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.

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The world is a strange and wonderful place.



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.


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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Fibertrek wool scout retreat

by Sarah Lake Upton in ,


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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


Ganseys and Gansey Yarn

by Sarah Lake Upton in , ,


I have fallen right back under the metaphorical rock thanks to spending last week in a class necessary to maintain my Coast Guard License (long boring story, also a long boring class, but my fellow participants worked on drill rigs and tug boats and that bit was fascinating) but now I get to spend the morning sipping my first cup of coffee and catching up with my favorite blogs. 

I was thrilled to discover that The Fringe Association published a really lovely interview with Dotty Widman of the Netloft in Cordova, Alaska about the Cordova Gansey Project.   Dotty's series of posts on her own blog have become some of my favorite writing about knitting generally and ganseys specifically.

(You can find the yarn I created for the #cordovaganseyproject listed here at the Netloft's website).

Now that I am finally done with the Coast Guard class I will have time to work with the 2016 Coopworth gansey yarn that arrived while I was away (I could not be happier with how it turned out!).  For those of you on the wait list for 2016 Coopworth gansey yarn, I am trying to put together a newsletter to inform you that it is finally here, and that I am beginning to work with it.  I would rather spend time working with yarn than trying to create a pretty newsletter about yarn, so I may just give up on the newsletter and send a quick email.  If you are on the wait list and you read this, feel free to send me a quick email about your order.  

The two natural colors of my 2016 Coopworth Gansey yarn - lovely undyed, and gorgeous after a few dips in the indigo vat.

The two natural colors of my 2016 Coopworth Gansey yarn - lovely undyed, and gorgeous after a few dips in the indigo vat.