Locally Sourced, Locally Made Clothing in Western Mass! Or: CLothing I am saving my pennies for

by Sarah Lake Upton

Nur Tiven, of Nurture Clothing Co is accepting pre orders for their locally sourced, locally made wool/alpaca clothing. From their website:

“At Nurture Clothing Co., we design and make custom and bespoke bioregional wool clothing and accessories in Western Massachusetts. We source all our wool from the Northeastern US, make our own custom yarns, and have them woven into bespoke wool fabric. We design, cut, and sew all our pieces in-house, one at a time, and all our designs are gender neutral and can be worn by anyone.

When I say “we “ I mean me, Nur Tiven, and my 12 year old calico cat, Bala.”

I’m officially saving up for the wool work shirt, but I’m also eyeing the overalls. And the vest.

Wool sponges!

by Sarah Lake Upton in ,

One of my favorite things about wool is how many uses it can to put to. A quick perusal of most books about sheep will result in a long list of things we used to use wool for before the invention of plastics and/or the shift towards enormous flocks of sheep far away from centers of population made lower value uses for excess wool unprofitable. Wool could be a comfy mattress or pillow stuffing (and people are starting to do this again). Wool can be insulation (another use that is coming back). Wool can be cordage and sails (I would love to see this in action).

Apparently wool also makes great sponges. Poking through my instagram feed this morning I came across a post by @ladysheepshearer memorializing her beloved wool sponge, finally worn through after several years of use and now on to the next use, “probably holding water in a plant pot”. The sponge in question was made by @stargrazers of Full Circle Wool in Petaluma, California who sells them in a pack of two on Etsy. They also wrote a wonderful article about the dance between sheep and shearer during the shearing process for Fibershed.com, Choreography and Skill: How Sheep are Sheared.

Now off to buy myself some wool sponges…

(Apologies for not reposting the original Instagram post I am referencing - such things are beyond my pre-caffeinated brain).

Elsewhere: morning newsfeed and echoes of my other life

by Sarah Lake Upton in

Scrolling through my newsfeed this morning, first cup of coffee in hand. Came across the following stories (among many others, but these stood out):

A new species of whale has been discovered - which is just nuts. Anytime it feels like we’ve discovered it all and filmed it for iMax, just remember, we are still discovering new species of giant mammals. It’s also worth noting that this isn’t the only new species of whales that have been recently discovered. There was a new beaked whale in 2016, and there may be another new species in Antartica. Also in Antartica, a new (to science) type of killer whale.

On a far less good note, a cruise ship is experiencing my worst nightmare off the coast of Norway. The BBC posted cellphone video footage taken by passengers. The roll they take looks pretty scary because nothing is stowed for sea, but that much roll is also pretty normal underway in a storm. The actual problem is that the engines aren’t working and the ship was drifting towards rocks, but while the engineers are working madly to fix that, the hotel crew is no doubt working just as madly to keep unprepared passengers from getting hurt. The cruise ship industry has done such a good job building enormous floating hotels and marketing family vacations that people seem to have forgotten that they are going to sea. Ships seem so stable in flat water that it is impossible to imagine what they will be like if things get rough, and how difficult and exhausting and scary it can be to simply exist on a ship once it starts to roll. Compounding this is the effects of any sea sickness medications that people have taken. My heart goes out to the crew, and especially to the engineers.

And since my mostly yarn blog has been hijacked by whales and cruise ships this week:

A friend of mine (and former co-worker) is currently working on a research cruise aboard the R/V Nathaniel B. Palmer to Thwaites Glacier. Also aboard, a writer for Rolling Stone. Articles here.

And I just happened to read a great article in the New York Times Magazine this weekend about an accident in Glacier Bay National Park. It’s actually a meditation on life and chaos and luck, but there is a whale and a Coast Guard rescue and it happened in a part of the world that I miss greatly.

