if our weather window doesn't materialize on the 5th I suspect that might be next.
After a blessedly uneventful crossing, last night we tied up safely alongside Palmer Station. Today will be spent unloading the cargo we carried down for them, including a resupply of fresh food stuffs and various scientific supplies. They were very happy to see us. (Hopefully we didn't freeze the lettuce).
The crossing down was beautiful and much like being on a boat often is, a bit more rolly, and a bit colder than I am used to, but fundamentally not much different from being offshore anywhere else. And then yesterday morning I woke up and felt like I had wandered into a nature documentary. Antartica is utterly its own place, unlike any other place I have ever been, and completely unmistakable.
Ship's internet here is actually worse than ship's internet on the Sea Lion, so I can't post any of the photos I've been taking, but I have been managing to get a photo or two out over Instagram (@uptonyarns). Posting involves being a bit more stubborn than our internet, which means that it sometimes takes me a while to get things to go through. For some reason the ship's internet will eventually let me post photos, but it has decisively beaten back every attempt I have made to reply to the comments people have left. So, if you have commented, know that I have seen it and very much appreciated it, and probably spent 20 minutes trying to get the internet to send my reply before heading back to work or otherwise giving up.
I fly home on August 5, so any and all yarnish stuff will be dispatched sometime shortly thereafter (I may need to catch up on some sleep).
The Lion alongside the Sitka fuel dock, ready to head out again.
Yesterday I officially resigned from my position as Assistant Engineer aboard the National Geographic Sea Lion (I will make all the social media and website updates eventually, but not today). I spend nearly four years on the Lion working with incredible people, and meeting fellow travelers from all over the world who were united by their sense of curiosity and wonder at the natural world. In my own small way I was part of a team of people who facilitated experiences with nature in ways that will hopefully help protect the places I have come to love.
During the course of my time on the Lion I have been through the Panama Canal 40 ish times, watched red fish-eating bats hunt off our stern in Central America, scratched the noses of baby gray whales in Baja California, watched humpback whales cooperatively bubble net in Alaska, become a cold water diver (of all things) and so much more. (And hopefully I will remember to expound upon those experiences a bit in further blog posts). There is more out there than I ever imagined, and I feel incredibly lucky to have been part of the crew of the Lion. Hopefully I will only be saying "goodbye for now".
Ultimately I am leaving the Lion because spending more than half the year away from home is wonderful but not sustainable in the long term. In the more immediate future I am leaving the Lion because I have been hired to work as a Marine Technician aboard Antartic research vessels. In my new role I will facilitate Science through the operation and maintenance of data gathering equipment, driving/caring for small boats, and generally being the set of hands that can do the manual labor of Science in a cold marine environment. I leave tomorrow to meet the research vessels in Concepcion, Chile. It's been almost four years since I've been the new kid, wish me luck.
I will be back at the beginning of August, and shortly thereafter I will be teaching indigo dyeing at the Wool Scout Retreat hosted by Sarah Hunt of FiberTrek, Jani Estelle of Starcroft Fiber Mill, and Mary Jane Mucklestone. I believe there are a few spots still available.
I'm going to blame my lack of posting lately on the cumbersome nature of my blogging software and the dreadfully slow internet connection on the boat.
What follows is a semi-random selection of my favorite photos from my most recent six week rotation on board. Most of them seem to be of Glacier Bay National Park. All I can say is that Glacier Bay is one of my favorite places, and also very photogenic.
I am back on the boat cruising north along the coast of British Columbia. Tonight we will cross Hecate Straight to Haida Gwaii (also known by their English name, the Queen Charlotte Islands).
Before I get sidetracked posting about what I am doing now, I wanted to share photos of the farm visits I got to make the weekend before I returned to the boat.
We spent a cold, raw early spring Saturday at Two Sisters Farm in Warren.
An important note: I always forget what town Two Sisters Farm is actually in - at various points I have said "Waldoboro" and "Woolwich" but I don't think that I've actually ever gotten it right. At this point people may be wondering if I'm making the farm up entirely, when in truth I always just forget that the town of Warren exists, and anyway I think the farm is pretty close to the Waldoboro town line. (Or that is my excuse - Willy, if you read this please correct me).
