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. 

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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).    

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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!

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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. 

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And it has a tattered cover to show for it.  


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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…  

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 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.  

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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! 

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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. 

 


Boston Farm & Fiber Festival (also, a new work space!)

by Sarah Lake Upton in ,


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. 

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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. 

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(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. 

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Dyeing may be a bit delayed while I make sense of all of this chaos......


Shop Update - More Colors of Straw's Farm Island Sheep Fingering weight yarns

by Sarah Lake Upton in ,


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:

 With Tiger Lily

With Tiger Lily

 With Lichen

With Lichen

 With Cress

With Cress

 With Zucchini 

With Zucchini 

 

The view from my desk.  Reginald the kaffir lime tree was not meant to see such weather. 

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Shop Update - New Kits!

by Sarah Lake Upton in ,


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!


Shop update - many colors of Straw's Farm Island Sheep fingering weight!

by Sarah Lake Upton in , ,


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. 


Dyeing away -

by Sarah Lake Upton in , ,


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)

 DK Weight BFL spun from fleece from Two Sisters Farm, Warren, Maine

DK Weight BFL spun from fleece from Two Sisters Farm, Warren, Maine

 With a skein of Silver Birch. Because reasons. 

With a skein of Silver Birch. Because reasons. 


Stay tuned for Kanoko kits, and a whole lot of Straw’s Farm Island Sheep fingering weight in an array of colors.

 Potential Kanoko Kit #1 - Zounds those colors are bright! 

Potential Kanoko Kit #1 - Zounds those colors are bright! 


A new use for sheep, and I'm knitting socks!

by Sarah Lake Upton in ,


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….

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Bousta Beanie Kit

by Sarah Lake Upton in ,


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.

 I got so excited about making the kit that I haven't actually finished mine yet - appologies for the lack of blocking, end tucking, or pom pom) .

I got so excited about making the kit that I haven't actually finished mine yet - appologies for the lack of blocking, end tucking, or pom pom) .

 

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.

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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.


The Stormy Drake: or, my return to the world of yarn will be delayed

by Sarah Lake Upton in ,


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.


ANTARTICA!!!!!

by Sarah Lake Upton in


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).