And a weird connection to my first paragraph about recently discovered whale species; one of the very few skeletons of a beaked whale that we have, and the only know skeleton of a Baird’s beaked whale on display, can be found sitting out on the carpet of the second floor of the Glacier Bay Ranger station.


The world is a strange and wonderful place.

Pattern Suggestion: Boot Toppers

by Sarah Lake Upton in ,

Toppers for Tall Boots - Sea colorway

Toppers for Tall Boots - Sea colorway


Since I first started bundling together a few of my favorite colors into mini-skein sets, people have been asking me what they should do with them.  Which is a fair question.  To me they are prompts to creativity and an excuse to try to use more color in my knitting, but as someone who often has a hard time making decisions I can see how having more color options could also be overwhelming.  

So, spurred on by the knowledge that people would again be asking, “what should I do with these?” at the recent Boston Farm and Fiber Festival, I put together a couple of pattern suggestions.  (Disclaimer: these have not been test knit by anyone other than me).   

A set of high or low boot toppers can be knit with one of my mini-skein sets, though you won’t have much yarn left over, so if you increase the number of pattern repeats you may want to shorten them by a row of each color to avoid yarn chicken. 

I’ve included a chart in each color way (Land and Sea) for each boot topper.  This may or may not make them easier to follow…

Toppers for Short Boots - Land colorway (these would also make good arm warmers).

Toppers for Short Boots - Land colorway (these would also make good arm warmers).


But if you like, these patterns are just a starting point for your own creativity.  I use Stitch Fiddle (available in a free version) to “sketch” patterns.  With this fairly intuitive program you can easily make graphs, which, when combined with a book of pattern motifs (like Mary Jane Mucklestone’s 150 Scandinavian Motifs) makes for a fun afternoon of color exploration. 

And for those of you intimidated by stranded color work, while writing this post it occurred to me that I really should have swatched boot toppers that used stripes rather than small repeated stranded color work motifs.   Which I shall now do…

As of this writing I have three mini-skein sets in the Land color way available in the shop, but last week the yarn spun from the 2018 Straw’s Farm Island fleeces returned from the mill, and I can’t wait to start playing with it!  (That said, it could be a little while before mini-skein sets are restocked, for which I apologize). 

2nd Annual Boston Farm & Fiber!

by Sarah Lake Upton in

I am thrilled to be heading back into Boston on February 10 to vend at the 2nd Annual Boston Farm & Fiber event at the Boston Public Market! Last year was a wild and wooly day, and this year looks like it might be even more exciting!

In addition to all the wooly wonders, the Boston Public market will be operating as it normally does, which means that you can browse the yarn with a latte in hand, and then peruse a range of other local products.


Wovember Day 2 - Wool Count

by Sarah Lake Upton in

Clearly posting every day is not going to happen.  But this way I get to make Wovember stretch through the winter? 

This one seemed to be asking how many wool items of you are wearing at the moment, though I’ve seen other people interpret it differently. 


My answer is that aside from commercially produced socks, I don’t wear wool that much these days, because I wear a baby who’s going through a blurpy phase. 



Researching baby goods has led me to a new (to me) use for wool: mattress protectors.  Green Mountain Diapers carries them, or you can find organic wool felt by the yard and do the same (which is what I did).    


So far so good. 

And, anthropological musing of the day:

One of the great mysteries of (pre-) human history is why we became bipedal in the first place.  Sure bipedalism is efficient and we are fantastic pursuit predators, but all the intermediate stages that come before full bipedalism are wildly inefficient, or rather, it is hard to see what made being semi-bipedal worth the bother.  There are and have been many theories proposed over the years, some more sensible than others, but I’ve always wondered if the whole point was actually that bipedal travel leaves you with two hands to carry things, and if you protect your increasingly dexterous hands you can start to create cord and proto-textiles to help you carry more food more easily.  One thing that is frequently mentioned in discussions of human evolution is that at about the time our early ancestors became bipedal the environment was changing and what had been jungle was replaced by savana (one of the theories for the development of bipedalism is that our early ancestors stood up on their legs a lot to see over the tall grass - which seems like a bit of a Just So Story to me).  This led me to wonder about distance between water sources and food, and how much of an advantage carrying things long distance might create.  I will admit that until the other day when I found myself walking back and forth between the tomatoes on the front porch and the kitchen sink carrying a pitcher of water in one hand and my increasingly heavy baby in the other arm, I had never considered how important being able to carry a baby might be, or better yet, how important being able to carry a baby in sling or wrap might be.  