Skeins of DK weight BFL return to the farm where they grew
Willy keeps a mixed flock of Scottish Blackface, Bluefaced Leicester, and Northern Cheviots. I snag as much of her Bluefaced Leicester fleece as I can, and every year despite my best promises to myself to keep my buying to fibers that other knitters might reasonably buy once they are yarn, also snag a couple of Scottish Blackface fleeces (because I love the yarn even if I may be the only one).
Sunday was a perfect bright warm April day. Sarah and I again made our way up the coast, this time to Wiscasset and the lovely forest sheep of Buckwheat Blossom farm. The flock is mostly Coopworth, but Jeff and Amy have been slowly turning their land back into pasture, in part by grazing their sheep in amongst the thinned trees, which led us to joking about a new breed of sheep, something along the lines of "Penobscot Bay Forest Sheep" or more correctly, "Sheepscot River Forest Sheep".
My sailor-lay bias is probably showing in the need to name the sheep by the body of water they are closest to, despite the fact that that whole point is that they live in the woods.
We spent a lovely afternoon catching up with Amy while sorting and skirting fleece, guarded by the newest member of their family.
In addition to hosting a podcast (FiberTrek, available on iTunes) and facilitating the introduction of designers, crafters, and yarn producers to each other and to knitters at large, my good friend Sarah Hunt puts on lovely, cozy, educational, yarn/knitting retreats in Maine. In her podcasts and personal knitting she is interested in the relationship of wool, yarn, and knitting to landscape and a sense of place. For the last couple of years she has been bringing these ideas into focus during her Tidal Tours knitting retreats in collaboration with Jodi Clayton of One Lupin Fiber Arts, but even more exciting, this year she is also drawing on her background as a Maine Guide to bring interested knitters into the wilds of Maine.
From August 13-17 Sarah will be hosting the Wool Scout Knitting Retreat at Bradford Camps on Munsungan Lake, in Township 8-Range 10. The camps may be reached by logging road, but a float plane is the recommended mode of transport. Mary Jane Mucklestone will be holding classes in Fair Isle knitting (!!!!!!!) Sarah will be teaching classes in starting fires with flint and steel, and also in working with rare and primitive breed wools, Jani Estell of Star Croft Fibers will be leading a class in making Viking Chatelaines (an organizer for small tools) and Igor Sikorsky will be teaching fly fishing and map and compass skills. And, boat schedule willing, I will be there as well with my indigo pots, introducing interested folks to the magic of dyeing with natural indigo. I am giddy to be included in such company, and also just really looking forward to getting to be part of the retreat.
For more information, and to register, go to fiber-trek.squarespace.com
I am writing this from the departures gate of Logan Airport, bound for Costa Rica and the start of my six weeks on the boat. Yesterday was full of last minute errands and packing, interspersed with moments of feeling worried about what the country might look like when I return in mid-March. So it felt very very good to be able to send a donation to the ACLU in the name of all the folks who purchased pink yarn last week (in addition to my normal monthly donation). Thank you thank you for making the additional donation possible.
And on a semi related note, I am technologically in a bit of a bubble and the cool kids probably all know about the Countable App, but I just learned about it yesterday, downloaded it to my phone, and can tentatively add my own recommendation for doing the same. It tracks upcoming bills in much greater detail and timeliness than most media outlets and makes it easy to find out how your reps voted so you can call to thank them/hold them accountable. And best of all former NPR people with names I recognize are running the thing, which goes a long way towards establishing its reputation (for me anyway).
Another political action site that I can now heartily recommend is 5calls.org, a website that makes it easy to pick an issue and make phone call to the correct person (no more trying to figure out if the bill or person you are for/against is in the House or Senate). It even provides you with a script to use, whichever position on the issue you take, which is really helpful if you are like me a bit uncomfortable talking about these issues in quick sound bites .
All these phone calls and protests may seem like yelling into the wind, but a bill proposing to sell public lands was just withdrawn from consideration after the bill's sponsor received an overwhelming negative response to the idea, and two republican senators have changed their votes on the nomination of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education due to phone calls from their constituents. Calling gets easier with practice. We can do this.