So after I finished watering the tomatoes, I googled.  It turns out that anthropologists have finally wondered about the same thing. (The author, Timothy Tailor, seems to think that these early slings would have been made out of animal hide, but I feel like this could be yet another instance of anthropological bias towards activities seen as traditionally male.  He also makes the same tired “man the hunter” arguments about hunting leading to more protien leading to bigger brains.  My feeling, admittedly based on nothing more than making a bit of cord from the inner bark of a willow myself, and watching film of chimpanzees making elaborate nests, is that our ancestors figured out how to make cordage or something like it very early - which will never show up archaeologically).    

If any potential anthro grad students ever accidentally stumble upon this blog - will you please look into this for me?  

Wovember Day 1 - Wool

by Sarah Lake Upton in ,

In which I am already a day behind. Sigh.  

For several years now I have seen the Wovember posts on my Instagram feed, celebrating all things wool and wool related.  I love reading about other people’s relationship to sheep, wool, and wool craft, and I love the writing prompts that make me examine my own relationship to wool, yarn, and sheep.  I’ve never actually done the actual writing part before though.  This is going to be the year!


Wool means too many things to me to encapsulate it all in an Instagram post.  To the archaeologist I meant to be, wool is probably the result of a random mutation in the genome of feral sheep and became one of the major (often overlooked) elements in the toolkit that got us to where we are today.  Wool is wealth and trade routes, an economically valuable crop that changed the landscape of Europe (literally, among other places, I‘m just most familiar with the European context).  Wool is a display of wealth and prestige, but also a utilitarian comfort.    Personally wool is a feeling of connection to the six or seven or eight millennia of wool workers, and also a feeling of home and safely. 

Which doesn’t really capture it all. Hmm. 


Anyway, my inner archaeologist found this fascinating paper about the history and development of wool, published on eTopoi:Journal for Ancient Studies.   The Textile Revolution. Reasearch into the Origin and Spread of Wool Production between the Near East and Central Europe


For the archaeology/history of wool production and craft I also reccomend many of the books by Elizabeth Wayland  Barber ,  Women’s Work- the First 20,000 Years especially.

My Favorite Knitting Book has been Updated!

by Sarah Lake Upton

I fell in love with ganseys and gansey knitting (and gansey yarn) fifteen years ago, and in the superstitious way of the sailor I became, I feel that my love for ganseys eventually led to my career at sea.  For many years now my copy of Beth Brown-Reinsel’s book Knitting Ganseys  has accompanied me, often a bit optimistically, on most of my travels. My copy of this book probably has been underway at sea almost as much as I’ve been. 

Knitting Ganseys - first edition.jpg

And it has a tattered cover to show for it.  

knitting gansesys updated.jpg
snakes and ladders.jpg
Gansey yarn drying.jpg

Beth’s knitting retreat

June, July, and Apparently now a bit of August

by Sarah Lake Upton in ,

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…  

I can now sew fitted sheets and embroider sheets but I still cannot fold fitted sheets.

I can now sew fitted sheets and embroider sheets but I still cannot fold fitted sheets.


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). 

Also the Socialist Realist pose - I look like I’m about to do something epic for the glory of the fatherland.  

Also the Socialist Realist pose - I look like I’m about to do something epic for the glory of the fatherland.  

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. 

May Roundup

by Sarah Lake Upton

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.